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Flipping through the decade 

From hopeful heights to devastating depths, let's look back at the 2000s — or the Audacious Aughts

2000: Bye bye, Beedy

Most people can't remember where they were on the first day of a typical decade, but this would be the exception because it wasn't just a new decade. It was a new century and even a new millennium, complete with its own moniker: Y2K. Of course, that turned out to be much ado about nothing, and it quickly gave way to the other big national news: that year's election, with Texas Gov. George W. Bush defeating Vice President Al Gore. On the home front, Colorado became one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana, though it wouldn't become a big deal until the decade's end.

Only in the Springs: Then-state Rep. Lynn Hefley, wife of U.S. Rep. Joel Hefley, says: "This issue of medical marijuana is a scam in which greedy proponents are using desperately ill patients as pawns in their deadly endgame: marijuana legalization."

Religious quote of the year: New Life Church is widely criticized for sponsoring a billboard on North Nevada Avenue saying, "If a young man curses his father or mother, his lamp will be snuffed out."

Could’ve been 2009: County commissioners, amid severe budget concerns, hear study recommending they sell county parks and cut the number of commissioners from five to three.

Douglas Bruce in the news: He's dismissed from jury duty for tainting a pool of potential jurors by distributing about 150 leaflets saying they didn't have to follow the law in deciding a case. Bruce also tries and fails to pass a state constitutional amendment cutting taxes and decimating government, saying, "A vote for Amendment 21 is a vote for poor people, elderly widows and working-class families." Voters disagreed.

Hindsight is 20/20: Colorado Springs police reach out to the local gay community at the Gay Pride Festival and Parade in August, handing out rubber balls that became coveted souvenirs with a recruiting message saying: "Our men are well-equipped, and they wear leather!"

Reason for hope: Betty Beedy, the controversial county commissioner from Calhan known for her comments about sluts, Martin Luther King Jr. and pushing her ideas on The View TV show, loses her seat in the Republican primary to dentist Tom Huffman.

Reason for despair: Santa Fe developer Zydeco tries to turn Red Rock Canyon open space into a resort with two hotels, a golf course, retail and office complexes, 800 homes and 700 apartments, first by pursuing annexation into Manitou Springs, then Colorado Springs.

Hot tickets: Weird Al Yankovic and Jethro Tull at the City Auditorium (not together); Moody Blues at the World Arena; Bill Cosby at Air Force Academy's Arnold Hall.

Arts event to remember: The Sound of Music, FAC Repertory Theatre Company, May.

Best Of winner, Fine Dining: Primitivo Wine Bar, 28 S. Tejon St., now the location of Sonterra Grill.

Worth mentioning: Turmoil at the Gazette, with editor Steve Smith ousted in January, followed by publisher Scott Fischer's departure and new publisher Tom Mullen's arrival in April; Ken Burnley leaves after 13 years as District 11 superintendent to take over Detroit schools; Confluence Park southwest of downtown moves closer to reality, despite concerns about flooding.


2001: Farewell to innocence

Any discussion about this year has to focus on the moment that changed the world: 9/11. The terrorist attacks affect our city in different ways — bringing out the best in locals who show patriotism as well as compassion toward those of Middle Eastern descent, but also the worst in those whose intolerance is instantly amplified.

As the nation reels in shock, Indy columnist John Hazlehurst writes this for the Sept. 13 issue: "It seems so long ago, doesn't it? Remember when all we needed to think about was who Bill Clinton was sleeping with, or whether President Bush would be spectacularly ungrammatical, or whether Bill Gates was obscenely rich, or merely too rich? Remember when we could be the most powerful, prosperous, and peaceful nation that the world had ever known, apparently without consequence? Remember when we thought that the tumult, hatred and craziness that consumes much of the world could never touch us? That's all finished now."

Only in the Springs: Author Eric Schlosser chooses Colorado Springs as the main locale for his best-selling book, Fast Food Nation. Also, County Commissioner Ed Jones, talking on a Boulder radio station about the local decision to rename Interstate 25 through El Paso County as the Ronald Reagan Highway, says: "The only thing we let Democrats do down here is pay taxes and buy goods."

Religious quote of the year: "It's such a beautiful morning, and I'm very sorry that so many of you have to be here when you ought to be in church." — The Nation columnist Christopher Hitchens on a Sunday morning at The Broadmoor, as part of a panel discussion at a national Republican Restoration Weekend.

