Groups get out the word about Arapahoe County vote center plan

Voter groups and political parties are cautiously optimistic the new Arapahoe County vote center plan will go smoothly on Election Day, but educating voters about the new system is key.

Under the vote center plan, registered voters will be able to vote at any of 17 vote centers located around the county. Under the old system, voters were required to cast ballots at their precinct polling place.

Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder Nancy Doty recommended the change in the name of convenience and cost savings.

The League of Women Voters of Arapahoe County approves of the vote center concept, said Marlu Burkamp, who organized the group’s outreach efforts.

“We think with the percentage of mail-in ballots it will save some money, and it seems to be a more efficient way if the program is done properly and adequately monitored,” she said.

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A note

Update: With the latest upgrade of the YourHub website, all story links are broken.

The YourHub site of The Denver Post, the website the following posts link to, underwent a major redesign that stripped the formatting on any stories prior to the 2011 update. I apologize for the poor presentation of those stories on the website.

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Arapahoe County Sheriff’s investigators thaw cold cases

In a nondescript cubicle in the bullpen of the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, Bruce Isaacson tries to reconstruct the past.

Isaacson and fellow investigator Marvin Brandt make up the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s cold case team. The two are charged with solving the cases whose leads have been exhausted, the cases in which a lack of evidence and the passage of time have conspired to let killers walk free. The cold cases.

The team presently has 28 cases under review dating back to 1968, 27 of them homicides. The other is a recovered body; the circumstances surrounding its recovery were suspicious, leading investigators to term it a homicide.

Isaacson compares solving a cold case with putting a puzzle together, but when a case is handed over to them, it’s a puzzle with a lot of missing pieces.

“It’s not in any order when we get it — it’s all jumbled in the box,” he said. “In most cases we never get all the pieces, but the more we get, the better the puzzle is.”

The puzzle comes together

Recently, the pieces fell into place in a 33-year-old cold case.

On June 9, 1973, Elizabeth Katherine Frye was murdered, beaten to death in her home in present-day Centennial. Her husband, Herbert Duane Frye, told investigators he had been in Boulder with his son and found the body in the garage upon returning home, according to an affidavit.

Investigators initially thought it was a burglary gone awry, but Frye later was indicted in the crime. Before the case went to trial, charges against Frye were dismissed when contradictory evidence surfaced. After that, leads in the case went cold.

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Workers look to retool amid layoffs

Rose Monahan is getting ready to go to college. She’s talked to a counselor about her field of study, registered for the classes she’s going to take when the spring semester begins in January and already bought her books.

And like many new students, she’s nervous. Monahan is nervous for a different reason than most incoming students, though — she’s 42 years old, and when she starts classes at the Community College of Aurora on Jan. 29, it will be the first time in more than 20 years she’s been in a classroom.

While she might be nervous, she won’t be alone — enrollment figures at area community colleges are rising, and much of that increase is due to people looking to retool their careers after being laid off.

“There’s a 40-year trend between unemployment and community college enrollment, and it’s an inverse relationship,” said Bert Glandon, president of Arapahoe Community College in Littleton.

ACC’s enrollment was up 14 percent this summer, and the average age on campus is 32 years old, up from 27 a year ago, he said.

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Smart car gets its fair share of stares

Looking more like a clown car than a coupe and averaging 40 miles per gallon, the new-to-America Smart car will make you feel pretty bright as you drive past gas station after gas station. And the quirky two-seater’s design appeal goes beyond that of most cars, too.

“I squeal every time I see one,” said Pam Witherspoon, a Castle Rock resident who got her metallic red convertible Smart car in February.

“Every time I walk out the front door I’m like, ‘Ooh, ooh, ooh — that’s my car,'” she said.

Witherspoon, 39, said she fell in love with Smart cars during a trip to Europe in 1998 and was the second person in the Denver area to get one.

The only Smart car dealership in Colorado opened in Englewood on Feb. 19, and they’ve delivered 35 cars since then, said Trang Hamm, the dealership’s president and general manager. While there are cars on the lot to test drive, people wanting to buy one put down a $99 deposit, “build” the car online and then wait for it to be delivered.

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Study finds link between poverty, cancer deaths

People who live in poverty are more likely to die after being diagnosed with cancer, according to a study led by Dr. Tim Byers, director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center in Aurora.

Poor people often have no health insurance and are diagnosed later than others, Byers said, leading to an increased mortality rate. While cancer death rates are declining in the overall population due to identifying the disease early in patients and treating it, that’s not the case with the poor. Cultural and biological factors play a part in cancer deaths, he said, but they’re not the main culprits.

“The biggest factor by far is poverty and lack of access to preventive services and treatment services,” he said.

That lack of access is largely due to a lack of insurance, Byers said, and even if someone does get diagnosed, the cost of state-of-the-art treatment is often outside of their means.

“Without health insurance you can’t afford treatment A, but you can afford treatment C, but that will probably shorten your life,” he said.

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Area nonprofits expect slowdown in giving

As families, businesses and governments all struggle with the slowing economy, for area nonprofits, the role they play in the community might determine how they fare in an economic downturn.

Metro Community Provider Network runs 12 health clinics around the metro area – including three in Aurora – and focuses on providing health care to the uninsured.

John Reid, vice president of development for MCPN, said “safety net” nonprofits, such as health clinics and food banks, probably won’t see major disruptions in their funding because the services they provide are deemed essential to the community.

He’s just beginning the 2009 fundraising campaign and said, so far, some of MCPN’s corporate sponsors have given him signs they’re actually going to increase their giving, though he doesn’t think that’s going to be the standard.

“When it comes down to it, they’re going to evaluate each and every nonprofit they give to,” Reid said. “In areas they view as socially beneficial, they’ll ask, ‘Would the community be much worse off if we stop giving? How much worse off would the community be as a whole?'”

