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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyOctober 20, 20173min4480

The white tents dotting the terminal. The raging mustang with seemingly glowing red eyes. And, now, a massive electronic welcome sign greeting drivers entering and leaving the airport highlight the list of iconic symbols associated with the Denver International Airport.

The new, already-installed sign includes a 1,000-foot stretch of LED-light poles and screens forming a spectrum of moving light in the median of Peña Blvd., the Denver Post notes.

It’s a unique first impression for airport visitors, officials say, and something the airport has been lacking, airport spokesperson Heath Montgomery told CBS4.

The sign is impressive to look at, but it is the cost that’s raising eyebrows.

DIA was to share the $14 million cost — as well as revenue from ads displayed on the sign — with Panasonic, but the Denver City Council voted Monday to amend the contract. The city will now foot $11.5 million in costs, instead of $7 million, for the sign.

Since Peña Blvd. falls under federal restrictions, DIA is limited in its advertising options and that throws a wrench into the agreement, CBS4 explains.

“That National Highway System designation means we are limited to the type of advertising we can do on those signs to what’s called ‘On-premises advertising’ or things that are at the airport,” Montgomery said.

The Department of Transportation says the roadway has been designated as such since the early 2000s, but Montgomery says it was surprise to them.

Under the amendment, DIA will retain all of the ad revenue. Panasonic will still be responsible for above ground construction, content management and operations and maintenance according to the city. The airport is working with lawmakers to remedy to highway designation issue.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyOctober 20, 20172min830

After fielding much furor over proposed light rail line service reductions, the Regional Transportation District OK’d a new plan for the R Line running through Aurora, excluding the cuts.

RTD targeted the R line, which runs through Aurora along Interstate 225, for reduced service due to poor ridership. But the route is just six months old, Aurora officials argued, calling the proposal premature. Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan also said the district had fallen short on properly marketing the R line to develop ridership. Cuts to the line would have reduced weekday service and ceased weekend routes.

But now, the transit agency’s board of directors has walked back those cuts, approving a new R line plan this week that doesn’t change much of anything, 9News reports.

After public meetings, calls and emails, RTD revised its plan to keep weekday service as is, and reduce weekend service to every 30 minutes on weekends instead of every 15, according to the RTD board member for that district, Bob Broom.

The board is expected to hold its final vote Oct. 24. Broom told 9News he expects the plan to win approval and doesn’t believe service reductions make sense for any line younger than 1 year.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyOctober 18, 20173min1550

With an eye on fulfilling its promise to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades, Denver has released new environmental best practices for indoor cannabis cultivators.

Through a Denver Department of Environmental Health cannabis sustainability working group, the city released the environmental guide for energy and water use reduction, waste minimization and pest control for the metro Denver cannabis cultivation industry.

The guide offers a picture of the industry’s impact on the local environment and advice on reducing that impact.

“Commercial buildings represent 35 percent of citywide emissions, and as cannabis businesses occupy an increasing amount of commercial building space, the industry plays an important role in helping the community meet its emissions targets,” the guide notes.

Denver is currently home to more than 591 active cultivation licenses, operating out of 295 locations.

To reduce its environmental footprint, the guide makes recommendations including using carbon filtration rather than reverse osmosis for solid waste minimization, water use optimization and energy efficiency; selecting packaging that is made from recycled material and is recyclable and/or compostable; combining heat and power systems, which can reduce emissions by 25 to 45 percent and serve as reliable source of power during outages; and incorporating water recapture and reuse into existing cultivation processes among other best practices.

Denver’s climate plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, setting lofty goals like a move to all clean, renewable energy by 2030 and requiring new buildings follow “net-zero” standards.

The guide was released ahead of the Cannabis Sustainability Symposium held Tuesday and Wednesday this week in downtown Denver. The event provides education on tools, techniques and technologies for efficient and safe cannabis production.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyOctober 17, 20173min3600

Denverites are leaving the city for redder, more conservative pastures. Yet, it’s not principally over politics, but rather housing costs. That according to real estate company Redfin, which analyzed housing trends along political lines in a new study.

Mirroring national trends, the study discovered residents are leaving the “blue,” liberal Denver County for “red,” traditionally conservative counties like Douglas County.

In August, Redfin found comparable homes in Douglas County sold for about 60 percent of the cost of a home in Denver County.

“Additionally, in 2015, the typical resident spent a full 3 percent more of their income on rent in Denver County as well — 29.5 percent compared with 26.4 in Douglas County,” the study found.

“As a result, one in 10 Redfin users looking to move out of Denver County, Colorado — where nearly three in four votes last November were for Hillary Clinton—were looking to nearby Douglas County—where (Donald) Trump won 54.7 percent of the vote.”

While some liberal-leaning counties like Summit and Boulder saw a big surge in new residents, overall “blue” Colorado counties saw 12.7 percent more people leave than come — which led the nation.

Redfin classified blue and red counties as those that voted for the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, and Republican candidate, Donald Trump, for president in 2016 respectively.

