New lines for Council
Redrawing City Council district lines will begin soon with Council due to appoint an advisory committee next month.
Six Council members represent districts that are supposed to be "substantially equal in population," so the City Charter requires lines to be drawn every four years.
The new lines must be redrawn 120 to 150 days prior to the next municipal election on April 4, 2017, says City Clerk Sarah Johnson. Redistricting is based on population, not on registered voters. All currently serving district members could seek another term. Three others are elected at-large and began their current four-year terms in April 2015. — PZ
Dear's mental eval complete
Robert Lewis Dear, 57, called KKTV (Channel 11) last week to announce a mental evaluation has found him incompetent to stand trial on 179 charges stemming from the Planned Parenthood shooting on Nov. 27 in which three people were killed and nine injured.
Dear is due in court on Wednesday, March 23, when the mental evaluation is expected to be officially revealed.
Meantime, District Judge Gilbert Martinez indicated he would reconsider his sealing of court records in the case, in accordance with the Colorado Supreme Court's Monday ruling to do so.
Martinez has refused to release arrest and search warrant affidavits in the case, saying the investigation is incomplete, although a recent filing in the open-records case brought by various media outlets, including the Independent, said he might make redacted versions available because the investigation is likely over, the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition reports.
Dear has been prone to outbursts in court, such as demanding he be allowed to fire his lawyers and saying he's guilty.
If found incompetent, Dear would undergo psychiatric treatment at a state facility until he is declared competent, at which time prosecution would resume. However, the prosecution or defense could challenge the finding. — PZ
Female general tapped
Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson became the first woman nominated to head a U.S. military combatant command last week when President Barack Obama tapped her to lead Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, based at Peterson Air Force Base, as reported by various media.
Robinson, who currently heads the Pacific Air Forces, entered the service in 1982 through the ROTC program after earning a degree in English from the University of New Hampshire, according to her Air Force duty record. She later earned a master's degree in education leadership and management.
She was schooled by the Center for Creative Leadership's 2013 Leadership at the Peak program, Colorado Springs, while serving in the Middle East and at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. She's logged more than 900 hours in aircraft used for command and control and surveillance.
Her nomination is subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate. — PZ
SunWater gets a sister
Manitou's SunWater Spa just got sister property.
The Manitou Springs center, which offers "hot springs" pools of solar-heated spring water, among other services and classes, opened in May. Co-owner Kat Tudor recently purchased a nearby Manitou property with three bed-and-breakfasts: the Red Crags Bed & Breakfast Inn, Rockledge Country Inn, and Bed & Breakfast at Historic Onaledge. Together, the properties had a 2015 market value of more than $2 million, according to the El Paso County Assessor's Office.
Tudor plans to call the new property Sun Mountain Oasis or Sun Mountain Center, calling it an "art, yoga, music and creativity retreat center for people from around the world." The property will provide lodging for those interested in SunWater's services, as well as its own retreats and classes in subjects as diverse as yoga, cooking, painting and permaculture.
Tudor says she will honor the inns' current reservations, but she is already booking retreats. The historic buildings, she says, will undergo minor changes. For instance, she plans to clear out some furniture, add a yoga platform, put more trails on the sprawling property, and build a tepee and a treehouse.
The addition of the Sun Mountain property is a reflection of the early success of SunWater, which Tudor says has been growing at a faster rate than projected.
"The local reaction has been incredibly positive," she says, "and we've been getting so many people who tell us how much they love coming here." — JAS
Work limits Manitou access
Colorado's Department of Transportation has closed a short segment of U.S. 24 Business in west Manitou Springs, from the U.S. 24 off-ramp to the roundabout at Serpentine Drive, through June.
The closure is to facilitate $1.9 million in repairs to the Rainbow Falls bridge. CDOT also plans to repave Manitou Avenue in the fall, but must finish this project first.
Manitou City Administrator Jason Wells says the city staff only learned of the closure, which took effect Monday, 10 days earlier. He says the closure has frustrated staff at the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, who fear it will keep some tourists out of the town during the peak summer season. He says he's also concerned that the closure will cut off a crucial emergency exit route during the city's major flood season.
Wells says the project has been long-delayed, but the city had hoped it would be done in spring or fall.
"There's been all kinds of shuffling," he says. While he's not thrilled with the timing, Wells says there's no doubt that the bridge, damaged by past floods, is badly in need of repairs. — JAS
As expected, the Colorado Springs City Council voted March 15 to censure Councilor Helen Collins, the first punitive action taken against anyone covered by the city's ethics code since it was adopted in 2007.
Council spent more than $50,000 in taxpayer money investigating a City Attorney's Office complaint submitted in January 2015 alleging Collins created an appearance of impropriety and didn't act in the interest of the city when she accepted the deed to a property from Douglas Bruce. She then sold it to a third party within a few days.
City Attorney Wynetta Massey alleged the action undermined the city's lien for $7,500 owed by Bruce in an unrelated case, though the lien hadn't been filed prior to Collins accepting the deed.
The censure vote was 6-1, with Collins not voting, Councilor Andy Pico opposing and Councilor Don Knight absent. Pico dissented saying he needed to see "positive confirmation of intent" to commit a violation in order to support the finding.
The same transaction was among evidence used by a Denver district attorney to win a ruling that Bruce violated his probation in a 2012 tax evasion case. Bruce failed to report the deal as required by his probation. He was ordered earlier this month to serve two years in prison, minus time already served in 2012. — PZ