Sunday, August 30, 2009

Wallach Goes Public

When an article appeared Friday in the Denver Post entitled "Denver parks official, budget adviser in e-mail tiff", a lively discussion developed in the comments section. On Saturday Mr. Wallach weighed in there himself (presumably). from the comments section:

This is all (well, almost all) fairly interesting discussion. The reasons I told Chris Osher about the restraining order in the first place were: 1) To get him to finally write something about the rot at the top of the parks department in Denver---parks rank and file employees had tried in vain to get a visit from the mayor or some response from the majority of City Council members to their complaints about the looting of the department by its "managers." These employees had decided a direct appeal to the media was their only hope. (The parks department???s stonewalling unfortunately discouraged Chris and another journalist. P and R refused to divulge payroll and other records that are definitively public.) Maybe that will change. (Are you listening, Auditor Gallagher?) 2) To demonstrate publicly the character of Jude O'Connor, who is sadly typical of a half dozen or so top parks administrators, Kevin excepted. It was satisfying to show her and a handful of her dishonest parks cronies that her attempt to intimidate me by getting a judge to, for some unfathomable reason, issue a temporary restraining order, was unsuccessful. There are many department employees who provided me with some of the excellent (and appalling) analysis I presented to the mayor and other city officials in July. (I had scheduled a preview of this analysis with Kevin Patterson in May of this year, but he canceled our meeting at the urging of Fred Weiss, the departments $120,000-plus financial director, for reasons now obvious Unfortunately, Jude and her colleagues have imposed their own brand of repression of free speech among parks employees, retaliating with a vengeance against those employees who speak publicly of management's greed and incompetence. I have known Kevin for years--he is a decent guy who has made the mistake of believing what Jude and her colleagues in upper management tell him. Kim Bailey made the same mistake, among many, many others, but did not, in my opinion, approach the issues with the same good faith, or understanding of Denver's park legacy, that Patterson originally did. The employees who asked me to take their case public would have much preferred, as would I, a more behind-the-scenes house cleaning at parks. The current situation will again unfairly embarrass, as have past department scandals, the many rank and file employees who are proud of their parks system, just not their managers. (I'm including several long-suffering and amazingly dedicated park superintendents in this group, who had the courage (and the data) to help me make the case). I assume that the budget recommendations I was paid to analyze and assemble for Mayor Hickenlooper are public records, so any doubters are welcomed to research the basis for my charges to their heart's content. I hope ultimately members of the news media will join them. Finally, I should note that I like and respect Mayor HickenlooperI supported him and assisted Michael Bennet and David Kenney in helping craft then-candidate Hickenlooper's budget position, among others, in the 2003 campaign. I applaud the mayor's vision, energy and leadership skills. But I have wished ever since the departure of Michael Bennet as his chief of staff that Hick would hire staffers who take management accountability seriously. I also wish that most City Council members would develop spines, and not be so afraid of the mayor and his 80-percent approval rating. As for Jude and her cronies who wish to debate, I would be happy to do so, but they need to have the courage to identify themselves, behave as if there is such a thing as the First Amendment, and provide data to support their cases.
Thanks to Mr. Wallach for coming forward. When Hickenlooper's bureaucrats get restraining orders against his own consultants, he looks foolish or worse, like something is being covered up. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Smoke and Fire at Parks and Rec

What’s going on in Denver’s Parks and Recreation Department? At a meeting of the INC Parks and Rec committee, Larry Ambrose and Cathy Donohue discuss emails from Andrew Wallach regarding “malfeasance”, “fiscal irresponsibility” and “cronyism” to Manager Kevin Patterson. This morning we have this from the Denver Post: Denver parks official, budget adviser in e-mail tiff

