Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Fat Lady Ain't Singin' - Marilyn Musgrave & The Art of Arrogance (Video)

The Fat Lady doth protest too much, methinks! (And, her flatlander defenders, as well!) Video

Monday, October 30, 2006

Update on Denver Election Commission Ballot Mistakes, Um... "Vendor Errors"

Referred Question 1A - Preshool Plan a Dog

It's beginning to appear I'm my own little Media Matters watch on Susan Barnes-Gelt. I didn't intend for that to occur; it's just that Barnes-Gelt has been so vocal with regard to "iconic" architecture and "eureka moments" relative to Denver's skyline, that her words simply crystallized the polemic for me.

However, this past Sunday's Post provided, in part, this from Ms. Barnes-Gelt. Since I'm not sure when the Post will archive this piece, here's a bit a what she said in opposition to Referred Question 1A, a .12% raise in Denver's sales tax to fund a pre-school program.

Ms. Barnes-Gelt begins by asking, "...why not vote for Mayor John Hickenlooper's Referred Question 1A...? Here's why not:

Denver has a whole menu of unfunded new and deferred capital needs, perhaps totaling $1 billion or more. They range from serious structural problems with the Botanic Gardens' historic Boettcher Conservatory and long-deferred new libraries and parks improvements to the city's inefficient, obsolete irrigation system, vulnerable tree canopy, roads, bridges and antiquated public building systems.

...Is now the right time to increase Denver's sales tax? Or should voters be presented with the full picture of the city's needs?

...The Denver Preschool Program must adopt an evaluation protocol to measure the quality and accountability of early childhood programs. There is not yet a statewide, metro or even Denver program that evaluates all preschools, matching family needs with school quality. Setting up a comprehensive program will be costly and time-consuming. And though 1A touts language limiting administrative costs to 5 percent, will a projected $600,000 cover the cost of designing and implementing a program or even contracting with an expert?

...Denver Public Schools offers 4-year-old preschool in all but three of its elementary schools and serves 4,000 Denver children. The program is free to kids who qualify for reduced lunch according to federal guidelines (a family of four earning about $35,800 annually). Families earning more than $100,000 per year pay $195 a month for half-day, weekday preschool.

DPS contracts with other Denver providers to serve families needing all-day preschool, meeting the needs of nearly 500 of these families.

There are waiting lists at numerous DPS schools. Why didn't 1A supporters expand this program instead of re-inventing the wheel? There are advantages:

* DPS is governed by an elected board that is fully accountable to e taxpayers.

* DPS can blend a variety of funding mechanisms - tuition, federal Head Start funds, private grants, etc. - to meet the diverse needs of Denver families.

* DPS has administration in place, already funded with public dollars.

Preschool for 4-year-olds is a noble idea. The benefits are well-documented. But however well intended, Question 1A is not the right approach.

Preschool is not part of the city's basic mission and a daunting list of infrastructure improvements is a higher priority. The regressive, Denver-only sales tax portable to metro preschools is inappropriate. Like all school funding, the preschool tax should be property-tax-based, applied to the region and available to all metro families.

Finally, there are too many unknowns. Who are the private citizens administering public dollars? What are the governing rules, policies and regulations? How will preschool programs be fairly and universally evaluated?

Too many questions and not enough answers. Vote "no" on Denver's Initiative 1A.
Ms. Barnes-Gelt has a remarkable record with regard to community activism and as an advocate for the poor, the disenfranchised. If I did not already have a very strong opinion against this ill-conceived boondoggle, her words alone would convince me that Referred Question 1A is a dog.

P.S. The use of the word "dog" is, of course, used to indicate "...an investment not worth its price," as provided by Merriam-Webster. Since "Dog Is My Constant Copilot," I thought I'd just clarify the use of that word. This dog, Sarah, is well-worth the investment, the price.

Steven Holl's Work - "It is poetic..." - Denver Justice Center

George Hoover, a professor of architecture at the University of Colorado - Denver and a practicing architect, provided in this past Sunday's Denver Post an eloquent view of the Denver Justice Center imbroglio; a view that is tempered by both reason and experience.

Since I'm not sure when the Post will archive this piece, please let me provide some of what Hoover said:

Architect Steven Holl's schematic design for Denver's new courthouse imagined a building that could be a wonderful addition to our city.

Proposed relationships to Civic Center, downtown, the Front Range and the city's essential qualities strongly suggested a building respectful of the context, scale and material character of Denver's urban fabric. There is no hint of the "iconic, object building" decried by some local critics.

...Thus, hyperbole such as "ego- driven icons designed by the famous" is not only misleading, it distracts from the core issue here: how we define, value and realize excellence.

To give merely the sparest of examples of excellence in architecture, I return briefly to Steven Holl. Holl's work manifests excellence, in large part due to the degree it exhibits qualities of which most architects are unaware and to which they do not aspire.

For example, it is little recognized that Holl's work is founded in an important strand of modern thought known as "phenomenology," which concentrates on re-achieving for human experience a direct and primal contact with the world. Holl's most well-known work, the Chapel of St. Ignatius in Seattle, links those who experience it directly with the movement of the sun, the flickering patterns of natural light, the shimmering ripples of a dark pond on a windy day, the real quality of stone, the graininess of wood, the echoes of footsteps and the fragrance of beeswax. It is poetic work.

Holl also emphasized the importance of such relationships in his Justice Center design - moving patterns of dappled sunlight on a courtroom wall, views of distant peaks, surprise vistas into the heart of downtown and a beacon of light.

...From what I have been able to glean about the inner workings of the Justice Center project, the problem appears to lie neither with Denver's infatuation with internationally acclaimed architects, nor with a design unresponsive to Denver's needs. It lies with the inability of the individuals on this particular design team to work together as colleagues.

...Ultimately, the greater good for our city as a whole can only be achieved if we as individual citizens are willing to be truly present for one another, to listen carefully to the heart of meaning inherent in one another's words and actions, to tell the truth without judging or blaming those around us, and to be open to and supportive of how things turn out - even though we may favor and hope for a different outcome.

It's in this spirit that I suggest Mayor John Hickenlooper convene a small advisory group of experienced, diverse, flexible, committed and creative people who have been involved in projects similar to those that Denver has successfully built in recent decades.

Such a group would assist him with the creation of a notable new Justice Center by finding a course of action likely to resolve the present short-term problem in a way that does not compromise Denver's long-term vision for excellence.

The temptation is always to decide in favor of the short-term, expedient solution. We must resist this temptation in favor of the long view and our city's legacy. History has shown that what is practical in the short term is often immeasurably impractical in the long run. What happens next with the Justice Center will affect not only the project itself but also critical civic ventures yet to be.

