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Updated: 28 min 39 sec ago

LaToya Cantrell becomes New Orleans’ 1st woman mayor

1 hour 27 min ago

NEW ORLEANS — LaToya Cantrell, a City Council member who first gained a political following as she worked to help her hard-hit neighborhood recover from Hurricane Katrina, won a historic election Saturday that made her the first woman mayor of New Orleans.

The Democrat will succeed term-limited fellow Democrat Mitch Landrieu as the city celebrates its 300th anniversary next year.

“Almost 300 years, my friends. And New Orleans, we’re still making history,” Cantrell told a cheering crowd in her victory speech.

The leader in most polls before the runoff election, she never trailed as votes were counted.

Her opponent, former municipal Judge Desiree Charbonnet, conceded the race and congratulated Cantrell late Saturday. Later, complete returns showed Cantrell with 60 percent of the vote.

“I do not regret one moment of anything about this campaign,” Charbonnet said.

The two women led a field of 18 candidates in an October general election to win runoff spots.

Landrieu earned credit for accelerating the recovery from Hurricane Katrina in an administration cited for reduced blight, improvements in the celebrated tourism economy and economic development that included last week’s announcement that a digital services company is bringing 2,000 new jobs to the city.

But Cantrell will face lingering problems. Crime is one. Another is dysfunction at the agency overseeing the city’s drinking water system and storm drainage — a problem that became evident during serious flash flooding in August.

Cantrell faced questions about her use of a city credit card. Charbonnet had to fight back against critics who cast her as an insider who would steer city work to cronies.

Katrina was a theme in the backstories of both candidates. Cantrell moved to the city from California. Her work as a neighborhood activist in the aftermath of Katrina in the hard-hit Broadmoor neighborhood helped her win a seat on council in 2012.

Charbonnet, from a well-known political family in New Orleans, was the city’s elected recorder of mortgages before she was a judge. In the campaign she made a point of saying hers was the first city office to re-open after Katrina, providing critical property records to the displaced.

Cantrell entered the race as the perceived front-runner, leading in fundraising and in various polls. She had an 11 percentage point lead in a poll released last week by the University of New Orleans. It showed 46 percent of 602 voters surveyed from Nov. 1-8 favored Cantrell over Charbonnet, who had 35 percent; 20 percent were undecided.

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Former state civil court Judge Michael Bagneris, who finished third in last month’s race, endorsed Cantrell, as did Troy Henry, a businessman who also ran for the post last month.

UNO political science professor Edward Chervenak said the endorsements appeared to help Cantrell overcome revelations that she had used her city-issued credit card for thousands of dollars in purchases without clear indications that they were for public purposes. The money was eventually reimbursed but questions lingered about whether she had improperly used city money for personal or campaign expenditures.

Voters also made history in a New Orleans City Council race.

Cyndi Nguyen defeated incumbent James Gray in an eastern New Orleans district. An immigrant who fled Vietnam with her family when she was 5 in 1975, Nguyen is the organizer of a nonprofit and will be the first Vietnamese-American to serve on the council.

RTD A train hits and injures pedestrian walking across tracks near DIA

1 hour 57 min ago

The RTD A train struck a pedestrian who was crossing the tracks about 200 yards from the Denver International Airport station late Saturday.

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The victim was struck shortly before midnight and “transported alive to the hospital,” Nate Currey, RTD spokesman said.

The train was coming into the station.

Denver police are investigating the accident, said Tyrone Campbell, Denver police spokesman, and have determined criminal activity was not involved in the event.

RTD suspended service on the A Line between the airport and 61st & Peña Station for several hours overnight to allow police to investigate. It has reopened, Currey said.

Due to a train vs pedestrian accident the @RideRTD A Line is suspended from the airport to 61st and Peña station for the @DenverPolice investigation. Buses are running from 61st to the airport. Follow @RideRTD for service updates

— Denver Int’l Airport (@DENAirport) November 19, 2017

Aurora police officer uninjured after someone fires shot in his direction

3 hours 44 min ago

Aurora police are searching for someone who fired a shot at an officer and hit the tire of a patrol car early Sunday at East Colfax Avenue and North Moline Street.

The officer had arrived at the location at about midnight to assist with an apparent traffic incident.

After being on scene for a couple of minutes, the officer heard a single gunshot that he believed was fired in his direction, according to a release.

More police joined him and performed an extensive search by officers on the ground. The were assisted by the Denver Police Department’s “Air One” helicopter.

A suspect was not located and remains at large.

One of the tires on the Officer’s marked patrol vehicle sustained damage.  As a part of the ongoing investigation, Detectives will determine if this damage was related to the shot.

The officer was not injured.

The case will be further investigated by the Aurora Police Major Crimes/Homicide Unit.

The Aurora Police Department is asking anybody with information about this case to contact Sgt. Matt Fyles at 303-739-6041.  Tipsters with information can also remain anonymous by contacting Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867.

The #MeToo movement is exposing a culture of harassment at the Colorado statehouse, and weak protections for women

4 hours 13 min ago

The warnings start as whispers echoing through the marbled hallways at the Colorado state Capitol.

Watch out for this lawmaker. Don’t be alone with that lawmaker. Avoid these other lawmakers when they drink.

The cautionary tales — passed from lobbyist to lawmaker, lawmaker to staffer, staffer to aide — remained hushed in a place where power and fear create a culture that often tolerates sexual harassment and questionable behavior with few repercussions.

The quiet ended this month. Three female lawmakers came forward individually with allegations of unwanted sexual advances from male colleagues, and separately three female former aides and interns are accusing three male lawmakers of acting inappropriately.

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The behind-the-scenes portrait of the atmosphere at the Capitol — described in interviews with more than 75 current and former lawmakers, lobbyists, staffers and legislative aides — puts Colorado in the same conversation with more than a dozen other states and Congress, which have been shaken by reports of sexual harassment and settlement payments.

The recent allegations in Colorado expose what some believe is a pervasive problem made worse by lackluster oversight and protections.

“There are a lot of happy hours, a lot of social events, a lot of people that don’t take a no for an answer,” said Gena Ozols, political director for NARAL Pro Choice Colorado.

The extent of the problem with workplace harassment at the Capitol remains unknown — a troubling realization, according to lawmakers and experts.

House and Senate leaders and the legislature’s attorneys would not disclose how many formal complaints have been filed in recent years — because the process is confidential — and it’s not clear the General Assembly even tracks them.

Moreover, the policy calls for lawmakers and legislative staffers to police themselves. Some complaints are handled outside the official process because the issue appears minor or the accuser declines to press the case.

The Denver Post attempted to survey the legislative leaders for the past decade, but most did not respond or declined to comment. The ones who did said they recall receiving few complaints, if any.

Harassment complaints at the Capitol continue to multiply

The #MeToo movement is beginning to change the dynamic and encouraging Colorado lawmakers and people who work in the Capitol to tell their stories about harassment.

Provided by State of ColoradoColorado State Representative Faith Winter

State Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, went public Nov. 10 to describe how Rep. Steve Lebsock allegedly harassed her at legislative party in May 2016 and tried to grab her elbow and get her to leave with him.

Two other women, one a former lobbyist and the other a former legislative aide, later told The Post about alleged incidents in which Lebsock, respectively, asked for sex and undid a button on a blouse.

Winter and the lobbyist, Holly Tarry, filed formal complaints against Lebsock, a Thornton Democrat and candidate for state treasurer. He called the allegations against him false, though he said he was drinking the night of the encounter with Winter and doesn’t know what he told her.

A former intern told a public radio station last week that Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, made suggestive comments and pressured her to drink with him in his office. Another unnamed intern told KUNC radio that Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, leered at her, made unwelcome comments and suggested he could help her career. The two men denied doing anything wrong.

Colorado state Rep. Paul Rosenthal has had a formal complaint filed against him with House Democrat leadership for sexual harassment.

A former policy aide came forward last week to share details about an informal complaint alleging that Rep. Paul Rosenthal used his legislative office to try to arrange a date with her brother and suggested he could help him with his career.

Rosenthal, who is gay, also is the subject of a new complaint about an incident in 2012 when he was a House candidate. He allegedly groped a man and tried to kiss him at a political event. Rosenthal called the allegations unsubstantiated and false.

In recent social media posts and interviews, two other female lawmakers shared details about harassment they endured as part of their jobs.

Provided by Colorado General AssemblyRep. Daneya Esgar

Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, told a hometown newspaper that someone she works with wrapped a hand around her thigh and began moving toward her buttocks at a recent event that included lawmakers. She did not name the person but told the Pueblo Pulp the man said: “Now darling. You don’t need to make a scene.”

In a new disclosure, Rep. Susan Lontine told The Post that a current Republican lawmaker touched her inappropriately at the Capitol during her first legislative session, in 2015. The same Republican state senator, whom she declined to name, made lewd sexual remarks to her just months ago, she said.

“I will say that, in the past, I’ve just put up with it,” the Denver Democrat said. “I’ve just laughed it off, ‘You’re so funny,’ when comments are made. I’ve decided I’m not going to put up with it anymore.”

Other lawmakers and lobbyists said they feel safe at the statehouse and have not experienced any issues.

“I think the attitude toward women has been respectful. I haven’t encountered any problems at the Capitol,” said state Rep. Polly Lawrence, a Republican from Douglas County.

“A different culture than I have ever experienced”

Colorado is one of at least 16 states facing troubling reports of sexual harassment or assault in the political arena.

California’s legislature paid $100,000 to a former staffer who claimed she was fired for reporting that an assemblyman exposed himself to her. In Texas, women contributed anonymously to a spreadsheet dubbed the “Burn Book of Bad Men” that listed accusations about pay discrimination, creepy behavior and sexual assault. In South Dakota, a lobbyist reported being followed to her hotel room by a man who works in the state Capitol and repeatedly raped.

Some legislators have faced consequences: The Kentucky House speaker resigned his leadership position this month after he and three other lawmakers faced allegations of sexual harassment, and legislators have resigned this year from elected office in Ohio and South Dakota.

The problems in Colorado do not appear mitigated by the high proportion of women in the legislature. The state is No. 4 in the nation with women constituting 38 percent of the General Assembly, according to the Denver-based bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures.

Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, said the Colorado Capitol “seems to have a different culture than I have ever experienced in my professional career before.”

“I get some level of comment (from men) nearly every day I’m in the Capitol,” she added, recalling being called “eye candy” by a male lawmaker as she presented a bill in committee.

