IP-1-85 (October 1985)
Author: Mark Hendrickson and John K. Andrews, Jr.
Introduction: The Hall of Mirrors
“Shall the City and County of Denver construct a convention center near the Denver Union Terminal in the Central Platte Valley with at least 300,000 square feet of exhibition floor space, with the capaility of being expanded incrementally to a total of 600,000 square feet of floor space?” This is the ballot question in Denver’s October 15 referendum.
As in a hall of mirrors, both sides make an identical pitch to the voter: “Vote my way to avoid future tax increases.” But the pro side we must “Build It” in order to collect more taxes from visitors and keep our own taxes down. The con side warns that if we do “Build It” — on this particular site — we will be buying into a losing business deal that will ultimately hit every Denver taxpayer in the pocketbook; but their alternative is only to locate the same public asset on another site some blocks away.
As they go to the polls next week, voters will see dollar signs adding up to a nine-figure gamble. Will a $137,000,000 investment in the proposed center turn out to be a moneymaker or a money-loser for the city? And exactly whose money will be at risk?