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Panorama: Criticizing Cowboy Ken

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Mile-High Headlines for Thursday, December 18

Let the Criticism Begin
Ken Salazar’s appointment as Interior Department secretary yesterday led two prominent Republicans–Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and U.S. Attorney Troy Eid–to signal their interest in running for his U.S. Senate seat in 2010, according to The Denver Post. Governor Bill Ritter is considering a handful of Democrats for the interim, and Republicans now believe they have a better shot at picking up the seat.

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Meanwhile, Salazar’s appointment is “both a milestone and a setback” for Latinos, according to USA Today, which notes Latino clout is growing in President-elect Barack Obama’s administration but now lacking in the Senate.

Salazar is also being scrutinized by environmentalists. The New York Times notes Salazar was not the first choice of environmentalists–some oil and mining interests have praised Salazar’s record, with one key industry spokesman saying he’s not “an ideologue.” For 5280.com, environment reporter Joshua Zaffos writes that Salazar is neither a “green crusader” nor an “industry lapdog.”

Salazar’s First Scandal: Hatgate
After President-elect Barack Obama confirmed him as the nation’s new Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar sidled up to the podium, grinning from ear to ear, wearing a cowboy hat and bolo tie, thereby triggering the first scandal of his office. Upon seeing the hatted Salazar, MSNBC turned to David Courtney, a Texas Monthly columnist who writes about etiquette.

“Real cowboys don’t wear their hats indoors, unless they’re at a square dance or maybe an indoor livestock auction,” he said. “It’s more accepted now, but his mother probably would have told him not to do that.”

The Washington Post’s Federal Eye blog fretted that the beltway’s bureaucratic stuffiness would soon be under siege, especially since former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Obama’s new Secretary of Commerce, also “regularly” sports a bolo tie. Federal Eye noted that the Interior Department has a rather vague dress code for its 80,000 workers. “Will there be bolo tie Fridays? Optional hat days?”

For more on Salazar’s unlikely ascent, read “No Más Mustache” from the August edition of 5280.

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Majoring in the Bottom Line
Last March, the state’s budget makers advised public colleges and universities to raise their tuition by 9.5 percent for the fall 2009 semester. As bad as that sounds today, it seems the hike is inevitable, as Colorado’s higher-ed institutions struggle with funds. Colorado State University, for example, announced yesterday that it will trim another $1 million in administrative costs to head off budget shortfalls next year, according to the Rocky Mountain News.

Still, there are many unknowns this year, and a lawmaker has asked the state’s major research universities how they’d fare with no money from state coffers, according to The Denver Post, in a story that raises the specters of privatization, program slashing, and rising tuition. Colorado gives about $813 million each year to higher ed, including financial aid, but officials are grappling with a shortfall of about $100 million.

The budget woes in education aren’t limited to the big leagues. Jefferson County School District faces $35 million in cutbacks after voters rejected a measure that would have produced about $34 million a year and a $350 million bond issue to repair, renovate, and construct schools, according to 9News.

May Resignation: Now, Ethics Complaints
From the outside, it seemed like business as usual. State Representative Mike May, a Parker Republican, was stepping down from his post as the Legislature’s minority leader, setting off the usual type of battle to replace him. But when David Balmer, of Centennial, and Frank McNulty, of Highlands Ranch, began sparring, May rescinded his resignation, citing unspecified concerns.

Now, as the Rocky Mountain News reports, Balmer has been slapped with an ethics complaint, which has yet to be made public. And the Legislature’s executive committee is expected to file another complaint against Erik Groves, a lobbyist for the Colorado Chiropractic Association, which gave to Balmer’s campaign. Balmer and Groves are tight-lipped about the situation, as is an incoming lawmaker who complained.

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Balmer’s background is noteworthy: He was a rising star in North Carolina Republican circles but lost a congressional bid in 1994 after he was caught padding his resume then lying about it. He later moved to Colorado, and when he first attempted to run for leadership in 2006, some colleagues warned that his history would dog him.

Avs’ Forsberg Nonspeculation
It’s just too early for Colorado Avalanche general manager Francois Giguere to say whether the team’s former star Peter Forsberg will make a comeback, following his most recent foot surgery. That’s according to The Denver Post, which writes that the 35-year-old’s return to the Avs would depend on factors such as salary and the Avs’ play-off prospects. Forsberg plans to begin skating in January, following surgery by Dr. Bertil Romanus, an acclaimed Swedish orthopedic surgeon.

Broncos: Play-off Time
The Denver Broncos can win a spot in the play-offs this Sunday when they host the rather pitiful Buffalo Bills in their final home game of the regular season. They also have some help. If San Diego loses to Tampa Bay in an earlier matchup, then the Broncos are in the play-offs anyway, according to the Rocky Mountain News. Most of the players are new to the high intensity of play-offs, and coach Mike Shanahan says it’s a “great opportunity” for a team that has been rebuilding all season.

Audiodose: The list of 49 eligible songs for an Oscar, according to Variety, includes Bebel Gilberto’s “Forever,” which features Denver filmmaker Daniel Junge’s documentary, “They Killed Sister Dorothy.” To hear the song, go to the documentary’s website and scroll down to “Songs.” In October, 5280 took a peek at Junge’s work for our Fall Arts Preview.

Cheapest Gallon of Gas ‘Round Here: $1.34, Sinclair, 3485 W. 72nd Ave. (via www.gasbuddy.com).

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