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Noted: Provisional votes for MMJ, Morse tallied 

Final tally: Morse, MMJ win

Two weeks later, state Sen. John Morse and El Paso County's medical marijuana industry finally received the news they had hoped for on the election night of Nov. 2. Following a count of more than 5,000 provisional ballots, Morse held on for a second term in the Senate, and medical marijuana centers were OK'd to continue operating in unincorporated areas of El Paso County.

Morse's slender lead in Senate District 11 over Republican challenger Owen Hill, which had been 252 votes, grew to a 340-vote margin after the counting of 653 ballots from district residents. Morse finishes with 13,866 to Hill's 13,526.

County Question 1A, asking if voters wanted to prohibit medical marijuana centers outside the county's municipalities, had the "no" side (supporting the MMJ industry) leading by 331 votes. Since this was a countywide issue, all validated ballots counted, but they made the "no" margin bigger by adding 2,411 to just 1,856 yes votes. The final total comes to 93,747 against 1A's prohibition of MMJ centers, and 92,855 in favor. — RR

Term-limits brouhaha grows

Support is mounting to allow voters a second bite at the apple on term limits, following an uproar over their extension for county commissioners, the district attorney and other county elected officials.

Commissioner Amy Lathen says she's willing to have voters revisit the issue in 2011. She even researched whether commissioners could ask the clerk not to certify the ballot measures (1B, 1C and 1D) into law. Short answer: They can't. "I mean it when I say that I want to do the right thing," Lathen says in an e-mail.

Newly elected commissioner Darryl Glenn, who takes office in January, says he'll push for repeat ballot measures. "My feeling right now when I look at the feedback I'm getting, I feel we need to resolve it in November," he says.

The third statement of support comes from newcomer Peggy Littleton, who wants to ask the questions using clearer language.

The problem stems from recent measures asking if officials should be limited to three terms — which actually represents an extension of the current two. Commissioner Dennis Hisey is on the fence, and Commissioner Sallie Clark sees no reason to resubmit the issues because they were "straightforward" the first time. Clark also worries about an election's cost, which she says could be borne entirely by the county.

Not likely. Thirteen entities participated in 2009's off-year November election, and more than 20 in 2007. — PZ

Billboard prospects dim a bit

Larry Barrett, with Scenic Colorado, says he wasn't expecting El Paso County planning commissioners to vote 7-0 against staff recommendations on billboard regulation. But that's what they did Tuesday, pleasing Barrett and others with his environmental-protection nonprofit.

The staff, he says, recommended "permissive regulations that would allow electronic message displays that are too numerous, too large, and too distracting."

Barrett had presented the commission a series of proposals limiting or restricting LED billboards. Up until 2006, LED signs were prohibited in the county, and since then four locations with five billboards have been allowed. That is half of the number of LED billboards in the whole of the state, he says, and many more than he'd like to see.

The county commissioners will now take up the subject at their regular meeting Dec. 9. — CH

Utilities' power move

Colorado Springs City Council on Wednesday afternoon was expected to approve borrowing roughly $325 million to buy out the city's partner in the Front Range Power Plant — $92.7 million to buy the plant and the remainder to refinance debt of the partnership.

Councilor Randy Purvis says the purchase will save money, because the city no longer will have to pay its partner, Mesquite Colorado Holdco. Mesquite is owned by insurance giant and taxpayer bailout recipient AIG and the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan.

Mayor Lionel Rivera has said he wouldn't cast a vote, because his employer, UBS financial services, owns a portion of the plant.

Also Wednesday, the Council, sitting as the Utilities Board, was to review the 2011 Utilities budget proposal of $1.022 billion. It's less than this year's $1.113 billion budget due to the city's plan to borrow less for the Southern Delivery System water pipeline and environmental equipment for power plants, having borrowed adequate sums last year. Check csindy.com for updates from the meeting. — PZ

Focus leads anti-gay day

Focus on the Family announced it will sponsor the "Day of Dialogue," formerly known as the "Day of Truth," on April 18. The event was created in 2005 to counter the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's April 16 Day of Silence, in which "hundreds of thousands of students nationwide take a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools," according to the GLSEN website.

Recently, several young gays and lesbians have killed themselves after being bullied by classmates. In Pennsylvania this month, 14-year-old Brandon Bitner threw himself in front of a truck after being called names at school. In September, Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, 18, jumped off a bridge after his roommate and another student filmed him having sex with another man and "outed" him online.

However, the "Day of Dialogue" is not intended to discuss bullying tragedies. Rather, Focus hopes Christian students will tell other students that being gay — according to their religious beliefs — is sinful.

"We're trying to raise awareness that more than one side needs to be heard on the issue of homosexuality, and we're helping to ensure Christian students have the chance to express their viewpoint," says Candi Cushman, education analyst for Focus on the Family and head of truetolerance.org, in a press release. Focus encourages "respectful" and "loving" conversations. — JAS

God's city, right here

Every so often, a national media outlet notices that Colorado Springs is home to a lot of Christians. This time around, it was Men's Health magazine.

In their monthly "Metrogrades" feature, the magazine's researchers said they "scoured the U.S. Census and the yellow pages (Yellow.com) for places of worship per capita. Then we tallied up religious organizations (U.S. Census) and the number of volunteers who support these groups (VolunteeringinAmerica.gov). Finally, we considered the amount of money donated to religious organizations (Bureau of Labor Statistics and spent on religious books (Mediamark Research)."

They found that among 100 cities, ours was the most religious, beating out such devout Bible Belt locales as Birmingham, Ala., and Memphis, Tenn. The list's top 10 was dominated by the South and Midwest, while the bottom 10 were mostly on the East Coast. — CH

Sales tax collections up

The city's revenue picture just keeps getting rosier. After a punishing few years, sales and use tax collections — the major source of the city's general-fund money — have been on the rise. Monthly year-to-date comparisons show that city sales tax revenue has improved compared to the year before for 12 straight months. October collections were up 7.69 percent from October 2009; the 2010 year-to-date comparison stands 6.03 percent over 2009. At this time in 2009, the city had collected $81.3 million in sales and use tax. This year, it's $86.2 million.

The biggest gains came from commercial machines, building materials, furniture, appliances and electronics.

While the increase in tax collections is a good sign of local economic recovery, sales and use tax revenue is 6.07 percent, or approximately $5.6 million, below 2007 levels. — JAS

Progress in Proby project

For the next five months, Drennan Road immediately west of Academy Boulevard will be off-limits to trucks, due to the construction of an overhead support structure for a bridge at the interchange that will take traffic from Academy Boulevard to Milton E. Proby Parkway and the airport.

Vertical clearance for the work is 14 feet. All trucks will detour onto Hancock Expressway and Astrozon Boulevard.

Also, night work will be done on Drennan Road from 7:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Drivers on Drennan should expect the regular construction headaches: concrete barriers, narrow lanes, lots of signage and traffic congestion. For more information, call the project hotline at 268-7430, or go to buildproby.com. — JAS

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

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