Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More Snow (Hooray!) - 1-4 Inches in Denver Today

"Soulful" Sarah is really thrilled about the prospect of more snow. Really!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Honorable (??) Larry Manzanares, Denver's (Hickenlooper's) City Attorney

In spite of the fact that everybody and their brother, their first cousin and next door neighbor is posting about Denver's City Attorney, Larry Manzanares, and his "purchase" of a city-owned (actually could be state-owned, as it was the property of the District Court) laptop from some guy in a parking lot near the City and County Building, I've got my two cents to offer.

In an earlier post that dealt with alleged purchasing fraud at Denver International Airport I noted:

Suffice it to say, within any organization, public or private, there are and forever will be those who will not hesitate to take advantage of any opportunity to "beat the system;" to exploit any weakness in established process or procedure to protect the integrity of that system. I contend that the exploitation of such a weakness in a public sector system--specifically a public sector purchasing system--where public monies (local, federal or state taxes, fees, surcharges, grants, public/private co-op funding) are expended, is a crime of higher order than those perpetrated upon private sector entities. I contend that the fiduciary responsibility to protect the best interests of "the people," rather than the best interests of the corporation, is tantamount.
The point here, of course, is that public servants--a low-level clerk at the airport as well as the City Attorney--must necessarily be held to a higher level of accountability than those in the private sector. Why? Precisely because the contravention of trust in the public sector is a breach against the people.

Recalling my own twenty-three year slog through the, at times, onerous womb of the City and County of Denver, it was my habit to bring city-owned pens home from work. They were nice pens--velvet tipped or something like that. Invariably, my partner would grab the pens and proclaim them superb, with the unsaid but obvious suggestion that they would serve us well at home. My partner was just pushing my buttons, as he understood that keeping the pens for home use was something that would keep me awake at night; was something unthinkable given my--admittedly anal--fixation on preserving my own integrity as well as the best interests of the city. Sure, it was only a pen. But, it wasn't mine. It belonged to the people.

You all know the story. Manzanares allegedly purchased the laptop from some "guy" in a parking lot near the Denver City and County Building. The "guy" said he was "...trying to make bail..." and had some audio speakers to sell--Manzanares said he didn't need speakers--so the "guy" then offered the laptop. As Manzanares tells the story, he bit at the offer of the computer, shelled out the cash (how much?), and, wallah!, he became the proud owner of a Gateway laptop valued at about $1600.00.

The computer was reported stolen from the Denver District Court in January, and through Internet investigation (the software pings back to the mother ship, I guess), the Denver Police Department traced the laptop to Manzanares's Comcast account. He was using the laptop in his home.

A Harvard-educated attorney who served on the bench both as a County Court judge and a District Court judge and who also teaches law at the University of Denver, Manzanares explains that his weak moment in that parking lot was the product of naivete. Uh-huh, sure. (Wondering now how many defendants who appeared before dah judge in either the County or District courts pleaded naivete as a defense?)

Brilliance from Denver City Councilpersons. Councilman Charlie Brown: "I know personally from friends that he [Manzanares] spent Saturday just over at his house crying. This is horrible." From Councilwoman Kathleen 'Mack-the-Knife' MacKenzie: "I'm sick about it, but I have to say that his version of events shows an astonishing lack of judgment. He just took office as city attorney."

Oh, well... I really haven't come to expect much more the Hickies than daft diatribe well-greased with snake oil.

Innocent until proven guilty? Sure, that works. But, gotta note here that I got a wee bit of a feeling we're being patronized by this "naive" Harvard grad. I mean, how stupid do we look?

P.S. Update (Thanks, Jeffrey):

Mayor Hickenlooper Issues Statement on City Attorney’s Resignation

(DENVER) Larry Manzanares notified the Mayor’s Office early Tuesday afternoon that he has decided to resign his position as City Attorney. Mayor John Hickenlooper accepted the resignation and issued the following statement:

“We fully respect Larry’s decision and wish him and his family the very best during this difficult time. The fact that he did not want the ongoing investigation or questions surrounding this situation to interfere with the important work of the City Attorney’s Office speaks to the character and integrity he demonstrated during his respected career as an attorney and District Court judge.”

Manzanares was sworn in as Denver’s City Attorney on January 4, 2007. Deputy City Attorney Arlene Dykstra will serve as Acting City Attorney until a new City Attorney is appointed by the mayor.

A public statement issued by Manzanares is below.

