Denver Direct: February 2008
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Synagogue – 16th and Gaylord – Salvation at Last
I have personally been plagued by the existence of this building since I first moved to the neighboring block 37 years ago. I owned the building across the street on York from 1979 to 1993 during the “tumultuous years”.
- 1926 Built by orthodox Jewish community. No parking needed because worshipers walked as required by edict from God.
- 1950-60 abandoned by Jewish Community1i>
- 1970’s – Native American Center – Federal program brought in hundreds of distraught Indians.
- Late 70’s – Jazzercise – Exercise program brought in loud music and hundreds of jumping weight-losers.
- 1980’s – Various attempts to turn it into an events center brought in thousands of partyers, and with them many needles, car thefts, rapes and stabbings.
- 1990’s – Dana Crawford brought in plans but failed to condominiumize.
- 2000 – Sullivan brought in Irish who spent $1 million trying but failed to raise $3.5 million to rehab.
- 2007 – Broken windows and leaking roof bring in hundreds of pigeons and much rain water …..until …..
- 2008 – Real estate developer brings in The Church in the City and distraught neighbors bring in fear of the homeless and concern about parking problems.
During their 16 year tenure, CITC has improved and maintained the property. In addition to holding services and sharing the building with 3 other congregations, they have held weekly outdoor feedings of the homeless accompanied by amplified music. I had on one occasion asked them to turn down the music, and they did.
CITC still has 4 years to go on their 20 year lease, so SCTC buys (B), old synagogue ($850,000) for CITC to move into. Old synagogue has no parking, so CITC arranges to use East High parking at (C). Church moving into church – no zoning hassles.
A neighborhood group held a meeting to express their fears of the homeless. I attended but defer to Rory Seeber who has the complete story at Life on Capitol Hill.
Apparently the fearful have overcome their fears as the project is, today, going full steam ahead.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
With three dedicated Democrats vying for a spot on the ballot in House District 8, we find many similarities in their positions on health care, education, and the environment. At the forum held at Bogey's on Feb. 13, one question that elicited different responses from the candidates was on the death penalty.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
You Live in District 8?
Around City Park? If so, you'll be selecting a new Representative soon. You know, someone to represent you in the State House of Representative. Ours is a mostly Democratic district and there are three good folks trying out for the position. Our current beloved Rep is Rosemary Marshall, who is term limited, and we need someone new in her spot. Check them out for yourself, and if you are really into it, there are seven more clips of each on YouTube. Or go to their websites and let their information pour over you.
One of them is going to represent you.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Parks Policy in the Making
Ferril Lake Fountain at City Park
Dave Felice, who emerged as the "Loyal Opposition" during the discussion of AEG holding a Mile High Music Festival in City Park, has broadened his scope to include the current meetings being held on the overall policy of the City regarding private use of our public parks. This group, called the Admissions-Based Special Events Policy Task Force, has been meeting to formulate a coherent City policy for all of our parks. Here is his report from today's meeting:
Acknowledging that she is "not comfortable" with the idea of exclusive commercial events in parks, Denver Parks and Recreation Manager Kim Bailey says the city needs a policy to deal with such proposals.
Bailey also says there appears to be little or no interest in development of a genuine permanent festival in Denver.
The Parks and Recreation Manager says developing a policy on commercial closure of park lands was not on her agenda and was generated by a proposal from last summer from the AEG Live concert promotion company. AEG wanted to close the western two-thirds of city for a two-day music and arts festival. Plans were cancelled when the adjacent Denver Zoo objected.
Bailey's comments follow the latest monthly meeting of the "Admissions-Based Special Events Policy" (ABSEP) Task Force. About 35 people attended the meeting February 13, but representatives of city agencies and event organizers outnumbered neighborhood advocates by about three-to-one.
Neighborhood representatives continue to be skeptical, expressing concern about the adverse impact, such as noise and congestion. Others contend it is inappropriate to block free access to public property.
