NEW YORK — Officials tout their deal to land a new Amazon headquarters as can’t-miss math. The city and state put up $2.8 billion in tax breaks and grants. In return, they get an economic engine expected to generate $27 billion in new tax money over a quarter-century.
“This is a big moneymaker for us. Costs us nothing,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said when the agreement was announced.
Experts say the economic equation isn’t that simple.
The state’s predicted 9-to-1 return on its investment was based on a widely used economic model that compares the costs of tax incentives with expected tax gains, but it didn’t factor in the substantial costs of accommodating Amazon’s growth in the city, economic development researchers said after reviewing the documents.
The city and state will have to spend money to educate the children of Amazon workers, improve public transportation to get them to work, collect their garbage, adjust police and fire coverage, and provide all sorts of other services for a growing number of people.
“Claiming 9-to-1 isn’t just implausible. It is a dishonest way to present the return on these incentives,” says Nathan Jensen, a University of Texas professor of government who has been critical of the way economic development incentives are used.
The reports also don’t measure the Amazon “HQ2” project against any other possible development of its intended site in the booming Long Island City neighborhood.
Four academic and think tank researchers who weren’t involved in the state’s cost-benefit analyses said that while its methods were standard, its scope was limited.
“It’s a standard cost-benefit approach, but it tends to talk a lot about the benefits and not a lot about the costs,” said Megan Randall, a research analyst at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. “That’s not to say that the costs will automatically override all the benefits … (but) cities should be armed with that knowledge.”
New York state’s evaluation of the Amazon deal is based on an assumption that the company will ultimately create 40,000 relatively high-paying jobs in the city by 2034. That’s the maximum number foreseen in a deal that starts with a promise of 25,000 jobs by 2028.
The state-commissioned analysis by Regional Economic Models Inc. also predicts Amazon’s presence in the city will eventually create 67,000 other jobs outside the company, in industries from tech to real estate to restaurants that might serve Amazon workers.
Over 25 years, all those new jobs will generate about $14 billion in state income and sales taxes and about $13.5 billion in city taxes, according to that analysis and a city report also involving a REMI model.
Cuomo lauded that as “the highest rate of return for an economic incentive program that the state has ever offered.”
REMI’s analysis is deep and thorough, the state’s economic development agency said.
“Their model is widely considered to be the gold standard for economic and fiscal impact analysis and has been recognized for its analytical depth, sophistication and flexibility,” Adam Kilduff, a spokesman for Empire State Development, said in an emailed statement.
A representative of the city’s economic development agency did not respond to questions about the analysis.
The analysis may be right about tax revenue, but “it’s incomplete,” said Timothy Bartik, a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and a leading expert on incentives. “You need to look at the spending side.”
Opponents of the project have raised alarms about adding to the strain on subways, sewers and schools already struggling to keep up in the fastest-developing neighborhood in New York City.
Some improvements are already in the works. The Amazon agreement promises a new school and infrastructure upgrades. Critics, including some local politicians, are skeptical it will do enough.
They’ve held a series of rallies and protests and are exploring possible options to try to stop the project.
While voters in New York City support bringing Amazon’s campus to the city, they are divided when it comes to the incentives from the city and state, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.
The survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points, found that 57 percent of city voters support Amazon’s decision, while 26 oppose it. Forty-six percent of respondents support the incentives, however, compared with 44 percent who said they are opposed.
Beyond the costs of growth, the New York analyses also don’t address some other questions, experts said.
David Merriman, a University of Illinois at Chicago public administration professor who specializes in tax issues, said it didn’t consider the possibility of economic growth in Queens even if Amazon never came.
There were prior plans for big commercial and residential development on part of the potential Amazon site that have now been scuttled in favor of accommodating the company.
The state analysis also didn’t examine whether New York could have bagged the same prize while offering less, as Virginia did to score an additional Amazon headquarters there.
“A proper analysis would take seriously that we are uncertain how much, exactly, was needed to attract HQ2 to New York,” said UT’s Jensen.
Amazon officials have said “the driving factor” in choosing New York and Virginia was the availability of enough tech talent, not the tax incentives.
Despite the unanswered questions, Bartik argues the financial bottom line isn’t necessarily the point.
“I honestly don’t think that the main thing that people should be looking at is whether or not it makes money for the state government. That’s not the purpose of state government,” he said. “The bigger impact is if you create jobs that otherwise wouldn’t be there.”
ASPEN – The Aspen-Pitkin County Airport is eliminating curbside parking near the terminal to comply with federal security rules.
The Aspen Daily News reported Friday that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration wants the parking spaces eliminated to reduce the threat of car bombs near the terminal.
Airport Director John Kinney says airport officials delayed the change as long as they could.
Kinney says the curbside parking spots will be replaced next spring with lanes where drivers can stop briefly to load and unload passengers but cannot leave their vehicles unattended. It’s the arrangement most airports nationwide use.
He says short-term parking spots are still available 100 feet from the terminal.
Airport staff began handing out cards on Thursday to people who parked curbside to tell them about the change.
NEW YORK — People can livestream their every move on Facebook and chatter endlessly in group chats. But in most parts of the U.S., they still can’t reach 911 by texting — an especially important service during mass shootings and other catastrophes when a phone call could place someone in danger.
Although text-to-911 service is slowly expanding, the emphasis there is on “slow.” Limited funds, piecemeal adoption and outdated call-center technology have all helped stymie growth.
Emergency 911 centers stress that a phone call is still the best way to reach them, since calls provide them with location data and other needed details. But in some cases — for instance, if a person has a hearing disability, or when a call might attract the attention of assailants — texting is a far better way to call for help.
The 911 emergency system was developed for landlines. But now about 80 percent of U.S. 911 calls come from cellphones, according to the federal government’s National 911 Program. There is no legal requirement for call centers to offer text-to-911 services.
If a center requests the service from mobile companies such as Verizon or Sprint, however, the companies are required to provide it within six months.
More money would speed implementation. “We need a significant federal grant program to modernize 911 systems across the country,” said Jeff Cohen, chief counsel at advocacy group the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials.
Congressional legislation could speed adoption of text-to-911, Cohen said. Traditionally, 911 call centers have been funded by a combination of state and local funding, rather than relying on federal grants. For that reason, technology and adoption varies widely between states, cities and counties.
While some areas may have plenty of money to implement text-to-911 service, “others are cash strapped cities or communities that would rather spend money on a police car rather than text-to-911,” said Brian Fontes, chief executive officer of the National Emergency Number Association. “When you don’t have the money, you have to prioritize what you do with the money you have.”
The first text-to-911 was sent in 2009 in Iowa. Now, according to data collected by the Federal Communications Commission, more than 1,600 emergency call centers across the nation have configured systems to receive text message requests for 911 services, up from about 650 two years ago. But that’s barely a quarter of the roughly 6,000 overall in the country. Figures are a bit murky since they are self-reported to the FCC.
Implementing text-to-911 service usually starts with a state law requiring emergency centers to support it.
Indiana, for example, has state 911 requirements set by the Indiana General Assembly and a state 911 board that oversees the operation of the statewide 911 network, which routes and delivers 911 voice and text messages from people to their local 911 authority. It pays for 911 from monthly end user surcharges, $1 for landline, wireless and other types of phones, which are collected by phone service providers.
Four years after Indiana dispatch centers began adopting text-to-911 technology, residents in all 92 of the state’s counties can send texts during emergencies if they’re unable to speak to dispatchers, the state said in June. Minnesota, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont also offer statewide coverage.
Without state legislation, adopting text-to-911 can be more piecemeal. In California, a plan to raise taxes to pay for modernizing the 911 emergency dispatch system statewide fell one vote short in September in the Senate when Republicans refused to sign onto a tax increase.
But cities and municipalities can decide to support text-to-911 on their own. Los Angeles County — which includes cities such as Los Angeles, Burbank and Glendale — has supported text-to-911 since late last year, for example.
Allegheny County in Pennsylvania, where the synagogue shooting took place, does offer text-to-911 service. But high school students hiding from a gunman in Parkland, Fla., last February, had to make whispered 911 calls to authorities. Broward County, which includes Parkland, plans to have text-to-911 in place by the end of this year.
“We will never know where the next active shooter is going to be, whether it’s a rural school, synagogue, church or any public place,” Fontes said. “Certainly we want people to be able to text 911 for safety purposes.”
Vail Resorts‘ stock price tumbled down a double black diamond mountain Friday.
The Broomfield-based ski resort operator’s stock endured a record loss after the company released results for its most recent financial quarter that showed bigger than expected losses and slower than expected revenue gains for season pass sales.
After opening the day at $258.60 per share, Vail’s stock fell 17.85 percent during another rough day for the market, closing at $223.25. It was the biggest single day price drop since Vail went public in 1997, out doing a 17.3 percent drop during on Nov. 14, 2008, according to Marketwatch.com, a decline that came when the market was imploding due to the mortgage crisis.
“Vail’s recent acquisitions and new season-pass offerings aren’t enough to sustain demand and will likely hurt its fiscal 2019 growth prospects,” Bloomberg Analytics wrote in response the Vail’s release, referencing summer buys that included Crested Butte and three other U.S. resorts.
Vail Resorts Inc. reported a net loss of $107.8 million for the period stretching from Aug. 1 to Oct. 31. The company reported a loss of $28.4 million over the same span last year.
“Our first fiscal quarter historically operates at a loss, given that our North American mountain resorts are open for ski operations during the period,” CEO Rob Katz said in a statement that accompanied the financial results.
North American season pass sales for the current 2018-2019 season were up 21 percent through Dec. 2, according to the company. The increased sales volume didn’t translate directly when it comes to revenue, however, as the dollar drawn from those sales was only 13 percent. That can be attributed in part to the creation of a new version of the company’s Epic Pass for military members, available a substantial discount ($99 for retired and active military members and their families in the U.S., Canada and Australia versus $949 for a standard Epic Pass).
“We are very pleased to see double-digit revenue growth in our season pass program after a very strong record performance last year,” Katz said. He added that, excluding military passes, “we achieved solid growth in our Colorado, Destination and Whistler Blackcomb markets, while experiencing declines in both the Northern California and Utah markets.”
But the growth wasn’t enough to satiate analysts and it hurt on another rough day on Wall Street.
Season pass sales “likely fell slightly below buy-side expectations,” Stifel Financial Corp. analyst Brad Boyer wrote, according to a summary of opinions shared by Bloomberg. Boyer pointed to the “presence of a new competitor” when looking at sales declines in Utah and Northern California, possibly referencing Denver-based Alterra Mountain Co. and its Ikon Pass.