Could’ve been 2009: "Ten years after the U.S. Forest Service installed the South Rampart Range Shooting Area as a haven for gun enthusiasts, the landscape is trashed, littered with spent casings and old refrigerators, TV sets, and a bounty of 'targets,'" according to an April 19 Indy story.

Douglas Bruce in the news: After Bruce's online attempt to find a wife (See Ranger Rich's look back at the 2000s) became common knowledge, longtime local political figure Marcy Morrison had this to say, comparing Bruce to Ward Cleaver of Leave It to Beaver fame: "If Douglas Bruce just had his June, then think what Colorado would be today. All the years of misery and aggravation he has caused so many people, and when it comes right down to it, this guy is just a lonely heart."

Hindsight is 20/20: Colorado Springs voters reject a sales tax increase, then-City Manager Jim Mullen asks departments to identify possible cuts, and Parks and Rec suggests closing Pioneers Museum. Shortly thereafter, William Holmes leaves after 17 years running the museum, saying: "This could be one of the best regional history museums in the country ... But we have to get the support — not just financial support, but emotional, knowing that you're valued in the good times and bad."

Reason for hope: Colorado Springs has four women on City Council — Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace along with Sallie Clark, Margaret Radford and Judy Noyes. And despite early differences, they help pass a tax issue in November for capital improvements. Radford comes in to office with a remark that's ironic in 2009: "Grown-up cities have a good bus system."

Reason for despair: A state Patients Bill of Rights, allowing patients to sue their HMOs, is killed in Legislature by a party-line committee vote, with the naysayers including state Rep. Dave Schultheis.

Hot tickets: Godsmack in March, Sting in December at World Arena; Kenny Wayne Shepherd at Colorado Music Hall.

Arts event to remember: Art Is ..., a show by Manitou artist Charles Rockey, opens in late January and sells $285,000 worth in the first three hours, as reported by Dave Rootes in the Feb. 8 Indy.

Best Of winner, Fine Dining: Blue Star, 1645 S. Tejon St.

Worth mentioning: In January, the infamous Texas Seven fugitives, pretending to be Christian missionaries living near Woodland Park, are captured in Colorado Springs; Sam McFadin, front man for legendary local band Flash Cadillac, dies in late August of a heart attack at 49; Kathryn Eastburn steps down as Indy editor in September to focus on writing, and Cara DeGette takes over as editor.


2002: Tough times, and drought

It wasn't much of a year for good news. A historic drought struck Colorado in earnest, leading to wildfires across the state topped by the massive Hayman Fire, north and west of Woodland Park, in early June. Also, the post-Sept. 11 economic slide cost the Colorado Springs area thousands of jobs, and the city's overall employment went down for the first time since 1975.

Only in the Springs: In November, the Indy reports that "Colorado Springs police spied on local peace activists, kept records on them and shared the information with the Denver Police Department" including a file on the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission. Many on City Council are outraged, but Vice Mayor Lionel Rivera says, "I think it's a legitimate activity on the part of the police department."

Religious quote of the year: "Catholics have been brainwashed that priests get married because they don't have the vocation, and that is not true. God calls them to marry. Just as truly as priesthood is a vocation; so is marriage and so is single life. One of the things that bothers me the most as a married priest is that somehow we are contaminated by being married. And what does that say about women in the church?" — Jim Schumacher, one of 40 former Catholic priests living in Colorado Springs who left the priesthood to be married, talking to the Indy for a July cover story.

Could’ve been 2009: An Indy report on Aug. 8 focuses on engineer Paul Bentayou, out of work more than nine months after getting laid off. His unemployment benefits ran out, exhausting the standard 26-week period and a 13-week extension approved by Congress. Bentayou is among many local jobless who have begun dropping off the unemployment rolls in the last couple of months because they've run out of eligibility for benefits.

Douglas Bruce in the news: Media report he's good friends with embattled City Councilor Charles Wingate, still in office despite revelations that he used a city credit card to buy pizza for himself and accessed pornographic Internet sites on his city-issued computer.

