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Oops! The pitfalls of legislating "image" 

The ironies are many in the new debate about the various uses of our ever-so historical City Auditorium. If you haven't been following it, the issue on the table is, according to City Council member Judy Noyes in a recent memo to the media dated April 6, whether "raves and similar concerts... and the behavior they provoke are consistent with the image most of us prefer to have for Colorado Springs." Noyes is also concerned with "the City's liability should there be injurious, even life-threatening, consequences of illegal activity -- overdosing.

Problem #1: Aside from the obvious illegalities of drug use associated with rave culture, there is nothing illegal about holding a rave. But when a rave is held at the City Auditorium, instead of in a remote field or a barn, parents can feel safe knowing that kids have to be at least 16 years old, there is mandatory medical staff always on hand, and the City Auditorium is always covered for a minimum of $500,000 under the promoter's liability insurance. Also, says J.J. Klikus, director of Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation, the City Auditorium has cooperated fully with Colorado Springs law enforcement in doing everything possible to keep drugs out of the raves.

Problem #2: There is no evidence that people are any more likely to get hurt at a rave than at the upcoming Rocky Mountain Cat Fanciers Annual April Cat Show. Who's to say an unsuspecting pussy lover couldn't unknowingly be allergic, inhale a fur ball and go into anaphlactic shock? The recent puck death at Denver's Pepsi Center during an Avalanche game is a case in point.

Problem #3: According to Klikus: "There is no mission statement for the City Auditorium."

Oops. Klikus did, however, provide me with a "statement of significance" for the building when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

According to this statement, when the building opened in 1923, the City Council approved the building's use for "political meetings, performances and meetings by patriotic societies, educational conventions and meetings, high school and college graduations, and kindred societies who used the auditorium on a non-profit basis. County fairs, agricultural displays and religious meetings were also approved. On the other hand, the committee recommended against its use for motion pictures, road shows and boxing and wrestling matches."

OK, so no more Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, Jethro Tull, Weezer or the Mighty Man and Might Woman competitions.

Problem #4: One of the "kindred societies" who used the City Auditorium during the 1920's was, oops, the Ku Klux Klan. And, in 1932, the City Council, oops, waived the prohibition against boxing matches and allowed Annual Shrine Circus performances in 1935.

Problem #5: Funding. Unless the City wants to start underwriting the City Auditorium with taxpayer money or spend another $30,000 hiring a full-time grant writer who'll have a hard time raising enough money for a salary, better think twice about kicking out bigger events.

Problem #6: The First Amendment. While we can all rejoice along with Chinook owners Judy and Dick Noyes over the recent Colorado Supreme Court decision to uphold the constitutional right of The Tattered Cover and all book stores to guard the privacy of their customers, Noyes is asking the City to consider limits on the kinds of speech that can take place on city property based on legally dubitable questions of cultural taste and "image."

In her statement to the press, Noyes encourages "more use of the [City Auditorium] for 'cultural' activities."

Oops! Anything, and I mean anything, that takes place at the City Auditorium can be called a "cultural" activity.

"It boils down to freedom of choice," says Klikus. "It's a public assembly building, and when can you start legislating what can and can't take place there when the primary activity is lawful?"

I'll second that emotion.

In other arts news, congratulations to Elaine Bean on the opening of her new photography gallery Phototroph, and on the write-up in last Sunday's Denver Post. Don't miss this Masterworks from the Camera Obscura Gallery show with stunning prints by Myron Wood, Jock Sturges, Imogen Cunningham and others. The gallery is located in the Roby Mill building underneath the Colorado Avenue bridge.

--nblack@csindy.com

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