In numerous conversations with The Post, lobbyists, lawmakers and aides described the Capitol’s “permissive” atmosphere. Others noted that some female lobbyists used their sexuality to get lawmakers’ attention.

Not all wanted to put their names to the claims but collectively confirmed that men and women were warned about which lawmakers to avoid.

Tarry, the lobbyist who filed a complaint against Lebsock, said she left her career because of the corrosive climate in Colorado politics.

“I was raising money and giving campaign checks to people I didn’t fully approve of their character,” she said, “and that over time got to me and affected my happiness.”

Does the workplace harassment policy offer enough protections?

As with other women, one reason Lontine said she didn’t report the harassment she experienced from a fellow lawmaker is the policy for reporting complaints.

Lontine said she was uncomfortable that a complaint about the behavior of a male Republican senator would go to the male Republican Senate president for investigation. “It just seems that it’s ripe for taking advantage politically,” she said.

A number of men and women who experienced harassment expressed concern if they came forward.

“I’m not aware of any sort of really effective recourse one could take in situations like this without damaging their own reputation,” said one legislative aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for her job. “Our career trajectories often depend on these elected officials, and even if I had a personal encounter with this behavior, I don’t feel confident that caucus staff would take serious action unless it was a particularly egregious situation.”

The General Assembly created its own harassment policy that applies to lawmakers and legislative staff who are exempt from the state’s personnel laws. The policy requires that lawmakers make complaints to the House or Senate leadership, and staff take their grievances to individual legislative directors.

If it’s a formal complaint, top lawmakers and department directors are then required to conduct a confidential investigation or retain help from the Employers Council, an outside human resources firm.

The bar to substantiate complaints is high. A single incident may not constitute harassment and each is judged on an individual basis, the policy states.

Even if a complaint is corroborated, the policy allows wide discretion about disciplinary action. For legislative staff members found responsible, it can range from an apology to termination. The policy does not outline potential punishments for lawmakers — who ultimately are accountable to their constituents once every two to four years.

“It is difficult when you deal with a situation where you have elected officials because … you can’t fire a state legislator,” said former House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder.

Donald Mayer, a professor of business ethics and legal studies at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business, said the policy appears to trend closely to federal law.

In reviewing the legislature’s policy at the request of The Post, he said it looked “reasonable” and followed corporate practice for a thorough, yet confidential, review. “As this policy notes, there have been false complaints,” he said. “But on the other hand, oftentimes there are misunderstandings and there’s a great amount of subjectivity as this policy indicates.”

State Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain, is not satisfied by the current rules. She called for the state attorney general’s office to conduct an outside investigation of the Lebsock allegations and legislative policies — a move supported by a House GOP leader.

House Speaker Crisanta Duran, a Denver Democrat, and Senate President Kevin Grantham, a Canon City Republican, acknowledged in separate statements last week the current policies to protect against harassment are deficient, particularly in how complaints are investigated and tracked.

Duran, who is facing questions for how she handled Lesock’s allegations, said she supports using an independent body to investigate complaints — which is an option in the current policy. Grantham called for a study committee but stopped short of endorsing outside investigations, which some other states employ.

One area where the two leaders agree is the need for more training. Colorado offers training on workplace harassment and ethics rules once every two years and attendance is required by policy — but not law, as in a few other states. The legislative leaders want to make the training annual starting in 2018.

The scientific research remains divided on the value of sexual harassment training, said Mayer at the University of Denver, suggesting that it sometimes doesn’t work as intended.

“Prevention through training is the key,” he added, “but the question becomes: What kind of training, and is it effective?”

Why it’s so hard for victims to come forward

More than concerns about the policy and punishment, longtime lawmakers and lobbyists agree the biggest reason the inappropriate behavior persists is the difficulty in getting people to make a public complaint.

The obstacles are real. Lawmakers, lobbyists and aides fear that speaking out will hurt their careers, spur retribution or make the issue worse.

“What makes it difficult for women in these positions, especially lobbyists, is being worried about holding someone accountable,” said Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood. For lobbyists, she continued, “you’re ultimately (paid) based on trying to get people’s votes, so it creates an even more difficult scenario.”

Dafna Michaelson Jenet knows how hard it is to come forward with a story of sexual assault.

The Commerce City Democratic lawmaker said she was date-raped at age 14 and kept it private for decades. Now she encourages others to tell their stories in hopes they can move on.

“It allows others to free themselves from shame,” she said. “Because I was ashamed — I was devastatingly ashamed, and I didn’t tell my story for a long time.”

Laura Richards, who organized a #MeToo rally outside the Capitol this month, said the conversation “has to stay in the open.”

“It can’t go back in the shadows anymore,” she said. “Otherwise, in 10 years, we will just have more sad #MeToo stories.”

Staff writers Jennifer Brown, Shannon M. Hoffman, David Migoya, Jon Murray, Christopher Osher, Jesse Paul and Kevin Simpson contributed to this report.

Urban Peak gives light, hope to “invisible” teens on the street

5 hours 5 min ago

Make a donation to Season to Share, and your contribution is matched at 50 percent by our partners at DaVita.

Season to Share funds will be granted to more than 45 metro-Denver nonprofit organizations that provide life-changing programs for low-income children, families and individuals in our community.

Like many of her nonprofit peers, Christina Carlson feels the small losses as much, if not more, than the big victories.

Urban Peak, the Denver-based organization of which Carlson is CEO, is the last nonprofit dedicated to homeless teens in a city seeing an increasing amount of them. That makes her job all the more vital.

“Last night, I think we turned away at least two kids who were going to have to sleep on the street, and that’s horrendous for us and for everybody else,” said Carlson, who became CEO about three months ago.

From its drop-in center at 21st and Stout streets to its 40-bed shelter on South Acoma Street, Urban Peak works daily to serve at-risk teenagers and young adults ages 15-24 with safe spaces and support. The drop-in center offers hot showers, laundry services and meals, and the shelter can house up to 50 on cold or wet nights.

Additionally, Urban Peak runs outreach programs that scour the streets of Denver and Colorado Springs for vulnerable adolescents, and it owns 110 units in three buildings in Denver that provide permanent and transitional housing for young residents who meet certain work, school and discounted rent-paying requirements.

The housing, in particular, plays an outsized role, given Denver’s chronic lack of affordable housing and rapid gentrification amid a years-long population and construction boom.

“It’s expensive to live here, even for full-employed people,” said Carlson, who holds a master’s degree in social work and formerly served as chief advancement officer for the Colorado Symphony. “It’s a different ballgame for kids who are still in school, or coming out of the foster care system, or who are dealing with mental health or substance abuse issues. There are so many complicating factors. But with how expensive it is to live here lately, it’s made it that much harder.”

Another complication is “the invisibility factor,” as Carlson calls it. People tend to look away from signs of homelessness because they feel powerless.

“I have the best job in the world, but one thing that’s been really powerful for me is seeing that,” she said. “We, as a society, don’t know what to do about it.”

The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that each year about 550,000 unaccompanied youths and young adults age 24 or younger experience an episode of homelessness longer than one week, according to Urban Peak, and approximately 380,000 of those youths are younger than 18.

In Colorado, the number of homeless students in the public school system more than doubled over the past decade, from 11,954 in the 2006-07 school year to 24,685 in the 2014-15 school year, the nonprofit reported.

As alarming as these numbers are, “they grossly underrepresent the size of this population,” Urban Peak said, since unaccompanied youths are difficult to count — given that they often don’t trust adults or systems of services due to abuse, trauma and unhealthy relationships.

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That’s why Carlson sees Urban Peak — a recipient of The Denver Post Season to Share funds — as critical to the fabric of the community.

“We are serving a population that is so at-risk and so in need of services, and it’s growing all the time,” she said. “Without a lot of intervention and preventative services, homeless youth become homeless adults. We can be the solution to that.”

Encouragingly, 88 percent of the youths helped by Urban Peak leave its supportive housing to land in a safe and stable environment, which Carlson called “stunning.” She credits the tailored approach Urban Peak provides, which treats teens as inherently different from adults.

“We want to be known in this world, and that’s just as true for youth as anyone else,” she said. “For us, that means treating young people with a lot of respect and kindness, and making them feel like they’re a part of society. We’re building them toward self-sufficiency. Sometimes, it’s as simple as taking a minute to say good morning to someone on the street who might look like they’re homeless. It’s just another way for people to feel seen.”

Urban Peak

Address: 2100 Stout St., Denver
In operation since: 1988
Bridge Project staff: 50 full-time, 39 part-time
Yearly budget: $4.9 million
Number of kids served last year: 1,385
Percentage of funds to clients/services: 75

The Morning After: 5 observations from the Avalanche’s 5-2 loss at Nashville

5 hours 11 min ago

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Avalanche allowed the game’s first five goals and lost 5-2 to the Nashville Predators on Saturday night. Five observations:

1 Poor PP, poor PK. The Avalanche was 0-of-7 on the power play and allowed two Nashville power-play goals in four chances. Game over. Special teams were unquestionable the difference in this one. End of story.

2 Smashville. I worked my second Avalanche game of the season at Bridgestone Arena, and probably 20th overall. Take it from me, this place has become an incredible NHL market, with an infrastructure impossible to match. Having the Preds win the Western Conference and play in the Stanley Cup Final last spring built massive interest and support with the franchise. The Preds are simply a huge hit in Music City, where the party never ends. Bridgestone Arena is across the street from the best live music in North America, and make no mistake, it’s not all country. I’m on a big Tom Petty kick since he died recently and I put $20 in a band’s tip jar Friday night to play “American Girl.” They nailed it. Rock ‘n roll lives here too.

3 “Say, what?” Avs coach Jared Bednar seemed a bit more upbeat in his team’s play than the majority. Fact is, the Avs were outclassed in virtually every facet. Perhaps Bednar had a better look at the Avs’ chances to score on the power play. I didn’t see many from the press box. Here is part of the coach’s postgame presser:

Jared Bednar after #Avs’ 5-2 loss at Nashville

— Mike Chambers (@MikeChambers) November 19, 2017

4 Rookie prank. Center Dominic Toninato, who sustained a first-period head injury but return for the second and finished the game, was the target of a pregame rookie prank in his NHL debut. He was told to lead the Avs onto the ice for warmup, but he found himself alone for about 10 seconds, “basking” in the limelight. Colorado captain Gabe Landeskog presumably designed the prank, given his smirk when he joined Toninato on the ice. Toninato, 23, centered a line with wingers Sven Andrighetto and Nail Yakupov, replacing Vladislav Kamenev, who broke an arm in his Avalanche debut in Thursday’s 6-2 victory over Washington. After his debut, Toninato said he “thought about” a possible rookie prank but didn’t suspect what unfolded.