The real estate company cited shrinking housing availability and swelling costs in the country’s urban counties as the primary reason behind the trend. Bottom line: Red counties are more affordable than blue counties.

“Nationwide, the average home in a blue county costs around $360,000 — more than 62 percent more than that of homes in red counties ($223,000),” the study said. “Sure blue-county incomes are usually higher, but their residents spend on average 32 percent of their household income on rent, nearly 5 percentage points higher than residents of red counties.”

Living in county that aligned politically also proved to be a relocation motivator for residents, the study said. A Redfin survey found that 41 percent of recent homebuyers were hesitant about moving to a place where most people have differing political views from their own.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyOctober 16, 20172min1820

When an inmate in one of Denver’s two jails gets a visit from friends or family, they generally meet over a video system instead of in person.

Denver’s Office of Independent Monitor, the city’s civilian police watchdog agency, wants that changed.

As part of its 2017 semiannual report, the office recommended the change citing data suggesting in-person visits ultimately reduce the likelihood of recidivism. And, while the city is in the bidding process for a new video visitation system, it’s the perfect time to reevaluate the policy, the Independent Monitor said.

As the office explained in a press statement this week, inmates sit at video terminals in the jail housing areas during a visit, while visitors communicate with them at corresponding video terminals in jail lobbies.

“There is powerful evidence that in-person visits — particularly between inmates and their children — keep inmates connected while they are in custody, which improves their psychological well-being, reduces their likelihood of violating jail rules, and decreases the chances that they will reoffend after they are released,” Independent Monitor Nicholas Mitchell said in a statement.

Academic research cited in the report points to in-person visits reducing inmate recidivism rates by as much as 30 percent, with potentially larger reductions in violent crime. The office argues in-person visits could be impactful in Denver jails where one out of every two people released are back behind city bars within one year.

“Before making a significant, long-term investment in a new video visitation system, the city should reconsider its exclusive video visitation approach and begin a process of reinstating in-person visits in Denver’s jails,” said Mr. Mitchell.  “It is not only the right thing to do; it would also lead to measurable benefits for inmates, their children, and our collective public safety.”


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyOctober 13, 20172min3440

Sending a “strong signal that innovative and sustained climate leadership is a priority in Colorado,” the state and a climate change action advocacy group will co-host a series of forums this winter focusing on climate preparedness and clean energy development.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, dozens of elected state and local officials and business leaders will take part in the Colorado Communities Symposium — a series of plenary sessions, training events and roundtable discussions, workshops, networking events and an awards dinner — held Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 in Aurora.

“Communities across Colorado, from Durango to Wray, are proving that the clean energy transition can benefit every Coloradan,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a press statement Wednesday. “Through this symposium, the state will support locally-led climate and sustainability efforts by providing a forum for local government officials to build capacity and share best practices for with each other.”

The conference’s agenda will be steered by a committee headed by former Gov. Bill Ritter and Colorado State University’s Brad Udall among other state leaders.

The forum will piggyback on Hickenlooper’s climate executive order announced over the summer which promised Colorado would join the U.S. Climate Alliance and would meet its climate goals despite the White House’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords. The executive order signed by Hickenlooper sets a goal of reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions from 2012 levels by 26 percent by 2025 and by 35 percent by 2030.

“It is critical that state and local governments come together, align efforts and substantially scale up their capacity to drive successful climate change strategies if we want to ensure security and continued prosperity for our businesses and communities,” said Daniel Kreeger, executive director of the Association of Climate Change Officers. “We are honored to partner with Governor Hickenlooper’s administration and Colorado local government leaders to administer this vital forum.”


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyOctober 12, 20173min6450

Aurora’s race for City Council is heating up, and here we thought it would be because of the slew of liberal candidates running for the traditionally conservative body.

The Aurora Sentinel’s Kara Mason has been busy muckraking on candidates running for local office this election cycle. The other day, she reported on candidate Abel Laeke — a registered sex offender who has a storied criminal history, though no felony convictions, which would disqualify him from running.

Mason points out court documents say Laeke was charged in 2004 with misdemeanor indecent exposure and sexual contact without consent, a felony, but Aurora City Attorney Mike Hyman noted Laeke’s not guilty plea by reason of insanity to the charges are not a conviction and he is clear to run for office. He has been arrested in the past for burglary, driving under the influence and trespassing. In a 2014 memoir, Laeke says he was “lured by the bad behavior of those I considered friends, alarming my family and derailing my life.”

Another controversy is brewing over whether Naquetta Ricks lives in the Aurora ward for which she is a City Council candidate. Mason explains:

Up until the beginning of October, Ricks said she lived at 13651 E. Alaska Place in Ward III. But a lock box on the door and a roll-off in the driveway at that address prompted competitors to ask where Ricks was living if it wasn’t at the address she provided to the city.

Ricks’ address was the topic of a special Election Commission meeting in September, but she later told the Sentinel she moved to another location in the ward.

Days after the Sentinel’s inquiry, Ricks updated her address with the city clerk to show she currently lives on 364 Nome St., owned by Georgia Bellamy, which is in the ward. Ricks has also updated her voter registration to reflect the Nome Street address.