Strong early season snow that allowed Vail Ski Resort to open early this year may have hurt the company.
While pass sales remained “relatively consistent” during the reporting period compared the financial quarter immediately preceding it (25 percent growth in units sold and 15 percent growth in revenue) “the bar had drifted slightly upward in recent weeks as favorable early season weather trends unfolded across the portfolio,” KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Brett Andress wrote.
Vail is doling out a quarterly cash dividend of $1.47 per share. It also bought back $50 million of its own stock in the quarter.
The company expects to sell 925,000 epic passes this year, when including sales in Australia and to military members. The company sold more than 750,000 of the passes for the 2017-18 season.
It also plans to make at least $175 million in capital improvements across its 18-property portfolio in 2019 including numerous projects in Colorado.
The company’s geographic diversity means it long-term outlook remains strong regardless of how its stock fared Friday, according to Bloomberg Analytics,
“Its global resort network provides alternative destination options and is an added benefit to pass holders,” Bloomberg wrote. “Recent acquisitions further enhance the season passes’ value, helping Vail to secure its position as North America’s leading ski-resort operator.”
Bill Bowlen, a brother of Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, submitted an objection Saturday in Arapahoe County District Court to the stay motion request by the Pat Bowlen Trust filed two weeks ago.
Giovanni Ruscitti, Bowlen's attorney from the Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti law firm in Boulder, filed the brief on his client's behalf. The filing asserts that granting a stay will "prejudice" Bill Bowlen.
In late October, Bowlen filed a lawsuit asking the trustees be relieved of their duties. The trustees — Broncos president/CEO Joe Ellis, team counsel Rich Slivka and Denver attorney Mary Kelly — responded with the stay request and asking the NFL for arbitration with two of Bowlen's daughters, Beth Bowlen Wallace and Amie Bowlen Klemmer.
In the document, Bill Bowlen's legal team called the trustees' request "nothing more than a delay tactic and attempt to interfere with the Court's ability to decide important issues relating to (the) Defendants' misconduct."
The following spills were reported to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in the past two weeks.
Information is based on Form 19, which operators must fill out detailing the leakage/spill events. Any spill release that may impact waters of the state must be reported as soon as practical. Any spill of five barrels or more must be reported within 24 hours, and any spill of one barrel or more, which occurs outside secondary containment, such as metal or earthen berms, must also be reported within 24 hours, according to COGCC rules. Spills and leaks typically are found during routine maintenance on existing wells, though some actual "spills" do occur among the 23,000-plus wells in the county.
• NOBLE ENERGY INC, reported Dec. 4 a historical tank battery spill about 5 miles southeast of LaSalle, near Weld County roads 42 and 43. Between one and five barrels each of oil, condensate and produced water spilled. Crews found impacts while dismantling the tank battery. A total of 50 cubic yards of impacted soil was taken to Buffalo Ridge Landfill, and 16 soil samples were collected for site investigation.
• NOBLE ENERGY INC, reported Nov. 29 a flowline spill about 7 miles south of Kersey, near Weld roads 46 and 43. Between one and five barrels each of oil, condensate and produced water spilled. Waters of the state were impacted or threatened. Crews found the release during operations.
• NOBLE ENERGY INC, reported Nov. 29 a historical partially-buried vessel spill about 2 miles southeast of LaSalle, near Weld roads 40 and 53. Between one and five barrels each of oil, condensate and produced water spilled. Crews found impacts while dismantling the tank battery.
• KP KAUFFMAN COMPANY INC, reported Nov. 28 a historical flowline spill about 3 miles northwest of Firestone, near Weld roads 18 and 5. An unknown amount of more than five barrels of oil spilled. A contractor for Extraction found the release while boring a new line under a KP Kauffman consolidation flowline and an abandoned flowline. Extraction’s contractor is finishing the pipeline and clearing room for KP Kauffman to remove the impacted soil.
• HIGHPOINT OPERATING CORPORATION, reported Nov. 28 a tank battery spill about 3 miles southwest of Hereford, near Weld roads 132 and 75. About 200 barrels of produced water spilled into containment. A hole in the produced water tank formed near the bottom of the load out valve.
A day may come when people take the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center in Aurora for granted. Kind of like how Coors Field, the Colorado Convention Center or Denver International Airport seem like they were always meant to be there.
Yet, the bitterly contested project, set to open soon north of DIA, teetered on the edge of failure more than once. There was nothing inevitable about it.
“It was a rough voyage, especially at the beginning,” said Ira Mitzner, president of Houston-based RIDA Development Corp. “It was big and people were nervous. But what people didn’t realize is that we were very undersupplied in Colorado for large meeting spaces.”
The use of public dollars to fund private projects is always controversial. The $800 million resort wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without substantial public support from Aurora, $300 million, and the state, $81.4 milion.
The day after the state approved incentives, the original development partner, Gaylord Entertainment, dropped out. The project seemed dead until RIDA stepped in and Marriott International took on the role of managing the property.
The Gaylord Rockies had to overcome three lawsuits, a bill in the legislature designed to kill it, calls for a state audit of its incentives, hesitant investors and later on a tight market for construction workers.
More than once, the project seemed done for, only to come back, thanks in part to the tenacious support of Aurora officials. The resort, the state’s largest with 1,501 rooms and more than 486,000 square feet of meeting space, is set to open on Dec. 18.
A creature of the Regional Tourism Act
Understanding why the Gaylord Rockies was so contested requires understanding the Regional Tourism Act (RTA), a complex program the Colorado legislature passed in 2009 to jumpstart development during the Great Recession.
Metro Denver has a history of taking on massive projects to escape an economic funk and the RTA sought to fund signature tourism projects that would draw in out-of-state visitors. Each project includes a zone where a portion of the additional sales tax revenues could be claimed to finance development. But applicants also had to show the project was unique and wouldn’t be built, except for state support.
Initially, Aurora was looking at applying with International Speedway Corp. to build a $400 million race track on 1,000 acres to draw in NASCAR fans. But that proposal died in early 2009, a victim of the downturn and questions about whether the sport had peaked.
Aurora was left to find another RTA project and in July 2010 it approached Gaylord Entertainment, a Nashville-based owner of large conference hotels, about partnering. City officials met with Gaylord executives that September, said Wendy Mitchell, president and CEO of the Aurora Economic Development Council.
Gaylord, which operated four properties across the country, was trying to build a fifth. A leading candidate, a project in Chula Vista, Calif., dropped out in 2008. Aurora joined the fray and beat out several other candidates to win the nod, Mitchell said.
Aurora and Gaylord teamed up to apply for a 1,500-room conference hotel, one of a half dozen projects the Colorado Economic Development Commission would consider before approving two slots.
Denver hoteliers cried foul. They questioned why public dollars were supporting a project that would compete against existing private businesses. A hotel with that many rooms and that much meeting space would cannibalize their business, they feared. Plus, Gaylord had a reputation for keeping its guests on site and making it difficult for them to go elsewhere, i.e. downtown.
But supporters countered the hotel would draw a large share of its business from conventions that rotated through Gaylord’s other properties. The hotel, the largest in the mountain region, would be an amenity for Aurora and the area around DIA, where development had struggled to take off.
“What gave the office of economic development comfort was that it was always a Gaylord branded hotel that could get on the Gaylord circuit,” said Jeff Kraft, director of business funding and incentives with the state who helped draft the original contract the state and Aurora signed. “Those were a unique set of conventions that rotated. You won’t be able to compete for that segment of visitor if you don’t have a Gaylord hotel.”
The battle intensifies
Aurora-Gaylord won one of the two slots in the first round along with Pueblo, which wanted to expand its convention center and improve its Riverwalk, on May 18, 2012. Mitchell describes that day as one of the happiest in her career. It would be followed by some dark ones.
What city and state officials didn’t know was that Gaylord Entertainment planned to convert into a real estate investment trust holding hotel properties, but not building or operating them. Aurora looked like it might join a proposed Gaylord hotel in Mesa, Ariz., in the never-to-be-finished pile.
If Aurora was to have any chance, it would have to find another partner at a time when developers willing to take on big construction projects were far and few between. But who?
It took about a year, but Aurora brought on RIDA, known for its success on big hotel project in Texas and Florida, as the developer. Marriott International, which bought operating rights for the Gaylord hotels, was among the firm’s satisfied clients.
Mitzner said his mother used to tell him it takes an immigrant to understand the greatness of America. Likewise, it takes a Texan to understand what makes Colorado stand apart.
“When you sit in Denver, you don’t realize how special it is,” he said. “I could see the greatness of the state. I knew what we were going to build was going to be well received by meeting planners and the convention community.”
He thought he was coming in to save the day. What he didn’t realize is that he would immediately come under fire, and for a long time.
The entry of RIDA gave opponents an opening to challenge the state incentives. A group of 11 hotels, located mostly in Denver as well as the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, sued in Denver District Court, arguing Aurora and its new partner should have to reapply.
But the state economic development office, under then-director Ken Lund, held firm. The deal they cut was with Aurora. The developer didn’t matter, as long as the hotel met the parameters in the application. RIDA committed to building per the specifications approved, if not more.
State officials also worried about being perceived as an unreliable partner when working out a deal. If they backed away from Gaylord, could any RTA or other incentive award be trusted when millions of dollars and thousands of jobs were on the line.
“We didn’t want to be seen as withdrawing or being shaky on our support,” Kraft said. “We wanted to be consistent, stable and solid.”
“It was like a roller coaster. We would win a legal battle. Then they went back and filed again. We had to go to the Colorado Supreme Court. it was one thing after another,” Mitchell said.
Opponents leaked financial documents to make the case that RIDA could fund the hotel without incentives, violating a key requirement of the RTA. They challenged the inclusion of raw land within an urban redevelopment zone.
Nationally, the state had developed a reputation for cooperating on economic development issues. But the Gaylord Rockies tested that regionalism in ways it hadn’t been tested before.
Denver is home to the state’s convention center, the region’s transportation hub, the largest performing arts complex, the international airport, and the three big sports venues. Why were Denver interests fighting something Aurora considered so important to its future, supporters of the hotel asked.
Mitchell said more than 100 surrounding governments, groups and businesses, from the City of Black Hawk to Parker, came out to help defeat a bill in the legislature designed to derail the project.
“They were trying to run the clock out. They were basically trying to tire us out. They were a worthy opponent,” she said. But she added they didn’t appreciate how tenaciously Aurora would fight.
“People would have never guessed it back in May 2012, but Aurora never gives up, and it would have been a lot easier to give up,” she said.
