Denver Direct: February 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Prisoners of Lies

 (picture from
From the March Naysayer by Phil Goodstein

In 2005, voters swallowed the city hall line when they authorized a new “justice center,” a massive jail and courthouse adjacent to the City and County Building. They were told it would open by 2009, featuring a signature building designed by a hotshot architect. The man hired to create the primary structure, Steven Hall, bailed out of the effort in October 2006, claiming that the city had vastly and cynically underestimated the costs of the project to dupe voters into authorizing it. The administration replied that it was on the verge of firing Hall for incompetence. Amidst this, James Mejia, an all-embracing city hall hack, left his post as coordinator of the effort to run the city preschool initiative.

From the beginning, the city’s numbers about the Justice Center have fluctuated wildly. At the time of Hall’s departure, newspapers reported the effort was $34 million over budget. A year later, the projected price was $50 million more than Mayor John Hickenlooper had promised taxpayers. The cost, initially slated at about $213 million was $286.3 million by November 2008.

Amidst this, the city has announced that the effort is finally about to open “on budget and on time.” It cites a cost of the jail of $159 million and the courthouse of $136 million-a sum of $295 million. Far from exposing city hall’s fabrications, the Denver Post proudly reported them as exemplars of the efficiency of its beloved mayor.