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Noted: Busy year ahead in Manitou 

New mayor has full agenda

On Jan. 5, Marc Snyder will take his seat as Manitou's new mayor, expecting 2010 to be a busy year full of "great opportunity."

The new mayor and Manitou's Council face some controversial issues. On Jan. 26, the leaders will discuss how to handle medical marijuana dispensaries and what restrictions to place on panhandling. Manitou has a moratorium on pot dispensaries, but Snyder wants guidelines consistent with Colorado Springs, which has yet to go that far.

Snyder is more certain about panhandling. After arm-twisting by local business owners, Council left in place a city ordinance that bans panhandling, despite an opinion from the city attorney that the ordinance was unconstitutional. The law has been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, and Manitou no longer is enforcing it. Snyder, consistent with his past stance, wants a new law banning aggressive panhandling — similar to what Colorado Springs has. "We very much respect the Constitution," Snyder says.

The new mayor wants to improve Manitou's environmentalism, using a state program to increase energy efficiency in Manitou's government buildings, reusing oil from local restaurants as fuel, promoting local foods, and switching the town to a single trash and recycling hauler. — JAS

Bensberg alters course

Those hoping for some local drama among Republicans had their hopes diminished Tuesday as Jim Bensberg, currently a county commissioner, said he will not seek the party's nomination to become county treasurer in 2010.

Bensberg made his announcement at El Paso County GOP headquarters to an audience including county Clerk and Recorder Bob Balink, who is seeking the treasurer seat. Bensberg said his real aspiration is to be elected to the state House in 2012, and he did not want to put the party through a costly, divisive primary.

"I really believe my skills and background are better suited to serve in the Legislature," Bensberg said, adding he will pursue the seat now held by Rep. Larry Liston, who would be prevented by term limits from running again in 2012.

Bensberg filed state paperwork Oct. 30 to run for treasurer. He says he did not know Balink would be filing for the same seat. Both are term-limited in their current positions. While Bensberg's new choice for elected office could have a higher profile, it's definitely lower pay; the treasurer position pays $87,000 a year, compared to $30,000 for the state House. —AL

Garden's one-way blues

Garden of the Gods Trading Post will have to fund its own study of traffic flows around it, the Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation Advisory Board decided earlier this month. The business asked the city to analyze traffic flows and convert the one-way portion of Garden Drive in front of the business to two-way traffic.

The road is one-way between Balanced Rock and Gateway Rocks, and some visitors can't find the Trading Post. "As a result of that, the Trading Post was expressing concerns they were missing out on potential business," says Chris Lieber, manager of design, development and TOPS.

But the parks board didn't want to conduct a traffic study because a road change would have triggered the master-plan amendment process, Lieber says. Rather, the board opted for a simpler fix — directing staff to consider improving signs that direct visitors through the park and clearing vegetation around existing signs. — PZ

Giving to the homeless

Since our Dec. 17 cover story, "When Hell Freezes Over," we have received many e-mails from locals wanting to help the people of Tent City. Some tips:

Give clothing and camping supplies to the Street Church, which does weekly giveaways to the homeless. Call Robert Moran at 494-9912, or his wife Brenda at 393-5639. Needed items include socks, underclothes and personal hygiene products.

Homeward Pikes Peak executive director Bob Holmes says items such as blankets or clothes can be given to Catholic Charities Outreach. Contact 866-6282 or 229-9942 for details. Springs Rescue Mission needs furniture for the needy. Call 314-2344 to schedule a pick-up, or drop your donation at 1 W. Las Vegas St. Ecumenical Social Ministries (ecusocmin.org, or 228-6781) is taking cash donations to help people with bills avoid becoming homeless.

Holmes suggests giving nonperishable food to Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, which distributes to various pantries, churches and soup kitchens. Drop donations at Care and Share's warehouse, 2605 Preamble Point, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, or call 528-1247.

One caution: Going down to the camps is not the best way to help. — JAS

Spinning Santa at NORAD

Since 1955, the North American Aerospace Defense Command has been tracking Santa's Christmas Eve flight, but this year the NORAD mission "became a global phenomenon," according to geek.com.

NORAD's site recorded more than 13 million unique visitors from 231 countries. NORAD answered more than 74,000 phone calls and thousands of e-mails, and a release says the program had 27,440 Twitter followers as well as more than 410,700 Facebook friends. — PZ

State furlough days loom

If you thought the last day of 2009 would be the time to renew your driver's license or get new license-plate stickers, you were out of luck: Dec. 31 was one of five upcoming furlough days for state workers.

While the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's three offices were open, the state Department of Revenue were closed, meaning workers weren't able to process anything to do with licenses or vehicle titles and registrations.

The state's other furlough days, all on Fridays: Jan. 15, Feb. 12, April 2 and May 28.

While Jan. 1 was a holiday, the clerk's office is glowing with the news that, going forward, the county's budget struggles have lifted enough to go back to a Monday to Friday schedule, staying open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. — AL

Compiled by Anthony Lane, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

  • Also: Bensberg out, tips for helping the homeless, Garden traffic and more.

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