Axios Denver

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Hello, it's Tuesday! If you're like us, you're still cleaning up debris after Sunday's violent storm. More details on that below.

  • Today's weather: Sunny, with a high of 94Β°.

Situational awareness: Supporters of a November ballot measure seeking to ban abortion in Colorado said they did not collect enough signatures to qualify by Monday's deadline, the Denver Post reports.

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Today's newsletter is 908 words β€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: How the Waltons took over Colorado

Rob Walton is the lead buyer of the Denver Broncos. Photo: Rick T. Wilking/Getty Images
Rob Walton is the lead buyer of the Denver Broncos. Photo: Rick T. Wilking/Getty Images

The Walton family is now the most influential force in Colorado.

But behind the scenes, the Walton family's reach extends further, as Axios finds through a review of federal filings, tax records and other documents.

  • The heirs to the Walmart fortune have infused tens of millions of dollars into the state's most prominent institutions β€” government agencies, schools, sports teams, media outlets and nonprofits.
  • Ann Walton Kroenke, a cousin to Rob Walton, is married to the owner of the Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rapids and Colorado Mammoth β€” giving the family control of all the state's sports franchises except the Rockies.

Why it matters: The financial holdings, combined with robust philanthropic work, help America's wealthiest family advance their business interests and policy agenda, leaving an indelible footprint on Colorado.

State of play: Outside of Bentonville, Arkansas, where Walmart is based, the Walton family's connections appear concentrated in Colorado, where multiple family members attended college, own property and manage foundations.

The bulk of the influence extends from the Walton Family Foundation, which has an office in Denver, but also through other entities managed by family members.

The foundation made at least 470 grants to Colorado-related organizations and causes in the last two decades, per an Axios Denver analysis of its financial filings.

  • Since 2000, it has totaled more than $300 million, a spokesperson said. Most went to local environmental and education policy organizations.

Keep reading ... The intrigue

2. Denver flood prompts rescues, state probe

A car drives through a partly flooded residential street in Denver. Photo: Esteban L. Hernandez/Axios

Heavy rain flooded several streets throughout the Denver area on Sunday, resulting in dozens of service calls to the city's fire department. No injuries were reported.

Driving the news: Flooding struck residential streets and highways, with parts of the metro seeing as much as 1.61 inches in about 20 minutes, and some areas getting up to three-quarter-inch hailstones.

  • Some areas near and around Denver got as much as 1.85 inches of total rain, according to the National Weather Service.
  • The flooding led to closures along Interstate 70 starting shortly after 8pm Sunday, though it reopened under two hours later.

The latest: Pumps intended to keep the highway clear of water didn't turn on automatically as they should have, a spokesperson for Kiewit Construction, the company behind I-70, said in a statement.

By the numbers: In the aftermath, the Denver Fire Department said Monday that it performed 29 rescues stemming from 78 total calls for service on Sunday evening, with nine specifically about static water rescue.

  • 11 people were rescued from cars stuck alongside the I-70 and York Street.

What's next

3. Colorado chief justice obstructed investigation

Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Boatright. Photo:AAron Ontiveroz/Denver Post via Getty Images
Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Boatright. Photo:AAron Ontiveroz/Denver Post via Getty Images

The chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court obstructed an ongoing investigation into misconduct allegations in the judicial department, a new report reveals.

Driving the news: In an explosive 11-page letter sent to lawmakers Monday, the state's Commission on Judicial Discipline outlines how the department's leaders worked to cover up the scandal by refusing to provide records and supplying outright falsehoods.

  • Chief Justice Brian Boatright even met with the commission's leader in a Denver parking garage, where he made clear he wouldn't provide the information easily, the Denver Gazette reports.

What they're saying: "Members of the Colorado Supreme Court, directly and through its senior staff, made a series of decisions and took a series of actions throughout 2021 and 2022 that limited the ability of the commission ... to do its constitutionally mandated work," commission executive director Christopher Gregory wrote in the memo.

  • A judiciary spokesperson declined to comment.

What's next: The commission is pressing lawmakers for an overhaul in how discipline cases are handled in the judicial branch and a legislative committee will meet Wednesday to discuss the matter.

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4. Nuggets: Rents keep increasing

Hidden Brook Apartment in Denver, Colorado on July 27, 2022. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post

πŸ—οΈ Rent rates in the Denver area are up 12.6% compared to the same time last year, despite an increase in the number of apartments. Average monthly rents rose nearly $95 in the second quarter this year. (Denver Post)

πŸ“œ A marker near Coors Field describing an anti-Chinese riot that decimated Denver's Chinatown in 1880 has been removed, as advocates called for a more accurate description of the event. (9News)

πŸ›οΈ One Aurora City Council member wants to move municipal elections from odd to even years, so that voters choose local government representatives at the same time as federal ones. (The Sentinel)

πŸ’‰ Colorado received nearly 10,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine from the U.S. government, and requested an additional 5,000. The state has confirmed 80 cases since May. (Newsline)

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5. Some exciting news to go

Illustration of a champagne bottle in a gold cooler with the Axios logo.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

🚨 ICYMI: Axios is being purchased by Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises for $525 million!

Why it matters: The deal is structured to ensure investments in local news at a time when most commercial investors have abandoned local markets.

  • Cox pledged to immediately inject $25 million into Axios to expand to more cities and coverage areas.

Meet the players: Cox is one of the nation's largest family-controlled companies, and owns the venerable Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

  • Alex Taylor, CEO and chairman of Cox, is the former publisher of the Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction.

Axios publisher Nick Johnston's thought bubble: This is a big deal for continuing to invest in local news, expanding to more cities and hiring more reporters for existing newsletters.

  • Thank YOU for being a reader and helping make this success possible. And tell your friends to sign up!

The bottom line: We aren't going anywhere, folks.

Our picks:

πŸ… John is eyeing these recipes after Sunday's hailstorm destroyed his garden.

🌴 Alayna is on vacation.

πŸ‘‹πŸ½ Esteban is back from a restful week off.