# # #

Statement from Lawrence A. Manzanares: “Current events which have been highlighted by the media have created an untenable distraction for the Mayor's office and the position of Denver City Attorney. The position of City Attorney should be uncompromised by such distractions, and it would be unfair to the City and to the many fine attorneys in the City Attorney's Office to allow such a situation to continue. Therefore, I believe it is in the best interests of the City and the City Attorney's Office that I resign my position as City Attorney. I have had very many well-wishers and supporters encourage me to ride out the storm, and while I am grateful for their support, I believe the continued effectiveness of the City Attorney's Office must come first.”

Sunday, February 25, 2007

On Berkeley Lake This Morning

A Black-Crowned Night-Heron (I think). The body color is certainly that of a Great Blue Heron, although the short neck and thicker head reflects the Black-Crowned.

P.S. The more I think about it, this beautiful specimen probably isn't a Black-Crowned Night Heron. I've contacted the Colorado Birding Society for help with the identification. My hunch is that this is a Great Blue Heron whose distintive long, curved neck is hidden by the rear-view shot I took. We'll see...

P.P.S Okay, definitive information from the Colorado Birding folks: "Your photo is of a Great Blue Heron that is hunkered down. Notice long two toned bill, blackish head plumes, and blackish feathers on bottom of throat. A Black crowned Night Heron has a white throat, white plumes if present, and bill about the same length as its head.

Good birding!

Rebecca Kosten and all!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Sarah's Happy Friday

Rawhide chews make for a very happy Friday.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Community Forum on Residential Development in Denver's Established Neighborhoods

This appears to be a comprehensive explication of the city's approach to zoning issues, landmark preservation, "Areas of Stability," and other concerns that many of us have with regard to our neighborhoods.

Please note, they're asking that you RSVP if you're planning to attend.

P.S. Norwest Denver residents may want to check out this site which provides very relevant information with regard to the preservation of the quality of life in our little corner of the world. (Thanks, Anon!)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Letters to Melissa - A Thousand Times

Sweet Melissa:

Oh, I miss you, Nettie Moore,
and my happiness is o'er
winters gone, the river's on the rise
I loved you then, and ever shall
but, there's no one left here to tell
The world has gone black before my eyes...

Bob Dylan, "Nettie Moore"

A week of wondering what this--my thousandth--post (counting those never published, still in edit mode), would entail has led me back to you, Sweet Melissa. So much leads back to you...

You recall, of course, the beginnings of this old blog (June, 2004) when, after our morning run, we'd return home and I'd create the rant of the day that seldom meandered further than another denunciation of the tragedy that was and is and forever will be Dubya's war; a conflagration not only on the other side of the world, but in a world a thousand, ten-thousand years removed from the whole diapason of Western civilization. The duplicity of it all conjured a rage that, almost daily, spilled over into my little posts; my meager entreats meant for the unseen, unknown, perhaps unengaged eyes and minds of those who might catch a glance, here and there, of what jutted from my mind to my fingers out into what remains for me the unknowable mystery of cyberspace.

Yes, and then there were the short stories I shared with what became a small bevy of cyber friends, gay men who took some little interest in more than two decades of representations in prose of what gay life was when I was enmeshed in its trappings; before, during and after the appearance of the bogeyman--Old Mister A who began his insidious visitation upon us all, probably well before many of my so-called cyber friends were even born. Those short stories (many of which had been published in, um, esoteric mags), surely shocked the casual browser who might have stumbled onto my blog, not really knowing what they were getting themselves into until the rawness of the truth of those times was revealed. At that point--in my life and certainly within the safe anonymity of my blog--I really didn't care who thought what with regard to the content of my posts. I was, after all, in the process of becoming a more fully honest person; a more self-accepting person.

Dare I smile, Sweet Melissa, with the affirmation that I have been posting rants about my perception of Mayor John Hickenlooper's shortcomings since the beginning of the old blog, since June, 2004? Yes, I smile. Those rants continue to this day.

Perhaps there is some devolution from the sublime, noble rant to the whiny. In the beginning, as I said, the good fight promulgated on the blog focused mostly on the war, on Dubya, on the killings, on the insanity of it all. Now, well, I write about zoning issues and snow removal. Where's the nobility in that! But, then how long can one begin each day with the macabre images of insanity before one, himself, becomes encased in some adamantine shell where even the simple joy of a scarlet sunset or the majestic nobility, the essential worth of life reflected in the eyes of, yes, dogs becomes less than what it surely ought to be: miraculous?

Ah, but the pictures. So many pictures. A thousand posts means little when compared to the worth of pictures and the thousand words each of those pictures communicated over these past several years. The trees, the ducks, the geese, the Cormorants and the Pelicans, the camping trips, the scaling of a Colorado Fourteener, the old houses, the rivers, nieces, nephews, family, friends, the deer, the mountains and, oh, yes, each of you, Melissa; David's and my children, our babies.

