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Noted: Rabid skunks 

Skunks: not just smelly

Rabid skunks have infiltrated eastern El Paso County for the first time in 39 years. Department of Health and Environment officials issued a statement confirming sightings of six rabid skunks, with admonitions to make sure pets and livestock are fully vaccinated against the potentially fatal disease.

Dr. Bernadette Albanese, county medical director, warns people to stay away from any animal acting strangely and to educate children about the dangers of rabies. Keeping the family pet healthy, Albanese says, “is the easiest way to minimize risk to humans.”

She adds: “This is a persistent and progressive spreading endemic, so take note that this is not going away.”

Rabies spreads through contact with saliva of infected animals. If an animal has bitten you, contact your physician immediately, as preventive medication can stop the infection. For more information, see elpasocountyhealth.org.— BC

Swedsen has baby girl

Four months after her encounter with a bear in north-central Colorado Springs made national news, Ashley Swendsen has given birth to a girl at Memorial Hospital. The baby, Imagine “Lil Bear” Catherine Swendsen Daly, weighed 8 pounds, 11 ounces when it arrived Aug. 27.

“It’s been extremely low-key, which was nice,” Swendsen says.

On April 23, when five months pregnant, Swendsen saw a bear while walking along a paved footpath that passes under Interstate 25 next to Cottonwood Creek. She backed away from the bear, then ran, escaping only to get hit by a car when she tried to cross a narrow bridge nearby. Wildlife officials later caught up with the bear and decided to kill it because it showed no fear of humans.— AL

D-11 ballot shaping up

Five candidates for the Colorado Springs School District 11 board have gathered enough verified signatures to join the November ballot: current board member Sandra Mann, former board member Delia Armstrong-Busby, former candidate Chyrese Exline, LuAnn Long and Albert Loma.

There are three seats up for grabs; besides Mann’s spot, former board president John Gudvangen and current board president Tami Hasling announced earlier in the year they would not run for re-election.

In other D-11 news, Deputy Superintendent Michael Poore is not a finalist for Pueblo City Schools superintendent, meaning he will stay in his current position.— JAS

But Freedom's founding family will lose control

It’s hard to imagine bankruptcy as a good thing, but that’s how Freedom Communications, parent company of the Gazette, spun the company’s filing Tuesday for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Freedom officials, including Gazette publisher Steve Pope, lauded the news, saying it would allow the company — more than $1 billion in debt — to operate “as usual.” However, a Gazette story Tuesday also said that Freedom’s main lenders, headed by JPMorgan Chase bank, will assume 98 percent ownership and soon will name a new CEO and board of directors. Burl Osborne, Freedom’s current CEO, admitted in the Gazette that it’s “uncommon” for banks to own media companies, and that the lenders likely would sell properties at some point.

The Hoiles family, which has controlled the company now known as Freedom Communications Inc. for nearly a century, will come out of the bankruptcy with no more than 2 percent ownership, according to court documents.— BC

GOP packs house for Lamborn

As political stagecraft, it was masterful: By tacking his Colorado Springs “town hall” onto the end of a regular Aug. 27 Republican dinner meeting, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn ensured a sympathetic crowd. The riff-raff — Democrats and health care reform supporters — were left, along with some other Lamborn supporters, to stand along the walls or in an adjacent room, where they couldn’t hear anyway.

But the event at Valley Hi Golf Course’s clubhouse exposed disagreement about whom the intended guests were. County Commissioner Sallie Clark, a regular at GOP monthly meetings, told the Gazette the event was never intended to be anything more than a Republican meeting. Days later, she explained to the Indy that she and other Republicans had expected a more intimate gathering with the congressman.

The crowd of several hundred probably resulted from press releases that came from Lamborn’s office, which billed the Colorado Springs event as his third town hall, following events in Woodland Park and Cañon City. Lamborn spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen chimed in earlier this week: “It was a town hall.” — AL

Campaign in your Face(book)

Promising a “grassroots, citizen-driven” campaign, City Councilor Jan Martin has taken her City Worth Fighting For initiative to the masses by creating a Facebook page.

Attracting more than 770 fans since its launch a week ago, the page has served as a place for both backers and detractors to voice their views and learn more about the proposed property tax increase. Interplay between the two sides has been strong, and Martin has not been afraid to wade into the discussion.

One topic that’s come up is Martin’s decision to vote against putting TABOR reform on this year’s ballot; Martin says that she still supports TABOR reform, “especially since the city has its own TABOR that is more restrictive than the state’s. So, our first step [after the proposed mill levy increase] will be to remove the city TABOR so we can at least be on a level playing field with the rest of the state.” — BC

Bruce bullies city again

Douglas Bruce remains unsatisfied.

Bruce, the anti-tax activist and Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights author, scored a victory last week when City Council caved to his demand that it accept his petitions for a ballot issue, despite his having turned them in after a city deadline. Apparently, though, that still didn’t make Bruce happy. He berated Council at a meeting Tuesday, asking for a debate with any or all Council members, and complaining that he didn’t like changes to the ballot language he’d written. Bruce is seeking to phase out city fees, including the Stormwater Enterprise fee; if the issue gets passed, it would lead to more city budget shortfalls. — JAS

A fatter Austin Bluffs

Austin Bluffs Parkway is moving one step closer to a major transformation. On Sept. 24, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Calvary United Methodist Church (4210 Austin Bluffs Parkway), project representatives will meet with the community to discuss planning and design for the next major road-widening project. Sections widening to six lanes include: Nevada Avenue to Union Boulevard, Union Boulevard to Meadowland Boulevard, and Barnes Road to Old Farm Drive.

The project is being funded by the Pikes Peak Regional Transportation Authority (PPRTA) and the City of Colorado Springs. — AL

Compiled by Bryce Crawford, Anthony Lane, Ralph Routon and J. Adrian Stanley.

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