Panorama: Ritter Economics

December 2008

Mile-High Headlines for Friday, December 19 Governor's Plan to Help the Economy Denver's economy is skidding to a slowdown in 2009, which is shaping up to be a weak year, according to analysis released yesterday by Wells Fargo & Co. researchers. Unemployment is the "biggest concern," writes company economist Ed Kashmarek, as businesses struggling with debt will also contend with layoffs (via the Denver Business Journal). Another "dire" financial forecast is expected to be made public today, which was the shadow hanging over Governor Bill Ritter's press conference yesterday at the capitol as he highlighted his economic agenda for the year to come. He's pushing tax credits for businesses that bring at least 20 jobs to the state and wants to expand training programs at community colleges, particularly those that focus on renewable energy, according to this Journal story. He also wants to restructure the Colorado Credit Reserve program, originally established by the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority for small business loans. "The state would commit $5 million over the next two years, funding that could be loaned to small businesses to help them secure up to $500,000 in credit from commercial lenders," according to The Denver Post. Homeless and the Deep Freeze The recent bitter-cold weather was very much on Mayor John Hickenlooper's mind last night on the steps of the City and County Building as he read the names of 164 homeless people who have died in Denver in the last year, reports The Denver Post. The average life expectancy of Americans is about 80 years, but for a homeless person, it's just 52, the mayor noted, saying this is the largest annual death list to date. And the plight of the homeless could worsen as the state aims to slash funding for programs that provide the bare essentials for survival--shelter and food--according to the Rocky Mountain News. At least charities are continuing to reach out as best they can, including the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception off of Colfax Avenue, which handed out $20 bills to as many as 1,700 people and McDonald's gift certificates to children so they could enjoy a meal in a restaurant. Temperatures in Denver will hit the 40s today before dropping again into the shivering teens over the weekend, according to 9News. Need an Ambulance? Take Your Time Earlier this year, a paramedic told 7News that some patients might be better off driving themselves to the hospital lest they wait up to 15 minutes for an ambulance. And although Denver International Airport is one of the busiest in the nation, Denver Health has no ambulance posted, meaning waits can take up to 30 minutes for people unlucky enough to keel over there. Now a report released by Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher finds Denver Health's emergency response times don't meet standards. A system meant to save lives is rife with "significant weaknesses." It took Denver Health ambulances 15 minutes and 48 seconds to arrive on the scene in 90 percent of calls last year, according to The Denver Daily News, which is more than five minutes longer than federal standards. In a written response, Denver Health officials say its paramedic division lost $1.6 million in funding in 2007, according to 7News. Last June, Denver Health admitted it had been miscalculating response times for four years after a Westword investigation revealed the system was not adhering to city reporting standards by "starting the clock on 911 calls at a later time than was stipulated in Denver Health's contract with the city." Denver Newspaper Unions Get Ultimatum The six unions for the Denver Newspaper Agency have until January 16 to agree to $20 million in wage and benefit concessions--or else. That's according to the Rocky Mountain News, which reports only that unions will face "even worse consequences" if they do not compromise at a time when the agency, which runs business operations for The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News, hopes to renegotiate $130 million in debt. The demand also comes as the Rocky's parent company, E.W. Scripps Co., seeks to sell the newspaper. If it can't, the Rocky could be shut down by next month. Moreover, Post owner William Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group Inc. is struggling financially with debt. Although contracts don't expire for months, Singleton wants to cut $18 million from the newspaper agency, which has 1,050 union employees, and another $2 million from the Post, which has about 180 union employees. The Baby With the Foot In His Head The story about the baby born in Colorado Springs with a brain tumor containing a tiny foot inside has gone international, but the family has stopped talking to the press because 20/20 will have the exclusive in January, according to ABC News. Dr. Paul Grabb operated on Sam Esquibel at Memorial Hospital for Children after an MRI showed a nearly perfect foot and a partial foot, hand, and thigh, according to The Associated Press. Grabb called the growth "borderline unheard of" and doesn't know what caused it. One theory is that it was a highly unusual case of "fetus in fetu," in which a fetal twin begins to form within the other. Another is that the growth could be a congenital brain tumor composed of foreign tissue, according to 7News (warning: yucky video and pictures ahead). Hejduk Will Take It: Avs' Odd Win The Colorado Avalanche's Milan Hejduk bagged the only goal in a shoot-out with the Tampa Bay Lightning, helping his team to a strange 2-1 victory on Thursday night. Technically, he didn't make the goal--he did make the shot, but missed, then was awarded the goal after Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith allegedly threw his stick and was penalized. As The Associated Press puts it, "Smith's stick came loose when he was making a save on Hejduk's backhander." Officials discussed the play for several minutes and then awarded the goal to Hejduk, leaving interim coach Rick Tocchet arguing and fans throwing trash onto the ice. CSU's Bowl Bash on Saturday Colorado State University's Rams worked out on Thursday in Albuquerque to prepare for Saturday's matchup against Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl. The team feels confident, according to the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Klint Kubiak, a free safety, quarterback Billy Farris and his leading receiver Rashaun Greer, are looking forward to the game. Videodose: MSNBC's Lame Duck Watch takes a look at one of the Bush administration's new rules, which allows doctors, trainees, volunteers--even receptionists--to refuse participation in medical care they find morally objectionable. The right-to-refuse-care rule, of course, is aimed at abortion, but U.S. Representative Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Denver, worries that it's so vague it could even allow a cashier at Wal-Mart to refuse to ring up birth control. Cheapest Gallon of Gas 'Round Here: $1.34, Costco, 6400 W. 92nd Ave. (via www.gasbuddy.com). Email relevant articles to [email protected].