Saturday, December 30, 2006

Dah Plows! Dah Plows!

Like an episode of "Fantasy Island," we awoke at about 2:30 a.m. to the fantastical, unbelievable sound of diesel engines revving and plow blades scraping asphalt. So, our little street (which looked like this yesterday)

Looks like this today!

Then, later, we found out that it wasn't heavy equipment at all, but it was our neighbor, Owen, who,of course, had been up all night with his little shovel. Thanks, Owen. Good job!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Hick's Plan - Um, I Keep Waitin', Hopin'

From the Rocky Mountain News this morning: "Mayor John Hickenlooper on Thursday launched a new program to plow neighborhood streets... Under Hickenlooper's new plan, plows are being sent into side streets during the storm, not after, as had been the case in the past."

This is a very wet, heavy snow that is collecting on tree limbs and power lines. And, it's only 10:30 and the real snow is supposed to begin about noon.

Glorious Snow (Don't tell anyone, but I love it! Except, of course if I have to drive somewhere!)

From last night and this morning. And, more snow is coming...up to four, five, six, eight more inches by tomorrow.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

More Snow, More Spin -- the Hickies Whine

With Denver expecting about 18 more inches of snow by tomorrow--and probably more by Saturday--Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper's administration (and family) just seem to be digging themselves deeper and deeper into a rut. Ah, "rut." Good word. Dare I mention Denver's citizens have been attempting to dig themselves out of those ruts for an entire week with little help from Hick's minions.

Let me just note some quotes:

From Councilwoman Rosemary Rodriguez, reflecting on Hickenlooper: "He looks at snow and disaster and sees cocoa and sledding. [At the height of the last storm, Hickenlooper urged citizens to visit one of four parks for sledding and hot cocoa.] He looks at election problems and sees the voters willing to stand in line for three hours and not the ones who left without voting. In a leader, you want someone who can see both."

From Diane Wolta, a community activist: "My biggest concern about his (Hickenlooper's) political situation is that he made seemingly crazy statements like all residential streets had been plowed, and they clearly weren't. Yeah, I'd be worried if I were him. It doesn't show a good grasp of what's going on in the city."

From Bill Vidal, Hickenlooper's Manager of Public Works: "At this point, we're getting so many complaints about neighborhood streets that we're listening to our customers. We're going to deal with it." [AHA! Gotta complain before anything gets done. Gotta complain before Vidal and company LISTEN to you.]

From the Mayor's wife, Helen Thorpe, an e-mail to the Hick's friends: "I really think John needs all of his supporters to write a letter. And would you each consider asking people that you know to do the same?" She noted that she didn't think "negativity" should be preeminent in the discussion as to how well her hubby and his minions did in taking care of the leavings of the last storm.

Well, this time tomorrow, I'll let you know how it's going. Not holding my breath!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hickenlooper's Promise, um, Snake oil & Spin - Denver's Streets

Another op'nin, another show
Across the city, a shitload of snow
A chance for stage folks to say hello!
Another op'nin of another show.

(Another Opening, Another Show - Cole Porter)
To paraphrase something from W.F. Buckley, Jr. (of forty years ago): I thought I had seen everything--I hoped I had--in Mayor Hickenlooper's repertoire of show-stoppers; his snake oil "businessman's" approach to big-city mayorship. But, the grand champion effrontery occurred this morning with his pronouncement that he believes he wants to study how other cities remove snow from streets. This in spite of his pronouncement on December 21st that Denver is better prepared to handle a storm of this magnitude than it was six years ago. Um, well, apparently not so.

Egads! This is Denver, Hick. But, yes, I understand. Your MO never fails, no matter what the issue happens to be. Another committee, another task force, another study, another way to slip slide a decision, a MAYORAL decision onto the backs of others, to tap dance your nimble way out of the fray; to disenthrall yourself from the whole nasty mess.

Hick promised, if you recall, that all residential streets would be taken care of, i.e. cleared, by noon on Saturday which--well, let's see--was three days ago. Then, on Christmas day, the Hick and his Manager of Public Works hedged a bit and admitted that, well, yes, every street has not been hit but that a "large majority" of them have.

Not in my neighborhood!

