Noted: ACLU tests Boulder law 

Boulder law tested

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the legality of a Boulder no-camping law in district court, which could have implications for Colorado Springs' no-camping ordinance.

The ACLU is defending a homeless man ticketed in Boulder for sleeping outside on a night with a low of 11 degrees. Under Boulder law, the sleeping bag he was using constitutes a shelter and is illegal. The man had tried to stay at Boulder's homeless shelter but had been denied due to overcrowding, common at Boulder's shelter.

"When the homeless shelters are closed or full, it is terribly unfair, and unconstitutional, to impose fines and jail sentences on persons who have no choice but to sleep outdoors," Mark Silverstein, ACLU legal director, stated in a release.

Upon first glance, Boulder and Colorado Springs' approaches to public camping would appear to have little in common: Boulder has issued more than 1,600 tickets for violations of its ordinance, while Colorado Springs has not issued any tickets, and City Council has directed police not to give tickets on nights when there is no room at shelters. But legally, it comes down to what's in writing — and as written (as opposed to as enforced), the local law could be seen as unconstitutional if the ACLU wins its Boulder case. — JAS

Still fighting 'Obamacare'

A petition drive is underway for a November ballot measure that would bar Colorado from helping enforce the health care reform bill's mandate requiring people to buy health insurance. The initiative, promoted by the Independence Institute think tank of Denver, needs roughly 80,000 signatures by Aug. 2.

The Institute's Mike Krause says the proposed constitutional amendment would not exempt Colorado from the health care bill altogether, because the federal government's power to tax is well-established. To read the ballot language, go to savehealthcarechoice.org. — PZ

Getting hospital feedback

A town hall meeting to take the community's pulse on Memorial Health System's future drew roughly 100 residents who were divided on whether to sell the system, revamp it as a nonprofit, or keep it in the city's hands.

The meeting Tuesday evening was the first town hall called by the Citizens Commission on Ownership and Governance of Memorial Health System, a City Council-appointed panel that's been meeting for four months and has committed about $400,000 of Memorial's money to fund the analysis. (The Independent's Jay Patel is a member of the commission.)

Some residents urged the panel not to monkey too much with an enterprise residents hold dear and that has established a cherished brand in the health care community. The commission's recommendation is due to Council in December, and more town hall meetings are expected. — PZ

City begins mowing medians

Though median mowing and maintenance was cut from the 2010 budget, Colorado Springs has started using money from salary savings to maintain approximately 49 acres of city-owned, irrigated medians over the summer. One reason is concern for nearly 100-year-old trees that occupy some median space in the downtown area.

Affected medians include those on many downtown streets, but also a few others; for a full list, go to springsgov.com and find the "Median maintenance update" under "News." If your street isn't on there, but you're interested in paying for median care directly, you may be able to do so under the city's "Adopt a Park" program, also explained at springsgov.com.

Care will include contracted mowing every other week, supplemental irrigation, fertilization and weed spraying. — LS

TV guy to lead Freedom

Editor & Publisher reported Tuesday that Mitchell Stern, former CEO of Fox Television Stations Inc., and DirecTV Inc. U.S., has been named CEO of Freedom Communications, parent company of the Gazette. Stern, 54, has no newspaper experience.

"His talents as both a strategic thinker and a hands-on executive are a perfect fit for Freedom and make him the right person to lead our talented associates and diverse properties in tackling the challenges of the new media environment," Freedom chairman James Dunning Jr. said in a statement.

Stern is heading the post-bankruptcy company that owns eight TV stations, 27 daily newspapers and about 70 weekly newspapers and other publications. — PZ

South Slope has guided hikes

Pikes Peak's South Slope is not open yet for the public, but people still can visit the area this summer. The city, Trails and Open Space Coalition, Friends of the Peak, and Colorado Springs Utilities have teamed to sponsor guided hikes to the South Slope. Anyone 12 or older can participate, though adults must accompany children younger than 18, with no dogs allowed.

The seven-mile tours (July 10 and 31, Aug. 8 and 28, Sept. 11 and 25) leave Red Rock Canyon's main parking lot at 8 a.m. The hikes include history of the area, the watershed's purpose, information about the site's sensitivity, and plans for future trail development. Hikers will return around 3 p.m. The cost is $10, and participants should bring their own water and snacks. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 633-6884. — LS

Grants help convicted vets

Colorado Springs has a proud military heritage, but as in other cities, veterans coming out of prison can have a hard time finding jobs here, putting them at risk for homelessness. Now there's help on the way: The Department of Labor recently announced a $122,500 grant to the Springs' Aspen Diversified Industries Services Inc., to help veterans coming out of prison find jobs.

"Everyone deserves a second chance, especially the men and women who have sacrificed for our country," Labor secretary Hilda L. Solis stated in a release. "These grants will help open doors back into the workplace." Similar grants have been awarded in 13 states. — JAS

Under new management

The majority of the newly elected Cherokee Metropolitan District board didn't wait long after their election in May to shake things up. Last week, general manager Kip Peterson resigned and reportedly will be paid a year's salary under a contract inked last fall. His replacement, Sean Chambers, was reportedly in the audience at the June 23 board meeting where Peterson resigned, ready to assume interim duties. The board also switched attorneys.

It's the latest turn in a tumultuous history for the suburban district east of Powers Boulevard. Water restrictions have been imposed there in recent years, following a court battle that cost Cherokee some of its wells and forced it to buy water from Colorado Springs Utilities, driving rates up significantly.

Peterson devised alternate strategies following the court case, including a recycling operation and possible acquisition of surface rights to be delivered through the city's Southern Delivery System pipeline. Now, all that could change. — PZ

Compiled by Lea Shores, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.


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