Getting ready for the opening
Mitzner said his biggest regret as opening day approaches is that former Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan, who died May 13, and his father, David, who survived the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and passed away in September 2016 at 101, won’t be there to see it.
Plaques in the hotel commemorate both men. Without Hogan’s unwavering support, the hotel wouldn’t exist, Mitzner said. And he recalls how his father visited him in Colorado during an especially tough spell.
He reassured his son that metro Denver was among a half-dozen areas that represented the country’s future and that the hotel would add to the hospitality scene rather than disrupt it.
“He said “Ira, stick it out. This will be successful. Colorado had no place to go but up,” he recalled him saying.
So far there are no signs of cannibalization that critics warned about, Mitzner emphasized. Of the 1.1 million rooms booked so far at the Gaylord Rockies, 81 percent are with groups who wouldn’t have otherwise come to Colorado, he said.
And the opposition from existing hotels in the state quieted after the Gaylord Rockies got under construction. It didn’t hurt that the economy took off.
Richard Scharf, president and CEO of Visit Denver, when offered the chance to take one last swipe at the Gaylord Rockies before it opened, chose a conciliatory tone.
“The addition of new hotel development into Colorado only reinforces our mission of driving new demand for hotels and all hospitality-related businesses that benefits everyone,” he said in a statement.
Gaylord’s entry into the market has pushed existing hotels to make improvements, which should result in a better experience for people visiting metro Denver.
New owners of the Sheraton Denver Downtown, which has been the state’s largest hotel with 1,231 rooms, said in October they plan a significant revamp to the 58-year-old property. Other Denver hotels that have poured millions into improvements include the Brown Palace, Hotel Teatro, the Monaco Hotel and the Renaissance Denver Stapleton Hotel.
“If you have a new kid on the block, it will make every owner up their game,” said Jan Freitag, senior vice president with STR, a hospitality research firm.
That isn’t to say there won’t be pressure on room rates or occupancy levels in the months ahead, especially if the economy softens, he said. But so far, the Denver market has shown an ability to absorb the thousands of hotel rooms added, he said.
And in the end, downtown Denver, could see an upside as more people head there from the conferences that the Gaylord Rockies brings in. The resort is offering shuttles every 15 minutes to the nearby commuter rail stop that feeds into Union Station.
“I believe that there is plenty of opportunity to spread the visitor dollars around by offering creative approaches to expand the visitor experience,” said Patty Silverstein, chief economist with Development Research Partners.
Building the Gaylord Rockies has also resulted in personal changes for Mitzner. His daughter and her husband liked the Denver area so much they moved from Houston to open another office for RIDA, which has acquired 129 acres near the Gaylord to develop.
RIDA has retained a big stake in the resort and plans on building more in Colorado. It performed well enough that it was put in charge of Gaylord’s next property in Chula Vista, which was resurrected after being sidelined in 2008.
Mitchell said the new hotel will employ 1,500 people and could eventually bring in half a million out-of-state visitors to Colorado every year. It offers a gateway for development in the large area around the airport known as the Aerotropolis.
“This is a transformational project for Aurora as well as for the state,” she said.
When hurricanes devastated the Virgin Islands last year, John and his wife were forced to move themselves and their two children from their island home to Boulder. They had to relocate after their rental home had its roof torn off and its windows blown out.
The move has been a major adjustment, but the family has found comfort in at least one area of their life thanks to Dental Aid Inc., a Boulder County nonprofit that provides affordable dental care to those who are uninsured or otherwise unable to afford it.
One recent morning, his 6-year-old son, Gage, had a new crown installed by a Dental Aid dentist. Gage has been a frequent visitor and has benefited from the nonprofit, which helped pay for his three fillings, another crown, a tooth extraction and a spacer.
John said the nonprofit pays half of the cost of the dental work, which has saved the family hundreds of dollars. He said the dentists told him part of the reason his children needed such extensive dental work stemmed from the fact cisterns of rain water, which aren’t fluorinated, are the water supply for those living on the Virgin Islands.
“This helps tremendously,” the father said.
Dental Aid is one of the programs receiving funds from The Denver Post’s Season to Share campaign this year. In 2017, Dental Aid provided services to 7,124 people, nearly half of them children.
“I love this place,” said one of the Dental Aid dentists, Darby Barfield. “The families are so grateful.”
She said she recently had the pleasure of providing care to a child of one of her former patients who received services years ago while in foster care. In more complicated cases, Barfield treats children at Children’s Hospital in Aurora. A 2-year-old with more than 12 cavities was scheduled for treatment at the hospital, Barfield said. The savings Dental Aid would provide the family would amount to $3,000, she added.
“With that level of complication, a child can’t concentrate,” Barfield said. “They’re in severe pain. We’re able to clean that up.”
Dental Aid also is able to provide an educational component that helps families avoid future complications. Often the parents haven’t had proper dental care, which means they can transfer harmful bacteria that can damage their children’s teeth. The parents learn how to improve their teeth while also learning how to teach their children lifelong habits for proper dental care, Barfield said.
Since founding Slaughter Roofing in 1987, Mike Slaughter said he had never seen broken windshields due to hail in Greeley. This year’s hailstorms changed that.
“This is by far the most amount of hail (I’ve seen), those two storms back-to-back, June 19 and July 29,” Slaughter said. “We probably had 6,000 phone calls since the middle of June.”
Roofing resources for residents
Large hailstorms, like the two this summer that caused an onslaught of roofing work in Greeley, can attract door-to-door solicitors who sometimes deceive residents into signing roofing contracts, according to the Colorado Roofing Association. The association warns that these contracts probably include a 20 percent cancellation clause and should not be signed without a thorough reading.
Greeley Chief Building Official Tim Swanson said the city’s Building Inspection department has processed more than 6,000 roofing permits so far this year, compared to 2,749 roofing permits in 2017. That was a busy year, too, he added. In 2016, the department processed more than 1,800 permits. The most recent “normal year,” was in 2015, when they processed 500 permits, he said.
“After the second of the two hailstorms hit, we had all hands on deck entering permits in the system. Any admin in the building was giving us a hand,” Swanson said.
About a month and a half ago, Building Inspection acquired new permitting software to allow contractors to apply directly, pay for and be issued the permit without ever walking through the department’s door. Unfortunately the late arrival meant a lot of this year’s 6,000 permits had to be entered manually, Swanson said.
Slaughter said new development in Greeley has been a factor in this year’s heavy roofing season, but most of the work has been driven by re-roofing due to the hailstorms. All around the Front Range, hailstorms struck Cheyenne, Wyo., Fort Collins, Greeley, Longmont, Lafayette, Firestone, Frederick, Denver, Parker and Colorado Springs. The spike in demand for roofing and re-roofing caused almost monthly 5 to 10 percent price increases for materials, Slaughter said. The demand was so much, Slaughter said, that the Owens Corning Denver Roofing Plant couldn’t keep up, meaning materials had to be brought in from other states.
“We’re just lucky the rest of the nation didn’t have a lot of hail, so they were able to bring (materials) in,” he said.
At Bob Behrends Roofing in Greeley, Office Manager Stacy Haupt said crews were doing about 35 re-roofings per week after the storms. Since she started at Bob Behrends in 2001, Haupt said it’s probably the busiest re-roof season she’s seen in the area. She said the price increases for materials were also impacted by national industry increases to keep up with inflation, something the industry had yet to do over the past several years.
Despite the influx of demand for roof work, Slaughter and Haupt said their local companies stick with the same core crews to maintain their quality. Though Bob Behrends hired some additional roofers, Haupt said they’ve kept the same crew leaders. A quality inspector checks re-roofing projects to make sure the jobs meet the company’s standards, she added. Slaughter said he sticks with his 25 employees that work for him year-round, and most people are willing to wait. Slaughter said he’s sold some roofs as far out as 2020.
“I could have used 75 roofers this year, but where are you going to find the other 50? If they were any good, they were already working for somebody,” Slaughter said.
For Slaughter, that formula has brought in several repeat customers in the past 32 years. With that ambition for quality work, Slaughter said he’d like to see the city require licensing for roofers. Bidding against the door-knocking salesmen from out-of-town companies can make it difficult for an insurance-holding local company to get those new customers, he said.
“Anybody can come in and pull a roofing permit, and you don’t know if they have workman’s comp, insurance, because you don’t have to prove any of that stuff to do roofs in Greeley,” he said.
Swanson said Building Inspection has twice attempted to bring licensing requirements for general contractors since about 2004, but local contractors met both attempts with a lot of resistance. He said the department got closer to licensing requirements in 2004, but contractors didn’t like a requirement for liability insurance nor that local, established contractors would have had to apply for the licenses just like new contractors would. In the second go-round Swanson headed in about 2007, they didn’t even get to any specifics.
“The resistance was immediate,” he said.
Since that effort, Swanson said he hasn’t even attempted revisiting the issue.
Sure, you could chose a smart speaker based on sound or price. The go-to gadget gift of the season is available from Amazon, Apple and Google with better acoustics, new touch screens and deep holiday discounts.
But you’re not just buying a talking jukebox. Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant also want to adjust the thermostat, fill your picture frame or even microwave your popcorn. Each artificial intelligence assistant has its own ways of running a home. You’re choosing which tribe is yours.
I call it a tribe because each has a distinct culture — and demands loyalty. This decision will shape how you get information, what appliances you purchase, where you shop and how you protect your privacy. One in 10 Americans plan to buy a smart speaker this year, according to the Consumer Technology Association. And Amazon says its Echo Dot is the best-selling speaker, ever.
The last time we had to choose a tech tribe like this was when smartphones arrived. Did you go iPhone, Android or cling to a Blackberry? A decade later, it’s increasingly hard to fathom switching between iPhone and Android. (A recent Match.com survey found iPhone and Android people don’t even like dating one another.) Now, imagine how hard it will be to change when you’ve literally wired stuff into your walls.
In my test lab — I mean, living room — an Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod sit side by side, and the voice AIs battle it out to run my home like genies in high-tech bottles. Here’s the shorthand I’ve learned: Alexa is for accessibility. Google Assistant is for brainpower. Siri is for security.
Amazon’s aggressive expansion makes Alexa the one I recommend, and use, the most. Google’s Assistant is coming from behind, matching feature by feature — and Siri, the original voice assistant, feels held back by Apple’s focus on privacy and its software shortcomings. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, but I review all tech with the same critical eye.)
Smart speakers are building the smart home that you never knew you needed. Inside the audio equipment, they’re home hub computers that work alongside smartphone apps to connect and control disparate devices and services. With a speaker and the right connected gizmo, you can walk into a room and turn on the lights without touching a button. Or control the TV without a remote. Amazon even sells an Alexa-operated microwave that cooks, tracks and reorders popcorn.
