Sunday, March 29, 2009

Inner City Apathy and Blame

In the summer of 2007, several hundred volunteers worked to give Manual High School a face lift and ready it for re-opening. Manual High School is in a predominantly black and Mexican neighborhood with very few white residents. However, the bulk of the volunteers that worked on this school were whites. Locals are too apathetic (or perhaps possess a strong sense of entitlement which relinquishes them of personal responsibility) to pitch in to care for a school their own children attend, while they at the same time complain about the school system and poor results.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

DIA's Baggage Boondoggle Still Haunting City

As recently as January, 2008, the city of Denver is still throwing money into the DIA baggage system money pit which has haunted local politicians for some 15 years, and it is still wringing its hands over installation of a permanent baggage system.

Quotes from the Rocky Mountain News' story of January 12, 2008:

The system, once touted as the most advanced in the world, had problems from the start and never worked as intended. Officials planned it as the main system to serve all airlines at DIA, but United was the only carrier that used it and then only for outbound luggage.

It was one of the reasons DIA opened 16 months behind schedule and almost $2 billion over budget. Some estimates say the system's price tag has stretched to $700 million, compared with initial projections of $250 million. The airport doesn't have exact figures but has said it will compile that data for council members.

United stopped using it in 2005 and reverted to a manual process. The airport then struck a deal to pay off $110 million that United owed on the system.

DIA is now laying plans to install a new baggage system in coming years, one that will use more conventional technology and methods.

Even to this day, the old baggage system haunts Denver.

"The news keeps getting worse," Councilman Charlie Brown said at a recent City Council meeting, referring to the fact that DIA will have to spend more money to remove part of the system. "I mean, we can't get away from this baggage system. This is unbelievable."

Airport albatross

Costs of a baggage system that never worked right:

$250 million initial projected price tag

$100 million additional construction costs

$341 million additional interest payments to try to get the system working and build a separate, manual one for other airlines

$18 million maximum for steel removal, including parts of the baggage system

$700 million estimated actual cost


Back in 1994 or so when DIA was not yet open and the city of Denver was already in damage-control mode, free public tours were offered of the airport and I was one who pounced on the opportunity to wander the place. In one of the concourses, I noticed that some signage was wrong and pointed toward things that weren't there, but the most entertaining part of that day was when in the terminal I came across the baggage test area in what is now the Frontier Airlines check-in counters. The area in front of the counter was a literal graveyard of baggage; mangled bags, torn, missing sides, wheels either torn off completely or partly ripped off, belongings such as clothing, blenders, and hair dryers lying either loose or sticking out of mangled bags, most bags were either barely holding together and those that were not were duct taped shut. Some suitcases missed zippered tops that were either a few feet away or nowhere visible at all. Some bags even had dark skid marks on them. Few bags showed no damage at all. If only I'd have taken a camera, what delights I could have recorded! About 30 of us viewed the scene, alternately laughing and shaking our heads.

Tornadoes Near DIA

Here is a video and photographic montage of tornadic activity near Denver International Airport.

Weather radar spots tornado over DIA, April 2003.

Monday, March 16, 2009

DIA Propaganda Machine Rolls (Lipstick on a Pig)

Every negative story about DIA is met with a combination of denials and lies by the City and County of Denver and the nearly complete rosy-eyed journalistic ramblings of the local Denver media. One of the silly ways to offset negative news about DIA is the creation of DIA's own YouTube channel featuring videos with raving reviews about the airport, such as this one:

There are so many things about this video that any Denver resident, especially one with a memory longer than a beer commercial, could knock down in 2 seconds. The "eco-friendly" hype is mythological in the extreme; how can an airport with such a stupid fabric roof on it's terminal be heated in freezing winter temperatures such as we saw in late 2008 when the airport hit as low as -19 degrees? Imagine the energy required to keep everyone and everything under the circus tent from freezing solid!

Since the city smartly built the airport on a convergence zone, which is where warm air masses from the plains collide with cooler ones coming off the Rocky Mountains, the airport area is noted for its meteorological instability and proneness to severe thunderstorms with tornadic activity. More than once DIA has had to shut down temporarily during tornado warnings and passengers are told to hide in airport bathrooms which double as tornado shelters. Eventually, you can bet, the airport itself will be hit by a tornado. Its only a matter of time.

The airport itself was built by construction companies and financiers with close ties to local political elites; excessive prices were paid for land to people with similar connections who snatched up tracts in a hurry and made a killing; delay after delay in opening the airport due to the shoddy animated baggage system sent airport bonds spiraling into near junk bond status, and grossly high operating fees collapsed several local airlines and sent others packing, leaving United Airlines a monopoly (Denver is the largest UAL hub outside Chicago) which sent air fares skyrocketing in a city whose former airport (Stapleton International) was known for affordability and frequent "air fare wars" between carriers. Only in the past few years has Southwest Airlines been willing to fly out of DIA, after having barred the airport from its routes since the airport's debut. Continental Airlines had a hub at the old airport, but not at DIA, and that has kept fares higher.

If anyone is familiar with the way the City and County of Denver is operated in terms of its emergency and medical services, you'll know that the city are cheapskates of the highest order. Consequently, the city refuses to furnish DIA and surrounding environs with local ambulance service, instead preferring to send ambulances from the city-owned ghetto hospital just south of downtown, which is a whopping 26 miles from the airport. Consequently, after the crash of Contiental 1404, the first ambulance did not reach the scene until 33 minutes after the crash happened, and it was sent code 10, that is, non-emergency! The second ambulance arrived seven minutes after that. Generally speaking, the farther you are from downtown Denver, the shittier your ambulance service will be. You'd think with the 4th busiest airport in the US that the city would have the brains and decency to station at least a small fleet of ambulances in the DIA area, but no! Under much pressure after this crash, the city has apparently kindly stationed ONE ambulance at the airport, for use only in aircraft emergencies, leaving people in the airport itself to die, literally, as has already happened. Today a half-hour long investigative documentary aired on KMGH channel 7 titled, "33 Minutes to 34-Right." The city has previously denied repeated complaints about airport-area service and insisted that its service to DIA is "excellent." Just how stupid do they think we are? Very, apparently, and with good reason: Rocky Flats officials have flip-flopped and fed us pure quality horse shit for decades and people are still willing to live near that cursed land.

Watch the entire DIA documentary 33 Minutes to 34-Right here.

By the way, DIA's website at always says, "Security Wait Time: 5 Minutes." They're lying!