As if to invalidate all the reports of lousy snow cleanup, impassable streets, impassable mush churned up in intersections, Hick took his front-wheel-drive Saturn station wagon out and tooled around the city and did just fine except for a little issue in the alley near his home.

Okay, so all the rest of us gloomy gus complainers; all of the enormous litany of citizen reports about the "...heck of a job..." Hick and boys did on the streets, well, we had just better get ourselves into a front-wheel-drive Saturn, 'cause, by gosh, by golly, them little scooters got balls!

Hick had--dare I use the word "temerity?"--the temerity to give the snow removal effort an "A" for major thoroughfares, but a "C" for the condition of neighborhood streets. "We have not gotten the kind of clearance of snow that we were striving to get," he said. "It's difficult driving, to say the least."

No shit, Sherlock. How about an "F" for residential streets. At least, let's be honest about my neighborhood: an "F." No doubt about it.

So, okay, here we go again. The Hick--Denver's business mayor--is going to look at how other cities remove snow from their streets.

I'm sorry, but shouldn't other cities be coming to Denver to see how we remove snow from our streets? Shouldn't Denver--being Denver, for Christ's sake (sorry), where it snows in the winter--know how to do it by now? Shouldn't we be the model for the rest of the country?

Well, "...another op'nin, another show..." Another study in mayoral chaos that, predictably, results in a snake oil salesman's pirouette that turns the tables, repoints the finger somewhere else rather than where it ought to be pointed, to the empty, useless rhetoric predictably spewed by Hick's administration that can't find it's ass for...

You get the point.

P.S. By the way... I have nothing but admiration and thanks for the City and County of Denver employees--both the street crews and those at DIA--who gave everything they had and more in attempting to accomplish their mission; to serving the citizens of Denver and the traveling public. There is, however, a huge disconnet between these good folks and the administration of this city. The empoyees "get it." The administration doesn't.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas from George (Click here)

Merry Christmas!

Sarah is NOT spoiled! Just, um...indulged a little bit.

Edible Christmas card.

Friday, December 22, 2006

What a Difference a Day Makes! (In Denver, that is...)

"You need a blue-sky holiday..."
Daniel Powter, "Bad Day"

Thursday, December 21, 2006

And, It's Still Snowing!

This is where I left you at 4 p.m. yesterday.

And, here we are at about 7 a.m. this morning.

More shots here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It Snowed! It Snowed!

Expecting 18 to 24 inches by tomorrow noon.

8:00 a.m.

10:00 a.m.

12:00 p.m.

2:00 p.m.

4:00 p.m.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Highland Bridge Dedication

Avoiding the drudgery of listening to politicos pontificate at any public assemblage, David and I kept to the outskirts of the crowd where I took pics when I had a clear shot (the clear shots were available just for an instant before someone walked in front of me). The Highland Bridge event and its significance is detailed here. Suffice it to say, Saturday morning was sunny and crisp, an intermittent frigid breeze keeping us all spite of the politician's rhetoric. So, here are a few shots of the significant event in our little corner of the world.

Councilwoman Judy Montero (District 9) began the dedication ceremony. Gotta say she reminded me of a high school cheerleader, admonishing the crowd that their "Good Morning," was not loud enough and that, "It's okay to be rowdy. We're rowdy in North Denver." Suffice it to say, Councilman Rick Garcia (District 1), whose district skirts Montero's (and who really should have been visible for this significant occasion), didn't show up.

Denver's elected Auditor, Dennis Gallagher, did show up for the event. This larger-than-life character dressed typically for the occasion, probably quoting Shakespeare as he rose to take his bow.

Mayor Hickenlooper and his son, Teddy, did show up for the event. (Is Teddy still in his jammies?)

There was a mariachi group from Bryant-Webster Elementary school. They were wonderful. But, several shots of this young man on the violin (his expression never wavering) gave rise to the question if he was just angry about the whole shebang, scared to death or really, really having to pee and can't we just get this damned thing over with!

I'm glad David and I went. It was our little historic event for our little corner of the world. The festivities went on into the evening, culminating in a celebration of light across the bridge by the good folks from both the lower Platte Valley community and the Highland's neighbors on the other side.

