Thursday, February 18, 2010

Critic: Park Movie Scheme Flawed

By Dave Felice

Denver City Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz says cancellation of plans to close a large part of Civic Center Park this summer for outdoor movies does not resolve the fundamental issue.

“I’m amazed the administration would bring such a controversial contract to council and try to justify it to concerned citizens when the event promoters didn’t have their own act together,” says Faatz in exclusive comments for Denver Direct. “Unfortunately, the underlying charter issues still remain.”

Faatz voted against a contract allowing the Massachusetts affiliate of a Swiss firm to take over a major portion of the park for 50 days this summer and charge admission for outdoor movies. Among the four council members opposing the contract, Faatz is the most vocal in defending the City Charter prohibitions against leasing park property, using parks for non-park activities, and commercial use of park property.

Faatz represents District Two in southwest Denver. Paul Lopez of District Three, Judy Montero of District Nine, and At-Large Councilman Doug Linkhart also voted to reject the contract which was secretly negotiated by Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR).

In other exclusive comments for Denver Direct, City Auditor Dennis Gallagher says he’s looking into the contract. He says he want to determine if the contract actually permits US OpenAir to withdraw plans for 2010, along with changing location and dates for 2011.

Originally, the three-year pact called for movies in Civic Center this year and in City Park for the following two years. Now, US OpenAir representatives say they want the “inaugural” event in Civic Center next year. Some opponents suggest that the company and the city administration were just going through the motions to speed approval of a contract.

Almost three dozen citizens testified in opposition to at a lengthy public hearing before Council in January. Those testifying said parks should remain free and open, and the contract would violate City Charter. Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell claimed the contract was legally acceptable.

Understandably, Parks and Recreation Senior Policy Advisor Chantal Unfug takes a positive view of the cancellation. “It was incredibly ambitious in the first place, but ya know, we don’t back down from things like that,” Unfug tells Denver Daily News reporter Peter Marcus. “Really with the Biennial (arts festival) in Civic Center Park, this summer is going to be exciting, and really gives the company and us an extra year to make sure 2011 is a great success.”

The public representative for US OpenAir, Christina Brickley of c5communications," says the outdoor cinema company “decided to postpone the North American launch due to a combination of missed deadlines (permits, final partner agreements) and timing related to the technology from Switzerland.”

In an e-mail message to member of City Council, Brickley says "The amount of time and research you all individually put toward this contract was impressive and again reinforced the importance of City Council in the government process."

She adds that anyone with comments or questions can contact her at or US OpenAir Managing Director Julie Frahm at


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