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Local news roundup with The Colorado Sun - 6/30/2022

The Marshall fire in Boulder County, Colo., burned an estimated 6,000 acres and displaced 35,000 people. About 1,000 homes were lost.
Jack Dempsey
The Marshall fire in Boulder County, Colo., burned an estimated 6,000 acres and displaced 35,000 people. About 1,000 homes were lost.

Every Thursday Samantha Coetzee speaks with our colleagues over at the Colorado Sun about the local stories they're following.

Today she spoke with environment writer Michael Booth about the primaries, Marshall Fire recovery efforts, and how some companies are combatting the Great Resignation.

Interview Highlights:
These interview highlights have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Samantha Coetzee: Let’s start with a bit of a Colorado election rundown. It seems like GOP voters shifted toward candidates that have a better chance of unseating Democratic incumbents. Can you tell us about that?

Michael Booth: Well, it's pretty hard to avoid politics this week during primary season in Colorado, and we didn't want to avoid it. So our great political staff dove right into those same questions. And what they're seeing from this week's results is that Republican voters in Colorado appear ready to set aside unsupported grievances about the 2020 election. Instead, they want to nominate candidates they feel have a better chance with mainstream November voters.

The Republican Party sees an opening to regain some political power in Colorado that they've been losing race by race in recent years. That's as long as candidates for U.S. Senate, a new congressional seat and the state Senate stay focused on everyday issues like high gas prices, overall inflation, the possibility of a recession and immigration.

Democrats are now having to readjust. Reporter Jesse Paul reports they spend millions of dollars promoting Republicans, as we talked about here before. They hope that raising the profile of more extreme Republicans would get them nominated and give Democrats an easier path to victory in the fall by running against extremism. It didn't appear to work anywhere except Illinois. Democratic analysts say the reverse psychology strategy may have worked once before. But Colorado voters are now largely unaffiliated and have done their homework.

Coetzee: Today you’re launching a piece that’s a six-month anniversary of the Marshall Fire. Can you tell me about how those affected by the fire have done with rebuilding?

Booth: Recovery from wildfire that burns down entire neighborhoods is a long journey. We want to make sure we come back to some of the 1,000 families who lost their homes in the Marshall Fire and tell their stories along the way, not just for a week or two afterward, but as long as it takes to see where life leads them afterward.

So we have remarkable stories from Shannon Najmabadi, Jennifer Brown, Erika Breunlin and Olivia Prentzel. They kept checking in with people who allow them to come along for these difficult times. You don't just flip a switch and hire a contractor to replace what you lost right away. Everybody else needs a home builder at the same time. So some families chose to give up on their smoldering ruins and buy an existing house nearby. Many are still trying to figure it out, but all of them seem more than just a little haunted by the loss of all those possessions.

And you got to remember, this was an absolute stop on Dec. 30 to the routines of life they'd been living before. One woman they talked to had been delivering the Denver Post for 19 years, and suddenly she had no neighborhood left to deliver the newspaper to. One family's kids wrote to Santa Claus and wondered if there might be another chance at Christmas after all their things were burned. These reporters wanted to do these families justice by sticking with them through the bad and the good, and they've been kind enough to share their hard times in a way that may help rebuild a sense of community for everybody.

Coetzee: I'm glad that both of our news outlets have taken the time to do some reporting on that. And finally, you have this story centered around a McDonalds in Longmont that’s recovering from the Great Resignation. Can you explain what they’re doing differently?

Booth: Yeah. A very different kind of recovery. Obviously a lot of businesses and workers were hit hard by the COVID pandemic and returning to whatever parts were normal has been extremely tough. So Brammhi Balarajan spent some time with an owner and the employees of a Longmont McDonald's. One of the big economic stories we've been following to the site is that of Colorado's missing workers. Employers like McDonald's just can't find enough people to do a pre-pandemic level of work.

So where do they all go? Boomers, for one thing, took a pandemic pause to reevaluate their lives and decide they'd stretch retirement retirement dollars now and get out early. McDonald's and other restaurants have raised wages quite a bit, yet there are still two job openings for one good employee prospect. So this McDonald's is trying other things to build loyalty and teamwork. You might walk in for a burger and find a fiesta going on to celebrate an employee birthday or an anniversary. Sometimes it takes a lot of free kicks.

Employers have to do better in flexibility on scheduling, and it's not enough to offer tuition benefits and other extras to employees. You have to have someone on site who can work with the employees on how to take advantage of those benefits and really use them. And you need to be ready with other work and life advice for this group of employees. So yes, there are crazy hat days and pajama days are always popular no matter where you work, especially at McDonald's.

As the host of Morning Edition at KUNC, I have the privilege of delivering you the news in two ways — from behind the mic and behind the scenes. In addition to hosting Morning Edition, I’ll report on pressing news of the day and arts and culture on the Front Range.
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