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Noted: Ethics group wants city to pursue AFP 

City asked to pursue AFP

The election watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch has sent a letter to outgoing Mayor Lionel Rivera urging him to ensure that the city's campaign finance laws are enforced on the conservative group Americans for Prosperity.

AFP ran mudslinging ads against Richard Skorman during the mayoral race, that reportedly may have cost $100,000 or more. State law — which has been adopted by the city as local law — requires disclosures of "electioneering communications" expenditures in excess of $1,000, as well as of the identity of any person who contributed more than $250. AFP never filed a disclosure.

"Colorado Springs voters are entitled to know who is spending money to influence an election as important as the city's first-ever mayoral runoff," says Luis Toro, Ethics Watch director. "We hope the city will act swiftly to enforce transparency and protect the voters' right to know."

The city did not have a response ready in time for the Indy's deadline, though Mayor Rivera says he has sent information to the city attorney's office and expects an answer soon.

City Clerk Kathryn Young, who is the city's election official, has declined to enforce the law in other instances during this election cycle; for instance, a formal Ethics Watch complaint against former City Council candidate Douglas Bruce and his "Reform Team" of candidates wound up being forwarded to the state by the city. A judge dismissed the complaint, stating that only the city had the jurisdiction to enforce its laws. The city has still not pursued the complaint, and is appealing the judge's decision. — JAS

Take my ballot, please

On election day, the mayoral campaigns for both Steve Bach and Richard Skorman provided city voters a little help, volunteering to transport their ballots to the polls.

At first, some Indy readers thought that this could be illegal, but according to city spokeswoman Mary Scott, a voter can designate anyone to transport a ballot from the voter to the polls. The only restriction is that the delivery person can't turn in more than six ballots without filling in a log. — CH

Parking potlucks in Manitou

In Manitou Springs, parking is in such short supply that every idea is on the table. (See: "New idea for Manitou: Gondola!," News, April 7).

But before the town leaders make any big decisions, they want your input. This is the type of situation that would warrant a boring public meeting in any other city. But not in Manitou. Heavens, no. Manitou is having potlucks instead.

So break out the three bean salad. The City of Manitou Springs' Parking Problem Potluck will take place on May 25, and the Parking Solutions Potluck is set for June 9. Both begin at 6 p.m. in Memorial Hall at Manitou City Hall, 606 Manitou Ave.

Bring a dish and, also, a piece of your mind. — JAS

Tackling vacation rentals

Believe it or not, it's a passionate issue in cities across the country: what to do about residential homes that are rented out short-term.

They're not hotels. Not bed and breakfasts. Groups, usually families, that rent the homes must make their own meals and beds.

In other words, for a week or two, a vacation rental is literally a home away from home. And yet it's a business. So how do you zone it? How do you tax it? How do you regulate it?

For the second time in recent months, the city is trying to hammer all this out (see "Rental rematch," News, April 14). Land-use regulations are supposed to be produced through a collaborative process between all the interested parties, but the "collaborative process" has been most notable for its screaming matches.

On May 11, however, some conclusions were reached. For instance, participants agreed that vacation home owners should give their contact information to neighbors of the rental property in case tenants create a problem. And most agreed that the properties should be considered residential for fire code purposes. But other arguments over bigger issues, like specific requirements for off-street parking and approval processes for starting a vacation home, lingered.

The city's land use division is scheduled to finish its proposal, based on the input, June 1. — JAS

State gets 'hunger hotline'

Coloradans who need food assistance, but don't know where to start, have a new tool.

Statewide advocacy organization Hunger Free Colorado (which was founded by Kaiser Permanente) has launched its toll-free "Hunger Free Hotline." According to a press release, "The hotline is a 'one-stop' resource and provides bilingual and geographically-based referrals to both public and private assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps), food banks, soup kitchens and Meals on Wheels."

The Hunger Free Hotline is available 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday at 855/855-4626.

Colorado Springs also has a hotline for learning about health and human services. Simply dial 211. — JAS

Freshman report cards

Of the eight bills that Democratic state Rep. Pete Lee from Colorado Springs proposed, five won passage through the General Assembly. These bills included streamlining the voting process for military and overseas voters, and addressing the concerns for tow truck drivers' safety. He also was able to get through a bill expanding his signature issue of restorative justice.

However, it wasn't all successes for the freshman. Three of his bills, all economic reform measures, died in committee along party lines.

The area's other rookie legislator, Republican Rep. Mark Barker, was able to get a number of his bills through as well. One authorizes federal officers to make an arrest for a nonfederal felony or misdemeanor crimes; another increases the amount of money that certain family members can get from a descendent's estate. But Barker's most controversial act was easily his pivotal vote on the House committee to kill the Senate's civil union bill. — CH

Compiled by Chet Hardin and J. Adrian Stanley.

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