Off Limits

Season's greetings

Last month, the Virgin Mary and Child suddenly appeared alongside Sixth Avenue -- okay, on a billboard near Denver Health -- beaming down on passersby and delivering the very biblically worded message "Pregnant? Be not afraid."

A note on the bottom of the billboard credited it to the memory of "Joanne Caplis."

And Joanne Caplis would be...?

"My mom," says lawyer/radio talk-show host Dan Caplis. "She'd take into the house unmarried, pregnant teenagers who had nowhere to go. They'd move into the house and she'd support them, with everything from food to clothes to bus money."

A number printed right below the billboard's message sent callers to Colorado's Project Gabriel, a program similar to one his mother supported in Chicago and "an effort to reach out to people regardless of how they come down on the political side of pregnancy," Caplis explains. (But since the program is run by the Archdiocese of Denver, you might guess where it falls.) "It's a really ambitious project," Caplis adds. "They have volunteers throughout the metro area."

He decided to sponsor the billboard, which went up at the start of November, in honor of his mother, who passed away two years ago this coming January. "It was great work that my mom did. She moved these people into the house -- and it was not a big house -- and she never forgot them. She took care of the kids at Christmas, and year-round as well," Caplis remembers. "I was at her wake, and this girl came up to me and said, 'I just wanted you to know your mom saved my life.'" Caplis's mother had taken in the girl's mother when she was pregnant, over a decade before.

"I love the artwork," he says. "It's the Madonna of the streets."

And as of this week, it's ascended to billboard heaven -- replaced by a much less seasonal advertisement for the nearby Noodles & Company.

United we strand: The saddest people at Denver International Airport Monday may have been the United agents working at gate 17 in the B concourse -- just opposite a bank of newspaper boxes holding dailies blaring news of the airline's then-imminent bankruptcy filing. Asked about the headlines by one California-bound traveler, an agent confided that she was looking forward to the moment when someone bought the last paper and she didn't have to see it anymore.

If only concerns over the airline's Chapter 11 status could disappear so easily. At the end of the flight, our traveler reports, the pilot got on the intercom and said, "And we honestly hope to serve you again."

Emphasis on "honestly."

And they're off: On December 6, six months to the day before Denverites go to the polls and choose between at least a half-dozen mayoral candidates to replace term-limited Wellington Webb, City Auditor Don Mares made his bid official -- not that it came as any surprise, since he already had a staff and an office (at 1 Broadway) in place. Mares is starting his run from the same auditor's position that Webb held in 1991 when he launched his surprise upset of former Denver district attorney Norm Early, and he took at least a portion of his announcement from another successful dark-horse candidate, Federico Peña, who broke out of an equally crowded field back in 1983. Peña's winning slogan: "Imagine a great city." Mares's recurring theme: "Imagine a mayor that..."

Mares's official slogan, however, is all his own: "Mares for Mayor: The experience to do it well. The integrity to do it right." And the energy to return to the Chili Pepper -- where he'd made his announcement speech -- six hours later for a celebration that attracted over 600 well-wishers.

Former Denver city councilwoman Susan Casey made it official on Tuesday evening, announcing her run for mayor with a campaign kickoff at Steele Elementary -- "the school where my children gained their foothold on the world, in the neighborhood that I love" -- that she'll follow up with neighborhood events throughout Denver this week. In her announcement speech, she noted that Peña "asked us to join him in imagining a great city" twenty years ago, then continued, "Twelve years ago Wellington Webb asked us to walk with him and dream with him. Both of these men defied the odds, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. I am ready, and eager, to defy the odds once again."

John Hickenlooper hasn't made his candidacy official, but he, too, has filed the requisite papers, started hiring staffers (Paul Lhevine, fresh from Diana DeGette's last race, is his campaign manager) and opened an office at 1175 Osage -- where he hosted an open house this past Saturday.

What? No beer? "It's noon," replied communications director Lindy Eichenbaum Lent (formerly of Mike Feeley's campaign). Yes, which means that the Wynkoop Brewing Co., where Hickenlooper got his start as a beer baron/businessman fourteen years ago, had been pouring for over an hour.

California, here they come: Coloradans complaining about all those out-of-staters overrunning the place can finally stop whining. Net migration has taken its first major dip in more than a decade.

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