Rookie “hazing” with Dominic Toninato in his NHL debut. Told to lead team onto ice for warmups. Then he’s all by himself #Avs

— Mike Chambers (@MikeChambers) November 19, 2017

5 Road woes. The Avs are 3-7 on the road and looked nothing like the team that rocked Washington 6-2 on Thursday in Denver. Winning at home is expected. Going .500 or better on the road is required.

Avalanche game story, final: Blown opportunity defines the Avalanche’s ugly loss at Nashville via @denverpost #Avs

— Mike Chambers (@MikeChambers) November 19, 2017

Despite injuries, Lindsey Vonn still loves what she does at age 33

5 hours 13 min ago

COPPER MOUNTAIN — For much of her career, American downhill legend Picabo Street loved racing in flat light. She knew whenever visibility was poor, her competitors would be defeated by their own fear, improving her chances of winning.

But as her final Olympics approached in 2002, Street conceded she had lost the advantage of fearlessness because of a horrifying crash in 1998 that shredded a knee and fractured a femur, costing her two seasons away from the sport. Flat light no longer was her friend. It scared her, too.

Vail’s Lindsey Vonn has had a run of bad injuries over the past five seasons, one of which prevented her from competing in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. But as she eyes what is likely to be her final Olympics at age 33, she says she hasn’t lost her nerve.

“I feel like flat light and bad weather is an opportunity because you can just see the other girls mentally wilt a little bit,” Vonn said here recently while icing the right knee she blew out in February of 2013 and reinjured here nine months later. “I still don’t have that fear. Maybe if it’s flat light in a downhill training run or if it’s my first run training GS (giant slalom), I’m going to take it easy if the conditions aren’t great, but it doesn’t scare me. I don’t back off. I don’t adjust my skiing because I can’t see (well). I still stick my nose in there.”

She still loves what she does, too. That was apparent from the way she attacked a downhill training session here last Wednesday when speeds topped 70 mph.

“I love going fast, I love the competition, I love being on the mountain first thing in the morning, seeing the sunrise and being out there and having that freedom to go as fast as you want to go,” Vonn said. “I love what I do, and I don’t want to stop doing it.”

Breaking Ingemar Stenmark’s record for career World Cup wins (86) remains a goal. Standing at 77, she could pass him this season, but for now, World Cup success is second in priority to the Olympics. She still grieves missing the 2014 Sochi Games and can’t wait for the 2018 games in PyeongChang, South Korea, where she plans to race downhill, super-G, the combined and giant slalom.

“I am very, very, very, very excited,” Vonn said. “I was very disappointed and devastated, frustrated, that I missed Sochi. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, and I’m ready.”

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Vonn broke an arm and suffered nerve damage in a training crash here a year ago, delaying the start of her season and depriving her of strength in that arm for the remainder of the season. She won only once but came close to winning more, finishing second in the season’s final three races. Two came on the Olympic course in South Korea where she lost to Italy’s Sofia Goggia by less than a 10th of a second both days.

“As long as I’m healthy and I’m confident, I’ll be in a great position when I get to PyeongChang,” Vonn said. “Of course, when I’m in the starting gate of any World Cup, I’m going to try to win. Once I got things going at the end of last season, I was right back where I left off, just a couple hundredths shy of a couple more wins, unfortunately. But my skiing is there.”

Yet danger is always lurking, especially in downhill. French racer David Poisson was killed while training downhill last week at the Nakiska resort in Canada.

“Everyone asks me, am I afraid after so many crashes? Do I take my foot off the gas pedal? While I am smarter and I try to manage my risk better than I have in the past, it’s still ski racing, as you saw with David,” Vonn said. “Literally anything can happen – you can die. You can try to manage risk as much as you want, but at the end of the day it’s a dangerous sport. I don’t think about it because that’s just a part of life, that’s a part of the game, and we all understand that. If you’re not willing to take the risk, you’re probably in the wrong sport.”

Vonn has won 11 or more World Cup races in four separate seasons, so she conceivably could catch Stenmark this season.

“It’s something I always think about, but this season my focus is 100 percent on the Olympics. That’s why I’ve said I’m going to ski another season. I already put enough pressure on myself to reach that (Stenmark) goal anyway. I want to give myself a little bit more time to make sure I’m not stressed out about it and I’m really able to focus on getting to PyeongChang healthy. Of course, I’m going to try to win, like I always do. It just is a little bit less stress. The Olympics, that’s plenty of stress already.”

She might even race beyond next season.

“As long as I’m still enjoying it and I don’t have to use too much duct tape to hold my body together, I’m good,” Vonn said. “I’m for sure going to ski one more year after this season, but who knows? If my body feels good and I’m still enjoying it – which I imagine I will – then I’ll keep going.”

A bad run of injuries

Over the first decade of her record-breaking World Cup career, Vail’s Lindsey Vonn avoided major injuries and was one of the few racers on the circuit who had never suffered a significant ACL injury. Her luck ran out at the 2013 world championships in Schladming, Austria, when she crashed in a super-G that was run under questionable course conditions and blew out her right knee. She reinjured that knee the following November, preventing her from competing in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. A rundown of her significant injuries in recent years:

Feb. 5, 2013: Suffers season-ending injury to her right knee at the Schladming world championships.

Nov. 19, 2013: Reinjures that knee in preseason training at Copper Mountain, loses 2013-2014 season.

Feb. 27, 2016: Suffers hairline fracture of the tibial plateau in her left knee, ending her season three weeks early.

Nov. 10, 2016: Suffers broken humerus and nerve damage in her right arm in preseason training at Copper Mountain, delaying the start of her season until mid-January.

Vonn’s pursuit of all-time wins record

Most World Cup wins:

Ingemar Stenmark, Sweden, 86

Lindsey Vonn, Vail, 77

Annemarie Moser-Proell, Austria, 62

Vreni Schneider, Switzerland, 55

Hermann Maier, Austria, 54

Other top Americans:

Bode Miller, 33

Mikaela Shiffrin, 31

Phil Mahre, 27

Vonn’s Podium Pledge

On Friday, Vonn announced a Podium Pledge program to benefit her foundation, which supports girls through scholarships, education and sports. Supporters are challenged to pledge money to the foundation for every podium appearance she has this season.

“We’re hoping that people will commit to pledging money for every time I’m on the podium,” Vonn said after a training session last week. “It’s an amazing way to stimulate support and awareness for my foundation. Hopefully, I win a lot and I’m on the podium a lot so we get a lot of support and money to have the camps and scholarships and everything we’ve been doing for the girls.”


In the heart of oil and gas country, a sometimes-deadly 20-mile Weld County road gets an upgrade

5 hours 14 min ago

KERSEY — A 20-mile highway in the heart of Colorado oil and gas country just got a major upgrade, transformed from a narrow road to a burly concrete thoroughfare that can better handle increasing traffic loads, most notably the large trucks that roll across Weld County’s energy fields every day.

The completion of Weld County Road 49’s expansion between Hudson and Kersey, which officials planned to mark with a gathering this weekend, comes after two years of work that turned those two sometimes-deadly lanes into five.

The road work is expected to accommodate traffic in a region of northern Colorado that state demographers say will see a doubling of its population over the next three decades — with Weld and Larimer counties gaining 660,530 and growing to more than 1.2 million by 2050.

About 1 in 19 Coloradans currently live in Weld County. By 2050, according to projections, 1 in 12 will.

“When we planned for the road, we did so with a 7 percent annual increase in traffic (over 30 years) in mind,” said Elizabeth Relford, Weld County’s deputy director of public works.

If the recently released numbers from the state demographer’s office prove accurate, the capacity of the new and improved County Road 49 — known to many locals as the Kersey cutoff — will be put to the test in short order.

“We have already seen an uptick in (housing) activity in areas like Kersey, and we expect additional growth to develop along that corridor all the way to Hudson,” said Rich Werner, president and CEO of Upstate Colorado Economic Development.

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Andy Montgomery, CEO of the Northern Colorado Economic Alliance, said spiking housing costs in metro Denver make a home in outlying areas along the Front Range a more attainable dream.

“Because it’s so expensive (in the metro area), this is where all the people are going to go,” Montgomery said. “Opening up this transportation route will open the area up to more development.”

And not just housing development, but the oil and gas and agricultural sectors will benefit from the road improvements too. All along County Road 49 are signs of Weld County’s booming energy industry, with storage tanks, tank batteries and producing well pads juxtaposed against big-acre ranches and farm fields.

The road’s $109.6 million overhaul between Interstate 76 and U.S. 34 will help the energy industry move equipment and product more efficiently and more safely, Weld County Commissioner Mike Freeman said.

“It was a very busy road, with up to 50 percent of its traffic (being) truck traffic,” Freeman said. “It’s going to be a benefit to the traveling public as well as the oil and gas industry.”

Weld County Road 49 has been used for years by locals as an alternative north-south route to increasingly crowded U.S. 85, which connects Denver to Greeley. But the narrow two-lane road had proved itself deadly over the years.

According to data compiled by the county, there were 242 accidents over a 10-year period on County Road 49 between 2001 and 2011. The county was unable to break down how many people were killed or injured during that span, though archived Denver Post stories reported several fatal collisions over the decade.

One of the worst occurred in 2008 between a liquid-petroleum-gas tanker truck and a minivan, in which a family of six was killed.

The road averages about 3,000 vehicles a day at the southern end of County Road 49 and 6,400 vehicles a day near its intersection with U.S. 34, according to the county. Relford said that volume could triple over the next few years.

“Once more people figure out it’s a parallel arterial to U.S. 85, it’s going to increase,” she said of traffic counts.

Werner said Weld County’s proactive approach to adding road capacity further east in the county was forward-thinking.

“One of the most important parts of this project is to alleviate the industrial congestion on other north-south routes like U.S. 85 and even I-25,” he said. “With the stalling of investment by the state in providing funding to our major corridors, the county has taken on the additional responsibility of providing safer and less-congested corridors.”

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostLarge trucks and cars roar by on Weld County Road 49 between I-76 and Kersey on Nov. 16, 2017 near Kersey.

A recent drive on the newly widened highway was smooth, with wide shoulders on the sides and a continuous turn lane in the middle. There are no traffic lights in the 20 miles between I-76 and U.S. 34, and the speed limit is 65 mph.

The concrete surface of the road is expected to last 30 years, the county says.