Friday, December 15, 2006


I borrowed this link from Suz-At-Large which provides the essence of the uproar about a Home Owner's Association (HOA) in Pagosa Srings, Colorado objecting to the display of the peace sign on the front of one the resident's homes. (Actually, it was the president of the HOA who objected to the display of the peace symbol. See Suz's comment below. Thanks Suz.)

Every morning--about 6:15, as Sarah and I head for Berkeley Park in Northwest Denver (walkies around the lake and off-leash tennis ball wind sprints), we pass two houses along the way that display...well, see for yourself (only one was lit this morning).

A wish for Peace on Earth reigns unopposed in Northwest Denver. Apparently, not so in Pagosa Springs.

Sarah's Happy Friday!

Ten days until Christmas!

Who's been nice!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Aha! Soy Made Me Gay!

But, now that I think about it--fifty-eight years ago--mom didn't even know about soy, or use it, or yearn to imbibe it and consequently MAKE ME GAY!

But, oh my, here's the TRUTH!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Archbishop Chaput - Charley's Theocratic Revisionism of democracy

A piece in yesterday's Rocky Mountain News by Jean Torkelson (the News' religion writer), entitled, "Chaput: People of faith are the backbone of democracy...Catholic leader calls secularism 'actively destructive' to system," not only provides a sublime insight into the essential theocratic revisionist philosophy of Denver's Archbishop, but exposes the aggressively political (hungering for that Cardinal red, perhaps???) psyche of this "prince" of the Roman church.

Ms. Torkelson reports: (Let me include some salient pufferies from the little guy. Uncanny would be the nice word to described Chaput's view of democracy. Weird would be a little more to the point.)
Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput slammed secularism before a Southern California audience last week, calling religious faith essential to democracy and secularism "actively destructive" to it.

"Democracy does not mean putting aside our religious and moral beliefs for the sake of public policy; in fact, it demands exactly the opposite..."

"Democracy depends on people of character fighting for their beliefs in the public square - legally, ethically and nonviolently, but forcefully and without apology." [I agree. Without qualification!]

Meanwhile, secularism "isn't really morally neutral," Chaput said, according to his prepared text. "It's actively destructive. It undermines community. It attacks the heart of what it means to be human. It rejects the sacred while posturing itself as neutral to the sacred.

"It also just doesn't work," Chaput added. "In fact, by its nature it can't work as a life-giving principle for society."

Chaput, who speaks frequently around the country, said Americans have confused the principle of maintaining nonsectarian public institutions, which is proper, with the secularist destructive view, which calls for a religion- free public square.

"Whenever you hear loud fretting sparked by an irrational fear of an 'established church,' somebody's trying to force religious believers and communities out of the public discussion of issues..." [Ah, does George perceive a wee bit of bullshit here? Who, I wonder, actually trembles with "...irrational fear of an 'established church'..."???

The nation's core principles, such as inalienable rights and equality under the law, are traced to Christianity and its Jewish roots, he said, lamenting that "as a country we're losing the Founders' perspective on the meaning of our shared public life." [Yes, indeed, theocratic revisionism at its best!]

He also blasted common cultural bywords such as "tolerance" and "consensus," saying they are of less value in making civic choices than charity, justice, faith and truth. [Oh, my...]

Even the word "community" has been corrupted, Chaput said.

Okay, then... Let's look at the facts, shall we.

The Constitution contains no reference to a deity. The Declaration of Independence proposed the outrageous conclusion that the divine right of kings (read: God-given) was anomalous to the essence of democracy.

Thomas Paine
“I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church” (The Age of Reason, 1794).

“Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself than this thing called Christianity” (Ibid.).

Benjamin Franklin
“Scarcely was I arrived at fifteen years of age, when, after having doubted in turn of different tenets, according as I found them combated in the different books that I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself ” (Franklin’s Autobiography, 1817–18).

“Some volumes against Deism fell into my hands … they produced an effect precisely the reverse to what was intended by the writers; for the arguments of the Deists, which were cited in order to be refuted, appeared to me much more forcibly than the refutation itself; in a word, I soon became a thorough Deist” (Ibid.).

George Washington
The false image of Washington as a devout Christian was fabricated by Mason Locke Weems, a clergyman who also invented the cherry-tree fable and in 1800 published his Life of George Washington. Washington, a Deist and a Freemason, never once mentioned the name of Jesus Christ in any of his thousands of letters, and pointedly referred to divinity as “It.”