We have achieved excellence many times before. We must do so again.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Denver Election Commission Ballot Woes Just Keep Truckin'

Congressman Barney Frank - Gay Republicans

This from YouTube. Frank, an "out" gay Congressman from Massachusetts speaks to the inherent hypocrisy (among other things) of closeted "Gay Republicans."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Yes on Referendum I - Equal Protection - Equal Rights

"We must conclude that Amendment 2 classifies homosexuals not to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to everyone else. This Colorado cannot do. A State cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws..." Supreme Court Justice Kennedy writing for the majority, re: Romer v. Evans (1996)
Referendum I

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado Revised Statutes to authorize domestic partnerships, and, in connection therewith, enacting the "Colorado Domestic Partnership Benefits And Responsibilities Act" to extend to same-sex couples in a domestic partnership the benefits, protections, and responsibilities that are granted by Colorado law to spouses, providing the conditions under which a license for a domestic partnership may be issued and the criteria under which a domestic partnership may be dissolved, making provisions for implementation of the act, and providing that a domestic partnership is not a marriage, which consists of the union of one man and one woman.
David and I will celebrate our twenty-fourth anniversary this November. In those twenty-four years we have

purchased two homes
raised six (four-legged) children, grieved the loss of five
paid our taxes
laughed, cried
mowed the lawn in summer and shoveled the walk in winter
shopped for groceries once a week
helped our neighbors
endured together the 120 days (each and every day) my mother suffered 'til death from a stroke
endured together the loss of my father
worked hard in our careers, reaching significant positions
supported our community, our parks
caregivers to one another in sickness, surgeries
grumbled about politics and politicians
made wills, powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney
saved for our retirements
remodeled our house
landscaped our yard
voted, voted, voted
shared joy, sorrow, ups, downs
valued the preciousness of friends
valued the preciousness of family
marveled at the beauty and brightness and miracle of nephews and nieces and grand-nephews and grand-nieces

And, we have loved and shared. We have been as one for all these years. How, dare I ask, does this threaten a good marriage between a man and a woman? Why, dare I ask, is Justice Kennedy's wisdom not as relevant today as it was a decade ago?

"A State cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws..."

No on Referred Question 1A - Denver Preschool Program

Councilman Rick Garcia's office was kind enough to email to me the complete text of Council Bill No. 532 (Ordinance) which provides:
For an ordinance increasing the sales and use tax by a rate of .12 percent and dedicating the revenue derived from the tax rate increase to fund the Denver Preschool Program, subject to the approval of the voters at a special municipal election to be conducted in coordination with the state general election on November 7, 2006.
The full text of this misguided legislation is instructive.

It is estimated that at least $12Million will be dedicated to this program, with 5% ($600,000.00) of those monies authorized for "...administrative expenses.." for each year of the program.

Dare I mention that deferred maintenance and improvements to Denver's parks and recreation facilities now totals over $100,000,000.00? But, that's another story.

The guts of 1A consist of establishing an unnamed Colorado non-profit corporation, the "..sole purpose of [which] as reflected in the corporation's articles of incorporation shall be to administer the Denver Preschool Program under contract with the city..."

The corporation's articles of incorporation shall provide for a seven member board of directors. Six members of the board shall be appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council. One member of the board shall be a member of the city council appointed by the city council.
Okay, so far? With me? Let's go on (as if the prospect of seven political appointments by the mayor and one city council person constituting the board of directors doesn't rub a wee bit the wrong way):

The corporation's articles of incorporation shall provide for a twenty-five member board of advisors to make non-binding recommendations to the board on policy issues regarding early childhood education in general and the administration of the Denver Preschool progarm in particular. Members of the board of advisors shall be appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council.
It just gets better... Yeah, I know, thirty-two political appointees running a program with $12Million in sales tax revenue--the major trough from which Denver's General Fund feeds--is not only a little scary, but absurd, given what the City and County of Denver (as a municipal entity) was established to do. And, it wasn't set-up to run a preschool program. Isn't that the job of the Denver School Board?

Here's a few of the objectives this political boondoggle is slated to achieve:

*Tuition Credits [Vouchers???]
*Outreach to parents and assistance with enrollment in preschools...
*Technical assistance and direct grants to preschool providers...
*Contracting with qualified experts to design and assist with the implementation of a quality improvement system for preschools...
*Measurement of the performance of the said program...
The "Contracting with qualified experts to design and assist..." is troublesome because there is language in the ordinance that states: "The term 'administrative expenses' shall not be deemed to include any fees or expenses paid to third-party contractors or consultants to assist in the development or administration of the Denver Preschool Program." Um, then where is that money going to come from? And, isn't the explicit prohibition against such "third-party" expenditures in direct conflict with the "Contracting with qualified experts..." language?

What is called "tuition credits" in the ordinance would apply to "Any Denver resident who is a parent or legal guardian of any preschool-aged child who is also a Denver resident..."

Forgive me, but let me interject a PI moment here. The language says "resident" not "citizen."

Now, these "tuition credits" are not really nailed down in the ordinance. The ordinance speaks to a "...sliding scale..." related to both family income and the "...quality of the preschool provider..." But, here's the politics again: On both the "...sliding scale..." portions of the ordinance, there's a little qualification to that language that provides, "...this sliding scale [will] be more specifically determined by the board of directors."

So, who knows? How much we talkin' about here? The ordinance leaves it wide open, with the decision left in the hands of the mayor's political appointees to the board.

Lastly, the ordinance leaves it up to the parent or guardian to determine where they're going to enroll their little tikes for preschool. Yes, the preschool has to be licensed under the State of Colorado, but if the parent or guardian wants to take little Johnny to Brother Bob's Baptist Temple or Sister Mary Jo's Catholic Catechism, well, that's just fine. Indeed, if the parent or guardian wants to take the kids to a preschool in Arvada or Commerce City or Lakewood or Broomfield, that's fine, too. No restrictions on where Denver's sales tax revenue is spent.

Reading through Council Bill 532 (which, if Referred Question 1A is passed will become the basis for this preschool program) gives one the distinct impression that a whole lot of folks, including the mayor and all but one city councilperson (Jeanne Faatz) instructed the city attorney who wrote the thing to be as vague as possible because they really don't know what the hell the program is going to turn out to be and the hell with the details; they'll work on the details later.

Well, the devil is in the details and Council Bill 532 is sorely lacking in detail. And, please, do you really want to depend on mayoral appointees to fill in the blanks on this expenditure of $12Million?

Referred Question 1A was not ready to be put on the ballot. It should not be on the ballot. And, I don't trust this open-ended (design/build) concept being thrust on the voters with the implied mantra: Just trust us (the politicians) to do the right thing. I want to know exactly what I'm voting on before I vote. Referred Question 1A fails this simple test.

Monday, October 23, 2006

City Plan for Denver Justice Center: No, that's not good enough. It's not what Denver was promised.

The below is verbatim from this Morning's Rocky Mountain News.

More oversight for justice center

Panel of top architects should have a role

October 23, 2006

A legacy building designed by a signature architect - that's what Denver was promised, with great fanfare, when the process for selecting the architectural firms for the new justice center was announced. Ten noted architects were invited to present their work at public meetings late last year, and more than 2,000 people attended the presentations. A jury of 15 stakeholders considered the proposals and announced their choices in December, again to broad acclaim.

Now the signature architect for the courthouse, Stephen Holl Associates of New York, is gone, and without any public process whatever, his place is being taken by his local partner, klipp Design.

No, that's not good enough. It's not what Denver was promised.

Our first impulse is to say, "start over." But Denver Justice Center policy director James Mejia says it's too late to do that now. The goal was to design the justice center campus as a whole, and the courthouse is already months behind the detention center.

If that's correct, and it may well be, why was the situation allowed to fester so long? After all, the first-choice architect for the parking structure now under construction south of 14th Avenue didn't work out either, so the city eventually contracted with the runner-up. But that happened months earlier in the process.

