Saturday, November 28, 2009
You’ve undoubtedly seen the recent articles about the cattle mutilations near San Luis, Colorado. As usual, the authorities are at a loss to explain these strange goings on, including helicopters, surgical cuts, no blood or footprints at the scene.
This triggered my memories of similar, but more widespread occurrences in Colorado back in 1975. At the time, I was teaching film classes at The Western States Film Institute. One of my students, Mark O’Kane (who later went on to a multi-faceted career in Hollywood as a steadicam operator) got hired to go on location to a mutilation site to shoot some film. He told me about it when he got back and I, of course, was very interested and peppered him with questions. Basically, other than the first hand experience, he had little to add to what I had already read. He confirmed the surgical incisions, missing parts, lack of blood, etc.
So when this new report appeared, I got on my Google and went for a ride into the Universal Library, aka Internet. I wondered if there was a database of all cattle mutilations in the country. I didn’t find one, but I found this at The Black Vault – a 131 page summary report.
To whet your appetite, I’ve included a copy of this letter from then US Senator Floyd Haskel to the Denver office of the FBI. (Click to enlarge)
at 6:46 PM
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The Hickenlooper administration has been moving on a straight line towards an administrative takeover of our Parks ever since Anschutz asked him to (see Parks Policy in the sidebar index). This is a two-pronged attack using the new Zoning Code and a new Admission Based Events Policy. Meanwhile, an email conversation has been occurring between Councilwoman Marcia Johnson and a group of concerned (and very knowledgeable) citizens. I reprint it here (unedited except for removal of email headers) in the hope of bringing more people into the conversation. Make no mistake about it, if Hick gets his way, this will bring about a major change in our parks and our ability to control what goes on in them.
Update 11/28/09: Is Councilwoman Johnson turning around on this issue? See her email towards the end of the updated section where she says "I got a number of examples and now agree that Parks should not have unlimited say in what goes on in the parks." (bold added)
From Councilwoman Marcia Johnson
Cathy Donohue is right. The new OS-A zoning being proposed for Parks in the new Zoning Code does take away Council's power to zone them. But I would argue that City Council has many other tools in which to exercise control over our Parks.
I asked our Parks Recreation department to prepare a response to Councilwoman Donohue's letter. In their response (attached), they list 15 ways that Council, with public input, controls what happens in the Parks.
1. Year-to-year budgeting and capital appropriations for park improvements are entirely subject to approval by the Council.
2. Any capital improvement to park lands financed through bonded indebtedness is subject to approval by the Council.
3. Any expenditure contract in excess of $500,000 for parks services or improvements is subject to approval by the Council.
4. Any capital equipment purchase in excess of $50,000 on behalf of DPR is subject to Council approval.
5. The granting of any lease or concession for park purposes is subject to Council approval.
6. The authority to ultimately allow "compatible non-park usage" of historic structures in parks is vested entirely in the City Council.
7. The establishment of any fee or charge for use of city parks and recreation facilities is subject to Council approval.
8. The acceptance of any and all grants or gifts for the creation or improvement of parks is subject to the approval of Council.
9. The authority to refer to the voters any proposal to sell existing park lands or to lease any park lands for non-park uses is vested entirely in the City Council.
10. The approval of cooperative agreements with non-profit entities (e.g. the Denver Zoo, Botanic Gardens, Museum of Nature and Science) and with other government entities (e.g. DPS, Jefferson County, etc.) is subject to approval by the Council.
11. The establishment of any "enterprise" related to parks operations (e.g. the Golf Enterprise) is subject to legislative approval by Council.
12. The City Council has adopted view planes that control the height of structure in and adjacent to parks.
13. The City Council has adopted building and construction codes that apply equally to any and all city structures, including structures in park lands.
14. Through Chapter 39 of the Denver Revised Municipal Code, the City Council has traditionally regulated a wide variety of activities in city parks (e.g. service of alcohol, sales of goods and services, curfews, camping, vehicle restrictions, etc.)
15. Thirteen of the nineteen members of the Board of Parks and Recreation are appointed by members of the City Council.
Thanks for your email – we have also sent an article over to Shadron which discusses this issue.
From Cathy Donohue
I, and many others, have seen the famous list of 15 ways council has control over parks' budget, projects, etc.
