Good morning from the icy plains of Hoth. Though, who am I kidding, this little cold snap is nothing compared to what folks east of Colorado are experiencing this week. But cold is still cold, so once you’re safely at your destination for the day, we’ve got some piping hot news for you to tuck into.
Today’s newsletter has a little bit of everything, with an investigation into state education spending, a review of chairlift safety inspections, a look at how Colorado cities are enticing outdoor business, the best political coverage around and so much more. There’s a good chance you’ll find something worth reading and sharing today, so all we ask is that you make sure you tell people where you found it (and encourage them to sign up for The Sunriser in the process at coloradosun.com/sunriser).
OK, let’s scrape this windshield and get after it, shall we?
Attention Colorado businesses: Underwriting positions for The Colorado Sun’s newsletters are open for 2019. Get your name in front of one of the smartest, most engaged audiences in the state and support local journalism at the same time. Email Larry Ryckman for rates and availability.
>> ABOVE THE FOLD
Colorado spent $231 million to help young children catch up on reading. But rates of kids with significant deficiencies only worsened.
Spirits were high in 2012 when then-Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the READ Act. The act was designed to target funding directly to students who lagged behind their peers at a critical stage in reading development — one that has a big impact on whether a student stays in school or drops out. Fast forward to 2018 and the state has spent $231 million dollars over five school years while the percentage of kids testing with “significant deficiencies” has actually risen.
Montrose wants a chunk of Colorado’s $62.5 billion outdoor recreation industry with its new 150-acre business campus
“It’s easy to run a business when you have people who are so hardworking and trustworthy. So we saw Montrose as a great hub for our business because they share our work ethic and values. They already have it in their DNA.”
— David Dragoo, president of high-end fly-fishing brand Mayfly Outdoor
Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy is big. Double-digit billions big. One of the most interesting things about how it has been growing is that, unlike other parts of Colorado’s economic upswing, the benefits aren’t just hitting the Front Range. Case in point, Montrose (population ~20,000) will soon be home to a 150-acre, $83 million live-work-play campus that could make the city the epicenter of the industry in the state. And it starts with some of the most beautiful (and expensive) fly-fishing gear in the game.
Colorado lawmakers are sparring over a plan to bypass the Electoral College. Allow us to explain.
“There is truly a national consensus for taking the popular vote of the United States and using that rather than an 18th-century mathematical formula derived by a number of white males sitting around a table who couldn’t agree on some other things.”
— Mark Grueskin, Colorado elections lawyer
“Colorado will be a flyover state. We won’t have any presidential debates or candidates come to this state.”
— Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley
Two of the last three U.S. presidents received fewer votes from Americans around the country than their opponents, but were elected by the Electoral College. And as population forecasts show that more and more of the country will be living in a handful of states with major urban centers, a growing movement to sidestep the Electoral College process has come to the floor of the Colorado statehouse — with tacit support from Gov. Jared Polis. Democrats say the measure would actually make every American’s presidential vote count equally by ditching the winner-take-all, state-by-state system and giving more power to, say, Trump voters in California or Clinton voters in Texas. Republicans say that the effort will strip power from less-populated states.
>> DON’T MISS
- Gov. Polis really wants his tax cut for Colorado, and he’s targeting a $400 billion Trump tax break to do it. You really need to read Brian Eason’s story on this move.
- Jason Blevins has a detailed explanation of the avalanche that killed Aspen father and teacher Arin Trook, including the very small changes in terrain that significantly increased the danger of a slide.
- A bill to “ban the box” in Colorado — the box = the one on a job application asking about criminal history — sailed out of committee in the Senate yesterday with support from Democrats and for the first time, business groups. Jesse Paul has the whole story.
- It’s been two years since the death of Kelly Huber, the Texas mother who was thrown from a chairlift at Granby Ranch. The state investigation into her death included a number of safety recommendations that haven’t yet been put in place around the state. Jen Brown looked at a year’s worth of inspection data — and the 67 chairlift falls in the last five years — to explain how Colorado is making sure lifts are safe.
