πŸ₯΅ It's Thursday, and we're still sweaty after two record-breaking hot days.

  • Good news: It dips below 100Β° today!
  • Bad news: The high is 99Β°. Expect mostly sunny skies.

πŸ“…Β Don't miss: At 10:30am Friday, Axios will unpack the historical significance of Juneteenth and discuss Black political power in the U.S. with special guests.

Today's newsletter is 945 words β€” a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: City Council vs. the mayor

The Denver City and County Building. Photo: Craig F. Walker/Denver Post via Getty Images

For the first time since Denver voters strengthened City Council's checks and balances on the mayor's office last November, Mayor Michael Hancock's powers may be tested like never before.

What's happening: After voters approved a ballot measure that requires council approval over top mayoral appointees, Hancock is seeking a green light for his new nominee to lead Denver International Airport, Phillip Washington.

  • Washington's former agency in Los Angeles is under criminal investigation reportedly related to the awarding of a no-bid contract to run a sexual harassment hotline that was costing taxpayers up to $8,000 per call.

What's new: Adam Loew, husband of Jennifer Loew β€” the LA Metro employee whose whistleblowing helped spark the investigation β€” tells Axios he's alarmed Hancock's office "hasn't talked to the whistleblowers" or "looked at the court case," which remains active at the state level, before proceeding with the appointment process.

Keep reading

2. An alarming new COVID concern

Data: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Chart: John Frank/Axios
Data: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Chart: John Frank/Axios

The COVID-19 variant first detected in India now represents 40% of the cases in Colorado, new state data shows.

Why it matters: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled the B.1.617 (Delta) version a "variant of concern" Tuesday because it is more transmissible and more formidable against the vaccines.

Driving the news: The version is now in 17 counties β€” including one case in Denver. But it is most prevalent in Mesa County, which issued a public health alert last week.

  • "We're considering this an emergency," Jeff Kuhr, executive director of Mesa County Public Health told Colorado Public Radio.

Between the lines: Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising in Mesa County, taxing the health care system, as vaccination rates in this conservative turf are at 40%, much lower than other parts of the state.

  • Of note: The county is preparing to host Country Jam next week. Thousands are expected to attend the event, dubbed "Colorado's biggest country music party."

The bottom line: Even though state and local authorities lifted most public health restrictions, COVID-19 is not over in Colorado.

3. Capitol Impact: A crackdown on Big Pharma

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Editor's note: Colorado's General Assembly approved more than 500 bills this year. In this occasional series, we unpack what it means for you.

Democratic lawmakers declared a war on Big Pharma this year and delivered a handful of major bills designed to bring down the cost of prescription drugs.

Why it matters: Colorado spent nearly $4 billion on prescription drugs in 2018, according to an analysis, which equates to 13% of all health care spending.

What's new: The most significant measure is the creation of a Prescription Drug Affordability Review Board β€” which Gov. Jared Polis signed into law Wednesday.

  • The law allows a board of political appointees to set price limits for up to 12 prescription drugs annually in the first three years of the board's existence.

Full story

4. Denver's workforce exodus

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As some local industries report major hiring challenges, a third of Denver workers say they are planning to leave their jobs for good.

Driving the news: A report released Tuesday by global staffing firm Robert Half shows 34% of Denver workers want to change careers within the next few months.

  • 41% seek a position that's fully remote, and nearly 30% want to relocate to a job that better aligns with their values.

Why it matters: Many politicians, pundits and business owners have said pandemic-era enhanced unemployment benefits are keeping would-be workers at home.

  • But that's a much-too-simplistic explanation of today's employment situation, Axios' Hope King writes.

Go deeper

5. Nuggets: A sagacious list of headlines to know

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  • Denver ranked eighth-worst in the nation for ozone pollution, according to an analysis by the American Lung Association, up two spots from a year ago. Fort Collins ranked 17th-worst. (Denver Post)
  • A Denver baker who won a U.S. Supreme Court case was fined $500 for not making a birthday cake for a transgender woman. (AP)
  • A former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party is accused of misspending about $280,000 from a pro-Donald Trump super PAC. (Colorado Newsline)
  • The vacant Tony P’s pizzeria and Beast and Bottle restaurant on 17th Avenue will transform into a five-story, 124-unit apartment building after a developer paid $5 million for the property. (Denver Business Journal)
  • Solid Power, a Louisville-based company that makes batteries for electric vehicles, plans to go public this year through a merger as part of a SPAC deal. (Axios)
  • Amazon Fresh is building its second grocery store in the metro area β€” this one in southeastern Denver at Happy Canyon Shopping. The other grocery store is planned for Centennial. (BusinessDen)
  • Casa Bonita is open β€” but only for tours. It's the best of both worlds because you don't have to eat the food. Sadly, though, no cliff diving performances yet. (Westword)

6. Hot homes: 5 for sale in Denver starting at $499K

Courtesy of LIV Sotheby's International Realty

From a modern two-bed condo to a Cape Cod charmer, this week's listings feature homes priced from $499,000 to $1.6 million, Axios' Brianna Crane reports.

State of play: According to new data provided by Zillow, the typical home in Denver is now worth $529,969.

  • Inventory is also up almost 10% from last month, but homes go under contract in about four days, and 52% sell for above list price.

See Bri's picks

7. LOL, it's hot

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo:Β Denise Truscello/Getty Images

As we wrestle with record-high heat this week, we asked you to fill in the blank: It's hotter than a ______ in Colorado.

Here's what you said:

  • If you ask Alan Jackson, the correct answer is a "hoochie coochie" β€” Ben
  • A pig's belly β€” Rachel
  • The center of a Hot Pocket β€” Ryan
  • A fresh sourdough loaf β€” Betty
  • Two rats fightin' in a wool sock β€” John
  • "H-E Double Hockey Sticks" β€” Clarissa
  • A Shania Twain music video β€” Antoinette
  • A pepper sprout β€” Brad
  • A metal playground in July β€” Pawnee Storm Chasers

Thanks to our readers, as always, for joining the fun and making us smile!

Our picks:

πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ John is reading this article on the country's two-party political system.

🐴 Alayna is ready to ride into the weekend like our MVP in his hometown.

Refer your friends to Axios Denver and get cool merchandise like stickers, totes, hats, T-shirts and more!