05 February 2010

Denver Good News Friday

* A mix of policy moves in Colorado have put far more students on track to graduate from high school.

Aurora Public Schools saw a 23.7 percent increase in 12th-graders, Denver a 23.6 percent jump and Adams Five Star a 20 percent boost. . . . [In Denver:]

• Overall high school attendance is up 5 percentage points over the past two years to 87.5 percent.

• The number of ninth-graders after one semester who are on track to graduate increased to 83.1 percent in 2009 from 68 percent in 2007.

• Over the past year, the number of students taking credit-recovery courses has soared to about 2,400 students last fall from about 600 students in fall 2008.

• The number of AP exams taken increased by about 67 percent over the past five years, and the number of tests that received passing grades rose by about 40 percent.

• The number of DPS students enrolled in college courses increased 69 percent over the past four years to 1,842 students in 2008-09.

Martin Luther King Jr. Early College has 97.3% of its freshmen on track to graduate, at 97.3 percent, "a report by ABC News years ago that called it the country's worst school."

* All of the unionized grocery workers in metro Denver has a contract. Safeway workers approved a contract yesterday. Albertsons, King Soopers and Safeway workers and the people who go to their stores can all know in comfort that there won't be a grocery strike for at least another four years.

* The unemployment rate dropped from 10.0% to 9.7%. (Payroll jobs continued to fall by 20,000. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel with tentative gains in manufacturing employment.) The President's top priority in last month's State of the Union address was dealing with unemployment.

* Foreclosure filings were down in Denver 2009 proper, although they are rising in the suburbs and soaring in metropolitan Grand Junction (which also "led the nation last year with the largest percentage decline in jobs of any metro area").

Denver, Adams and Arapahoe counties . . . saw foreclosure sales drop 28.8 percent, 20.1 percent and 15.9 percent last year, respectively. New filings were flat or even down in the case of Denver.

By contrast, foreclosure filings jumped 175 percent in Mesa County and foreclosure sales shot up 223.4 percent. . . .

Boulder, Broomfield, Douglas, El Paso, Larimer and Weld counties all saw filings increase 18 percent or more last year. Several other, more rural counties largely untouched by foreclosures saw a big jump last year.

Falling natural gas prices, rather the public policy, is driving Grand Junction's economic crash.

* A proposed new design for Colorado's appellate courts is a modest, positive addition to Dnever civic center complex. While there are points to criticize (architecture is an enterprise full of compromises), on the whole it is better than I had hoped that it might be.

* Denver's RTD has secured support for a billion dollars of federal FasTracks funding over several years in President Obama's 2011 budget; the Denver's Union Station renovation project has secured a $300 million loan necessary for that transit related project to move forward.

* GDP was up 5.7% according to a report last month.

* Ford and General Motors are back on their feet based on January 2009 sales figures. A closer look at the General Motors sales figures is even more encouraging. Declining sales are concentrated in brands being discontinued, while brands remaining in existence are seeing sales growth larger than anticipated.

* At a Democratic party of Denver function yesterday, Andrew Romanoff, a candidate for Colorado's seat in the U.S. Senate, gave a speech that got a standing ovations as he walked onto the stage and again when he finished. The praise was deserved. Romanoff gets it. Democrats were elected to use their power to effect change and have an obligations to do so. He understands that health care reform is a very personal matter of life and death. He can inspire and lead, not just parrot a party line. Romanoff is barn storming the state right now to build support for his campaign.

* John Hickenlooper's run to be Governor of Colorado has Republicans on the run.

* President Obama has committed to repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, even the sometimes conservative Denver Post editorial page is pushing to act sooner than the one year deadline set by the President. Scott Brown, the new Republican from Massachusetts, looks unlikely to change the balance of power on this issue. President Obama also publicly condemned the Ugandan government for its move to adopt genocidal anti-gay legislation, at the National Prayer Breakfast hosted by a U.S. group rumored to be supporting the Ugandan government.

* State Representative Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver, HD 2) is pushing legislation to give voters a chance to restrain payday lending. Insider comments on the story make it look like he has the votes to make it happen.

* For once, the Denver has had the guts to fire jail guard Steven Koehler for assaulting jail inmate without justification.

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