Weld County Road 49’s role in carrying traffic will only increase in the coming years, as extensions at the north end of the highway continue. The Weld County Parkway, a new four-lane road that was completed a couple of years ago, brings County Road 49 another 3 1/2 miles north — from U.S. 34 to Weld County Road 60 1/2.

The county will soon embark on a project to extend the road another 2 1/2 miles north from there to State Highway 392 — an effort expected to cost $21 million. That northward push will give energy operators better access to the Niobrara shale play at the top end of the Denver-Julesburg oil and gas basin, Freeman said.

But even with the promise of more drilling in the county — Weld County accounts for nearly half the state’s nearly 55,000 active wells — coupled with the projected increase in the county’s population over the next three decades, Freeman said it will be a long time before County Road 49 is overrun with cars and trucks.

“I think we’re good for a long time,” he said.

Ask Amy: A tough diagnosis brings on unexpected generosity

6 hours 44 min ago

Dear Amy: A few months ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and am currently receiving chemotherapy. As it has come up, I’ve notified my (other) medical providers.

I have been a patient at a privately-owned and operated manual physical therapy company for a couple of years (receiving treatment for a 45-year-old neck injury).

I told my physical therapist (not the owner) of my diagnosis and asked her, if she didn’t mind, to tell the others. Well, I guess she did, because when I tried to pay on my account, the receptionist told me I didn’t I have a balance.

Well, I used to have a balance. It was somewhere around $200. I don’t think there was a clerical error.

I believe the owner forgave my debt. He’s the type of person who recognizes what he can do in a situation and then does it. I never expected it, but I am so grateful.

How do I thank him, in person or in writing, and let him know how much his gesture means to me?

— Grateful in East Tennessee

Dear Grateful: First, you need to make sure this gift was not the result of an error. Reach out to the owner privately (though email) and say, “When I tried to pay my bill, I was told that I don’t have a balance. I need to double check with you: Is this an error or an incredibly generous gesture on your part?”

Once he responds, assuming that he is being generous, you should write a note that he could share with the staff. Don’t make a specific mention of the dollar amount or this forgiven bill, but do say, “Thank you one and all for your compassion and generosity regarding my current medical challenges. I’m incredibly moved by it. I know I’ll get through it; knowing you’ve ‘got my back’ (and neck) makes everything easier.”

Then — like any satisfied customer — you should also reach out on social media to praise this outfit and the work they do, if you haven’t done so already.

Dear Ask Amy: We have a 50-year-old friend who suffers from depression and anxiety. He has managed it very well but went through an emotional divorce two years ago that made things worse.

Through church group counseling and some professional therapy, he is getting back out there. However, he seems to be using the divorce and the difficulties of the modern dating scene as an excuse to be bitter, miserable, and self-deprecating, making it difficult for his friends to want to be around him.

He also seems to place barriers in his way as he navigates his post-divorce life. He exhibits passive-aggressive behavior on his social media accounts as a way to get attention, which further alienates his friends who have grown weary with it.

Bottom line, I think he’s more comfortable with his misery and is unwilling to resolve the issues that are the source of it. Maybe he thinks it makes him seem more novel or interesting to people? He needs supportive friends in his life but I think he only wants someone to validate his negative perspective.

We want to be good friends to him and understand that depression is a complex thing, but we also don’t want to play a role in perpetuating his approach to the next phases of his life. What should we do?

— Worried Friends

Dear Worried Friends: Your friend’s behavior might not be related to his depression. It’s hard to know, sometimes, if a friend needs a shoulder to cry on — or a light kick in the keister.

Years ago, I was going through a tough time, post-divorce, and had started referring to myself as “a loser.” A friend said to me, “You know, this self-deprecating thing you’re doing is getting old.” Message received.

You could ask him: “You seem very negative about things lately, even though you seem to be doing so much better. Some of your statements concern me. I want to be supportive but don’t really know how.”

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You could also inspire him, perhaps, to be a better friend to you by asking him to help you — either physically or emotionally — through a challenge in your own life.

Dear Amy: Recently I created a problem through spreading a falsehood on social media. How do I make thing right again?

— Worried

Dear Worried: Delete the offending post and reach out to this person, acknowledging your action and ask for forgiveness. If the person wants you to correct this publicly, then you should do so.

At NCAA championships, Colorado State vaults to a top 10 team, but knows it could have celebrated more

10 hours 12 min ago

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — With a little more than a mile to go in Saturday’s NCAA cross country championships, as excited fans scrambled along the course amid an electric and chaotic atmosphere, an announcer came over the public address system to proclaim the teams ranking near the top.

Northern Arizona. Portland. BYU.

“And Cinderella Colorado State University!”

On the trails, roads and hills around Fort Collins, Colorado State had been quietly preparing for this moment all season. Fifth-year senior Jerrell Mock was running just off the lead pack of some of the best runners in the nation, and trailing not far behind were the four other men poised to deliver one of the greatest athletic performances in school history. CSU sat in fourth place at 8,000 meters in the 10K race.

But the clock struck midnight before the finish line could come.

Mock, having raced with the top 10 runners throughout the event, crumbled in the closing 1,500 meters, falling to 169th place and failing to score for his team. His legs locked in pain, he grimaced down the homestretch as scores of runners passed him. He collapsed at the finish.

It was a brutal — and uncharacteristic — end to an otherwise sterling cross country career. The Rams, ranked eighth in the coaches poll coming in, finished in 9th with 318 points, one place behind rival Colorado’s 294 points, but ahead of the three Mountain West teams there. In cross country, the lowest team score wins.

“It was bittersweet,” coach Art Siemers said outside the team tent afterward. “We had a dream season this year. We won out first Mountain West title in school history. We just had a really consistent year. … This year was really special. And the guys showed it today. We want to be a top 10 program in the country year-in and year-out. We really felt we could podium … At the end of the day we were still top 10, even without our No. 1 guy.”

Their placing speaks to how deep the program is. It was the team’s third-best performance in its history and the best since 1978. It is one of 10 top-10 performances in any sport in Rams history. Four other CSU teams have had better performances in school history than this squad.

CSU was led by Cole Rockhold (29 minutes, 54.1 seconds) in 32nd; Grant Fischer (30:16.2) in 58th; Eric Hamer (30:35.1) in 90th; Wayde Hall (30:36.6) in 93rd; Carson Hume (30:49.4) in 111th; Mock (31:18.1) in 169th; and Trent Powell (31:22.5) in 175th. All except Mock improved their places.

“We’re moving in the right direction as a program on the men’s side, where the guys are believing in themselves, the training and coming together as a unit,” said Siemers, now in his sixth year as a coach.

Siemers has accomplished this through effective recruiting, searching for runners who, yes, are talented, but who prioritize the team over their personal success.

“The culture is very supportive,” Siemers said. “It’s easier to get better when your team supports you. We try to treat everyone equally. Sometimes the last guy on our team, after three years of hard work, is an All-American or lining up at a championship. That’s the culture we’re trying to have.”

Siemers isn’t second-guessing Mock’s tactics, either. Mock tends to go out hard during races and he’s won his two conference championships with that approach. Ultimately, it was a rare bad day in a career filled with accomplishment.

“Guys train with him and believe they’re going to become very good runners because they’re training with Jerrell Mock,” Siemers said. “He’s put a great stamp on our program. He’s do some magical things in track. He’ll pick himself up.”

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Mock, for his part, when asked about his performance, briefly answered before pivoting to talking about the team.

“I’ve never really experienced that in a race before,” Mock said. “I wanted to be in good position off the start and just kind of ran out of gas. I made some hard moves just to stay with that lead pack because I didn’t want to get caught in the wind.

“I’m sorry if I let them down, but they ran incredible. I’m super proud of them.”

Ultimately, the team knows and believes they should be racing with some of the most storied programs in collegiate running history: Standford, Oregon, Colorado.

“We’re not going to step backs,” Siemers said. “We’re going to train and next year we’re going to try to podium again. We’re going to keep trying until we get it.”

Retirement planning should include long-term care costs

11 hours 5 min ago

By Alexandra Olson, The Associated Press

Many Americans have a blind spot when it comes to retirement planning: long-term care costs. Even though the majority of Americans will at some point need long-term care, few are planning for it. Many underestimate the costs and mistakenly believe health insurance can help cover it.

“This is not like being struck by lightning. It is something we will all face in our lives,” said Bruce Chernof, president and CEO of the SCAN Foundation, which researches care for older adults. “If we don’t need it ourselves, it is likely that our spouses, our significant other or our parents will. One way or another, it will touch the lives of every single American.”

The U.S. government estimates that 70 percent of people aged 65 today will require some form of long-term care during their lives. Most of the time, that type of assistance is non-medical, including help with daily tasks such as bathing. The need can arise unexpectedly after a major illness or even suffering an injury from a fall.

The costs of such care can easily outstrip retirement savings: A 65-year-old today can expect to incur $138,000 in long-term care costs over their lifetime, according to a 2017 Bipartisan Policy Center report. Two-thirds of Americans age 40 and up say they’ve done little or no planning for their long-term care needs, according to a poll conducted this year by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, with funding from the SCAN Foundation.

Here is some guidance on how you can get a jump-start on planning.


This is something people can do easily and early. AARP has a long-term care calculator that lets people find the average costs for different types of services by state and metropolitan region, based on research by Genworth Financial. The most expensive option — a nursing home— now costs an average $97,000 a year, according to Genworth’s 2017 survey of long-term care costs. Assisted living facilities — for those who can’t live independently but don’t require skilled nursing care — cost about $45,000. For those seeking to remain at home, hiring a home health aide or homemaker services will cost more than $20 an hour. Other options include an adult day health center, which charge an average of $70 a day.

Younger adults should remember that costs are rising. Genworth has a cost calculator that gives estimates on what prices will be in 30 years.

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Many mistakenly believe Medicare or private health insurance will help pay for long-term care. Fifty-seven percent of Americans say they plan to rely on Medicare should they ever need ongoing living assistance, according to the AP-NORC poll. But Medicare does not cover extended nursing home stays or non-skilled living assistance, which make up the majority of ongoing care needs for the elderly.

More than 50 percent of Americans end up paying for long-term care out-of-pocket, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center report. That figure rises to nearly 70 percent for those receiving long-term care at home. Many Americans with severe long-term care needs quickly burn through their savings and end up turning to Medicaid, which is projected to account for 40 percent of national spending on long-term care services by 2030.