They are just fine if you happen to be an elected member of council. In none of these options is there a option for citizen redress because there is no ordinance process by which a citizens group can recall or reject the actions of the parks management or the council. No group of citizens can recall any ordinance procedure, as they can today, whenever Council passes a zoning change in a city park. Marcia Johnson evades the issue of recall of an ordinance; which we will be losing as soon as the Council hands over land use control to parks. I am sick of this completely uneducated nonsense, which is put forth by our elected officials in order to fool us into thinking we, the citizens, still have any kind of control in the 15 in-house trading mechanisms she and her friends at city hall keep thinking will fool all of us.
From Councilwoman Marcia Johnson
Would someone please tell me when a rezoning of a park has come up? If you don’t know of any in the past would someone please construct a plausible hypothetical of an action that Parks might take that would be thwarted by the re-zoning process of a park? I would fight for a cause that I could understand had content.
As for the famous 15 things Council has to pass on before something major can happen in a park, everything Council is in committee, on Channel 8, subject to review of written minutes and therefore public. I catch myself…No, sometimes we pass things on a consent agenda, which is not very transparent. These items are not controversial, though and every member of the Amenities Committee has to sign off. Any time on a consent agenda would be ‘way below an issue equivalent to a rezoning.
I really want to get some response to the first paragraph because these are the questions I have wanted to ask any of you and haven’t caught up with you at the end of a meeting to have the conversation.
From Tom Morris:
While council has carefully avoided asserting its zoning powers in parks, it might have avoided years of dispute and mistrust had it done so.
Under the zoning ordinance a zone lot is allowed but one "accessory use." This has resulted in both the zoo and museum being classified as "accessory uses" at various times down through the years. The last iteration of this fabrication defined the zoo as a park and therefore a "use by right" and the museum as an "accessory use." The code limits an "accessory use" to ten percent of the zone lot. At its present extent the museum is approaching this limit. The zoo, under its present classification avoids any land use review at all.
Over the years there have been numerous attempts to bring orderly and transparent governance to City Park. Council has always taken the least contentious approach. There was a green space regulation (or ordinance, I'm not sure which) which requires public hearings when green space is lost. I suspect that it is a regulation since when the Junior golf clubhouse was constructed in City Park golf course, no public notification or input occured.
When a firestation was proposed located in City Park at 17th and Jackson, only a change in administration from McNichols to Pena prevented it from being constructed. It required thousands of hours of citizen time to defeat the station which ended up at 14th and Harrison. Had it been built as proposed, the station would have had grass and trees in fully half it adjacent area.
The 1985 additions to the museum were undertaken without any citizen input or participation. Community disgust at that project allowed us to successfully oppose location of the city's aquarium in the park. There were no rules. It required public protests, picketing, confrontational public meetings and eventual reluctant capitulation by the Pena administration. The dispute over the aquarium led to five years of public meetings, a change in the city charter (expanding the Advisory Board), the green space regulation/ordinance, a disputed City Park master plan, road closures, a solemn pledge from the museum never to ask for those roads to be opened for supplementary parking, the two garages, and an almost universal distrust of the Department of Parks and Recreation among neighborhood groups. Because of a pledge by Raylene Decatur, the museum CEO, that the museum would never expand in City Park, the museum garage was constructed without the capacity to expand vertically. The latest bond issue results in an addition 60,000 sq.ft. of exhibit space (300 cars required under the existing zoning code) with no place to park the cars. I'm sure the residents of west Park Hill will make someone pay for this lack of orderly land use.
The proposal to put the Department's offices in the pavilion without zoning control was overturned by the U.S. District court after years of confrontation, demonstrations, picketing, public meetings and more distrust of city government.
I suspect without orderly zoning requirements these kinds of disputes will continue. We have already seen a glimpse in the AEG proposal. When people discover that council has given away the people's right to legally petition to overturn a decision by the manager or to require an extraordinary majority of council to pass a change in the park, I suspect there will be hell to pay. I plan to participate in that.
Citizens have always had the right to complain. They will retain that right under this proposal to deny the checks and balances of orderly democracy. Even if an administration sneaks a park change past them, the people will find a way. It is unfortunate that this council is willing to keep park land use issues in this maelstrom of anger and haphazard governance.
The failure of past councils to exert their land use responsibilities is not a good reason to continue a failed system. It is only an excuse for council to continue to place their constituents at a disadvantage which can only be overcome by the basest public efforts and public anger.
Think about it, please.
