Sunday, September 14, 2008
By Dave Felice
Denver’s new Manager of Parks and Recreation, Kevin Patterson, appears reluctant to give specific answers to questions about the Admissions Based Special Events Policy (ABSEP) task force.
Asked about the status of ABSEP at a meeting of Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation (INC), Patterson said: “I can’t give a timetable. I really need to listen more than talk.”
The task force is supposed to establish a policy to govern closed commercial events in public parks. Members of the task force have met since late last year to discuss matters such as policy, locations, and fees.
“I’m trying to pull information,” said Patterson responding to the ABSEP question during his brief appearance at the INC meeting. “We need to make sure we have better communication. I need to hear from you.”
“I’m looking forward to working with the community and the neighborhoods,” said Patterson. “With a background as an urban planner, I want to align park plans with those of other city agencies to see how everything coordinates to serve the neighborhoods.”
Patterson echoed earlier comments of Public Works Director Guillermo “Bill” Vidal, saying city agencies “need to talk about how they execute plans and bring projects to reality.”
Vidal had spoken of the Strategic Transportation Plan and said “we can do this, but it’s going to take all of us in a partnership. The way we fund things now won’t get them done.”
Patterson, who is also a member of the Denver School Board, comes to the post of Manager of Parks and Recreation after being the city’s Director of General Services for the last year. In his remarks, he spoke of his success in developing a new five-year plan for General Services to show how the agency “adds value” to the city.
The ABSEP task force – representing government, commercial, and citizen interests – was formed late last year by Patterson’s predecessor, Kim Bailey, in response to a proposal by Chuck Morris of Anschutz Entertainment.
Morris proposed closed two-thirds of City Park for a three-day multi-stage music festival. Following complaints by citizens and lacking the endorsement of the adjacent Denver Zoo, the festival was moved to an athletic field complex in Commerce City.
Ending a controversial tenure, Bailey left in May. Meetings of the ABSEP task force continued under the interim leadership of Acting Parks Manager Scott Robson, although the discussions seemed to be overshadowed by the city’s preoccupation with the Democratic National Committee.
Robson withdrew a controversial proposal by Bailey to expand the sale of alcoholic beverages in parks. Setting up a broader policy for alcohol sales would facilitate closed commercial events.
Patterson faces several controversial issues, including the skepticism of community advocates ab out his appointment, and the use of radiation-tainted sewage effluent to irrigate some park lands.
District 4 City Councilwoman Peggy Lehmann, chair of the Public Amenities Committee, says she’s “upset” that Patterson was not one of the candidates recommended by a search committee. Other members of the Amenities Committee, Carla Madison of District 8 and Marcia Johnson of District 5, have made no public comment on the appointment of Patterson.
Madison is a known supporter of preventing free and open public access to park land for commercial events. She was an early and enthusiastic backer of the Anschutz proposal, appearing in a promotional video prepared even before the proposal was made public. Documents show Morris had been quietly negotiating with the city as early as June of 2007.
“Patterson, no stranger to Denver, will have to hit the ground running as he takes over a department in need of strong management,” says former City Councilwoman Susan Barnes-Gelt, in a published commentary. Robson, who returns to his position as Deputy Manager of Park Planning and Construction, “will be a valuable partner to the new manager,” according to Barnes-Gelt.
“Where do we place Kevin Patterson? The unknowns abound,” writes George in Denver. “The precious resources of our parks are at stake. Will Mister Patterson serve the best interests of the city? Or, will Mister Patterson serve his management, which, in this case, is Mayor (John) Hickenlooper?”
As Parks and Recreation Manager, Patterson’s salary will be $130,531 per year. He officially takes the position September 15, 2008.
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