But home assistants can also be Trojan horses for a specific set of devices and services that favor one company over another.
My buddy Matt recently asked me to help him pick speakers and appliances for a big remodel. He loves the Google Assistant on his Android phone, so selecting his tribe should be easy, right? Hardly: He wanted to put Sonos speakers all around the house, but they take voice commands directly via Alexa. (Sonos says Google Assistant support is coming, though it’s been promising that for a year.)
Figuring out which connected doodads are compatible can be like solving a 10,000-piece puzzle. The best smart home gadgets (such as Lutron Caseta and Philips Hue lights) work across all three tribes, but sometimes alliances and technical concerns make appliance makers take sides.
Each AI has its limitations. They’re not all equally skilled at understanding accents — Southerners are misunderstood more with Google and Midwesterners with Alexa. The price of ownership with some is letting a company surveil what goes on in your house. You can try, like me, to live with more than one, but you’re left with a patchwork that won’t win you any favors with family.
How do you find your AI tribe? Here’s how I differentiate them.
Supported smart home devices: More than 20,000.
Who loves it: Families who buy lots through Amazon and experiment with new gizmos.
The good: Alexa knows how to operate the most stuff, thanks to Amazon’s superior dealmaking. The only connected things it can’t run in my house are the app-operated garage door and some facets of my TV. Amazon also has been successful at spawning new connected gadgets: Alexa’s voice and microphone are built into more than 100 non-Amazon devices. And Amazon recently announced plans to offer appliance makers a chip that lets Alexa users voice command inexpensive everyday things, from wall plugs to fans.
Alexa has also mastered some of the little details of home life. It will confirm a request to turn off the lights without repeating your command — super helpful when someone nearby is napping.
The bad: Alexa grows smarter by the week, but it can be a stickler about using specific syntax. It also has the weakest relationship with your phone, the most important piece of technology for most people today. Amazon has bolstered a companion Alexa app for phones, making it better for communicating and setting up smart home routines, but I still find it the most confusing of the lot.
Amazon doesn’t always show the highest concern for our privacy. This spring, when Alexa inadvertently recorded a family’s private conversations and sent it to a contact, Amazon’s response boiled down to ‘whoopsie.’ And it records and keeps every conversation you have with the AI — including every bag of popcorn it microwaves. (Amazon says it doesn’t use our queries to sell us stuff beyond making recommendations based on song and product searches).
Some love Alexa’s ability to order products by voice. But as long as Alexa runs your house, you’ll always be stuck buying those goods from Amazon. (That microwave will only ever order popcorn from Amazon.) The coming generation of appliances built with the Alexa chip inside could similarly trap you forever into Amazon-land.
Supported smart home devices: More than 10,000.
Who loves it: People who are deep into Google’s services.
The good: Google Assistant comes the closest to having a conversation with an actual human helper. You don’t have to use exact language to make things happen or get useful answers. Its intelligence can also be delightfully personal: It’s pretty good at differentiating the voices of family members. On the new Home Hub device with a screen, Assistant curates a highlights-only show from your Google Photos collection.
While Android phone owners are more likely to use lots of Assistant-friendly Google services, the Assistant doesn’t particularly care what kind of phone you use — its simple companion apps work on iOS and Android.
Google is neck and neck with Alexa on many of the nuances: Night mode reduces the volume of answers at night, and it can even require Junior to say “pretty please.”
The bad: As a relative newcomer to the smart home, Google has been catching up fast. But in my house, it still can’t fully control my Ring doorbell or send music to my Sonos speakers. I’m not convinced that Google has Amazon’s negotiating sway, or the influence to bring the next generation of connected things online.
The bigger problem is privacy. Google’s endgame is always getting you to spend more time with its services, so it can gather more data to target ads at you. Like Alexa, Google Assistant keeps a recording of all your queries — every time you ask it to turn off the lights. Google treats this kind of like your web search history, and uses it to target ads elsewhere. (Thankfully, It still keeps data from its Nest thermostat and home security division separate.) The potential upside is that when Google discovers your habits in all that data, it might be able to better automate your home — such as what time all the lights should be off.
Supported smart home devices: Hundreds.
Who loves it: Privacy buffs and all-Apple households.
The good: Apple means business on security and privacy. Any device that wants to connect to HomeKit, its smart home software that works with Siri on the HomePod and iPhone, requires special encryption.
What’s more, your data is not attached to a personal profile, which aside from protecting your privacy also means that Apple is not using your home activity to sell or advertise things. (While other smart speakers keep recordings and transcriptions of what you say, Siri controls devices by making a request to its system through a random identifier, which cannot be tied to specific user.)
Apple is pretty good at keeping the smart home simple. Setting up a smart home device is mostly just scanning a special code. Even creating routines, in which multiple accessories work in combination with a single command, is easier in the Siri’s companion Home app than with competitors.
The bad: You have to live in an all-Apple device world to reap these benefits. Siri’s a pretty good DJ, but only if you subscribe to Apple Music. You’re stuck with the HomePod as the one-size-fits-all smart speaker, and Siri still isn’t as competent as her AI competitors.
Apple’s security-first approach has kept too many appliance makers from joining its ecosystem. Sure, it’s quality not quantity, but Siri still can’t interact with my Nest thermostat or Ring doorbell, just to name two. Apple did recently loosen up a tad: starting with Belkin Wemo’s Mini Smart Plug and Dimmer, it no longer requires special hardware for authentication — that can now happen via software. The move should make it simpler to make new products Siri compatible, and allow it access to existing ones.
The move by a Montrose-based electric cooperative to buy out its contract with wholesale energy provider Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is the latest effort by Colorado utilities to cut reliance on fossil fuels and boost the use of renewable energy.
The Delta-Montrose Electric Association said it intends to end its contract with wholesale power provider Tri-State Generation and Transmission to take better advantage of the falling costs of renewable sources. Delta-Montrose filed a complaint with state regulators that the fee Tri-State wants for letting the cooperative out of its contract is unreasonable and discriminatory.
Brighton-based United Power, the largest member cooperative in Tri-States’ four-state service territory, is taking a different route to resolve its issues with rates and the demand for more renewable energy. United Power, whose service area includes southern Weld County and Denver’s northeast suburbs, has proposed a change in the bylaws that would allow the cooperatives to buy an undetermined percentage of their power from other sources.
“Many of our members are asking for more of a mix of renewables,” United Power spokesman Troy Whitmore said Friday. “The purpose is to get a more active conversation going with Tri-State.”
The hope is to discuss a possible change in the bylaws during Tri-State’s annual meeting in April, Whitmore added.
Tri-State, based in Westminster, generates and transmits power to 43 member cooperatives in four states: Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Nebraska. The cooperatives, which include United Power and Delta Montrose Electric Association, in turn provide electricity to their members, including businesses and households.
Tri-State has been criticized by some cooperatives it serves and renewable-energy advocates for relying too heavily on coal at a time when the costs of wind and solar energy are falling and concerns about climate-changing emissions from fossil fuels are increasing.
“We believe this is in the best interest of our membership. That’s our bottom line,” Virginia Harman, ( the Delta-Montrose cooperative’s chief operating officer said of the complaint filed with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
Delta-Montrose has been talking to Tri-State for more than a decade about ways to stabilize its rates, which have jumped 56 percent since 2005, Harman said.
The cooperative’s complaint says Delta-Montrose wants to develop more local, cost-effective renewable energy resources but Tri-State hasn’t been receptive. It has objected to a 5-percent limit on the amount of energy that Tri-State members can generate on their own.
Tri-State will have 20 days to respond to the formal complaint by Delta-Montrose, and the Public Utilities Commission will decide how to proceed, spokesman Terry Bote ( said.
“We are disappointed that (Delta-Montrose) has decided to attempt to litigate this matter rather than negotiate their withdrawal. Tri-State continues to believe that negotiations on withdrawal are far preferable to litigating this matter,” Tri-State spokesman Lee Boughey said in a statement.
Regarding the proposal by United Power, Boughey said in an email that engagement between Tri-State’s members on their contract is not surprising and the board of directors “regularly considers the contract to ensure the association meets the needs of its members. These discussions continue.”
Tri-State’s wholesale rates have remained stable four of the last five years, won’t increase next year and are forecast to remain stable in the years to come, Boughey added. In addition, 30 percent of Tri-State’s comes from renewable energy sources and the association is currently negotiating to add more renewable sources.
“We acknowledge that Tri-State has added renewables,” Whitmore said.
The problem, added Whitmore, is that United Power pays roughly 28.5 percent more than adjacent customers of Xcel Energy-Colorado and the fear is the gap will continue to grow. That’s a big disadvantage when communities served by United Power are trying to attract businesses to the area, he said.
United Power members also want to increase the amount of renewable energy sources used and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Whitmore added.
Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest electric utility, Tuesday unveiled a new goal of eliminating all carbon emissions across its eight-state territory by 2050. Its energy plan approved by regulators in August includes boosting its use of renewable energy to 55 percent of its mix by 2026 and the early retirement of two coal plants.
Harman with Delta-Montrose also expressed concerns about the cooperative’s electric rates being a drag on economic development.
“If we have rate stabilization we can really encourage businesses to relocate to our area,” Harman said. “We have had organizations reach out to us looking at building in the area and they do ask us about electric rates. Our rates have not been competitive.”
The cooperative is working with Guzman Energy, the same energy wholesaler and energy-trading company that financed the $37 million buyout of New Mexico-based Kit Carson Electric Cooperative’s contract with Tr-State in 2016. Chris Riley, Guzman’s president, said plummeting costs of wind and solar have drastically changed the energy landscape and created opportunities for utilities that want to decrease rates while switching to cleaner energy sources.
The cost of coal-powered electricity can vary depending on a plant’s efficiency, Riley said, but generally wind power is in the range of 2 cents per kilowatt hour and large-scale solar power is in the range of 2.5 cents to 3 cents. In contrast, coal can range from 3 cents to 4 cents per kilowatt hour, he said.
When Xcel Energy sought bids from energy companies in 2016 as it was developing its electric resource plan. it received more than 400 bids, many of those at historically low prices for wind and solar energy. Colorado regulators called the number of bids and prices unprecedented.
The Kit Carson cooperative based in Taos, N.M., is scheduled to pay off the $37 million contract buyout fee in the sixth year of the 10-year agreement it signed with Guzman Energy, said Luis Reyes, the cooperative’s CEO. Until then, the rates might be about the same or slightly higher than under Tri-State, but will drop 40 percent, as stipulated in the contract, once the loan is repaid.
