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Nuggets’ Will Barton returns to practice, eyes OKC for preseason debut

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Nuggets’ Will Barton returns to practice, eyes OKC for preseason debut

With a wry smile and a knowing shimmy, Nuggets guard Will Barton announced he was back.

The Nuggets ended practice Sunday afternoon with their typical 3-point shooting contest, and Barton, only feet in front of reporters, couldn’t help himself. Barton glanced toward the baseline and then stepped confidently into a smooth corner 3.

Having missed most of training camp, including all three preseason games after rolling his ankle, Barton was back on Sunday running with the starters. The Nuggets (0-3) close their preseason schedule with back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday against Oklahoma City, and Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he expects Barton to be available.

It’ll be a departure from Denver’s first three preseason games where training camp standout P.J. Dozier had been the starting shooting guard.

On Sunday, Barton ran alongside Monte Morris, Aaron Gordon, Michael Porter Jr. and Nikola Jokic, assuming his spot in the starting lineup.

“We ran today, we dominated, we won the scrimmages,” said Morris of the group’s chemistry.

Despite Barton’s return, Morris said there was no learning curve with the first team.

Added Malone: “(Will) looked really good. Running the floor, attacking the basket, making explosive plays.”

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Centennial’s Streets at SouthGlenn on track to get more housing as retail sector scrambles amid challenges

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Centennial’s Streets at SouthGlenn on track to get more housing as retail sector scrambles amid challenges

City leaders in Centennial expressed strong and unanimous support Tuesday night for a plan to allow The Streets at SouthGlenn shopping center to add a lot more housing while curtailing the amount of square footage dedicated to shopping — a reflection of the rapid adjustments that commercial property owners here, and nationwide, continue to make amid ongoing upheaval in the retail sector.

The council did all but take a final vote, which won’t occur until Monday. But it was clear from comments from every council member Tuesday that they will be voting in favor next week.

Centennial’s discussion comes less than a month after Littleton narrowly approved a redevelopment plan for the Aspen Grove shopping center that will allow up to 2,000 residential units where none exist now. It also allows retail space to be reduced by half.

And just last month, East West Partners announced plans to pump life into a 13-acre area west of Denver’s Cherry Creek Shopping Center, an effort the developer said will include a “significant residential” component.

David Garcia, policy director at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California at Berkeley, said what is happening in metro Denver is part of an “emerging trend” in the country, where the changing retail landscape is dovetailing with an acute housing shortage in many urban areas.

Earlier this year, several lawmakers in California introduced legislation to make it easier to convert commercially zoned property into residential use to address the state’s housing shortage, he said. Metro Denver has its own housing crunch to deal with.

“There is such a demand for housing,” Garcia said. “It follows the trend of trying to put existing land to the highest and best use.”

At The Streets at SouthGlenn, a 77-acre outdoor shopping district laid out on a street grid with familiar brands like Whole Foods, Best Buy and Snooze, the maximum number of allowable housing units would go from 350 to 1,125, while the minimum amount of retail space as outlined in the shopping center’s agreement with the city would drop from just over 900,000 square feet to 621,000 square feet.

RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

The Streets at SouthGlenn in Centennial is pictured on Dec. 7, 2021.

There are approximately 750,000 square feet of retail at The Streets at SouthGlenn now and just over 200 housing units, said Don Provost, founding partner at Denver-based Alberta Development Partners. The shopping center, owned by Alberta, opened a dozen years ago at the southwest corner of East Arapahoe Avenue and South University Boulevard, replacing the long-forlorn SouthGlenn Mall that sat at the location for decades.

He said the reconfiguration at SouthGlenn is necessary in a retail environment that has been battered by consumers moving their dollars online, a phenomenon that has only quickened during a pandemic that complicates face-to-face transactions.

“There has been an acceleration in the last 15 years, and especially in the last five years, with online shopping,” Provost said. “We want the existing retail (at SouthGlenn) to thrive. The core of the retail remains.”

The plan to add hundreds of homes to The Streets at SouthGlenn largely revolves around finding a way to best fill space opened up by a recently shuttered Sears store at the site, and a Macy’s that is set to close in March — two big box retail formats that have fallen out of favor among shoppers.

Alberta is partnering with Northwood Investors, which owns the empty Sears building. Construction on the new housing could begin late next year, with new residents moving in in 2023 or 2024, Provost said.

“We need to look at enhancing the long-term viability of SouthGlenn,” he said.

