Saturday, June 30, 2007

Elevated From the Comments

I've decided to reprint these comments from the "Reality Check" post to draw attention to the strong opinions on this issue.

Anonymous said...
Reality Check -- Satellite photos and topographical schematics??? Looks like that crazy bully Brown and his CRL/Xcel Buddies are hard at work to portray Denver's most courageous City Council member as a loon. Have you ever seen Brown's facial expressions and loony eyes -- now that is someone to be worried about not to mention what he does.

Ruby Hill Park could be a Gem -- that is the point about which Diane Carmann writes so eloquently -- if those awful towers were taken down and buried.
Yes -- when you live at the edge of the Rocky Mountains, view planes are important unless you have an "economic" relationship with CRL, Xcel's lobbyist.
3:30 PM

Anonymous said...
I find it curious that anyone in a neighborhood would go to great lengths with sophisticated photos and diagrams to subvert a legitimate effort to enhance Ruby Hill Park in which Xcel's lines would be taken down. Believe the author of this "Reality Check" is just another Xcel pawn, much like Brown.

The reality check is that Xcel which has just settled with the IRS for tens of millions of dollars in a tax cheating scandal is not doing the right thing in a community from which it derives a substantil portion of its revenues.

MacKenzie shows courage by standing up to Xcel, whereas Brown is the real loon along with other council members who may join him.
4:09 AM

First let me thank the commenters for their comments, but I must ask - why anonymous? Why not stand up for what you are saying - with which, I must add, I mostly agree.

I was first "attracted" to this issue by the over-the-top rhetoric of Councilwoman MacKenzie. I love "over-the-top". The purpose of this blog being to report and investigate local issues, I decided to try to uncover the "reality" on the ground by gathering factual information. Little did I know that such information would be so contentious. "Sophisticated" photographs? - well thanks I guess - just my little digital camera - "Satellite photos"? - welcome to Google Earth, and "topographical schematics"? - just a copy of the viewplane map from the City of Denver website. I always go for the visual, and I thought these items might help the uninformed, which included me.

But why must it be assumed that anyone with a view different from yours is working for the enemy? I've been accused of working for the Watson campaign, and now being an Xcel "Buddy" and a pawn. No, none of the above. Mine is just another individual opinion. Now if anyone is looking for a paid shill, be sure to call me (just kidding).

More Information Please

Has anyone actually seen the agreement between Xcel and the City in which Xcel deeded the land to the City but retained an easement with the right to "maintain and improve"? I haven't, but if it exists, I would like to read (and publish) it.

And does anyone have any information of the "real" history of the Ruby Hill "high-point"? It's been called an Indian "mound" and that term is often used with "burial". Is there any information about the Indian's use of this land? Please comment if you know of any. (And yes, I use the term "Indian" rather than "Native American" advisedly.)

Aside from the facts, my own opinion is that:

1. If Xcel had any brains, they would quickly agree to "underground" the ugly suckers, and win the PR battle with consumers. $5 million? Why do they care - just pass it along to the consumer. Imagine the headlines - "Xcel Agrees With Neighbors - Will Beautify Ruby Hill Park". But opponents citing the outrageous CEO salary and IRS payments has nothing to do with this issue. Even if Xcel is right about the facts that they say give them the right to put in the new poles, they will lose the PR battle because no one cares about the facts when they are staring at a giant ugly pole.

2. I live near City Park and have prayed for 35 years that something would be done to improve its sorry state. (Personal aside: Due to the City's negligence, my partner tripped on a large piece of asphalt in the path and did a face plant, got a concussion and required a trip to the emergency room and subsequent medical care. In court we learned that in order for the City to be found liable, you must first put them "on notice" of their negligence. Harhar!) But now we are spending millions on City Park, and it's looking great (see next post). I see that monies are being slated for Ruby Hill Park improvements, and I applaud that, as it could surely use it.

