Letters to the Editor

A Peña for Your Thoughts

The greats of wrath: I just finished reading Patricia Calhoun's " The 7 Percent Solution," in the April 17 issue. I would like to say that I respect her and her writing and that I have been a Westword fan since its birth. This is my first time writing in, though, and I'm doing so because I felt discomfort regarding this comment: "And today, no one wants to remember that Denver had enjoyed a big, fat, happy economy right before Federico Pena was elected mayor, until all the oil money evaporated seemingly overnight."

This comment, I feel, was a kind of slap at Federico. I have lived in this city all my life, and I remember why oil money "evaporated." It was because the citizens of this state would not line the pockets of big oil with millions of dollars for "improvements" to our mountain resorts so that we might be blessed with the Winter Olympics. I remember the "fake" oil crisis that affected our state as a result of us not wanting corporate America to climb on and defile our mountains with roads and structures that would surely have damaged wilderness areas and our natural way of life. Peña was forced to go it alone, to find ways of recovering a city that had been much too dependent on big oil handouts. He was a visionary who could see solutions amid problems while being criticized at every turn. And, oh, how those oil men and the yuppie crowd would have chastised him had he failed.

Instead, he went to Washington and got money from the feds to build an airport and put in place a plan for rebuilding a dying inner city. He realized the crumbling roads and bridges would need to be replaced, and quickly. He was under stress to eliminate the "brown cloud" that hovered over Denver and faced fines from the government. He pumped money into local projects and saw jobs (and not just for his immediate family) as the key to economic growth. I remember all too well the inflation-ridden early '80s, and I saw a "great city" emerge from Peña's efforts.

I look around at the candidates who are running for mayor and I see no Federico Peñas. I see no visionaries who can think their way out of a $50 million jam, and frankly, I wish I did. However, I no longer have to be concerned about Denver, as I am now a happy resident of Thornton. Peña's economic strategies enabled formerly economically stressed people like myself to prosper and move to the suburbs.

R. J. Romero

The best is yet to come: "Thriving in 2004" should be retitled "Too Little, Too Late." Why is the Webb administration doing this now, when it had twelve years to not only find the city's "best practices," but to share them with other departments to improve overall efficiency? It's too late to fix things now.

Jill Parks

Spare change: I appreciate the attention Ms. Calhoun gives to the nonsense in the city of Denver. As she pointed out with the parking manager, he had a consulting contract -- a longtime business. And why don't we know more about the suspension of Jim Yearby? Why is he protected? Why didn't he get fired?

If we got forty hours a week from the people we pay now, we might not need to hire anyone else. I'd like to see "a day in the life of a 'Change Manager.'"

Name withheld on request

For Whom the Dinner Bell Tolls

The meal thing: Kudos to Marty Jones for "The Last Supper," in the April 10 issue. As he pointed out, the Grant Avenue Street Reach serves senior citizens, day laborers, all kinds of people. Hunger is a real concern, especially in the soft economy we are now experiencing. Perhaps a corporation or a non-profit group could donate a space for the Street Reach. Since it is warmer weather, the meals could be served outdoors temporarily until a permanent location is found. This is a project needed by Denver, especially now!

Fran Washko

Let's Get Ready to Rhumba

Reviewing the reviewer: Jason Sheehan is a dangerous man. He has the power of the pen, the First Amendment and a decent knowledge of food working in his favor. He's witty, edgy and covers a lot of ground in his reviews.

But what he does not possess is a clue of what it means to be a restaurant critic. It is an enormous responsibility. No one wants to get a bad review; it hurts to your core. We work incredibly hard every day to attempt to make our customers truly happy on many levels. And when we have to, we take a bad review, learn from it and make adjustments. In the end, we become a better restaurant, and no one benefits more from that than the customer. That is the gut check that a good reviewer provides: constantly telling you you're not as good as you think you are, requiring you to continually raise the bar.

