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Noted: City drafts pot ordinance 

Pot: still smoking hot

A city task force, which includes members of the medical marijuana industry, has created a draft city ordinance regulating the production and sale of pot.

The ordinance restricts larger operations to commercial zones, forces them to register with the city for a fee, pay taxes, follow strict security guidelines, and operate at least 250 feet away from a school. Smaller operations get more leniency.

Council was given a first presentation on the ordinance, to which it was receptive. It may tweak the ordinance, but it wants more input from police and other city staff, as well as regular citizens, first.

While a huge crowd showed up Monday to support the ordinance, a few people had some concerns. Dave Munger, leader of the Council of Neighbors and Organizations, said his group wants all operations kept out of neighborhoods. — JAS

11 chosen for Memorial

Memorial Health System's governance and ownership will be studied by 11 people appointed by City Council to a special panel Tuesday. Membership includes: Pikes Peak Hospice CEO Martha Barton, retired doctor John Burrington, National Cancer Institute official Myrna Candreia, hospital CEO Paul Dougherty, professor of operations management William Hodson, health policy consultant Stephen Hyde, retired Navy Capt. Bob Lally, real estate agent Tim Leigh, Council of Neighbors and Organizations president Dave Munger and CEO of Peak Vista Community Health Centers BJ Scott.

The panel will meet in coming months to analyze the type of health care city-owned Memorial should deliver, whether it should be sold, and how it will be governed. The system currently is run by a board of trustees appointed by City Council. — PZ

Council forsakes old PILT

Council has decided not to pursue $3.1 million in underpaid payment in lieu of taxes from Colorado Springs Utilities.

After the city auditor's examination, Council determined that Utilities had underpaid its PILT for several years. Council asked Utilities to pay the full amount owed for 2009, but Utilities refused. While Council maintains that Utilities is in the wrong, a majority eventually agreed to excuse the debt out of concern that forcing payment would violate the city charter and put undue burden on ratepayers.

Of course, not everyone agreed with this logic, including Mayor Lionel Rivera. Councilor Tom Gallagher also took issue, saying, "If you can't squeeze a billion-dollar budget and have this kind of money drop out the bottom ..."

At the end of the budget season in 2009, Council, assuming it would have the extra PILT money to pad its reserves, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the Pioneers Museum open for another year, save the city pools for a few months, and run the Mayor's 100 Teens program. — JAS

FREX not washed up yet

Colorado Springs and the state took a bath when it sold nine FrontRange Express (FREX) commuter buses to keep the Springs-to-Denver service rolling this year.

York County Transportation Authority in Pennsylvania bid $1.44 million, or about $160,000 per bus — which actually was more than the city's asking price of $150,000. And yet the vehicles cost $376,705 each two years ago; the state Department of Transportation paid about $301,000 each, and the city about $75,000 each, according to Kelly Fausnacht, marketing supervisor with Mountain Metropolitan Transit.

Still, both agencies approved the deal, and Council sealed the sale this week.

Due to the cash infusion, FREX's schedule won't change in 2010, as transit officials look for future funding options. — PZ

Budget gift can't heal rift

Partisan bickering — and even partisan math — has made for a bitter couple weeks at the state Capitol.

Republicans have objected to Gov. Bill Ritter's plan to fill part of the $1 billion-plus budget gap by suspending tax exemptions on the sale of candy, soda and other products. Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry suggested the state instead consider a 0.25 percent cut to its payroll, prompting Majority Leader John Morse of Colorado Springs to offer Penry a Cliff Notes guide to basic math.

"After reading the Republican budget fix," Morse said in a statement, "it is quite clear they can't add or subtract."

Penry claimed that the cut would save $18 million in the fiscal year that ends this June, but Morse counters that 0.25 percent of a $3.2 billion payroll only comes to $8 million, and that there are only five months left in the year, meaning an even lower savings. — AL

Lamborn gets a challenger

Though no Democrat has stepped forward to challenge U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, it no longer appears the Republican congressman will be able to avoid a race entirely.

Jerell Klaver, a Libertarian, has announced via Twitter that he will run.

One thing that could make Lamborn tremble a bit is that Klaver has a staggering 103,128 followers on his Twitter account.

"I was one of the early adopters," explains the 38-year-old small business owner.

Then again, some of those followers, including one named "berlinsex," likely are not registered voters in the 5th Congressional District.

Klaver's Web site, jerellklaver.com, is still a work in progress. — AL

State nets beetle money

Colorado will get $30 million to reduce the risk of fire and falling trees on National Forest land that has been ravaged by beetles.

On about 3 million acres in Colorado, bark and spruce beetles have left tree graveyards in their wake. U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Janelle Smith says the money will mostly be used to remove dead trees that could be dangerous in high-use recreation areas and watersheds, and near road and power lines.

The $30 million coming to Colorado is the bulk of $40 million that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last December would be devoted to the beetle problem, according to a release from U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet. — AL

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

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