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No to Death in Iraq

Colorado Springs Congressman Joel Hefley has sent a letter maintaining his commitment to continuing sanctions against Iraq, despite 800 petitions that were submitted to him in May calling for a halt to the destruction of the Iraqi people.

The Indy most recently covered the push to remove sanctions in the May 18-24 issue. In his letter to Susan Gordon, an activist with the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission, Hefley made it clear he will not budge on his position.

"I cannot and will not endanger the American people," Hefley wrote in the letter, dated July 13. "I firmly believe giving Saddam Hussein quarter will only enable him to build more weapons of mass destruction with which he could threaten the world.

"This so-called 'leader' cares nothing for his people, his country or the world. The international community should not negotiate with a madman."

Hefley cited -- and sided with -- Democratic Congressman Tony Hall, who recently traveled to Iraq to examine the effects of the sanctions and described the devastation as heartbreaking but believes the sanctions should continue.

"When a well-known human rights advocate such as Tony Hall warns that lifting the sanctions would be 'irresponsible,' my beliefs are further strengthened," Hefley wrote.

But, in solidarity with a national demonstration planned for Aug. 4 in Washington, D.C., Gordon and other anti-sanction activists plan to rally here to call attention to the estimated 1.5 million Iraquis who have died since Aug. 6, 1990, when the sanctions were installed.

On Aug. 4, activists will rally and conduct a funeral-style procession through downtown Colorado Springs beginning at 11:30 a.m.

"It's been 10 years and the sanctions regime hasn't proven to be good policy. It has proven to be the instrument of death," Gordon said. "We want to say no to another decade of death."

Local "Sprawl of Shame" inductee

A controversial 347-home development just north of Northgate Road has been chosen by the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG) as one of the state's worst examples of suburban sprawl.

CoPIRG has listed the development in its "Sprawl of Shame 2000," a list of what the group considers to be some of the most egregious examples of suburban subdivision in the state.

The group's 20-page report bases its sprawl choices on several factors, including how far the development is from existing subdivisions. (Long distances mean police, fire and other costly city services must boldly and expensively go where none had gone before.)

Other factors include the site's effect on area wildlife (in the case of Northgate, it impacts an important wildlife corridor), and whether or not the development encourages increased traffic on the surrounding area. The full report can be seen online at the following Web address: (http://www.pirg.org/copirg/sprawlofshame/index.html).

The Northgate development has been the subject of considerable ire by local members of the Northgate Open Space Committee ("Residents fight North End development," Nov. 11-17), who complained that the developer, Colorado Springs--based Picolan Inc., was trying to jam too many units into its 137-acre site. Picolan officials countered that they intended to set aside 90 acres as open space, but the critics said the development would cut through a sensitive wildlife corridor known as Smith Creek, home to fox, deer and numerous species of birds.

More recently, local residents were particularly upset when Northgate construction crews bulldozed several trees that the developer had promised not to touch; the promise was a condition of approval for the development before the Colorado Springs Planning Commission.

"They were supposed to preserve that tree," critic Jerry Thompson said of one large pine that was slated for preservation. "It kind of makes you wonder what other promises they may not keep."

Audit clears D-11, distrust remains

An independent audit of District 11 reaffirmed that the district must regain the trust of parents and voters and find a way to communicate better if it hopes to win the mill levy election this November ("Mistrust high in D-11," May 4).

Jon Newsome, senior manager with KPMG Consultants which conducted the $20,000 audit, affirmed that the school district is in a state of financial crisis.

The audit was conducted at the bequest of Quality Community Group, an alliance of key business groups in the Colorado Springs area. It was prompted in part by an April survey, that found an overwhelming number of people believed the district's leaders weren't being "truthful and honest" with the public.

The KPMG audit found, however, that the district's financial crisis is linked more to poor communication and voter unwillingness to support a tax increase than to financial mismanagement or ineptitude.

"We found no evidence of negligence, poor management or failure to follow standard financial practices," said Newsome.

District 11 spends $1,000 less per student than demographically similar school districts in Boulder Valley, Colo., Savannah, Ga., Fort Wayne, Ind. and Lincoln, Neb.

Newsome conceded, however, that D-11 has potentially debilitating communication and credibility problems, both internally with its own staff and externally with the public.

Ed.'s note: Backtracks is designed to provide follow-up to stories which originally appeared in the Independent's news pages. If you have tips, ideas or follow-up information we should know, please send them to: Editor, The Colorado Springs Independent, 121 E. Pikes Peak Ave., Suite 455, Colorado Springs, CO 80903; by fax: 577-4107; or by e-mail: letters@csindy.com. We appreciate your readership and your feedback.

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