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Weaving the fabric of a community

Buried in the 2000 U.S. Census data was a number that caught the eye of Littleton civic leaders. The number was 2,304 — the number of Littleton’s foreign-born residents. It represented a 123 percent increase from 1990.

Realizing it was important to help Littleton’s immigrants integrate into the fabric of the community, civic leaders and citizens addressed the issue at a 2004 leadership retreat. After the retreat, a group of volunteers received a yearlong planning grant from the Colorado Trust.

The result of their efforts was the Littleton Immigrant Integration Initiative (LI3). The program uses a three-pronged approach to help ease the transition for immigrants into the community by providing a one-stop information center, a health and wellness program that serves as a link between immigrants and area health providers, and a school-parent liaison who works to foster good relationships between schools and immigrant parents.

Susan Thornton, chair of LI3 and Littleton’s mayor from 1989 to 1993 and again from 1999 to 2002, said Littleton has a long history of tolerance and acceptance, as well as reaching out to people, and that’s important when it comes to integrating immigrants into the community.

“If you don’t reach out to these people you really risk becoming a sort of we-they community,” she said.

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Retro revival taking place on Route 66

In 1926, a road was established that would lead straight into the American psyche. It would become known as the Mother Road, and it would link small town America along its 2,400-mile path from Chicago to Los Angeles. That road was Route 66.

During the highway’s heyday, hundreds of motels lined its path: the Wigwam, the Blue Swallow, the El Vado. Neon was king, and the glow of the signs guided travelers as they drove through the night.

Over the years, many of the historic motels have fallen into disrepair. But if one Centennial man has his way, that will change.

Richard Talley is the president of Smalltown America , and his goal is to buy, renovate and reopen some of the motels along the old Route 66. His first project is the Motel Safari in Tucumcari, N.M., a 23-room structure built in the 1950s. Tucumcari is 175 miles east of Albuquerque near the New Mexico-Texas border.

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Bridging the gap: Seniors volunteer in Littleton schools

Ed Lynch and Christina Henderson sit at a small table in the Runyon Elementary School library. They each hold a copy of “The Fourth Grade Wizards,” and Lynch reads aloud, his voice steady, clearly enunciating each word. He pauses, and Henderson picks up on the page where he left off. Her voice lilts along, then stops when she gets stuck on a word. Lynch gently helps her figure it out, and she continues reading.

Lynch is 75 years old; Henderson is a fifth-grader at Runyon, and they’re taking part in a scene that plays out across Littleton Public Schools every day, that of a senior citizen volunteering in the district’s schools.

Through a district program that’s been in place since 1990, Lynch gets a rebate on his property taxes for volunteering in LPS. Henderson gets one-on-one time to help her with reading and comprehension.

Everyone benefits, said Barbara Brunt, the district’s volunteer and senior program coordinator.

“We get expertise into the classroom that we wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise,” she said. “They love it because they feel very appreciated.”

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Some photos

Boy wants donutSushiRock star

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Give-and-take in school district funding

For area school districts, one hand giveth while the other taketh away.

Both Aurora Public Schools and Cherry Creek School District are set to receive millions of federal dollars from the stimulus package signed into law last week, but at the same time, the state is cutting millions in school funding from the 2009-10 budget, as well as asking for money back from this year’s budget.

According to the Colorado Department of Education, APS is going to receive $14.2 million dollars from the stimulus bill. The money comes with strings attached, however – about half of the money is earmarked to go to Title I schools that serve low-income neighborhoods in the district and the other half will go to special education programs.

On the other side of the ledger, the governor’s budget proposal includes a possible $2.9 million cut in funding for APS for 2009-10, and the state department of education might ask the district to give up $1.2 million from this year’s budget, resulting in a total shortfall of $4.1 million. Those numbers aren’t set in stone, yet.

APS Superintendent John Barry said the district is in a much better position than other districts to handle the shortfall thanks to prudent planning by the school board, which cut $10 million from APS’ budget last year, and the mill-levy override passed by voters in the November election.

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History on demand: Library puts old photos online

If the past is a bridge to the future, then the Englewood Public Library just added a couple of lanes to it.

In January, the library unveiled a Web site that collects its archive of historical photos all in one place, easily accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

The collection consists of more than 1,800 photos dating back to the early 1900s. It’s all there: The flood of 1913, the Cherrelyn horsecar, Tuileries Park, Cinderella City and photos of regular folk just going about their business.

The project was spearheaded by Carol Wilbur. She’s the library’s public services manager and local history librarian, and said the project took a bit longer than she expected — about eight years from start to finish.

When she took over the library’s local history collection, the photo collection was disorganized and not easily accessible.

“All the photos were there and no one had figured out how to make them available to the public,” she said. “It was in file folders in the back room.”

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Crawford Elementary clinic gets $365K in grants

A health clinic in Crawford Elementary School geared toward providing care to low-income children recently received two grants totaling nearly $365,000.

The clinic, which opened in September 2008, serves 10 schools in the Aurora Public Schools district and is a partnership between APS and Rocky Mountain Youth Clinics (RMYC).

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment gave the clinic a $100,000 grant. Stephanie Wasserman, the director of community and school-based health programs for RMYC, said that money will help pay for medical services, including a physician, a physician’s assistant and a medical assistant.

The clinic also received a grant of $264,965 from the Colorado Health Foundation , a foundation dedicated to decreasing the number of people in Colorado without health insurance. Wasserman said that grant will be used to expand mental health services at the clinic as well as expand nursing services in APS. Funds also will go toward a pilot program the school district is part of intended to help those without insurance determine if they’re eligible for existing programs, such as Medicaid or Child Health Plan Plus, a program that offers low-cost health insurance for children and pregnant women in Colorado.

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