Best Of :: People & Places
Balancing the state budget, as required by the Colorado Constitution, is no fun. But Backseat Budgeter does its best to make the process — or at least understanding the process — as pleasant as possible. This online simulator was created as a public service by Engaged Public, a political consulting firm, "to help citizens understand the tradeoffs associated with spending our public dollars." With a push from Colorado State University, the program not only lets you see how different decisions would affect the overall budget, but allows you to share your thoughts with the public officials who have to do the actual numbers-crunching. And while the Backseat Budgeter was created as a tool for understanding the Colorado State General Fund, it can be adapted for any public budget — a service that Engaged Public will provide at cost.
Libraries are changing quickly to meet the demands of an online age, but one welcome development at Denver's Central Library is oddly retro. DPL now allows patrons to check out items from its vast repository of government documents, so that the determined researcher can take home such pre-Internet jewels as Know Your 8-Inch Howitzer and Identifying Sheep Killed by Bears. Of course, the collection also includes considerable information on public lands, congressional hearings and reports on current topics, reliable health information and much, much more.
Lots of folks have jockeyed for the limelight as Colorado has become a mecca for medical marijuana, but one guy who doesn't get the praise he deserves is state registrar Ron Hyman. Over the past two years, Hyman has experienced the state's MMJ card application rush up-close and personal, since his office handles all the paperwork. Even as the backlog stretched into the tens of thousands and storage closet after storage closet had to be requisitioned to hold all the documents, Hyman maintained a superhuman good nature. And once legislators injected his office with much-needed funds to tackle the backlog, Hyman and his team came through with their promise to deal with all outstanding applications before the end of 2010. Mr. Hyman, this bud's for you.
Last summer, two high-rises were finished a few blocks apart on 14th Street, each making its mark on the skyline. But here's where things get interesting: One is a 41-story vertical stack of horizontally oriented glass rectangles, while the other relies on 45 stories of vertical thrusts that terminate in a spike mounted on the top. Strangely enough, the names of the buildings are the opposite of what you'd expect. The pile of glass rectangles is the Spire, while the one which actually has a spire is the Four Seasons Hotel. It would make for a good bar-room bet, even in a bar full of architects.
The Front Range is blessed with many worthy organizations that help animals and veterans; Freedom does both at the same time. Since 1987, the organization has excelled at rescuing shelter dogs, training them in a range of special skills, and pairing them with people with emotional or physical disabilities, including combat veterans. The demand for service dogs keeps increasing, but the group's dedicated core of volunteers has proven up to the task. Freedom boasts an amazing hundred-percent placement rate; dogs that wash out of the exacting training program find adoptive homes elsewhere.
There's quite a yarn behind the Ladies Fancywork Society, a group of rogue crochet artists who've been stringing us along for the past few years with their guerrilla art installations. They've created leg warmers for Jonathan Borofsky's "Dancers" (better known as the Dancing Aliens) in front of the Denver Performing Arts Complex, created a Wild Garden on a 360-foot-long stretch of chain-link fence behind Union Station, put cowls on the "Scottish Angus Cow and Calf" outside the Denver Art Museum, and beautified odd bike racks and benches around town. But the best is yet to come: These savvy street artists have big plans for April Fool's Day. Denver's looking good, and the Ladies Fancywork Society is a big reason why.