A top official in Denver's Parks and Recreation Department has received a temporary restraining order against the director of finance under former Mayor Wellington Webb, contending he poses a threat due to e-mails "with a threatening undertone." Among the e-mails Jude O'Connor filed in support of a restraining order against Andrew Wallach was one Wallach sent to City Council members urging them not to issue a proclamation on O'Connor's behalf when she retires this year as head of the natural-resources division. … Wallach, a former finance director under Webb and former Mayor Federico Peña, said the parks department in the past five years hired 19 managers, a 76 percent increase, while cutting 108 front-line workers. … Wallach said he's trying to protect the city from a department run amok, where he says management has become bloated while front-line workers take the brunt of budget cuts. He added that he has a First Amendment right to speak out.
Patterson, a recent appointee to the position of Manager of Parks and Rec with no parks experience, has been controversial from the beginning. The recent dust-up over the granting of a contract with Poo Free Parks, Inc. and the subsequent withdrawal of that contract is the latest in a series of unsettling events. Changes to the rules and regulations which would drastically alter the nature of the parks are in the making. "Admission Based Events" at Festival Parks, and "Naming and Renaming Rights", as well as the proposal to change the zoning of all parks to open space with the Manager making all of the decisions, have concerned citizens worried. See for complete details of these proposals. And BTW, don't get too pushy in your emails or the Department will refuse to work with you and/or get a restraining order against you. The ruination of Washington Park and City Park lakes with Lowry Landfill toxins is already a done deal. Now we apparently need to sell the naming rights, charge admission to special events in the parks, and get people into those parks to generate income by selling them beer. Can you say "Coors City Park"?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

... Hitting the Fan

Folks are getting their knickers all twisted in the comments section of a recent Denver Daily News article on the Dog Poop Dispenser problem. Fake comments were posted under other’s names by parties unknown (and subsequently removed by DDN). Attributing comments such as this one to Larry Ambrose is ludicrous to anyone who knows Mr. Ambrose. Likewise for comments falsely attributed to Mr. Felice.

"It's about time this administration started listening to us and abiding by our demands! We run this City! These are our parks, not Kevin "Satan" Patterson's! What we say goes!"
When I read that I laughed out loud. What would compel someone to sign in under someone else’s name and say things that that person would never say? Do they purposely want to look stupid? Didn’t they expect us to see through it and wonder who would be motivated to do this? Did the creator of this false post want to trick us into thinking that the commenter was most likely Mr. Airy, who just lost “$100,000” on this ill-conceived idea, who would be driven to such depths? Ah….who can say? I personally don’t think Mr. Airy would be that stupid. I should hasten to add that I have not met the man. What strikes me as strange is not the uproar over the proposed advertising pollution in our parks but the lack of uproar over the 26,000 gallons of actual toxic water pollution being pumped PER DAY into the lakes in Washington and City Parks, and then sprayed onto the grassy fields where our children play. If only I could make these 158 pollutants and 10 radionuclides visible to our eyes. If the 26,000 gallons per day from Lowry Landfill were turned into dog poop we would all run screaming back into our homes. If it weren’t shut off within hours, we would storm city hall. Instead, we fight over advertising pollution in the parks, while the really deadly stuff pours out sight unseen and with little comment.

Monday, August 24, 2009

(Not so) Common Sense

From the Denver Police Department:

Due to a 32% increase from last year in Theft from Motor Vehicle crimes in the City, the Denver Police Department would like to inform the community of prevention measures. This is often a crime of opportunity, therefore if we remove the opportunity we potentially decrease the crime. The Denver Police Department has compiled a list with the top five items that have been taken from a vehicle during this crime. This list is a reminder to everyone that when you leave your vehicle for any length of time, be aware of items of value that may visible to someone who is walking by. When you park your vehicle, whether it is inside a parking structure or on the street, always remember to lock up your vehicle. Never leave your vehicle unattended with the keys inside it. Make attempts to park your vehicle in well lit and populated areas, especially in the late evening hours as 45% of the thefts occur between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. Following these few steps may decrease your chances of becoming a victim of Theft from Motor Vehicle. Top five items stolen from cars 1. IPOD / MP3 player 2. GPS- Global Positioning Unit 3. Money 4. Tools 5. Stereo Face Plate

Friday, August 21, 2009

Plug Pulled on Parks Poo Proposal

This just in:

