Sunday, December 6, 2009

Proposed New Rec Center Shows Government Deception

Proposed site for new recreation center at 16th and Josephine

Commentary by Phil Goodstein

Plans for a new recreation center at Colfax and Josephine raise questions about the location and funding of the facility to serve “central Denver.”

Charles Woolley II has been a longtime business partner and backer of Mayor John Hickenlooper. Wooley has been among those administering a supposedly “blind” trust of the mayor’s restaurant holdings. Seeing no conflict of interest, the city awarded a subsidy to Woolley’s St. Charles Town Company to redevelop the old Bonfils Theatre on East Colfax into the Tattered Cover bookstore. The owner of Tattered Cover is another close Hickenlooper business associate.

Though the Tattered Cover project has not performed as expected – a cinema as part of the effort quickly closed and another promised business never opened – St. Charles subsequently announced a massive project across the street on the 1500 block of Josephine. That’s where a revivalist church targeting Jews, the Church in the City, occupied a former Safeway.

As the real estate market has gone sour, Woolley has found another purchaser for the land, the City and County of Denver. In particular, at the behest of District 10 Councilwoman Jeanne Robb, whose district is on the other side of Colfax, the city has announced plans to pay Wooley $5 million for the plot to build a Capitol Hill Recreation Center there.

A 2007 bond issue set aside $11 million for the center. The latest public estimates are that the project will cost $18 million in addition to the $5 million going to St. Charles and another $6 million to consultants and architects. At the same time the city is ready to give Woolley funds to build a project for which the city lacks capital, Parks officials are talking about closing other recreation facilities or privatizing them.

Not only is this a sign of bad faith, it also reflects the bait-and-switch tactics of virtually all levels of government. Politicians promise voters one thing and deliver something quite different.

This deception is especially the case with the FasTracks scams. Far from apologizing for their thoroughly erroneous price estimates, backers of that scheme are eagerly demanding more taxes to pay for the project which will never come close to serving as a transit alternative to automobile commuting.

In other instances, when voters have said no to bond issues, officeholders issue certificates of participation, that is government obligations to fund the efforts anyway. The authorities are then shocked when the government encounters financial shortages while voters are apt to say no to new tax hikes. It is not surprising that a growing cost of government is for goons to guard such leaders from the populace. Their fears of popular opposition are, as much as anything, at the heart of the hysteria and security fixation of the ruling elite.

All the while, the legitimacy of elections has become ever more suspect. The Denver Post, for example, showed in its reportage of recent balloting that, for the most part, it (the paper) lacks the wit to report actual vote totals. In the face of this, the wise men and women directing the media and think tanks wonder why people do not participate in elections and are distrustful of those in power. These complainers never look in the mirror. Were they to do so, they would see the shams, frauds, and liars whose swindles non-voters have the wit to ignore and reject.

Phil Goodstein is a prominent Denver historian, prolific author, social commentator, and occasional contributor to DenverDirect. His latest book is The History of South Denver: The Haunts of Washington Park. Goodstein publishes a monthly written newsletter, The Naysayer. He can be contacted by postal mail at Post Office Box 18026, Denver 80218.

For more details of the recreation center plan, see previous postings on DenverDirect or at Life on Capitol Hill.

District 8 Councilwoman Carla Madison touts the recreation center plan.


  1. This is a great story. You do a great job of covering the news that the Denver Post is afraid to print. Thank you!