Has the devolution, with this post, slip-slid into syrupy? Perhaps.

So, Sweet Melissa, I end this portentous post--my thousandth--with Sarah. You, of course, wouldn't like her. She is, like you were, the Queen Bee of her realm. She insists no others (critters, not people), tread near either David or me. But, unlike you, she is possessed by secrets--perhaps demons--that David and I will never know. We are the third family she has known, and her secrets surely have come from those prior lives, if you will, that do so haunt her, at times. I have come to call her "soulful" Sarah. Her eyes, if you study them for a moment, communicate something deep, something abiding that we--David and I, as mere mortals--will never fully understand.

In ending this post, Sweet Melissa, I can tell you that the quote from Bob Dylan, with which I began this piece, rang true for some time after your passing. Yes, I miss you still; I loved you then and ever shall. But, please know that the world remains a sphere of beauty and dread; a lovely and an ugly place.

Perhaps, my next thousand posts will reflect a more reasoned attempt to grasp more beauty than dread.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

How About a Property Tax Increase -- That Would Go Well With Your Latte!

Twice last week, Sarah and I were stuck behind the dull rumble of the snail's pace plodding parade of heavy equipment--with the exception of the cute, little Bobcat front loader leading the pack--that chugged down Tennyson, across 38th and beyond 46th. Mayor Hickenlooper's too much, too late so-called snow/ice removal effort was, as Sarah and I witnessed last week, burning up the bucks (in the aggregate, 5$ Million, at least), with impressive, manly panache. Yes, twice last week, there was the Bobcat, two graders (you know, the huge praying mantis things), a massive front-loader and two dump trucks and, of course, Sarah and me in the old Explorer taking up the rear.

Turning at 46th (on our way to Berkeley Park for our morning ritual), I wondered, of course, where the hell the expensive parade was going? Streets/gutters looked pretty clear to me. "Maybe over the next rise, Kemo Sabe," said I, to Sarah who was obviously cogitating the same thing as she sniffed the diesel-fume laden air as we turned away from the procession.

(Being intimately familiar with city contracts and the contracting process, I knew that the operators of all that equipment and the charges for the equipment itself, began the moment the parade commenced from wherever it was they had staged their equipment the night before. The maddeningly slow slog along Tennyson--I concluded--was costing a small fortune.)

Wishing I'd had my camera (it's never there when I really need it!), Sarah and I, on foot--rounding the east end of Berkeley Lake--saw the contracted armada we had followed to 46th, gaggled-up just a block away on the little street--maybe it's 47th???--that connects Tennyson with Lowell along I70. The Bobcat was working on a smidgen of ice at an intersection. The other equipment? Well, it just rumbled idly, awaiting the little tike's completion of that little task on that little street.


My recent rant with regard to Mayor Hickenlooper's decision to spend down Denver's General Fund contingency to the tune of between $5 to $10 Million (the total contingency is 2% of the city's total budget, or about $16 Million), for the purpose of providing the above-described too much, too late snow/ice removal taxpayer funded bombast, included the following speculation:

One wonders, of course, if--in spite of your [Hickenlooper's] almost certain reelection to a second term (God, knows why they still love you!), this too much, too late response to ice and snow removal is a cute little gambit that--political genius that you are!--provides the foundation for something dark and dangerous in the future.

I say "dark and dangerous" because I'm a home owner and do pay property taxes and, ahem, do not want to pay more property taxes. But, sir, do I see the beginning of some very dire writing on the wall that you and your minions are most likely discussing behind closed doors (without, one assumes, wafts of hot cigar smoke hanging palpable in that oval office on the third floor of the City and County Building. Perhaps the sweet smell of lattes permeate the room now.)
Ah, the Hick is becoming so predictable. Comes Lou Kilzer's column in the February 9th Rocky Mountain News, where we're told: "Denver should raise property taxes for the average homeowner by $61 a year if it hopes to maintain, expand and build vital city structures, a panel formed by Mayor John Hickenlooper has concluded."

Kilzer goes on:
"Without at least $27 million a year in new tax funds, the city will fall hundreds of millions of dollars short of what it needs to maintain basic city assets, according to the panel's report obtained by the Rocky Mountain News.