Why weren't the City Council and the community stakeholders brought into the courthouse picture much sooner? Mejia said it's because the committee of city staff members considered it a contract management issue. On most contracts, that might be reasonable, but on such a high-profile building, which will anchor the Colfax Avenue civic corridor for decades, it was a bad judgment call.

The City Council should have had a full and public discussion of the best course of action before allowing klipp to proceed without Holl - and it still should. Could the runner-up architect for the courthouse step in? That may not be practical, but at least it should be explored.

And if it isn't possible, and Denver does proceed with klipp, what next? Councilwoman Jeanne Robb, who not only represents that district but was also a member of the 15-person jury that recommended the architects, suggests that there should be a peer review panel of distinguished architects, experienced with this kind of project, who can provide feedback on the design and how it works with the rest of the justice center campus.

We're not saying klipp can't do the job. We have no reason to believe that, and the firm has had considerable success, including the new Hyatt Hotel at the Convention Center. But it's reasonable to believe that if klipp had competed for the courthouse design without Stephen Holl as part of the team, it wouldn't have been chosen. Holl wasn't just a subcontractor, no matter how the contract was written; he was the star attraction.

This project needs input from other professionals of comparable caliber.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Schoolmarm Doug Lamborn - Dubya's and Dobson's Choice for Congress

Doug Lamborn is running for Colorado's 5th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House. The district includes Colorado Springs and is home to Jim Dobson's, Focus on the Family. This little clip is from a 50 minute debate between Lamborn and Jay Fawcett, the Democratic candidate. During the debate, the whiney schoolmarm chastised someone in the audience with, "...why don't you just keep you mouth shut!"

The entire debate is included as a link at the bottom of this post.

The Lake This Morning - Snow Again Overnight

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Steven Holl Responds - Denver Justice Center

In my last in a series of posts on the Denver Justice Center (this link also may be of interest) and architect Steven Holl's decision to leave the project, I noted that I had emailed Steven Holl: "Well, anyway... I've emailed Steven Holl to see if I can get his side of the story. Don't expect an answer."

Well, I did get an answer and here it is:
Thank you for your email regarding the Denver Justice Center. I am encouraged that you are skeptical of what some of the Denver newspapers have written about the issue. I assure you that I had invested all that was in me as an architect to try to make this important public building a reality. The director of the project under the Mayor effectively rejected our design. In fact, he says that in a sentence in one of the recent newspaper articles. Here is the problem focused. How can a city which invested so much effort in selecting an architect put the decision for the architectural design in the hands of those who were not partial to the ideas of the selection committee and not sympathetic to an intense work of public architecture?

For all the bad press concerning budget, I assure you we could have built our design on budget. Having just completed two public works on budget in September, the School of Art & Art History at the University of Iowa and the Swiss Ambassador’s Residence in Washington, D.C., the first (School of Art and Art History building) was built for just over $200 per square foot. We were counting on making the Denver Courthouse for $300 per square foot; however, we needed to use our materials palette and not the materials listed by the Project Director. One material price will show you the great difference: the Project Director specified terrazzo floors and these would be $20 per square foot. At the University of Iowa we used a terrazzo grinder on concrete floors which had a limestone mix in the aggregate. These are beautiful floors and everyone in Iowa, including the President of the University, praised them, and they cost $4 per square foot. In this $16 per square foot difference you see how we could have made a budget work.

Architecture is a very fragile art; it is like a flame one holds up to a group. Project Directors sometimes try to blow or stamp it out, so you must have a sheltering hand to protect it through the delicate process of realization.


Steven Holl

Thank you, Mr. Holl.

The Madness of King George - Habeas Corpus RIP

Olbermann on this disgrace.

And more...

Our Salvation is in Our Humor

"Civic (In)Justice: Steven Holl's Justice Center Design

Penny Parker reports in this morning's Rocky Mountain News that:

New York-based architect Steven Holl may be out of the Denver Justice Center's courthouse project, but it's still possible to see the design he was going to propose for the building. A group of young architects has joined with the firm Deproduction to organize a screening of Holl's courthouse design proposal from 8 to 10 tonight on the west wall of the Denver Art Museum.

They call the effort "Civic (In)Justice: Lamenting Loss. Holl," and note "the citizens of Denver deserve better than the tragedy and erosion of public process that has unfolded at the Justice center."

Organizers say the program is on no matter the weather, because the system being used had an FM transmitter so people can watch and listen from their cars.

The irony? Tonight was the night that Holl and jail designer Lee Becker of Hartman-Cox Architects were to make their design presentations to the public.
Reviewing the Denver City Council's Finance Committee's stream of October 4th, it is instructive that James Mejia, the "Project Manager" for the Denver Justice Center responded to a question from Councilman Charley Brown with regard to whether or not a re-bid of this project was necessitated due to Mr. Holl leaving the project. The Klipp proposal was, after all, accepted with the inclusion of Steven Holl as the sub-contracting architect for the Justice Center court structure.
Mejia responded that: (I paraphrase) "What we wouldn't do is go out for bid again. We just don't have time."

My question (having served in public procurement for way too many years) is what is in the contract with Klipp that precludes the necessity to rebid if an integral part of the chosen, agreed upon, hailed plan was the presence and talent of Steven Holl? I'm sure time is of the essence with the project, but simply obviating procurement "best practices," not to mention the intense selection process that was conducted and which led to the contract that included Steven Holl's talents, seems like a fast track to, um, further issue after issue after issue with this project.

P.S. For what it's worth:
The architect selection jury for the courthouse and downtown detention facility was composed of the following individuals:

Rachel Ahalt Designer, Buchanan Yonushewski Group Laura Aldrete Assistant Director, Denver Urban Renewal Authority Joe Aragon President, Proserve Jeffrey Bayless Chief Judge, Denver District Court Billie Bramhall Golden Triangle Neighborhood Association Hubert Farbes Partner, Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber Larry Friedberg Architect, State of Colorado Mark Gelernter Dean, CU Architecture & Planning Dennis Humphries Principal, Humphries Poli Architects Frances Koncilja Principal, Koncilja & Associates Bill Lovingier Chief, Denver Sheriff’s Department Linda Nugent Golden Triangle Arts District Sharon Nunnally Consultant, Denver Landmark Preservation Commission Peter Park Manager, Community Planning & Development Dept. Jeanne Robb Denver City Councilwoman, District #10 Mark Rodgers University Architect, University of Denver Elizabeth Wright Ingraham Principal, Elizabeth Wright Ingraham Architects Ex-officio jury members are: James Mejía Project Manager, Denver Justice Center David Tryba Principal, David Owen Tryba Architects Larry Witzling President, Planning and Design Institute.

Guess these folks just didn't know what they were doing in selecting the Klipp/Holl collaboration.


Sarah, after this morning's run. The only way I can get this perpetual motion machine to pose, is to hold her tennis ball in my left hand and take the shot with my right.

She is a joy.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hastert vs. Reid - Land Deals

Media Matters reports on a land deal involving Speaker of the House Hastert as contrasted to Senate Minority Leader Reid's little imbroglio as reported by CNN.

I like CNN and am occasionally a little irked with Media Matters and their penchant for--Gawd! whose got time to count words--review of "news" as reported by the networks and cable programs. But, this piece does beg the question: Why is one treated differently than the other?

Maybe we oughta throw all the bums outa Congress and start fresh.