Hindsight is 20/20: Columnist John Hazlehurst has this to say on July 3: "The drought and the fires have taught us to look at our booming city a little differently. What seemed so solid and prosperous now seems as fragile and transient as a nomad encampment. We're not a city for the ages; we're a hothouse flower, a parasitic growth on a desert ecosystem, as vulnerable to a minor climactic shift as were the Anasazi centuries ago."

Reason for hope: Colorado Springs becomes the state's first city to allow its police to recognize Mexican identification cards, called matricula consular, to help law enforcement establish identity when a person doesn't have proper ID. The card, issued by the Mexican General Consulate's Denver office, is available to Mexican nationals who have lived in the United States at least six months.

Reason for despair: In her Aug. 29 column, Cara DeGette reports, "This Monday, the soup kitchen dished out a whopping 600 servings, which represents a 30 percent increase over this time last year. The week before last, before school had started, the kitchen broke its all-time record, with 700 servings. 'We're seeing lots of families, lots of kids and lots of teens and senior citizens,' said volunteer Stephanie Cardwell. 'Many of them are not homeless, but are making a decision on whether to pay their rent or their utilities or buy food.'"

Hot tickets: B.B. King at the Air Force Academy; the Eagles at World Arena; Morrissey at Colorado Music Hall.

Arts event to remember: Birgitta DePree and Jim Jackson open the Manitou Art Theater, Jan. 5, with what they call "First Saturdays" at the Business of Arts Center's community building, later renamed Venue 515. "Our main mission is to create and produce new work for the community," DePree says. "Hopefully we can cultivate an audience that's open and loyal." It still is, eight years later.

Best Of winner, New Restaurant: The Famous, 31 N. Tejon St.

Worth mentioning: Jim Mullen is pushed out after five years as city manager, then replaced by Lorne Kramer, his deputy and former police chief; Richard Celeste, former governor of Ohio, replaces Kathryn Mohrman as president of Colorado College; Air Force's new Northern Command, or NORTHCOM, moves in at Peterson Air Force Base in October.


2003: Scandals and death

Given the national news of the time, it's no surprise that 2003 was a year of conflict full of life-and-death overtures: anti-war and anti-Bush administration demonstrations; scores of funerals at Fort Carson (captured in Sean Cayton's award-winning photo essay, "Fallen Soldiers," published Nov. 27) and even a bitter feud over the right to pack heat in public buildings.

Only in the Springs: "Three scandals at once! ... Two weeks ago, Springs' own police force proved itself the only one in the world (save Athens') that teargassed peace protesters (in Greece, protesters threw gasoline bombs at the cops; here they pointed video cameras). And now it's the Air Force Academy and its alleged cover-up of rapes and sexual assaults on female cadets — and the United States Olympic Committee's executive director Lloyd Ward resigning in disgrace after 16 months on the job." — Chessie Thacher, March 6 issue.

Religious quote of the year: "It turns out that when the President was reviewing the list of those attending the signing of the partial birth abortion ban, he asked why I wasn't attending and asked that they call me." — Ted Haggard, describing a drop-everything November visit with George W. Bush in an e-mail to members and friends of New Life Church.

Could’ve been 2009: Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell works to thwart a rumored effort to move the U.S. Olympic Committee to New York, with an Indy story saying, "If the USOC were to leave, many of the 30 or so other national sports organizations that are based here might follow, they said."

Reason for despair: Colorado Springs becomes possibly the first U.S. city to rescind same-sex benefits for city employees. Frank Whitworth, a longtime community activist, believes the decision will have a "ripple effect" beyond the city.

Reason for hope: The city's plan to buy and preserve Red Rock Canyon comes close to derailing, but a 5-3 majority of City Council gives final approval in August to the proposed deal, now estimated to cost $13.5 million.

Hot tickets: Wu-Tang Clan and Modest Mouse, both at 32 Bleu.

Best Of winner, Overall Restaurant: Sencha on South Nevada Avenue.

Worth mentioning: Springs voters approve extending the Trails, Open Space and Parks program through 2025; Lionel Rivera takes over as mayor; Mike Callicrate makes headlines in his fight against the nation's largest meat processors; Colorado College standout Peter Sejna wins the Hobey Baker Award, college hockey's version of the Heisman Trophy.


2004: Tolerant or not?