"The group of 10 business and civic leaders reached a grim conclusion: If voters turn down the increase 'there will not be sufficient funds to address the deferred capital rehabilitation and maintenance needs and there will be no new funding available for expansion, upgrades or new projects beyond current levels."
Hickenlooper's cast of thousands who serve on blue-ribbon committees, task forces, advisory councils, special commissions, this and that and the other feel good assemblages of the usual suspects who can be relied upon to prop-up Hizzoner on that lofty foundation of big money, big egos, big--let's save the world, essential city services be damned--ideas; yes, Ol' Hick surely stirred his latte--a wonderful beam of a smile across his face--as he felt his bowels wrap themselves around the "...grim conclusions..." of said " and civic leaders..." Yes, what joy it would be (for a politician) to have a pot of green--" least $27 million a year..."--to spend, not according to the public weal, but according to the priorities of the politicians. Suffice it to say, a property tax increase would accrue to the city's General Fund, where, yes, it would be left to politicians to allocate monies to projects that would generate the most prolific political hay from, yes, once again, the usual suspects who infest this mayor's administration like bees to a hive. Got Honey!

Take, for example, Kilzer's piece (in the ever-shrinking Rocky Mountain News), which showcases the need to accomplish a "do over" for the Boettcher Concert Hall. Yes, Kilzer uses several paragraphs to explain an estimated $100 million is required to rebuild the concert hall because-- Jack Finlaw, the director of the city's theaters and arenas division, reports--"...too many compromises were made when Boettcher...was built in the 1970s." The problem with Boettcher: the sound from the Colorado Symphony Orchestra disperses itself inappropriately, 'cause the hall-in-the-round is not immediately enclosed, because it was originally meant to be a multi-use space, not just reserved for the orchestra. I agree that the sound in Boettcher sucks. The orchestra performs well, but the sound meanders and, therefore, one's symphony experience is compromised. But, $100 million?

Dare I mention that the disgusting negligence of Denver's parks alone amounts to an estimated $100 million? Yet, Kilzer devotes one line to Denver's parks; a line that notes Hizzoner's "...civic and business leaders..." have identified $10.5 million for "Park improvements" and have placed that line item on a "wish list."

Then there's the case of the fifth floor of Denver Health Medical Center being included as one of the pressing needs that a property tax increase would alleviate. Wait a minute. Denver Health is an independent (under state statute) authority, which it's half-million-dollars-a-year CEO, Patty Gabow, touts as being the shining model of a totally in-the-black (as opposed to financial red), public entity that, because it was able to break away from the onerous bureaucracy of the City and County of Denver in 1996(?), is self-sustaining and ridin' high. Well, hot-damn! then, Ms. Gabow, whadaya doin' lookin' to the city, the taxpayers of the city to hand over $5.8 million to redo the 5th floor of your independent (from the city), health authority? I'll bet you've just become a little too fond of the city's continuing--in spite of your "independent" status--funneling tens of millions of dollars a year into your totally in-the-black operation. Right? Just makes sense, huh. I mean, this year the city's General Fund in handing over about $43 million to your totally in-the-black operation. Why shouldn't the city redo your 5th floor, then? Makes sense to me. NOT!

Well, I could go on. But, to what end?

Listen, sales taxes are regressive. (Yeah, I know, that didn't bother the Hick with his pre-school thing, last May!). The necessity to space substantial bond issues to every 7 to 10 years just ain't cuttin' it. Property tax increases are probably the most distasteful of all tax increases. (Ya'll on fixed incomes know this better than I.) But, what the hell are we going to do? The city's infrastructure is crumbling to the tune of what some estimate currently sits at about $1 billion. What the hell are we going to do?

Yet, Hickenlooper fiddles; sending kids to pre-school, ending homelessness, attacking snow and ice a wee bit too late for a wee bit too much; basking in the "genius" of his Parks and Recreation Department (read Kim Bailey) restarting those wonderful, pretty fountains while they, Parks and Recreation, can't even water the lawn because the irrigation infrastructure is gone, kaput! I could go on, but what's the use.

I don't know. I'm just some nut who posts to a blog. (Sometimes with a smile: ; - ] )

Friday, February 09, 2007

Scrape-Offs - "New Urbanism" - The Gluttony of Property Rights - Part 1

In 1982, I was a computer operator, working at what was then still referred to as Denver General Hospital (now Denver Health). I worked the 11p.m. to 7a.m shift in the basement of a building (one of the oldest on the hospital's campus), called "Unit 9." And, yes, I was working when the Christmas snow storm of 1982 commenced. I was on the clock, I believe, more than forty hours because it was impossible for anyone else to get to work. The storm dropped more than two feet of snow; the city was unprepared to deal with it and, consequently, the sitting mayor (Bill McNichols, who had already served almost fourteen years in office), was a victim of the storm and was summarily voted out of office.

