Wake-Up Call: The week ahead, from calf-ropin' to budget-bustin'

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Governor Bill Ritter was at the last day of the National Western Stock Show, taking in the rodeo with his family (Ritter was one of twelve kids, all raised on a farm in eastern Aurora) -- and enjoying a few light moments before the hard work of the week ahead. When a steer broke free of his handlers and the rodeo announcer pronounced, "This is like trying to get the governor of Illinois out of office." Ritter wasn't the only one laughing. But he may have been laughing the hardest.

Ritter and House Speaker Terrance Carroll later hopped aboard a wagon for a quick turn around the rodeo ring and a fast lesson for the crowd in cowboy politics: "Their handshake means something," the announcer promised.

I ran into Carroll in the Coliseum afterwards, and while he said he was surprised by his role in the center ring, that ride was tame compared to the wild ride he expects at the legislature this week. Ritter postponed introducing the new year's budget (which begins July 1) from last Friday until Tuesday, and Carroll warns that the cuts will be brutal -- and unavoidable.

Ritter will be in Grand Junction today, offering the third of his "Surviving Tough Times" small business finance forums; the final three are slated for February 11 in Colorado Springs, February 17 in Fort Collins, and March 17 in Durango. (For information, go to www.scoredenver.org.) The Tourism Industry Association of Colorado is anticipating tough times ahead, since Ritter has suggested cutting the state's tourism budget in half; to soften (and maybe even avoid) the blow, it's hosting a reception with legislators at 5:30 p.m. today at the Denver Athletic Club. The cost is $75, for info, email jamiemc@comcast.net).

Ritter will be back in town for tomorrow's Colorado Alliance of Sustainable Business Associations' legislative briefing, which runs from 7:30 a.m.-9:15 a.m. and will focus on Colorado's green economy; for details, go to www.sustainablecolorado.org. The green discussion will spill over into a Greenprint Denver neighborhood workshop from 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday night at the Blair Caldwell Library. Learn more by calling 720-865-9103. And the Colorado Water Congress will flow through January 30 in Denver. Get background and the complete schedule on the CWC website.

And now for something completely different: The Ted Haggard story is blowing up real big, with the defrocked New Life Church minister now giving interviews in advance of The Trials of Ted Haggard, airing on HBO January 29. Interesting timing, since the 21st National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change will be held in Denver January 28-February 1. For full details on that confab, go to www.thetaskforce.org/events/creating_change.

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