Dear Denver Citizens, This afternoon while I was away, Kevin Patterson left a message on my answering machine. He also wrote an e-mail to me at 5:30 p.m. last night. I tried to reach him several times today and he also tried to reach me. The message was as follows: "We have decided to pull the advertising in the parks deal--based on some of the comments we heard at the Parks Board Meeting." That is all that he said except that he would try to call me later. I am very glad that this has happened, as I was shocked at the behavior of the Board members as I sat and watched the whole proceeding. We still have to be very watchful, but we should all break our arms patting ourselves on the back--for a little while. Thanks, Cathy Donohue
Update: by way of Dave Felice:
At the Council Aides meeting this morning (Friday) I was made aware for the first time Mr. Airy was using the city logo on his personal automobile. However, this was not part of the conversation when Chantal Unfug from Parks and Recreation called this morning to notify this Council office that the contract with Mr. Airy has been pulled and for now the discussion has ended regarding Pooh (sic) Free Parks. Chantal did not offer any reason for the contract being pulled. The reason for the end of discussion on Pooh Free Parks is the city and department’s priorities are the New Zoning Code and the budget and Pooh Free Parks discussions were distracting from these higher priorities. I apologize for any misunderstanding, and hope this statement makes things clear for everyone. Carol Singer 303-871-0601 Council Aide Charlie Brown Denver City Council District 6

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Denver City Council Discovers It’s a Rubber Stamp, Continues Stamping

At last night’s City Council meeting, the Council seemed to “discover” that 75% of the contracts that come before it for approval have already been started without their approval. In this particular case, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless asked for a 9-month extension of their contract, which actually started last April. Councilman Brown calls this “beyond sloppiness” and likened the Council to Rodney Dangerfield. The Council approved the contract anyway. So much for respect.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pollution in Denver Parks