Though the Republican fearmongering machine's victory in November was, of course, the story of the year, the "little guy" enjoyed a renaissance locally. Colorado Springs voters approved creation of a Rural Transit Authority, small business owners started the Pikes Peak Independent Business Alliance, and Woodland Park residents banded together to protest Wal-Mart's expansion into their town. (Too bad our bus system's now a shell, the PPIBA is no more, and Wal-Mart's a fixture on U.S. Highway 24.)

Hindsight is 20/20: Columnist John Hazlehurst lives to regret his Jan. 1 column, saying, "George Bush will lose the presidential election in November. The Dems can and will win, and here's how: They'll start by nominating Howard Dean (who) will select a good, stolid conservative Dem as his running mate."

Jerk of the year: "I make my decisions not based on lobbying efforts, but on what I think is best for Colorado Springs, and, of course, my own principles and values." — Mayor Lionel Rivera, on why he rejected a proclamation supporting PrideFest. He says word of planned protests — in which same-sex couples, for example, would walk to the County Clerk & Recorder's Office to ask for marriage licenses — convinced him.

Colorado Springs, meet... Iraq Veterans Against the War, urging President Bush to bring the troops home. It has just 60 members and the Colorado Springs chapter doesn't have a phone number in November. But organizers are optimistic that will change as the ranks of anti-war veterans grow amid unanswered questions about the war.

Could’ve been 2009: "People are not being told the true cost [of development]. We're just being had." — Civic activist Walter Lawson, on how the city gives breaks to developers and passes the costs of growth to Utilities customers.

Reason for despair: It's a sad day for the many loyal customers of Chinook Bookshop, which closes in May with Kathryn Eastburn writing, "The era of independent book stores that boast expert staffs and a more varied and complex selection of titles than the big-box retailers ... is over, says Dick Noyes."

Reason for hope: What begins as a "proposed small gathering" explodes into the inaugural Nocturnal Mockery, a three-day exhibition featuring artists from Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Denver and Boulder.

Douglas Bruce in the news: "God isn't finished with me yet." — Said during his campaign to become an El Paso County commissioner.

Arts events to remember: Toni Morrison at Colorado College, Decemberists at 32 Bleu, Silver City Express Tour (featuring Chris Cooper, Kris Kristofferson and Steve Earle, among others) at Kimball's Twin Peak Theater.

Best Of winner, Civic Leader: Vice Mayor Richard Skorman.

worth mentioning: Memorial Hospital bans no-questions-asked abortions; Rich Tosches joins the Indy as columnist; City Auditorium rescued from city sale again.


2005: On the upswing

2005 is the last full year before the words "foreclosure crisis" enter the popular lexicon, and the economic news here is mostly positive. Referendum C passes, allowing the state to keep $3.7 billion in collected taxes, despite TABOR; Fort Carson learns it will expand by thousands of soldiers with Army Base Closure and Realignment; and the COSMIX project begins overhauling the Interstate 25 lifeline through Colorado Springs.

Reason for hope: Within days of Hurricane Katrina striking Louisiana and Mississippi, Richard Skorman dedicates an empty storefront to helping hurricane survivors. A story by Michael de Yoanna reports, "There, in just a few days, 500 people have donated $20,000 in cash and offered places for survivors to live, as well as anything else that may help."

Reason for despair: It is a bad year for local music venues. 32 Bleu closes its downtown operation in January. The infamous Navajo Hogan is next, as the north-end bar shuts down in June. Finally, Darkside's dies, taking away another venue that had attracted national acts.

Religious story of the year: "Now we hear from the Washington, D.C.-based group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State that the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs practices a 'pervasive and systemic' bias toward evangelical Christianity that reaches the highest levels of its command structure." — Cara DeGette, May 5 issue.

Only in the Springs: After the second escape by bison from the West Side G&C Packing Co., City Manager Lorne Kramer articulates the obvious in May, saying, "We don't want this to be an annual event, with buffalo running around the community."

Hindsight is 20/20: In a March 10 cover story on water issues, news comes of the Southern Delivery System (SDS), with the story stating, "Colorado Springs Utilities and most of the City Council believe that by 2009 it will deliver enough water to grow us into the next 40 years."

Colorado Springs, meet ...the Stormwater Enterprise. An August Indy story details how Pueblo's district attorney and the Sierra Club "sent shock waves north" by filing a notice of intent to sue Colorado Springs for allowing sewage water to spill into Fountain Creek and flow to Pueblo. The city quickly realizes it might have to create a stormwater operation, charging fees to homeowners and businesses.