This Morning on the Lake

Just a wee bit over an inch of snow from yesterday. Beautiful morning at the lake.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ahem, Susan - Now I'M Confused

Susan Barnes-Gelt--chatty gadfly, former Denver City Coucilperson, community activist, bright, articulate (I could go on, but I won't)--provided a curious piece in last Sunday's Denver Post in which she says, essentially, good-bye to bad rubbish. The bad rubbish being Steven Holl, architect, who scooted out of the design of the Denver Justice Center while, it is reported, collecting $700,000 in fees in spite of his abrupt exit. My prior post gets into Holl's side of the story which, suffice it to say, Susan didn't provide in her piece.

My first thought here is that Susan is gleeful with Holl's departure because--can you EVEN believe it!--she was not a member of the Denver Justice Center Task Force. Therefore, since her opinion on the new structure was not required or solicited, then, well, how could the design and construction possibly go forward without her input. I mean, it's unthinkable.

Facetiousness is really a lame tool, isn't it?

Let me note a few things Barnes-Gelt said:

It's good news that New York architect Steven Holl will not be designing Denver's new Civic Center courthouse. Perhaps it's a harbinger that Denver's infatuation with internationally acclaimed architects who care more about building a portfolio than building a city is cooling.

Holl's approach was more than a counterpoint to that vision; it was cacophony.

Instead, he designed an icon, a monument to his ego. Perhaps he was trying to create a new paradigm for the American courthouse or maybe he was competing with the new Libeskind-designed Hamilton wing of the Denver Art Museum. But he failed to recognize that an art museum plays a very different role on the civic stage. Art is provocative, challenging and seeks to break the rules. Justice is based on precedent, restraint and adherence to rules.

The placement, design and materials of his building had nothing to do with these values or this place, the site and function of the building or its role as a contributor to the urban context.

Denver citizens and officials played a role in this ill-fated relationship. We are intoxicated by the idea that a disparate collection of iconic architecture might qualify us as a cultural mecca. Our insistence that Denver's future is linked to the creation of so-called "world-class" architecture as dispensed by famous (i.e., they live somewhere else) designers is foolish.

Fabric, not object, defines great cities. The best cities are about people, strong and legible connections and a beautiful, safe and comfortable public realm. Interesting and lively streets articulated by strong, durable buildings that are respectful of context, scale and material make up the DNA of a great city.
Okay. Now, let me note a few things Barnes-Gelt has said in the past, much of it with regard to the Libeskind addition (incongruous mess that it is) to the Denver Art Museum. But, first let me give you a little insight into Barnes-Gelt's obvious disdain for us mere common folk and what she perceives to be our lack of appreciation for "cutting edge" architecture:

A piece from the New York Times, July, 2003, entitled, "For a Shaper of Landscapes, a Cliffhanger," by Patricia Leigh Brown, former City Councilperson-At-Large Susan Barnes-Gelt was quoted--with regard to Lawrence Halprin's now defunct (erased) Skyline Park: "The park was never loved. Denverites do not warm up to modernism. We don't really get the built environment, and we for sure don't get it if it's not red brick and at least 75 years old. Against that, Halprin's esthetic [sic] was not respected or frankly, enjoyed."

Hmmm... Yes, this was part of my prior post, "The Masses are Asses." Let's let Barnes-Gelt go on, though:

Perhaps it's time for Denver to concentrate its energies on strengthening the structure and character of the broader city to provide a worthy setting for the eureka moments of Libeskind, Ponti and other star architects.
"...other star architects." Hmmm... Star architects like, for instance, Steve Holl? I guess not.

My response to Barnes-Gelt's giddy "...eureka moment..." was: "Ms. Barnes-Gelt is, I believe, infatuated with diadems like the word 'iconic.' If you wrap the concept, the person, the 'vision,' within the idolatrous cocoon of 'icon,' then no more needs to be said; no more needs to be studied; no more needs to be considered; regular folk need take a fucking hike, 'cause the politics of privilege have spoken."

Let's take a look at Ms. Barnes-Gelt's remarks from the Denver Post on September 29, 2006 entitled: "Denver - It's Time to build a city!"

This week, Denver celebrates the grand opening of the city's newest architectural icon: the Art Museum's Daniel Libeskind-designed Frederick Hamilton Wing. And there are several more iconic structures looming over downtown's horizon.

Six internationally renowned architects (none of them local) are competing to design the Clyfford Still Museum, located on Bannock Street behind the Hamilton Wing.

Acclaimed London architect David Adjaye is designing the Museum of Contemporary Art's new exhibit hall in the Platte Valley.

And the city awaits big-ego-architect Steven Holl's scheme for the new courthouse at the downtownJustice Center campus.
Our charm bracelet is full. Now Denver should pause and attend to the strong, durable links necessary to weave this urban eye candy into a coherent, human-scaled whole.

It's time to build a city.
If you recall, way back at the beginning of this post, Ms. Barnes-Gelt chided Steve Holl for designing an icon, "...a monument to his ego." But, gosh, see now I'm confused. I'm confused because Susan just gushes over with iconic icons creating eureka moments and, in the process, we're gonna build a city (as if we didn't already have one!) and, by golly, by gosh, if ya'll don't see the vision 'cause ya'll just like red brick and square boxes, then get the hell out of the way 'cause Denver's on the move.

I'm confused. Are you?

Oh, by the way, Barnes-Gelt's idolization of the Libeskind pokey, lopsided glob that, as noted in a prior post, even physically nauseates art lovers who try to enjoy the art within but simply can't because the innerds of the glob diabolically intrude upon that enjoyment; yes, did Barnes-Gelt read the New York Times evaluation of the absurd memorialization of the Libeskind ego?

Well, anyway... I've emailed Steven Holl to see if I can get his side of the story. Don't expect an answer.

P.S. Dear Susan: The word "cacophony" to a true follower of the arts is something you ought not use to advance your "eureka" moments.

Libeskind Sickens

This, a letter to the editor from this Sunday's Denver Post:

I am an artist and have been a member of the Denver Art Museum for 40 years. I feel devastated. After less than two minutes on the fourth floor of the new Hamilton wing, I had to leave. Art is visual, and the visual disorientation of the walls made me so nauseated and dizzy I could not enjoy the fabulous art, no matter how hard I tried.

"Hubris" is the word that comes to mind whenever I recall my experience. It is more important for some to show off the Hamilton shell than for everyone to enjoy the art housed within that shell.

At least now I know what it feels like to have a handicap that excludes me from a public building and a huge part of my life as an artist.

Candis Cebula, Golden

Saturday, October 14, 2006

On the Lake This Morning - Our Canadian Friends

I believe that's a Night Heron perched on the top of an old pier post (lower right hand of pic).

Friday, October 13, 2006

Denver Election Commission - Sequoia = FUBAR

This from Colorado Confidential with regard to the newest example of what used to be called (is perhaps, still called) FUBAR (Fuc--- Up Beyond All Recognition) by the Denver Election Commission and their voting system accomplice, Sequoia.

First it was the black lines printed on the front of the ballot that can be read through to the back of the ballot that could possibly be read by the Sequoia scanning devices as votes. Then it was the reversal on one, and only one, yes/no option to no/yes, so that if you're not careful you might think you're voting yes when, in fact, you're voting no. Now, it's insufficient postage on the ballot return envelope.

