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Mile-High Headlines for Tuesday, December 2

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Call It a Recession–Or Not
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is still on a roller coaster, dropping nearly 680 points yesterday amid news that the National Bureau of Economic Research confirmed the United States has been in a recession for one year, according to the Denver Business Journal. But wait just a second. This doesn’t necessarily settle the “Is there really a recession?” argument at the bar–at least not in Colorado. As The Denver Post notes, “Absent an official body to make that call, it remains anyone’s guess on whether Colorado’s economy is contracting and when that might have started.” Still, a separate Post story notes a glum briefing in which Ed Scholz, Mayor John Hickenlooper’s budget guru, tells the City Council that sales taxes may tank in the final quarter of 2008, creating a $7 million deficit. The city will try to maintain services and avoid layoffs as best it can, he said. Meanwhile, in another indication of economic trouble, food banks are experiencing high traffic, according to the Rocky Mountain News.

FasTracks Fight
The vision is grand. In coming years, the Regional Transportation District will expand rail lines and bus service throughout the metro area and beyond, relieving congested highways and reducing pollution along the Front Range. There’s even a line planned to service Denver International Airport. But now, amid inflation, the FasTracks vision is running into reality. When voters passed the initiative, they gave RTD $4.7 billion to do the job–and RTD could probably secure another billion or so in federal grants. But all that money isn’t enough, RTD says. It would take $7.9 billion to get everything done by 2017. And that’s causing a turf war among cities that promised mass transit to their residents but now might not be able to deliver, according to the Rocky Mountain News. At a meeting, Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer objected to RTD analysis that would scale back plans for a rail line along I-225. He even cut off an RTD consultant: “Would you please let me finish, because we don’t trust you.” Low ridership projections recently peeved Longmont Mayor Roger Lange, who doesn’t want RTD to use the analysis to cut off his city, according to the Longmont Times-Call.

Skaggs: CSU’s Next Prez?
The search for Colorado State University’s next president is evolving quite differently than the one that brought Larry Penley to the job about five years ago. Everyone seems to be throwing names into a hat, as The Colorado Independent notes. There’s retiring U.S. Senator Wayne Allard, a Republican veterinarian. There’s state Representative Bernie Buescher, the Democrat who was expected to be speaker of the House but lost to a Republican in the November election. Now add David Skaggs, a former congressman and current executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Former University of Colorado regent Jim Martin, who left the Republican Party several years ago, says Skaggs, a Democrat, has the right vision and a strong environmental record. That’s a contrast to Allard, who has long been criticized by conservation groups for his environmental votes. When Allard’s name was proposed by boosters, it set off a “maelstrom of protests,” according to the Independent. Meanwhile, curiosity about Penley, who continues to avoid the press after unexpectedly stepping down, continues. There’s a rumor that after he was hired to lead the university, “some of the doors in the executive offices were replaced with ones that were soundproof,” according to the Greeley Tribune.

Two Tales of Discrimination
Jerome Schroeder forked over nearly $200 to see the Madonna concert last month at the Pepsi Center with his boyfriend and a female friend. But someone kept launching insults at him about his sexuality. Schroeder says he didn’t physically respond, but another account accuses him of shoving. About an hour into the show, police escorted Schroeder and his friends from their seats after being told “the Pepsi Center wants you to leave.” When Schroeder refused, he was arrested, according to the Rocky Mountain News. Now he’s filed a complaint with the Denver police, alleging they displayed an “anti-gay” attitude. As that saga unfolds, Brock Cureton, who lives in high-altitude St. Mary’s, is unnerved by the appearance of a Nazi swastika gouged into his condo door, followed by the words “Die n—–,” according to
The Denver Post. Curton initially called the local sheriff for help but has now turned to the FBI.

Feral Hog Problems Out West
The Little Creek Ranch in Collbran, about 160 miles west of Denver, was quarantined last week after state health officials discovered a contagious animal virus among feral hogs, also known as wild boars. The virus, called pseudorabies, can cause abortions and respiratory problems in swine herds, raccoons, skunks–even dogs and cats, according to The Associated Press (via The Washington Post). More than a dozen hogs were seized last month, along with 20 exotic sheep. On Friday, the state ordered the commercial ranch to quarantine all its animals, according to the Grand Junction Free Press. The owner, Alan Baier, has so far been unavailable for comment.

Avs Drive Them Wild
Wild “enforcer” Derek Boogaard’s name provokes some strange-sounding celebrations in Minnesota. But last night the crowd was really booing him, according to The Denver Post, which notes the team’s “uncharacteristically horrible play in its own zone” helped the Avalanche in a 6-5 victory, despite poor play by goaltender Peter Budaj. It was the Avs’ second consecutive win. The team now is 12-12-0 for the season.

Buffs Coach Hits the Road
His team won’t be traveling for a bowl game, but at least that gives University of Colorado football coach Dan Hawkins time to focus when he’s on the road in pursuit of recruits for “the breakthrough season that thus far has eluded him,” writes the Rocky Mountain News. What the team needs are receivers, help on both lines, and a solid kicker.The Buffs finished the season with a 5-7 record, following last week’s 40-31 loss at Nebraska.

Audiodose: In Wyoming, landowners are working closely with wind-energy developers and cashing in. Now other states are starting to take note, including Colorado, according to Wyoming Public Radio’s Addie Goss (via KUNC).

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Cheapest Gallon of Gas ‘Round Here: $1.49, Western Convenience, 3505 S. Kipling St. (via www.gasbuddy.com).

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