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Panorama: The Eye of the Tiger

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Mile-High Headlines for Wednesday, October 8

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Jake Jabs Versus the Working Stiffs

White-haired, tiger-lovin’ Jake Jabs, the American Furniture Warehouse mogul who regularly hawks his goods on television, hit the airwaves this month with a different sort of deal. He’s selling Amendment 47, a proposal on November’s ballot to ban unions from collecting mandatory dues from workers. On Tuesday, Jabs held a press conference saying that if American Furniture Warehouse had remained a union company in the 1970s he would either be much smaller or gone, according to the Denver Business Journal. Jabs feels so strongly about unions that all the “American-made” merchandise in his stores is manufactured in “right-to-work” states. Laws heavily favor business in such states, according to labor advocates, and a spokesman opposing Amendment 47 tells the Journal that Jabs is siding with “extremist businesspeople.” Last week, unions dropped their support for four labor measures, including one that would require small companies to provide health insurance to employees. In exchange, local business leaders are expected to plunk down $3 million to oppose 47 since Jabs and other wealthy biz backers wouldn’t back down. Westword, meanwhile, notes the emergence of an “unexpected hybrid: political ads spotlighting Jabs.”

Ritter: No on “Personhood” Law

He might be a “pro-life” Catholic, but Governor Bill Ritter isn’t a supporter of Amendment 48, which would designate a fertilized human egg a person under the law. The Democratic governor frets the law is misguided. It could harm the health of women and “would create a legal nightmare in our state,” he says (via The Denver Post), noting the law could criminalize some necessary or emergency procedures. Even some groups that usually rally for stricter abortion laws are backing away from this amendment, including Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer, and National Right to Life. They all fear, according to a recent Rocky Mountain News story, that a “personhood” law could backfire and be successfully challenged in court under the historic Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court ruling, strengthening the law that made abortion legal. The political arm of Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family has taken to the fence on the position, encouraging people to vote for it but not formally endorsing it.

Uncertain and Sad Times

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Calls to crisis hotlines across the state are rising as stock prices hit bottom. That’s according to 9News, which reports that calls have tripled to the Women’s Crisis and Family Outreach Center, a service for domestic violence victims in Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln counties. The Pueblo Suicide Prevention Center is also fielding more calls amid the economic uncertainty. Yesterday, stocks plummeted another 508 points in dismal Wall Street trading–every leading stock in Colorado was down as well, according to the Denver Business Journal. The Federal Reserve today convened with several European banks to cut interest rates in a coordinated effort to prevent a worldwide monetary meltdown, according to The Washington Post. Meanwhile, retirement plans across the nation have lost perhaps $2 trillion over the past 15 months, according The Associated Press. That’s about 20 percent of the plans’ value. Peter Orszag of the Congressional Budget Office tells lawmakers people are waiting on major purchases, even retirement.

A Home for a Crisis

As the economic crisis unfolds in scary ways, there’s an apparent good hiccup in the Colorado housing market. The number of unsold homes hit its lowest level since December 2005, according to the Rocky Mountain News, and the number of homes contracted for sale jumped nearly 22 percent from a year ago. If you’re a buyer, there’s good news: Average and median sales prices have slipped back to 2002 levels. And if you’re a seller, don’t fret. It’s “the mix of homes” that’s skewing the numbers. Foreclosure filings are down by nearly 25 percent for the third quarter compared to a year ago, according to this Rocky story, which warns “the decrease does not signal that the metro region is off its record foreclosure pace.” Rather, a new state law appears to be helping homeowners through counseling services and requirements that borrowers receive at least 30 days’ notice before interest rates are hiked or a foreclosure is filed. Despite some apartment vacancies, rents are expected to rise by 3.5 percent to $918 per month on average, although discount programs bring that amount to $804 a month, according to the Denver Business Journal.

Roundup: A Solid Few Days of Media Shakeup

The details were foggy, but a “significant number” of employees at Denver’s KWGN/News 2 were laid off yesterday, according to the Denver Business Journal. It’s not known if any familiar on-air personalities got the ax, as the station, owned by the Tribune Company, consolidates its operations with KDVR/Fox 31, a Local TV Holdings company, under a recently signed joint-management agreement. Newscasts and sales will remain separate, the Journal reports, however, news-gathering and editors will be shared. Elsewhere in the realm of media consolidation, Boulder’s Daily Camera is moving its printing and packaging operations to Denver, laying off 29 workers by the end of the month, according to 7 News. Meanwhile, Greig Smith is out of his post as vice president of major accounts at the Denver Newspaper Agency, which manages Denver’s two major daily newspapers. Cable-industry sales exec Marty Sokoler now steps in, according to The Denver Post. Smith recently made headlines as he defended his decision to allow a right-leaning nonprofit to distribute a controversial DVD, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” in the Post last month.

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Play to Pay

As the Buffs play well, University of Colorado football coach Dan Hawkins does too. His contract has been extended two more years (until 2012) and is loaded with performance incentives, such as a $25,000 bonus if he’s named Big 12 Conference coach of the year and $75,000 if he wins eight regular-season games, according to The Denver Post. He originally signed a five-year, $4.25 million deal. But now, if he hits every incentive, he could earn $2.5 million in 2011 alone and $2.6 million in 2012.

Ski Season Approaches

Just a week ago, Denver saw a string of 80-degree, days and the aspens in the high country hit their golden best in the mountains. That leaves Colorado ski resorts a bit behind last year when it comes to snow. Arapahoe Basin, for example, was preparing to open at this time last year, according to The Denver Post. But the snow-making machines were fired up on Sunday night at A-Basin, as well as Loveland Ski Area, as optimism that snow will soon blanket the mountains abounds.

Videodose: Here’s an instant replay of last night’s debate between presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama as moderated by NBC’s Tom Brokaw (via The Washington Post).

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Cheapest Gallon of Gas ‘Round Here: $3.13, Western Convenience, 10515 South Parker Road (via www.gasbuddy.com).

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