The Denver Election Commission, of course, asserts that all of these issues are the fault of Sequoia, and Sequoia admits to their errors. If that's the case, what the hell does the Denver Election Commission do? What have they done to assure a fair, transparent election on November 7th? What? Can anyone tell me?

Sure, it's really convenient to have a vendor (Sequoia) who'll take the rap for your ineptness-- (shouldn't you, DEC, have triple checked those ballots, both the template and the first print; shouldn't you have thrice verified the weight of the ballots and considered the weight of the ballot tabs in the process?) It's easy to point the finger at a willing (and I'm sure well compensated) vendor, but where does the buck stop? Really. I'm curious. Where ultimately does the buck stop?

Dubya's Faith-Based Initiatives a "...charade..." a "...ploy.."

From AlterNet: (Video)

"National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as 'ridiculous,' 'out of control,' and just plain 'goofy,'" Kuo wrote. He added that Karl Rove called some of the nation's most prominent evangelical leaders "the nuts."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sarah - Golden Eye

Our Alaskan Malamute "rescue." Wondering now: who rescued who?

Um, Did Libeskind Read the Times This Morning? Oh my...

From the New York Times

A Razor-Sharp Profile Cuts Into a Mile-High Cityscape

Denver Art Museum anchors a new cultural district for the city.

Published: October 12, 2006

DENVER — For those who admired Daniel Libeskind’s early work, his recent trajectory has been painful to watch. After soaring to stardom in 1999 with the evocative zigzagging form of his Jewish Museum in Berlin, he has suffered humiliation in his role as master planner at ground zero, not so much for his design as his consistent refusal to stand up for it. And his worst buildings, like a 2002 war museum in England suggesting the shards of a fractured globe, can seem like a caricature of his own aesthetic.

The new addition to the Denver Art Museum captures all of the contradictions within Mr. Libeskind’s oeuvre. Its bold, often mesmerizing forms reaffirm the originality of his talent, yet its tortured geometries make it a daunting place to install or view art — hardly a minor drawback. And for all its emotional power, the building seems eerily out of date, and its flaws readily apparent.

The centerpiece of the city’s new cultural district, the museum is composed as a series of interlocking rectangles evoking a pile of boxes tumbling across the site. The entrance faces a new plaza dotted with trees that links the Civic Center with the Golden Triangle, a neighborhood of once-dilapidated boarding houses that developers are transforming into a hip neighborhood for young urbanites.

The new plaza is a well-worn formula: museums, shops and a loftlike apartment complex, also designed by Mr. Libeskind, that are intended to manufacture an instantly vibrant street life. Civic leaders promise that it will help revitalize downtown Denver. (The museum opened on Oct. 7.)

Within this context the museum can be magical. In its most striking feature, a triangular form at one corner shoots out over a street toward the old Gio Ponti museum building. A bridge connects the two buildings just underneath. Other forms tumble out toward the plaza, partly sheltering the entrance. Yet the genius of the exterior lies in how its appearance changes when viewed from varying directions. Fragments of the cantilevered beak-like form can be gleaned between towering downtown buildings; from other angles the structure seems static and bunkerlike. At night the building tends to flatten out, giving it a strange stillness.

Mr. Libeskind pulls some of that energy right up through the building. Visitors enter the galleries by ascending a staircase that spirals up through a four-story atrium lobby. As you climb, the staircase gets tighter, more intimate. Slivers of daylight enter through slotlike skylights set where the walls intersect, so that at times the building looks as if it were pulling apart at the seams. Farther up, beams crisscross the space as if to prevent the walls from falling in on you.

The intersecting geometries yield the sort of wonderfully odd, leftover spaces typical of an attic, and Mr. Libeskind takes advantage of this by setting up small sitting areas within some of them.
Resting on a sofa, you may catch a glimpse of a silhouetted figure wandering up the staircase several levels above. At other times the experience can be like entering the jarring, riotous forms of an Expressionist canvas by Max Beckman.

Yet this is a place for viewing real works of art. And if criticizing contemporary architects for creating flamboyant museums that mistreat the art they house has become a tiresome pastime, it is overwhelmingly justified here. In a building of canted walls and asymmetrical rooms — tortured geometries generated purely by formal considerations — it is virtually impossible to enjoy the art.

The curators have made a valiant effort. Some of the sculpture, for example, looks terrific here. Antony Gormely’s 2000 “Quantum Cloud XXXIII,” an anonymous figure fashioned from stainless steel rods, seems to splinter off into space, as if the entire building were floating in pieces around it. But paintings by Degas and Pissarro look absolutely lost in the chaos of the surroundings. A row of Campbell’s soup can paintings by Warhol hangs on one side of a column, as if the curators had given up trying to find a suitable spot for them.

Just as disconcerting is how dated the building looks. Its titanium cladding, whether a respectful homage or a tired appropriation of the famous skin used for Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, looks oddly familiar. And more generally, it can remind you of Mr. Libeskind’s geometries in earlier projects: the boxlike tumbling forms of an unbuilt addition for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the skewed cantilevered shapes of the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. It’s as if you’ve seen the same building again and again. And unlike, say, Mr. Gehry’s best work, the structures often seem shaped entirely by their own internal logic; their relation to their function and the buildings around them seems strained or artificial.

This problem may be related to the arc of Mr. Libeskind’s career. Many of his contemporaries spent the first phase of their professional lives in a desperate struggle to build, laboring night and day as unknowns, churning out design after design that went nowhere. But in the process they built up a storehouse of ideas they could draw on when they finally made a name for themselves and commissions began to pour in.

Mr. Libeskind spent the first decade or more of his career as an academic. By the time his Berlin museum was completed, he was 54 and had spent an entire decade pouring his heart into a single building that remains his greatest architectural achievement. His newfound celebrity resulted in a torrent of commissions, yet it seems as though he is struggling to expand on that earlier language, as if his stardom has not allowed him the time or space to explore new strains in his work.

The residential and retail complex he designed across the plaza from the museum looks like a cheap knockoff of his own building. Wrapping around two sides of a five-story parking structure, it lacks compositional rigor.

Oddly shaped forms are grafted onto the facades with no apparent rhyme or reason. A gridlike facade of crisscrossing mullions looks cheap and overwrought. And the interiors are blandly conventional except for the random positioning of some windows, which do make for some strange views.

You can’t help wondering what all this bodes for Mr. Libeskind’s future. He is building a German military history museum in Dresden and a performing arts center in Dublin; he is at work on more than two dozen residential and office towers in cities like Milan, Singapore, Toronto and Sacramento, Calif. Some of these clients are serious about producing quality architecture; others are probably in it for the Libeskind name.

But for any architect the proof is in the work, and Denver is a maddening bundle. At turns enchanting, predictable and irritating, it is uncompromising in all the wrong ways.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hickenlooper's Good Ol' Boy/Girls Club Fumbles Justice Center

First, a comment from my prior post on architect Steven Holl withdrawing from the Justice Center design team:

Anonymous said...

Look what happens when instead of assigning an EXPERIENCED engineer or architect to be the City's Project Manager, and letting the EXPERIENCED hands in the Dept. of Public Works handle the project, the Mayor's Office grabs control of it, and hands it over to a political hack who IS NOT AN ENGINEER OR ARCHITECT and who probably has not even built a doghouse in his life. No offense to Mr. Mejia, but I submit he's in over his head here.

