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Noted: Rivera revises strong mayor 

Mayor offers revisions for new government

Term-limited Mayor Lionel Rivera isn't happy with the incoming strong-mayor form of government, and he'd like to make changes to it. Monday, Rivera presented a plan for charter revisions, wanting City Council to consider asking voters to make the following adjustments:

• Change Council from four district and five at-large seats to six district and three at-large seats, giving neighborhoods more representation;

• Clarify the formula for Utilities' payment in lieu of taxes to the city, ensuring payments (challenged by changes in city code) continue;

• Nearly double the pay of Council members, who currently receive $6,250 a year

• Require a super-majority vote from Council to fire a municipal judge;

• Allow the new mayor to attend Council's executive sessions;

• Have the pay structure for city attorneys approved as part of the city budget, instead of individually by resolution.

Rivera originally supported a November ballot question that asked citizens to change the Colorado Springs form of government to give more power to the mayoral position. But he later reversed his position, saying his suggestions for the ballot question weren't included in the final draft.

"Most of these are changes that I proposed to the committee that wanted to propose the strong mayor," Rivera explains. "And literally, they said, 'We're just going to put something on the ballot that's simple, and will pass, and you guys can fix it later.'"

The mayor says his changes will reinforce separations between branches of government, decrease infighting and increase citizen access to government. Strong mayor ballot question supporters said it wasn't legally possible to include all of Rivera's provisions, which Rivera concedes may be true. If Council supports any of Rivera's measures, it would indicate so on Jan. 24, and approve sending those measures to the ballot on Jan. 25. — JAS

Poore leaving District 11

Mike Poore, deputy superintendent of Colorado Springs School District 11 since 2007, has accepted an offer to become superintendent for Bentonville Public Schools, a district of about 13,500 students in the northwest corner of Arkansas.

He'll likely start transitioning into the position in spring, though his official contract begins in July.

Poore has served 23 years with D-11, rising from teacher and coach to become one of the district's top advocates and leaders. He led D-11 through a painful closure of schools in 2009, creating a public process for citizens to voice concerns, while at the same time presenting the closures as a financial necessity. That same year, Poore lost a bid to become D-11's superintendent, as the board chose Nicholas Gledich of Orlando, Fla.

Poore says he's excited to lead Bentonville, which is markedly different than D-11. While D-11 struggles with declining enrollment, shrinking finances and closing schools, Bentonville has rapidly expanding enrollment and needs to build a new high school. And while D-11 has struggled with low student achievement in some schools, Bentonville High has a 91 percent graduation rate.

"As much as it is exciting, there's also a little bit of fear about a new thing," Poore says. "But I've got to tell you, I've just been treated so well every time I've been down there. I think that some of the same strategies and skill sets actually cross over. One is that you have to have data to create the case for whatever direction you're going to go, and second, the ability to communicate." — JAS

Garcia may wear two hats

New Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, who was sworn in Tuesday along with Gov. John Hickenlooper, might also serve as the Colorado Department of Higher Education's executive director.

That would come as no big surprise in Colorado Springs, where Garcia was president of Pikes Peak Community College (2001-06) before taking the reins at Colorado State University-Pueblo. Hickenlooper, who made the appointment, said in a news release that Garcia's background in education qualifies him for the directorship.

The governor is conferring with lawmakers and Attorney General John Suthers to clarify whether his No. 2 can also serve in a cabinet position, and has talked to legislative leaders in both parties about a bill to allow the dual role, if needed. It will save taxpayers money, Hickenlooper notes; he envisions Garcia earning about $140,000 total, instead of the cumulative $208,000 that would be earned by two people in those roles. — PZ

City finalizes MMJ zoning

Colorado Springs City Council voted 7-1 Tuesday, with Randy Purvis dissenting and Darryl Glenn absent, in favor of finalized zoning regulations for medical marijuana businesses inside the city. Centers will have to be 400 feet from K-through-12 schools, 24-hour alcohol and drug treatment centers, and residential child care facilities, among other requirements.

Shortly before the vote, Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council president Tanya Garduno requested an update on the city's next step — a licensing scheme.

"The direction to the [city] clerk is to get our licensing done as quickly as possible, and include what the state has, of course, provided in their law, and they're working on that," replied Mayor Lionel Rivera. — BC

Leighton Smith has illness

Lawrence Leighton Smith, the celebrated music director of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic for the past decade, has been diagnosed with Binswanger's Disease. A form of dementia, it's caused by widespread damage to the deep layers of white matter in the brain, with symptoms that include loss of concentration, language disorders and impaired mobility.

"There's no cure for it, but he's in very good hands, and his wife Leslie is taking exceptional care of him, too," Philharmonic president/CEO Nathan Newbrough tells the Independent. "He's had kind of perplexing issues going on for a while, and so for him it's a huge relief to finally know that this is not just him, that there's actually a reason for it."

The 74-year-old music director's participation for the rest of the 2010-11 season is undetermined, apart from his withdrawal from the Feb. 19 "Symphonie Fantastique" program.

"He's still on the books to conduct in April and May," says Newbrough. "They're taking it day-by-day." — BF

Holy market for Outreach

It's hard to imagine a location more attractive than Colorado Springs for a company that specializes in church marketing. And this week, the California-based Outreach, Inc., announced that it would relocate its headquarters from sunny California to the sunny Springs.

What this means for us? The company says it employs 130 people, and anticipates hiring up to 70 more after the move. Outreach spans many areas of church media, by specializing in products that the churches use in marketing themselves, such as postcards, invitations and banners. The company also publishes and sells books, produces and distributes films, sells CDs and clothing, and publishes a bimonthly magazine that includes its widely referenced Top 100 lists of largest and fastest-growing churches. — CH

Hazlehurst leaves CSBJ

John Hazlehurst, former City Council member who wrote the "Outsider" column while at the Independent from 1997 to 2006, resigned this week as a writer and columnist for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.

"I'll miss my colleagues," he wrote on his Facebook page, "and I'll miss blogging/writing a weekly column ... so we'll see!"

Hazlehurst tells the Indy he "didn't feel as comfortable as ... in the past," when Mike Boyd was the Journal's editor. "But things change," Hazlehurst adds. "There's a new editor, and I think he needs to bring in his own people."

Allen Greenberg, who replaced Boyd last spring, said in an e-mail that he was disappointed and that Hazlehurst would be missed.

Hazlehurst, 70, served on City Council during the 1990s and resigned to run for mayor (unsuccessfully) in 1997. During a recent chat, he said he wants to be given credit for coining a couple of words of the trade: journotrash and junkalism. — PZ

Impossible call for locals

In a new Food Network show called Restaurant Impossible, chef Robert Irvine is tasked with saving "America's most desperate restaurants from impending failure" inside 48 hours and with a budget of $10,000. You may see him here.

Though the first season opens Wednesday, Jan. 19, associate producer Justin Leonard has targeted select markets in Colorado, including Colorado Springs, in hopes of garnering applicants for the second season. He says the majority of featured restaurants in Season 1 are on the East Coast, and the show hopes to tread further west in Season 2.

Struggling restaurateurs may apply at restaurantimpossible.com. — MS

PPCC looks for new leader

Colorado Community College System says it is has started the national search for a new president of Pikes Peak Community College.

Former president Tony Kinkel resigned in September after three years in the position. A press release at the time said Kinkel was looking for "new challenges."

CCCS president Nancy McCallin sees more growth potential for PPCC, which has about 10,000 students. She expects a new president to be chosen by spring, with Dr. Ed Ray serving as interim president during the search. — JAS

Compiled by Bryce Crawford, Bill Forman, Chet Hardin, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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