The Outsider 

Denver was meant to be a city.

A few weeks ago, I was hangin' with my homies, that is, I was geezing it up with some of my classmates from Colorado Springs High School (now Palmer), class of '58. After they'd finished teasing me for being a politician ("At least," said one of my pals, "you weren't a very good one, so you don't have to be really ashamed") and for being a liberal ("I bet you even voted for Clinton!"), we talked about the past, and present, of the city where most of us have lived for over 50 years.

The tone was sad, even elegaic. "Do you remember sledding down Uintah before they cut it through to the Westside?" "Remember when we used to sneak up to the third balcony of the old Chief Theater and make out?"

"Remember when we all camped out in your back yard on Tejon Street and watched for shooting stars? You can't even see the stars now, what with all the lights. ..." We mourned for that vanished city, that beautiful little town nestled at the foot of Pikes Peak.

Then we talked about the upcoming election. Save myself, everyone was voting "No" on every local revenue issue. "If the damn cable company wants it, it can't be any good." "It's just more new taxes." "They've got plenty of money -- they just want more." "The zoo's fine just the way it is."

Post-election, I was struck by the way that our results precisely mirrored opposite of Denver's. If Denver was for it -- zoos, schools, public transportation, cable franchise -- we were agin it, and by identical margins. We've all got our favorite set of reasons to explain this phenomenon: Denver Dems vs. Colo. Spgs. Republicans, Denver Post vs. G, Denver's charismatic mayor vs. our less-than-genial city manager, blah, blah, blah.

But thinking back to that slow-paced morning shooting the breeze with old friends, I came up with a different answer.

From the moment of its founding, Denver was meant to be a city. People came to Denver to do business, to build, to create, to engage in commerce.

Denver was for everybody, the way New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are for everybody. Denver's citizens very quickly caught on to the idea that if the city were to grow and prosper, they had to make it happen. They had to build parks, museums, libraries, highways, convention centers, airports, football stadiums and baseball fields; all the things that make a great city. If I'd gone to Denver's East High instead of CSHS, I suspect that I'd be sitting around with my friends marveling happily at the changes, as we watched the Rockies drop another at Coors Field.

Colorado Springs, by contrast, is an accidental city. Its founders envisioned a small, genteel resort town, and successive waves of newcomers were attracted by its beauty, by its unhurried pace or by its friendliness. Very few of us are here because we want to live in a big, dynamic, bustling city.

But that's what we've got, and many of us don't like it one damn bit. And since most of us are conservative Republicans, we can't stomach measures that drastically restrict growth, a la Boulder. But we're not gonna pay for all this growth; let the developers and the politicians and the fat cats figure out how to do it.

And what do we want? Well, I know what we don't want. We don't want Rocky Scott, or the big developers, or the Economic Development Corp., or Academy Boulevard, or those glaring orange streetlights, or the new Antlers, or ... .

What we want is to be 8 years old again, and to go sledding on Uintah hill.

Former City Councilman John Hazlehurst couldn't have been an East High Angel, despite rumors to the contrary.


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