Selling drugs (malts, vinous and spirituous liquors) in City Park to raise money (photographed in City Park 8-16-09)
In his 2005 novel, Pattern Recognition, William Gibson describes “Cayce Pollard, a "coolhunter" with an uncanny knack for understanding logos and identifying trends before the public at large recognizes them. In an ironic twist typical of Gibson's sardonic humor, she herself is acutely allergic to brand names, harboring a violent reaction to the doughy Michelin Man, among other random trademarks.” In a TV interview Gibson mentioned that this character is based on his own daughter, who does, in fact, suffer from this allergy. I am also allergic to brand names and advertising in general. I “time-shift” all of the TV shows I want to watch solely to be able to fast-forward over the more than 20 thirty-second ads jammed into each half-hour. I won’t watch TV if I can’t skip the ads. When viewing web pages with ads, I’ve learned to block them out and never-ever click on them. When ads first started appearing online in Prodigy (how old are you anyway?) I taped a piece of paper over the bottom of the screen where they always appeared. I’ve tried putting ads on my own websites, but took them down because I couldn’t stand them. Now we have a scheme approved by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee to put advertising pollution in our parks in the form of dog-poo bag dispenser signs. What a bunch of crap! Responsible dog owners carry their own bags, being slightly more aware than their animals in their ability to predict the probable results of a good constitutional. From "Poo Free Parks" promotional material:
Top Ten Reasons to Brand Your Company with Us 1. Association with the "Go Green" theme 2. Opportunity to be the frst (sic) to brand your company in a place that has never before allowed it 3. Exclusivity: No one else is allowed to brand themselves anywhere near these dispensers 4. Great Reach: "18 X 12" signage display reaches commuters, dog owners, and general park visitors 5. Great Frequency: people regularly walk their dogs and drive their cars along the same pathway viewing your message each time 6. Provides a public service at no cost to the public, making you a friend of the taxpayer 7. Increases brand awareness in a location where people tend to let their "guard" down 8. New and unique medium that will undoubtedly generate media exposure and general public interest 9. People love their pets and are more accepting of brands who are associated with them 10. Involvment (sic) in community based projects positions your company as a resposible (sic) citizen
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ These Poo-Free signs had better be made of something indestructible mounted on something un-removable, or they will be taken down immediately in self-defense by park lovers sickened by exposure to advertising. Or perhaps they will be enhanced with artistic graffiti provided by “gangstas” seeking to mark their turf. Mind you, I’m not suggesting anything here … This just in:
Letter to Denver Citizens August 17, 2009 From: Cathy Donohue 1023 Lafayette Street Denver, Colorado 80218 Many already have heard that the Board of Parks, under the direction of the Parks Manager, Kevin Patterson, voted on Thursday, Aug 13, to rubber stamp a plan promoted by the Manager allowing 200 new signs to be placed throughout our parks. These signs, for the first time in the history of our city will bear an advertising logo of a for-profit corporation. The City Attorney and Kevin Patterson told the Parks Board that the City Charter permitted advertising. The words of the Charter reads: 2.4.5 Sale and leasing of parks Without the approval of a majority of those registered electors voting in an election held by the City and County of Denver, no park or portion of any park belonging to the city as of December 31, 1955, shall be sold or leased at any time...provided however, the property in parks may be leased for park purposes to concessionaires, to charitable or NON-PROFIT organizations, or to governmental jurisdictions. All such leases shall require the APPROVAL OF COUNCIL, as provided for in Article III of this Charter... No concessionaire is selling a product, no voters have been asked to approve a contract with a for-profit corporation and no Council voted upon this action. How could the Parks Board, the Manager of Parks and the Council allow this to happen? I believe the City Attorney will make a serious mistake if he approves this contract. Our elected and appointed caretakers of the parks were not wise enough to use their own common sense and read what the Charter says. I can never remember a time when I silently took advice of any attorney, without also reading the law as written. Having served for 19 years as an elected representative and 9 years as an appointee of Mayor Webb, I listened to whatever advice was given; but when I made a final decision I included my own intelligence into the process. In the Parks Advisory Board, we have a group of citizens who have been appointed to be the stewards of our parks. Those who voted to allow this advertising scheme failed in their duty to protect the parks on behalf of present and future generations. Along with the Mayor, they are the first to violate Mayor Speer's parks legacy. Moments before final vote of the Board, a mayoral appointee, the liaison from the Mayor's office to the Parks Manager, uttered the following words, with crossed fingers held high: “We are working to change the policies by 2010 so that they are consistent with what we want to do now.” In addition, just days ago the Mayor's office announced that he had approved a policy that would allow private promoters to chain off sections of Civic Center, City Park, Sloan’s Lake and a number of other newly named “festival parks'' to permit private ticket holders to attend concerts and other exclusive events. These parks will no longer be free and open to all citizens, as they have always been. Following these two actions, the Mayor is planning to permit commercial purveyors to sell liquor by the glass in the “festival” parks. Where does it end? Mr. Hickenlooper has his own plans for our parks. We will have “festival parks”, advertising logos, more drunks and empty plastic cups wherever our leadership wishes. The Mayor's liaison, with an air of absolute authority, told one citizen who questioned whether the Charter should be reviewed; “We don't need anybody's permission to do this.” There was no investigation to find out if “festival parks” would be successful or desirable, or if there were under-utilized days in already built facilities. The City produced no economic forecasts, no market research; nor did they seek any input from the neighborhoods near the new “festival” parks. Our leaders decided that chains around our green spaces would be desirable. The race has been the historical one between the tortoise and the hare. Who has won the race? The hare, of course. Our mayor is a very fast fellow and everyone loves a winner, especially when he has the wind at his back. The cleverest players stacked the deck—at least this time. Our landscapes will change—with hundreds of advertising signs, chained-off green spaces and more trash. I would have wished all of the people had asked to speak by voting. We have indeed been denied our rights as granted in the Charter. No matter what the “winners” bring us tomorrow, we must continue with a steady and unrelenting pace, paying little attention to those who sense no importance in history, beauty or respite. Expediency is not the answer to those who compromise our values. We must fight back for the sake of our parks, whether the battle is political or legal. We have to move on to the next battleground.
Also upcoming:
(from) Katie Fisher and Larry Ambrose: We hope you all have your calendars marked and schedules cleared for this important INC Parks & Recreation Committee meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, August 18 at 6:00 p.m. at the Heritage Club at 2020 S. Monroe, (between Buchtel Blvd. and E. Evans Ave. First street west of S. Colo. Blvd in the Crafts Room.
We will discuss:
Advertising in the parks - Status Report and Next Steps
Admission Based Special Events - Status Report and Next Steps
The implications of the new Zoning Code in reference to Denver Parks transferring power from the legislative to the executive - Status Report and Next Steps
The Gray Water Forum - Wash Park Profile article - Next Steps
Dog Park Master Plan Task Force - Off leash hours and fees for using Denver Dog Parks proposed
New Business