Whenever he (rarely) attended church, Washington always deliberately left before communion, demonstrating disbelief in Christianity’s central ceremony.

John Adams
Adams, a Unitarian inspired by the Enlightenment, fiercely opposed doctrines of supernaturalism or damnation, writing to Jefferson: “I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved — the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”

Adams realized how politically crucial — and imperiled — a secular state would be: “The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. … It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service [forming the U.S. government] had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses. …Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery… are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind” (A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, 1787–88).

Thomas Jefferson
It’s a commonly stated error that U.S. law, based on English common law, is thus grounded in Judeo-Christian tradition.

Yet Jefferson (writing to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814 ) noted that common law “is that system of law which was introduced by the Saxons on their settlement in England …about the middle of the fifth century. But Christianity was not introduced till the seventh century. …We may safely affirm (though contradicted by all the judges and writers on earth) that Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”

Jefferson professed disbelief in the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ, while respecting moral teachings by whomever might have been a historical Jesus. He cut up a Bible, assembling his own version: “The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful,” he wrote Adams (January 24, 1814), “evidence that parts have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds.”

Scorning miracles, saints, salvation, damnation, and angelic presences, Jefferson embraced reason, materialism, and science. He challenged Patrick Henry, who wanted a Christian theocracy: “[A]n amendment was proposed by inserting ‘Jesus Christ,’ so that [the preamble] should read ‘A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion’; the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination” (from Jefferson’s Autobiography, referring to the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom).

The theme is consistent throughout Jefferson ’s prolific correspondence: “Question with boldness even the existence of a God” (letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787).

“[The clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man” (letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, September 23, 1800).

“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which…thus[built] a wall of separation between church and state” (letter to the Danbury [ Connecticut ] Baptist Association, January 1, 1802).

“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government” (letter to Alexander von Humboldt, December 6, 1813).

“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own” (letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814).

“[W]hence arises the morality of the Atheist? …Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God” (letter to Thomas Law, June 13, 1814).

“I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know” (letter to Ezra Stiles, June 25, 1819).

“The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus… will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter” (letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823).

Although prayer groups proliferate in today’s Congress, James Madison, “father of the Constitution,” denounced even the presence of chaplains in Congress — and in the armed forces — as unconstitutional. He opposed all use of “religion as an engine of civil policy,” and accurately prophesied the threat of “ecclesiastical corporations.”

“Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise” (letter to William Bradford, April 1, 1774).

“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution” (Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, Section 7, 1785).

“What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny: in no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries” (Ibid., Section 8).

“Besides the danger of a direct mixture of Religion & civil Government, there is an evil which ought to be guarded agst. in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by ecclesiastical corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. …The establishment of the chaplainship to Congs. is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles. … Better also to disarm in the same way, the precedent of Chaplainships for the army and navy. … Religious proclamations by the Executive [branch] recommending thanksgivings & fasts are shoots from the same root. … Altho’ recommendations only, they imply a religious agency, making no part of the trust delegated to political rulers” (Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments, circa 1819).
The incisive quotes above are detailed, of all places, in Ms. Magazine (fall 2004), the full text of which is here.

As to Chaput's thoughts on "...common cultural bywords such as 'tolerance' and 'consensus...' May we conclude that not even the Archbishop--or the Pope, for that matter--has the divine right to tell us how to interpret English grammar--the meaning of words. I think we are quite capable of determining that for ourselves.

Bye, Bye Libeskind - Civic Center Park Will Be Just Fine Without You

Researching material for my current writing project, I've huddled in the Denver Public Library's Western History section, in the "restricted" area of the Western History section digging into primary source documents, doctoral and master's theses, microfilm, and anything else that might provide a clue, a hint where my next studious step should go; a kind of forensic adventure. That aside, I suppose I was not surprised to see the Libeskind rendering of his Civic Center "conceptual vision" sitting there, behind the library staff's counter/work space and just before the entrance to the "restricted" area of the Western History stacks. My first thought upon first seeing the balsa wood model was a sincere appreciation for whoever put the thing together--it's really cute. My next thought was, of course, that grotesque was probably too lean a word to describe the desecration of Civic Center Park the cute little tiny town mock-up represents.