A crowded field, there are 20 candidates vying for five seats on the council.

Read both of Mason’s reports here.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyOctober 10, 20173min3660

As cities jockey in the bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, preparing proposals likely heavy with tax breaks and financial incentives, Denver and state officials might go a different route to appeal to CEO Jeff Bezos and company.

Instead, officials will harp on “the region’s highly educated workforce, quality of life and global connectivity through its international airport” in its bid to the retail giant, the Denver Business Journal’s Monica Mendoza reports.

“We are not the biggest incentive state — and we won’t do anything differently for Amazon than we would for any other company that is looking to locate here,” J.J. Ament, president and CEO of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., told me Thursday.

Ament’s agency is representing the region in preparing a bid for Amazon.com Inc.’s sprawling second headquarters campus.

Amazon announced it would start accepting proposals for a location for its second headquarters in September, promising to invest more than $5 billion for construction and operation of HQ2 and create 50,000 jobs. With the construction and operation of an Amazon HQ2, the surrounding community should expect to grow tens of thousands of additional jobs, and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment, Amazon said. There’s an Oct. 19 deadline for proposals.

Amazon does note it is looking to set up in a region with “strong local and regional talent,” but it will also surely expect financial incentives as part of a package. As Forbes points out in an article on the race for Amazon HQ2, states like Wisconsin have shelled out billions in financial incentives to attract giant companies (in that case Taiwan-based Foxconn), and the math often doesn’t add up for the return on job growth.

Whether Metro Denver’s approach will hurt or help Colorado in the competition for Amazon HQ2 remains to be seen, but Ament is confident Denver will make it through the initial heat:

“We don’t have to lure them with financial incentives,” Ament said. “We are not going to be that [kind of] proposal.”

 


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyOctober 10, 20173min1950

It played a significant role in our last presidential election, possibly swaying the result. It’s easily spread far and wide on social media platforms. It’s even often used by President Donald Trump to fire back at media outlets after negative press. It’s become a buzzword in our modern politics. Fake news.

And as National Public Radio noted in an article last December, fake news can have real-life consequences, like an incident at a Washington D.C. pizzeria, where a man wielding a rifle and claiming to be “self-investigating” an online conspiracy theory entered the shop and fired his weapon.

Experts argue media literacy is the answer to countering misleading content. Now, the Denver Public Library is joining the fight against fake news — offering classes to help students build the literacy skills required to consume media and cull out what’s fake.

Appropriately called How to Spot Fake News and offered through the library’s reference services, the course will arm students with tricks and tools for looking at websites, news articles “and their crazy uncle’s emails with a more critical eye.”

In designing the course, the library will use tools from the International Federation of Library Associations including an infographic, based on a FactCheck.org article, with tips for spotting misleading news.

“Fake news and other misinformation spreads because people share it without realizing what it is,” the library said in a post on the City of Denver website. “That means the only way to stop it is to learn to spot it, so we can stop it in its tracks instead of helping it spread.”

The library is offering instruction in the classroom or at the Central Library and even the lesson plan to educators. Email Robin Filipczak for more information.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyOctober 9, 20173min7770

Dogged by legal challenges, an initiative geared toward curbing growth in Lakewood will not appear on the fall ballot after all.

Just over two weeks ago, it appeared voters would weigh in on the initiative — which would establish a 1 percent annual cap on residential growth and require City Council approval for all projects of 40 units or more — via the November ballot. Mid-September, Lakewood City Clerk Margy Greer dismissed legal challenges to the initiative brought forth by Lakewood resident and Jefferson County Republican Party Vice Chairman Steve Dorman.

But last week, Dorman filed a legal dispute to Greer’s ruling in Jefferson County District Court, further delaying the initiative from moving to the ballot, the Lakewood Sentinel reports.

Perhaps a metaphor for metro Denver’s struggle with ubiquitous growth, the fray over the initiative has proved enduring.

Frustrated by delays, the authors of the initiative, the Lakewood Neighborhood Partnerships (LNP), said the city is being stifled by big-money developers, while Dorman labeled the measure ill-advised, the Sentinel reports:

“The question will not be on the ballot as the city cannot proceed with this ill-advised measure,” Dorman said. “The proponents have 21 days to respond, after which time an initial hearing will be held, which would most likely set a trial date several months out.”

In response, Cathy Kentner, a board member of Lakewood Neighborhood Partnerships, the group that organized the initiative, said the City could file a response and have the appeal thrown out expeditiously.

“For years the community voice in Lakewood has been stifled by developers with big money. This summer people banded together and turned in an initiative which would restore neighborhood voice to large development projects,” said Kentner, who is co-petitioner with Anita Springsteen and Heather Wenger. “Big money has sued the City Clerk just to keep Lakewood from voting on this measure in November.”

Over the summer, the growth initiative’s organizers submitted the required number of petition signatures to push the issue to the ballot, or have the City Council enact it through ordinance, however Lakewood can’t vote on the initiative since it has been legally challenged.