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JANUARY 2012 $10/year

Box 18026; Denver 80218
Tax-Increment Lies

24:7 WN 283

The Naysayer of the Month

n the 1960s and 1970s, Colorado was a playground for the military-industrial complex. Besides the presence of Rocky Flats, Denver residents found their safety and tranquility disturbed by sonic booms from Air Force flights. On the Western Slope, the Atomic Energy Commission set off nuclear blasts in the name of freeing natural gasit was thoroughly surprised to discover that the gas the bombs released was extremely radioactive. Worst of all, Denver suffered a series of earthquakes between 1962 and 1966. The cause was the pumping of wastes deep into the ground at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal where the Pentagon produced and stored deadly chemical and biological agents. Recently, earthquakes have swept North America. Many are close to where fracking has been increasingly used by the petrochemical industry. Those seeking natural gas have been pumping millions of gallons of water, mixed with an incredible array of toxic chemicals, deep into the earth. The more problems this technology has produced, the more its advocates have denied any links between it, increasingly poisoned wells, and unsafe drinking water. In contrast, socially aware geologists and environmentalists have remembered the Rocky Mountain Arsenal-earthquake link. Given the experiences at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal and the growing horror stories about fracking, the only logical measure is to suspend fracking until its proponents can prove that it is absolutely safe. Instead of doing this, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has required drillers to disclose the chemicals they use in the hazardous process. At the most, this will allow the public to know the composition of the fluids that are destroying the earth and endangering the water. For this pretend measure, which actually encourages the states mad scientists while addressing very little of substance, the Commission and its supporters are the Naysayer of the Month. The more Denver has strived to become a great city since the 1980s, the more it has sold out its heart and soul. It has lost the headquarters of the worlds leading luggage manufacturer, Samsonite. Gates became a branch of an English conglomerate. Coors sold out to Miller. Public Service emerged as nothing more than part of Xcel. The phone company has moved its headquarters to Louisiana as part of Century Link. Boettcher & Company, the foremost 17th Street financial banker, disappeared. First National Bank, Colorado National Bank, and United Bank, once the titans of the region, became nothing more than generic parts of out-of-state banking empires. Amidst this, Holme Roberts & Owen (HRO), a most powerful 17th Street law firm, has announced its impending end, becoming part of the St. Louis partnership of Bryan Cave. Over the years, HRO was especially powerful in water issues. The fortune of lead partner, Peter Hagner Holme, derived from the private water monopoly, Denver Union Water Company. Roberts Tunnel recalls Harold Roberts of the firm, long a fixer for the Denver Water Department. Along the way, HRO had helped oversee the takeover of such Denver-based firms as United Bank and Gates. It has further been linked to the doings of Philip Anschutz. In many ways, the disappearance of HRO is good news. When national corporations and locally based utilities have been very much Denver companies, they have often been in the vanguard of the really
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uring the 1990s, Tattered Cover was the nations leading bookstore. It did so well that its owner moved from the book business to dabbling in real estate ventures with John Hickenlooper and Charles Woolley. Then, right about the time the Internet craze and the competition of Barnes & Noble started seriously to erode Tattered Covers business, its Cherry Creek landlord so drastically hiked the shops rent that Tattered Cover had to look for new quarters. Hickenlooper, then mayor, encouraged Tattered Cover to relocate to the old Bonfils Theatre at Colfax and Elizabeth Street as the magnet of a redevelopment project by Woolley. The city lavishly lent money on the effort, using tax-increment financing. This is a favorite scheme of champions of corporate welfare. Instead of having developers pay their own way, tax-increment financing assures that the government foots the bill. In particular, it specifies that, rather than going into the general fund, sales-tax revenue generated at the new project first pays off the cost of the project. What tax-increment financing specifically means in the case of Tattered Cover is that, rather than receiving the sales taxes Tattered Cover had been generating at its Cherry Creek store, the money has gone to pay the loan on the Bonfils Theatre effort, a project which has not come close to delivering on its promises. Completely ignoring this drain of revenue, the Mayors Office of Economic Development (MOED) has heralded the Bonfils Theatre project as a stunning success in generating new businesses and creating jobs. In making this assertion, the city agency has ignored the obvious: Tattered Cover, and the used-record store in the Bonfils development, Twist & Shout, closed their locations elsewhere and already employed those holding the new jobs. Similarly, for the most part, the fast-food joints at Bonfils have simply replaced businesses elsewhere. That the statements of the MOED can be unquestioningly accepted by politicians and the media is a prime reason why the citys finances are a mess. Far from being a success, the whole Bonfils project has been in arrears since early 2011. City council has had to act to give it special relief. Meanwhile, the city arranged to purchase a stillborn Woolley project near Bonfils Theatre in the name of building a Capitol Hill Recreation Center even while admitting it lacked the funds to make the facility a reality. Meanwhile, John Huggins, Hickenloopers former head of MOED who pushed through the Bonfils effort, is buying up the dubious loan on the project for pennies on the dollar. Naturally, all of this is missing amidst the establishments cries about the horrors of Occupy Denver. More than anything, those obnoxiously blocking sidewalks and sleeping in public spaces lack money. Those righteously condemning them primarily lament that the Occupiers do not dress according to bourgeois norms and swear fealty to capitalism. More than anything, the establishment has used the presence of Occupy Denver to project its righteousness, morality, and concern for public health as a fog machine to cloak how its policies of grabbing everything and anything for a profit have blighted everything it touches. Nor have those condemning the Occupiers said anything about the mass violence of the state, especially its foreign policy. As such, the very fact that Occupy Denver existed is a most uncomfortable reminder of the smug hypocrisy of those who celebrate such screwball schemes as the Bonfils deal to say nothing of the everyday nature of bank and Wall Street swindles,
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The Naysayers next meet on Saturday, January 7, Enzos Pizza, 3424 Colfax (between Cook and Madison) 5:30 PM