Every damn administration at least since Pena has tried this approach and every damn time it's blown up in their faces. You'd think they'd learn.
Yeah, well, could we really have expected more? Indeed, from Pena to the Hick, we see the usual suspects showing up time after time after time on boards, commissions, as "special assistants" to the mayor. Makes one hark back to the old hymn (which, surely, is Hick's Kumbaya mantra. Okay, all together now...) :

May the circle
Be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by
May the circle
Be unbroken
In the sky, Lord
In the sky.
Nope. The circle continues. The Good Ol' Boy/Girls Club persists as goose poop in the park; something that we just can't seem to excise from the oval temple of hucksterism on the third floor of the City and County Building.

Incidentally, if you've got the time, you might want to just take a look at the folks Hick placed on the Justice Center Task Force (you can read their conclusions also). You'll have to drill down a bit to see the folks appointed to each of the three subcommittees. Yes, indeed, there are some good people on those subcommittees. There are also quite a number of the "usual suspects." I mean, does Hyatt, Brownstein and Farber (Farbes) have to sit on every committee, task force the Hick appoints? Probably, yes, given the winky-wink relationship between that law firm and three successive city administrations. Surprising, the only "usual suspect" missing is Susan Barnes-Gelt. Go figure!

Ain't politics grand!

The Rocky Mountain News provides a copyrighted story this morning: Justice center design in air - Full City Council will meet after nationally noted architect's exit

You can access the story here (not sure how long they keep the stories available.)

I've got lots of questions pursuant to this morning's News article, but something that jumped out at me was that James Mejia, the mayor's "Special Assistant," coordinating the project, stated that because of the accrual of interest on money raised for the project (GO Funding - General Obligation Bonds) they've got $394Million to spend on the project instead of the amount provided originally for voter approval, $378Million. Hmmm... Can they do that? Can they spend more than what the people voted for? And, indeed, if they can, Steven Holl--the architect who told the Hick he could take this job and, well, you know--said he was over budget by only $4Million. If they've now got $16Million more to spend on the project, then what gives? Who's jammin' who here?

P.S. Lee Driscoll, CEO of Wynkoop Holdings Inc. (Mayor Hickenlooper's restaurant "blind trust") is a member of the Finance Subcommittee of the Justice Center Task Force. Driscoll was, if you recall, put on the spot after the assasination of Detective Donny Young by Raul Garcia-Gomez who was (besides being an illegal immigrant) a dishwasher at the Cherry Cricket--one of the Wynkoop restaurants--at the time of the assasination. After the assasination, Driscoll was tasked with determining how many of the Wynkoop Holdings employees were illegal. They came up with 107, current or former employees. Said Driscoll, when he had to terminate the employement of those illegals: ""Dealing with these immigration issues is the first time in my life I'm ashamed to be an American." This according to Mike Littwin writing for the Rocky Mountain News on May 4, 2005.

Huge Mistakes on Denver Absentee Ballots

The below is verbatim from Heartbroken Tiger
(Note: graphic example can be seen by clicking the above link.)

Posted by Lisa J. on Oct. 10, 2006

Backers of Ref. F should scrap plans for a victory party. And Judge Johnny Charles Barajas should start looking for a new job. The Denver absentee ballots are stacked against 'em.

Seems like everyone in Denver will be voting absentee this year, and many of us got our ballots in the mail today.

Problem is, these ballots are bound to raise serious questions about fairness.

See for yourself. Take "Card 1 of 2" of your absentee ballot and look at the front. Looks fine.

Now, turn it over and hold it up to the light. What do you see? A thick, black line printed on the front of the ballot clearly comes through the back as a "no" vote for Judge Johnny Charles Barajas.

Now, take "Card 2 of 2." The front looks fine.

But turn it over and hold it up to the light. What do you see? A thick, black line printed on the front of the ballot clearly comes through the back as a "no" vote for Referendum F.

Absentee ballots are counted by an optical scanner. It has been demonstrated that relatively translucent paper allows markings on one side of the ballot to be counted as votes when the other side is scanned. It has happened before in Denver, in the 2003 school board race.

Accordingly, ballots are supposed to be designed carefully to avoid any possibility of a mark coming through the other side during the scanning process.

Holding your ballot up to the light, you can see for yourself that the paper is translucent. The bold markings definitely come through on the "no" vote lines for Judge Barajas and Ref. F.

The paper stock itself is not to blame. The weight of the paper meets strict specifications to prevent jamming of the optical scanner/counting machines. The DEC knew how translucent the paper would be -- that's why ballot design is so important.

What's more, you'll notice that "yes" is listed as the first choice for all questions -- except for Ref. F. Call it a simple copy editing mistake, but if someone wanted to ensure the failure of Ref. F, they couldn't have designed a better ballot.

Who signed off on this Rookie Mistake Hall of Shame ballot? John Gaydeski, DEC executive director.

The Denver Election Commission could re-design, reprint and re-mail all absentee ballots at considerable expense in the short time remaining before election day. But they would never be able to ensure that voters would return the correct version of the ballot.

Incidentally, Ref. F would make it easier for voters to remove elected officials from office...like, um, incompetent election commissioners. And, thanks to Denver's poorly designed absentee ballot, the measure will likely go down in flames. Go figure.

I tried to illustrate the problem in the graphics below, but the best way to see it is by holding your own ballot up to the light.

[Update: I got a note saying that Ref. F may end up making it harder to recall local politicians. Either way, F is fated to fail.]

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

From Libeskind to Holl - A Passion for "World Class"

I need not repeat my dislike of the Libeskind miscreation; the Frederick C. Hamilton wing of the Denver's Art Museum. The reports on the interior of the freakish Libeskind ghoulish juts are mixed. One report likened the interior to an amusement park's fun house. Others are quite ecstatic about the au courant "art for art's sake" frigidly stark interior of the place. I'm told the exhibits within are, on one hand, themselves quite ghoulish (one exhibit, I'm told, was created using the artist's blood); while, on the other hand, there are quite wonderful pieces, both modern and traditional. Yes, I'll visit the Hamilton wing once the crush--and it was a crush of, I believe, over 34,000 folks--have had their look -see.

Wondering now if I had had $20Million to contribute to the construction of the wing, would my name be up there instead of Hamilton's? Probably not. I would have packed Libeskind's suitcase for him and sent him back home before committing a dime. But, then, I didn't have $20Million and, well, the rest is history.

Steven Holl is/was the architect chosen to provide Denver with its next "world class" structure, a new Justice Center that will be just down the road a piece from the Libeskind mess. If you want to take a look at Holls vision, you can visit his website and download a little presentation on his vision for the said Justice Center. It's a large file, but--I thought, at least--quite worth it. Holl's vision pleases. It would have been a truly classy addition to Denver's rapacious appetite for "world class" status. (This "world class" thing is, for me at least, amusing. What does "world class" mean in practical terms? Another Paris? New York? This is Denver, folks. And, I'm quite fond of cows and the accoutrements associated with cows, thank you very much.)

Back to Holl.

