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Denver City Council votes to ban most flavored tobacco, vaping products starting in 2023



Denver City Council votes to ban most flavored tobacco, vaping products starting in 2023

The Denver City Council approved a ban on most flavored tobacco and vaping products Monday night.

Come July 2023, the only places adults will be able to legally buy any flavored smokables in the city will be at hookah lounges or shops selling pipe tobacco and handmade cigars.

The flavor ban ordinance passed by a vote of 8-3 Monday. Council members Kevin Flynn, who sought to amend the measure to exempt menthol products, and Chris Herndon, who opposed it in its entirety, were absent.

The vote brings to a close a months-long debate between council members who argued that limiting access to flavored products was essential to fighting youth smoking and vaping and members who viewed the ban as government overreach more likely to hurt small business owners than make a dent in the youth nation’s vaping epidemic.

“This really is about public health and we make those decisions based not on positions of power and who contributes to the tax base but it’s really about limiting harm,” Councilwoman Jamie Torres said prior to voting yes. “Kids aren’t property owners and kids aren’t business owners.”

Council members Amanda Sawyer and Debbie Ortega co-sponsored the bill. It took three committee meetings and a public hearing in the council chamber on Nov. 29 to reach Monday’s outcome. Along the way, the bill was watered down in some places but held strong in others.

Sawyer and Ortega accepted amendments that exempted hookah lounges that only serve customers 21 and up and another one that carved out an exemption for pipe tobacco and handmade cigars.

The tobacco used in hookahs, tall water pipes that have been used in Middle Eastern cultures going back centuries, is always flavored so a ban would have effectively shut down roughly 20 businesses in the city if they had not been exempted.

Councilman Paul Kashmann brought the pipe and cigar amendment, noting that many of those products also have flavoring agents in them. Kashmann’s rationale for the amendment is that the ordinance is focused on preventing youth smoking.

“I don’t know kids walking around with nasty old stogies,” he said at last month’s council hearing.

The new ban left several groups feeling burned. Opponents included owners of smoking and vaping-focused small businesses and some members of Denver’s Black community that viewed banning mentholated smoking products as a paternalistic attack on their personal choices.

Phil Guerin, the owner of the Myxed Up Creations smoke shop on East Colfax Avenue, attended multiple hearings to argue against the ban. He claims to have helped thousands of adults stop smoking by giving them an alternative through vaping products. The ban will undermine more people’s efforts to quit.

“You’re acting like we don’t even exist,” Guerin said at Monday night’s meeting. “You guys could have come to me and we could have addressed this as a community. I have solutions.”

A proposed amendment from Councilwoman Kendra Black that would have exempted 21-and-up smoke shops that check IDs was voted down during the bill’s initial council hearing. Flynn’s amendment that would have exempted menthol-flavored products also lost on a split vote last month.

Community activist Alvertis Simmons was among those who argued for that, decrying the council for exempting hookah lounges in part because of their cultural significance while targeting menthol largely because of its prevalence among Black smokers.

“At some point City Council you are going to have to come to the realization that Black folks got our own mind,” Simmons said. “You talk about equity, you’ve got to be equitable.”

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St. Louis woman charged in McDonald’s shooting over french fries



McDonald’s employee shot in north St. Louis County Wednesday afternoon

ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KTVI)– Authorities have charged a woman who is accused of shooting a McDonald’s restaurant employee Wednesday after an argument over a discount on french fries escalated. The St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s office has charged Terika Clay, 30, of St. Louis, with first-degree assault and armed criminal action.

Normandy Police say Clay came through the drive-thru at the McDonald’s on the 1700 block of South Florissant Road in Cool Valley Wednesday afternoon when she argued with the victim, who was working the drive-thru window, about a discount on french fries. Court documents say Clay threatened to shoot the victim. When the employee left for a break, the confrontation continued, with a probable cause statement saying Clay hit the victim with the weapon before shooting her with it. The incident was captured on surveillance cameras, according to police.

The victim, police say, suffered a superficial wound and has been released from the hospital.

Clay is being held on $150,000 bond. A bond reduction hearing is scheduled for next week. If she’s released, a judge has ordered that she stay out of contact with the victim or other employees at the restaurant location and that she cannot be within 1,000 feet of the victim or the restaurant.

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Four Stylish Homes from LIV Sotheby’s International Realty that Just Hit the Market



Four Stylish Homes from LIV Sotheby’s International Realty that Just Hit the Market

The selling season is officially here in Colorado. Buyers and sellers are hitting the ground running this month rather than waiting for the start of spring when the market typically begins heating up. This sooner-than-normal start to the season means there are exciting new listings entering the market every day that are ready to help the lucky buyers than claim them live the life they love in Colorado.

As Colorado’s leading luxury and lifestyle-focused real estate brokerage, LIV Sotheby’s International Realty (LIV SIR) represents some of the most spectacular homes along the Front Range and beyond. Here is a look at some of the most recent luxury listings to enter the market.