And that means determining what the mix of shopping, entertainment and residences needs to be to “make that retail more productive,” said Neil Marciniak, Centennial’s economic development director.

The Streets at Southglenn contributes around $3 million a year to Centennial’s overall $40 million sales tax haul, Marciniak said. While he said cities “live and die” by their sales tax collections, their shopping centers have to evolve with the larger market.

“What is that appropriate mix to prepare for the future?” Marciniak said. “All shopping centers need to be looking at their tenant mix, their land use mix. Consumers want an experience.

1638943298 592 Centennials Streets at SouthGlenn on track to get more housing

RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

The Streets at SouthGlenn, pictured on on Dec. 7, 2021, is looking at a potential change to decrease the retail space and up housing in the area. Sears has closed its doors at Streets at SouthGlenn.

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China says US diplomatic boycott violates Olympic spirit

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China says US diplomatic boycott violates Olympic spirit

BEIJING (AP) — China accused the United States of violating the Olympic spirit on Tuesday after the Biden administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Games over human rights concerns.

Rights groups have pushed for a full-blown boycott of the Games, accusing China of rights abuses against ethnic minorities. The U.S. decision falls short of those calls but comes at an exceptionally turbulent time for relations between the powerhouse nations and was met with a barrage of criticism from China.

The U.S. is attempting to interfere with the Beijing Games “out of ideological prejudice and based on lies and rumors,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters.

The boycott “seriously violates the principle of political neutrality of sports established by the Olympic Charter and runs counter to the Olympic motto ‘more united,’” Zhao said.

As he did the previous day, Zhao vowed that China would respond with “resolute countermeasures” but offered no details.

“The U.S. will pay a price for its practices. You may stay tuned for follow-ups,” Zhao said.

On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the Biden administration will fully support U.S. athletes competing at the Games but won’t dispatch diplomats or officials to attend.

Psaki said the U.S. has a “fundamental commitment to promoting human rights” and that it “will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games.”

The diplomatic boycott comes as the U.S. attempts to thread the needle between stabilizing difficult relations with Beijing and maintaining a tough stance on trade and political conflicts. The U.S. has accused China of human rights abuses against Muslim Uyghurs in northwest Xinjiang province, suppressing democratic movements in Hong Kong, committing military aggression against the self-ruled island of Taiwan and more.

Beijing has denounced U.S. criticisms and punitive sanctions as interference in its internal affairs and slapped visa bans on American politicians it regards as anti-China.

Zhao warned the U.S. to “stop politicizing sports” and cease what he said were actions undermining the Beijing Winter Olympics, “otherwise it will undermine the dialogue and cooperation between the two countries in a series of important areas and international issues.”

The Chinese Embassy in Washington dismissed the move as posturing in a tweet.

“In fact, no one would care about whether these people come or not, and it has no impact whatsoever on the #Beijing2022 to be successfully held,” the embassy said.

China’s mission to the United Nations called the boycott a “self-directed political farce.”

Even the ruling Communist Party’s notoriously opaque Central Commission for Discipline Inspection issued a response in the form of a lengthy screed on its website entitled “The Spirit of the Olympic Charter Cannot be Tarnished.”

“Some Western anti-China politicians” have shown a “defensive Cold War mentality aimed at politicizing sport,” the article said, calling that a “clear violation of the Olympic spirit and a challenge to all people who love the Olympic movement.”

People on the streets of Beijing were overall dismissive of the U.S. move.

“I don’t think it matters at all if they would come or not. The Olympic Games are not about one country or a couple of countries,” said coffee shop employee Deng Tao.

“Such remarks from someone we never invited are simply a farce. And I don’t think it will have much impact on the holding of the Winter Olympics,” Lu Xiaolei, who works in trade.

It wasn’t clear which officials the U.S. might have sent to Beijing for the Games and Zhao said Monday that no invitation had been extended by China.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, whose relations with China have nosedived in recent years, said Wednesday his government would join the U.S. in the diplomatic boycott.

New Zealand said Tuesday it won’t be attending the games at a diplomatic level, but that it made the decision earlier due mostly to pandemic travel restrictions.

The country told China in October about its plans not to send government ministers, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said.

“But we’ve made clear to China on numerous occasions our concerns about human rights issues,” Robertson said.

The attitudes of other U.S. allies were less clear.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday that the country would make its own decision “from the perspective of national interests, taking into consideration the significance of the Olympic Games and the significance of Japan’s diplomacy.”