We have all read Kitchen Confidential, Jason; it's a great book. It was a fresh voice at the time, and an incredibly definitive writing style. Your infatuation with being Anthony Bourdain is so obvious that it hurts to watch. Your mishaps at some second-rate South Florida restaurant do not give you the wealth of experience or understanding of an Anthony Bourdain or, in that case, most of the chefs in Denver you review in your column.

So after reading this review of Rhumba ("Going Nowhere," April 17), I thought long and hard about how to respond without sounding like the jilted lover made to look the fool. The best response to something like this is normally no response, but the gloves came off with this one. You crossed the line. You are a mildly educated food critic who couldn't handle the demands and pace of a professional kitchen and now shows up only for dinner to voice your opinion on what we do 24/7. Your Howard Stern approach might push circulation, but amongst many in this professional culinary community, you are a putz. Your reviews directly affect the lives of very hardworking people and your characterizations of my staff, both front and back of the house, could not be more flawed. There are hundreds of customers on a daily basis who would strongly disagree with your assessment of what we are about at Rhumba. It is a four-year-old restaurant that has been wildly popular since day one and has received great reviews. So the title "Going Nowhere" couldn't look more ridiculous to the huge number of regulars we serve every day.

There are a lot of us independent restaurant owners who have been working very hard to establish Denver as a serious dining destination on the national map for many years -- for me, starting at time when you were still in fucking Huggies. In many articles, you continue to go way beyond what is appropriate and personally and aggressively attack the restaurants you review in the self- indulgent pursuit of being the bad boy. You're not. You're like a gnat on an elephant's ass, Jason, hardly worth the effort.

Maybe you should cook for a few of us, like Bill St. John did to establish his credibility. We'll review you and see how it goes. For now, we will look hard at what we do, make needed changes and in the end become an even better restaurant. As for you, you'll still be an idiot, and Westword should realize the ride it's on with you.

Dave Query
Rhumba, Zolo, Jax, Lola

Trash Landing

Bush league: In David Holthouse's "Want Flies With That?," his April 17 article on the backyard habitat at a McDonald's on Colorado Boulevard, he wrote that it "looks like it was landscaped by a couple of crystal-meth smokers on a midnight Home Depot binge." Although I enjoyed his sarcastic description, I wanted to respond to the charge, having been the designer for the project.

Mr. Asfaw may have spent more on this project than at his other McDonald's locations because of the number of plants installed. The perennials, ornamental grasses, shrubs and trees were chosen for their attractiveness to wildlife. Where that wildlife would come from was debatable. Nonetheless, the birds, butterflies and bees could at least find solace that would have been unavailable with the typical tree lawn. I applaud Mr. Asfaw for taking the risk of installing a landscape that was intended to serve as a habitat, as well as being drought-resistant.

The problem is that even with detailed maintenance instructions, the landscape has not been cared for in the fashion that would create a true habitat. Landscape designers forever deal with their designs losing practical and aesthetic components once issues of the economy or management impact their maintenance and preservation. The shrubs and ornamental grasses should have been allowed to grow naturally, to provide cover and seed pods throughout the year. Tall shrubs and grasses originally surrounded the birdbath. I have seen the landscape fill out over the years, but unfortunately, most of the shrubs are now being pruned into globes, which limits their attractiveness. Some of the trees have been lost and not replaced. The grasses have been cut back, whereas the accepted notion is that they look great through the winter left unpruned and should only be cut back in spring.

As late winter and early spring are perhaps the worse times to view the urban landscape -- due to trash accumulation from the winter, dry conditions, the pasty look of the ground -- I encourage you to take another look in early summer, when the perennials and shrubs are blooming and everything has greened up a bit.

Michael Thornton
via the Internet

Doody Calls

Bark in the park: Regarding Amy Haimerl's "The Straight Poop," in the April 3 issue:

Okay, think of your dog as a lethal weapon. Your car is a lethal weapon. You license, insure and maintain your car. You must be of a certain age and pass a test in order to have a license to operate your car. You must prove that you have insurance in order to register your car, and you used to have to prove that you maintained your car by getting a brake-and-lights certificate.

