The most important asset for a successful politician — especially these days, when there's not much money to buy popularity — is an appealing vision that inspires constituents. Failing that, a good pol should have a funny name and a prop-comic's ability to perform in television commercials. John Hickenlooper rode into office on the success of his scooter campaign, then won Denverites' hearts and votes by acting opposite a parking meter in a second hit commercial. Although many local critics panned his follow-up performance in the "Oversized Foam Alphabet Bond Issue Election," Denver's mayor pressed on, snow shovel in hand, to star in a public-service announcement that took his commercial career out of the deep freeze. Unlike Hickenlooper's other starring roles as a celebrity dork, in "Senior Scooper" he played an average dork who saved a senior citizen's day with one push of a shovel and a snow-eating grin. If only it were always that easy!
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
The last depression wasn't all bad news. Thanks to the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Denver area reaped the benefits of several federal projects, including Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Hundreds of New Deal laborers worked to create a stage and seating in this stunning setting; the amphitheatre, finished in 1941 and improved periodically since, is legendary with artists around the world. Less well known is the role of the CCC workers at Red Rocks — but their contribution is remembered with a statue at the entrance to the Visitor Center.
Primary 9News sports anchor Drew Soicher did Rod Mackey a big favor a few years back. He decided that he didn't want to work on the weekends, leaving Mackey the chance to take charge on Sundays, the biggest sporting day of the week. Still, credit Mackey with making the most of the opportunity. He's developed into a strong, solid on-air presence, with a good sense of balance that keeps the focus on sports instead of shtick.
Sports yakkers tend to be ghettoized, as if their chosen subject automatically makes them less worthy than peers who gab about hard-news happenings. But Sandy Clough transcends the genre. He's a rigorously analytical thinker who's not interested in dumbing down his commentary to make it more understandable for average Joes and Janes. Rather, he works under the theory that sports fans are smarter than their reputation and deserve a smarter brand of conversation. If only more sports specialists played the game his way.
Center For Native Ecosystem
The Center for Native Ecosystems is located in the heart of LoDo, at 1536 Wynkoop Street, but from there it keeps an eye on all of the Southern Rockies, working to save endangered plants and wildlife. The organization just turned ten, and as a celebration of its first decade, it launched "From Where I'm Standing: Perspectives on Conservation in the American West" on its website. Every day for thirty days, the site will post a new essay by one of thirty residents of the West, residents who just happen to be some of the best authors and leading environmentalists in the region. So far, we've heard from everyone from photographer John Fielder to Golden mayor (and former CNE head) Jacob Smith, with still more to come. Judging from this site, clear thinking is far from endangered.
Those Vitamin Cottage Natural Food Market commercials have made the children of company founders Margaret and Phillip Isely into local celebrities. But TV viewers may not be as familiar with the family-owned food store's historic home in Lakewood. While not officially recognized by the Lakewood Historical Society, a large sign announces the significance of this clapboard cottage: It's where Margaret realized that selling vitamin supplements could make for a successful enterprise, and renamed her existing bulk-food business Vitamin Cottage. Today there are 33 stores keeping Colorado healthy.
To put it mildly, Adam Schrager, who spends most of his on-air time reporting about politics for Channel 9, doesn't look like a typical TV host: He's got a hangdog face and often doesn't seem to have a total mastery of combs. But on Your Show, his public-affairs program on 9News's sister station, Channel 20, his plain-spoken, anti-slickster presentation only enhances his credibility. He's an accessible everyman, not to mention the perfect antidote for too much happy talk.
Natalie Tysdal is more than just a warm and welcoming personality as adept at banter as she is at delivering the headlines. Along with partner Tom Green, she's also largely responsible for saving her station's news programming. The weak ratings generated by Channel 2's late newscast probably would have led to plug-pulling after the outlet merged with Channel 31. But the popularity of Tysdal and her morning crew helped convince management to keep the department around. And that's good news for everyone.
Investigative reporting requires both a lot of money and time, which is why so many stations are cutting back on it these days. But Channel 7 spared no expense with 33 Minutes to 3-4 Right, a half-hour special built around Denver Health's shockingly slow response to the December 2008 crash of Continental Flight 1404; the first ambulance took more than half an hour to arrive. Correspondent Tony Kovaleski and producers Arthur Kane and Tom Burke were given a big canvas, and they filled it ably, proving that local TV can still make a difference even in fiscally challenging times.
Sure, morning newscasts feature headlines and breaking news — but the best of them also provide information in a way that will prevent grumpy viewers from jumping off the nearest bridge. Channel 4's morning crew — anchors Brooke Wagner and Tom Mustin, supplemented by forecaster Stacey Donaldson, traffic expert Lynn Carey and valuable new addition Gloria Neal — accomplish this goal better than most. They exude warmth and humor without allowing it to curdle into cutesiness.

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