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Ethics commission finishes Collins work, Bach loses on urban renewal, more 

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Collins probe complete

The Colorado Springs Independent Ethics Commission has completed its investigation into whether City Councilor Helen Collins helped Douglas Bruce avoid paying a judgment to the city in a civil case, the commission's attorney says.

In early December, Bruce transferred the deed on a Samuel Point property to Collins for $10 "and other good and valuable consideration," allegedly to avoid the city placing a lien on that property the next day. Collins sold it a few days later to a third-party buyer. She has maintained she did nothing wrong.

The ethics complaint against Collins, filed Jan. 21 by the City Attorney's Office, alleged she engaged in outside activities that conflicted with her official duties and responsibilities. Jane Feldman, a Denver attorney representing the Ethics Commission, declined to comment further, citing confidentiality of the proceedings.

Council President Merv Bennett says the commission's report has been referred to City Council, which will discuss it next week in executive session without Collins present. Council can dismiss the complaint on several grounds. It also can issue charges, which would trigger another hearing process. If a violation is sustained, Council can impose a fine. Another option is censure, a symbolic act with no consequences. — PZ

Urban renewal bill OK'd

Counties, school districts and special districts will soon have more say in urban renewal projects that can siphon off their tax revenues.

Today, cities have the unilateral right to sign urban renewal contracts giving developers of a previously depressed area any new sales or property tax earned in an area for up to 25 years. That means cities can sign away tax revenues for governments and districts other than their own, and that voter-approved taxes are going to entities voters never approved — developers.

After vetoing a similar bill in 2014, Gov. John Hickenlooper recently signed House Bill 1348, which will give counties and districts a seat at the negotiating table for urban renewal projects and require arbitration if cities, counties and districts can't agree on the contracts. The bill goes into effect Aug. 5.

Outgoing Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach was among many municipal leaders who had called for Hickenlooper to veto HB1348, saying it would discourage developers from working in blighted areas. Two pieces of the City for Champions project — the U.S. Olympic Museum and the downtown stadium — could be affected by the new law. — JAS

IUD program lives on

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Family Planning Initiative was credited with reducing the state's teen pregnancy rate by 40 percent and reducing abortions. Funded with a $23 million grant in 2009, the program provided free or low-cost long-term contraception, like IUDs, to low-income, uninsured women.

With the grant running out, legislators worked on House Bill 1194, which would have provided another $5 million in funding. But the bill failed amid opposition, especially from Republicans, who often said the Affordable Care Act negated the need for the program ("Barrier method," News, May 6).

However, the program won't die. Greta Klingler, family planning supervisor for CDPHE, says the department will still provide long-term contraception with some state and federal funds, but it may be on a more limited basis. So, for instance, under the grant about 5,000 to 6,000 women were given long-term contraception a year; it could be more like 2,000 or 3,000 women now. — JAS

Big week for cyclists

Area cyclists have plenty to mark on their calendars.

For starters, the city is hosting its final two workshops for the Colorado Springs Bike Master Plan. This is your chance to give input on a plan that will set the vision for bike infrastructure — from trails to wayfinding systems — through 2025. The first is Wednesday, June 3, at Library 21c, 1175 Chapel Hills Drive. The second is June 4 at the Southeast YMCA, 2190 Jet Wing Drive. Both meetings are at 6 p.m.

Also, registration has opened for the 22nd annual Metro Rides Bike to Work Day, set for Wednesday, June 24. Participants can get a free breakfast at one of five locations scattered throughout the city between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. Participants can also sign up to ride to work but skip breakfast. Info is at bit.ly/1K4OBXo. — JAS

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