A certain dash of strangeness often can be expected during the citizen comments portion of Colorado Springs City Council meetings. In recent years, gun-toting curmudgeons and conspiracy theorists have livened up deliberations.
And Council's May 24 meeting didn't disappoint. Visitors included County Commissioner Douglas Bruce, who accused the city of stealing his car in an act of political revenge.
Bruce's comments followed those of Colorado Springs resident Elissa Eckstein, who claimed the carcinogens from chemicals that a neighbor had spread were threatening her health and her vegetable garden. "We have terrorism in the city, and I think it's of interest to everyone," she said.
Dude, where's Doug's car?
On May 20, Colorado Springs police impounded Bruce's brown Honda sedan. A warning placed on it four days earlier had identified it as an abandoned vehicle and given him 72 hours to move it.
"I'm here today to ask the city to return my car, which your employees stole from in front of my house," said Bruce, who lives in northeastern Colorado Springs.
The blustery county commissioner, who was elected last November, claimed the car had been parked legally outside his house. He demanded the car be returned immediately and without charge.
In addition, Bruce, who authored of Colorado's 1992 Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR), alleged that he had been targeted unfairly for his political stances. "This is about the 25th act of harassment that I've faced since the TABOR amendment passed," he said.
At the meeting, Bruce subsequently was seen discussing the matter with the police chief himself in the lobby behind Council chambers. But in a letter sent later, Chief of Police Luis Velez wrote, "I will not personally intervene in this matter."
The letter noted that, in phone calls made to the chief's office, Bruce had been "rude and condescending" to clerical staff. "I must tell you that I expect every member of [the police department] to treat everyone in a professional and courteous manner," Velez wrote. "I would certainly not expect anything less from a County Commissioner."
As of last Friday, Bruce had not paid the fine to collect his vehicle. The cost to keep it in impound increases $10 each day, and had exceeded $130. Velez wrote in a separate document that Bruce refused to pay the fees and threatened to sue him. Police report that the car will be sold at auction on or after July 11 if Bruce doesn't pay for it.
Lawn full of cat poop
The vocal county commissioner regularly visits City Hall, and is often joined by other commentators. Don Ortega gained infamy by bringing a rifle to Council meetings before they voted to outlaw open-carry firearms in the building. Luther Floore gently scolds Council on topics such as Prospect Lake and racial diversity within the city's fire department.
Other citizens speak only once or twice. Eckstein may fit into this category. Last Tuesday, for the second time in as many weeks, she appeared at a meeting to complain about a neighbor. In her earlier visit she said her lawn was filled with cat poop from a neighbor's pet; last week she reported white powder had been sprinkled in her back yard, and that dangerous animal-control chemicals had drifted into her front yard.
"My property has been turned into a toxic waste site," Eckstein said, describing it as an act of "terrorism."
Mayor Lionel Rivera instructed City Manager Lorne Kramer to follow up.
Sue Skiffington-Blumberg, the city's director of public communications, said the comments caught her off guard. "I would say this is a unique meeting," she said. "If you look at the calendar, it was a full moon."
-- Dan Wilcock
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