From Larry Ambrose
Dear Councilwoman Johnson:
Please note one example of a controversial capital construction project for a Denver park which could quite possibly come up very soon. The Library Commission is considering putting a new already bond-funded West Denver Library in Sloan's Lake Park. Under the proposed zoning code change, the Manager of Parks & Recreation would have exclusive power to decide whether to put such a building in the Park and to determine its shape, scale and height. You (Council) already approved funding and building it before you even knew where it was going! You may be changing the definitions of zoning for private property under the new zoning code being considered, but you are not taking away the citizens rights under the Charter to either ask for a rezoning or to challenge a zoning change. Council's willingness to limit the publics' right to participate in decisions or redress decisions with which they may not agree with regard to zoning of public property, especially Denver's limited, valuable and historically admired park system and to turn it over to the whims of any particular Mayor or bureaucrat would be first, and foremost, unnecessary, not to mention fool-hearty, bad civic policy, a violation of your oaths and dereliction of your fiduciary duties.
Respectfully but indigently,
From Cathy Donohue:
Just imagine for one minute that the Manager of Parks would like to put a Tennis Ball practice machine (at 10 balls for a dollar) in Cramner Park. Anyone that wanted to practice hitting tennis balls that were in the machine would simply put their dollar in the machine and hit balls till closing time. Who made the decision to put in the ball dispensing machine? This kind of for-pay project would certainly not need the approval of council for any reason should you hand over you power to control the land use in parks to the Manager.. Would this use be a "parks use" as described in the Charter, especially the "for pay" part?. Whether or not the zoning surrounding Cramner allowed such a profit making machine is questionable. Just how would any citizen stop the Manager. Now, under the Charter with rules for ordinance control of land in parks, a group of citizens could pass a legal petition to stop a Council member who would vote such an abuse of zoning rules (I imagine Cramner is probably R-1, or something close to that). Tom Morris' lengthy history of abuses over the years just in City Park is noteworthy in that it shows very clearly that the parks' legacy is open for abuse.
As I have said before, the list of 15 ways to influence a decision of the Council which has been designed by the Parks Dept. is simply another insider trading game played in Council Committee or with the city Administrator. This list of 15 ways to execute your influence do not include a public referendum as currently required by Charter. You were elected and swore to uphold the Charter. We would all like to see the sworn duty remain in Council's hands.
From Ray Ehrenstein
Dear Councilwoman Johnson,
When I moved to Denver from El Paso some 37 years ago I was informed that Denver has a "Strong Mayor" form of city government. I have certainly found this to be true during my years living here. Mr. Morris illustrated this fact perfectly with his description of what happened to that firehouse proposed but moved when the change of administrations between Bill McNichols and Federico Pena took place. The thousands of hours of citizen time and input Mr. Morris referred to apparently influenced the Mayor and hence the decision was made.
I would be interested if anyone can remember a time when the Denver City Council ever successfully opposed any Denver Mayor and won their battle? Is there any example where the Council Members changed the Mayor's mind or possibly overrode his decision? Just curious.
It does seem to me that when Denver citizens elect Council members, they should expect a more forceful and involved legislative branch and not one which Mr. Morris said "takes the least contentious approach" to issues. Charlie Brown being an exception. Xcel has his ear.
After considering Denver's City Council's history as described by Cathy Donohue, Tom Morris and others involved with this Parks discussion, I will agree the last thing our City Council should be doing is to further dilute their powers, especially to a Mayor's appointee.
With as little open green space as Denver has left within its' borders, we should look for locations for libraries, fire stations, museums and the like outside of the open park spaces we have currently. Please let's not give up any more park land and trees for any building.
From Marcia Johnson:
I have only served on Council along with the current administration. The pattern for the process in bringing anything forward to Council has been consistently that
1.) Someone from the department of the administration where the issue originates visits with the councilperson(s) whose district(s) are affected. There have been some items die or get altered right here. Council members can set up meetings in their districts to air the issue.
2.) The item goes to the appropriate committee or, because it was passed by the chairman on the consent agenda, goes to Mayor Council. Even there the affected City Council member can greatly alter the outcome.
3.) The Mayor appointed RD Sewald and Amber Callendar as liaisons to Council and they check over and over with Councilmembers on whether or not we are ok with what is being proposed. They have negotiated with Councilmembers and changed the proposals.
4.) Still, Council members weigh in at meetings, (witness Jeanne Faatz’ comments).
5.) Proposals can be held and changed at this point. This happened with budget items.