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said a decision on officials attending would be made “at an appropriate time.”

“In any case, Japan hopes that the Beijing Winter Games will be held as a celebration of peace in line with the principles of the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Matsuno said.

South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson Choi Young-sam declined to comment on the U.S. decision and said the ministry had not received any request from its ally not to send officials.

South Korea hopes the Beijing Olympics will “contribute to peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia and the world and help improve relations between South and North Korea,” Choi said.

The dispatching of high-level delegations to each Olympics has long been a tradition among the U.S. and other leading nations. Then-President George W. Bush attended the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Summer Games. First lady Jill Biden led the American contingent to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo this year and second gentleman Doug Emhoff led a delegation to the Paralympic Games.

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Judge finds segregated schools do not violate Minnesota constitution if Cruz-Guzman plaintiffs can’t prove intent, causation

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Judge finds segregated schools do not violate Minnesota constitution if Cruz-Guzman plaintiffs can’t prove intent, causation

The plaintiffs in a major school segregation lawsuit have failed to persuade a judge that racial and socioeconomic imbalances in Twin Cities area school enrollment amount to a violation of Minnesota’s constitution.

Hennepin County District Judge Susan Robiner this week denied the plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment in Cruz-Guzman v. State of Minnesota.

However, Robiner asked the state Court of Appeals for an immediate review of her decision, writing that she had little legal precedent to work from, that the case is important, and that there’s a fair chance the appellate court will overturn her order.

The lawsuit, filed in 2015 against state education officials and lawmakers, alleged that state laws and policies on open enrollment, integration and charter schools have caused segregation in Twin Cities and suburban schools.

State officials early this year agreed to a settlement that would have created $63 million a year in ongoing obligations for the state, including an integrative busing program, new magnet schools and new orders for charter schools to desegregate.

But when the state Legislature declined to act on the settlement, plaintiffs attorney Dan Shulman asked the judge to decide key parts of the case in his favor without going to trial.

THE FOOTNOTE

Shulman argued in his motion that the simple fact that many metro schools are segregated is enough to find the state’s education system unconstitutional.

His argument relied in large part on a footnote from the 2018 state Supreme Court decision that revived the Cruz-Guzman case after an appeals court panel dismissed it.

The footnote said that it’s “self-evident that a segregated system of public schools is not ‘general,’ ‘uniform,’ ‘thorough,’ or ‘efficient’” — quoting words found in the education clause of the Minnesota constitution.

Robiner this week described Shulman’s argument as an “over-interpretation” of the footnote.

In her view, the segregation must be “intentional” in order to find a constitutional violation. If she’s wrong and Shulman is right, she wrote, then the only remedy would be to redistribute Twin Cities students to different schools according to their race, which the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly said violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

“Plaintiffs argue that racial imbalance alone establishes an Education Clause violation. Therefore, whether explicitly or implicitly, Plaintiffs are asking this Court to order Defendants to eliminate the challenged racial imbalances,” Robiner wrote.

“This Court has concluded that it cannot issue such an order in the absence of de jure segregation; because without de jure segregation, a race-conscious remedy would place Defendants squarely in front of the propeller blade of an Equal Protection claim.”

INTENT, CAUSATION

Even if the Court of Appeals upholds Robiner’s latest ruling, the lawsuit will move forward, and Shulman will have the opportunity to try other arguments.

He already has offered evidence that some of the state’s policies on school integration were written with intent to segregate, which could be unconstitutional.

At this point, though, “The factual record is wholly inadequate to establish intentional de jure” — intentional — “segregation by Defendants as a matter of undisputed material fact,” Robiner wrote.

Robiner wrote that the plaintiffs also must prove the state’s laws and policies actually have caused school segregation, calling the counterargument “antithetical to basic legal principles.”

The plaintiffs, hoping that the numerical imbalances would be enough to win the case, so far have made little effort to demonstrate causation.

Indeed, the judge wrote, the plaintiffs’ experts have offered explanations for why someone besides the state defendants may be to blame for segregated schools. She cited “intransigent contributors … including housing and poverty patterns, and in the case of charter school enrollment and open enrollment, the fact that parents opt into these schools.”

The judge canceled a Friday status hearing on the case in light of her request that the Court of Appeals review her order.

Specifically, she’s asking the appellate court to determine whether a racially imbalanced system of schools violates the state’s education clause, even in the absence of intent or proof that the state’s actions caused the segregation.

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