If you're interested, the Western History section of the Denver Public Library is on the 5th floor of the Central Branch at 14th and Broadway.

Mary Voelz Chandler's piece in last Saturday's Rocky Mountain News, "Time to put Libeskind ideas away," reports that:

Three diverse community organizations recently weighed in with opinions opposing the concepts presented last August by Daniel Libeskind for Civic Center.

I was not surprised that the Downtown Denver Partnership's Denver Civic Ventures Board, Capital Hill United Neighborhoods (CHUN), and Interneighborhood Cooperation (INC) all focused on the same two aspects. But I was taken aback that the trio shared a negative opinion in both areas:
Ms. Chandler goes on to explain that those "...two aspects..." these groups found unsavory were content and process.

• Content: That is, the groups oppose the elements Libeskind showed that would change the character of Civic Center.

• Process: The groups think this has been undertaken from the wrong direction, since a private organization (not the city) hired an architect to offer ideas to remake the place. Instead, INC asks that design ideas come from a "public, transparent design competition;" the Partnership calls for "an open, thorough and transparent process," and CHUN wants "a public, transparent design competition."

The three documents sound as if the writers were sitting next to each other that day in class. In fact, half the INC statement is exactly the same as the CHUN position.

The Civic Center Conservancy may have hired Libeskind to devise "inspiration ideas," but by and large, those concepts have sunk like a stone. Sure, they've prompted people to talk about Civic Center and what the city could do to make improvements in our civic core. But even more, these repetitive presentations of Libeskind's ideas for a Civic Center facelift have stirred people to offer their own. I'd call it the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" effect.

For many of us, the answer lies in simplicity when dealing with this exemplary Beaux Arts assemblage:

A: Restore the park's historic elements, do a better job of maintenance and irrigation, boost policing.

B: Do not add a canopy to the Greek Theatre, build a pedestrian bridge, or tear out the green space at the center of Civic Center to put in a large water feature doomed to double as a bathtub and make a dangerous, uneven surface when empty.

If there is one piece people can agree on, it is to find a new, public use (restaurant, cultural center, city museum) for the McNichols Building. That would draw more people into the park without tipping it over into a state many of us fear: a derivative, miniature version of Millennium Park in Chicago.
While Mayor Hickenlooper sticks with his consistent spin that the Libeskind debacle for Civic Center Park got folks thinking about what needs to be done with Denver's "city beautiful" quietly dignified space (my words, not the Hick's), Ms. Chandler observes:

If the city and the conservancy really want us to believe that this exercise has been a tool to get people talking about Civic Center, it worked. Now, let's move on to something more concrete: It is time for the Libeskind "concepts" to be put away. It seems the conservancy agrees. When I asked the conservancy president for a response to the three organizations' negative positions on those concepts, board member Susan Kirk responded.

"The Libeskind design is off the table, so we don't replay it again and again," she said. "It got us what we wanted, but it was never meant to be a legitimate proposal to be looked at. It was a vision of what someone might do. It is off the table. Nobody wants to endorse that vision."

That is good news. Even people who want to make more- than-simple changes in the park haven't been able to warm up to those concepts. Such as Richard Farley, who was among those who presented ideas Wednesday in a Conservancy program on Civic Center. Here's how he explains why Libeskind's proposals are flawed:

"He's tried to solve fundamental things with geometric forms," the architect and urban designer said. "Whether on purpose or inadvertently, (Libeskind) has taken away the ability to do festivals in the park. He's eliminated the center of Civic Center. Fundamentally, it's not a sustainable idea."

What's next? Perhaps the conservancy should now consider raising money to either begin restoration of historic elements in Civic Center, beef up maintenance, or fund a legitimate competition for ideas. That would be a competition with real rules and real goals, in a full, open, transparent manner. The group also might want to lead the lobbying charge if restoration and retrofitting to a more public use of the McNichols Building winds up as part of an infrastructure bond issue.
Ms. Chandler reports that Kim Bailery, Denver's Manager of Parks and Recreation, (the person Mayor Hickenlooper identified as the person who would make the decision on the Civic Center Park reformation/redo/repair/remake/renaissance or whatever you'd like to call it), said:

"My intent from all this is to clearly articulate a substantial understanding of the common ground that has been generated by the public in this important dialogue."
Okay. Not even suggesting here that city folks, from the Mayor on down, were quite giddy with the Libeskind kerplunk of junk into Civic Center Park which, by the way, was initiated by the Civic Center Conservancy, a private group who, with Bailey along for the ride, shelled out $75,000 for the "conceptual vision;" no, not even suggesting that such a non-transparent endeavor by a private group with city folks happily cuddling up to that backroom, closed door process was counterproductive to what should have been a very conspicuous public process. Nope. Won't even go there.