Arts events to remember: Chihuly and Warhol at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center; Out Loud men's chorus forms.

Best Of winner, New Restaurant: Blue Vervain in Manitou Springs.

Worth mentioning: James Dobson rages against SpongeBob SquarePants; Hide 'n Seek closes; voters kill downtown convention center idea; community loses African-American difference-makers Fannie Mae Duncan, Al "Chickenman" Wallace and Rev. Milton Proby.


2006: Pastor Ted's the capper

Another year of scandal. Colorado Springs Police Department's oops-we-destroyed-lots-of-evidence acknowledgment looks destined to earn our Best Local Scandal award ... but then an ultimately successful effort to recall controversial School District 11 board members Eric Christen and Sandy Shakes D-11 school board takes the prize. Of course, both would fail to compare to the post-vote granddaddy of them all: Ted Haggard's meth-and-gay-escort-fueled fall from grace.

Religious quote of the year: "Pastor Ted writes, 'I am a sinner. I have fallen. I desperately need to be forgiven and healed.' Our hearts should groan with compassion when we read these words. And our minds should ask: 'For what should Pastor Ted be forgiven?' For being gay? Not necessary." — Benjamin Broadbent, senior pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ of Colorado Springs, Nov. 9 issue.

Only in the Springs: "Seeing a cute puppy is cute, so we made it a dialogue by saying, 'Here's another cute puppy, and here's the truth behind what the other cute puppy is saying.'" — Gary Schneeberger, public policy media director at Focus on the Family, on the introduction of Sherman — counterpoint to Norman, the Gill Foundation's dog that "moos."

Colorado Springs, meet ...the immigrant community. After a May Day rally at Acacia Park attracts 3,000 people, the Indy's Naomi Zeveloff reports: "[Herberth] Aparicio has been in the United States for 16 years. It took six of those for his official paperwork to be processed, for him to become a legal resident. Yet he considers himself one of the lucky ones. 'It's well-known that the immigration system is broken,' he says."

And then meet …the Minutemen. In response to concerns about illegal immigrants, a Colorado Springs group forms to take matters into its own hands, taking undocumented immigrants out of the city and back over the border. Local leader Jeff Henry compares his group "to an undisruptive neighborhood watch program. ... It's not about him," he adds, "but a concern for his homeland, a place that 'nobody in the world has a right to come to.'"

Reason for hope: Coloradans refuse to support a proposed ban on legal recognition of committed same-sex couples. And with that, writes Cate Terwilliger in the Aug. 10 Indy, "for the first time, they said 'no' to irrational discrimination against gays and lesbians."

Reason for despair: Three years earlier, Fort Carson identified 85 PTSD cases. As of mid-September in 2006, the post had 604 cases, anticipating more before the year's end.

Hot ticket: Kanye West in Pueblo.

Arts event to remember: In April, FAC Modern opens in the Plaza of the Rockies building with an Annie Leibovitz exhibit.

Best Of winner, Restaurant for Dessert: Michelle Chocolatiers and Ice Cream (for the last time before it closed in '07).

Worth mentioning: Public smoking ban goes into effect; City Council chooses "gun guy" Bernie Herpin to replace its most progressive member, Richard Skorman; city leaders abandon plans for downtown arts district; Fisher DeBerry retires after 23 seasons as Air Force's head football coach.


2007: Painful headlines

The year is eventful on virtually every front. Colorado Springs makes national news in March with the police's over-the-top treatment of peace marchers in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. But that pales in comparison with the horrific December tragedy when Matthew Murray guns down teen sisters Stephanie and Rachel Works in New Life Church's parking lot, then strolls into the church carrying more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition for a planned mass murder until he is confronted and shot, then takes his own life.

Only in the Springs: As in previous years, a group of peace marchers joins the St. Patrick's Day parade. But this event turns sour when parade officials ask police to remove the peace group, creating what became an ugly, embarrassing scene when some elderly marchers (most notably Elizabeth Fineron) are dragged across the pavement. Nobody complains about the Hooters girls.

