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Noted: Marijuana taxes 

Marijuana tax required

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced his opinion this week that medical marijuana businesses should be collecting sales tax, drawing cheers in some quarters that pot sales could boost revenues for local and state governments and help pave the way to legitimacy for marijuana dispensaries.

Which sounds like big news, except ... it's already happening.

"That's what any normal business would do," says the owner of one Colorado Springs dispensary, who asks that his name not be printed. He adds that since opening in August, "we've always been paying [sales tax]."

Pure Medical dispensary in Colorado Springs is soon to open, and manager Angelyna Altizer says it already has its sales tax license, too.

Responding to a question from Gov. Bill Ritter, Suthers wrote that medical marijuana is "tangible personal property," making it subject to taxation, and that it is not prescribed medication, which would make it exempt from taxes. — AL

FBI checks noose incident

FBI agents are investigating whether a civilian employee at Fort Carson who was shown a noose at work is the victim of a hate crime, a letter indicates.

Anthony Jackson, who worked as an inspector at Fort Carson's firing ranges, says the noose was visible in an office at range control for several weeks before a co-worker brandished it at him with the warning, "You don't want me to hang your ass."

According to a Fort Carson investigation of the incident, two range control employees admitted to tying a noose, but they described it as a plaything and denied ever threatening Jackson, who is African-American. Jackson, who had reduced responsibilities at the range after being injured on the job, claims the noose was part of an effort to get him to quit ( News, Oct. 22, 2009).

A Nov. 6 letter from the FBI gives a case number and informs Jackson of his rights as the possible victim of a federal crime. — AL

Vibration soothes AMR

Ambulances in El Paso County are giving drivers a buzz so they'll get out of the way. Nine of American Medical Response's 25 ambulances working the county now use a Howler Siren, which emits a low-frequency alarm and vibrates objects within 200 feet.

"They're really neat," says Ted Sayer, AMR's Colorado Springs manager. "If you stand in front of them, you can feel it. They're made to penetrate the better-sealed cars so that the drivers can feel it."

AMR has a low crash rate historically, but this year it's had no local accidents while running hot to a scene, and Sayer says the Howler might be the reason: "The crews are telling us the cars are moving out of the way sooner, so they don't have to apply the brakes as much and they clear the intersections better."

That translates to faster response times and less vehicle maintenance, says Sayer, adding that the Howler is bound to become standard on AMR's entire fleet.

AMR remains the county's only 911 ambulance service under an exclusive contract. El Paso County commissioners on Tuesday reminded Rocky Mountain Mobile Medical that it's licensed for non-emergency calls only. Rocky Mountain had previously said it planned to run 911 calls through a private call system. — PZ

Magistrate: no AK-47 threat

Ron Pace has prevailed over the Woodmen Hills Metro District, which serves much of the Falcon area, after being accused of threatening to use an AK-47 to "blow [the Woodmen Hills board] away" earlier this year. An El Paso County Court magistrate sided with Pace and dismissed a series of restraining orders against him, saying he didn't make that or other statements.

Pace has been a thorn in the district's side, accusing officials of being overpaid and using heavy-handed covenant enforcement methods. He mounted a recall of board president Jan Pizzi that failed by six votes. Pace says he feels vindicated but plans to move out of the district.

"I've had enough of the stigma, the name-calling and filthy looks," he says. "People think I'm still guilty around here."

The district issued a press release saying it doesn't agree with the ruling. But the release notes the magistrate also ruled the district's action wasn't frivolous and, therefore, denied Pace's request for attorney fees. District manager Larry Bishop didn't return phone calls.

Pace subpeonaed Indy reporter Pam Zubeck to testify about a story she wrote while working at the Gazette outlining the district's standoff with Pace. The Independent was successful in preventing Zubeck from taking the stand. — Ralph Routon

Council considers tent cities

If you're interested in the growth of tent cities along Colorado Springs waterways, you might tune in to City Council's informal meeting at 1 p.m., Monday, Nov. 23, to hear about a proposed new ordinance that would make the cities illegal.