The Tattered Covered deal is not unusual. Over the decades, corporate Denver has come up with countless screwy schemes. Some keep resurfacing. This especially stands out with the Winter Olympics. Despite the voters verdict in 1972 and the way the Olympics have been far more a curse than a blessing to many of the places that have hosted them, time and again boosters have demanded massive state subsidies so Denver can host the ultimate high-class sporting event. If this is not enough, recently Denver sports promoters who claim they are assisting black youth have been in the vanguard of convincing the Caribbean nation of Jamaica to recruit an Olympicquality hockey team. The absurdity of this is beyond the sports crowd, a group that is as gullible as those who swallow tax-increment financing. The Olympics will assure that what development projects do not take from the public purse, sporting ventures will. bad and stupid policies of 17th Street. Prior to the Qwest takeover of US West, for example, residents were barraged with the hideous propaganda and programs of its Center for the New West. Usually, the out-of-state chains owning the heart and soul of corporate Colorado do

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In 2010, voters said no to Denver creating a special commission to host extraterrestrials. The media and supporters of good government mocked it. Those who opposed it, however, have been silent or accommodating amidst a far more ludicrous suggestion to make Denver the center of space travel. In particular, Front Range Airport wants to emerge as a spaceport, complete with rocket launchings for global traffic. It had already promoted this idea back in the late 1980s as an alternative to Denver International Airport. Now that the latter project has failed to deliver a smidgen of all the marvelous benefits backers promised, the Front Range crowd is set to try again. As with Olympic enthusiasts, no mockery or spreadsheets can dissuade those who literally have stars in their eyes. At the most, the spaceport proposal provides a slight level of entertainment amidst the bleakness produced by 17th Street shenanigans and way believers in the status quo unquestioningly accept them even as they envision traveling in outer space.

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not care about the specific schemes of city hall. This provides a slight breathing space from an omnipresent business consortium. For so giving up on the city and its heritage dating from 1898, HRO is the associate Naysayer of the Month.