Seems Holl has pulled out of the design for the Denver Justic Center. Holl--designated by Time Magazine in 2001 as America's best architect--explains:

"The project managers for the city of Denver effectively rejected this design and did not permit the collaboration necessary for great public architecture," according to the posting. "Without an advocate for public architecture on the city management side, the city's process did not allow Steven Holl Architects to move forward on the project."
James Mejia, Mayor Hickenlooper's Special Assistant tasked with coordinating the entire Justice Center project responded (with Holl's partner-in-charge answering) :

Mejia bristled at the statement and vigorously defended the city.

"The design that he showed came with five options, none of which had our entire program in budget," he said.

Mejia said Holl's proposal was about $30 million over budget. Unlike museums and libraries, Denver's courthouse will have no post-budget private fundraising, he said.

"We can't do that for a courthouse," he said. "We just can't do it."

Chris McVoy, who was partner in charge of the project for Holl, said Denver officials came to Holl's offices in New York on June 26 and liked the preliminary design.

A month later, he said, "they said there was a broad consensus."

McVoy said representatives of the firm visited Denver on Aug. 10, and Holl presented further developments on the design, which he said was over budget but not by the amount the city is claiming.

The city asked to see a draft of the plans on Aug. 31 and for a presentation in Denver on Sept. 5, McVoy said.

"That's when the city said it was unacceptable and to come up with a new design," he said.

That's as far as it got, McVoy said. "We didn't feel it was a collaborative process."
Well, long story short, Holl has quit the project and, according to the Rocky Mountain News (from whence the above quotes have come):

The city of Denver will pay nearly $700,000 to an architect who quit the justice center project last week, but it will be unable to use much of his work.
Whoops! Story worth following. Indeed, will Denver ever become a "world class" city? Ever?

Sweet Sarah

Our new baby has arrived. Sarah is a rescue dog from Polaris Alaskan Malamute Rescue here in Colorado (see my links). She arrived yesterday about 2p.m.

Sarah--in spite of her somewhat menacing appearance in this photo--is a very, very sweet little girl who knows several commands, loves to play tug-of-war and chase a tennis ball over and over and over... She prefers to stay outside.

The Polaris rep I've been dealing with reports that Sarah was born in Alaska (a real native Alaskan!), purchased from a breeder and then, when she became so large that she (not intentionally) knocked down small children, was given to another family. That family moved to Colorado and, sadly--being a military family--the daddy has been ordered to Iraq. So, we are her third family in the five short years of her life.

She is a happy, loving, gentle soul who will have a good (admittedly pampered) life with David and me.

More pics to follow.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Olbermann: Bush, a compulsive liar - General Tommy Franks: ...the unraveling of our Constitution

The President ... makes things up! General Tommy Franks fears for our Constitution.

Foley - Our Salvation is in our Humor

If we could not laugh, would we surely cry? Or, maybe we'd take a look at the proposition that absolute power corrupts absolutely, which, by the way, seems to be what's happend to the GOP!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

NO on 1A - Preschool Sales Tax - Inappropriate Boondoggle

Jeanne Faatz, the only Denver City Councilperson to oppose this ill-formulated, ill-advised, innapropriate raise in Denver's sales tax to fund what amounts to a "vouchering system" for pre-schools (anywhere in the Denver metro area) utilizing Denver sales tax dollars, provides a better reasoned argument than I can provide. An opion piece from the Denver Post's, David Harsanyi follows:

A Word From Jeanne Faatz

Preschool Sales Tax Increase: Just Say “No”

Mayor Hickenlooper is urging an increase in sales tax to subsidize preschool tuition for all 4-year-olds. This proposal will be on the ballot this November.

The Mayor and I agree on one thing. Early childhood education is important for children. My mother, a first grade teacher, earned her doctorate and started the first Head Start program in my home town. As a teacher myself and a former state legislator, I successfully advocated for assistance for our at-risk children through the Colorado at-risk preschool program.

For me, this debate is not about whether preschool is good. This debate is about higher taxes, the role of city government, and a flawed mechanism for program delivery.

Higher taxes

I oppose this tax increase proposal. The proposal calls for a .12% increase in sales tax. Denver’s sales tax, now 3.5%, would increase to 3.62%. The total sales tax collected in Denver, including state tax, RTD, etc., would rise to 7.72%. It will raise $12 million annually.

I am not looking for ways to increase the tax burden of our citizens. This tax will cost a family with an annual income of $70,000 approximately $50 a year. A median income family of $53,616 (2004 statistics) will pay about $33 more annually.

An increase in sales tax adds to businesses’ cost of operating. It also makes some of our retail businesses less competitive. In my Southwest Denver council district, I have a shopping center (Southwest Commons) directly across the street from Southwest Plaza in Jefferson County. This new tax would require our Denver businesses to collect 7.72%, while consumers could shop at Southwest Plaza and pay only 5.1%. The problem is already bad. This proposal makes it worse.

Expanded role for city government

Subsidizing preschool tuition isn’t the primary role of our city government. We have many responsibilities we aren’t adequately meeting now – streets, safety, parks, etc. We should take care of Job One before we even think about expanding the role of government.

Subsidies for illegal immigrants

This program provides universal coverage. All 4-year-olds with parents or guardians who are Denver residents qualify. One major problem with this approach is that it provides a benefit to residents regardless of their immigration status. This is an optional decision of the city administration and city council. It is allowed but not mandated by federal and state laws.

My constituents want non-emergency services for illegal immigrants curtailed. This proposal adds benefits. For instance, families with annual incomes below $50,000 will receive over $5,000 in subsidy for each 4-year-old.

The poor subsidizing the rich

Universal eligibility raises another philosophical issue. Subsidies are handed out on a sliding scale. There is no top income limit. The tax increase seems regressive when you consider that a poor or middle class family with older children, for example, will be subsidizing tuition for a millionaire’s 4-year-old child.

Flawed program

There are numerous technical flaws in the proposal. A non-profit corporation will be formed (incorporated by whom, the ordinance doesn’t say). Proponents call this a public-private partnership. I don’t. Why?

* This “private” concern doesn’t exist yet. It has no track record of competence to justify entrusting it with $12 million a year.
* This “private” concern has no obligation to bring money to the table for the program.
* This “private” concern will be governed by a board of directors and a board of advisors, all political appointees, appointed by the Mayor, confirmed by City Council.
* This “private” concern is supposed to be an independent contractor. Where is the “arms length” relationship if government makes the appointments to all the governing boards?

This program is not as cost efficient as advertised. While “administrative costs” are capped at 5%, many areas I’d consider administrative are outside the definition. Communication, marketing, consultants – none included in the cap. In fact, there is no guarantee of how much money will actually go to children’s tuition.

Issues raised at public hearing

One concern raised at the city council public hearing was the use of public money for private and parochial education. All licensed child care facilities – public, private, faith-based or home-based -- can participate. Another issue was the practicality of having the program’s Board of Directors monitoring the quality of facilities, another component of the program, throughout the metro area or even farther away. This program allows Denver tax money to go to preschools located anywhere in the state.

Just say “NO”

The voters should say “No” to this specific proposal. The issue is not whether we care about children or value preschool. The issue is whether we should raise our taxes, expand our city’s role, and annually entrust $12 million of our dollars to a flawed program.

Let’s ask the Mayor and his team of advisors, who stepped forward to examine children’s needs, to step back and devise a better solution to this problem. The Denver Preschool Program and the accompanying tax are not ready to become law.

Preschool doesn't need government
By David Harsanyi
Denver Post Staff Columnist
Article Last Updated:09/07/2006 03:46:06 AM MDT

One fundamental problem with government is that the only solution it seems capable of providing is even more government.

