Longform

The Village People

Page 4 of 6

At one meeting, the two women came to the verge of a physical confrontation; Matthews remembers Poundstone wagging her finger just two inches from her face. "She had her buddies close the meeting when I wanted to speak," says Matthews. "I went up behind her, and she turned around and almost pinned me against the wall."

Matthews says Poundstone once told her she wanted to be the most powerful mayor west of the Mississippi River. She was appalled when Poundstone was elected to a second term in 1987.

"She won even though people knew she was unethical," says Matthews. "I had people tell me they didn't care because she got the job done. People were always afraid of her. I don't know how a person like that can still be so influential."

While Poundstone's enemies on city council lost most of their battles, they did find a way to get back at her. In the summer of 1989, an Arapahoe County grand jury was convened to investigate allegations made against Poundstone, including claims that the mayor had used city credit cards for unauthorized charges and received free personal services from a city contractor. The grand jury also examined charges that in her work as a lobbyist, Poundstone was representing developers and construction companies that had dealings with the city.

A few weeks before the grand jury concluded its investigation, Poundstone announced she would not seek re-election. The grand jury never issued any indictment against her.

Poundstone's enemies--and she has many--claim she's still calling the shots. "Greenwood Village is her domain. She rules that town with an iron fist. I know state legislators who cower in front of her. They despise her and hate working with her. Nothing happens in Greenwood Village without her approval," says Randy Pye, president of Arapahoe Citizens for Self-Determination, the committee trying to create Centennial. "It's scary that a lady like Freda can pull off something like this."

In recent years, most of Greenwood Village City Council's battles have been external, not internal.

Like most post-war developments, Arapahoe County's subdivisions aren't built on a grid but in a jumble of meandering streets and narrow cul-de-sacs that empty out onto a handful of cross-town boulevards. This setup worked well when the county was still a remote outpost, but the growth of the Denver Tech Center has turned it into an employment center that rivals downtown--without a transportation system designed to move thousands of commuters to and from work. The resulting traffic jams on I-25 and county roads such as Arapahoe and Holly have exasperated county residents, especially since frustrated motorists have taken to using residential neighborhoods for shortcuts.

For the last several years, Greenwood Village has sparred with the county and neighboring cities such as Aurora over proposals to build a connection from Parker Road to Orchard through Cherry Creek State Park. Such a road--dubbed the Cherry Creek connection--would give Aurora residents an alternate route into the Tech Center, but Greenwood Village officials fear the traffic would overwhelm neighborhoods on the east side of their town. Earlier this year, Greenwood Village succeeded in getting the county's commitment to close Jordan Road through the park, another route motorists had been taking to avoid Arapahoe and I-25.

Greenwood Village's dogged determination to make sure its residents are spared traffic rankles county officials.

"The people in unincorporated Arapahoe County have just as big traffic problems as Greenwood Village, but they have no one to advocate for them," says Commissioner Brackney. "The more traffic they can put on Arapahoe Road, the less that can go through Greenwood Village."

But if Greenwood Village annexes more land, officials there say, they'll be able to use the increased sales-tax revenue to pay for massive roadwork that will ease that congestion. They say Arapahoe Road needs to be expanded now, and only Greenwood Village can do it.

"The county doesn't have the wherewithal to do the improvements on Arapahoe Road," says Doug Morris, chairman of the Greenwood Village annexation committee. "We're willing to step up to the plate on that."

Since his town is offering to shoulder the burden of solving traffic problems for a large part of the county, Morris adds, he's been startled by the vehement opposition to Greenwood Village's plans.

"This is for the benefit of anyone who travels on Arapahoe Road or in and out of the Tech Center," he says. "I'm surprised this has met with so much resistance. You hear it's greedy Greenwood Village trying to line its pockets. That's not true. We have a long record of spending money for things that benefit a large area, not just Greenwood Village."

The town's critics scoff at the idea of Greenwood Village's noblesse oblige toward the rest of the county and insist that the only democratic solution is for the people of unincorporated Arapahoe County to form their own city so they can determine for themselves how their tax dollars are spent. "Does it make sense for a small group of people to be making these decisions for the whole county?" asks South Metro's Chamber of Commerce president Vogt. "If there are over 100,000 people with no one to represent them, that's just plain wrong."

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Stuart Steers
Contact: Stuart Steers