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Noted: Property tax appraisals grim 

Lower assessments will impact local governments

Reappraisal of property for tax purposes is underway for the 2012 tax year, and the outlook isn't good for local governments.

El Paso County Assessor Mark Lowderman said recently in an e-mail that preliminary work suggests the county's total assessed value has fallen by 15 percent, with some residential areas dropping by up to 30 percent. County Sheriff Terry Maketa, speaking at a pre-election debate Monday night, estimated the shortfall would cost the county somewhere in the range of $10 million to $11 million.

The reappraisal, which covers the period from Jan. 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010, will set values upon which taxes will be paid in 2012 and 2013.

Property is reappraised every two years by law. Last go-round, when property was appraised for the period of January 2007 through June 2008, values rose by an average of roughly 5 percent across the county, although some declined.

A drop in value, as Lowderman predicts for this reappraisal period, will translate to lower tax bills, which could devastate local governments and special districts that rely on property taxes. The Taxpayer's Bill of Rights prohibits elected officials from raising tax rates without a vote of the people. Final tallies will be available later this year. — PZ

CSBJ publisher ousted

Here today, gone tomorrow. That literally applies to the sudden, unexplained departure of Lon Matejczyk last week as publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal.

Matejczyk, who had led the CSBJ operation for the past seven years, presided over a party Thursday night, July 22, to celebrate the weekly publication's annual "Best of Colorado Springs Business" awards for 2010. He spoke to the crowd about plans for the Business Journal in the year ahead.

Then, on Friday morning, representatives of Dolan Media Co., parent of the CSBJ, appeared at the local offices and informed Matejczyk that he was fired, effective immediately, staff members later confirmed. Matejczyk could not be reached for comment, though he did confirm his firing to the Gazette. Dolan apparently is bringing in an interim replacement from another of its properties to run the CSBJ until a permanent successor to Matejczyk is named.

Business and civic leaders reacted with surprise and shock, because Matejczyk was considered an effective presence in the local business community, and particularly in supporting local causes and events. — RR

Thousands cast ballots

As of early this week, one week after ballots for the Aug. 10 primary were mailed to 102,000 El Paso County voters, 13,300 ballots had been returned, election manager Liz Olson reports.

Olson says there have been "no problems" so far with the election. That said, one voter told the Indy that though she changed her registration on July 12 from Republican to Democrat, several weeks after her husband changed his from unaffiliated to Democrat, she received two ballots in the mail — one Republican and one Democrat — and her husband, none.

Olson says this situation "is what can occasionally occur when changes are being made that change a person's ballot style close to registration cut-off."

Unaffiliated voters may declare a party at the polls on Election Day. Many polling places have changed since 2008, so check your location before going to vote. For more information, go to car.elpasoco.com/election. — PZ

FBI one-ups Arizona

Apparently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation may be engaging even in more obvious racial profiling than the state of Arizona. The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado has asked the FBI to release records related to its "little-known authority to collect information about race and ethnicity and map so-called 'ethnic-oriented' businesses, behaviors, lifestyle characteristics and cultural traditions in communities with concentrated ethnic populations."

According to the ACLU, the FBI granted itself permission to racially profile entire communities in its 2008 Domestic Intelligence and Operations Guide. The policy was first learned of in detail earlier this year after the nonprofit Muslim Advocates filed a lawsuit.

"The FBI's mapping of local communities and businesses based on race and ethnicity, as well as its ability to target communities for investigation based on supposed racial and ethnic behaviors, raises serious civil liberties concerns," Michael German, ACLU policy counsel and former FBI agent, states in a press release. "Creating a profile of a neighborhood for criminal law enforcement or domestic intelligence purposes based on the ethnic makeup of the people who live there or the types of businesses they run is unfair, un-American and will certainly not help stop crime." — JAS

Adios, Rum Bay

Rum Bay, the Tejon Street club that started it all, is no more. Owners Kathy and Sam Guadagnoli are transforming the spot, which featured a tropical theme and several clubs in one, into a more upscale venture.

The Guadagnolis own several nightclubs and transform them fairly frequently, as was the case with past ventures such as the original Cowboys, Tequila's and the Vue. However, the closing of Rum Bay, the Guadagnolis' flagship and a still-popular club, was sudden and unexpected.

The site has been gutted, and its web presence is being revamped. Says rumbaycs.com: "Because of you we are bringing you a bigger and better night life experience with an entire new club taking over Colorado Springs this summer!" — JAS

Fountain 'scum' case tossed

An El Paso County magistrate has dismissed two Fountain City Council members' applications for permanent restraining orders against Al Linder following confrontations at a June 8 Council meeting.

Lois Landgraf alleged that Linder called her "scum," and Harold Thompson alleged Linder took a poke at him, although witnesses said it was the other way around.

Magistrate Robin Chittum heard testimony and viewed a video of the confrontation before ruling that Landgraf is a public official who at times must endure public criticism, according to Linder.

"It was great," he says.

Chittum said Linder had the right to express his feelings, a ruling she echoed this week in the Thompson case.

Linder had become upset during a meeting where Council voted to adopt zoning regulations that essentially put his medical marijuana grow operation out of business. — PZ

Gaming cash helps county

El Paso County will receive $268,494 in Local Government Limited Gaming Impact Funds. In accordance with a 1997 statute, the money is distributed to communities to help offset the impacts of gambling.

The grants: $204,586 to the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office to support staff operations, including prosecution of gaming-related cases; $49,368 to CASA of the Pikes Peak Region, to help place advocates in court for child victims of abuse, neglect or domestic conflict, in cases where gambling is a factor; and $14,540 to TESSA, for crisis intervention and supportive services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault who cite gaming as a contributing factor. — JAS

Compiled by Ralph Routon, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

  • Also: CSBJ publisher ousted, mail ballots pouring in, Rum Bay closes and more.

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