As the City Churns – Civic Center Park Back on the Block – Bonds, Property Tax Hikes, Justice Center Over Budget

Just when you think you’re in control,
just when you think you’ve got a hold,
just when you get on a roll,
here it goes, here it goes, here it goes again.
Oh, here it goes again.
I should have known,
should have known,
should have known again,
but here it goes again.
Oh, here it goes again.”Here It Goes Again” – OK Go

Not surprised to see reports that the construction of the new Justice Center is over budget by 24 percent–from a promised $214 Million to $265.6 Million–so, too, am I not surprised that Civic Center Park is back on the proverbial drawing board. Then, of course, predictably, there’s the upcoming November ballot that will most likely see questions relating to floating about$600 Million in bonds and a property tax increase (2.5 mills) that is expected to raise about $27 Million annually by, on average, grabbing another $100 from your pocket.

Okay. Justice Center first. James Mejia, the justice center policy manager–whose professional credentials for overseeing such a project were nada, zip, ziltch, but whose political connections were impeccable–tells us, don’t worry, the 24% increase in costs will be covered by the usual sources–premiums from bond sales, interest earnings and project contingencies. Also, he tells us that, “We’re reallocating from elsewhere in the budget to stay within our overall budget.” But, um, wasn’t the overall budget $214 Million? How can you stay within the overall budget if you’re asking for almost $52 Million more? Oh, I see. Once you’ve got your hands on the additional $52 Million, then you’ll reestablish your overall budget number. I see. Got it.

“…from elsewhere in the budget to stay within our overall budget.” Hmmm…. Maybe a few thousand less bricks? Maybe that damned pretty landscaping can be scaled back to a couple mums and a rose bush. Maybe judges can share a toilet rather than having their own personal chamber pot. (Nah, judges don’t share toilets. That’s axiomatic. Trust me.)

‘Course the Hick is ecstatic with the Justice Center team. He said it was a “remarkable achievement” that all is well with the project, that it’s within budget in spite of rising materials costs and it all just “…really reflects on a great team.”

Within budget? I’m missing something here.

Susan Barnes-Gelt provides the latest proposal to do something with Civic Center Park. Although I’m still scratching my head wondering why that “something” can’t just be to maintain/fix what’s there, Ms. Barnes-Gelt exposes what I believe to be a reasonable–albeit incongruous–addition to that acknowledged jewel, smack-dab in the middle of the city.

Ms. Barnes-Gelt reports that, “The Colorado History Museum must relocate. Remaining in the Civic Center District is key to its 182-year history and mission as stewards of Colorado’s history, artifacts and diverse legacies. Economic studies, architectural programming and visitor demographics suggest the optimum location for the museum and its nearly 200,000 annual visitors – mostly schoolchildren – is Civic Center Park. …the historical society is poised to relocate the museum in the park, refurbishing the Carnegie Library and adding a new structure to the south.”

Kinda liking that idea. But, “incongruous” is a good word to describe my wee bit of hesitation. Specifically, the “….adding a new structure to the south…” of the old Carnegie Library (the white-pillared structure that sits below ground level west of the seal pond and just south of Colfax Avenue). There is now a congruity to Civic Center Park (has been since the completion of its construction about 1919). The open space of park is not interrupted by structures. Skirted by structures, yes–the Carnegie Library, the Greek Theater, the Voorhies Memorial. But, the spread of open space is balanced, pleasing, just…right. Extending the old Carnegie Library to the south would impose upon the congruity of what was meant to be open space, balanced and charming. What worries me even more, is the very likely possibility some yahoo (ala Libeskind), will design some jutting, cacophonous abortion that will not complement the Carnegie Library–nor the park–but will he hailed by the Hick and his minions as brilliant.

Quoting Barnes-Gelt: “Stung by the public dismay at the master plan created by architect Daniel Libeskind, the Civic Center Conservancy wants to hold an international competition to select a master landscape architect to determine where and how ti improve the park.

“Haven’t 100 years of master planning, all emphasizing similar values and implementation opportunities, shown us what to do? The path is clear. Amend the Mundus-Bishop plan to adopt the version calling for a building that will resonate with the historic Carnegie, as proposed a century ago.”

Indeed.

Take a look at what this morning’s News (Daniel Chacon) notes as the “big ticket” items in the $631 Million bond proposal that will appear on the November ballot:

$75 Million for Boettcher Concert Hall

$50 Million for Street Construction

$38 Million for Crime Lab Replacement

$20 Million for Housing the Chronically Homeless

$22 Million for Museum of Nature and Science

$18 Million for Municipal Animal Shelter

Where’s the funding for implementing the Berkeley and Highland Parks Master Plans? Yes, I know, Master Plans are kind of like bibles…lofty words leading to feel-good mantras, leading to hope, leading to prayer, leading to… Well, I guess none of us will ever know the final outcome of bibles and Master Plans until, yeah, we’re in the ground or our ashes are put up on the mantle.

Let me just end this by quoting some sensible (Yup, I said sensible–go figure!) comments from City Councilpersons with regard to the suggested projects included in the bond proposal.

From the Denver Post (George Merritt): “Councilman Charlie Brown noted that for all the planning and discussion of new funding mechanisms, voters will have the same questions they always have: ‘What’s in it for me and what’s in it for my wallet.'”

Amen!

“Councilman Rick Garcia echoed [Brown’s] sentiment: ‘That’s what voters expect,’ he said of developing a list of projects that benefit voters’ neighborhoods.”

Amen!

“District 2 Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz, for instance, noted that a $2 Million road project was the only item that directly benefited her constituents. She and others also took issue with a $16 Million line item to build housing for the homeless.

“‘The homeless plan was presented to us as money from outside … not tax increases,’ Faatz said.”

Amen!

“And council president Michael Hancock said he was concerned that Denver was taking on too much of the homeless burden where agencies such as the Denver Housing Authority are not ‘stepping up to the plate.'”

Amen!

I’d like to talk about the Boettcher proposal ($75 Million), but let’s just end this here, for now.

More later.

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