Craftsmanship Near the City
Start your next chapter in the classic Denver home located at 675 N. Humboldt St. Listed by LIV SIR broker, Debra Fagan, for $4,200,000, every inch of this home is exquisitely designed to create a luxury city living experience. Offering five bedrooms, seven bathrooms, and ample space for formal and casual entertaining, this Denver residence is a must-have for those looking for a home that can do it all. Originally built in 1908, the house was taken down to the studs before being completely redesigned using the finest finishes and materials. Box beam ceilings, elegant colonnades, custom built-in storage, interior corbels, hand-cuts stair railings, leaded glass windows, mahogany wood floors, Bradbury & Bradbury wall treatments, and more is what you’ll find in this richly designed residence.

Timeless Elegance in Castle Rock
Sophistication and style abound at 918 Dakota Dr., listed by LIV SIR broker, Audrey Will, for $2,950,000. This stunning, spacious home is situated on over an acre of land adjacent to natural, open space in Castle Rock. The moment one enters this five-bedroom, five-bathroom estate, they are greeted by soaring ceilings and an abundance of natural light pouring in from the many oversized windows throughout the home. An entertainer’s dream, this home features incredible spaces for hosting friends and family such as the two-story great room, lower-level recreation room, wet bar, and movie theater. Each room within the home is teeming with luxurious finishes that elevate this already incredible home.

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Think your home value is soaring? Talk to a Missouri farmer



Think your home value is soaring? Talk to a Missouri farmer

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer Jeff Frank doesn’t feel rich, but simply based on the skyrocketing value of his land in northwest Iowa, it’s an apt way to describe him, even if he laughs at the idea.

He lives in the same nearly century-old house, grows veggies in the family garden and shops at the same grocery store about 15 miles (24 kilometers) down the road. “We live the same way we have all of our lives,” he said.

Still, even if Frank’s life hasn’t changed, the several hundred acres he owns about 80 miles (129 kilometers) northwest of Des Moines have suddenly made him worth millions of dollars.

It may come as a surprise to city dwellers excited by their home values that countless farmers like Frank are actually experiencing a real estate boom that makes residential prices pale in comparison. While median existing-home prices rose by 15.8% in the U.S. last year, farmland values went up about double that rate in places like Iowa.

“I’m definitely surprised by the magnitude,” said Wendong Zhang, an economist at Iowa State University who oversees an annual farmland value survey.

The rising values, especially in the Midwest, are due to high prices being paid for the key commodity crops of corn and soybeans, plentiful harvests in recent years coupled with low-interest rates and optimism the good times will continue.

But they’re a mixed blessing. They’re enriching farmers who already have a lot of land, but making it much harder for small operators or younger farmers starting out to get land unless they happen to inherit it.

Most purchases are by operations that see the value of larger scale, seizing the chance to buy nearby land.

“If you miss this opportunity, you may not get another chance,” Zhang said, describing the current mood.

As for consumers, higher land costs typically don’t affect grocery prices.

Historically, farmland values rise and fall, but in the past couple decades they have mostly risen, and in the past year they have risen a lot — 33% in Frank’s part of the state and 29% throughout Iowa, one of the nation’s top agricultural states. Agricultural prices also have soared elsewhere in the Midwest and have climbed in most other parts of the country, too.

Federal Reserve Banks in Chicago and Kansas City reported double-digit increases in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Nebraska.

In Iowa, average farmland has risen from $7,559 an acre in 2020 to $9,751 an acre in 2021.

Nationally, farmland was up an average of 7% but that doesn’t include the last half of 2021, when prices really took off in many areas.

Farmland prices have even climbed in California despite concerns about persistent drought. In 2021, the average prices of $10,900 an acre was up 9% from 2020.

The land purchases augment an existing national trend of more agricultural production coming from ever-larger farms.

Dan Sumner, an agricultural economist at the University of California-Davis, credits some of the rising value in switching to higher-value crops, such as replacing alfalfa with nut trees.

Overall, though, Sumner said farmers are feeling good about their future.

“It reflects confidence in the economics of agriculture,” he said.

The upswing follows tumultuous years of trade wars, market breakdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic and drought in much of the West.

For individual farmers, the biggest benefit of rising values is that they can borrow money at better rates for annual needs like seed and fertilizer and longer-term investments like tractors and even more land.

The high prices have prompted plenty of people to buy and sell land, leading to a record of $765 million in agricultural land sales last year overseen by Farmers National Company, one of the nation’s largest landowner services companies.

Randy Dickhut, a Farmers National real estate broker in Omaha, Nebraska, said a more typical year would see about $500 million in sales.

“It’s been very busy,” Dickhut said. “It’s certainly easy to sell.”

But Holly Rippon-Butler, who runs a dairy with her parents in upstate New York, called the farmland prices increases “just nuts.”

“The hard reality is, buying land is almost impossible unless you have some preexisting source of generational family wealth,” said Rippon-Butler, who works with the National Young Farmers Coalition, an organization the among other priorities advocates for policy changes and public funding that would enable more people to have access to land.

Given high land prices, Rippon-Butler said beginning farmers she encounters typically work as little as a quarter-acre of land and see 20 acres as a relatively large operation. Many farmers also rent land, and as values rise, so do rental rates.

Frank, the farmer in northwest Iowa, said that even though he’s technically wealthier now, it hard for him to expand his holdings as he prepares to pass along the property to the next generation.

“I have a son who farms with me and of course he’d like to expand but buying farmland right now is a big undertaking,” he said. “Even for a small farm you’re talking about millions of dollars.”

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