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Noted: Skorman considering run for mayor 

Skorman may run for mayor

With city voters having approved a new strong-mayor form of government, at least one well-known local says he's seriously considering a run.

Richard Skorman — small-business owner, former City Councilor and Indy readers' pick for "Person You Wish Could Be Mayor" — says he is putting together an exploratory committee of about a dozen people to help him gauge the support he'd have in a campaign. He says he'll make a final decision in three to four weeks.

So why the caution? "I've actually always been cautious," Skorman says, "even when I ran [for Council], because I don't want to get people's hopes up, I don't want to raise money and get volunteers if I don't have a good chance of winning. That's not fair."

If he does end up as the Springs' first strong mayor, Skorman says he'll concentrate on making the city more efficient, business-friendly and green. All of which he hopes will make the city more attractive to businesses looking to relocate.

"I think we have gotten branded as a negative community in many different ways," he says. "... We've shot ourselves in the foot as a community in terms of attracting and retaining good jobs." — JAS

Most city cuts healed

City Council has voted to restore some services cut over the past couple years and halt some cuts planned for 2011.

Funding will be restored for a squad in the fire department, streetlights, the Uncle Wilber and Julie Penrose fountains, and the Springs in Bloom flower program. Council will also continue to fund the Cottonwood Creek Recreation Center (a pool), therapeutic recreation programs for those with disabilities, North Cheyenne Cañon Visitors Center, Rock Ledge Ranch and subsidies for the 2011 U.S. Women's Open.

Council also decided to phase in increased employee benefit costs over two years, rather than one.

While many add-ins caused little squabble, Councilors were charged over how much to give to community centers, and how the money should be used. Eventually, community centers got reduced funding with instructions to pursue transferring control to "partnerships" that are expected to further reduce city revenue needs at the centers in future years. (For more, see "No More Homework.") — JAS

Modbo expands in alley

Modbo co-owners Brett and Lauren Andrus have announced that they will expand into the old Rubbish Gallery next door, and reopen the space as SPQR. Named after the motto of the Roman Republic (which translated, means "The Senate and People of Rome"), SPQR will feature artwork, live music and art classes, like the Modbo.

Lauren says the name came from her and Brett's recent honeymoon trip to Rome, where they saw SPQR emblazoned on modern items across the city. She says they found the juxtaposition between old and new intriguing.

As far as acquiring the site, Lauren says she and Brett jumped on the opportunity to rent it as soon as they heard that Saks Building LLC (their landlord at the Modbo) refused to renew Rubbish's lease after a five-year relationship. (Calls put into Saks were not returned.) They submitted a proposal, and were granted a lease. "We were really honored that they wanted us to take the space," Lauren says, "because from what we heard there were quite a few people interested in it."

A grand opening will be held Dec. 10, with the Modbo and SPQR participating in the Biggest Small Works Show Ever, a holiday show and sale of art all under 24 inches (not to be confused with Rubbish owner Jon Lindstrom's Small Art and Oddities show). — EA

Coal cleaning: looking good

On Wednesday, Nov. 17, Colorado Springs City Council (sitting as the Utilities Board) will decide whether to invest further in the NeuStream technology to scrub pollutants from coal-fired plants.

That decision undoubtedly will be influenced by recent findings of the Electric Power Research Institute, of Palo Alto, Calif. It analyzed the technology created by David Neumann of Colorado Springs, a physicist and Air Force Academy graduate.

"The EPRI report is highly favorable to the NeuStream technology and is comprehensively affirming of our own testing, evaluation, and conclusion throughout the 20 [megawatt] pilot," Utilities energy official Drew Rankin says in an e-mail. He notes the assessment confirms "NeuStream technology performs as advertised, is a valid technology, will readily scale to commercial size, will perform reliably, and is ready for full scale implementation."