Friday, August 14, 2009

INC Parks & Rec Proposal Poo Pooed

From Larry Ambrose:
Outcome of PRAB Meeting: "Bill Boards in the Parks"

The City put forth Bill Airy's plan last night at the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting, with one exception. Parks Department Manager, Kevin Patterson introduced the Poo Free plan and proudly announced that now it is possible for us, neighborhood groups and non-profits, to actually buy advertising just like the commercial folks! And our logo's will be just below and bigger than the Poo Free Parks logo! Really!

Not good news folks. In an abysmal display of dereliction of public stewardship and accommodation to the most popular Mayor in Denver history, the PRAB voted overwhelming to approve the P and R Departments sweetheart deal with Poo Free Parks. Policies? Not to worry, said Chantel Unfug, the Mayor's $100,000 per year + liaison to the Mayor's appointee, Manager Patterson, (and elected representative to the Denver School Board from NE Denver).

Unfug said (and I paraphrase here), "We are working to change the policies by 2010 so that they are consistent with what we want to do now."

Poo Free advertising a slippery slope?

Advisory Board member representing Peggy Lehman, attorney, Richard Ott, admonished the Parks Department staff not to let any more advertising into the parks. Strong stuff, aye? But Chris Nevitt's representative, Ed Done came up with the winning solution. It's not the advertising that's the problem. The signs are just too big! But there was a motion on the floor put forth by Carla Madison's guy, Keith Pryor, who insisted that the Board approve Poo Free Parks proposal precisely as Bill Airy's contract was presented. The vote was taken and low and behold, they voted NOT to approve the deal 8 to 4.

But then architect Noel Copeland, (Rick Garcia) put forth the face saving compromise. What if we approve IF he makes the signs smaller than 12 x 18? How much smaller? No discussion about this "small" point. It was getting too late. I'm not sure of the vote count but I believe it was 10 to 2 (Elizabeth Kester and Flo Navarro against). So, now Mr. Airy can make his "Bill Boards" 11.75 x 17.75. Brilliant.

On positive notes, there were many thoughtful and civic minded people from around the city who presented wonderful and cogent testimony. Kathleen Rust was brilliant in describing everything in the parks eventually bedizened with ads. We must rally these folks and follow through with strategies to keep this scheme from being implemented. And, there's always the likelihood that Mr. Airy will not be able to sell advertising to cost and public image conscious companies anyway. After all, do they want at least half the people in the city resenting them for intruding the commercials into their parks? Perhaps we can help "make this known" to these companies.

In a related matter, Mr. Airy didn't even wait for the Advisory Board hearing to start advertising in the parks. He was seen putting these signs up throughout Sloan's Lake Park and on public right-of-ways on Tuesday. Oh, yes he did use his Poo Free hybrid fuel efficient Prius with the City logo on it to put them up. And, he was even able to do it without any help from the homeless! See also here, and here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tent City

Tent cities are springing up around the country as more are forced from their homes, leaving 11 million homes now sitting empty. At yesterday's City Council meeting of the Neighborhood, Community and Business Revitalization Committee, the subject came up. Have you seen any in Denver?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Remember that $20,000 Duck Death Study?