Kit Carson expects to save $50 million to $70 million altogether under the contract with Guzman, Reyes added. Rising rates and members’ desire to expand the use of renewable energy contributed to leaving Tri-State, he said.
“We joined Tri-State in 2000 and between then and 2014, our rates had doubled,” Reyes said.
Now, the cooperative has certainty and expects to get 100 percent of its daytime power from solar energy by 2022, he said.
When 22-year-old Marguerite Horton isn’t at her two part-time jobs — working at a waste management company and as a sustainability manager for a Denver catering company — the Louisville millennial likely can be found plugging away at her eco-friendly blog, Instagram account and online shop.
Unless she’s tending to the pups she dog-sits on the side.
While the idea of all that may leave some winded, Horton doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon. She’s one of nearly four in 10 Americans whose daily grind includes a side job — or three — and is a part of the generation more likely than any other age group to identify as a “side hustler,” according to a 2018 survey from financial information website Bankrate.
“Millennials are more likely than members of other generations to say they have a side hustle,” Bankrate’s Amanda Dixon wrote. “In fact, the odds of someone earning money from a second job decline with age.”
Andrew Hudson, founder of well-known Colorado job board Andrew Hudson’s Jobs List, isn’t surprised by the study’s findings. He’s found that most entry-level jobs for recent college graduates start at an annual income of around $30,000 to $40,000.
“That’s about what it started at when I graduated from college in 1989,” Hudson said. “You think about all the expenses a millennial has to worry about right now: college debt, cost of housing in Colorado, technology, cell phones, health care and all these things we never had to worry about. These costs have all risen. It is literally impossible for them to be able to survive on a $35,000-a-year salary at a so-called professional job.”
In 2015, 5.6 percent of Coloradans held down multiple jobs, which was slightly higher than the national average of 4.9 percent, according to the most recent statistics available from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
“The side hustle thing has been going on a long time,” said Alexandra Hall, the department’s chief economist. “It’s also known as the gig economy now because it’s been powered by technology that makes the transaction much easier than it used to be. Back in the ’90s, it would have been more complex to make the arrangement. Technology is changing things to make it much easier to participate.”
Technology makes Horton’s side hustle possible.
Horton moved to Colorado this summer after graduating from the University of Vermont, joining her twin sister, who graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder, out West. The sisters, raised by parents who owned a restaurant, developed a strong relationship with food and the complex issues that went with it — food waste, health, agriculture and beyond. During college, Horton along with her sister and friends worked on a blog with a name too profane to print that stood for strong relationships with people, food and the Earth.
Horton helps design sustainable T-shirts that they re-purpose from thrift stores, as well as stickers, buttons and posters, and sells them through the blog, which features content about the environment, good eats and social justice issues.
On the weekends, Horton also uses the Rover app to find local dog owners willing to pay for someone to walk or watch their precious pups.
“We’re all just out of college, so this is just a big transition for us,” Horton said. “We’re still trying to figure out what career we want to do or if we’re happy with what we’re doing right now. There’s a lot of uncertainty, but comfort in knowing what we’re doing now might not be what we’re doing in four months.”
While the dogs and the blog help supplement Horton’s income by about 10 percent to 15 percent, she views her side hustles more as passion projects that keep her pursuing interests she loves.
“I like getting to do different things,” Horton said. “No day looks exactly the same, and I get to move around, be around different people, make those personal connections with new people all the time. I don’t know if I ever really want to work full-time on just one thing.”
Brandon Wong, a 24-year-old Arvada resident, is also using his new side hustle as a launching pad for his dream job.
Wong works about 40 hours a week at a Big 5 Sporting Goods store. On his days off, he becomes a part-time financial educator through Five Rings Financial, growing a clientele in the financial industry. Wong, a graduate of Metropolitan State University of Denver, turns into his own boss when he’s not working retail, helping educate people about their financial futures.
“My goal is to create a side hustle that turns into a career,” Wong said. “I don’t want to have a 9-to-5 schedule. I don’t want to have a boss who dictates when I take a break. I want a lifestyle where I’m controlling my own time and living my own dream.”
Not having days off was hard for Wong at first.
“It was really exhausting,” Wong said. “But it got to the point where I was looking at my bigger goals, and it motivated me to not think about the crazy hours. We live in Colorado. It’s expensive. This gives me the opportunity to save up and buy a house and have future college savings for my future kids and retirement savings while making the money I need at the same time.”
Hudson hears from senior working professionals who complain about their millennial employee’s entitlement, griping that the younger workers stay in one place for a couple of years and then move on.
“Then I hear from millennials who say they don’t mind paying their dues, but they gotta pay the rent,” Hudson said. “And I get that. The American dream where you pay your dues for decades and move up in your career in your 40s and buy a house and get married and have kids has become such a distant illusion. You don’t see people working for the same company to get the gold watch anymore.”
All eyes were on Argentina last week as President Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss the ongoing trade war between the two nations.
The first reports signaled that the two nations declared a trade truce, with both sides holding off on raising tariffs further. President Trump also signaled that they had made a "BIG leap forward," and that China was going to make substantial agricultural purchases, a move that would help ailing U.S. farmers hurt by the ongoing trade war. On Monday, soybeans surged to a five-month high over $9.20 per bushel, while Dow Jones futures rocketed nearly 550 points higher on expectations for better trade.
However, the markets faltered later in the week as President Trump followed up his initial optimism with a threat, "I am a Tariff Man." Additionally, a major Chinese business executive, Meng Wanzhou of tech-giant Huawei, was arrested in Canada for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran, a move that some view as political pressure against the Chinese. These stories roiled markets midweek, with the Dow futures losing over 1800 points (-7.0 percent) from Monday's high to Thursday afternoon's low.
Longer-term, Chinese-American relations will continue to be the focus of markets worldwide as Presidents Trump & Xi each try to outmaneuver one another without damaging their domestic economies too badly in the process.
Palladium could outshine gold as most precious metal
For the first time in 16 years the price of a scarce, silver-colored, industrial metal briefly exceeded the price of gold on Wednesday.
Palladium, traded in 100-ounce contracts on the futures market, is used in catalytic converters to reduce pollution in automobiles fueled with gasoline. Its better-known cousin, platinum, is also used in the auto exhaust systems but primarily for cleaning the exhaust of diesel-burning engines which have been declining in popularity.
Speculators have been busy picking the winners and losers among gold, silver, copper, platinum, and palladium as huge sums of capital exit from the stock market and move toward precious metals due to concern that stocks have topped-out.
As of midday Friday, gold was back on top at $1245 per ounce, while palladium traded for $1194, and platinum took the bronze medal at $792.
— Opinions are solely the writers’. Walt and Alex Breitinger are commodity futures brokers with Paragon Investments in Silver Lake, KS. They can be reached at (800) 411-3888 or http://www.paragoninvestments.com. This is not a solicitation of any order to buy or sell any market.
While driving down the road, imagine atop the windshield is a large camera scanning the roadway ahead for imperfections, such as dips and bumps and potholes and railroad tracks.
Each of the four wheels on the beautiful sport ute is equipped with its own hydraulic suspension system, which can be raised 4.7 inches or lowered 3.1 inches independent of the other three wheels.
The scanner instantaneously adjusts the suspension on wheel and the body of the SUV remains flat as can be as it passes over the dip in the road.
It's the E-Active Body Control on the 2020 Mercedes-Benz prototype of the GLE450 4Matic SUV, which I drove to snowy Avon last weekend.
The GLE, Mercedes' new-generation midsize model, will go on sale next spring. It has a 48-volt electrical system, 362-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline-6-cylinder engine with added electric boost, 9-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. It is 3 inches longer in wheelbase and 5 inches longer in overall length, yet is of same weight as a year ago.
Its main competitors, according to Mercedes, are the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Lexus RX350.
For Jan and me, the snow was light as we entered I-70's Eisenhower Tunnel on the east on Friday afternoon, then much heavier as we emerged on the west. It snowed all Friday evening and continued some on Saturday for our return to Denver and Greeley; conditions conducive for testing this luxury midsize sport ute.
The Avon village was picturesque in the snow and bright holiday lights, and the handsomely structured Mercedes fit the setting.
The GLE showed good control, with excellent grip through the snow-covered roads, and the much of the normal bounce and lean along the road was reduced or eliminated. Curve Control, another added feature, will lift suspension on the side of the car opposite the direction of the curve it's taking (turn left, it raises the right side of the car), reducing some of the lateral g force on the passengers.
Back home, a couple days later, I guided the GLE off the edges of a narrow, paved, lightly traveled roadway onto rough, irregular shoulders, and, yes, the scanners did a job, there was no dip or lean by the body of the Mercedes. As a multipurpose camera atop the windshield does the scanning, the impacts of the potholes are minimized.
With the 48-volt setup, an integrated electric motor system, call EQ Boost, adds 21 horsepower to the 6-cylinder's internal combustion 362 output (369 lb.-ft. torque), felt mostly during passing maneuvers on the highway, though some light-duty driving can be done momentarily fully electric. Fuel mileage average for the two-day drive to Avon and back was 23.8 miles per gallon.
Mercedes introduced its midsize sport ute as a 1998 model, then known as the ML320 or ML450, depending on engine size. We flew to New Orleans that fall, the same weekend as Hurricane Georges was threatening the city, and drove to Memphis, through Missouri and back to Colorado in a new ML.
As a prototype, the GLE isn't yet priced. Base price for the production GLE450 4Matic, announced by Mercedes, is $62,145. The prototype we drove probably would fall in the $70,000s. A lesser-powered GLE 350 with 2-liter turbo 4 and 4Matic will be base-priced at $57,195.
— Bud Wells, a native of Wray, is a former Page 1 editor of the Denver Post and has reviewed automobiles for the past 40 years. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Friday the appointment of two Greeley residents to a state judicial nominating commission and workforce development council.
Kathryn Margaret Heffron of Greeley, an attorney and Weld County Democrat, will serve on the 19th Judicial District’s nominating commission. Her term will expire Dec. 31, 2024. The commission is responsible for selecting nominees for district judicial vacancies. The district nominating commission is chaired by a justice of the Supreme Court, who is a non-voting member on the commission.
Michael T. Trotter of Greeley will serve on the Workforce Development Council. Trotter, whose appointment was occasioned by the resignation of Jay Mark Hardy of Windsor, will represent Colorado business on the council. His term will expire Sept. 28, 2019. The council is responsible for advising the governor on employment and training needs of the state, as well as workforce development plans and strategy.