Ms. Chandler ends her piece:
Here's a wish for the new year: Remember that phrase, common ground. Because when it comes to Civic Center, what better way to describe the meaning of a place that belongs to all of us?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Sarah's Happy Friday! Tennis Weather!

Highland Bridge Over I-25 - Opening Celebration

P.S. I provided Councilman Rick Garcia's office with a copy of these two fliers with the hope they would post them on their site. Although the pedestrian bridge is not in Councilman Garcia's district, I thought the event would be of interest for those of us who live in the West Highlands neighborhood. But, nope, the councilman's office doesn't apparently think the event is worthy of their effort to place the information on their site. (Not wanting to modify original posts, please note the comment below from Anon which explains what may be occurring with the Councilman's website.)

The picture of the arch over I-25 was taken in August of this year. Now, the walkway is suspended from the arch and is almost complete. This pedestrian bridge will link Lodo (Lower Downtown Denver) to the North Denver community, notably the Highlands and West Highlands neighborhoods.

P.P.S. Thanks to Anon (see comments) for providing this great site that details everything you'd ever want to know about the Highland Bridge/Project.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Friday, December 01, 2006

Denver's Justice Center - A Study in Mediocrity

Michael Paglia, an art and architecture writer for Denver's Westword weekly (a very well-written, hip tabloid that never shirks from taking on the mainstream media) provides an incisive historical perspective on the Denver Justice Center's slip-slide into apparent mediocrity. He writes, in part:
Mayor John Hickenlooper's predecessors made that whole mayoral-legacy business look like a snap.
Paglia then provides a litany of the significant legacy projects that the two Denver mayors who preceded John Hickenlooper left behind: Federico Pena--Coors Field, the Colorado Convention Center, the Denver Central Library extension, Denver International Airport; Wellington Webb--Pepsi Center, Invesco Field at Mile High, the Colorado Convention Center extension, the Hyatt Regency, the Wellington Webb Municipal Office Building, the Ellie Caulkins Opera House and the Hamilton Building of the Denver Art Museum.

Paglia notes:

Hickenlooper decided that he wanted to make lasting contributions to Denver as well, and his additions would be made in the most prominent place in town: in and around the Civic Center. However, two of Hick's future dreams for the area have turned into nightmares over the past couple of months.
Paglia then describes the series of unfortunate events that have plagued this legacy-seeking Mayor, Hickenlooper, in his drive to live up to, and perhaps surpass the accomplishments of his predecessors.

Writes Paglia:

The first disturbance came in September, when superstar architect Daniel Libeskind, just weeks before his new Hamilton was to open, shot himself -- and the mayor -- in the foot by unveiling his ridiculous ideas for "enlivening" the Civic Center. To say that Libeskind's proposal has gone over like a lead balloon would be charitable.

...The second disaster involved another superstar architect, Steven Holl. On October 2, during the very week that the Hamilton opened, Holl's contract to design the courthouse portion of the Justice Center project was terminated. So there will never be a building by the New York architect on the site, even though Holl's firm was selected as part of a competition and his design was well on its way to final form. In this case, the mayor -- or, more properly, his underlings -- screwed things up with no help whatsoever from Holl. But the citizens of Denver are the losers, because Holl's proposed building was incredibly imaginative -- which is astounding, since it came out of a bureaucratic process that was anything but.

In both cases, Hickenlooper was ill-served by those he put in charge. In the case of the Civic Center, it's the Civic Center Conservancy, a bunch of people who have few credentials when it comes to dealing with the city's most important set of historic buildings, art and landscapes. And it's essentially the same names and faces who are associated with the Justice Center fiasco, notably project manager "Calamity" James Mejia, who is also a member of the Civic Center Conservancy.