The point of this little history is relevant.

At one point during my 40+ hours in that dark, deserted, somewhat scary basement, I needed to get out; I needed to take a shower; I needed a break. A friend of mine lived not far away in the historic Baker neighborhood, just south of the hospital. The house my friend owned, by that time, had already been designated a historic landmark, being the childhood home of Mary Chase who wrote the play "Harvey," about a six-foot tall imaginary rabbit (Pooka). The play opened in 1944 and ran for more than 1,700 performances. The play was made into a movie that starred Jimmy Stewart.

I don't remember at what point (night or day), I grabbed my beeper, abandoned the basement of Unit 9 and headed for the Mary Chase house. Once there, I took a shower, ate microwaved pizza and took a nap in one of the upstairs bedrooms. Suffice it to say--even though Mary Chase didn't write "Harvey" in her childhood home--the seed of her imagination (the birth of her muse), was surely nurtured there, and I can tell you the presence of playful spirits--surely a Pooka or two included--whispered softly to me as I slept--their warm, comforting breath against my cheek as they studied my unusual presence in their sphere.

It is instructive to provide the current requirements for designation of a structure or site for preservation under "landmark" status. It may also be instructive to
correct Tom Noel's description of the Mary Chase house (see Mary Chase link, above). Mr. Noel, noted Denver historian, describes the house as a "...small, one-story cottage." Well, it's clearly small, but unless my eyes--and my memory of twenty-five years ago--deceive, it's at least a story-and-one half, if not two stories. No big deal, but I thought you ought to know.

From Chapter 30 of Denver's Revised Municipal Code:
Sec. 30-3. Criteria for designation of structures and districts for preservation.

A structure or district may be designated for preservation, if it meets at least one (1) criterion in two (2) or more of the following three (3) categories:
(1) History. To have historical significance, the structure or district shall be thirty (30) or more years old or have extraordinary importance to the historical development of Denver, and shall:
a. Have direct association with the historical development of the city, state, or nation;
b. Be the site of a significant historic event; or
c. Have direct and substantial association with a person or group of persons who had influence on society.
(2) Architecture. To have architectural significance, the structure or district shall have design quality and integrity, and shall:
a. Embody distinguishing characteristics of an architectural style or type;
b. Be a significant example of the work of a recognized architect or master builder;
c. Contain elements of architectural design, engineering, materials, craftsmanship, or artistic merit which represent a significant or influential innovation; or
d. Portray the environment of a group of people or physical development of an area in an era of history characterized by a distinctive architectural style.
(3) Geography. To have geographical significance, the structure or district shall:
a. Have a prominent location or be an established, familiar, and orienting visual feature of the contemporary city;
b. Promote understanding and appreciation of the urban environment by means of distinctive physical characteristics or rarity; or
c. Make a special contribution to Denver’s distinctive character.
Whether or not the Mary Chase house, under current requirements, would be categorized as a historical landmark is unsure. But, it is a historic landmark and, consequently, cannot be substantially altered or "scraped" without the completion of a labyrinthine bureaucratic process. I'll leave the details of that process to your inquisitiveness (or masochism!).

Now, to West Highlands (my little corner of the world).

Seems two gentlemen, John Locke and Keith Swanson, owned/own (the house is obviously vacant now), an 1886 Queen Anne or Victorian (even the architectural style is a point of contention), which was the former home of Elwin T. Webber, a Civil War veteran who, in 1886 platted the Highland Place subdivision; William F.R. Mills, Denver's 30th mayor (1918-1919, Wow! Short incumbency!) who, when he was the mayor, didn't live in the home. Spring Byington, a film and tv actress of the 1930s, '40s and '50s also lived in the home as a child, as well as one of Denver's first female doctors, Mary Ford who lived in the house between 1903-1951.

Well, Locke and Swanson, the two gentlemen who owned/own the house (they may still own it, given the chaos engendered with regard to historic landmark designation sought by the West Highlands Neighborhood Organization WITHOUT the knowledge of the two gentlemen who owned/own the home), wanted to sell it, most likely, to a developer whose intent was to "scrape" it and build condos on the land. The offer to the two gentlemen from the potential buyer was $719,000. When the landmark designation was filed by the neighborhood organization, the buyer/developer backed out of the deal. Locke and Swanson then had to knock at least $45,000 off the asking price.

From a Rocky Mountain News story about this little imbroglio over in our little neighborhood, it was reported that the twenty-two page application for landmark designation of this home noted, among other things, that it "...meets the required two of three criteria -- architectural and historic significance -- for landmark designation. It's called a model of the Queen Anne-style..."

