Off Limits

As you head north up I-25 from the border to Colorado Springs, you know you're approaching conservative country. After all, this stretch of pavement is known as Ronald Reagan Highway, and there's even an official exit for Focus on the Family. Still, the "Welcome to Colorado" sign, complete with state logo, that stands on the east side of the highway near mile marker 88 had us stumped with this message: "We'll treat you like family. Please treat us like home."

Turns out the sign isn't a special welcome to Family-friendly Colorado Springs, but a last vestige of the "Colorado's Burning" summer of 2002, when Viacom donated billboards to the state's attempts to lure tourists scared by the wildfires -- and according to Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Stacey Stegman, this one just never came down. The address on the sign is still good, as is the 1-800-COLORADO number that the site directs you to for more information -- where you'll likely reach a "Colorado tourism operator" based in Kansas City, Missouri, where USA 1000, the company that has the Colorado Tourism Office's phone-answering contract, is located.

Yes, there's no place like home. But just which home is that?

Comic relief: Celebrity endorsements don't guarantee that proposals become law. For example, a 2001 bill that would have forced parents seeking a divorce to get counseling before they could split sank like the Titanic once it was tagged the "Dr. Laura Bill," after professional radio scold Dr. Laura Schlessinger promised to testify in its behalf at the Colorado Legislature.

Still, comedian turned talk-show host Al Franken didn't hesitate to publicly back Amendment 36, which calls for Colorado's electoral votes to be distributed proportionally rather than in a winner-take-all fashion, during the October 4 edition of his Air America show, which was broadcast live from the Boulder Theater. Granted, Franken, who'd already spent a few days in metro Denver at voter-registration rallies and book signings, doesn't pretend to be an expert on Colorado politics. After amendment backer Rick Ridder told him that Colorado's governor opposed the measure, Franken asked if the guv was part of a local "beer empire," then admitted that "I don't know anything about Colorado's governor" -- which should come as a relief to Bill Owens -- before describing a fantasy state in which all of the elected officials are suds magnates. Imaginary office-holders included Senator Budweiser, Senator Miller and Senator Heineken, who can't become president because of his foreign birth and has a groping problem "when he's drunk or on steroids." (What, no Mayor Brewpub?) Returning to reality, Franken called Amendment 36 an "elegant" way of making the presidential election more reflective of the popular vote without ditching the electoral college.

The proposal has done fairly well in the polls -- but that was before there was any reason to hype it as the "Franken Amendment." Any advice, Dr. Laura?

And while you're at it, Doc, we could use some sartorial suggestions for the aforementioned Bill Owens, who was seen on FoxNews Sunday with Democrat Jennifer Granholm, the governor of Michigan, another swing state. While Granholm, like host Chris Wallace, was garbed in a business suit, the sweater-wearing Owens looked like he'd just been inspecting the construction site that is the current Governor's Mansion. And he did his best to hammer away at 36, "a brazen attempt by the Kerry campaign to cost George Bush eight votes in Colorado. The guy who's funded it, a millionaire out of Brazil, has funded the campaign here in Colorado trying to change this state's electoral votes for this election. Why? Because he knows this state's going to go for George Bush, give us nine votes on the Bush side. And under proportional, it would be a 5-4 vote."

Owens may get national face time, but John Hickenlooper, the aforementioned Mayor Brewpub, is definitely winning the personal-appearance count. Last week he averaged over five speeches a day -- and no matter whether he was addressing the Golden Triangle Association or the Rocky Mountain Air and Waste Management Association, he managed to work in his three key issues in the upcoming election: support for Denver's charter amendment that would make a police monitor possible, support for the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District tax renewal, and support for FasTracks, the transportation vote that the mayor's pushing so hard, he's the official face of the latest 4A ad -- although the commercial doesn't identify the geeky guy riding the rails. On Saturday, Hickenlooper even touted FasTracks to the most unlikely of groups, but one no doubt in need of public transportation later that day: celebrants at the Great American Beer Festival, many of whom come from around the world -- and not by light rail -- to drink beer in Denver, the drunkest city in America, according to the September Men's Health magazine.

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