That's good news for the city, which has pumped $17 million into the technology just to develop and test it, and hopes to share in profits if and when the device goes mainstream. The city hopes to get a cut of sales; it remains to be seen how much. Rankin says installing the technology on the city's two coal plants will save customers hundreds of millions of dollars when NeuStream is compared with other existing technologies. NeuStream, he says, lowers mercury emissions by 90 percent and sulfur dioxide by 97 percent. — PZ

Glenn delays resignation

City Councilor Darryl Glenn, just elected an El Paso County commissioner, announced this week that he will not resign his city position until February.

Glenn says he wants to be part of important city decisions such as the conversion to the strong-mayor form of government and the future of Memorial Health System, and also because staying on would prevent Council from appointing a replacement to fill his seat. Instead, voters will elect a new representative in April, because his departure will come fewer than 60 days before that municipal election.

Since incumbent candidates generally have an advantage in elections, part of Glenn's motivation may have been to ensure a level playing field for his own choice of a successor. The day after Glenn revealed his delayed departure, his campaign manager, Angela Dougan, announced her candidacy for Glenn's District 2 seat.

Glenn endorsed her, writing, "I strongly believe that this is the people's seat and I want to make sure that they have a voice in selecting their next representative that is why I have chosen to remain in my position until February of next year. Over the course of the next few years we will have numerous tough decisions to make and I want to ensure the people of [the] northern part of Colorado Springs have a strong voice in their representative." — JAS

Memorial wants autonomy

Will voters see a ballot measure next spring to decide ownership of city-owned Memorial Health System? That's the question City Council faces now that the Memorial Citizens Commission has recommended that Memorial be converted into an independent nonprofit agency.

The recommendation, coming after nine months of analysis, is supported by Memorial CEO Larry McEvoy, who says the system needs freedom from government oversight to grow as health care evolves.

"If this community asset is to not only survive, but thrive, its decision-making capabilities need to be unhindered from the restraints of its current bureaucracy, it needs to increase its scale and access to capital and it requires expansion beyond the limits of the city, an option now made impossible by municipal laws," Commission Chair Bob Lally said in a prepared statement.

The change would free city residents from any tax liability for Memorial should it fall on hard times. Still up for debate is whether the city would receive any payoff for the conversion. The recommendation will be formally presented to Council on Nov. 22.

Memorial presented its proposed 2011 budget to Council on Monday, predicting net income to rise from $17 million budgeted this year to $20.8 million. Patient revenue would grow by 10.5 percent to $692.7 million. But charity care would rise by 18.8 percent, to nearly $35.7 million and uncollectable accounts by 12.6 percent to $65.4 million. Salaries, wages and benefits would go up by 13.8 percent to $321.5 million.

The Council will consider the budget on first reading Nov. 23 and final reading in mid-December. — PZ

Space for Space

A plan to provide the 27-year-old Space Foundation with a new facility will be announced next month, Mike Kazmierski, head of the Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp., said last week.

Now at 310 S. 14th St., the foundation has been asking for help to find new headquarters for several years and reportedly has been wooed by other cities.

Kazmierski didn't identify sources of money, saying, "The funding sources have not been publicly discussed nor approved by anyone other than a portion of the funding that we have requested from the state."

City Councilman Scott Hente says the city isn't involved, an important point considering its controversial role in providing facilities to retain the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham issued a statement, saying the agency needs a better facility to "allow us to contribute more to the community, and better serve our needs for the future." — PZ

Legislative bigwigs announced

After the election results last week gave Republicans control of the State House, two El Paso County legislators emerged in the leadership ranks of the prevailing party.

Rep. Amy Stephens is House majority leader, while Rep. Mark Waller is assistant majority leader. House minority leader is Sal Pace of Pueblo.

Sen. John Morse, who edged GOP challenger Owen Hill, retains his Senate majority leader post.

Sen. Bill Cadman is assistant minority leader, and Sen. Kent Lambert sits on the Joint Budget Committee. — PZ

Compiled by Edie Adelstein, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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