Hofmann said that Romanek has other videos that are equally convincing, but the alien footage, which he said was shot in Nebraska in 2003 or 2004, is downright scary. That fear, he said, is exactly why the government has attempted to keep similar footage from the public.
"I was totally skeptical when I looked at this stuff," Hofmann said. "I kept saying, 'How did he fake it?' This is a world-changing type of thing."
David Broadwell, the city attorney in Denver, said the city council does not comment collectively on "the merits" of ballot initiative efforts, adding that Peckman is in the very preliminary phase of the process. If Peckman collects his 4,000 signatures in 180 days, he will get the chance to put the issue to voters. Peckman succeeded once before in getting an initiative on the ballot, which Broadwell described generally as a promotion of peacefulness through transcendental meditation.
Charlie Brown, a Denver city councilor who has tussled with Peckman in the past, said simply, if not abrasively, that the Denver constituent needs to find a job. "We're getting ready to host the DNC in 100 days, and we have a variety of public safety issues to deal with," Brown said. "We're not exactly focused on men from Mars. One can say it's not really on our radar screen."
Brown also balked at the $75,000 Peckman originally requested to help fund the commission, an amount stripped from his final proposal. There would still be a cost, the city councilor cautioned.
"This is going to take government time, legal time from the city's attorney office; this is not free," he said, adding that public relations ridicule is one more reason the initiative is a bad idea. "Denver will be poked fun at on 'Jay Leno' or 'David Letterman.'"
What was not stripped from the ballot initiative language is an acknowledgement that evidence of aliens has existed from Franklin Roosevelt's presidency through the current Bush Administration, and that since 1947, the federal government has put the American public at risk by not acknowledging that evidence.
It was a discovery in 1947 in Roswell, N.M., that began what has been repeated cries of a government conspiracy aimed at discrediting alien existence among believers. What the Army originally described as remains from a "flying disc" the military now maintains was parts of an experimental research balloon.
Literally thousands of reported sightings and abductions have followed in the United States and around the world since the Roswell controversy. Earlier this month, the Vatican's chief astronomer said in a published interview that it is impossible to rule out extraterrestrial life in such a vast universe.
Robert Shaeffer, an author who has refuted the existence of aliens in multiple books, was curious why Congress was not pursuing a commission like Peckman's to protect the entire nation. "Why does Denver need this, but presumably, San Francisco does not?" he asked.
It's not a matter of simply disbelieving, Shaeffer said. He has studied every possible picture and bit of video footage and remains unconvinced that anyone has captured irrefutable evidence of extraterrestrials. "UFOs always manage to slip away before the evidence becomes too convincing," he said. "And that's an astonishing thing."
Shaeffer's skepticism, he said, comes in large part because no one has been able to claim a smoking gun image or video of alien life despite a culture in which so many people have cell-phone cameras or handheld video cameras -- not to mention the explosion of YouTube and advanced photoshopping capabilities for would-be hoaxers.
Of course, it doesn't surprise Peckman in the least that not everyone believes in his cause. "You're going to find some detractors for every single phenomenon in history," he said. "They just don't accept the reality, and we're not going to try to convince them."
Plus, he said, he fully expects to get the 4,000 signatures he needs and put the initiative to the people of Denver. "Things at this level," Peckman said, "are best handled by direct democracy."