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Noted: White Acres plans advance 

White Acres plans advance

El Paso County commissioners will consider a re-zoning request Thursday morning that should clear the way for the city to buy the bulk of the White Acres property west of Colorado Springs and preserve it as open space. The re-zoning is needed because a home on the 45-acre property would be improperly zoned once the city buys 42 acres.

Earlier this year, open-space advocates feared the whole property, which borders Red Rock Canyon Open Space and Section 16, would become a residential development. The plan now is for the city to buy the 42 acres for $1 million, spread over four years. Two nonprofits have agreed to raise $75,000 toward the first $100,000 installment, and the city plans to close on the property in December.

Though the property is now accessible by informal, social trails, a $1 lease included in the deal will open the 42 acres to the public at the time the city closes. — AL

Gay chamber gains support

The Colorado Springs Pride Center has long spread the word about local gay-friendly businesses by publishing its Rainbow Pages directory and listing supporters on its Web site.

Now, those efforts are taking a formal turn with the creation of a new GLBTA Chamber of Commerce (GLBTA, incidentally, stands for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and ally). By mid-August, the chamber had about 40 members listed on its Web site, coloradospringsgaychamber.org.

"We haven't even publicly launched it yet," says Ryan Acker, executive director of the Pride Center, noting that a ceremony to unveil the site is tentatively planned for Sept. 4. (Details should soon be posted at the chamber's Web site.) Memberships in the chamber range from $100 to $600. — AL

Budget cuts might shutter community and senior centers

City Manager Penny Culbreth-Graft's initial report on the state of the 2010 city budget has been put off to Aug. 24, but that hasn't stopped the chattering about sacrifices to come.

An inside city source says he recently learned about a plan to save money in the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services department, likely to be proposed for the 2010 budget. The plan would lump all potentially profitable parts of the department, like pools, sports programs and Sertich Ice Center, into a new self-sustaining city enterprise. The Trails, Open Space and Parks tax would pay to maintain city parks built with its money, with the city chipping in nothing. City parks built with general fund dollars, including most older city parks, wouldn't be maintained at all beyond occasional mowing to keep the weeds down. All city-operated community and senior centers would be shuttered.

Asked this week about the budget plan, parks and rec director Paul Butcher indicated those details were familiar to him. Culbreth-Graft says she still hasn't seen parks and rec's proposals. Of course, City Council could always say no. But Council may see more urgent priorities to fund with its dwindling dollars, like police and fire. — JAS

Not much for the ballot

City Council nixed two of its proposed November ballot initiatives at its Monday and Tuesday meetings.

The city won't ask voters to increase the Lodging and Rental Tax or to preserve a small expiring mill levy. It looked like an initiative to limit the effects of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights would also die, but it was saved at the last minute when Councilor Randy Purvis changed his vote from no to yes. Purvis said he likely wouldn't vote to put the issue on the ballot, but changed his vote because he thought the issue deserved further discussion. Council must decide by late August what items to put before voters.

A fourth proposal from Councilor Jan Martin, raising property taxes to help avoid major cuts to city services, seemed to have enough support to make it onto the ballot. — JAS

Watch for the cameras

If you have a need for speed, you may want to move somewhere else. Monday, City Council gave the Colorado Springs Police Department the OK to use a high-tech photo system to ticket drivers who run red lights or speed through critical areas, such as school zones. Police say the technology will allow them to increase their presence on the roads without hiring more cops — a plus as the city stares down yet another budget shortfall.

Police Chief Richard Myers says evidence shows the technology increases traffic safety, though it can lead to more rear-end crashes, especially when first installed. However, he says, it prevents many T-bone crashes, which are much more dangerous.

Only two Councilors, Darryl Glenn and Tom Gallagher, voted against the idea. Gallagher was concerned that, under state law, the ticketing system only results in violators being fined, with no points coming off their driver's licenses. That, Gallagher said, sends a message you could break the law as much as you want if you can afford the tickets.

"I want the person who rolls through a school zone at 100 miles per hour to go to jail and never drive again," Gallagher said. — JAS

Mayor Rivera cleared

After months of rumors, accusations and investigation, the end of an ethics investigation of Mayor Lionel Rivera was anticlimactic, to say the least. At the end of Monday's informal City Council meeting, during open discussion, Council announced the report was ready. By voice vote, they released it to the public. End of story.

The city's Independent Ethics Commission found the mayor had not acted unethically when he helped to put together the first U.S. Olympic Committee retention deal. LandCo Equity Partners, the developer chosen for the USOC project, was the mayor's former investment client.

Rivera said he felt good to finally have his name cleared, though he wondered if the investigation would be a permanent stain on his reputation.

"I guess it all depends on the media and how they treat the report," he said. "I felt the report was very thorough." — JAS

Snyder makes it official

Marc Snyder, an attorney who has served on the Manitou Springs City Council since 2003, is officially running for mayor in the November election, after incumbent Eric Drummond's decision not to seek a second term.

"I've taken the plunge," says Snyder, confirming he turned in a petition this week with more than the required 25 signatures. Two other potential candidates have pulled petitions: Rick Barry, a retired educator, and Nancy Barnes, a candidate for mayor in 2007. They have until Aug. 24 to turn in petitions. — RR

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

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