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Local officials stump for sales tax 

County considers dire options if 1A fails

Supporters of a proposed 1-cent sales tax that would fund a jail expansion, new sheriff's deputies and other public safety and health efforts in El Paso County have taken their sales pitch to the streets.

Sheriff Terry Maketa, Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera, El Paso County Commissioner Wayne Williams and other supporters gathered Monday at Acacia Park for a lunchtime rally in support of what is known as the Safer Community Initiative, which appears on ballots as County Question 1A.

If the measure doesn't pass, the county's 2009 budget would be balanced by making about $10 million in cuts, with $1 million coming straight out of the sheriff's $43 million budget, $500,000 from the health department and more than $500,000 from the parks budget.

Maketa said Monday he would probably reduce the number of deputies patrolling the county's unincorporated areas by 10 percent, cut staffing at the jail, eliminate six positions for school resource officers and make other cuts.

Commissioners have worked out a second budget that paints a slightly rosier picture if the measure does pass, but still includes $2.7 million in cuts for county administration. A comparison of the two plans was scheduled for the commissioners' Oct. 9 meeting. AL

King of the gaffe

The unexpected remark was followed by a low gasp from the audience.

State Senate District 12 candidate Keith King's debate with Democratic challenger Pete Lee came toward the end of a long, civilized forum Monday evening, an event sponsored by the Independent. Attendees had listened to thoughtful arguments about initiatives and from local candidates. Eyes were turning toward the buckets of beer and cookies set aside for the after-party.

King had just spoken about his support for charter schools, and how one school he helped start had done wonders for minority children in Colorado Springs. He was explaining to an audience member why, despite this, he was opposed to affirmative action, when he uttered the gaffe of the night, calling minority children "colored kids." JAS

DOC stays in town

After threatening to relocate if Colorado Springs didn't cough up incentives for a new headquarters building, the Colorado Department of Corrections is staying stay here. Without any incentives at all.

The DOC chose the Springs' proposal out of 15, including one from Pueblo with a front-end "gift" of $1.5 million. DOC selected a location in Vineyard Commerce Park on the city's south side, where Mortenson Development will build a new 100,000-square-foot headquarters. The DOC touts the Springs' proximity to Denver offices and prison and parole facilities.

The new building is expected to accommodate the office's current 240 employees, and meet the needs for growth through 2020. JAS

Memorial nabs Penrose CFO

Memorial Health Systems found its new chief financial officer, Mike Scialdone, at a convenient location.

Scialdone has served as CFO of competitor Penrose-St. Francis Health Services for three years. That means, if he's read any newspapers lately, he knows what he's getting himself into.

Memorial, a city enterprise, has suffered in recent years from what some city leaders openly have called bad financial management. Profits have shrunk, while costs from uncompensated care have skyrocketed. But City Council has seemed calmer about the Memorial situation of late, allowing new CEO Larry McEvoy to carve his strategy.

McEvoy says Scialdone, who worked as a CFO in Florida for 14 years before coming to the Springs, offers "strong leadership" and "financial acumen." Scialdone will oversee Memorial's annual $650 million budget and manage a variety of departments. JAS

Conservation store to open

In a letter sent this week to supporters of the Colorado Springs Conservation Corps, executive director Richard Skorman says the organization plans to open its first nonprofit Conservation Hardware Store and Center, near the intersection of Boulder and Tejon streets, by January "or maybe even sooner."

The store, according to Skorman's letter, will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and will serve as the nucleus for an effort to reach out into neighborhoods within a five-mile radius, "where over 200,000 people currently live and work."

At the downtown store and via distribution networks, the Conservation Corps would provide a multitude of conservation-oriented devices at a low cost, such as compact fluorescent bulbs, hot water heater blankets, programmable thermostats, faucet aerators, toilet tank banks and power strips.

The letter also asks for donations to a campaign to raise $50,000 that would cover expenses for opening the store. Any additional money raised will be used to purchase conservation products for low-income community members.

For more information and a list of store products, visit conservationhardware.org or call 636-BULB (2852). RR

Local companies win praise

Amid news of economic doom and gloom, the Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp. has honored several local companies for their successes.

Neumann Systems Group got the nod for innovation with a pollution control system. Colorado Springs Utilities received the Public/Private Partnership Award for partnering with Neumann and making use of the new technology.

The Longevity Award went to El Paso Western Pipelines, CEA Technologies was honored for international work, and other companies were recognized for local and national investments. AL

Three reps rejected bailout

Call it a bailout or an economic rescue package. Either way, three U.S. House representatives from Colorado weren't having it.

In an unlikely show of unity, Reps. John Salazar, D-Manassa, Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, and Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, voted in the minority against the $700 billion bill to prop up financial markets, which President George W. Bush signed late last week. JAS

Boost for arts education

A new study by the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Council on the Arts shows that kids do better in schools that offer arts education.

Public schools that offer more arts education were shown to have higher academic achievement, regardless of the socioeconomic and ethnic makeup of the school. The availability of art classes was associated with higher scores on the Colorado Student Assessment Program in reading, writing and science, as well as lower dropout rates.

Similar studies have been conducted in two other states. Those studies also showed a link between arts education and lower dropout rates.

The CDE study says the biggest challenge for most Colorado public schools is finding the time to provide students with arts education. Money is also a factor. The study estimates that 29,000 Colorado kids attend public schools that offer no formal arts education. JAS

Compiled by Anthony Lane, Ralph Routon and J. Adrian Stanley.

  • Also: Conservation Corps store, Keith King's gaffe, DOC staying and more.

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