This November, Mayor John Hickenlooper's well-meaning proposal to hike Denver's sales tax to help fund preschool education will be on the ballot.

"I believe that Denver needs more quality preschools," explained Councilwoman Judy Montero.

She's right. The operative word is "quality" and it's the best reason to keep government out of the preschool business.

California voters recently rejected a universal preschool tax - which, to be fair, was a plan Karl Marx might have embraced - and Denver residents have twice in recent years said no to a preschool tax.

So why then was Jeanne Faatz the only Denver city councilor to oppose the plan this time around?

"I find a number of things I don't like in it. One is the tax implication. I was surprised that they were going after a sales tax," she explains.

"And I am very concerned about expanding the tuition subsidy. We have so many needs looming in front of us. We're still trying to catch up on the recession."

Well, we could always raise taxes again next year. Just a little ... really. Then just a little again next year - and so on.

Faatz contends that Denver is already burdened with "enormous" capital needs. And she can't recall a single constituent calling to register a complaint about preschool funding.

Faatz then proceeded to rattle off about a half-dozen programs and subsidizes available on the state and federal level for "at-risk" kids - "at-risk" a euphemism for "poor."

"Not only is it unwise to start down the path of expanding Denver government, but there are other groups operating on this level, helping kids," she explains.

Faatz also maintains that the funding mechanism for this tax hike is unfair: Why should poor people subsidize the preschool of the rich? By raising sales taxes - a tax everyone pays - that's exactly what would happen.

But a component that seems most harmful is the proposed "quality-improvement" system.

You know, there's already a brilliant "quality-improvement plan" in place. It's called parenting. And as a parent, I sure don't want a government-mandated council deciding what "quality" education entails for my kids.

We can all witness what a government-run monopoly in public education in poor neighborhoods has done in the "quality-improvement" department. Why allow the inevitable red tape and inflexibility to infect preschools?

Faatz also wonders why Denver would hand over $12 million to a group without a proven track record.

The council that will manage the money will be comprised of political appointees. And political appointees - whatever their intentions - always carry political baggage.

"Here you have a program with no track record of results, with no history. What political agenda is going to be played out?" asks Faatz. "When something isn't exactly the the way we want it, we create a new bureaucracy as treatment. If there is anything specific that needs an adjustment, a specific problem, I'm all for fixing it."

Geez, Faatz must really hate those poor little rosy-cheeked children.

"We all love children. I was a teacher. I am mom. My daughter is a mom. ... But this program is fatally flawed," says Faatz. She has other concerns, including that illegal immigrants can get stipends and the preschool subsidy can be taken to schools outside Denver.

There are positives as well. The plan calls for the stipend, like a voucher, to follow the child not the school. Perhaps one day, such vouchers will find their way into the K-12 system and poor children will be allowed to escape failing schools.

It will be interesting to see if Denverites once again see through the inevitable heart-wrenching "for-the-children" campaign tactics employed by proponents.

We're Expecting!

My water hasn't broken yet, but... Making the decision to give a "rescue" dog a home, we've been watching the Alaskan Malamute Rescue Site for some time now. And, on October 2nd, Sarah appeared on the site. If all goes well, we'll have her home Monday afternoon. Expect pictures!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Simple Gifts - The Quiet Sorrow of the Amish

Hearing of the killings of Amish children in the little school house near Georgetown, Pennsylvania, I drifted off to a recalling of the old Shaker song, "Simple Gifts," (I am listening to it now) a motif upon which Aaron Copland based much of his "Appalachian Spring" ballet. Though born and raised Catholic, the words of "Simple Gifts" haunt as essential dogma; a place to be.

From the Associated Press this morning (in part):

GEORGETOWN, Pa. (AP) -- In contrast to bright skies Thursday, horse-drawn buggies splashed along the country roads in a steady rain early Friday, headed to the funeral of a fifth victim of Monday's schoolhouse shootings.
...A sixth victim was reported in grave condition Thursday. County coroner G. Gary Kirchner said he had been contacted by a physician at Penn State Children's Hospital in Hershey who said doctors expected to take one girl off life support.

Mourners had gathered Thursday inside the fading white rail fence among small, aging tombstones to bury four of the girls killed by a gunman at the one-room school in Nickel Mines.

Farms along the road to the cemetery sprouted newly hand-lettered "posted" and "no trespassing" signs. At a house near the graveyard laundry hung out on a line in the rain.

Thursday meanwhile, had been a day for the Amish to share their grief without the intrusion of outsiders.

State troopers blocked off all roads into the village and led horse-drawn buggies and black carriages holding the girls' hand-sawn wooden coffins to the cemetery on the crest of a hill.

"I just think at this point mostly these families want to be left alone in their grief and we ought to respect that," said Dr. D. Holmes Morton, who runs a clinic that serves Amish children.

Funerals were held for 13-year-old Marian Fisher, 7-year-old Naomi Rose Ebersol and sisters Mary Liz Miller, 8, and Lena Miller, 7. The funeral for 12-year-old Anna Mae Stoltzfus was scheduled for Friday.

The girls, in white dresses made by their families, were laid to rest in graves dug by hand. Amish custom calls for simple wooden coffins, narrow at the head and feet and wider in the middle.

Amish funerals are conducted in German and focus on God, not on commemorating the dead. There is no singing, but ministers read hymns and passages from the Bible and an Amish prayer book.

Funeral processions passed the home of Charles Carl Roberts IV, the 32-year-old milk truck driver who took the girls hostage, tied them up and shot them before killing himself.

Benjamin Nieto, 57, watched the processions from a friend's porch. "They were just little people," he said of the victims. "They never got a chance to do anything."

...many Amish have embraced Roberts' relatives, who may receive money from a fund established to help victims and their families.

Roberts' wife, Marie, was invited to attend the funeral by the family of Marian Fisher; it was unclear whether she attended.

Media were blocked from the funerals and the burials, and airspace for 2 1/2 miles in all directions was closed to news helicopters.

Tragedies such as the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado have become moments of national mourning, in large part because of satellite and TV technology. But the Amish shun the modern world and both its ills and conveniences.

Donors from around the world are pledging money to help the families of the dead and wounded. Amounts ranging from $1 to $500,000 have been received and could help defray mounting medical bills.

At the behest of Amish leaders, a fund has also been set up for the killer's widow and three children.
The pervasive egoism of our times provides the stuff of conflict, hatred, war, biases, fractious religious zealotry, the murder of little girls, the stolen innocence of little boys. There is an embracement of a haughty intolerance of otherness.

Walt Whitman wrote in "Song of Myself:"

I think I could turn and live awhile with the animals...
they are so placid and self-contained,
I stand and look at them sometimes half the day long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied...not one is demented with the
mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another nor to his kind that lived
thousands of years ago,
No one is respectable or industrious over the whole earth.
Abraham Lincoln (a contemporary of Whitman) said: "We must disenthrall ourselves..."

And, finally, "Simple Gifts:"

'Tis the gift to be simple,
'tis the gift to be free,
'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
'Til by turning, turning we come round right

'Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
'Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
Then we'll all live together and we'll all learn to say,

'Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,
'Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of "me",
And when we hear what others really think and really feel,
Then we'll all live together with a love that is real.
Ah, if only it were possible...