During a meeting of the Landmark Preservation Committee that took up the application for landmark status for this structure, the Committee staff noted that, "The application for landmark found to be complete. The period of significance is 1886. The applicant is the West Highlands Neighborhood Association. The Webber/Mills/Ford House meets the criteria for designation in the following categories: History, 1a, and c, and; Architecture, 2a."

Now, before we move ahead, let me provide a shot of what a real Queen Anne style home in the West Highlands neighborhood looks like. Note the flourishes, the spindles, towers, the irregular roof, classical columns, the asymmetrical shape of the house

Now, compare this excellent representation of the Queen Anne style with the house in question. Can we really buy the assertion in the landmark designation application that the house in question is in the style of Queen Anne? I can't. You are left to your own conclusion.

As usual, I do go on...

I did not anticipate this post would become a multi-series extravaganza. But, knowing your time is limited (and, maybe, your attention, also, unless you're involved in this particular issue or happen to live in the neighborhood), let me end this initial dip into the controversial subject as provided by the title of this post and, with the best of intentions, I hope to continue it in the not too distant future.

By the way, across the street from the house in question, is this monstrosity, rising from the good West Highlands earth along the 3900 block of West 32nd Avenue. What does this--the proverbial, "a picture is worth a thousand words"--have to say about the albeit noble, but most likely--in this case--misdirected argument that raising the house in question would encroach upon the the maintenance of the character of areas of stability (read neighborhoods) of West Highlands? Methinks "encroachment" has already occurred.

Sarah's (Green-Eyed) Happy Friday Smirk

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Dear Mayor Hickenlooper (You're Kidding, Right?)


It's reported that you are raiding the city's contingency (reserve) funds to the tune of between $8 million to $10 million to dig yourself out of the rut you and your manager of Public Works, Bill Vidal, have gotten yourselves into by fumbling the essential city service of snow removal during the past several snow storms. You're kidding, right?

It's also reported that, last year, you raided the city's contingency (reserve) funds to the tune of $15.8 million for a "...variety of areas." I'm not certain what "areas" you pumped funds into in 2006, but it has been my experience that former mayors have raided these funds (certainly, not to the extent you have), for their own pet projects, most of which enhanced their standing with a particular constituency. I have no doubt your discretionary spending of these contingency (reserve) monies mirrors the political haymaking of past mayors.

Taking up to two-thirds of the city's contingency (reserve) funds--now that the snow storms have abated and we're likely to have near sixty-degree weather today and probably tomorrow, as well--to do what could have been avoided had you and Mister Vidal conducted the said essential city service properly in the first place, is lunacy. It's stupid. It doesn't make sense.

One wonders, of course, if--in spite of your almost certain reelection to a second term (God, knows why they still love you!), this too much, too late response to ice and snow removal is a cute little gambit that--political genius that you are!--provides the foundation for something dark and dangerous in the future.

I say "dark and dangerous" because I'm a home owner and do pay property taxes and, ahem, do not want to pay more property taxes. But, sir, do I see the beginning of some very dire writing on the wall that you and your minions are most likely discussing behind closed doors (without, one assumes, wafts of hot cigar smoke hanging palpable in that oval office on the third floor of the City and County Building. Perhaps the sweet smell of lattes permeate the room now.)

It is, sir, no secret that the cost to just touch the surface of remediating the obscene neglect of Denver's parks is--most likely on the low end--over $100 million. Remediating the disgusting policy of deferring repairs and maintenance to/of the city's infrastructure will cost, according to some city councilpersons, close to $1 billion. In spite of that, you championed a pre-school initiative to raise the city's sales tax (which passed by slightly over 1%. And, boy howdy, didn't you luck out by the DEC effectively disenfranchising about 18,000 well-intentioned citizens, many of whom, I suspect, would have said no, um, hell no to a sales tax increase...a regressive tax for, yes, one of your pet projects). What about the rest of us, sir? Do we matter in your perception of what really matters in the whole scheme of what is called the public weal?

So, back to your closed door machinations. Let's spend down the city's contingency (reserve) funds to next to nothing; let's get out there and melt that damnable ice; let's make the people happy and then--heh! heh! heh!--let's hit 'em in May with the absolute necessity to raise property taxes to take care of all that other baloney (read: essential city services), that , well, we just can't seem to fund 'cause we're busy housing the homeless, sledding down those great ice mountains and sipping hot cocoa, and taking care of all those kewl feel-good pet initiatives that the "business mayor"--you, sir--find so engaging.