I propose that we apply the same rules to our dogs. I would pay extra for a license that would allow me to walk my dog off-leash in any Denver city park. I have a comprehensive and personal liability insurance policy with a limit of $100,000 that covers everything from dog bites to bar fights that I can show proof of. My dog is current in his vaccinations, and I can provide proof of that. I am responsible for my dog's actions and will sign a waiver to that effect.

This is an option that will raise revenue that can be used for the Denver Dumb Friends League or a spay-and-neuter program. This option will allow me to walk my dog in my neighborhood park, where my dog and I know the other dogs and their owners. This option is also less costly than the plan to install fences in areas of existing parks, to the tune of approximately $50,000 per enclosure. This option will not create scars such as the ones that will be created if we install dog runs in our parks.

Go check out the off-leash park in Aurora on Quincy. It is dirt, dirt and more dirt. I propose that we designate certain hours that dogs can be off-leash in all parks. How about early morning, late evening and any time the temperature drops below 32 degrees? If we realistically approach the issue, we can make it a win-win situation for us all. Let's think outside the box, not just copy other programs. We're a world-class city! Let's be innovative! Lead the pack! Don't just follow!

Paula Saraceno

Cheesman bark: As president of DenFIDOS and a Cheesman Park resident, I write regarding "The Straight Poop," Amy Haimerl's story about the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation's proposal for an off-leash dog area there.

DenFIDOS wants to emphasize that we, too, recognize Cheesman Park as one of the "crown jewels" of Denver's park system, and we want to keep it that way. Because of the actions of responsible dog owners who don't want to lose the privilege of off-leash areas, parks with such areas actually tend to have less dog waste in them than do other parks. DenFIDOS already has shown significant commitment in this regard by organizing volunteer "poop patrols," and we have pledged to continue to do so in all off-leash areas.

Additionally, designating a specific off-leash area in Cheesman's north meadow will separate dogs from other park users by several hundred feet -- a much safer alternative to the current use of the heavily populated south meadow by the longstanding "renegade dog runners" noted in Ms. Haimerl's article. Moreover, an off-leash area in the north meadow would increase use of the park's north end by law-abiding citizens, thus reducing the amount of criminal activity that currently goes on there.

I do want to clarify one point in the article suggesting that DenFIDOS "would prefer that any dog parks be fenced." Actually, while we support fencing in certain parks and circumstances, we also believe that in others it may create as many problems as it solves. Dedicating an area within a park to a single use and foreclosing that area to any other use may be even more objectionable to more people. Cheesman illustrates this wonderfully: By simply restricting off-leash use to clearly defined times of day outside times of peak usage, the proposed area could be left open to general non-dog use at all other times.

One of the real strengths of the Parks and Rec proposal is that it distributes off-leash areas throughout the city, thereby ensuring that no single park becomes a destination for dogs from distant areas of the city. If Cheesman is not part of the proposal as implemented, people and their dogs from this area will be forced to drive to other parks to take advantage of off-leash privileges. This will exacerbate Denver's already unbearable traffic problems, as well as subject other off-leash areas to significantly increased use and damage, thus setting up the entire proposal for failure.

Today there are approximately 600 off-leash areas in the U.S., and that number continues to grow because of their overall success. There simply is no reason to believe that such areas will be any less successful in our city.

Tad Rogers

Bands on the Run

Group therapy: Regarding John La Briola's "Front and Center," in the April 17 issue:

I wonder if you were really thinking about Paul Fonfara's career, or the way this article would affect his relationship with the people that he interacts with. Most of the people in his current band were also people in some of his past bands; I know some of these people, and I can't help but wonder if printing his dismissive comment about bands being bullshit was really an error in judgment on your part. Paul has his problems, but at the same time, I'm wondering about airing them so...fully.

I know that stories with spice are a better read, but you may have done more harm than good with this one -- for everyone involved. As a journalist, John La Briola should have more responsibility than what he's shown.

Erin Nelson

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