There are currently seven parks designated as "festival" locations because sales of alcoholic beverages are already permitted. Even so, Bailey says it's "technically possible" to stage a festival at any other park location as long as alcoholic beverages would not be sold or served.
The seven festival locations are Civic Center, City, Sloan's Lake, Creekfront, DCPA Sculpture Park, Skyline, and Confluence Parks. Sloan's Lake resident Larry Ambrose asked about getting his neighborhood park removed from the list. According to Ambrose, City Councilman Rick Garcia doesn't want such events at Sloan's Lake Park.
Saying much more work needs to be done, Bailey presented a draft of what a policy might contain. The policy would be designed to govern operation of special events in city parks which would result in closure of sections of the parks and organizers would charge admission. According to Bailey, preparation of the draft showed that "quite a few pieces are already in place" and there just needs to be what she calls "appropriate tweaking" for admission-based special events.
Meeting participants had an extended discussion of what constituted capacity for special events at the proposed locations. Brad Emerick, Fire Protection Engineer for the Denver Fire Department, presented information on "occupant load factors" and requirements for entrances and exits. Task Force members seem close to agreement that capacity is different if event attendees are standing, moving, or sitting.
At one point, there was visible friction between Assistant City Attorney Patrick Wheeler and Ambrose. With a scowl, Wheeler declared "I object" in response to a contention by Ambrose that people should be able to vote on having commercial park events. Wheeler says a popular vote is "not legally required."
Bailey says Portland, Oregon has a policy on special events which includes an "event coordinator appeal process." She says her staff will be looking at the Portland practices and present information at the next ABSEP meeting. She suggests not meeting again until April, so smaller groups can investigate various aspects of the proposed policy.
Although there were initial reports that Parks and Recreation wanted a policy by June, Bailey emphatically says "there is no deadline."
"There is absolutely an opportunity for continued conversation," she notes. "My goal is to be comfortable with the (ABSEP) proposal before we take the final draft to the general public."
Prior to the next formal meeting, Bailey says Parks and Recreation will be looking at the infrastructure installation and removal practices for concerts held in cities such as Austin, Chicago, and Atlanta.
Although Cheesman Park is not a location where alcoholic beverages can be served, some participants mentioned that people attending smaller events at Cheesman sometimes bring wine and beer. Parks representative Stu Bader admits, "It happens," but such practice is technically illegal.
According to Bailey, Parks and Recreation has "internal guidelines" on what might be considered objectionable during a festival event. One requirement is that no permanent signage is allowed. Promotion of firearms, tobacco, or alcoholic beverages is not permitted. In response to a question, Bailey admitted, however, that if nudists presented a proposal for a park event, they would be considered.
Parks Marketing Manager Jill McGranahan acknowledges the policy is an effort to "look at alternative ways to offset the cost" of running the parks. She contends that current non-profit events effectively result in closure of sections of parks.
Bailey also emphasizes that Parks is not responsible for regulating alcoholic beverage sales. "(Organizers) have to follow (city) Excise and License rules," she says. "It is the organizers' hurdle to work with (beverage sales) regulators."
While some neighborhood representatives continue to suggest the city develop a specific site for commercial events, Bailey says "I doubt Elitch's is moving" and notes that a festival park has not been considered as new neighborhoods and city facilities were built in recent years.
"We are not pushing this (policy)," says Bailey. "When the (AEG) proposal was presented, it was a time to reconsider and rethink our policy." The Parks and Recreation Manager also admits there are no current commercial festival proposals.
Story by: Dave Felice
If you want to be kept up to date on these and other Denver Parks issues, may I suggest that you go to www.savecitypark.org where you can sign up to receive an email when new reports are posted.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Those Pesky Bonds
Raging Bear Market
I wonder what is going to happen to the Bond Issue just passed by the Denver voters to finance some $550 million in "Better Denver" building and maintainance bonds. You may recall I questioned Denver's ability to sell these bonds into a collapsing market.
