Jerry Kopel

It was time for a new football stadium, according to the millionaire owner of the Broncos, and the legislature complied. A credible Republican legislator sponsored the bill establishing a Metropolitan Stadium District with a Democrat as chief sponsor in the other house. The bill passed both houses and was slated for a vote in an odd-numbered year.

Nineteen Ninety-six? Nope. Nineteen Sixty-six.

In 1966, Sen. Jim Perrill carried SB 25 through the Senate 34 to 0. In the House, there were more opponents, but it still carried 44 to 16. A lot of House Republicans told me they changed their vote from "no" to "yes" after a highly partisan speech by Democrat Rep. Ben Klein on third reading. Then it was on to election day where the owners of the Broncos, Allan and Gerald Phipps, were expected by all pundits to win easily.

There was no organized opposition, although some "taxpayer" groups did surface. Both the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post were pro-stadium, and the Post tried to run one supportive story almost every day during the several months leading up to the vote.

Betty Miller, John Carroll, and I formed an unorganized opposition in 1967. John was still in the legislature. Betty and I were not. We appeared on a number of television and radio shows in debate with the Phipps brothers and their supporters.

There was one factor in our favor. On second reading in the House in 1966 I was able to get the following language into the bill:

"No moneys of the district shall be used for promotion or advertisement to urge the taxpaying electors to vote in favor of the acquisition of a project, the issuance of general obligation bonds of the district for the purpose of acquiring a project, or the incurrence of an indebtedness."

Today, that language is routine in a statute dealing with taxing citizens through an election, but it was fairly original then.

One of the promotional slide shows that proponents used in neighborhood meetings to get a pro-stadium vote ended with a mock headline in the Denver Post "Stadium Vote Wins 9 to 6". In a rather bizarre twist, the stadium district lost in the March 7, 1967 election by a percentage of 9 to 5.

The 1967 election was for a $20 million bond issue to be financed by a mill levy on real and personal property within the counties of Denver, Adams, Arapahoe and Jefferson. At the time, the Denver Post was an afternoon paper, and it reported on election day from some of the election precincts.

"It's much heavier than usual for a special election" said Mrs. Florence Gregg, a judge at Alameda High. "The only ones who've said anything are opposed."

Shortly after the polls closed, it was obvious that the vote was not only heavier than expected, but also quite lopsided, with 90,195 against and 52,787 in favor. The breakdown by counties was Denver: 25,469 in favor and 46,084 opposed; Adams, 7,153 in favor and 13,909 opposed; Arapahoe, 7,862 in favor and 12,756 opposed; and Jefferson, 12,303 in favor and 17,446 opposed.

Of course a major difference between HB 1374 by Rep. Vickie Agler and Democrat Sen. Ed Perlmutter and SB 25 by Sen. Perrill and Democrat Rep. Chuck DeMoulin is that HB 1374 will levy a sale tax and the vote in 1967 was limited to property owners, a much more conservative bunch when it comes to taxing their own property.

* * *

How does that song go? "So long....its been good to know you.."

This is the next to last column before the legislature adjourns and time to bid farewell to a few of the many who have indicated they won't return.

Tim Foster. Only Wayne Knox and I served in the legislature with Tim's father and with Tim. The present Rep. Foster started out as a brash know-it-all his early years. He has matured considerably since and he has handled the majority leader's position in a professional, intelligent manner. Having served with about 400 different legislators, I'd place Tim in the top forty.

Rep. Foster is not going to disappear. I'll wager he'll either be a candidate for a vacant congressional seat or possibly an attorney generalship in the not-too-distant future.

Wayne Knox. No one still on the scene has experienced changes in the legislature that Wayne Knox has. Wayne served 32 years, between 1961 and 1997, 16 wins, one loss, and one "sit-out". Those 32 years in the House set a record that will never be broken. Wayne served six years in the majority and with his departure, there is not a single Democrat in the legislature who has ever served in the majority. Wayne was and is a good friend, and in the decades we served together, he never once went back on his word.

You always knew where Wayne stood on the issues. He was and is an unabashed liberal and proud of it. While other legislators moaned about a heavy-handed majority in the 1980s, Wayne did something about it, and it is in the constitution: Give A Vote to Every Legislator (GAVEL).

Peggy Kerns. Rep. Kerns has a natural talent for leadership, and did very well on her legislative priorities. Most important, she understands people and would make an interesting diplomat if she decides not to go for the U.S. Senate. I expect to see Rep. Kerns in the Romer (or Schoettler) cabinet in 1997.

Diana DeGette. Congress' potential future gain is the Colorado legislature's loss. She worked many years in my legislative campaigns, is a good friend, and I thought hers was a textbook perfect campaign for HD 6 after I retired. Rep. DeGette accomplished much in her short stay in the House and I expect her congressional years will be longer than the two terms in the Colorado House.

Lloyd Casey. This is a senator with many bright, innovative ideas worth implementing, but without the wherewithal to turn them into laws. In four years, Casey introduced 21 bills, had one pass in 1995 and one still alive in 1996 as this is being written.

I thought his agriculture bill in 1996 allowing farmers to grow hemp (as many European countries do) had a chance with competent lobbying and credible witnesses. As I wrote in the Statesman last December, if the bill had started in the House with a Republican as chief sponsor, it might have passed.

Peggy Lamm. An intelligent legislator who was definitely slated for leadership in future years. I'm not really privy as to why such a short stay for someone who worked so very hard to get here, but I can recall the words of Oscar Wilde:

"In this world, there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."


Jerry Kopel writes a column for the Statesman based on 22 years past experience as a state legislator.

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