As a consequence, there is little drama on Monday nights. It may appear that Council is rolling over because there is so little debate at this point. All that has happened with much input before things get to the floor.Your concern is that there will be many mayors with various styles of working and the zoning code must guarantee that the public and the public’s representatives have access to processes before the final ordinances are passed. We all get this.
Thanks to this email dialogue, you have sent this example and I did receive some other useful specifics from George Cerrone. I’ll check with CPD to see how it has adapted to the concerns raised. I heard CPD planners, sitting to my right at the listening sessions, saying that there needed to be some response. Then you can see if that response allays your concerns.Thank you for your clear language. Personally, I find you one of Denver's most accessible and responsive Council Members. You took my point about changing Mayors exactly and I take your point that you have only served during the tenure of one Mayor.
I continue to believe that as long as we create a New Zoning Code only every forty years or so, our citizenry does want and need protective language in this newest code ...
From George Cerrone:
Below are my responses to the questions in your first paragraph.
When has a rezoning of a park come up?
Rezoning of a park comes up virtually every time Council enacts a “language amendment” to the Zoning Code.
Council “rezones” property (changes or modifies permitted uses or forms of structures) in one of two ways: through “language amendments” to the Code it changes the regulations and rules that govern the use and form of structures on properties; and through “map amendments” to the Code it changes the boundaries of a zone district or the district in which a particular property is to be governed.
Under our Zoning Code, parks are governed by the general y applicable Code regulations and the regulations of the Zone District in which they are located. When these regulations are changed or modified, (or “rezoned”), one or more of the parks are “rezoned”.
Examples of some of the subjects of “language amendments” to the Code that would affect a park include: uses to be made of the properties, set-backs (front, side and rear), parking space requirements, traffic study requirements, interior roads, street access, building heights, bulk plane restrictions, separation restrictions (between liquor stores, adult bookstores, soon-to-be marijuana dispensaries, etc.).
Park’s Actions Thwarted by “Rezoning”.
Park’s actions have “recently” been thwarted at least twice: once by a proposed citizen-initiated rezoning; and once by a failure of Council to rezone.
Proposed Rezoning. The most recent proposed Park’s action that was thwarted by a proposed rezoning is the proposed siting of the Colorado History Museum in Civic Center Park. The Mayor and Council and the State were very recently set in building the new museum in Civic Center Park, only the details remained to be worked out. A group of citizens began a petition drive to initiate a rezoning of the park which would have prevented the construction of the museum. The proponents of the museum backed down and went elsewhere. Park’s action was thwarted.
Failure to Rezone. In the late1980’s, Parks proposed siting some of its administrative and management facilities in City Park. The Denver District Court prevented such action, ruling that Council failed to rezone the park to allow such siting, since the then current zoning did not allow such use and forms of structures. Park’s action was thwarted.
From Tom Morris:
Slowly, they turn. Why we have to invent a new means of land use control is beyond my understanding. We know how zoning works. It is tried and true. Disputes arise, are discussed and resolved. Inventing a new system guarantees that it will fail in some new and exciting way. Viewing the manager of parks as a developer rather than a tool of the mayor would be too simple for words.
From Councilwoman Marcia Johnson:
I got a number of examples and now agree that Parks should not have unlimited say in what goes on in the parks. However, I am not sure zoning is the only tool we can use to insert Council accountability. I am ready to hear what other solutions may come forward.
if the city attorney were an elected position would this discussion go in a different direction?
at 10:06 AM
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I've been working on an post entitled "Crime, and You (and Your Stuff)". The premise is that in this new era of economic stress we are going to see new forms of crime and will have to adopt new forms of awareness to avoid be victimized.
And then I saw this article in today's Denver Post that blew me away:
Denver police arrest 32 in series of downtown assaultsRacially motivated downtown attacksBy Jordan Steffen
The Denver PostPosted: 11/21/2009 01:00:00 AM MSTUpdated: 11/21/2009 08:38:53 AM MST
The Denver Police Department arrested 32 men and juvenile boys after a months-long undercover investigation into what police said were racially motivated assaults and robberies in downtown Denver, including the LoDo entertainment district.
A task force composed of Denver police, the FBI and the Denver district attorney's office investigated 26 incidents in which groups of black males verbally harassed, assaulted and at times robbed white or Latino males, according to Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman.