You will recall that back in 2007 many wild ducks were dying in and around Metro Wastewater evaporation ponds and Ferril Lake in City Park. Knowing that Metro Wastewater permit No. 2360-3-1A allows at least 28,000 gallons per day of pollutants and radionuclides to be pumped from the Lowry Landfill Superfund Site into the supply side of our recycling system (our sewers) and thence into Grasmere Lake and Ferril Lake caused some to reason that these deaths might be attributable to some of the toxins we were putting into the water. Direct observation of the ducks in Ferril Lake revealed that they were sinking. One was even witnessed as it sank below the surface and died. Others could be seen to be riding low in the water. It was hypothesized that the industrial strippers allowed by the permit could be the cause. Ducks are kept buoyant by the oils on their feathers. Strip the oil off, the duck sinks. Or so went the theory. Then The U.S. Geological Survey gave the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Colorado Division of Wildlife $20,000 to begin a controlled study of how the water in wastewater ponds affects living ducks, according to Barb Perkins, Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman. So what were the results? I won’t bore you with the unanswered emails, un-returned phone calls, etc., but eventually I learned that:

Regarding your request, one of my scientists did conduct a study related to the duck deaths at the Denver Metro Wastewater Treatment Plant. We provided an administrative report to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. U.S. Geological Survey administrative reports are considered to be unpublished and many not be cited or quoted except in follow-up administrative reports to the same agency or unless the agency releases the report to the public. I am not aware if U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released that report or not. I would suggest contacting Dr. Jim Dubovsky,, for further information. Patty Stevens Patty Stevens Chief, Trust Species and Habitats Branch Fort Collins Science Center 2150 Centre Ave, Bldg C Fort Collins, CO 80526-8118
I spoke with Dr. Jim Dubovsky, who has the study but can not yet release the results. The study has not yet been released because: 1. There are many “partners” who must first sign off on the study. 2. They have “lost” their PR person and are not able to get information out readily. However, he was able to tell me that: 1. There were not able to find a “smoking gun”. 2. They were able to determine that the ducks were “waterlogged”. 3. I asked specifically about the stripper – they tested for that and were not able to demonstrate a difference from the control group. 4. He said he couldn’t go into further detail until the study was released. Here's a repost of Adrienne Anderson explaining what happened at Washington Park's Grasmere when it was transformed into an evaporation pond. Also see Anderson's further explanation here, and more video here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Let's Start with the Children

Outside the Denver's Main Library “The Yearling” by Donald Lipski, 1992
Seems like the budget cuts often start with services affecting the children and the poor. This will do both. From Denver Public Library:
Dear Library Supporters, During the past month, the Mayor and other City officials have spoken about the growing gap between revenue projections and next year's budget needs. The City’s projected deficit has increased from $70 million to $120 million. The Library, along with all other City agencies and departments, has been asked to submit additional reduction options. While the final budget allocation for the Library won't be determined until later this month, we anticipate that a significant reduction in our level of service to the community will be required. Given the potential size of the Library's budget reduction, we are asking you, our customers, to take a closer look at the issues involved and provide feedback on the criteria that will be used to make these difficult decisions. Please join us on Tuesday, August 18, from 5:45 – 8 p.m., at the Central Library to learn more about the issues facing the Library and to provide your input on the best way to manage these challenges. Space is limited. Reserve your place by sending an email to or calling 720-865-2077 by 5 p.m., August 14. A sign language interpreter or Spanish language interpreter will be provided upon request with five business days notice. Information gathered will be used to help make the tough choices we face as we finalize our 2010 budget. The Denver Public Library is committed to connecting people with information, ideas and experiences to provide enjoyment, enrich lives and strengthen our community. Sincerely, Shirley Amore City Librarian

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Civil Discourse (Not)

I left before the press conference, having had enough. Check out TalkLeft for all the details. Also watch more protester action here - great production values, nice editing, good job Fireside Production!

