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Opening a town hall meeting days before he's to be sworn in as representative for Colorado's House District 17, Dennis Apuan starts off with a joke.

It's late January, Apuan says, and a man keeps approaching the White House and asking to see President Bush. A security guard becomes frustrated after the man's third attempt, explaining once again that Bush is no longer in office.

The man smiles and says he knows.

"I just love hearing it."

It's a welcome bit of levity, considering that Apuan and his Democratic friends are looking ahead at what will likely be a brutal legislative session. Their first order of business will be grappling with a state budget that could be as much as $600 million in the hole. Legislators say they will focus on job creation and economic matters; programs will likely be slashed rather than created. We have two stories on the situation.

Over the coming months, we'll probably be spending some time reporting on that ugly-looking budget. But in a spirit similar to Apuan's, we've chosen to put a different kind of monster, something a bit more light-hearted, on this week's cover. We hope you check out our story on local artist Hint, and keep looking ahead at 2009 with as much good cheer as you can muster.

  • Bush may be leaving, but balancing budgets is still a huge task at the state level.

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