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Activists seek fracking vote, evening bus service to begin, more 

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Fracking to ballot?

Colorado Springs voters might have the opportunity to decide whether they want to ban fracking within city limits.

While City Council has effectively tabled conversation surrounding proposed regulation of oil and gas drilling — at least until as many as six new Councilors are seated in April — Springs environmental activists have started the process of going directly to the voters.

On March 5, members of Colorado Springs Citizens for Community Rights filed with the City Clerk their intention to seek to place a charter amendment on the November ballot.

It's a long road ahead of them, says CSCCR member Dave Gardner, noting that the petition and the ballot question itself will have to endure a thorough vetting process by the city. Once approved by the Initiative Review Commission and the Title Board Committee, they will need to collect enough signatures to account for 10 percent of the registered voters in Colorado Springs. As of March 5, that amounted to 27,589 signatures, according to City Clerk Sarah Johnson.

But, Johnson cautions, "it's always good to get 20, 30 or even 50 percent more signatures."

If the measure makes the ballot and voters approve, there's always the matter of the governor's pledge to sue any municipality that bans fracking. — CH

Evening buses start April 1

Mayor Steve Bach has talked about it for months, and soon it will be a reality: city bus service that runs in the evening.

Starting April 1, bus service on routes 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 (to University of Colorado at Colorado Springs only), 11 and 25 will be extended until approximately 9:45 p.m. Route 10 evening service will extend until approximately 7:10.

On the first night of the extension, bus service will be free after 6:45 p.m., as part of a celebration.

Currently, buses make their final trips at 6:15, due to cutbacks made during the recession. — JAS

Trail extension coming

El Paso County will partner with Colorado Springs Utilities to extend the Ute Pass Trail, historically the main westward route through the area. The new section will extend west from the Manitou Incline Trailhead for about 3.5 miles, with an interpretive loop at the top. The route has long been a social trail.

"This long-awaited and historic trail loop connection from Manitou Springs to the Ute Pass area will provide our community with both recreational and interpretive educational opportunities," states El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark, whose district includes the trail, in a press release.

The Ute Pass Trail project first got under way in 2003, and sections of the trail are currently functional in the Green Mountain Falls area. Eventually, plans call for the Ute Pass Trail to stretch 11 miles from Manitou Springs to the Teller County line. That's assuming, of course, that efforts to extend the trail aren't derailed; Cascade residents have strongly objected to bringing the trail to their area. — JAS

Still no sanctuary

Back in 2006, responding to a nationwide backlash against "sanctuary cities" — municipalities seen as lenient to undocumented immigrants — Colorado adopted a law intended to counter that phenomenon.

Now, there's an effort to invalidate that law. House Bill 1258, sponsored by Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, would remove the requirement that law enforcement officers report to United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement any arrestee they suspect is undocumented.

While some opponents of the bill (including El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa) worry that this will make sanctuary cities legal again, proponents, such as Arapahoe County Sheriff and former County Sheriffs of Colorado President Grayson Robinson, say it simply eliminates a "duplicative and an unnecessary cost."

As he points out, Colorado sheriffs participate in Secure Communities, a federal program that checks a person's status automatically when he or she is booked into jail. Secure Communities is superior to the 2006 law for a number of reasons, he says, including the elimination of "concerns or allegations of bias-based policing." — CH

Free parking, at least

No matter where you stand on the ballot measure that would up City Councilors' pay to $48,000 a year, you likely agree that their current $6,250 doesn't go very far.

But Councilors do receive a few perks, including tickets to dinners and other events they attend while representing the city, and $5,000 per year for travel expenses incurred on city business (although some don't claim the latter). Another gift is free parking in the lot north of City Hall and in the city's parking garages.

The parking perk doesn't stop with our paltry-paid councilors. Those who receive free parking include Mayor Steve Bach, two employees in his office — Brenda Bonn and Denise Hoover — Bach's chief of staff Laura Neumann, City Attorney Chris Melcher, City Auditor Denny Nester and director of communications Cindy Aubrey. Altogether, the 16 freebies cost taxpayers $8,600 annually.

In addition, the city pays $20 a month toward parking for 175 city workers and 300 Colorado Springs Utilities for city garages, a long-standing practice; the employees pick up $30 of their cost. All of those free and reduced parking charges come to $123,600, paid for by taxpayers and Utilities ratepayers. — PZ

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