Denver Direct: Urgent Message from Cathy Donohue

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Urgent Message from Cathy Donohue

To: All interested Citizens
Re: Change in use of City Parks

On Tuesday, January 19, 2010, at 5:30 P.M. in City Council Chambers, Room 451, City and County Building, a Public Hearing will be held by Council to hear comments from the public regarding a contract Council wishes to approve allowing a private, for-profit corporation to rent a major part of Civic Center Park for one year and a part of City Park for the two following years.

Civic Center Park, City Park and 10 other city parks have been placed on the City’s new “Festival Parks” list. These parks will be used for admission based events.

The Council will vote on this contract which allows US Open Air Cinema to fence off parts of these parks in order to show films for 30 days, with set up and removal of equipment for an additional 20 days.

Tickets will sell for about $20.00, plus taxes. Although the corporation will receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits from ticket sales, food and alcohol concessions and advertising; the City will only earn about $20,000 rent, seat tax and a restoration fee of $45,000 to repair any damage caused by 50 days of use.

Seat Tax cannot be used for parks improvements, but only for the benefit of municipal bond investors or for capital improvements of the City’s entertainment facilities.

Denver’s parks have never been leased or sold for the benefit of a for-profit corporation.

Many charitable organizations have held festivals for 2 or 3 days without charging admission.

Our City’s constitution (the City Charter) states in Section. 2.4.5: “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…”

Although no park or portion thereof has been leased or sold prior to this occasion, the City Council has been given questionable legal advice that is contrary to 120 years of Charter authority. Suddenly, the Charter is cast aside and the Council thinks it can lease parks for corporate profit.

The city attorneys have called this contract by several different names–a lease, a concession and even a permit. No matter what it is called, the contract allows our parks to be used in a way that has always been illegal.

Other cities that allow park land to be used for profit-making ventures operate with a different constitution, which may permit such uses. Denver has it own unique set of laws embodied in its Charter. These laws do not allow our parks to be used for corporate profit-making.

The contract that Council wants to pass on the 19th should be rejected. If the voters of Denver believe that it is time to commercialize our parks, then the Council should place a Charter amendment for the voters to approve or reject at the next general election.

The voters are the only people who can legally decide if it is time to charge admission fees in parks, or if they should continue to be free and open to all citizens, as the city founders envisioned. Please send this message to others who may care about our parks and come to the Public Hearing.

5:30 p.m.