So it’s a good idea to take the time to research Medicaid rules, particularly what sorts of assets you might have to spend down to qualify. Research how other long-term care financing plans can affect your Medicaid eligibility. For instance, annuity payments may count as income but reverse mortgage payments do not. The government website provides a good overview of Medicaid long-term care coverage and eligibility.

Keep in mind that Medicaid regulations vary widely by state — and could change over time.


Only 11 percent of older Americans have private long-term care insurance, according to the Bipartisan Policy Council, and with good reason.

Simply put, premiums are too expensive for most people. Some estimates put average rates at up to $2,400 annually. Rates have increased significantly since long-term care insurance plans first came on the market about 30 years ago, largely because insurance companies saw fewer voluntary lapses than expected and made other mistaken price assumptions. For the same reasons, the number of insurance companies offering the policies has fallen dramatically.

The good news is that if you start early enough, there is plenty of time to research and make an informed decision about long-term care insurance. Consider your age and income level when considering whether to buy a plan. The younger you are, the lower your premiums will be. But you need to evaluate whether you can keep up with payments into retirement when your income is likely to be lower.

Consider hiring a financial expert to help you pick the right policy.

Growing in popularity are “hybrid” insurance products that combine death benefits or annuities with long-term care benefits. People like them because if the long-term care benefits are never used, heirs still receive the death or annuity payouts. But some financial advisers are wary of the plans because they are difficult to analyze.


Chances are high that relatives will be involved with long-term care, at least to some degree. Experts recommend having family discussions about long-term care preferences before a crisis occurs. For instance, you might be determined to care for a parent or spouse at home as long as possible before putting them in a nursing home. But would that person feel comfortable with a home health aide or an adult day care center while you are at work?

Where you live matters when planning for long-term care, especially if relatives live far away. Check out the condition of your home and if it can be modified to accommodate disabilities.


Businesses lure seasonal help with chances for other jobs

11 hours 5 min ago

Every fall, the staff count at swells from 150 to as high as 2,000, as the online retailer fills orders for Halloween costumes and decor.

The company offers its seasonal staff at the warehouse in North Mankato, Minn., an incentive to perform well — those who do will be recommended for jobs at a greeting card manufacturer in town. That business needs between 300 and 400 people soon after lets its seasonal crew go, says Joe Riska, the company’s head of human resources.

“Since they’ve already gone through a season and shown they can do good work, now they can go work for another company,” he says.

Small businesses that need extra help during the holidays or other busy times of the year are looking for employees willing to work hard and help the company meet its increased demand for products or services. So some owners approach recruiting and managing with the goal of turning temporary workers into long-term ones, or helping them find other jobs. It’s a strategy that’s critical when a national unemployment rate of 4.1 percent has shrunk the pool of candidates.

It can be hard for a business to find seasonal staffers if it offers them only a short-term paycheck, says Melissa Hassett, a vice president at staffing company ManpowerGroup. Many of these workers want to learn new skills. “A lot of people would love more career growth over time,” Hassett says.

But owners need to manage their seasonal workers’ expectations, and be clear what their chances are of getting a permanent job, says Carrie Gonell, an employment law attorney with Morgan Lewis in Costa Mesa, Calif. Some workers take a job hoping that it won’t end when the season does.

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“Make sure you say that you intend for the job to be seasonal,” Gonell recommends to owners who expect to let those workers go when business slows.

At, the seasonal workers start arriving in August, and most work until Halloween. About 10 percent will remain through Christmas to handle holiday shipments. Recruiting and managing that many temporary workers can be difficult, so the company increases its human resources staff from three to 15 people each year. It recruits college students looking for HR experience that they can list on their resumes, Riska says.

When appliance maker NewAir recruits workers for its busy seasons, warehouse manager Ronnie DeLeo tells prospective hires they have the chance to keep their jobs when the sales surge is over. While they’re working, they’ll compete for permanent jobs with NewAir’s existing staff.

NewAir, which makes small appliances like wine coolers and ice makers, takes on seasonal help for the summer and the winter holidays. The company’s warehouse in Cypress, Calif., has about 20 employees and hires 10 during the periods when orders from online customers and retailers soar and there’s more to pack and ship. During interviews, candidates learn that the company tracks employee productivity on a public scoreboard, and everyone knows the highest performers keep their jobs when the busy season ends.

“I’ve had cases where I’ve had fresh, new, driven, excited people working a lot faster and being more motivated than current staff members,” DeLeo says.

The company works with employees to help those who need to improve their performance, and pays severance in some cases when workers are let go, says product marketing director Andrew Stephenson. The competitive strategy is part of NewAir’s long-term growth plans, Stephenson says.

“We want to double — if not triple — our business in the next few years,” he says. “In the warehouse, the pace is going to increase and we have to staff accordingly.”

Hugh Jones hires 25 people every spring for his Mosquito Squad franchise to install and maintain outdoor pest control systems through the end of October. Jones, whose territory includes Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point, N.C., believes that providing his seasonal employees with career counseling and mentorship will motivate them to do good work.

“Rather than say, ‘Come work here, it’s wonderful,’ we say, ‘Let’s work here and help you find a wonderful job,'” Jones says.

Jones serves his crew breakfast twice a month, bringing in motivational speakers who talk about life and working. Many of the seasonal workers are in their early 20s and haven’t yet figured out what path they want to take, he says. If they’re interested in a particular career, he’ll try to match them up with someone already doing that kind of work so they can learn more about it. Two years ago, one of Jones’ staffers told him he wanted to be a firefighter.

“I knew a fireman and brought him in to talk with him,” Jones says, “and now, two years later, he’s a fireman.”


Wall Street penalties fall in Trump’s first year, study says

11 hours 10 min ago

By Matt Robinson and Ben Bain, Bloomberg

In its latest fiscal year, Wall Street’s top regulator sought the smallest amount of penalties since 2013, a drop that took place as the agency went months without permanent leadership and could show a softer approach to policing wrongdoing.

The Securities and Exchange Commission tried to obtain $3.4 billion in fines and disgorgement from companies and individuals during the 12 months ended in September, according to data collected by Urska Velikonja, a Georgetown University law professor. The SEC filed 612 enforcement cases, also the fewest in four years, Velikonja’s research shows.

The time period includes former SEC Chair Mary Jo White’s final months at the agency, Commissioner Michael Piwowar’s brief stint leading it, and the first five months of new Chairman Jay Clayton’s tenure.

Although the data spans a transition atop the SEC, it may be early evidence that President Donald Trump’s more friendly tone toward corporations is having an impact on the regulator’s investigations into wrongdoing, according to Velikonja.

She points out that since Clayton — the former Wall Street deals lawyer appointed by Trump — took over in May, the agency has pursued just two sanctions against large financial firms: a $35 million settlement with State Street Corp. and a $97 million case against Barclays Plc.

In the same period a year earlier, more than a dozen big financial companies faced SEC sanctions, including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch unit, UBS Group and hedge fund firm Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, Velikonja said.

The overall decline in cases might show that the agency is shifting away from White’s so-called broken windows policy of aggressively pursuing smaller infractions to deter bigger violations, according to Velikonja.

“The big takeaway is that the sweeps are gone,” she said in an interview. “They’re not going after those technical violations.”

SEC spokeswoman Judy Burns and Chris Carofine, a spokesman for Clayton, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Not only did penalties go down in the aggregate for fiscal 2017 compared with the year earlier, but the median fine did as well, falling 35 percent, according to Velikonja’s analysis. She attributes that drop to the Republican view that corporate fines harm shareholders, who often already have been hurt when allegations of wrongdoing drive down companies’ stock price.

For his part, Clayton, who spent his career at law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, has said the SEC won’t let up on enforcement and will be particularly focused on violations that affect mom-and-pop investors. There also may be other explanations for the drop in fines.

Cases brought by the SEC can often take years to develop, and agency leadership often strives to finish high-profile investigations as presidential administrations draw to a close. Clayton’s enforcement team could now be in the position of rebuilding its pipeline of cases, with settlements against companies and individuals coming some time in the future.

For instance, in the first fiscal year of the Obama administration, the SEC sought $2.4 billion in penalties. In subsequent years, that number steadily rose as the agency pursued cases stemming from the 2008 financial crisis.

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In June, Clayton named as co-directors of the enforcement division Stephanie Avakian, who had been acting head of the unit, and Steven Peikin, a former federal prosecutor and who also worked at Sullivan & Cromwell.

Avakian and Peikin have signaled that they plan to focus on computer crime and violations targeting individual investors. In September, the SEC said the enforcement division was forming a unit to focus on hacking and other online threats and a separate task force to identify misconduct focused on retail investors.

Many of the actions brought by SEC enforcement lawyers stem from referrals from the agency’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, which has historically conducted wide-ranging sweeps to ensure firms are complying with rules. That unit went months with out a permanent leader before Clayton appointed acting director Peter Driscoll to the post last month.

The SEC’s financial cops are also having to do more with less. Earlier this year, the agency cut back on non-essential travel, imposed a hiring freeze and curbed the use of outside contractors who assist lawyers with cases. And until Clayton was confirmed, the SEC was down to two commissioners who voted on cases; one Republican and one Democrat. Without a tiebreaker vote, many cases were left in limbo for months.

The most important document you need when selling your business

11 hours 12 min ago

It was late on a Saturday afternoon when Don and his management team were finishing up an internal review of their company operations. The company had been on the market for 18 months without much interest from potential buyers. Don wanted to know why. At the end of the day, Don, the founder and majority shareholder, gave up as he and the management team could not reach consensus on the reasons there was such little buyer interest. Don was beside himself since revenues were strong and earnings had continued to improve over the past five years.

The following week Don asked our firm for help. We agreed to conduct a business review and analysis of his company to determine what the company needed to do to attract potential buyers. After an exhaustive review, we found a glaring void in his management systems. There was no strategic business plan — only a hodge-podge of numbers, schedules and projections that made little sense.

We met with Don and his team (all shareholders) and explained that without a solid business plan, no potential buyer would seriously entertain purchasing their company. We advised that a formal business plan was critical to the process of selling Don’s company.

Writing a strategic business plan can take weeks, even months of intense research, writing and rewriting – particularly if you have never gone through the process before. So you might ask, is it worth it? Absolutely. First, you’ll have a better understanding of your own business as well as your industry. More important, you’ll have a set of clearly articulated goals. This will help you organize and manage your business and give you a benchmark against which you can measure future performance.
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Before you can begin to put the plan together, you will need to gather solid information about your industry. Every claim your plan makes will have to be supported by authentic sources and accurate information. Information sources include trade associations, magazines, newsletters, industry research reports and annual reports from publicly traded competitors.

