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Denver City Council – Did Superfly Super Screw Denver?

August 1, 2017

The one entrance – just off of South Sante Fe Blvd – leading to the Overland Golf Course club house. Is this the road that 50,000 to 75,000 people will travel to get to the concert?

Last night (July 31, 2017) I had the dubious pleasure of attending a Denver City Council meeting.

The last time I visited these sacred chambers was some years ago. My friend Paula Van Dusen, me and a couple of others organized a grass roots campaign to get the city council to pass a resolution against  the U.S. led war in Iraq. Our little group did good grass roots door-to-door work that resulted in hundreds if not thousands of phone calls to the then city council members, who were not happy campers to hear from their constituents, despite often parroting how lovely-dovely they are with each other.

Our informal survey – taken from our brief discussion with neighbors – suggested that the good people of Denver opposed the war somewhere between 20-1 to 30-1. It was a close vote, with then District One city councilman Dennis Gallagher casting the decisive vote for the resolution, this as I recall, after being hounded by the good nuns of the Sisters of Loretto and a couple of peace types like myself.  The next day it made page 1 news in the now defunct Rocky Mountain News. The article was accompanied by a major editorial of the day, in the Rocky, slamming the council for voting for peace…even if was only a symbolic gesture.

Ah but that was yesterday and yesterday’s gone as is the Rocky, which a good friend referred to in an email as “The Rocky Mountain Snooze.” 

Actually yesterday, I attended the council meeting to watchdog a neighborhood zoning change but the main item on the agenda was the final vote on Superfly Production’s proposal to organize a super music festival in southwest Denver at the city owned, Overland Park Golf Course. As reported in the Denver Post(Aug. 1, 2017) “The Denver contract allows for a three-day weekend festival each September on Overland Park Golf Course, with each event staged the second or third weekend of that month beginning in 2018.”

The promoters are predicting anywhere from 50,000 to 75,000 will be in attendance. Just another example of the privatization of everything, of the private sector stealing public assets (in this case, cheap infra-structure). We’re not talking about a run-of-the-mill concert but a massive three-day “Woodstock” like affair, and like Woodstock (that this blogger attended with a sister and her best friend) it has all the makings of a logistical nightmare for the city.

In fact, essentially what Superfly has done is to package Woodstock in yet another case of coopting the heritage of the 1960s. Cited in the city council meeting, but left out of the Post article, are the fees to be charged to the public, $677.80 for a day pass, but only $1659.80 for the entire three days. I mean, how could anyone pass up such a neat deal. The entry costs appear prohibitive, but these prices didn’t seem to phase the city council members at all.

The promoters are predicting anywhere from 50,000 to 75,000 will be in attendance. Just another example of the privatization of everything, of the private sector stealing public assets (in this case, cheap infra-structure). We’re not talking about a run-of-the-mill concert but a massive three-day “Woodstock” like affair, and like Woodstock (that this blogger attended with a sister and her best friend) it has all the makings of a logistical nightmare for the city.

In fact, essentially what Superfly has done is to package Woodstock in yet another case of coopting the heritage of the 1960s. Cited in the city council meeting, but left out of the Post article, are the fees to be charged to the public, $677.80 for a day pass, but only $1659.80 for the entire three days. I mean, how could anyone pass up such a neat deal. The entry costs appear prohibitive, but these prices didn’t seem to phase the city council members at all.

Certainly on this particular evening no one (that I recall) even mentioned them. Then there is a parking nightmare, the damage that 50,000  or 75,000 people over three days can do to a golf course and surrounding neighborhoods, the neighborhood traffic paralysis that more than likely will ensue. It all comes together in what has the makings of a truly toxic cocktail and to put it frankly, a downright dumb idea.It is yet another case of a private-for-profit outfit looking to cut costs by renting public space and with it cheap overhead, a classic example of the privatization of public space (and pretty much everything) that is sweeping not just Denver, but the country as a whole.

Overland Golf Course, the site of a Denver City Council approved three-day mega-concert (to be repeated annually over a five-year period)

I sat there chuckling as council people Black, Lopez, Kniech and others made statements  along lines like “in the name of financial stability!!? I will vote yes” (Kniech), “In the name of utilizing the parks, I’ll vote yes; I don’t see this as an attack on open space.” (Lopez).  Really? Kendra Black, acting as if she spoke for the “under forty” folk in the city, just wanted to get the vote over with as she had important business …attending a concert at Red Rocks. Somehow losing the focus between the forest and the trees, Raf Espinosa praised Superfly for responding positively to community and council concerns but it seemed (to me) that his arguement could have just as easily supported a “no” vote as a “yes.” While Councilwoman Debbie Ortega voted against, she waited to see how the vote would go before casting a “no” vote, having given a confused commentary.

The only two council people who voiced clear opposition to the proposal were Paul Kashmann (District 6) and Kevin Flynn (District Two). Flynn reminded the council that as recently as 2010, tit had voted, in the face of strong local opposition, to limit private events (concerts and the like) on city property to two venues, one of which was not the Overland Golf Course. A mere seven years later, at the first opportunity, with the jingle of money in their ears, setting a precedent for breaking the policy, the council made an exception to its own rule. Flynn also referred to another skeleton in Denver’s privatization closet that had badly misfired: the 1989-1990 holding of the Denver Grand Prix that not only tied up downtown Denver, but was also a financial bust. Kashmann took a more technical view of the proposal, basically arguing against it on (what seemed to me to be) logistical grounds: the potential parking nightmare, the impact on the surrounding neighborhood, the precedent of doing the event on a public golf course, etc.

Another case where, frankly, despite all the happy talk, arrangements made with local home owners, promises to clean up post event, the city is taking most of the risk, and the company, at public expense is getting the deal of their lives. Again. The public provides the infrastructure and the private sector comes away that much richer. If the project goes bust, the promoters can declare bankruptcy, leaving the city – as has happened many times to clean up an expensive mess. This contract between Superfly and the city of Denver is a bad idea from start to finish. The city council might be fooling itself  that somehow this logistical (and ethical) nightmare might work. This is a vote that in all likelihood will come back to haunt them.

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