All of the suspects are young black males, most of whom told police they were associated with either the Rollin' 60s Crips gang or the Black Gangster Disciples gang. (continue reading here)
Oh Lord, now we are back to that, only worse. Is this the '80s? Racially motived gang violence? 32 arrested? This is going to get Denver a lot of neat publicity.
at 9:48 PM
Friday, November 20, 2009
I had the unique opportunity to sit down with John Flerlage, Democratic candidate for US House of Representatives from Colorado District 6, running against Republican incumbent Mike Coffman . John is a former career Marine jet fighter pilot who is now flying commercial airliners.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I've got to tell you I was totally impressed. His depth of knowledge and intensity is reflective of the time he has spent preparing for this race, and his broad range of global experience. The majority of registered voters in CD6 is Republican and John faces an uphill battle, but the man is determined to win.
I was especially impressed by his statement of Why I Am Running for Office and how the story of Max Cleland affected him.
He doesn't dwell on it, but his service record is very impressive. I spent some time myself as a Midshipman aboard the USS Wasp aircraft carrier, so I've seen first-hand what it takes to fly a jet fighter from one of these moving platforms.
From his website:
John Flerlage is currently an airline captain who served 22 years in the Marine Corps before retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel from the Marine Reserve in 2000. Over his eleven active-duty years and eleven years in the Reserves, John flew the F/A-18 Hornet and A-4 Skyhawk. He also served in various Squadron and Group level leadership and staff positions and taught classes in world affairs, strategic commitments and the operation of fighters and other tactical aircraft at the Marine aviation advanced tactics school. During his reserve years, John also volunteered and flew missions in support of NATO operations in Bosnia, and in 1996, he was chosen to fly the Hornet aboard the USS George Washington in the first Marine Reserve carrier qualifications to be held in over fifteen years.
You'll also find a playlist of short videos from the interview here.
I don't live in CD6, but all of Colorado needs this kind of representation, and John deserves our support.
at 8:11 AM
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
You, Denver citizen, own Denver’s parks. You take a walk to your park one day, and you discover a temporary chain-link fence blocking you from your normal path. A portion of your park has been leased to a promoter to conduct a for-profit event from which you are barred, unless you are willing to pay. The event features one of your favorite bands. Great! Oh wait, it costs $75/day to get admission to the other side of the fence. How did that happen?
Hickenlooper's Plan: Public Parks for Private Profit
by Dave Felice
Despite widespread neighborhood opposition and a reevaluation by the Colorado's preeminent concert promoter, Denver’s Parks and Recreation Department (DPR) is forging ahead with a new Admission Based Events policy. For the first time since the City was founded, public access to public parks will be allowed only to those who are willing to pay admission to attend exclusive, fenced off, commercial events.
Ultimate responsibility for this misguided public policy belongs to Mayor John Wright Hickenlooper. When in 2007, Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) Live, Rocky Mountain CEO, Chuck Morris, proposed to stage the Mile High Music Festival in City Park in August of 2008, the Mayor immediately gave the go ahead. The proposal by Morris to close the western two-thirds of City Park for up to two weeks for his 3 day inaugural Festival then became a the source of severe controversy. Having already given permission in violation of a long held City policy deemed to be in violation of the Charter, Hickenlooper ordered his then Manager of Parks, Kim Bailey, to come up with a new policy that would cover his “assessment” and apply to everybody else in the future. A“Task Force”, heavily populated with City employees, event promoters and lobbyists, sprinkled with a few neighborhood representatives was given the charge of developing a policy that would validate the idea of “Admission Based Events”. The Department continued to spend money and time pursuing the admissions-based events policy until Bailey unceremoniously left in 2008.
The City cites the proposal by Morris as the impetus for an Admissions Based Special Events Policy (ABSEP) Task Force which has been meeting since November 2007. Morris may have actually been encouraged by Hickenlooper. Public documents obtained under a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request show that Morris was in private communications with Bailey several months before the proposal was made public.
Despite many opinions from City Attorney's in previous administrations saying that closing off parts of parks would require a vote of the general electorate, Hickenlooper's cause was bolstered by a new legal opinion out his own City Attorney's office. Assistant City Attorney Patrick Wheeler proclaimed such a major shift in managing Denver's parks did not violate the Charter and is within the rule-making authority of the Parks Department.
