Seen: Denver Academy gala raises funds for tuition aid

Denver Academy was founded on the belief that education isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing, that students are more likely to thrive when they are given the opportunity to learn at their own pace and in their own way.

And since 1972, the private school at 4400 E. Iliff Ave. has achieved national acclaim for helping “diverse learners” in grades 1 through 12 push through challenges associated with such conditions as dyslexia, attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Classes are small — 12 to 14 max — and turn out students like Crosby Gaeta, one of 100 recipients of the 2017 Emperor Science Award sponsored by PBS Learning Media and Stand Up to Cancer.

Eight hundred high school juniors and seniors from 44 states had applied for the award that encourages students to explore careers in science, especially cancer research and care.

The prize includes a Google Chrome computer and the chance to conduct research in a lab, either in person, virtually or a combination of the two. Gaeta, who is about to become a senior at DA, is spending the summer as an intern for a local cancer researcher. At Denver Academy, she is a member of the National Honor Society and the Student Senate, and serves as a student ambassador, representing DA at various community events.

Such specialized education comes with a price. Denver Academy’s annual tuition is $25,700 for grades 1-6; $27,750 for grades 7-12. Thirty percent of the student body receives financial assistance; $1.3 million in tuition assistance was granted last year.

The tuition assistance fund received a $375,000 boost at the school’s recent gala, a diamond-themed dinner, auction and dance chaired by Lorie Linnell and held at the Brown Palace Hotel.

CBS4 anchor Jim Benemann, the parent of a Denver Academy alum, was master of ceremonies for the event that also included remarks from teacher Sara Krell and parent Josh Dieringer and his son, Charlie.

Labor secretary Alexander Acosta, speaking in Denver, argues for reduced job licensing requirements

U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta took on the myriad occupational licenses that state and local governments require during a breakfast speech in Denver on Friday morning, arguing they may be keeping 2 million to 3 million people from jobs they want.

“Occupational licensing hinders the American workforce,” he told the crowd gathered before the American Legislative Exchange Council. “Almost one in three jobs requires an occupational license.”

Acosta acknowledged the necessity of proving competency for highly skilled positions and jobs that impact public health and safety. But he told the audience of conservative political leaders that more than 1,100 occupations face a licensing requirement in at least one U.S. state.

Such requirements often load up job seekers with unnecessary burdens in time and money. And many certifications, once earned, typically don’t transfer across state lines.

Acosta held up an application that Maryland requires for fortune tellers. The application requires three references who can attest to the good character of the applicant and a payment of a $393.75 fee.

Another example of licensing overreach he cited was in New York City, where anyone who watches a pet for money must have a kennel license or risk a $1,000 fine for illegal pet sitting. Also, users of Rover, a popular Seattle-based application that matches up pet owners with paid pet watchers, are at risk because of the city’s rules.

Neighboring states can have much different requirements for the same job, with no marked difference in public benefit. Acosta pointed to Nevada, which requires 100 hours of training and licensing for opticians, who fit customers with glasses, based on prescriptions from optometrists and ophthalmologists. Next door in Utah, there are no licensing requirements.

“The question is: Is this burden really justified?” he said.

A Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis study estimates that licensing requirements are keeping 2 million people out of jobs, a number equivalent to 1.3 percent of the labor force, Acosta said. He also cited another study from Brookings that puts lost employment opportunities at closer to 3 million.

Even when occupational regulation makes sense, state and local governments could do more to standardize and simplify requirements so licenses will work across multiple state lines without re-certification, Acosta argued.

That would allow people to use technology to provide services remotely across state lines, as in telemedicine. It would also assist military and other families that have to move often for work.

Thousands flock to free medical clinic in Virginia while Washington dithers on health care

WISE, Va. — The sick and the disabled pour out of these mountains every summer for their one shot at free health care, but this year was supposed to hold hope for a better solution.

President Donald Trump won the White House in part on a promise to fix the nation’s costly and inefficient health-care system. Instead, Republicans in Congress are paralyzed and threatening to dismantle the imperfect framework of Obamacare.

No relief is in sight for someone like Larry McKnight, who sat in a horse stall at the Wise County Fairgrounds having his shoulder examined. He was among more than a thousand ailing people attending the area’s 18th annual Remote Area Medical clinic, where physicians and dentists dispense free care to those who otherwise have none.

“I really think that they don’t have any clue what’s going on,” McKnight said, referring to political leaders in Washington. “You watch the news and it’s two sides pitted against each other, which in turn just makes them pitted against us, the normal person.”

Josh Phillips waited all night, with hundreds of others, to get a chance to have dental work done. He rested in a wheelchair as he waited to be sent to a check-in area.
Michael S. Williamson, The Washington Post

Josh Phillips waited all night, with hundreds of others, to get a chance to have dental work done. He rested in a wheelchair as he waited to be sent to a check-in area.

