Two interesting and apparently unrelated news items surfaced on Tuesday.
Susan Edmonson will become the CEO of the Downtown Partnership.
After 141 years, The Gazette no longer will be printed in Colorado Springs.
The latter comes as no surprise. It has been clear for years that The Gazette’s 32-year-old presses needed to be scrapped. As the print product diminished, it made little sense to keep the tired old machines running. But outsourcing presented an equally insoluble dilemma.
After the Rocky Mountain News folded in 2008, the modern presses that had been shared by the Rocky and the Denver Post easily could have accommodated The Gazette. So why didn’t the former Gazette owners, Freedom Communications, make a deal?
Two words: Dean Singleton.
Singleton, who put together the Post’s parent company Media News Group, has a deserved reputation as a brilliant, ruthless and predatory dealmaker. Putting your newspaper at Singleton’s mercy would have had the lamb sitting down with the wolf to decide what’s for dinner. Understanding that The Gazette’s survival was in his hands, Singleton might have waited until the presses had been scrapped, and then made a lowball offer for the paper. When Freedom refused, he would have lowered his offer, and threatened to unilaterally cancel the printing deal unless Freedom played ball.
Already financially weakened, and bracing for the storm that eventually engulfed both Freedom and Media News Group, Freedom would have had little choice but to comply — so no deal was ever made.
What has changed? Two words: Phil Anschutz.
Compared to Anschutz, Singleton is an insignificant player, a house cat making a deal with a tiger. Screw around with Anschutz? That’d be like you or me getting in a bar fight with Mike Tyson. Somebody’s gonna get hurt, and it won’t be Anschutz.
So the decision is a sensible and inevitable one, but also emblematic of our city’s employment dilemma.
Seven or eight years ago, The Gazette’s workforce was substantially larger. In-house graphic artists created ads, designed the paper and worked closely with advertising salespeople. Many of those jobs were outsourced to India as the recession grew and deepened. Now the pressmen and ancillary employees will soon be gone, trimming another 51 people from the workforce.
That’s regrettable, especially since the stagnant local economy isn’t exactly a job-creating machine. As politicians at every level understand, we need growth.
Here’s a modest suggestion that quickly could create some of that growth.
Now that the presses are going silent, there’s no reason for The Gazette to stay in the Prospect Street building. It’s a dispiriting dump, energy-inefficient, functionally obsolescent and strangely located. It’s moving time — but where?
Mayor Steve Bach has a similar dilemma. The city administration building, located at the corner of Nevada and Colorado avenues, is now half-empty. The structure is more than 30 years old, inefficient and difficult to secure against random crazies who may have a gun and a grudge.
So Mr. Anschutz, Mayor Bach, Chris Jenkins — why don’t you sit down and make a deal? Take Jenkins’ vacant ground at Pikes Peak and Nevada, and erect a new building that will serve all your needs.
And as for the Wreck on Prospect — do I have a deal for you! Knock it down and build a downtown baseball stadium nestled into the hill. Just excavate part of the hillside, align the field to the northwest, and give the fans perfect sightlines and a spectacular view of the mountains.
These deals don’t put themselves together. You need someone smart, energetic, credible and dedicated to being downtown’s champion — so that’s where Susan Edmondson comes in.
As executive director of the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, Edmondson did an amazing job with limited resources. She could have stayed there forever, gradually morphing from young fireball to grand old lady of the arts. That she chose to leave her comfortable position for the conflict and chaos of downtown speaks volumes.
OK, Susan — you wanted a challenge. Now you’ve got one. I don’t really expect that you’ll be able to put together my far-fetched scheme, but don’t think small. Think General Palmer, Jimmy Burns or Spec Penrose. Palmer founded the city, Burns threw up an Opera House because he could, and Penrose even monetized his mausoleum. We’ve lost that sense of adventure, and replaced it with risk-averse timidity.
So don’t turn into another slippery, mealy-mouthed, platitude-spouting, achievement-avoiding, paycheck-collecting, middle-managing, not-for-profit bureaucrat!
Be insanely bold instead, and you’ll likely be fired in a year … unless you succeed.