Religious quote of the year: "Homosexuality or lesbianism or bestiality is to us a form of slavery, and redemption from it is readily available through repentance and faith in the saving grace of our Lord, Jesus the Christ." — Peter Akinola, head of the Nigerian Anglican Church, which welcomed a faction from Grace Episcopal, with Rev. Don Armstrong leading those who forced Episcopal loyalists to leave the church property.

Could’ve been 2009: After a budget cut of more than $1 million in two years, El Paso County's food inspection program at the 2,275 retail food establishments is cut to the bone and might be eliminated entirely, according to a Jan. 11 news story.

Douglas Bruce in the news: During a meeting of county commissioners, Bruce lashes out at Sallie Clark, equating her with the Wicked Witch of the West, saying, "One of my colleagues has, for some reason, personally been upset with me ever since a house fell on her sister." Asked about it later, he said, "I thought that it was a funny statement. Anyway, it was even funnier that nobody seemed to get it."

Hindsight is 20/20: In January, the Pentagon's Task Force on Mental Health visits Fort Carson, amid questions of whether soldiers returning from war with psychological trauma are receiving help. More than a dozen war-weary Carson soldiers allege little or no care. Fort Carson officials defend the post's care, but PTSD cases at the Army post have increased by more than 450 percent since the Iraq war began.

Reason for hope: Pulpit Rock Church puts the battle against pornography in the local spotlight by bringing in legendary sex-film star Ron Jeremy and anti-porn crusader Craig Gross for a September weekend labeled "The Great Porn Debate" at Colorado College and Pulpit Rock.

Reason for despair: Access to downtown suffers with demolition of the Bijou Street bridge over Monument Creek and the forced closure of crumbling Cimarron Street bridge at the same time as Interstate 25 construction was limiting available lanes on Colorado Avenue.

Hot tickets: James Taylor at World Arena; Stephen Stills at Gold Rush Palladium in Cripple Creek; Mastodon at the Black Sheep.

Arts event to remember: Fine Arts Center unveils its $28 million expansion with a festive weekend including John Waters, Thomas Hoving and Joel Grey — and FAC president/CEO Michael de Marsche resigns days later to accept a position in Armenia.

Best Of winner, new restaurant: Nosh, 121 S. Tejon St.

Worth mentioning: Marcy Morrison, a longtime prominent area Republican, is named state insurance commissioner by Democrat Gov. Bill Ritter; Ralph Routon takes over on Jan. 1 as the Indy's executive editor; Lorne Kramer retires as city manager, and Penny Culbreth-Graft is hired to start in 2008.


2008: High hopes, but ...

In the political arena, hope reigns, even if fleeting. Beyond Barack Obama winning the presidency, Colorado Springs successfully hosts the state Democratic convention before the Dems' national party in Denver; relative unknown Mark Waller defeats Doug Bruce in the primary for House District 15; and city government appears to lock up the U.S. Olympic Committee's presence downtown.

Colorado Springs, meet ...Penny Culbreth-Graft, your new city manager. "Culbreth-Graft knows how to wrangle a skin-tight budget. But she doesn't come across as a stony-eyed clear-cutter. She winces at the phrase 'service cuts.' 'I never look at a budget with tight resources and assume that anything has to go. ... You don't want to cut your heart out.'" — J. Adrian Stanley, Jan. 3 issue.

Reason for despair: After the defeat of tax proposal 1A in November ends the county's STD program, Peak Vista Community Health Centers releases a statement saying, "We expect the number of STD cases to increase across all socioeconomic strata residing in our community, placing further strain on remaining health care service providers in El Paso County."

Reason for hope: After reports of a critical food shortage at Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, the community responds by donating more than 10,000 pounds of food. Not enough to meet all the demand, but sufficient to continue providing some basics to families.

Douglas Bruce in the news: "He can take the oath or take a hike." — Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton, following Bruce's demand that he be sworn in to the Legislature on his own schedule, and his kicking of a photographer during a public prayer.

Only in the Springs: An October news story by J. Adrian Stanley details how a fisherman "first tried a more socially accepted approach to relieving himself," but after racing to a nearby public restroom in a city park, a Parks and Rec employee informed him the facility was closed because of city budget cuts.

Could’ve been 2009: Columnist Rich Tosches fires away after learning of Focus on the Family's latest layoffs around Thanksgiving, writing: "Focus, which performs God's work here on Earth, work such as hating people, tossed 149 of its workers onto the streets last week, while also deciding not to fill 53 vacant positions, as the holidays drew near."

