Wake-Up Call: The week ahead, February 16-21

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The big news: Barack Obama is coming back to Denver, the town where he accepted the Democratic nomination on August 28, and where now, as president, he will now sign the $787 billion stimulus bill on Tuesday, February 17 at the Museum of Nature & Science (conveniently vetted by the Secret Service before the DNC, at the inconvenience of the museum, which had to close for a day).

Although Colorado, even with all its shovel-ready public projects, isn't expected to get a huge share of that cash, at least it will get another Mile High helping of national hype, which can translate into dollars, too -- if anyone's still planning business and personal travel these days. And it also means that Governor Bill Ritter's recent trip East to highlight Colorado's New Energy Economy -- tagged as a "junket" by state Republications -- has paid off at least one way.

The rest of the week, it will be back to business -- the hard business of cutting budgets.

The Colorado Council of the Arts is finishing up its round of meetings around the state to collect input from artists, since the state agency is likely to see at least a 50 percent cut in its budget. The last confab is Tuesday, February 17 in Ridgeway. For details, go to www.coloarts.org. Also on Tuesday, Ritter is holding the fifth in small business finance forums, "Surviving Tough Times." This one is in Loveland (the sixth in the series will be in Durango on March 17).

Closer to home, on Tuesday, the Colorado House will start discussing FASTER, which would raise vehicle-registration fees in order to come up with funds to fix this state's transportation infrastructure -- potholes that won't be filled by stimulus money. Also on Tuesday, a Denver City Council committee will take on the tough task of dealing with cuts in the Denver Department of Human Services budget. And at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, a public meeting will consider the $1.35 million renovation project for the Washington Park Boat House, which is part of the package Denver voters approved in November 2007. It's at St. John's Lutheran Church, 700 South Franklin Street, and you can find more info at www.denvergov.org.

Wednesday morning, Denver City Council's Safety Committee will consider which Coloradans, living and dead, should be honored by having their names on the new Denver Justice Center. Another candidate was recently added to the list of finalists, as Alan Prendergast reports in the latest installment of the Philip Van Cise story.The committee will meet at 9:15 a.m. in the fourth-floor City Council chambers at the City and County Building; find details at www.denvergov.org. That night, Mayor John Hickenlooper will honor the winners of the 2008 Mayor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver Performing Arts Complex. Admission is free, and doors open at 5:30 p.m., with the ceremony at 6:30.

The day-long Governor's Forum on Colorado Agriculture, "Learning From Our Past, Cultivating Our Future," kicks off February 19 at the Renaissance Denver Hotel; there's a reception the night before at the Governor's Mansion. To register, go to www.colorado.gov/ag/forum or call 303-239-4100. At 7:30 a.m. that day, the Downtown Denver Partnership hosts a panel discussing the Economic Stimulus Package at the Magnolia Ballroom downtown.

At 7 p.m. on February 19, state rep Beth McCann will host a town-hall meeting in the East High School auditorium tackling the question "How Can You Survive the Economic Crisis?" That same night, state senator Morgan Carroll and representative Su Ryden will host their own town-hall meeting in Aurora to discuss "Renewable Energy." It's at 7 p.m. in the Community College of Aurora Rotunda Room. For information on both, go to www.coloradohouse.org.

That's quite a package of stimulating activities for the week.

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