3. Regarding the various birds on City Council, voters apparently prefer their representatives to be weird ducks, as they often reject experienced, educated individuals with real credentials and proven leadership to go for the, shall we say, unusual. I guess it's more fun that way.

4. I love Denver's beautiful views, but I hate viewplane ordinances. I'll have more to say on this topic as I don't like invisible things overhead that curtail individual property rights without individual approval, and that, as you know if you've read my earlier post on "Overlay Railroad", includes zoning overlays.

So let's keep discussing the issue, keep the ad hominem attacks to a minimum, present as much factual information as we can find, and continue to be the best City that we can be. You know, we all love Denver.


  1. Anonymous8:55 AM

    At least you are finally getting some comments to your posts which is probably what you want. I am interested in this issue and saw your blog as a result of a blog search. Most folks who reply to blogs do so anonymously, so you shouldn't criticize folks for that. It is not a stretch to believe that Xcel is really lining up to force these towers down the throats of Denver citizens, even though you may not be part of this. You rightly state that Xcel should bury the lines at its expense to avoid this PR nightmare. If they can pay Kelly $11.2 million in 2006, who was a senior VP when huge tax and shareholder frauds unfolded, and Barry Hirschfeld, a sum of $183,000 in 2006 for a attending a few meetings a year, one would think these upstanding long-time Coloradans would not want to step all over this low income and somewhat powerless neighborhood and not block the mountain views. This controversy stands to cost Xcel a lot more in reputational damage than $4 to $5 million. Given Xcel's $572 million in net profits in 2006, much of it coming from Colorado residents, the company can afford to pay all or at least half of the cost. It would be money well-invested. By the way, the alleged frauds under Kelly and Hirschfeld, who was directly named in one of he lawsuits, cost the company $64 million and $88 million (partially paid by insurance). So rather than pay for wrongdoing, isn't it time that Xcel uses its funds wisely for "rightdoing" and to enhance and not hurt its public image? Lets all be reasonable here and not be equally "over the top" in reacting. P.S. I am hitting the anonymous button on this. Look forward to comments from you and the other anonymous.

  2. Once again, Charlie "Good Grief" Brown has embarrassed the people he purports to represent by shilling for whomever gives him campaign contributions. In District 6, we value our mountain views. We value our parks. But Brown pontificates in his stupid, faux-western way about issues most of his constituents oppose. I know no one ran against him for the District 6 seat this time. It's not that we support him -- in fact, he's a perpetual humiliation to the educated population of southeast Denver -- but who wanted to wage war against the vast corporate interests which manipulate their Charlie Brown puppet?

  3. Once again, Charlie "Good Grief" Brown has embarrassed the people he purports to represent by shilling for whomever gives him campaign contributions. In District 6, we value our mountain views. We value our parks. But Brown pontificates in his stupid, faux-western way about issues most of his constituents oppose. I know no one ran against him for the District 6 seat this time. It's not that we support him -- in fact, he's a perpetual humiliation to the educated population of southeast Denver -- but who wanted to wage war against the vast corporate interests which manipulate their Charlie Brown puppet?

  4. Anonymous1:32 PM

    There's a fundamental issue that is not being addressed here. Is it proper for City Council (a legislative body) to intervene in the decision of the Planning Board (a quasi-judicial body) to grant a single entity unique and unrestricted access in perpetuity?

    Xcel upgraded the Daniels Park line (through Highlands Ranch) from 115 kiloVolt towers (what's in Ruby Hill Park) to 230 kV lines (what's proposed) about 10 years ago, but that wasn't enough! Just recently, those lines were upgraded again to 345 kV lines(!).

    If Council passes this legislation, Xcel erects 160 foot towers, but What's next, 200 foot towers? 300 foot towers? In the long run, undergrounding would cost less, because the new lines can run in the same conduit as the old lines, and our mountain views would not be disfigured.

    If Xcel would like to appeal the decision of the Planning Board, the proper place for that is the PUC (a quasi-judicial body).

    This should NOT be a legislative issue!