Your plan will include your company’s past financial records, including a quality of earnings report from an outside accounting firm. Your financials should be audited or at the very least, reviewed by an independent accounting firm. Also, your business plan should include marketing plans and statistics from competitors so you can compare your numbers to firms of similar size in your industry. You will need research to identify who is buying products or services like yours and what current trends might be changing buying patterns and behavior. Compare this information to who is buying your own products and services.

In addition, find out who finances companies like yours and the details of the loan structure. Also, identify the kinds of companies buying businesses like yours.

Passion and enthusiasm for your company’s storyline is important for the sale of your company, but your target audience will see through hype and sales speak. Instead, strive for clarity, simplicity and thoroughness. Here are guidelines you should follow:

  • Don’t exaggerate
  • Make your sentences short and factual
  • Guide the reader with bulleted lists, numbered sections and clearly named subject headings and subheadings
  • Do not clutter the text with small details that will slow the reading process. Refer the reader to the appendix for more detail
  • Provide a table of contents so readers can skip to relevant sections they are interested in
  • Keep the plan to about 20 to 40 single-spaced pages, plus the appendices. The appendices can be as long as necessary to include significant detail

After you’ve completed this work, you can begin filling in the various outlined sections of your plan. Regardless of your industry, at a bare minimum, your plan should include a table of contents, executive summary, company/product/services analysis, competitive analysis, investment/purchase opportunity, industry analysis, market analysis, marketing plan, operating plan, manufacturing plan, management team, human resource plan, integration plan guidelines, financial plan and projections, buyer’s exit plan and appendices. More may be required depending on your industry.

I have read scores of business plans of companies and I’ve found the same mistakes over and over again. Here are some mistakes to avoid:

  • Rose-colored glasses
  • Unsubstantiated claims
  • Overly optimistic projections
  • Unrealistic cash flow projections
  • Numbers that don’t add up
  • Not understanding the entirety of the plan
  • Not proofreading the plan
  • Unclear company storyline

After all the work you’ve invested, make sure you don’t shoot yourself in the foot with spelling errors or incorrect grammar. Double check the numbers again and again. Produce a professional-looking document.

Remember, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.

Gary Miller is CEO of GEM Strategy Management Inc., which advises middle-market private business owners how to prepare to raise capital, sell their businesses or buy companies. 

After failing to capture the magic of Whistler for 20 years, Snowmass Base Village hits restart button on $600M development plan

11 hours 13 min ago

It’s early on a March morning in 1998. Dozens of couples, fat checks in hand, are huddled around a table in a well-appointed room at the base of Copper Mountain. A model of a new village sprawls before them, part of a $500 million, 10-year plan by Canada’s Intrawest Corp. to transform the largely day-tripping ski hill into a dynamic resort village, with condos stacked above bustling shops, restaurants and bars.

By midday, Intrawest, the largest resort operator at the time, had broken national real estate sales records, selling 104 of the yet-to-be-built condos for $33 million.

The Copper Mountain sales sparked a village-building frenzy that swept through the ski resort industry.

That village fever saw resort companies burning through billions of pre-sale dollars to erect canyons of condos atop street-level shops in eerily similar, timber-gabled villages at resorts like Keystone, Winter Park, Aspen Highlands, Steamboat, Telluride’s Mountain Village, and Squaw Valley and Mammoth in California.

Despite those billions and near-universal adherence to the build-a-village ethos, the model has not worked as planned.

Assessed values and real estate sales in resort villages are depressed, with condo sales rarely reaching the prices buyers paid a decade ago. A steady rotation of entrepreneurs roll through the commercial spaces, few lasting longer than a season or two. Just about all resort village shops are either subsidized or owned and operated by the resort companies, which can backfill slow sales with other revenue to keep storefronts from going dark.

“We don’t have a very good track record with these villages, that’s for sure,” said Ford Frick, a longtime resort community analyst and consultant. “We have built a lot of these with expectations that were not met.”

So there are many lessons for Aspen Skiing Co., KSL Capital Partners and East West Partners as the trio of companies build the Base Village at Snowmass, a 10-year, $600 million plan to finish a project that has languished for more than 20 years.

The Base Village is the first ski resort village project in almost a decade and the first that will attempt to break the failed model of resort villages.

The Snowmass plan goes something like this: Start with a big hotel.

Aspen Skiing is building a 100-room, 11-residence Limelight Hotel, with an indoor-outdoor “community living room” that will mirror the company’s wildly popular Limelights in Aspen and Ketchum, Idaho.

Then create open gathering places, like a community plaza, a five-story climbing wall and an ice rink that in summer transforms into a concert venue and farmers market, surrounded by fire pits that encourage lingering. Deploy an array of architects to design different buildings, lending the village a feel that it evolved organically over many years.

Stir year-round activities, with family-friendly festivals, concerts and Aspen Skiing’s new mountain coaster, ziplines and canopy tours a gondola ride away. Build larger living rooms, kitchens and decks — with smaller bedrooms and bathrooms — in the for-sale condos and make those condo buildings smaller, not colossal towers. Focus on experiential retail shops over storefronts peddling T-shirts and trinkets. Mingle residents, guests and locals in an urban-type scene rich with appealing food, and attractions.

It’s a dream to which every village builder has aspired but few have reached.

East West Partners, which built Beaver Creek Village in the mid-1980s before developing $3 billion worth of village projects and communities, has looked at just about every ski resort real estate opportunity in the West.

“And we passed on most of them,” said Andy Gunion, who is heading East West’s Base Village project at Snowmass. “I’m not sure a village is right for every ski resort.”

That alone is a new tack for resort developers. It wasn’t that long ago that the condo-stacked village was considered essential to a resort’s success. Blame Whistler for that.

Back in the 1980s, resort operators from around the world trekked to British Columbia’s rollicking Whistler Village seeking strategies for growth. Back then, baby boomers were young and ready to buy dream properties where they could rally the family and stroll to ski.

Intrawest came up with the industry-shifting idea of courting those boomers by developing Whistler-inspired villages everywhere. But it turns out the delicate ratios that evolved over decades at the base of Whistler-Blackcomb — a balance of visitors, hotel rooms, retail and restaurant space, all a few steps from many acres of ski terrain — could not be rubber-stamped.

“The Whistler experience is extremely difficult to replicate,” Frick said.

  • Michael Kappeler, AFP/Getty Images

    Snowboarders walk down Whistler ski resort village on Feb. 7, 2010.

  • Don Emmert, AFP/Getty

    With the village of Whistler as a background skiers take the lift Feb. 9, 2009 in Whistler, British Columbia.

  • Fabrice Coffrini, AFP Photo

    Snowboarders walk down a pedestrian street of Whistler village on Feb. 8, 2010.

  • Don Emmert, AFP/Getty

    A family walks through the village Feb. 9, 2009 in Whistler, British Columbia.

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But that didn’t stop Intrawest from trying. Over and over again. Intrawest sold the city of Denver on a long-term lease for Winter Park ski area in 2002 with a village-dependent promise to upgrade and operate the city-owned resort.

Intrawest pumped $50 million into the ski hill and pays the city $2 million plus incentives every year. In exchange, it built and sold condos at the base. Intrawest spent $70 million on a village moored to a pair of condo buildings that the company sold in 2006 and delivered in 2008, just in time for the economic downturn.

When Fraser Crossing and Founders Pointe came online in 2008 with more than 200 condos, the assessed value of the village was $76.9 million. In 2016, the assessed value of the village — with about 55 more condos and 38 more commercial properties than in 2008 — had dropped about 24 percent, to $58.5 million. For comparison, Grand County saw its total assessed value of all properties fall 11 percent the same period. Fifteen of those Winter Park Village condos have sold this year, with prices down, on average, 32 percent from when they were brand new in 2008.

This winter, all the commercial space in the village is fully rented for the first time in almost a decade. And buyers are rallying now, with Winter Park Village condos selling quickly, yet still at prices well below 2008 levels.

“I can’t keep up with the white-board list of buyers,” said Lisa Leclair Waldorf, owner of Real Estate of Winter Park brokerage. “I think a resistance to the base here is that we have so many local Colorado folk who buy here that want an easy way to let their dog out, sit on a quiet back porch by the trails versus living hotel-style.”

With sweeping new residential projects blossoming in Winter Park, Basalt, Crested Butte South and Silverthorne as well the growing popularity of down-valley hot spots like Edwards, Eagle, Ridgway, Montrose, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Gunnison, resort villages are enduring stiff competition for buyers.

When Intrawest sold all those condos at Copper Mountain in 1998, there had been no new development in the previous 15 years. Copper Mountain Village saw its assessed valuation of both residential and commercial properties peak in 2007 at $71.6 million. In 2016, the value was almost identical, while the assessed value of all of Summit County properties climbed 11 percent in that same window.

Real estate sales tracked by Land Title Guarantee Co. in Copper Mountain peaked in 2006 with 219 deals totaling $86.2 million and an average sales price of $375,000. Through September, Land Title recorded 103 deals in Copper Mountain worth $49.4 million, with an average sales price of $479,000.

Andy Cross, The Denver PostCarlos Antillon works a concrete finishing machine on the 5th floor deck of the the 100-room, 11-residence Limelight Hotel at the base of Snowmass Village Oct. 29, 2017.

The key to making villages viable is summer, said Aspen Skiing chief Mike Kaplan.

Aspen Skiing has invested almost $100 million into the ski area over the last decade, with new lifts, terrain, restaurants and, most recently, summer activities.

“So many of these village problems go away if you can figure out summer,” said Kaplan, who winces at the idea his Aspen Skiing Co. is a real estate developer, saying he joined KSL and East West at the Base Village to play a role in shaping the permanent anchor for his marquee ski area. “We are in this for the placemaking and creating a year-round destination for the health of our resort business.”

After weathering a recession that decimated companies anchored in real estate, resort operators are rejecting the Intrawest model. With Intrawest a shadow of itself and soon to disappear after its acquisition by KSL Capital Partners and the owners of Aspen Skiing Co., today’s largest resort company, Vail Resorts, tallied less than 1 percent of its $1.9 billion in revenue in 2017 from real estate.

Kaplan said years ago there was a brief internal discussion about developing a village at the largely day-tripped Buttermilk ski area, but that quickly faded. The company already has a struggling village at the base of its Aspen Highlands. Built in 2001 by renowned Texas developer Gerald Hines for $230 million, Aspen Highlands Village has languished for years.

