Monday, January 10, 2011

High hopes for one of our own in Colorado, fewer for the same tired faces in New Albany.

Sunday’s New York Times Magazine includes a lengthy profile (by Frank Bruni) of John Hickenlooper, the recent two-term mayor of Denver, who tomorrow becomes Colorado’s governor.

For me, Hickenlooper has been an inspiration quite apart from politics, by reason of beer and brewing.

... With his geology degree in hand, he got a job with a big oil company in Denver in 1981 but was laid off after five years, during a downturn in the oil industry. He used part of his severance to buy a red ’67 Chevy convertible, took a road trip to see his brother in Berkeley, Calif., and, while there, happened to go to the Triple Rock, an early microbrewery. Denver didn’t have anything like it. Hickenlooper, in need of a project and a new career, decided to fix that.

From relatives, friends, strangers and a bank, he rounded up $575,000 and constructed the Wynkoop, named for a nearby street, in one of several neglected turn-of-the-century brick warehouses in lower downtown, which is known as LoDo. He chose the neighborhood for the cheap rent, but he also sensed potential for an urban renaissance there. He even moved into a LoDo loft. And as he restyled or bought other restaurants in LoDo and elsewhere, he spearheaded a few business and residential projects around the Wynkoop. “He wasn’t the first to buy property in that part of downtown and develop it,” says Joyce Meskis, who owns the Tattered Cover, a Denver bookstore of national renown, and who was his partner in one of those LoDo projects. “But he was one of the most influential. There were obstacles, and he kept at it and kept at it and kept at it.” The area evolved into one of the city’s favored playgrounds, and he became known as one of its patron saints.
I had the chance to shake the brewer's/mayor's/governor's hand and chat for a few minutes back in the mid-1990’s, while in Denver to attend the Great American Beer Festival. At the time, Wynkoop seemed to me the very model of what could be done in a revitalizing downtown, and how it might be done without dumbing down. My first highly favorable impressions have lingered to this very day.


Turning to more locally depressing topics, Sunday’s Tribune invoked the Peter Principle while revealing the terrifying news that all of New Albany’s current sitting city council members who bothered to answer their phone calls from intrepid reporter Daniel Suddeath will be seeking another term.

Count them in: Most New Albany City Council members say they’ll seek re-election

Councilman Jack Messer said he still hasn’t made up his mind, and Councilman Bob Caesar said “more than likely I will run, but no definitive decision has been made.”

Council President Jeff Gahan and Councilman Kevin Zurschmiede had not returned calls seeking comment for this story as of a Saturday press time. The remaining five council members — Diane McCartin-Benedetti, Pat McLaughlin, John Gonder, Steve Price and Dan Coffey — confirmed they would be seeking another term.
Well, uh, it's sure nice to see John Gonder's name there.

On the one hand, it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone performing less capably that Dan Coffey and Steve Price.

On the other, even a non-committal, lackadaisical council performance would require four years of time better spent on one’s own business affairs.

On the one hand, the pay packet so absolutely necessary to underachievers like Coffey and Price is easy money for the genuinely competent in this or any other the community.

On the other, any potential council replacement with a pulse and a work ethic would wind up devoting far more time to the job than is justified by the remuneration -- and exactly where to find that kind of time?

One the one hand, the city of New Albany is embarrassed on a recurring, daily basis by the presence of congenital second-raters on the council.

On the other, unless first-raters aspire to service, the city is doomed to be forever defined by a wretched Axis of Banal.

I wonder what the forever optimistic John Hickenlooper would say about all this? Would he be able to retain his legendarily sunny affability whilst surveying the council's ongoing train wreck?

After all, he does know good beer … and sometimes, oceans of good beer are required to cope with the sheer doltishness of it all. Fortunately, and personally, I've plenty of hoppy alcoholic salve.

Time. That's the issue, isn't it?

1 comment:

G Coyle said...

Hopefully some new blood will enter the race ...

hopefully someone will enter with an actual program or platform of real world hard core stuff that needs to be done...

hopefully the city won't be totally bankrupt by the time public service evolves past blatant self-interest and blatant conflicts-of-interest ...

hopefully citizens who spent some time in school and can speak English correctly will someday represent our city ...

hopefully SAFETY will become important and the slumlord rulers of the last 50 years will be finally run out of town ...