Ultimately, forced by public pressure and opposition from the Denver Zoo, Morris successfully moved the event to Dick's Sporting Goods athletic field complex in Commerce City. In published comments in May 2009 (Denver Daily News), the well-known president of the AEG Live Rocky Mountains, Chuck Morris, said he respects opposition to commercial events which would result in the closure of public parks. Morris was quoted as saying he understood how neighbors would be frustrated by having the Mile High Music Festival in City Park. He said growing opposition encouraged him to look for what turned out to be an advantageous alternative site. “There were some very astute, some very smart comments about parks being open to the public,” said Morris, who himself lives in Park Hill, only about a mile from the east side of City Park.
District 8 Councilwoman Carla Madison was an early and enthusiastic supporter of what AEG called “a rock music festival of world class proportions.” Madison, who received campaign contributions and took junkets to “research” the issue on AEG's lobbyists dime, appeared in a video produced by Anschutz to promote the City Park notion. During the deliberations of the task force, Madison was a member of the Fees Subcommittee. Her appointment to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB), Keith Pryor, has continued to strongly support the idea of closing parks for commercial events.
Opposition to the commercial closure of public parks was expressed by neighborhood representatives throughout the Task Force process. INC and other neighborhood representatives repeatedly insisted that any such policy leasing land to the private commercial interests should be voted on by the electorate.
Neighborhood representatives advanced an alternative proposal to build a new, year-around, festival park in the heart of Denver that would not negatively impact any neighborhood, where admission could be charged and access to public transportation, proper infrastructure and parking would be available. Many American cities have moved in this direction with great success, including Milwaukee and Seattle.
Bailey's replacement, Kevin Patterson, made short order of the Task Force process, calling two poorly attended meetings, basically summarizing the work of the individual committees, which worked in isolation of each other and an overall vision, as proclamations of support for a comprehensive policy. The Department's long awaited policy, absent any dissenting opinions, was publicly unveiled in October for presentation to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board in December along with another policy entitled “Public Notification and Civic Engagement Policy” which would legitimatize the aforementioned slanted public process and give credence to the rushed approval of the Admission Based Special Events Policy before the vast majority of the public are aware their parks will become a playgrounds for profit for the rich and famous.
Hickenlooper and Patterson virtually ignored a resolution from Greater Park Hill Community (GPHC) in May, opposing park closures for commercial events. “Access to named public parks should be free and open, consistent with the City’s Charter,” states the resolution. The GPHC resolution further called a public referendum if such a policy were to be proposed.
The Parks and Recreation Committee of the Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation (INC) organization approved a similar Resolution in August 2009 and that Resolution was overwhelmingly ratified by the INC General membership in September 2009. The Resolution, which was never acknowledged by the Parks Department, also called for a public vote.
Even now, the city continues to put forth the fiction that there is widespread interest. “Increasingly…citizens and event organizations have contacted DPR to clarify the implementation of admissions based events,” states the latest policy draft. And yet, neither the department nor event promoters have ever cited any specific expressions of interest.
Furthermore, the city will not profit greatly from commercial events in parks. The charges for leasing public property are specifically designed to be low to encourage promoters to stage commercial events. This is a classic example of the “rip it out of the ground and sell it” approach to public property.
It is wrong to prevent free and open access to public park land. It is wrong for private business to close park land and charge admission for special events such as music and beer festivals. Commercial enterprises have no claim to use public park property for profit. Parks are public property, not sources of revenue. No amount can compensate residents around parks for neighborhood disruption caused by commercial events. No trendy entertainment or glamorous celebrity can justify taking away the citizens' right to enjoy what little open space is left in the City.
Oppose exclusive commercial use of taxpayer-owned park properties! The issue could be resolved with one simple statement: Denver public parks are free and open; Denver public parks cannot be closed for private profit-making enterprises. That's what the Charter of the City of Denver intended. Call, e-mail, or send postal mail to Mayor John Hickenlooper, Parks and Recreation Manager Kevin Patterson, City Councilwoman Peggy Lehmann Chair of the Public Amenities Committee, and your city council representative.
A copy of the draft of the Admissions Based Events policy can be obtained by contacting the Mayor's liaison to the Mayor's Manager of Parks and Recreation, Chantal Unfug, firstname.lastname@example.org, or telephone 720-913-0670. A Public Hearing on the Admission Based Special Events Policy and the Public Notification and Civic Engagement Policy will be held December 10 at La Alma Recreation Center, 1325 West 11th Avenue at Navajo.