About 1,100 such people descended on the fairgrounds Friday, with more expected Saturday and Sunday. Medical personnel from across the state were there with makeshift examination rooms in tents and sheds. Sheets hung from clothespins for privacy; giant fans pulled hot air through buildings intended for livestock shows.

These events are staged nationwide, but the Wise clinic is among the biggest, drawing people from all over Appalachia and casting Washington’s sterile political debates into the starkest human terms.

A third of the patients who registered Friday were unemployed. Those who couldn’t afford a room slept in their cars or camped in the fields around the fairgrounds. They lined up in the dead of night to get a spot inside the event.

It is the place of last resort for people who can’t afford insurance even under Obamacare, or who don’t qualify for Medicaid in a state where the legislature has resisted expansion.

At 37, with a long graying ponytail, McKnight had never been sick until about eight months ago. So he hadn’t worried too much about not being able to afford insurance on his roughly $18,000 a year in pay as an auto mechanic. But now he was getting a referral to the University of Virginia hospital to check for the source of his pain, which he had vowed to withstand without resorting to opioid medication.

Tabitha Lindley and her mom, Tammy Lindley, check for messages in the pre-dawn hours after sleeping in their car. In the foreground is Dalton Barton, Tabitha's fiancee. They hoped to get dental work done.
Michael S. Williamson, The Washington Post

Tabitha Lindley and her mom, Tammy Lindley, check for messages in the pre-dawn hours after sleeping in their car. In the foreground is Dalton Barton, Tabitha’s fiancee. They hoped to get dental work done.

“The normal person doesn’t care about a lot of the things that they care about [in Washington]. Most people want to work, they want insurance and they want to be able to take care of their family without assistance,” he said.

The only way to do that, he said, is to have everybody – healthy and sick – paying into a centralized health insurance plan. “I really think the only thing that would truly help this country is if it were single-payer,” McKnight said.

Around here, that’s not politics, it’s just life. Many of these people voted for Trump – not only for his vow to fix health care, but also for his promise to bring back the coal industry. They’re still waiting for results, with varying degrees of patience.

Patricia McConnell was having trouble speaking around the bloody gauze in her mouth. She had just had four teeth pulled. The unemployed former McDonald’s manager had driven eight hours from her home in Glen Burnie, Maryland, to attend the clinic.

“My teeth were hurting,” she said. McConnell, 63 and disabled, said she had health insurance through Medicaid, but no dental coverage.

So this was her dental plan: save for six months to afford a motel room and gas, and wait in line in the morning heat to see a volunteer dentist.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe gives a hug to Patricia McConnell, who saved money for six months for gas and a hotel room, to attend the Remote Area Medical event.
Michael S. Williamson, The Washington Post

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe gives a hug to Patricia McConnell, who saved money for six months for gas and a hotel room, to attend the Remote Area Medical event.

McConnell has been watching the health care debate in Washington and wondering if it will ever amount to anything that actually helps people like her. “I don’t know what they’re trying to do,” she said, struggling to get the words out around the gauze.

She voted for Trump, she said, and still feels that he’s working hard to help. But his anger and his tweets seem to aggravate Congress, and no one is working together, she said.

They need to set all that aside and work to pass health care for everyone, she said. “Let’s get this done.”

Others had a hard time mustering the faith that anyone cared.

“They’re trying to kill us poor people, is what they’re trying to do,” said Robert Horne, 55, a disabled former construction worker seeking dental care. Horne said he voted for Hillary Clinton last fall because of her pledge to maintain the Affordable Care Act.

That didn’t work out, either.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe chats with Joey Johnson of Clintwood, Va. who is confined to a wheelchair.
Michael S. Williamson, The Washington Post

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe chats with Joey Johnson of Clintwood, Va. who is confined to a wheelchair.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who flew out to the clinic Friday morning, had invited Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to join him – but said that the Republican leader “politely” declined. McAuliffe, who visits the clinic every year, spent nearly two hours touring it – twice as long as scheduled – and took every opportunity to proclaim that he’s been trying for three years to get the state legislature to agree to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly has resisted, unlike the legislatures in nearby states, which McAuliffe kept reminding the patients and doctors who crowded around him on the hot fairgrounds.

“All of our neighbors in Kentucky and West Virginia and Maryland – they did it!” he said to a Christian counseling group that had set up shop under an awning. But in Virginia, he said, legislators turned down millions in federal dollars that would be available under Medicaid expansion.

“We need it,” called out Tonya Hall, operations director for a hospice care facility. “Let ’em come and visit some in southwest Virginia. Let ’em see the poverty. Let ’em see how we live. Let ’em come.”

“This isn’t about politics,” McAuliffe said.

Kaitlen Hagy, 3, tries to keep cool with a hand fan at the Wise County Fairgrounds. She was in line for eye glasses. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Michael S. Williamson for The Washington Post.
Michael S. Williamson, The Washington Post

“Right!” Hall agreed. “It’s about people.”

“It’s about people’s lives,” McAuliffe said, to a round of “amens” from the group.

