Who Runs Denver?

December 2000

Welcome To The Post-Web Era!

Yes, Wellington Webb has more than two years remaining in his third and final term as Denver’s mayor, but there’s no mistaking the change at City Hall. Only a year ago, Webb seemed invincible. Today, it’s as if his adversaries have suddenly discovered kryptonite.

Denver’s usually timid City Council now regularly stands up to the popular mayor. Controversies that Webb would have easily sidestepped in years past now rattle and distract his administration. Trusted lieutenants are exiled and infighting escalates.

Why the change? In short, term limits. All but two of the City Council’s 13 members must leave office when their current terms expire. Those staying in politics will need to raise their profile if they hope to run for citywide office. Those returning to the private sector no longer have anything to lose.

Webb himself must leave in 2003. The mayor spent a tremendous amount of time in 2000 campaigning for Al Gore, no doubt hoping for a position in a Democratic administration at the end of his term (or sooner — a prospect that only served to accelerate the already rampant jockeying underway among prospective mayoral candidates). By his own admission, Webb has also shifted his focus from the brick-and-mortar projects that dominated his first two terms in favor of a progressive social agenda. Thus far, the results are mixed.