- The Colorado Automotive Dealers Association is taking the state to court over the move to tie Colorado’s low-emissions vehicle standard to California’s. Tamara Chuang explains the argument behind the complaint.
>> THE SHORTLIST
// If you’re at a show called the “Outdoor Retailer Snow Show” then, yeah, you better have an event honoring 99-years-young Klaus Obermeyer, who invented or popularized just about everything that makes skiing comfortable and possible. Jason Blevins has a great profile of the man, the myth and the legend. // The Colorado Sun
// In Arizona, the last state that needs to approve the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan, the Gila River Indian Community is threatening to pull out of the agreement over the repeal of “use it or lose it” statutes in the state, which would shatter the state’s plan and likely end up scuttling the overall plan. // The Colorado Independent
// The third and final installment of The Post’s series “Mourning the Living” is live: “Greeley family wonders who’s next as they watch Alzheimer’s disease wind through generations.” // The Denver Post
// This is one of the coolest (and most starkly illustrative) news graphics I’ve seen in a while. Each line in this drawing represents the path that every single representative in the U.S. House took to get their seat. Spoiler: a lot of them are lawyers or bankers and very few have ever held blue collar jobs. // NYT Opinion
// There is some drama happening in the Durango Area Tourism Office. The executive director was fired via email on Friday after a contentious suspension for, among other things, trying to get the Durango Herald to cover a city council meeting (which they were already covering) where he was objecting to the use of funds from the lodgers tax. // The Durango Herald
// Two updates from Chalkbeat on the pending Denver teachers’ strike: Students are speaking out while the strike is on hold while the union is asking that state labor officials stay out of the dispute. // Chalkbeat Colorado
// We can all only hope to be as happy in our careers as Allison Dunning is being a balloon artist. // Greeley Tribune
// Well, I guess my plan to win the lottery and turn the Sports Castle into Colorado Sun HQ will have to wait. Here’s the latest proposal for Broadway’s Gothic beauty. // BusinessDen
// A Silverthorne dentist was convicted of illegally distributing prescriptions for Xanax and opioids in what a former employee called a “pill mill.” // Summit Daily News
// Over on East Colfax, a former gas station has become a neighborhood events space, bookstore and, now, a food bank. Donna Bryson has the story of Counterpath. // Denverite
>> TODAY’S THING
The Thing: A cheap, sturdy not-too-fancy smartwatch.
Why You Might Like It: I was quick to jump on the smartwatch bandwagon. I bought one of the first Android Wear watches (used on eBay for about half its MSRP) a few years ago and it was … fine. I had to charge it every single night (sometimes in the middle of the day), it was glitchy and slow to respond and the fitness-tracking parts of the watch barely worked. But when it was good, it was great. After that watch died, though, I didn’t get another and had a couple of great years with a sturdy Timex Easy Reader. Fast forward to last year and the Amazfit Bip, which is the technological epitome of underpromising and overdelivering. I got it for less than $100 (it happens to be on sale for a ludicrously low $68 at the time of this writing) and while it’s definitely not the fanciest piece of tech I’ve used, it is a very accurate fitness tracker, a way to check my notifications without having to constantly pull out my phone and a pretty good sleep/heart rate monitor that I only have to charge once every two weeks. Outside of a Kindle or an old Nokia 3210, I can’t remember a gadget that went that long without a charge. It’s been a net positive since I bought it and a great first smartwatch if you really can’t bring yourself to drop four bills on an Apple Watch.
Editor’s note: Every Sunriser will include one … thing … to cap off our time together. The Thing will be just about anything, like a TV show or a book or a particularly cool dog toy.
That’s it for today, folks. Stay warm, drive safely and enjoy the winter wonderland before it melts into a sloppy mess. Have a great day!