Hall, 42, said she had voted for Trump, but that she was disappointed that he hadn’t been able to do anything to improve the health care system. If Obamacare can’t be fixed, she said, “then I say we scrap it and start over. You can see the need,” she added, gesturing at the masses of people waiting for their turn with a medical professional.

Beyond her, a long line stretched into the triage tent, where people were sorted, their vital signs measured. Allen Sexton, 37, was there to have all his teeth removed, years after a car accident had left them a scrambled mess.

In a metal shed nearby, vision specialists sat in darkness, performing eye exams in pools of light. One man said his glasses had broken a year ago and he couldn’t see at a distance or up close, but he’d been driving anyway.

There was another tent for orthopedic care. Another for basic checkups. Each one was full, with more people waiting outside on metal folding chairs or standing in lines.

Politicians prowled the fairgrounds. Several area legislators attended while Attorney General Mark Herring (D), running for re-election, walked with McAuliffe and Sen. Tim Kaine (D) helped register patients.

Stan Brock, the English philanthropist who founded the RAM clinic program more than 30 years ago, said there was one more visitor he’d like to see at the clinic.

“It’s absolutely imperative that the president of the United States come and visit one of these events,” he said. “I believe if he did he would take some immediate action.”

Colorado engineering powerhouse CH2M reportedly in talks to be bought by Texas firm

Colorado-based engineering giant CH2M could soon be bought by its Texas rival.

The global engineering firm, based in Englewood, is in “advanced talks” with Jacobs Engineering Group, according to a report in The London Times. Officials for CH2M could not comment on the report Friday.

“We do not comment on rumors or speculation,” wrote Lorrie Paul Crum, CH2M’s vice president of corporate communications.

Acquisition of the mostly employee-owned CH2M could come at a lower price tag than the company’s executives want, according to the Times’ report, which quotes only an “industry source.” The asking price could be about $1.5 billion – low for a company with revenues of about $5 billion – due to project liabilities overseas, the Times reported.

CH2M lost a contract to oversee the second phase of the High Speed Two rail project, a major construction project in Britain. The firm is also facing controversy surrounding pension liabilities stemming from its 2011 entry into the British market when it bought Halcrow.

Baird Equity Research said in a report that CH2M would fit with Jacobs strategically but predicted that acquiring the company would bring too much risk to Jacobs.

The Times reported that executives for Jacobs, based in Dallas, are looking to enter the United Kingdom market, and CH2M could give them a leg up in that process. The Colorado firm recently signed a deal to oversee the refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster and previously directed the construction of several sports venues for the 2012 Olympics in London.

CH2M has a long history in Colorado. Formerly CH2M Hill, the firm was founded in 1946 and became one of Denver’s biggest international players. In 2011, it was the largest privately held company in Colorado. The company was contracted to help clean up Rocky Flats in 1995 and helped to expand the Panama Canal in 2016. In 2003, Fortune Magazine named it one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Former CH2M CEO Ralph Peterson brought the company to the international stage during his tenure from 1991 to 2009. Peterson, who died months after retiring in 2009, was a well-known figure in Denver. Gov. John Hickenlooper called him a mentor and picked Peterson to serve on his transition team to Denver mayor in 2003.

CH2M’s current CEO, Jacqueline Hinman, is one of the only women to run a major U.S. engineering firm. She is one of the 4 percent of women who head a Fortune 500 company.

CH2M did $5.2 billion in revenue in 2016, down from $6.1 billion in 2012, according to SEC filings. Its net income was $15 million last year. The company employed 20,000 employees worldwide in 2016, a decrease from 30,000 in 2012.

Jacobs Engineering Group primarily focuses on the oil and gas, petrochemical and pharmaceutical markets.

Colorado business filings drop slightly in second quarter, but remain above 2016 level

Colorado business filings dropped slightly in the second quarter, according to the Secretary of State’s Office, but remain higher than during the same period last year.

Both new entity filings and existing entity renewals dropped compared to to the first quarter. According to the state’s Quarterly Business & Economic Indicators Report, in the second quarter of 2017, a total of 29,728 new business filings were recorded in Colorado — a 5.9 percent increase over the same period last year.

The first quarter of 2017 yielded a 9.3 percent increase year-over-year.

“New entity filing continue an upward trajectory, which is good news for our state,” Secretary of State Wayne Williams said in a news release. “There are now nearly 650,000 business entities in good standing filed with our office.”

The business and economic indicators report looks at several factors, including energy costs, the labor market and inflation, according to Williams’ office.

Through May 2017, home prices in Colorado grew at the third-fastest pace nationally — at 9.9 percent — but labor data continues to show weakness in employment growth in rural communities.

“At this time the national economy appears poised to continue the third longest expansion in U.S. history,” Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the secretary of state’s business research division, said in a written statement. “We see few warning signs that could derail this trajectory over the next year. Colorado’s economy is still holding strong.”