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Panorama: Labor Pains

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Mile-High Headlines for Wednesday, October 1

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Stumbling Block: Labor on the Ballot?

Labor groups and business leaders are struggling to strike a bargain that would pull four union-backed initiatives off the November ballot, according to the Denver Business Journal. Walter Isenberg, president and CEO of Sage Hospitality and chair of Colorado Concern, issued a statement yesterday saying “no deal” while his peers still hoped there was time to salvage something before the final deadline to pull the measures. At issue are four labor-friendly initiatives, including Amendment 56, which requires businesses with 20 or more employees to provide health insurance; the measure is a response to Amendment 47, which would make payment of union dues voluntary, according to The Denver Post. Labor officials have said they would withdraw their measures if backers pull Amendment 47 from the ballot. Four Democrats, U.S. Senator Ken Salazar, Governor Bill Ritter, U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter, and Mayor John Hickenlooper hope a solution will be reached, but said, if one isn’t, “they’re committed to defeating all union-backed and anti-union ballot measures…” according to the Journal.

Spin Cycle: Barack, Michelle, John, Sarah

Rinse, lather, repeat. That’s what’s happening in Colorado as presidential candidates and their wives and running mates come to whip up support, leave for a while, and then return. Today, wannabe first wife Michelle Obama will be on the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus to rally youthful support for her husband’s campaign, according to the Boulder Daily Camera. John McCain will return to Colorado to hold a “women’s town hall meeting” at the Sheraton Grand Hotel downtown Thursday afternoon and then a town hall meeting at the Colorado State University campus in Pueblo on Friday, according to The Denver Post. McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, will be in Centennial for a private fundraiser on Saturday. What’s making Colorado so popular? Look at the latest Fox News/Rasmussen Reports telephone survey, which finds Obama getting 49 percent of the vote and John McCain 48 percent.

Real People Telling Real Stories

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As political leaders are retooling the failed $700 billion bailout bill, with some new considerations for the middle class in the Senate today, news reporters are finally telling the stories of the little guys and gals feeling the pinch. Take Laura Gravito, who runs a trucking business and has always paid her bills on time. She just received a letter telling her the company’s line of credit for fuel would be reduced, according to 9News. Rising expenses and stagnating business were cited in the closure of two restaurants–Ocean in Cherry Creek and 975 on Lincoln Street–both which shut down Monday, leaving 100 workers jobless, according to CBS4. Even the annual Parade of Lights has gone to begging, citing skyrocketing costs, according to 9News. The New York Times interviewed a constituent in Representative Mark Udall’s district who figures in an emerging trend: People who aren’t so angry at the prospect of a bailout. The Times notes another congressional office is fielding calls evenly split for and against bailout.

Union Station E-mail Train Wreck

There’s a fight brewing over how the area surrounding downtown’s historic Union Station should be developed. City of Denver and transit officials want to place new glass buildings on either side of the station, but a group calling itself the Open Space Initiative Group wants a larger plaza to flank the station. Put the ugly buildings somewhere else, says Stuart Ohlson, the Denver architect who leads the group (via the Rocky Mountain News). Now, the federal environmental-impact process, including a public-comment period, has turned into a battleground and the plaza boosters are winning–if the actions of Gina McAfee give any indication. Although McAfee is collecting the public’s comments, she also suddenly became an advocate for one side, according to an e-mail obtained by Westword, in which McAfee contacted a city planner and asked, “Can you get some folks to write something positive?” The planner did and, as of this morning, it is unclear what will happen next.

Bandit BOB Finally Foiled

The story of Bank Robber BOB is like a cross between a lame sitcom with a happy ending and an old western with a moral to the story. Even BOB’s real name, John Wayne Lehman, fits. Lehman, 41 and suspected of robbing 14 metro area banks, according to the Rocky Mountain News, was finally foiled Monday when he appeared in his bandit gear–a cowboy hat, boots, and a wig–to rob the Provenant Federal Credit Union at 4001 W. 16th Ave. for a third time. When he walked in, a teller immediately headed to the vault and Lehman jumped over the counter to get to the cash drawer. The move gave two other employees enough time to attack: One teller grabbed an expandable baton–her “bat”–and started whacking at Lehman’s head, according to The Denver Post. Lehman, who has previously gotten away with more than $8,000 from the credit union, fled bleeding profusely. He was later arrested in his car by the FBI, near West 17th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard. Why call him BOB? No good reason, really, according to the FBI, other than it helps to give an unknown suspect a name.

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Business As Usual Now Healthy

At 8 a.m., PCL Construction Enterprises employees aren’t milling in the break room, filling their cups with coffee and artfully reaching for the last glazed donut. Instead, the Denver company’s 165 workers are stretching for 15 minutes, a measure aimed at “promoting circulation and preventing injury,” according to ColoradoBiz Magazine. At lunch, employees might chat with a nutritionist, receiving some healthy tips. In the afternoon, don’t expect to find any Jelly Bellys in a dish. Look instead for dried fruits and nuts, which are also available in the vending machine. Want to work out? PCL will kick in up to $200 for a gym membership. Quitting smoking? Okay, there’s help for that too. It’s not only the right thing to do, according to Denny Dahl, the company’s director of human resources, it’s keeping the company’s health-care costs from spiraling out of control, according to the magazine.

Griese to Face Broncos

Remember Brian Griese? He is the son of legendary Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Bob Griese, and the kid who replaced retiring Broncos quarterback John Elway, but never got his druthers. Griese is maybe best remembered in Denver for injuring himself when he tripped over his dog. The 11-year veteran still lives in Colorado in the off-season, even though he now plays quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Despite his team’s 3-1 record, Griese is still struggling with interceptions and productivity as he returns to face Denver, at Invesco Field on Sunday. As The Denver Post notes, Griese returns as Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler finally seems to be living up to the Elway legend.

Videodose: Tina Fey has been appearing on her old stomping grounds–Saturday Night Live–to impersonate Alaska Governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. She hasn’t had to conjure up too much material to be funny: Last weekend, Fey simply lifted phrases from a Palin interview with Katie Couric of the CBS Evening News. Check out this comparison on YouTube.

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Cheapest Gallon of Gas ‘Round Here: $3.28, Western Convenience, 10515 South Parker Road (via www.gasbuddy.com).

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