Officers with the police department's Homeless Outreach Team say the ordinance would be employed selectively if it becomes law.

"We want to use it as another tool in our belt," officer M.J. Thomson explains, describing it as a way of nudging disruptive or sick residents into services or the city's homeless shelter. With close to 200 tents pitched around the city in mid-November, moving all of the campers inside would be impossible. The Salvation Army shelter, nearly full already, has a maximum capacity in the low 200s. — AL

Vaccine clinics still busy

Though a recent surge of H1N1 influenza cases appears to be leveling off, interest in the vaccine to prevent the disease apparently hasn't: 1,500 doses were snatched up in less than 90 minutes at the third vaccination clinic in El Paso County, Tuesday at Harrison High School.

Doors for the clinic opened a half-hour early at 3:30 p.m., according to county health director Kandi Buckland, and all available doses had been spoken for by 5.

While reports of new cases appear to have leveled off for now, Buckland says, a big unknown is whether another surge will hit this winter, the traditional time for influenza to spread.

A fourth flu clinic for pregnant women, caregivers of infants, children and other high-risk groups is scheduled for 10 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 19, in Fountain at the Hangar, 6436 S. U.S. Highway 85/87, Suite R. — AL

Army pulls Piñon appeal

Just a week after filing an appeal, the Army has backed away from challenging a federal judge's decision to throw out a 2007 environmental study about the impact of training more soldiers at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado. The original lawsuit was filed by the opposition group Not 1 More Acre! to stop the Army from increasing activity at the training ground, viewing that as a way for the Army to justify its controversial plans to expand the 238,000-acre site. — AL

Caring about water sharing?

Ideas and concerns about sharing water with regional agencies are welcome at an open house from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 19, at the Leon Young Service Center, 1521 Hancock Expressway.

Utilities is gathering input about whether to join other regional entities in developing water resources. Officials say regional planning is needed to best manage the city's resources, and that such planning could lead to innovative solutions. At the center of the issue is the city's $1.5 billion Southern Delivery Pipeline project that might deliver more water than city users need after it is scheduled to become operational in 2016, given the sluggish recovery from the recession.

Public comments at the meeting will help the Utilities Policy Advisory Committee develop recommendations for City Council to consider. — PZ

Strandlof denies charges

Just over a month after he was arrested in San Diego, Richard Strandlof pleaded not guilty Monday in Denver federal court to charges he falsely claimed to be a decorated veteran, according to the Denver Post.

Before he was unveiled as a fraud in May, Strandlof passed himself off in local veterans circles as a wounded Marine captain named Rick Duncan. He founded the Colorado Veterans Alliance and became a vocal advocate for homeless veterans in Colorado Springs.

After months of uncertainty, the U.S. Attorney's office filed charges Oct. 1 against Strandlof, alleging he violated the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it illegal to falsely claim certain military awards. He was arrested Oct. 9 in California. — AL

6035 to hire executive

The audience turned as Pam Shockley-Zalabak, chancellor of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and co-chair of the Operation 6035 project, took the stage. The privately and publicly funded economic study intended to provide a blueprint to reboot the local economy was finally complete, and Shockley-Zalabak was expected to be in a celebratory mood. Instead, she asked the crowd: "Why should we care?"

In a city that's seen many supposedly transformative plans come and go, it's a good question. And the chancellor soon offered an answer: This isn't just a plan, she says, it's a course of action. And the action has already started.

Using funding largely from the El Pomar Foundation, Shockley-Zalabak said 6035 will hire an executive to lead the charge by the first quarter of 2010, and UCCS will dedicate two senior staffers to the project. The goal is to create better cohesion between local leadership, grow entrepreneurial ventures, better fund economic development, make better use of colleges and universities as a tool for enhancing the economy, raise the area's international presence, and target specific industries as growth areas.

"We're going to build a new bus," Shockley-Zalabak said. "And the bus is going to leave the station." — JAS

Compiled by Anthony Lane, Ralph Routon, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck. For more briefs, go to csindy.com.

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