Mejia's public life began only a few years ago, when he was a member of the Denver Public Schools Board of Education. When discussions were under way to build a school of the arts, Mejia pulled the race card to suggest that the school had discriminatory entrance policies. The allegations weren't true, of course, but it did get his name in the papers.

Then Mejia was appointed by Webb to be interim director of Denver's Parks and Recreation Department, and in that capacity turned off the city's public fountains. Left in disuse for several years, the mechanical elements of the fountains deteriorated. Mejia's decision will eventually cost the city more than $1 million.

Shutting down the fountains was a response to the drought, as was Mejia's decision to cut the system's water use by half. The results were to be expected: Thousands of trees and bushes died. With no expertise in the cultivation of plants, Mejia apparently didn't realize that if you don't water them, they die. (The rumor that Mejia may wind up at the helm of the Denver Botanic Gardens makes my blood run cold. Earth to the DBG: The guy doesn't know that plants need water!) Then, as if that weren't enough, Mejia was the key player in the destruction of Lawrence Halprin's Skyline Park, which has been replaced with sod. (Which, of course, takes water.)

At the time of Skyline's demolition, I pointed out that it was amazing how much damage a single person like Mejia could do. But as low as my expectations of him were, I didn't expect Mejia to cost us a world-class public building. And don't forget, the city still had to pay the architect almost three-quarters of a million dollars for work that will never be implemented. Oh, and there's the several-month delay in the design process, which will cost money, too. I'll never understand why Hickenlooper put Mejia in charge of the Justice Center.
Paglia then details the specifics of Steven Holl's untimely departure from the Denver Justice Center project:

In September, Holl made a presentation of his progress on the schematic design, which was at 50 percent completion. The building that emerged was elegant, sophisticated and clever. It even took green issues into account.

...But Mejia didn't like it from the start, nor did his fellow travelers, Guillermo Vidal, director of the city's Department of Public Works, and Charles DesMoineaux from Jacobs Facilities. The three coordinated their responses. In a sharply worded letter to Brian Klipp back on August 17 -- weeks before the Holl presentation -- Mejia objected, among other things, to the building's "geometry" (its curves and cantilevers) and to the interior materials, confusing the terrazzo-like surfaces Holl suggested with cast concrete. It wasn't my understanding that Mejia, a freelance bureaucrat, had been hired to make aesthetic calls -- or, worse yet, to second-guess the guy who was.

Elaborate and condescending e-mails were sent to the Holl/klipp team from Vidal and DesMoineaux, requiring elaborate responses. In one sad if hilarious exchange, DesMoineaux labels Holl's work as deficient, with a reply from Holl's Chris McVoy saying it wasn't, and then DesMoineaux responding back defensively, wondering if McVoy was calling his professional abilities into question. Then there were the wildly different cost estimates, with Holl admitting that his design was about $3 million over budget, or less than 3 percent over, while the city's estimates were $30 million over, because their equations included expensive materials that Holl hadn't called for.

On September 13, a week after his presentation, Holl took his last shot and wrote a plaintive letter to Hickenlooper, asking him to intervene and replace the city's team, whom he refers to as the project managers, because he felt that they were endangering the quality of the project. (Holl apparently bought the hype about Hickenlooper being interested in architecture.)

But no, with the letter and subsequent teleconference with Hizzoner, Holl was out. And the administration circled the wagons, badmouthing Holl to the press. The worst offender was former city councilwoman Susan Barnes-Gelt -- a Denver Post columnist and the informal public-information officer for the Hickenlooper administration on this issue -- writing on October 15 that Holl's splitting town was actually good news for the city. Talk about serving chicken shit and calling it chicken salad!

The terrible situation Holl describes in his letter to the mayor surrounding the design of the Justice Center courthouse is still true. Unlike a lot of people, I think klipp is capable of doing a first-rate building, but the question is: How is klipp going to come up with something excellent when the people running the project only understand mediocrity?
Michael Paglia's work on the Denver Justice Center and Civic Center Park (here and here) is, as I noted, incisive and quite revealing as to the behind-the-scenes machinations of the major players. I urge you to take a look. He says it all so much better than I do.

Sarah's Happy Friday