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Army to look into murder pattern 

Sen. Salazar's concerns lead to upcoming task force

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., thinks Fort Carson could do more to prevent soldiers returning from Iraq from committing murders in Colorado Springs. Following a handful of high-profile slayings by soldiers, including the recent rape and murder of 19-year-old Judilianna Lawrence, Salazar contacted the Army with his concerns.

"Those who committed these violent crimes should be brought to justice," Salazar said in a communication shared with media. "But these tragedies also raise a number of questions from the backgrounds and service records of these soldiers, to whether they received waivers to enter the service, to the adequacy of mental health screening and treatment within the Army. The Army leadership should immediately investigate these cases and do what it can to prevent tragedies like these from taking place in the future."

Ask and you shall receive, Sen. Salazar. Fort Carson was quick to respond, stating that a task force had been organized to look into the murders. The task force includes representatives from legal and medical (to include behavioral health) interests, as well as law enforcement and human resources. JAS

Bidlack takes gloves off

Democratic congressional candidate Hal Bidlack has repeatedly said his Republican opponent, Rep. Doug Lamborn, seems like a nice guy who happens to be wrong on most issues.

After Lamborn told a KRDO-TV reporter that he wished there were more debates, Bidlack changed his tone.

"In his statement to the press on Oct. 20, Congressman Lamborn, quite simply, lied," Bidlack is quoted as saying in a news release. He suggests Lamborn meet him at Penrose Library on Wednesday, Oct. 22, for an impromptu debate at a candidate forum. (Lamborn's campaign wasn't expecting him to make it.)

Bidlack had sought as many as seven debates, but the campaigns have agreed to just one, at 7 p.m., Oct. 30 at Sand Creek High School (7005 N. Carefree Circle). AL

Ritter letter scolds Balink

Gov. Bill Ritter recently sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Coffman, blasting him for his handling of voter registration and singling out El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Robert Balink for discouraging college students from registering to vote.

The Oct. 9 letter called specifically for expanded early voting opportunities and other efforts to make voting easier. To date, it's not clear what effect the letter has had in El Paso County, where early voting is still limited to three locations, half the number offered in the 2006 general election. County election officials say expanded use of mail-in ballots, with 144,000 issued by early this week, makes up the difference. About 60,000 county residents voted by mail in the 2004 election.

Balink's efforts discouraging students, particularly at Colorado College, from registering have received wide attention. In his letter, Ritter labels Balink's actions "wrong ... beyond the scope of his duties ... unacceptable" and calls on Coffman to "scrutinize" them. AL

Are homeless sweeps illegal?

Editor's note: Click here for updated information on Rick Duncan, who was interviewed for the story below.

Rick Duncan, leader of Colorado Veterans Alliance, says he will file a federal lawsuit in Denver claiming that Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful, which receives public money from the city, is violating the constitutional rights of homeless people in Colorado Springs.

The suit references accusations that KCSB takes personal belongings when it cleans up homeless camps on public property. KCSB has denied wrongdoing, and has long maintained that it cleans up only trash and abandoned items with the help of police.

Homeless sweeps may be a moral dilemma, but the legal action brings up a question: If you leave your private property on public property, at what point is it considered abandoned?

The answer wasn't forthcoming Wednesday. The 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office wasn't sure. Neither was police spokesman Lt. David Whitlock, who says that's "something we're looking into." The Independent's attorney, Mike Duncan, said he'd need time to review past precedents before he could make a judgment, but said he suspected no "bright line" in the law. Finally, the city attorney's office also offered no immediate answer to the question. JAS

Arts summit looks ahead

"You've got this second-city complex to Denver, this insecurity it's bollocks."

Those words, from new Colorado Springs Philharmonic executive director Nathan Newbrough, encouraged Springs artists and arts advocates to raise their chins and celebrate their achievements at the 2008 Arts Summit, last Saturday at East Library.

Hosted by COPPeR (Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region), the 4 -hour event drew more than 100 of the city's "creative class." (Surprise innovator Richard Florida, to whom that term is attributed, was mentioned more than once.)

The summit recapped goals met since a similar 2003 event, as well as other accomplishments. Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum director Matt Mayberry gave a presentation on local art history, and attendees looked at a public-school arts study from the Colorado Council on the Arts, indicating schools with more art education have lower dropout rates and higher academic achievement.