Disharmonious Union Busting

he Colorado Symphony (CSO) is on the verge of following the path of its predecessor, the Denver Symphony Orchestra (DSO). The latter was always more a high society operation than a classical music ensemble. In the 1970s, it sold its soul to those promoting Denver for the Winter Olympics. When that venture collapsed, it was left holding the bag for a new concert hall. It never recovered, going into a terminal tailspin which resulted in its bankruptcy in September 1989. Atrocious management was central to the collapse of DSO. Far from building on its incredibly popular free summer concerts in the parks in the 1970s, it canceled them. Instead of reaching out to ticketbuyers, it scorned them, lying about pricing and seating availability. It simultaneously had hideous labor policies, treating its musicians with scorn. In the wake of the DSOs failure, the players observed they did not need management. Rather, they created their own orchestra, the Colorado Symphony. Instead of spending extravagantly on highpriced guest artists, it initially emphasized the immense talent of its members. Most of all, it rejected the snobbishness of much of the classical music industry: it played what audiences wanted to hear, not arcane works embraced only by a most confused, disharmonious, selfproclaimed elite. The CSOs inaugural approach succeeded so well that it soon added members of the corporate community to its board. Among the new directors were those who saw support for symphony as good for business and personal careers. Management reflected the change. Soon CSO was operating like any other orchestra. It junked its reasonably priced tickets. Its first permanent conductor and music director, Marin Alsop was often extremely unclear if she actually liked classical music or rather preferred to be an avant-garde jazz aficionado. Instead of honoring audiences, she went out of her way to bore them with inane lectures before her performances. Simultaneously, CSO heavily politicized its community outreach. Unlike the free concerts of DSO, primarily designed to acquaint the community with the orchestra and give back to the city for the funding the symphony received from taxpayers, CSO made its free concerts special events for well-connected groups with close ties to the political and business establishments. During the campaign for Denver Inter-

national Airport, it went out its way to feature music and poets celebrating the effort. In the process, far from being an autonomous cultural force, allowing locals to hear the best of classical music, it projected itself as little more than an auxiliary to the powers that be. Typical of the CSOs continuous scorn of its audience was the way it switched seats on those buying season ticketsmanagement failed to respond to complaints about such policies. Simultaneously, it closed off sections of Boettcher Concert Hall, so depriving audience members of their choice of seatsthe new ones it offered subscribers were often vastly inferior to those in closed-off sections. Then, even as it was hemorrhaging money, in 2007, it announced it expected Denver taxpayers to assist it in virtually gutting and rebuilding Boettcher Hall. Managements message was increasingly clear: it preferred empty seats to making a basic effort to reach out to the community and subscribers. Far from telling their friends and supporters that the symphony was on the road to ruin, the musicians generally held their peace. They granted management concessions and accepted pay cuts. Amidst this, as the symphonys problems mounted, far from redressing them, members of the board simply quit. Even as the musicians swallowed yet more reductions in pay, union-busters targeted the American Federation of Musicians, blaming it for bad management and the corporate communitys failure to make the symphony into a thriving community institution. Indeed, the more the orchestra has suffered turbulence, the more management has acted to reduce the scope and outreach of the symphony while destroying the integrity of its concerts. The most positive development in all this was the sudden resignation of the general manager behind many of these policies. Executives constantly come and go in the cultural industry. Often they leave behind immense bad will that impacts the institutions they have disastrously led. More often than not, they are transients who hop from city to city, repeatedly wreaking ruin. The musicians acceptance of such policies, in turn, means that they do not have a glowing vision or alternative. On the contrary, they find themselves simply desperately clinging to their increasingly miserable jobs. The overall result is that a funeral dirge, not enlightenment, passion, or hope are the sounds coming from the symphony, an organization illustrating the fruits or arrogance, mismanagement, and cultural snobbery.