Hindsight is 20/20: Food reviewer Matthew Schniper was excited enough in April to label Palapa's as "the new, independent concept restaurant brave enough to challenge the corporate chains of Powers Boulevard," perhaps helping its owners realize a "dream of independent restaurants stocked by creative chefs (with limited freedoms) who 'have a stabilized support network that will enable them to survive and thrive.'" Palapa's later closed.

Arts events to remember: Within the first half of the year, the inaugural Indie Spirit Film Festival draws hundreds downtown; Wilco plays Pikes Peak Center; Daniel Johnston appears at the Smokebrush Gallery; poet Billy Collins and This American Life host Ira Glass speak at CC.

Hot tickets: Billy Bob Thornton at the Thirsty Parrot; Flobots at CC's Armstrong Hall.

Best Of winner, Big News Story: District Attorney John Newsome drinking and driving, then voted out of office.

Worth mentioning: Longtime mayor Bob Isaac dies; NORAD moves its operations out of Cheyenne Mountain; Sam Gappmayer chosen to lead the Fine Arts Center; Goose Gossage inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame; U.S. Senior Open brings national golf attention to The Broadmoor.


2009: Trouble all around

Where do we begin? It's hard to ignore Colorado Springs in financial chaos, but how about Mayor Lionel Rivera facing (and beating) ethics charges? How about the U.S. Olympic Committee retention deal falling apart and the USOC firing successful CEO Jim Scherr? How about the November election, with a double blow (Measures 2C and 300) leading to more chaos in city government?

Only in the Springs: The poll numbers are promising, and they indicate that city voters want to get rid of parts of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. But City Council decides it's more important to give residents another shot at a tax increase to avoid severe budget cuts, and keeps TABOR off the ballot. The tax increase goes down in flames, but councilors still find millions to keep some facilities and programs alive for a while.

Religious quote of the year: Ted Haggard, in his first secular newspaper interview since leaving New Life Church in the 2006 sex scandal, says, "In the beginning, for the first year and a half, everything was dark. We started to heal when we came home in June of 2008. So from November of 2006 to June of 2008, it was dark. The sun never came up, no grass was green, the birds never sang, the sky was never blue. And then in June of 2008, when we came home, we started to heal, because the people of Colorado Springs are so loving."

Could’ve been any year: We can't go through a year without a ridiculous comment from a local Republican, in this case state Sen. Dave Schultheis: "Sexual promiscuity, we know, causes a lot of problems in our state, one of which, obviously, is the contraction of HIV. ... "What I'm hoping is that, yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that."

Douglas Bruce in the news: After a string of embarrassments and political defeats, Bruce rebounds with the passage of his Measure 300, a successful campaign to shut down the city's Stormwater Enterprise. But in our Best Of voting, the city's claim to shame and public fool honors go to Bruce.

Hindsight is 20/20: After the first Olympic deal falls through, the city continues pursuing a solution that involves bailing out LandCo Equity Partners, the local developers later charged with 33 counts of misusing clients' money.

Reason for hope: Community centers, Pioneers Museum and other programs are kept alive for now, but they'll have to develop their own funding.

Reason for despair: The city's bus riders aren't so lucky, losing transit service entirely on nights and weekends.

Hot tickets: Elton John at World Arena; Bettye LaVette at Blues Under the Bridge; The Black Lips at the Black Sheep.

Arts events to remember: The Baroque World of Fernando Botero at the Fine Arts Center; Cottonwood Center for the Arts reopens at 427 E. Colorado Ave.

Best Of winner, French restaurant: La Petite Maison, 1015 W. Colorado Ave., but the good news is followed in December by bad, as the longtime mainstay falls victim to the bad economy.

Worth mentioning: New Gazette publisher Steve Pope shows up with some inconsistencies in his résumé, and layoffs continue during the buildup to parent company Freedom Communications filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy; School District 11 hires Nicholas Gledich of Orlando, Fla., as its new superintendent; City Councilor Jerry Heimlicher resigns, moving back to his native Memphis, Tenn., and he's replaced by Sean Paige; Colorado Festival of World Theater calls it quits after five years amid funding shortages.

routon@csindy.com

kirk@csindy.com

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