(The author is a long-time resident of Park Hill and an At-Large Delegate on the GPHC Board of Governors. He is also active in the Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation Organization and the Denver Area Labor Federation. For additional information on park issues, see: www.savecitypark.org.
at 10:05 AM
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
From: The Desk of Cathy Donohue Former Denver City Councilwoman
Date: November 9, 2009
Re: Words of the New Zoning Code: Sec. 126.96.36.199.B
“In the OS-A zone District (all city owned, leased and/or operated parks), the Manager of Parks and Recreation shall determine all design and development standards applicable to new developments in the District pursuant to the City Charter”.
Sometime shortly after the beginning of the new year, City Council will be voting to adopt a new Zoning Code. Serious questions have been raised about the wisdom of one particular section of the code. If the new code is adopted as written, citizens will lose their rights to influence the way land use decisions are made for our city parks.
Since the mid-1920's , when the city first adopted a Zoning Code, all land use decesions have been under Council's jurisdiction. The new Zoning Code proposes to establish a new way to control land in our parks. All parks will be in the OS (Open Space) zones. Ironically, all of the other land in the city will have new zoning classifications with strict regulations that must be followed for all development.
The City Administration decided that the new OS (Open Space) zone needs absolutely no rules or regulations. Specific language which would give definitions and rules of proceure for this zone was proposed by a number of citizens. However, this reasonable approach was rejected by the Council. The new Zoning Code gives control of development in the parks to an unelected bureaucrat, the Parks Department Manager, and allows City officials development rights without regulations.
Building sizes, number of stories, open spaces, bulk and view plains will be controlled at the discretion of this Manager. Today there are zoning regulations for parks. Depending upon the adjacent land use, they range from R-O (single family) to B-8 (high density commercial), Although the current situation is confusing, it still allows the citizens to tell Councilmembers when they disagree with a zoning decision...
Because all zoning is established by ordinance, the citizens have a time-honored American way to tell the elected officials if they disagree with their actions. They may present a legal petition (with approximately 5000 signatures), to require any Council-approved zoning change to be voted upon by all the citizens. When the unelected Manager of Parks is given the sole power over developments in our parks, the citizens will have no legally binding way to disagree with a decision made by this bureaucrat because his/her decisions are not made by ordinance.
Currrently, the Manager of Parks only has jurisdiction over the uses of facilities in our parks—not land use changes or initial development. This new “decider” for all development in our parks will not be subject to anything more than letter writing or public outcry.
In response to these objections, members of City Council are repeating a specious theory that because they control budgets, they can control the Parks Manager's decisions. Nowhere in budget process is an opportunity for legal citizen dissent. The budget process is an “insider” game of vote trading that allows no legal citizen involvement.
During the time that I served as a member of the Council, I would never have thrown away my power to represent the electorate on any matters concerning our parks. For that matter, I would not have relinquished any power granted in the Charter unless the people voted to take it away. The City Administration and the Council have stated that they can will be transferring this power without a vote of the people.
Unbelievably, Council members have publicly stated that they approve of this transfer of power.
The political atmosphere has changed at City Hall, and our elected representatives have publicly expressed their willingness to give their parks' responsibilities to a bureaucrat. This situations is an anathema to me. There is only one way to stop the Council from approving this portion of the new Zoning Code. They must be asked by the electorate to amend this provision of the Zoning Code and remove it from the ordinance. Parks' rules need to be established in their own section of the Charter.
There are two chances for us (the voters) to let City officials know that we do not want to lose our right to have elected officials govern our parks. On Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009, between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. there will be a public hearing in the Webb Office Building. There will be a second public hearing on Nov. 19 from 1-4 p.m. As many people as possible should come to show their disapproval of the City's proposal. We should also write to councilpersons at Room 451, City and County Building, Denver, Co., 80204. Council members need to know that the citizens are unwilling to allow them to give away the power vested in them by the voters.
I ask that you forward this message to anyone that you believe might understand how important it is to stop this decision. The new Zoning Code must be amended. An amendment can be passed with seven (7) votes of Council, but the Mayor can veto the amendment; then it would take nine (9) votes to override his veto. This new plan for our parks has been placed in the code by the Administration and is currently supported by most members of Council. We need to have our voices heard, or else we will lose control of our parks.
The time to stop this denial of our rights is now, before the issue is passed by Council. I hope you will join those of us that have already begun voicing our objections to our representatives and send a message, loudly and clearly, at the public hearings and through letters, emails and phone calls.
at 4:40 PM
Monday, November 2, 2009
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