Wake-Up Call: The DNC's island of misfit toys

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I'm looking across the highway at the Pepsi Center and Invesco Field at Mile High, the settings for so many memorable sights during the Democratic National Convention, which kicked off exactly a year ago today. And between them -- at least from this vantage point -- is Elitch Gardens, where, before all the political pomp and circumstance, the Denver Host Committee staged a welcoming party for the media and other visitors.

Dean Singleton, the Denver Post owner who funded the festivities, nixed a rodeo-themed party, because that would be too bumpkinish. So instead, the party was held at the very sophisticated Elitch's, where Cindy Adams pitched a fit when she wasn't allowed in the VIP area and the rest of the non-VIP hoi polloi competed at carnival games, where everyone seemed to be a winner that night.

As revelers stumbled out of Elitch's, they were loaded down with cheap stuffed animals and other prizes -- which, as they headed out of town a few days later, they left abandoned in hotel rooms and cabs across the city, leaving Denver looking like the Island of Misfit Toys.

Although Denver got national props for how the city looked and behaved during the convention (pilfering of the plushies excepted), the hype wasn't enough to immunize the city against the economic crash ahead.

And a year later, local officials are left with only the memories of the DNC while they deal with the nitty-gritty details of governance. Among the back-to-basics events this week:

At 9:30 a.m. today, Governor Bill Ritter will be at the Tivoli to reveal the results of eighteen months of work creating jobs by his Job Cabinet. Tomorrow, Ritter will join Senator Michael Bennet and Mayor John Hickenlooper at Johnson & Wales to kick off the 2009 Summit for a New Era of Community Service, hosted by Metro Volunteers.

The city's public meetings on new zoning continue this week, with a public forum slated from 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, August 25 at National Jewish (district 10) and the same time the next day at the Asbury Event Center (district 9). For details, go to www.newcodedenver.org. And on Thursday, August 27, the SCFD board will hear from Tier II organizations in the next round of what's certain to become a difficult grant year.

All the tough talk is enough to make you want to head to Pueblo, where the Colorado State Fair kicks off on August 28 (go to www.coloradostatefair.com). Bring back plenty of stuffed animals.

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