If someone had told Rachelle Tabor a year ago that she would one day own and operate a store selling CBD products, she would have thought they had lost it.
“This was never in my plans,” Tabor, of Greeley, said “I never thought I’d work again, let alone be owning something.”
Not to mention the marijuana-tinged stigma that kept her from trying CBD products just earlier this year. But a little more than a month ago, Tabor opened Natural Wellness at 2405 17th St. in Greeley.
The store sells a variety of CBD products, in tinctures, salves, vape cartridges and more. CBD, or cannabidiol, has no psychoactive element, unlike the other three-letter acronym people associate marijuana with, THC, the cannabinoid that gets marijuana users high. That association kept 46-year-old Tabor from considering CBD products, even as her doctors recommended she try them to address a range of symptoms she had from an autoimmune disorder.
At the age of 27, Tabor said she was on the edge of death, unable to keep food or water down and emaciated at 79 pounds. She eventually recovered, but inflammation, headaches and chronic pain continued to follow her on-and-off as she climbed into management positions for more than nine years at car dealerships and video stores. Over the years, the problems worsened, including gallbladder failure due to her immune system attacking it and two strokes.
As her medical problems worsened, Tabor said she was unable to work for the past six years. She said her endocrinologist, her general doctor and finally her neuropsychologist told her to try CBD before she seriously looked into it. The stigma around CBD made her so uncomfortable, it had to come to the point where she thought she had nothing else to lose. The chronic pain had started to fog up her mind and cause memory issues.
“I just didn’t want to keep going anymore,” she said. “I wasn’t functioning.”
Tabor’s husband eventually went into a store about four months ago and bought her CBD tincture, administered with a dropper under the tongue. That first week, Tabor developed strong headaches, but nothing like the ones that previously sent her to hospitals. Tabor, who’s been diagnosed with a hypersensitivity to medications, did some research and discovered she was taking too much. Now, with three to four drops in the mornings and evenings, she said the difference is like night and day. Her “brain fog” cleared up and her inflammation disappeared.
“If I’m going through this. I know there have to be a lot of other people who have the same kind of problems that (CBD) can help (with),” she said.
With that hope, Tabor opened Natural Wellness, which is tucked away behind Pellegrini’s Ristorante and neighboring an Edward Jones office. She hopes the store’s location and vitamin-shop atmosphere will encourage people to consider CBD before they feel they have no other options. She invites and encourages customers to see the third-party testing of the CBD concentrations of the products she sells. The store’s opening coincides with a year where the CBD market is finding some legitimacy.
In June, the Food and Drug Administration approved a drug with an active ingredient derived from marijuana for the first time. The anti-epileptic drug, Epidiolex, contains no THC. CBD is found in both marijuana and hemp, the former’s non-psychoactive cousin. It acts on the endocannabinoid system, which regulates the body’s immune system responses, sleep and pain.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, however, still considers CBD a Schedule I drug, due to its being a chemical component of marijuana. According to a 2004 study by Italian researchers Vincenzo Di Marzo, Maurizio Bifulco and Luciano De Petrocellis, marijuana has about 66 different cannabinoids.
This year’s Farm Bill, despite its delay, is expected to federally legalize CBD and hemp. Josh Gutierrez, who co-owns another CBD store in Greeley, Gold Care, 2015 9th St., said hemp advocates have followed the bill’s progress closely.
“That’s going to be huge for us, and everybody,” Gutierrez said. “It’s just going to be an explosion of growth within the next couple years.”
“Bring it on,” he said. “Colorado is at the forefront of the whole situation, so we will have the advantage making the products.”
Since starting in 2017, Gold Care’s CBD products have made their way into almost 10 different stores, about five in Greeley. Gutierrez said he’s surprised how many people still aren’t familiar with CBD or hemp. Tabor was a customer of Gold Care herself, now carrying their products in her store. To fight the stigma, Tabor wants to start hosting half-hour educational classes at her store.
“I wanted to educate the public because I know there are a lot of people out there like me,” she said.
N3rd Street Gamers opened an 18,000-square-foot esports mega center in Lakewood Friday. The facility, called Localhost Arena, is the largest in Colorado. Gamers can use 120 PCs to play and compete in the latest video games. The space also features VR, an event stage, large video screens and monitors, a lounge, and food and drink. Eventually, Localhost Arena will have a full-service bar and host organized esports events and tournaments.
Make-A-Wish Colorado hosted the Make-A-Wish Colorado Holiday Wish Store at Children’s Hospital Colorado on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018 in Aurora. Hundreds of “Wish kids” and Children’s Hospital Colorado patients with critical illnesses were invited to select gifts for all of their family members. Each child was accompanied by a personal shopping assistant, and the selected presents are then wrapped, ready for giving.
The rise of a competitor to Vail Resorts’ industry-transforming Epic Pass this year has slowed the growth in season-pass revenue for the continent’s largest resort operator, which on Friday announced a big boost in capital spending as yet another volley of a blossoming pass war.
The market apparently did not like the decline in pass revenue, with shares of Vail Resorts falling more than $50 a share — more than 18 percent — within hours of the earnings announcement, marking one of the biggest one-day sell-offs since the company went public 22 years ago.
Vail Resorts’ chief Rob Katz on Friday told investors that he expected to sell 925,000 Epic Passes for the 2018-19 ski season, which includes about 100,000 deeply discounted $99 military passes. The company reported 750,000 Epic Passes sold last season.
Take out the sales to new military-pass buyers, and the company said Epic Pass sales increased 8 percent in units and 10 percent in revenue compared to the same period last season. This year the Epic Pass is competing against Alterra Mountain Co.’s new Ikon Pass.
Last December Katz reported season pass sales were up 14 percent in units and 20 percent in dollars for the 2017-18 season over the previous season. In December 2016, he reported pass sales had climbed 16 percent in units and 20 percent in dollars over the previous season.
Epic Pass sales for 2016-17 and 2017-18 set records for Vail Resorts. So the 10 percent annual growth in Epic Pass sales revenue for 2018-19 marks Vail Resorts’ largest year-over-year decline in pass sale revenue growth since the pass debuted a decade ago.
Katz was reluctant to point to the emergence of the Ikon Pass as the source of the plateauing pass revenue. He noted “slight” declines in Epic Pass sales in California’s Lake Tahoe region and Utah, where the company owns the Northstar, Heavenly and Park City resorts and Alterra owns Squaw-Alpine and Deer Valley.
Despite the softness in California and Utah, Katz said sales were strong in Colorado and the Northeast, where the company this summer added Vermont’s Okemo and New Hampshire’s Mount Sunapee ski areas to its roster of now 15 destination ski areas, that also includes Crested Butte Mountain Resort.
When queried on whether the rare slowing of Epic Pass revenue was caused more by the competition from Ikon or typical resort challenges with poor snow and a maturing pass market, Katz said the Ikon affirms Vail Resorts’ business model of pushing people away from day lift tickets.
“We think Ikon has a great product for the resorts in their network and we think their entry has helped the overall market, in that they have bought greater awareness and they are carrying the message around that if you are going to ski, you should buy a season pass,” Katz said.
Vail Resorts always loses money in its first quarter, when lifts are dormant in August, September and October. This year was no different with the company reporting a net loss of $107.8 million, compared to $28.4 million for the same period last year.
The loss grew due to expenses from the acquisition of four new ski resorts and currency rates from Australia’s Perisher resort, Katz said. The loss was wider than expected, contributing to the stock sell-off that comes as the company’s Colorado resorts — Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone — boast their best early-season conditions in many years.
Despite the increased first-quarter losses, Katz said Vail Resorts is on track to report $718 million to $750 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for the fiscal year. That compares to $616.6 million in resort earnings for fiscal 2018, before the company added Crested Butte, Okemo, Mount Sunapee and Washington’s Stevens Pass ski areas to its portfolio.
Alterra executives say they expect to sell more than 250,000 Ikon Passes this year, a robust performance for a first-year product. The company — a partnership between Denver’s KSL Capital Partners and the Crown family that owns Aspen Skiing Co. — corralled 14 destination resorts in the last year, forging the Ikon Pass as a rival to the Epic Pass.
The company inherited pass buyers for those 14 resorts, which include Winter Park, Steamboat, Utah’s Deer Valley and southern California’s Mammoth Resorts. According to an executive at the company, Alterra hoped to grow pass sales from the resorts it acquired between 25 percent to 30 percent by adding access to 23 other ski areas through partnerships across the continent.
Just as the Epic Pass transformed the ski industry when it debuted in 2008 — delivering not just discounted skiing but a consistent boost of off-season revenue that lessened Vail Resorts’ financial risk from low-snow years — the new season-pass war promises even more change for the resort industry with competition benefitting skiers.
To wit, Katz is planning a record investment in his resorts for next season, directing up to $143 million toward improvements and upgrades. That compares to previous capital investments in the last four years of $131 million, $103 million, $100 million and $85 million. Alterra Mountain Co. plans to invest $555 million in its network of resorts over the next five years, including a new gondola opening this month at Winter Park and a new gondola for Steamboat in 2019-20.
The Vail Resorts improvements planned for the 2019-20 ski season include:
Snowmaking expansions at Vail, allowing the mountain to open one week earlier in November, with 387 new high-efficiency snowmaking guns.
Snowmaking expansion for Beaver Creek’s beginner-friendly Buffalo Park and a renovation for children’s ski school.
New mobile technology enabling skiers who bought their pass online to get their passes from a mobile-ticket agent in the lift line.
A new BBQ restaurant for Park City on the Canyons side of the resort.
Space at the Grand Colorado hotel at the base of Breckenridge’s Peak 8 — on land the company sold to the hotel developer last year – for new ski school and childcare facilities. A new zipline will open at Breckenridge next summer.
Two new lifts at Stevens Pass and two on-mountain restaurant upgrades at Okemo.
Snowmaking upgrades at Keystone, enabling the resort to open three weeks earlier, positioning it to be the first resort to open in the country, Katz said.
The snowmaking expansion at Keystone is specifically aimed at rewarding skiers who buy the Epic Pass, Katz said.
“We are really making a push here to say, ‘Yeah, we are going to have a better product open earlier.’ We see an opportunity to make a statement. This is an investment in that loyalty program and we will see real benefit from that,” he said.
Wall Street capped a turbulent week of trading Friday with the biggest weekly loss since March as traders fret over rising trade tensions between Washington and Beijing and signals of slower economic growth.
The latest wave of selling erased more than 550 points from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, bringing its three-day loss to more than 1,400. For the week, major indexes are down more than 4 percent.
Worries that the testy U.S.-China trade dispute and higher interest rates will slow the economy has made investors uneasy, leading to volatile swings in the market from one day to the next.