You know, it's been my understanding that the city's bond rating depends, in part, on the health of the city's reserve funds; that those who rate city bonds take a wee look at a municipality's reserve pot in determining what rating that municipality's bonds will receive. Does this worry you, sir? If it doesn't, it should.

I used to chuckle every time you'd appear before some group and say, "Well, you know, I've only been here for three months, or six months, or two years;" a kind of ah shucks, folks, give me a chance to figure out what the hell I'm supposed to be doing up there on the third floor of the C & C Building. I don't chuckle any more. After all this time in office, sir, you still seem to be flying by seat of your skinny-assed pants. Your nerdy personae doesn't play any more...with me, at least.

Well, anyway, sir, I've got to tell you that your snake oil approach to calming and pacifying the masses does not--and never did--play well with me. See, you were gonna--By golly! By gee!--turn the city around. You were gonna purge the city of those incompetent slugs (read bureaucracy), and bring a hot-damn business approach to the administration of this city. When is that going to happen, sir? It clearly hasn't happened yet. Still waiting. Perhaps you've discoverd that the sitting bureaucracy knows what the hell it's doing much better than you, sir.

Poor old Mel Thompson--the city's Budget Director--reflecting on your plan to spend down the contingency (reserve) funds by two-thirds--was quoted in the News the other day as saying, "It's a pretty big task right now. I do not know the magnitude right now because it's ongoing. But it is my sense that we will have to look at '07 pretty hard. We will have to sharpen our pencils and look at those areas where we may be able to reallocate existing budget items in order to do this."

"...reallocate existing budget items..." Do you know, sir, what that means? Do you know, Mister Mayor what Mel is telling us? Let me inform: Mel is telling you and all of us that unfilled positions in agencies will probably have to remain unfilled. Mel is telling us that vehicle replacement, computer replacement, hell, maintenance and repairs of the city's infrastructure are going to have to be sharp-penciled out of the budget because of your skewed, fairytale perception of what it is you're supposed to do as mayor of this great city.

How sad. How very, very sad.

In closing, sir, I've never had much confidence in you, albeit I'm apparently in that pathetic little minority who hasn't assumed you walk on water. But, then, that doesn't bother me. I know what I know. I believe my instincts about things political are pretty right-on. I've never bought your snake oil salve-for-the-masses.

Sir, you've got a problem. And, believe me, it ain't gonna be solved by paring down the city's contingency (reserve) funds to next to nothing. That's dangerous. And--Good Lord have mercy!--you really ought to know that by now.



P.S. If it's not too much trouble, sir, would you kindly take my share of the $8 to $10 million and use it to put that pedestrian crosswalk in on Central Avenue; you know, the place where the Highland Bridge abuts the Highland neighborhood. Or, maybe better yet, could you just pave the decrepit, neglected, sorry-assed trail through Highland Park that is now not so much a trail as an obstacle course. Yes, that would work for me. But, then, I don't represent one of your constituencies, do I. Guess I'm shit outa luck, huh?

P.P.S. In the interest of accuracy:

The City and County of Denver's contingency fund is 2% of the total General Fund. The General Fund totals approximately $800 Million. So, the so-called contingency fund equals about $16 Million. The city's "reserve" fund amounts to about 15% of the General Fund. Therefore, the reserve fund amounts to about $120 Million. There is a distinction between the "contingency" fund and the "reserve" fund. The reserve fund is what, generally, bond raters will take a peek at in setting the bond rating for the city. The contingency fund is what is raided for projects or supplementals to agencies when no other source of funding can be identified.

Denver mayors (and I have no reason to believe this one is different than any other) will--to fund pet projects--grab unspent agency funds for that purpose. Those agencies that are targeted (via the Budget Office) for "contributions" to non-budgeted mayoral initiatives, will invariably find themselves, toward the end of the year, seeking supplementals in order to make up for what was taken from them earlier: a kind of rob Peter to pay Paul kind of cooking of the books.