Some predictable action items, such as engaging disparate local communities and building partnerships, came out of the meeting. Others were more aggressive, like creating a pedestrian mall on Tejon Street, offering a multi-attraction art pass for tourists and locals, and turning the ugly "scar on the mountain" into a community amphitheater. MS

Group offers info on judges

Voters are choosing a new president, electing officials to local, state and national offices, and deciding on amendments, tax measures and other questions. And in El Paso County you get to decide whether 18 judges, from the Colorado Supreme Court down to county court, can remain on the bench.

Since many voters take an all-or-nothing approach to judge retention, the Colorado Civil Justice League has compiled information about all judges at coloradojudges.org. Check it out if you'd like more information about what judges should be retained. AL

D-14 losing super to Cambodia

Roy Crawford, superintendent of Manitou Springs School District 14, is resigning at the end of June 2009 to take a job in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Crawford, who has led D-14 since 2003, will become head of school at the Northbridge International School of Cambodia. Crawford says he's deeply interested in international education, and excited to explore the world.

But the superintendent stresses in a letter to parents that he plans to continue to serve Manitou kids until his last day, saying, "I have no intention to be a 'lame duck'!" JAS

The flu has arrived

One unlucky El Paso County man was diagnosed recently with the flu. He is the first case in the county this year. Once again, the county health department is urging everyone to get a flu shot. Unlike some past years, when the vaccine was in short supply, this year there are plenty of shots to go around.

If you want the shot but aren't sure where to go, check immunizecolorado.com for a list of clinic locations, dates and costs. JAS

Penrose opens guest house

When a family member is facing death, the last thing you want to fret about is paying for a hotel.

The grand opening of Penrose-St. Francis Health Services John Zay Guest House on Oct. 30 means more families wont have to look for lodging when a loved one is staying at the hospital. The new guest house, at the intersection of Tejon and Madison streets just south of the hospitals main campus, will have room for 11 families starting Nov. 3.

Its one less thing for them to worry about, says Johnny Rea, hospital spokesman.

The hospital had a smaller guest house, but with many patients coming from out-of-town for treatment, more room was needed, Rea says. The new guest house was built with a $1 million anonymous grant, $68,000 in Penrose employees donations, and materials and services from HBA Cares, the charitable arm of the Colorado Springs Housing and Building Association. JAS

GOP takes a hike or does it?

First, reports surfaced that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer was losing support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee in his race against Democrat Mark Udall.

Then, rumors spread that Sen. John McCain was giving up the presidential race in Colorado to focus on other states.

Is Colorado really that close to going a definitive blue? Well, officials with the Schaffer and McCain campaigns say not to believe everything you hear. For now, the best sign might be a not-so scientific observation of what TV ads are running locally: Schaffers ads seem to be in decline, with McCains still going strong. AL

Brown is new deputy chief

When Steve Cox took over as chief of the Colorado Springs Fire Department recently, he left empty his former position as deputy chief of operations.

That hole was filled Oct. 17 by battalion chief Richard Brown, a 28-year veteran of the department. Brown wont have to adjust too much; hes been in the position on an interim basis for the past six months. JAS

Charitable kids push meters

More than 50 kids in Doherty High Schools business-oriented DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) chapter took to the streets on Oct. 17, trying to convince business owners to put special parking meters in their stores. The meters, pioneered locally by City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher and dubbed Miracle Meters by the Doherty kids, will collect spare change for programs that help the homeless.

Heimlicher sees the meters as an alternative to giving to panhandlers; he says most of the money given directly to the homeless goes to drugs, alcohol and tobacco. This money, he says, will be a hand up instead of a handout.

The kids who practiced their sales pitch before scouring the city secured 40 commitments from business owners to place meters in their stores. Forty other business owners said they were interested but wanted to think about whether theyd rather have a randomly painted meter from the Smokebrush Foundation free of charge, or pay to have one painted to suit their store.

With the meters set to hit stores in January, Heimlicher is in a hurry to find more. So far he has 30 meters, but hes hoping to find at least 50 more at little or no cost. Lately, hes been talking to Norwood Development Group, whose First & Main Town Center has about 100 parking meters that arent currently in use. Norwood officials have not said what they will do with the meters. JAS

Compiled by Anthony Lane, Matthew Schniper and J. Adrian Stanley.

  • Also: Bidlack lashes out at Lamborn, Ritter rips on Balink, Arts Summit and many more.

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