Today, law offices, call centers and investment companies occupy ground-floor space intended for retailers. There are plenty of people offering reasons why Aspen Highlands Village never thrived: no hotel, too few beds in the member-only Ritz Carlton, too little parking, a layout that routes visitors directly to the chairlifts instead of past eateries and shops. Whatever the reason, it’s like a slope-side country club for office workers.

“We call it the dark village,” said Jim Lindsay on a quiet fall afternoon as he customized ski boots for customers who booked his services weeks, if not months, out.

Aspen Highlands Village saw its assessed value peak in 2010, when the Pitkin County assessor valued the village’s commercial properties at $5.6 million and residential properties at $58.3 million. Last year the assessed values for Aspen Highlands Village’s commercial properties had increased to $6.1 million, while residential fell to $40.4 million.

Lindsay has been in the village since 2000. He’s seen plenty of restaurants and businesses come and go. When he originally moved his BOOTech company to Highlands after working in Aspen and Snowmass, he paid an adjusted rent for several years. That same subsidized, sliding-scale rent program was common for villages as developers cultivated a retail scene.

“That encouraged a lot of people to start a business. But then what happened is, after three or four years and you start paying market-value rents, your business model doesn’t work anymore,” said Lindsay, who considers walk-in traffic a distraction.

Aspen Skiing acquired Snowmass’ 500-acre base parcel in the 1990s and partnered with Intrawest. The two companies sold the project to Related WestPac in 2007 for $169 million. Related lost the property but after several lawsuits and bankruptcies regained control of the project in 2012. East West, KSL Capital and Aspen Skiing bought the project back in 2015.

So as Snowmass celebrates its 50th anniversary this season, the resort is finally getting its base village.

In some ways, the delays have given developers time to avoid the pitfalls of other villages.

Aspen Skiing in the late 1990s considered partnering with East West Partners in the project but instead tapped Intrawest, which deployed its Whistler rubber stamp and proposed a 1 million-square-foot, 635-home village. In 2003, the village plan ranked as the largest single project in Pitkin County history. The new owners are tweaking and scaling back those Intrawest designs, hoping to find the elusive formula for a vibrant village. That formula, at its core, is anchored in full hotel rooms and rented condo units, not occasionally occupied residences.

A host of architects, including Oz Architecture, Harry Teague Architects and 4240 Architecture, are designing residential and commercial spaces, providing a less uniform approach than previous village construction.

While the focus on maximizing profit from every square foot has changed, the village has to make money. The builders have spent hundreds of millions dealing with not just mountainside construction, but employee housing, transportation and all the other impacts that come with building in the high country.

“So we need a big economic engine, but we need to balance that against the need for plans that allow us to gather and hang out and see up the mountain and enjoy each other’s company,” Kaplan said.

Architect Rebecca Stone of Oz Architecture has worked on nearly every resort village across the West, starting in the late 1990s with Intrawest at Copper Mountain. She’s seeing the Snowmass Base Village partners focusing a lot more on experiences with a year-round slate of events and more of a focus on hotel rooms over for-sale condos. But most important, Stone said, is the year-round focus. To lure top restaurants and shops, the village will have to bustle all year, not just for a few months in the winter and summer.

“When I started doing resorts in the late ’90s, it was all about winter. Now it’s more than one season. Resorts are now designing for generations that need to do more stuff at a ski area than just ski,” she said. “I think the resort market is getting more popular in the summer than winter, so we are using the outdoors much more in our designs.”

East West developers toured both Lake Tahoe’s Martis Camp and Montana’s Yellowstone Club — two private luxury communities that rank as the biggest success stories in resort development since the recession — for ideas on both design and cultivating an exclusive experience.

But not too exclusive.

“Sometimes, those gated luxury places ignore what a lot of people come to these mountain communities for, and that’s to feel like a local,” Gunion said.

Boulder County could lose 650,000 trees in Gross Reservoir expansion

11 hours 20 min ago

More than half a million trees could disappear in southwestern Boulder County if the final federal permit for Denver Water’s proposed expansion of Gross Reservoir is approved.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to rule early next year on what would be the biggest public works project in Boulder County history, exceeding the original construction of the Gross Reservoir Dam, which was completed in 1954.

The tree removal plan outlined in Denver Water’s FERC application states that all trees and their associated debris on about 430 acres along 12.5 miles of shoreline will have to be removed in the course of the expansion, which is envisioned as being completed by 2025.

Denver Water spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said the agency has estimated that “the density of the forest ranges from approximately 150 to 1,800 trees per acre. Based on these initial plans, we estimate up to 650,000 trees will need to be removed in the area surrounding Gross Reservoir.”

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In a recent interview, Denver Water President Jim Lochhead vowed that every aspect of the project’s completion is being designed and executed with an eye toward mitigation of its impacts on the high country environment and those who depend on it for their recreation or call it home.

Read the full story at

Puerto Ricans came for jobs in Steamboat Springs but found much more

12 hours 56 sec ago

By John Russell, Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — When Carlos Acosta arrived in Steamboat Springs in December 2016, he knew he would have a job, a steady source of income to support himself and a little extra to send back to his family in Puerto Rico.

But it’s the things he never expected that have made Steamboat feel like home.

“It’s the feeling that the people here in Steamboat have reached out, and even before this happened, they have reached out to us and made us feel at home,” Acosta said. “They have just been very helpful and very welcoming here in Steamboat. It’s uplifting that we can arrive at a place and be totally unknown, and then within a couple of months, we are knee deep in the community.”

He says the support he has received in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island he calls home, has been overwhelming. Those feelings are shared by many in Steamboat’s Puerto Rican community, which has grown the past several years as the hospitality industry reaches beyond the city limits to fill positions.

Acosta, who used to work in the film industry in Puerto Rico, and his friend Efrain Candelaria are employed by Resort Group. Last year, Resort Group recruited about 25 people to come to Steamboat, and Acosta estimates the Puerto Rican community in Steamboat at around 100 people.

Candelaria left Puerto Rico three years ago to find work here in Steamboat Springs. He left behind a home and his family to come to America to find work, something that he could not secure on his home island of Puerto Rico. He has spent the last three years earning money to support his family back home and saving as much as possible with hopes of returning to Puerto Rico when the economy there recovers.

“Luckily, I have had communication with my family, and everyone is OK,” Candelaria said through an interpreter.

But when Hurricane Irma made its way past Puerto Rico Sept.5, followed by Hurricane Maria a few weeks later, Candelaria said he was unable to communicate with his family for seven weeks.

Family members sent Candelaria photographs of his home, which was ravaged by flood waters and had a large part of the roof torn off by hurricane-force winds that reached more than 175 mph.

“It came out of the blue, and nobody was prepared for it,” he said. “It’s been hard because I want to visit my family, but there is nothing that I can do if I go back.”

He has not seen his family in nearly three years and relies on his cell phone to stays in contact.

“My family is OK,” Candelaria said. “They are currently living in my home, but the water came straight through the windows and half the roof got ripped off.”

His family members were able to find materials in the debris to complete makeshift repairs to make the home livable.

Both men believe it’s their role to stay on the mainland and earn money that their families can use to rebuild their lives. Acosta is sending money but said his family really needs basic items that are not available in Puerto Rico at this time.

The two men are thankful for the support they have found here.

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“A lot of people, if not all the people in the company (Resort Group), and in the community, have really reached out even if to just give emotional support,” Acosta said. “That has been big.”

When Carla Von Thaden and a committee of employees at Mountain Resorts heard about the devastation in Puerto Rico, they immediately looked for ways to help.

“We wanted to do something to help Puerto Rico and Mexico with their devastation from the recent natural disasters,” Von Thaden said. “So many businesses in Steamboat are supported by a labor force from these two countries, and we would like to do our part to show our concern in a very tangible way.”

The group held a fundraiser at the Depot Art Center Nov. 10, which included a silent and live auction of new and used art.

Information from: Steamboat Pilot & Today

Emergency life flights rise in Colorado as growing portion of air ambulance business centers on rescuing daredevils

12 hours 10 min ago

COLORADO SPRINGS — A woman’s 83-foot jump off of Guffey Gorge in Florissant this summer, which ended in a painful belly flop, is a perfect example of why Colorado Springs’ air ambulance services are so busy.

Traditionally, the services have rushed trauma patients from emergency scenes, such as car crashes, and shuttled patients between hospitals when a higher level of care is critical. Now, a growing portion of the air ambulance business is rescuing adventure-seeking, daredevil residents and visitors.

The jumper, for example, was visiting the popular swimming hole — also known as Paradise Cove — over the Fourth of July holiday weekend when she took the plunge. Multiple signs warn against dives, but they’re easy to ignore when so many others test the odds and win.

The woman wasn’t as lucky; video of the jump showed her flailing in the air before smacking the water. She suffered a bloody nose and was “highly disoriented.” To be safe, she was airlifted to a nearby hospital.

Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette via APIn this Monday, Nov. 6, 2017 photo, pilot Shawn McFarland readies the Flight for Life helicopter as they help to serve those in need of medical attention and to be airlifted to hospitals including the St. Francis Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, Colo.

She’s not alone.

“I think the record is transporting two or three patients in the same day from people jumping off (Guffey Gorge),” said Flight for Life Colorado nurse Megan Hawbaker, who is stationed at St. Francis Medical Center.

The state attracts nearly 80 million visitors a year, Colorado tourism officials say, but the rugged terrain and unpredictable weather creates dangers that few are prepared for as they trek into the backcountry or get caught up in “the phenomenon of bagging a fourteener,” Flight for Life program director Kathleen Mayer said.

Even The Incline, Manitou’s torturous stair-stepper, has become “a huge search and rescue burden,” as tourists try to take on more of Colorado than they’re physically able to handle, Hawbaker added.

“It’s gone up,” Mayer said of Flight for Life’s volume, which rose 12 percent in the first three months of the 2017 fiscal year, which ended in June, compared to the previous year. In total, the service assisted 6,300 patients in the 2017 fiscal year, she said, nearly half of them by helicopter; the rest were taken by ground and fixed-wing transport.

Make no mistake, the lion’s share of Flight for Life services caters to inter-facility transports and medical emergencies in communities out east, which are supported by volunteer fire departments and are 45 minutes to an hour from the nearest hospital. The same holds true with Memorial Star Emergency Medical Transport, which operates at Memorial Hospital, though program director Mardean Haines declined to provide its flight stats.

Because Flight for Life assists El Paso County Search and Rescue and ski patrols, its crews see firsthand how much trauma is infiltrating the state.