The reserve fund is sacrosanct except, of course, if the city depletes it's contingency fund. Now, it's only February, and Hizzoner (with, most likely, the support of the city council) is positioning to dip into the contingency fund for up to $10 Million for the above explained snow/ice removal lunacy. Doing the simple math, then, leaves about $6 Million in the contingency fund for the remaining ten and one-half months of the year. Seems problematic to me. You are left to your own conclusions.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Ellen DeGeneres Calls Gladys Hardy

Just a respite from the polemic. Gladys Hardy in Austin is a hooot!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Bureaucrats and Public Servants - A Tale of Ruts

Consistently--over twenty years of public service--I've made a distinction between bureaucrats and public servants. In spite of the demonization of bureaucrats and bureaucracies, the voluminous interest Max Weber devoted to the same is enlightening, if not tedious. Suffice it to say, as the word itself implies ("bureaucrat" is derived from the French word, "bureau," which means desk), a bureaucrat sits at a desk, applies rules and regulations in the performance of his/her daily duties and leaves self-judgement with regard to the efficacy or propriety of any particular rule or regulation on the nightstand before he or she leaves for work in the morning. A bureaucrat does his/her duty, collects his/her paycheck and, above all, shuns any extra effort or initiative to pierce the adamantine shell in which he/she--usually quite happily--envelops themselves within.

Public servants, on the other hand--my view--fear not the, at times, courageous, onerous--what they perceive as--duty to question the heavy heap of bureaucratic baloney that has been enshrined, codified, coddled and hurrahed by politicians and policy makers. Yes, if one is comfortable with the demonization of bureaucrats, then one must also be comfortable with the undeniable fact that the bureaucracy is a creature of politicians--whether the politicians (such giants of the intellectual realm), realize it or not.

Can I hear an Amen!

A story in this morning's Rocky Mountain News, provides an illustration. Seems the residents in an upscale neighborhood in Denver (Crestmoor Park), have had enough of Mayor Hickenlooper's and his minions inability to remove the layer upon layer of ice that has been left on residential streets for, um, almost two months now. Driving down those streets--not unlike most residential streets in Denver--is best left to the most adventurous of us. The foot or more deep ruts in the streets provide a thrill a second, especially when one vehicle encounters another approaching from the opposite direction. See, one must plant their tires within the ruts. If two vehicles meet--going the opposite direction--one brave soul has to pull his or her vehicle out of those ruts to let the other vehicle pass. Then, of course, the brave (or stupid?) good Samaritan who pulled out of the ruts--once the other vehicle passes--must attempt to reestablish his or her vehicle back into those ruts in order to get on down the road. Problem is, it's a wee bit difficult to climb over those ice hills that straddle those ruts.

The good, certainly affluent folks over in Crestmoor Park decided they'd waited long enough for Hick and company to dig them out, and they took it upon themselves to hire a contractor to do the job which, by the way, is an essential service relegated to the City and County of Denver. So, the independent contractor is working away, clearing the streets and along comes an unnamed city employee, a bureaucrat, who tells the Crestmoor neighbors and the contractor that they can't do that; that they aren't allowed to plow streets. "That was the irony of the whole thing," said John Sadwith, President of the Crestmoor HOA (Home Owners Association). "They [the city] won't come out and do it, but they don't want to let us do it."

Now, methinks a public servant upon arriving in the Crestmoor neighborhood and seeing independent contractors undertaking a task the city is unable to accomplish, would have turned his city vehicle around, and, smiling hugely, looked at himself in his rear view mirror and given himself a little winky-winky and thanked almighty God and the well-healed folks over in Crestmoor for taking care of something that he and his crews (I'm assuming this unnamed Public Works employee was a supervisor), couldn't. End of story.

It is probably instructive to recount the source of the Crestmoor neighbor's frustration with the city. From the News story, comes this: "We had many e-mails with (Councilwoman) Marcia Johnson, and the e-mails back from her were always the same, which was the city says they'll get to everybody in two weeks. That was on the 10th. The 24th rolls around, and we haven't seen a plow yet. We're just getting doublespeak from Public Works." And, I'd add, from Councilwoman Marcia Johnson, as well.

To be fair, the Hick and City Council are hustling to abolish a rule or regulation with regard to private contractors having to "pull a permit" to to clear a city right of way.

P.S. Over here in West Highlands, over here in our little old Northwest Denver neighborhood, over here on our little old street, neighbors have spent uncounted hours chipping the ice out of the street. The few nice days we've had in the past three or four weeks, has seen pretty much each of us--in happy groups or individually--take the initiative to chip, chip, chip away at the accumulated mounds of ice that cradle those damnable ruts in the road.

Go figure! Guess the good folks over here on the North side, have a little less faith in the city (and certainly, a little less disposable income) than those in Crestmoor Park.

P.P.S. After more than twenty years in the public sector, there are some things that even the public servant cannot, should not, must not evade with regard to rules, regulations, codified edicts. Those "sacrosanct" imperatives generally reside in the area of financial matters (including purchasing process/procedure), and other functions where the best interests of the city require absolute adherence to established (codified or not), requirements that preserve the integrity of system; that demand ethical behavior from all public sector employees--hired, appointed or elected.