On Monday, news that the U.S. and China had agreed to a 90-day truce in their escalating trade conflict drove stocks sharply higher, adding to strong gains the week before. The next day, as doubts mounted over the likelihood of a swift resolution to the trade dispute, stocks sank. On Friday, another early rally faded into another sharp drop.
“We’re in a market where investors just want to sell any upside that they see,” said Lindsey Bell, investment strategist at CFRA. “The volatility we’ve seen the last couple of weeks has been pretty extreme in both directions.”
The S&P 500 index fell 62.87 points, or 2.3 percent, to 2,633.08. The index has ended lower three out of the last four weeks. The Dow dropped 558.72 points, or 2.2 percent, to 24,388.95.
The Nasdaq composite slid 219.01 points, or 3 percent, to 6,969.25. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks gave up 29.32 points, or 2 percent, to 1,448.09.
The S&P 500 and Dow are now in the red for the year again. The Nasdaq was holding on to a modest gain.
Volatility has gripped the market since early October, reflecting investors’ worries that the Federal Reserve might overshoot with its campaign of rate increases and hurt U.S. economic growth.
Traders also fear that a prolonged trade dispute between the U.S. and China could crimp corporate profits and that tariffs will raises costs for businesses and consumers. Uncertainty over those issues helped drive the market’s sell-off this week.
“The Fed has taken the punch bowl away in getting back to rates where they are today,” said Doug Cote, chief market strategist for Voya Investment Management. “We’re also going to get back to more normal volatility.”
At the same time, traders are also worried about a sharp drop in long-term bond yields as investors plow money into Treasurys, which tends to happen when investors expect slower economic growth.
Technology stocks accounted for much of the market’s broad slide Friday. Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices slid 8.6 percent to $19.46.
Health care sector stocks, the biggest gainer in the S&P 500 this year, took some of the heaviest losses. Medical device company Cooper lost 12.3 percent to $243.01.
Utilities, which investors favor when they’re fearful, eked out a slight gain. PPL Corp. gained 2.8 percent to $31.09.
Oil prices rose after OPEC countries agreed to reduce global oil production by 1.2 million barrels a day for six months, beginning in January. The move would include a reduction of 800,000 barrels per day from OPEC countries and 400,000 barrels per day from Russia and other non-OPEC nations.
The news, which had been widely anticipated, pushed crude oil prices higher. U.S. benchmark crude rose 2.2 percent to $52.61 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 2.7 percent to $61.67 a barrel in London.
The Labor Department said U.S. employers added 155,000 jobs in November, a slowdown from recent months but enough to suggest that the economy is expanding at a solid pace despite sharp gyrations in the stock market. The unemployment rate remained at 3.7 percent, nearly a five-decade low, for the third straight month.
Bond prices rose, sending yields slightly lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.86 percent from 2.87 percent late Thursday.
The decline in bond yields, which affect interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, weighed on banks, which make more money when rates are rising. Morgan Stanley slid 3 percent to $41.32.
The dollar rose to 112.66 yen from 112.65 yen late Thursday. The euro strengthened to $1.1418 from $1.1373.
Gold gained 0.7 percent to $1,252.60 an ounce. Silver climbed 1.3 percent to $14.70 an ounce. Copper added 0.6 percent to $2.76 a pound.
In other commodities trading, wholesale gasoline climbed 3.7 percent to $1.49 a gallon. Heating oil rose 1.5 percent to $1.89 a gallon. Natural gas gained 3.7 percent to $4.49 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In Europe, Germany’s DAX dipped 0.2 percent while the CAC 40 in France rose 0.7 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 jumped 1.1 percent. Major indexes in Asia finished mostly higher.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.8 percent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.4 percent. South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.3 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gave up 0.3 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 780 points early on Thursday, setting the stage for a repeat of Tuesday, when it plunged 799 points. That was until buyers stepped in and shaved the loss to 79 points.
The kind of gyrations seen in the market since October, which have nearly wiped out gains for the year, are often, although not always, associated with a pending recession.
The question is an important one for Colorado’s Front Range, which has raced to the front of the pack during the long-running recovery this decade and has more to lose if it comes crashing to an end.
“You had better get used to days like the ones we have had. Volatility will increase as interest rates move higher,” Axel Merk, chief investment officer at Merk and Co., said on a webcast discussing his outlook for the markets.
Concern that the economy is slowing down is weighing on investors, who are on the lookout for slower corporate earnings growth, higher interest rates and a worsening trade war with China.
Higher interest rates are already hitting metro Denver’s housing market, which has enjoyed some of the strongest price gains in the country this decade. Prices are down from a peak reached this summer, sales are slowing sharply and the inventory of unsold homes is rising.
A reason provided for Thursday’s initial drop in the market was the arrest in Canada of Wanzhou Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co., an important Chinese telecom company. U.S. officials argue Huawei is violating sanctions on Iran and they want to extradite Meng.
That did little to calm concerns that trade talks between the world’s two largest economic powers, agreed to over the weekend, were heading south before they even started.
“Did President Trump and Xi Jinping really agree to anything,” is a question many investors are asking, said Stu Hoffman, senior economist with PNC Bank, who was visiting Denver on Thursday.
Hoffman puts himself in the camp of those who believe the market downturn doesn’t forecast a recession.
The market drop, along with some softer inflation data due to falling energy prices, will give the Fed a way to back off on future rate hikes without looking like it is caving to political pressure from President Donald Trump, he said.
With domestic oil prices approaching $50 a barrel, consumers should see big savings at the gasoline pump. Every one cent drop in the price of a gallon of gasoline translates into $9 billion in additional income for consumers, Hoffman adds.
But the price of oil is still high enough to allow U.S. producers to keep pumping, good news for Weld County and the region, he said.
Merk doesn’t see a recession next year either. Credit conditions haven’t deteriorated in the way they usually do before a recession. But unlike Hoffman, he doesn’t think the Fed will ease up on its push to contain inflation. And that could prove a problem for Denver’s housing market.
“The point of raising rates is to tighten financial conditions. The Fed is far from being done,” he said. “I am very concerned that inflationary pressures will increase.”
Colorado’s unemployment remains historically low and incomes are rising faster than inflation for the first time in years, said Richard Wobbekind, an associate professor of business economics and finance at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Economic recoveries don’t die of old age and it is hard to see what will finish off this one, he said. But it is also hard to see what will keep it from slowing next year. He doesn’t forecast a downturn until 2020. The National Association of Business Economists, a group he belongs to, has pushed its date for a national recession out to 2021.
But Sam Jones, president of All Season Financial Advisors in Denver, said the hour may be later than most people realize. He argues the market is firing off warning flares that a recession is on the horizon, one he predicts could show up in the second half of next year.
Buyers who keep stepping in and buying the dip are following the typical pattern seen in markets entering a longer-term decline. That strategy works when the major trend in the market is up. It is dangerous when the market is less stable.
“This is not a market that is ready to move higher. It has a lot of scared activity going on,” he said.
U.S. markets might still end the year up. But things should get really interesting in January or soon after when investors hesitant to realize the capital gains they have built up wait for 2019 to start selling, he predicts.
Jones advises avoiding U.S. equities, which he considers overvalued. Look for bargains overseas, where markets have suffered much larger losses. The S&P 500 is up 0.9 percent for the year, but Germany’s leading index is down 17.7 percent and Britain’s FTSE is down 14.6 percent.
He is also buying more intermediate-term bonds, for the first time in three years, in the expectation that more investors will throw in the towel on stocks and increasingly seek safety in fixed income holdings.
BILLINGS, Mont. — The Trump administration moved forward Thursday with plans to ease restrictions on oil and natural gas drilling, mining and other activities that were put in place to protect an imperiled bird species across millions of acres in the American West.
Land management documents released by the U.S. Interior Department show the administration intends to open more public lands to leasing and allow waivers for drilling to encroach into the habitat of greater sage grouse.
Critics warned the changes could wipe out grouse colonies as drilling disrupts breeding grounds. Federal officials under President Barack Obama in 2015 had adopted a sweeping set of land use restrictions intended to stop the birds’ decline.
Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt said the agency was responding to requests by states to give them more flexibility in how public lands are managed. He said the goal to conserve sage grouse was unchanged.
“I completely believe that these plans are leaning forward on the conservation of sage grouse,” Bernhardt told The Associated Press. “Do they do it in exactly the same way? No. We made some change in the plans and got rid of some things that are simply not necessary.”
The changes drew a sharp backlash from conservation groups and wildlife advocates, who warned excessive use of drilling waivers could push sage grouse onto the list of threatened and endangered species.
“If you allow exception after exception, that might make sense for a particular project in a particular spot, but you add them all together and you have death by a thousand cuts,” said National Wildlife Association Vice President Tracy Stone-Manning.
Sage grouse range across about 270,000 square miles (700,000 square kilometers) in parts of 11 Western U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. Their numbers plummeted in recent decades.
In 2015, after determining the Obama administration’s plans were sufficient to keep the bird from slipping toward extinction, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pledged to revisit its status in five years.
The agency revealed Thursday that it no longer plans that 2020 status review, often a first step toward determining if greater protections are needed.
Spokeswoman Jennifer Strickland told the AP that the Fish and Wildlife Service is not legally required to complete a review. Instead, it will work with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to document the effectiveness of the conservation plans.
Under President Donald Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has vowed to lift obstacles to drilling, and grouse protections have long been viewed by the energy industry as an obstacle to development.
The new plans remove the most protective habitat designations for about 13,000 square miles (34,000 square kilometers) of public land. Those areas, considered essential to the species’ survival, were a centerpiece of the Obama policy. The Trump administration also wants to drop some requirements to prioritize leasing for oil and gas outside sage grouse habitat.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, said Thursday’s announcement showed federal officials heeded the state’s desire for changes to the 2015 plans.
“This is a great example of federal leaders listening to state leaders, valuing their expertise, and changing their plans based on that input,” Herbert said in a statement.
But U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, said the Interior Department “has decided to put the interests of the oil and gas industry ahead of the best interests of Nevadans.”
“This new plan undermines the delicate balance Western states had struck to ensure the protection of sage grouse populations and strengthen economic development across the western United States,” she said.
Sage grouse are large, ground-dwelling birds known for an elaborate mating ritual in which males strut around breeding grounds with large, puffed-out air sacs protruding from their chests.
They once numbered in the millions. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now estimates there are 200,000 to 500,000 of the birds after energy development, disease and other causes decimated populations in some areas.