  5. Xcel Energy and Corporate Control of Denver City Council

    Next week, City Council will write the final chapter on the Ruby Hill Park vs. Xcel debate. It will likely be a sad chapter and one that will pass up a unique opportunity in our lifetime to make Ruby Hill Park the “gem” about which Diane Carman wrote so eloquently in the Denver Post. Yes, the “fix” is in, with the Denver City Council about to take an unprecedented action to overturn the decision of the Denver Planning Board and allow Xcel to build higher transmission towers in the park and mar the view plane, instead of burying the transmission lines underground.

    There are so many disturbing elements to this, not to mention the irresponsible actions of some Denver City Councilmembers who have gone overboard to do Xcel’s bidding instead of listening to the neighborhoods. If Brown, Robb, Johnson, Lehmann and Faatz would have put as much energy into lobbying Xcel to pay for undergrounding the lines, as they have in supporting Xcel’s irresponsible position, the preparations for burying the lines might have already begun. The additional cost for burying the lines would have been less than 1% of the giant energy conglomerate’s 2006 annual profit of $572 million. Xcel, which is paying out $188 million in settlements related to alleged shareholder fraud and tax cheating, should have used a small portion of its funds to do something righteous instead of having to pay for misdeeds. It could have given back something meaningful to the City where it enjoys a monopoly and derives a significant portion of its income. In so doing, Xcel could have avoided the public embarrassment of its heavy-handedness and greed, and instead acted like a good corporate citizen.

    So why did these Councilmembers, who don’t represent Ruby Hill, run to the aid of Xcel and do something they would have never done in their own districts? I suppose citizens should rightly ask them, because their answers are so pathetic one must wonder about the hidden hand of corporate power in Denver City government.

    The main argument they have advanced is that the lines are too expensive to bury. Of course, they never asked Xcel to pay all or part of the cost. But is it really too expensive in light of their own budget requests and support for a property tax increase? Have they asked their constituents if they would be willing to pay less than two cents per month so citizens in the less wealthy Ruby Park, Godsman and Athmar neighborhoods could enjoy a park without high voltage lines overhead? That’s right – the additional cost of burying the lines is 1.75 cents per month for each ratepayer if amortized over 30 years. Is 1.75 cents too much to ask wealthier neighborhoods to pay since they will be the main beneficiaries of the increased electrical capacity?

    The second argument is that if City Council does not allow Xcel to do this, the Public Utility Commission will overrule City Council. Really? So now City Council is engaging in an unprecedented action to pass a new law to overturn a decision by Denver’s own Planning Board and thereby violate the view plane ordinance in order to prevent the PUC from doing what Excel’s corporate puppets on City Council are intending to do anyway. How strange. When you live on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, view planes ought to be taken seriously, and usurping the action of the Planning Board ought not to occur. If City Council can roll over for Xcel, what other corporations and developers are waiting in line to violate the view plane? Finally, no one knows how the PUC would rule and the body might think twice, if City Council showed support for burying the lines. Of course, the issue would never go to the PUC if Xcel paid for the undergrounding.

    There has been a rush job to enact this onerous law. Clearly there is concern about how newly elected Councilmembers, with few ties to Denver’s corporate establishment, will vote, so having this vote before July 16 when new members are installed, is important to Xcel’s interests.

    Councilmembers opposed to the underground alternative don’t have an argument. But they will likely vote anyway in the interest of Xcel, and Ruby Hill Park will never become the gem that it could be. A real opportunity to lift up a less wealthy neighborhood will be lost, perhaps forever, due to the power of Xcel and its dutiful servants on the Denver City Council.

    So far, the only councilmember openly opposing this is Kathleen MacKenzie. The Council meeting next week will be her last.

  6. Thanks to the commenters for elevating the level of this discussion. My impression is that the citizens are lining up to let their Council Reps know that this won't fly.

    Note to Xcel PR Dept. - Put the dang things underground - Let Ready Kilowatt be a hero!