Paige mulls action against DA
By the end of the week, Springs City Councilor Sean Paige says he'll decide whether to file an ethics complaint against District Attorney Dan May for making phone calls about a medical marijuana dispensary in May's Rockrimmon neighborhood.
Paige says May's inquiries were an abuse of his authority and notes that days after May contacted the dispensary, its owner was "slapped with a Regional Building violation" and had "the IRS [show] up." Paige is especially chapped that May seems to be intruding in the city's process of developing regulations for dispensaries providing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Paige headed up that process, and an ordinance is being drafted.
"We all care about this city and making it a better place to live," Paige says. "The DA in this case has gotten too personally involved and in the process intimidated citizens who were doing something legally."
May couldn't be reached for comment, but has told other media he never identified himself as DA and acted as a citizen when contacting the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department and the Springs Police Department. — PZ
Shelter still in the works
Patrick Ayers, leader of local homeless outreach group CS Hope, said two months ago that the group was close to opening a new shelter in Colorado Springs that could house hundreds.
That shelter hasn't materialized, but Ayers says he's still hard at work.
"We have come a long way in a year," he says. "People in the state House talk about us now."
Ayers says his group is fundraising and talking to advocates, professors and experts. He thinks he can raise $2 million in start-up funds through a mixture of donations and grants, and is particularly interested in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — a source of funding he says Colorado Springs has largely ignored.
Ayers says he's currently eyeing a building in the downtown area that could house as many as 400 people. After the shelter is set up, Ayers says he wants to try and set up more transitional housing in the Springs. — JAS
Gardner No. 2 for Balink
Whoever believes that misrepresenting the truth doesn't get you anywhere has never met John Gardner.
Despite apparent falsehoods in past job applications and in court testimony, the information systems manager for the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office has moved up to chief deputy, the office's No. 2 position.
Questions about Gardner's background emerged after he returned to work for the clerk and recorder's office in 2008 after a stint working for Colorado's secretary of state. On his first El Paso County application in 2001, and on his state application, he claimed a college degree from Montana State University. He said the same thing in court testimony when his work on electronic voting machines at the secretary of state's office was called into question.
He changed his story when he applied again to work at the clerk's office, and Montana State had no record of him having a degree from there. (See "Issues of oversight," News, Sept. 25, 2008.)
Despite all the questions the discrepancies raised, they didn't change much for him professionally as he remained the No. 3 person in Clerk Bob Balink's office. As No. 2, he'll replace former boss Terry Sholdt, who has retired after more than 35 years in the office. — AL
Wind power firm hits gale
After the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. revealed Rocky Wind Power was under investigation by the Iowa State Attorney General's Office, and some green-energy technicians questioned its technology, the company put a hold on plans to open a manufacturing plant here.
The Shenandoah, Iowa-based company had announced a week ago, to much EDC fanfare, that it would hire up to 125 people to build roof-mount windmills to power homes, and wind machines for street lights. Mike Kazmierski, CEO of the EDC, says roughly $300,000 in incentives to reimburse for training and taxes remain on the table, but the company must perform to get the money.
"Our job is not to be investigative reporters," he says, adding that the EDC checked out the company and found only one complaint early on.
But after the Feb. 25 announcement, Kazmierski said some wind experts who saw the story on the Internet called the EDC, raising questions about whether Rocky Wind's gizmos would work. Subsequent checks with Iowa officials found "the company is not as solid as the company spokesman had promoted," Kazmierski says. That triggered a press release Monday saying the company is facing problems.
"Rather than us becoming a detective agency, we felt we had enough information to pass on to the community," Kazmierski says, adding that when Rocky Wind resolves its issues, that, too, will be made public.
Kazmierski does say that the EDC will do more to verify companies' status in the future, although the agency's main goal remains recruitment and providing information to business prospects. — PZ
Cop cars aren't family cars
Following critical media reports, the Colorado Springs Police Department has revised its policies regarding vehicle usage, particularly department employees driving vehicles home (a practice viewed as little more than an expensive perk by some).
While the number of take-home vehicles has increased, from 82 in 2009 to 85 in 2010, policies governing how the cars are used are stricter. Those using the cars will be required to fill out paperwork stating where the car was driven, and for what purpose — no personal errands are allowed.
Further, while some units will be issued take-home cars all the time, other cops will only be given the cars when they are on-call. Take-home privileges will not be awarded to employees or volunteers who live outside the city limits; cars must remain within a 15-mile radius of the intersection of Maizeland Road and North Academy Boulevard. — JAS
Survey asks about parks
If you are fed up with trashed parks, closed public swimming pools and the prospect of shuttered community centers, the Trails and Open Space Coalition wants to hear from you. TOSC is conducting an online survey to gauge support for a regional solution to pay for park maintenance and other recreation services (link to the survey at trailsandopenspaces.org).
The survey, part of the sustainable parks initiative, consists of 16 questions, many of which focus on support for a property or sales tax dedicated to parks and recreation, along with the type of governance for a regional parks system.
Both El Paso County and Colorado Springs have slashed parks funding in recent years. In Colorado Springs, funding for parks, recreation and cultural services has been nearly halved from 2009 to 2010, with a bleak budget picture making more cuts likely.
TOSC executive director Susan Davies says she's asked El Paso County and Colorado Springs elected officials about the prospect of restoring funding for parks and rec as part of the regular budget.
"Every single time, the answer is 'no,'" she says.
If there is support for a tax measure supporting parks and recreation, it would likely appear on the ballot next year. — AL
County settles in abuse case
El Paso County commissioners agreed March 2 to a $300,000 settlement for the mother of a 2-year-old who was killed while in foster care.
Alize Vick died in October 2007 after being abused. Jules Lynn Cuneo, 36, was convicted in the case last month of reckless manslaughter and child abuse resulting in death.
Cuneo was a foster care provider with a state-licensed child placement agency. The county Department of Human Services was named in a civil lawsuit after Vick's death. — AL
Compiled by Anthony Lane, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.