The Trump administration’s proposal would reverse or modify the Obama-era protections in seven states — Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, California, Idaho and Oregon. No significant changes were proposed in Montana, Washington or the Dakotas.
The oil and gas industry chafed at the old rules. Once Trump took office, industry representatives lobbied the administration to give more recognition to changes in drilling practices that reduce land disturbance.
“We can do both — protect sage grouse and move forward with responsible energy development,” said Kathleen Sgamma with the Western Energy Alliance, which represents more than 300 oil and gas companies. “We’ve reduced the size of well pads, reduced the numbers of wells. And we had done all these things and the prior administration assumed development was taking place like it was 20 years ago.”
Governors from several Western states previously raised concerns over a related federal directive from the Bureau of Land Management that would limit a type of land swap that can be used to preserve habitat for the birds.
Without land swaps and related forms of compensation to offset habitat damage, the governors said it would be harder to help the sage grouse.
In response, the Interior Department Thursday revised the directive to say federal officials would consider state-mandated or voluntary proposals for land swaps or similar offsets.
“Where there’s a state requirement, we require in our permits that they comply with state requirements,” Bernhardt said.
The governors and the public get another chance to weigh in before a final decision is expected in early 2019.
Expecting mothers are often only given three options for pain relief during labor — intravenous narcotics, an epidural or nothing at all — but there is another option: nitrous oxide.
Most people know nitrous oxide as the laughing gas administered in their dentist’s office, but other countries such as Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and Finland have used it as an analgesic during labor for over a century.
While a few university hospitals in the United States have offered nitrous as a form of pain relief for some time now, only recently has it become a more widespread option. Longmont United Hospital , for example, just started to offer it on Monday.
Non-addictive laughing gas can effectively dull the pain of giving birth and leaves a person’s system so fast it doesn’t have any effect on the mother’s or child’s health, according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
“It’s a very nice adjuvant between going completely natural and using an epidural,” said Dr. Jennifer Blattner, an OB/GYN for Boulder Medical Center. “I’ve seen a lot of women get through the whole labor course with just nitrous. You can also use it after the baby comes out and there’s a drop in adrenaline, but you still have to deliver the placenta or have a complicated vaginal repair, it’s nice to use for extra pain relief.”
“As part of our rulemaking process to implement sales tax rules for in-state and out-of-state retailers, we have heard from legislators and the business community, and the Department of Revenue agrees it is important for the state to take the time to get this right,” Department of Revenue chief Mike Hartman wrote in a statement.
Colorado businesses and those selling to Colorado customers were supposed to begin collecting sales taxes on Dec. 1. The state set a new deadline of March 31, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in South Dakota v. Wayfair. In that case, the court found a state can require retailers to collect and remit sales taxes, regardless of whether they have a physical presence there, so long as the state does not put an excessive burden on interstate businesses.
Colorado’s sales-tax system, with its patchwork of tax-collecting districts, is famously troublesome.
Tony Gagliardi, Colorado state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, small businesses “will not breathe a big sigh of relief until they see what lies ahead in the coming months.
“Rightfully, the department has decided to slow down, but not before causing a collective anxiety in a state that already has a mess of a sales tax structure with more than 700 taxing entities,” he wrote in a statement.
He added: “Simplifying and harmonizing its sales tax structure is Colorado’s biggest public policy challenge by far.”
The Revenue Department still is encouraging businesses that have the ability to collect and remit taxes collected on online purchases to do so, even in advance of the May 31 enforcement deadline.
The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the North Front Range Transportation & Air Quality Council a $20 million grant for expanding and improving north Interstate 25.
Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., announced Thursday the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grant, as well as a $20 million grant for the Colorado Department of Transportation’s vehicle-to-everything project.
"We strongly advocated to the Department of Transportation how important this infrastructure funding would be for Colorado and I-25, and I'm thrilled to announce it will be coming soon to help support these important projects," Gardner said in a news release.
The grant will help pay for widening the segment of I-25 from Colo. 402 near Johnstown to Colo. 56 near Berthoud, with the addition of an express tolled lane in each direction. The Colorado Department of Transportation has estimated daily vehicle traffic in the I-25 corridor will increase 60 percent by 2040. The grant will build on a previous $15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as $25 million from local governments, for the project, which CDOT officials have estimated to cost $302 million. Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said the grant is a great step forward for the project.
“All of our work that we’ve been doing, with the I-25 Coalition, the business community and the state department of transportation, has paid off,” Kirkmeyer said. “We have for years now recognized I-25 as Colorado’s Main Street.”
Kirkmeyer said I-25 has national significance, as well, as part of the National Highway Freight Network, which identifies the most critical portions of highways for the U.S. freight system. When the coalition first began, Kirkmeyer said they were told not to expect improvements for I-25 until 2075. The broad support of businesses and municipal governments, as well as the state and federal governments, has pushed improvements far ahead of that date, with CDOT aiming for a 2022 completion for the project.
The U.S. Department of Transportation also awarded the Colorado Department of Transportation a $20 million grant for its vehicle-to-everything project, which CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford called “the internet of roads.” Vehicles are increasingly capable of transmitting information through all kinds of sensors built into the vehicles, such as when an airbag deploys, Ford explained. By the early 2020s, she said, many vehicles will be able to share and receive this information with drivers and traffic managers. By alerting a driver when a car ahead is pulled off on the side of the road, for example, the driver can take extra precautions.
“The moment your airbag deploys, because let’s say you’ve crashed, you turn your wipers on (or) your tires start to slip,” Ford said. “Our cars have a lot to tell us. So the cars will be sharing that kind of data.”
Ford said the data is not identifiable to each vehicle, but anonymized for cloud usage that could help traffic managers dispatch emergency responders through the best route. The system is projected to decrease unimpaired multi-vehicle crashes by as much as 81 percent, according to the department. The department began working with Panasonic Corporation of North America earlier this year to build on a pilot program for the vehicle-to-everything project. The grant will build out about 300 miles of the internet of roads, including I-25, I-76, I-70 and throughout the metro area, according to Ford.
Weld County evaluates restaurants, schools, grocery stores and other facilities that handle food on a scale of five categories, from unacceptable to excellent. As part of the county's scoring index, officials evaluate facilities on factors such as cooling, reheating, cooking refrigeration and hot-holding equipment, cross-contamination between raw foods and ready-to-eat foods and employee hygiene, according to the county.
An "excellent" evaluation means the facility had no violations. Secondary critical and non-critical violations could exist.
Facilities that received a "good" evaluation could have one serious violation or one or more secondary violations.
A "fair" evaluation means the facility could have three serious violations or secondary violations.
A "marginal" evaluation means the facility could have four serious violations or secondary violations.
An "unacceptable" evaluation means the facility could have more than five serious violations or secondary violations. If an imminent public health hazard exists, the facility would be required to take immediate corrective action or close.
The following restaurants and facilities were evaluated from Nov. 29 to Dec. 6, 2018.
The Joint Commission recently awarded North Colorado Medical Center as a Primary Stroke Center, according to a Banner Health news release this week.
A national nonprofit certifying nearly 21,000 health care organizations and programs, the Joint Commission has four stroke certification programs, including Acute Stroke Ready Hospital, Comprehensive Stroke Center and Thrombectomy-Capable Stroke Center. Dr. Meredit Frederick, neuro-hospitalist at North Colorado Medical Center, said the certification signals the hospital’s readiness to provide care for stroke patients.
"We already have been providing excellent care and tracking those outcomes," Frederick said in the release. "This reassures the community that we will continue to perform at a high level."
Stroke is a leading cause of disability and the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Someone has a stroke every 40 seconds in the U.S. Treatment varies depending on whether the blood vessel has been blocked or has ruptured, according to the Banner release. Blocked vessels can often be treated with a drug to break up the clot and restore flow. In cases of larger clots or burst blood vessels, the patient will be flown to another hospital, according to the release, for an endovascular intervention, using very small cuts and catheters inside the blood vessel.
Frederick and Dr. Jessica Williams are neuro-hospitalists at North Colorado Medical Center, covering the hospital from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day of the week. Outside those hours, the hospital contracts with Blue Sky Neurology for televideo care when needed, allowing rapid access to neurology specialists 24 hours a day — a requirement for Primary Stroke Center Certification.
On a frigid Thursday afternoon, local business, elected officials and LGBTQ leaders gathered in the parking lot of a west Denver auto shop to declare that Colorado businesses should be welcoming to people of all backgrounds and identities.
The gathering came after a U.S. Supreme Court case on whether a Lakewood baker had the right to refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay couple on religious grounds. The case made Colorado the focus of a national debate over religious liberty versus anti-discrimination law.
The Open to All Colorado initiative is part of a broader national campaign dedicated to promoting inclusiveness and non-discrimination as core principles at local businesses.
Supported and spearheaded by groups including the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Good Business Colorado and the LGBTQ advocacy organization One Colorado, the campaign asks participating business to pledge to be open to all customers, hang a sign in their window or advertise their participation online and commit to having open discussions about their anti-discrimination business practices with customers.
“This is a message about our values as a business community,” Denver Metro Chamber President and CEO Kelly Brough said at Thursday launch event. “This is who we are as a business community. Respectful, open and inclusive and we will be that way forever.”
Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, invoked the Supreme Court case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Right Commission, in his comments Thursday. He noted that the court’s narrow ruling for the plaintiff upheld Colorado’s existing non-discrimination law.
“It’s important that all Coloradans know that regardless of who they are that businesses in our state serve everyone on the same terms,” he said.
Open to All is dedicated, according to its website, to “the bedrock principle that when businesses open their doors to the public, they should be Open to All.”
The public education coalition has 200 members, including the American Civil Liberties Union and prominent national LGBTQ rights groups like the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD. Major companies, including jeans maker Levi Strauss & Co., hotel brand Marriott International and ride-sharing company Lyft, have taken the Open to All pledge, vowing to provide a welcoming, safe environment for people of all races, religions, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities and physical and cognitive abilities.
Jim Campbell, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom and cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, said his client’s business has been and remains open to all.
“It’s not a matter of Jack refusing to serve people, it’s a matter of him declining to make certain cakes that express certain message or celebrate certain events,” that conflict with his deeply held religious beliefs, Campbell said. “He’s been asked to make cakes with anti-LGBTQ messages and he has declined to do those.”
Thursday’s launch was held at Gary’s Auto Service near the intersection of Santa Fe Drive and West 12th Avenue in Denver. The shop’s owner, Dan Carpenter, has taken the pledge. His brother, Jimmy, was gay and died of AIDS.
“It’s simply the right thing to do,” Carpenter said of participating in Open To All Colorado. “There is no place for discrimination in this world.”
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