I see we now have a Bond Czar to take care of it for us.
In a related announcement, Hickenlooper named Don Hunt director of the Better Denver bond program. Hunt, former chief executive officer of national, Denver-based engineering firm BRW Inc., now leads The Antero Co., a real estate ownership and advisory firm. He served as chair of the Transportation Subcommittee of the City’s Infrastructure Priorities Task Force.
During implementation of the bond program, Hunt will chair the Better Denver Executive Committee, which will develop program policy and manage performance and accountability.
"Don’s expertise, experience and involvement in the Better Denver process equips him well to serve as our "Bond Czar," Hickenlooper said. "He will be a tremendous asset as we enter the implementation phase of Better Denver."
"I am pleased to join with Mayor Hickenlooper and the City-CH2M HILL team that will implement this ambitious and impressive bond program for Denver residents," Hunt said.
I wonder how he's going to do that into this market:
...This week, Fitch Ratings announced that it will (probably) cut ratings on the 5 main bond insurers (Ambac, MBIA, FGIC, CIFG,SCA) “regardless of their capital levels”.
This seemingly innocuous statement has roiled markets and put Wall Street in a panic. If the bond insurers lose their AAA rating (on an estimated $2.4 trillion of bonds) then the banks could lose another $70 billion in downgraded assets. That would increase their losses from the credit crunch--which began in August 2007---to $200 billion with no end in sight. It would also impair their ability to issue loans to even credit worthy customers which will further dampen growth in the larger economy.
Structured investments have been the banks' “cash cow” for nearly a decade, but, suddenly, the trend has shifted into reverse. Revenue streams have dried up and capital is being destroyed at an accelerating pace. The $2 trillion market for collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) is virtually frozen leaving horrendous debts that will have to be written-down leaving the banks' either deeply scarred or insolvent. It's a mess.
Good luck with all that, Mr. Hunt.
Update added: 2/13/08
Debt crisis spreads to U.S. municipalities
08:16PM ET Wednesday, February 13, 2008.
By Aline van Duyn and Michael Mackenzie - Financial Times
A collapse in confidence in a $330 billion corner of the debt market has left US municipalities and student loan providers facing spiralling interest rate costs.
The implosion of the so-called auction-rate securities market is the latest incarnation of the credit crisis.
The market, heavily used by municipal borrowers and backed by triple-A rated guarantees from bond insurers, including Ambac and MBIA, was used as a safe place for investors to park cash and earn slightly higher returns.
Its slump this week has pushed interest rates as high as 20 per cent for bodies such as the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and a Minneapolis hospital.
"The auction securities market is falling apart," said David Cooke, chief financial officer at Park Nicollet Heath Services in Minneapolis.
Municipal borrowers are scrambling to seek letters of credit from banks and other new sources of finance, but anxiety in the credit markets and uncertainty about the stability of bond insurers is making this difficult.
The sector has grown in recent years, along the same lines as the structured investment vehicle and asset-backed commercial paper markets. Fears that bond insurers will not be able to maintain their triple-A ratings due to exposure to risky mortgage-backed securities have led numerous investors pulling out of the market in recent months.
Banks acting as dealers in the market have been propping up the sector but many of these have pulled back this week amid a realisation that it may not be possible to restore confidence and attract investors back.
"Dealers who would normally pick up a slump are not doing so because their balance sheets are full," said Jon Schotz, chief investment officer with Saybrook Capital.
The importance of bond insurers to municipal borrowers is one reason regulators are pushing banks to provide capital or credit lines so that bond insurers can retain triple-A ratings.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
House District 8 - Lowery, Bergles and McCann
Speaking at the Denver Democratic Caucus at East High School
Gov. Ritter at East High Democratic Caucus
It is with some pride that I bring you this clip one hour after it occurred. “Tiny, Totally Independent Media” does it again. More to follow….
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