Pilot Shawn McFarland last year received the First Responder Hero Award for his quick thinking on Almagre Mountain, where a mountain biker crashed and severed a femoral artery. Crews have located hunters who radioed in emergencies from their hidden perches, and they frequently search for those reported missing, lost or hurt in Colorado’s wilderness.

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“We’re willing to go out to just look for people,” medical director Jeremy DeWall said. Thirty of their flights in July and August this year were just that.

They also accompany law enforcement during tactical events when the potential for serious injury is high, such as when a possible live mortar round was found in Woodland Park this summer, forcing 50 people to evacuate their homes.

“When we’re asked to respond, we respond,” Mayer said. “We sort out the appropriateness later.”

Flight for Life and Memorial Star declined to say what a typical emergency flight costs but stressed “if you need us, call us.”

Yes, even if the injury was the result of an illicit dive off of an 83-foot cliff.

“It’s here for the community,” DeWall said.

Information from: The Gazette

Historic window re-installed in Sterling church

12 hours 23 min ago
Jeff Rice, Sterling Journal-AdvocateThe 50-year-old narthex window at Prince of Peace Episcopal Church has been refurbished.

By Jeff Rice, Journal-Advocate

The four-year process of restoring the Prince of Peace narthex window is finished.

Craftsmen from Wattle and Daub Contractors of Fort Collins put the finishing touches on the half-century-old stained glass window earlier this week and removed the scaffolding, revealing the glistening, refurbished glass and restored mullions and tracery.

The project, which cost nearly $150,000, was undertaken in 2013. Years before that church members had noticed that the window had been ravaged by time; the woodwork was badly rotted in some places and some of the window panes had begun to pop out of their leading.

“It was settling, bulging, and sagging from the aging process,” said Al Peltzer, who spearheaded the fundraising effort. “In some cases, the pieces of stained glass were actually falling out.”

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The church retained Wattle and Daub Contractors of Fort Collins, which specializes in restoration work, and in 2013 scaffolding first went up in October 2013 so a laser scanning process could create a three-dimensional image to help analyze the window’s condition and identify the amount of bowing that needs to be corrected. The work was funded with a matching grant from the Colorado Historical Fund.

Read the full story at

Among the kettle corn and funnel cake, “Know Islam” booth aims to elevate New Mexico farmers market discussion

12 hours 31 min ago

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The mother and daughter arrived just before 8 a.m., unpacking the table and folding chairs from the back of a white minivan. It was a chilly 43 degrees, and the sun cast long shadows between the farmers market stalls and the funnel cake truck, the smell of grilled meat and wood smoke hovering.

Sureyya Hussain carefully laid out the Korans.

Soon, the curious passersby began to approach with their questions, their comments and their concerns. The answers, Hussain hoped, would inform and enlighten – or at least spur constructive conversations about being Muslim in America.

“We wanted to have a voice about what Islam is for us,” said Hussain, 50, who organizes the monthly table, where anyone can come to learn about Islam.

Muslims have been facing what they see as a tide of vitriol against them during the past two years, which has included hate crimes and harassment. Muslim leaders say that sentiment is fueled by the policies of President Donald Trump’s administration, including attempts to ban immigration from Muslim-majority countries.

Add to that the terrorism done in the name of the Islamic State extremist group – including a deadly truck attack on Halloween afternoon in New York City – and many Muslims feel like there is a constant need to defend their identities and religion from suspicion.

For some of the nation’s small-town mosques and groups of recent immigrants, the instinct has been to turn inward, keep a low profile, buy security cameras, and tell young people to avoid confrontations. Other communities have tried the exact opposite: public engagement.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Washington PostFrom left to right: Mustafa Azimi, wife Zarifa Azizi, Sureyya Hussain, Reema Iqbal and Radwan Jallad stand for a photo during the downtown farmers market in Las Cruces, N.M.

The Islamic Center of Las Cruces, the only mosque in this desert town of 101,000 about an hour north of the Mexican border, is one of them.

Hussain and other members of the mosque’s Dawa – or outreach committee – come here, to the town’s farmers market, and set up a sign that says “Know Islam” amid the stalls hawking apples, kettle corn and handmade soaps. They provide free Korans and pamphlets on different Islamic beliefs, and then they sit there for five hours, offering themselves up for whatever comes their way.

They want to get out in front of the hate, nip it in the bud before it starts. Let them come with their stereotypes and their fears, but give them answers.

The questions on a typical Saturday have range: “What do you worship?” “Do you wear your scarves in the shower?” “Do you walk behind your husband?” (The answers to the last two were “No.”)

Sometimes the conversations get difficult – maybe even a little uncomfortable or combative – but the volunteers do their best to stay calm and friendly.

“I could very easily sit in my house and hang out, but I’ve decided to do something, and this is the consequence of doing something,” said Mustafa Azimi, 27, a nurse, who joined Hussain and her daughter, along with his wife and another member of the mosque. “People are going to ask you questions. The goal is showing the community that Islam is not what the news portrays. If people knew that Muslims are also – like, that I’m a nurse who also knows how to cook food – that would be awesome.”

Las Cruces, the state’s second-largest city, sits on the desert’s edge against the backdrop of the jagged Organ Mountains. It is home to New Mexico State University, a 101-year-old church and the thick adobe walls of the old town Mesilla.

More than half the population here is Hispanic, and Radwan Jallad, an electrical engineer and member of the mosque’s Dawa committee, estimates there are about 500 Muslims, most of them foreign exchange students at the university. Approximately 200 show up for the Friday prayer at the Islamic Center of Las Cruces, founded in the early 1980s, where Jallad, Azimi and others take turns delivering the weekly sermon because there is no regular imam.

The Muslims of Las Cruces say they have been spared the xenophobia and racist violence that they hear about elsewhere. There have been no slurs spray-painted on the walls of their mosque; no women in headscarves who have reported being attacked while shopping. Shortly after 9/11, someone threw a bunch of beer cans and a wooden cross onto the grass outside the mosque, but otherwise they consider themselves lucky.

As they sensed the national political climate shifting a few years ago – and as they perceived there was an increasing amount of misinformation about Islam – someone broached the idea of having a table at the farmers market.

“Overall, it’s been wonderful,” said Hussain, a lawyer who grew up in Wyoming and is a mother of three. “People are friendly. People have a lot to say. Even people who disagree with us.”

– – –

The visitors on this Saturday included dog-walkers, families and elderly couples. There was a man with a bicycle who asked if all Muslims are required to make the hajj pilgrimage – no, they said – and another man who asked if it was appropriate to address Muslims with “Salaam” – sure, they said.

At one point, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., trailed by a small scrum of aides and local TV reporters, stopped by and greeted everyone at the table.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Washington PostRadwan Jallad, middle, greets a friend during the downtown farmers market in Las Cruces, N.M.

Then came the two heavily tattooed, bearded men in motorcycle apparel who wanted a copy of the Koran. And then there was the woman wearing a small dog in a pouch, who asked whether anyone was interested in puppy adoption, before adding a comment they have heard from others in this liberal-leaning city that backed Hillary Clinton: “I want to apologize for this president. He does not represent us.”

One woman, who introduced herself as Hannah, a recent college graduate and a Christian, asked if they had ever read the Bible and whether Muslims view it as “corrupted.” She also wondered how Muslims think about sin if they don’t believe Jesus died for them.

“For us, prophets die, prophets sacrifice, and that’s what makes them great,” Hussain explained. “We disagree on the fact that human beings carry the stain of original sin. But that doesn’t mean we can’t converse and can’t be friends.”

– – –

A lot of people have questions about what Muslims believe, especially when it comes to violence, Christianity and America.

So the group hands out pamphlets such as “What do Muslims think about Jesus?” and “Muslims stand against terrorism if they stand with Islam.” And they display a collection of books with titles including “All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim” and “The Muslim Next Door; The Qur’an, the Media, and that Veil Thing.”

Sometimes though, there are the people who don’t have any questions, just opinions.

It was late morning, with throngs of people growing between the stands of pecans and dried chile peppers, when a man with a black Chihuahua in a pink sweater walked by. Azimi immediately felt a surge of anxiety.

The last time this man came by the table, the conversation quickly got heated and voices were raised.

But John Thomas and Robertita – the Chihuahua – wandered over anyway. Thomas is a member of ACT for America, a group that has accused U.S. Muslim organizations of supporting terrorism and of trying to impose Islamic law across the country.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Washington PostMustafa Azimi, center, joins another farmers market discussion group hosted by Randy Harris, a friend, whose table is usually positioned near the Islamic Center’s table.

He wanted to talk about “political Islam,” which he believes is “a threat to our Western values.”

Azimi told him there wasn’t really anyone at the table who could help – they had no idea what Thomas was talking about. He suggested that Thomas should talk to a national Muslim group instead and eventually, Thomas walked away.

“We get more people that are stopping just to tell us that they either love us being here, or, like ACT for America, yell us down,” Hussain said. “We get more of that because both sides feel the need to tell us how they feel.”

As 1 p.m. approached and the farmers market began to wind down, a man in a cowboy hat, lugging a large metal washtub, walked up, looked at the sign and struck up a conversation with Jallad.

“So, detractors say your holy Koran says it’s okay to kill non-Muslims,” said the man, who introduced himself as “Washtub Jerry.”

“The Koran says if you kill one soul, it’s as if you’ve killed all of humanity,” Jallad answered.

Jerry considered this, but said it has been difficult for him to get the right information on Islam because there are so many conflicting voices out there.

“What’s the word Muslims use for us because we’re not Muslim?” Jerry asked. Jallad knew he was talking about the word “infidel,” so he got right to it.

“I’m an infidel,” Jerry said.

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“No, you’re not.” Jallad said, noting it’s more complex than that. “The Koran describes the infidel from the time of the prophet – idol worshipers – that’s where the word infidel comes from. But the Koran does not put infidel on Jews and Christians.”

Jerry continued with a question: “Do you follow sharia law? Do you want sharia law? Because it’s not compatible with the Constitution.”

Jallad explained: “Sharia law says you’re required to follow the law of the country.”

Jerry seemed satisfied. He accepted a Koran, and said he would visit again.

The group handed out 10 Korans and about as many pamphlets that Saturday. They answered tough questions. They heard words of support.

“The thing about doing the booth is it doesn’t matter if we get a lot of people. It just picks me up,” Hussain said. “Especially after the election, when we heard all the negative rhetoric, it really makes me feel good to be a part of the community like this.”