Real Time Denver Police Radio

Sitting in the middle of sirens going off, large lightning bolts, fire trucks, and torrential rainfall, I found this: real-time police and fire radio.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Danger to Denver parks in proposed zoning code

Photo from Museum expansion plans. Title: Denver Museum of Nature & Science - New Storage and Education Center Project Type: Refurbish and Expand Cultural Facilities Construction (Start) Quarter: Q2 Construction (Start) Year: 2011 Project Status: Planning Neighborhood: City Park Council District: 8 Description: Construct storage facility. Remodel/build classrooms, labs, teacher ed ctr, relo library & 2nd traveling hall
Ed. Note: Thanks to Dave Felice for arranging this exclusive commentary by well-known Denverite Tom Morris, retired architect, living in the South City Park neighborhood. by Tom Morris July 31, 2009 The Hickenlooper administration is proposing a new zoning ordinance for Denver. The new code withdraws zoning from our larger parks. The proposal says that all decisions about what is built in our parks will be left to the whims of future managers of parks and recreation. Zoning is one of the most useful tools for urban stability. Not because it freezes the city in the amber of law but rather because it outlines the means of resolving land use issues within a functional relationship. Take away zoning and the result is lingering disputes, anger and unstable land uses. For five years in the late 1970s I attended most city council meetings. I had a prime seat at the press desk in the days when reporters actually attended council meetings. When zoning hearings came before council the press people would yawn and exchange gossip. I, on the other hand, loved every minute of every zoning hearing. I saw zoning as the ultimate expression of the genius of American democracy at work. Disputes often involved the forces of political power in their grey suits and ties arrayed against the underdog locals in their plaid shirts and tennis shoes. The two opposing forces were made equal in zoning disputes because the deciders, members of city council, were equally beholden to the expertise and money of the suits and the votes of the public. There was very little backroom discussion. More often than not the decision was based on what was said at the hearings. When zoning hearings were over and the issue was decided, the dispute was over. Oh, the anger might linger a while. The council member whose district was under discussion might lose their seats at the next municipal election. The neighborhood might suffer from the decision. A developer might lose a lot of money. But the question had been decided in a fair forum. It may have taken a couple of years, but the arguments were over. Contrast this with the question of whether the Museum of Natural History could double its size back in the 1980s. The manager of parks and recreation at the time, made the decision quickly without bothering to tell the public. She signed the construction documents and the museum began building its addition. When the public discovered what she had done when a gigantic furniture warehouse engulfed the prim Beaux Arts museum and the Phipps Auditorium a lingering dispute burst into view. By the time the dust settled a decade and a half later, a succession of parks managers had come and gone often in the heat of battle, the city's aquarium had been removed from City Park's future, the city's parks department had been barred from the park by a court decision, City Park had a joke of a master plan, park roads had been closed, the city charter had been amended, the parks advisory committee had been expanded by 14 new members, two subterranean parking garages had been constructed and neighbors of the park had a festering distrust of the department. An example of the fitful resolution of the various issues in the park was begun with a statement by the museum's CEO, Raylene Decatur, that the museum would never again expand its floor area in the park. Based on that statement (which was never reflected in any law), the parking garage serving the museum was designed without the capacity to expand vertically even though its was sharply restricted in horizontal expansion by underground utilities, roadways and nearby structures. Since there were no legal limits installed by zoning, the next museum CEO, George Sparks, got the city's voters to approve an additional 60,000 square feet of exhibit space for the museum. In the olden days when the city saw a lack of parking as a detriment to orderly growth, the zoning ordinance would have required the museum to provide 300 more parking spaces as a condition of its expansion. The Hickenlooper administration, however, views a lack of parking as a sign of urban vitality. This means that when new museum visitors again begin parking along the shady residential streets of west Park Hill, the neighbors will have to find comfort in the idea that they are living in a trendy neighborhood rather than an inconvenient mess. The new zoning ordinance being proposed by Hickenlooper removes any suggestion that the neighbors be informed about changes coming to their lives, have any right or opportunity to speak out on their own behalf or have any decision recorded in any way which might protect them from future "great" ideas. The Hickenlooper ordinance even allows future managers of parks and recreation to change any agreements now existing. If you live near or love a Denver park, get ready for a couple of decades of dispute and anger.