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News briefs from the Front Range

Kramer announces retirement as city manager

Lorne Kramer, who has served more than five years as Colorado Springs' city manager, announced Wednesday his plans to retire as of June 30.

Kramer, 65, took over as acting city manager in January 2002, and accepted the permanent title two months later. Prior to that, he had spent 11 years as the city's police chief. As city manager, he was making nearly $190,000 a year and supervising more than 2,000 employees.

Kramer moved to Colorado Springs in 1990 after serving 28 years with the Los Angeles Police Department. Among his accomplishments was overseeing the local policing effort for the 1984 Summer Olympics.

There was no immediate word as to whether the city would look inside the current staff or conduct a national search for a replacement. RR

Focus on the Family protesters arrested

Two Denver activists were arrested at Focus on the Family after failing to convince James Dobson to meet with them to discuss whether gays and lesbians make good parents.

Colorado Springs police arrested Christopher Hubble and Leigh Lyon on Saturday morning when they confronted Focus officials, according to Paige Schilt, a spokeswoman for Soulforce. The group advocates for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people.

Twenty activists clad in yellow T-shirts depicting Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi came as part of Soulforces Focus on the Facts campaign. The campaign asks Dobson to retract negative assessments of gay and lesbian parents and to stop misrepresenting research into the subject. In February, a lesbian couple was arrested and charged with trespassing in a similar protest. MdY

A bit of Kumbayah for mayor, St. Pat's activists

Mayor Lionel Rivera emerged from Colorado Springs police headquarters smiling with peace activists Wednesday after a two-hour meeting to discuss the citys response to anti-war demonstrators.

Rivera and leaders for the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission told reporters that although there were heated exchanges, the sides agreed that better communication before demonstrations would help avoid incidents like those seen during the St. Patricks Day parade in March.

Police banished marchers, many wearing T-shirts with peace symbols on them, from the parade route after parade organizers complained about unexpected anti-war signs. Officers dragged a 65-year-old woman from the parade route on asphalt, causing a large scrape on her skin; waved a stun gun in an aborted crowd-control effort; and employed controversial physical compliance holds. Seven were arrested.

The incident has sparked a police internal affairs investigation that is expected to be complete as early as next week. The results will be public, assured Lt. Rafael Cintron, a police spokesman.

Chief Richard Myers and City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher joined Rivera in the meeting with activists who claim police used excessive force. Rivera reiterated earlier objections to those claims.

I certainly dont think that happened, he said.

Despite such disagreement, Jeff Briggs, new executive director of the peace commission, said progress had been made. He declined to discuss details of the meeting, including how activists or the city will act differently in the future, citing the ongoing court cases. However, he added that he looks forward to sitting down again with Myers.

I feel very good about the meeting, Briggs said.

The issue is certain to be hot in the days ahead. Friday, as part of a settlement to a civil rights lawsuit that emerged in the aftermath of wrongful arrests during 2003 anti-war protests, citizens and police will take part in a forum meant to discuss police treatment of protesters.

The forum is 2 p.m. Friday, in the Colorado Springs Senior Center, 1514 N. Hancock Ave.

Then at 1 p.m. on Monday, police are expected to give the City Council an after action report on the St. Patricks arrests, including how to deal with such situations in the future. At 1:30 p.m. that day, the seven activists are slated to appear in court on charges associated with their failure to leave the parade route. MdY

Few Springs immigrants join Denver rally

Last May, 5,000 immigrants gathered in Colorado Springs' Memorial Park to push for federal immigration reform. Tuesday, organizers didn't plan a local rally, opting instead to join Denver's protest.

A handful of people involved in Colorado Springs' Sueo Americano group traveled north, joining an estimated 10,000 marchers. Denver's showing was notably smaller than that of last year, when 75,000 people rallied.

Organizers look to stepped-up immigration policy to explain the difference.

"This year the raids two of them in Colorado have created a climate of fear, a climate of intimidation," says Lisa Duran, director of Denver's Rights for All People. She adds that Colorado's restrictive laws have made immigrants shy away from the public eye.

"People don't want to put themselves at risk," says Hector Suarez of the Pikes Peak Immigrant and Refugee Collaborative. NZ

Manitou's road to the future

Bud Ford, business owner and former Manitou Springs mayor, says he's pleased to see the city "charge into the new century." That's how he looks at the soon-to-be-completed downtown Manitou makeover.

With paving set to be completed this week, city officials expect to meet their deadline of May 25, pending the weather's cooperation.

When completed, the downtown portion of Manitou Avenue will consist of two traffic lanes and one turning lane. Sidewalks along the main shopping stretch have been widened and all utility lines are being moved underground, creating what officials and citizens hope will be a more pedestrian-friendly area.

John K. McMinn, Manitou director of public services, says most residents have reacted positively. According to Ford, the changes should counter a four-year decline in Manitou retail activity, and show a commitment to changing with the times.

Of the nuisance construction might have cost business owners, he says, "It's the price you pay for improvement." CS

Ritter poised to sign Pion Canyon bill

Barring a sudden change of heart, Gov. Bill Ritter will sign into law this week a piece of legislation telling the Army it can't use eminent domain to expand a Fort Carson training ground in southeast Colorado. Ritter is scheduled Thursday afternoon to sign House Bill 1069 on the east steps of the Capitol.

Fort Carson wants to expand the roughly 235,000-acre Pion Canyon Maneuver Site south of La Junta by more than 418,000 acres to meet future training needs.

Though popular with lawmakers, the bill faced opposition from the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs.

Resistant ranchers who fear the Army will boot them from their land were applauding Ritter earlier this week, in anticipation of the expected signing. MdY

Gay-rights bill advances in Denver

Abill outlawing workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation moved through the Colorado Legislature this week, making its way to Gov. Bill Ritter's desk.

Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, sponsored the bill. Veiga, the Legislature's only openly gay member, has repeatedly brought forward some version of the bill over the past decade. Last year, then-Gov. Bill Owens vetoed the effort. Ritter is expected to sign this one.

Colorado Springs' Citizens Project recently issued an action alert on its Web site, urging constituents to write legislators in support of the bill. Thirty-six people followed through.

"The state is managing to accomplish what we have never been able to accomplish in Colorado Springs alone," says Citizens Project director Christina Student. "There are other cities that do have employment non-discrimination policies, but Colorado Springs has never had one. We are excited." NZ

Take two, says Douglas Bruce

Douglas Bruce launched a tirade this week in a ballot dispute, labeling Colorado Springs City Clerk Kathryn M. Young an "out-of-control, irresponsible lawbreaker."

At issue is the El Paso County commissioner and tax activist's latest effort to clamp down on city coffers.

A proposal by Bruce for November's ballot aims to make voluntary any payment of enterprise charges, such as stormwater fees. The proposal also would require voter approval of any new charges, and would lower the city's property tax to 3 mills in the 2007 tax year and 2 mills thereafter except to repay voter-approved bonds.

Young, in a letter to Bruce, refused to allow a title-setting hearing, the prelude for the petition process. She stated the proposal violated a city rule limiting ballot issues to a single subject.

Bruce, who accused Young of trying to keep the proposal from voters, last year pushed two similar measures. One called for eliminating property taxes and the other for limiting city debt. Voters flatly rejected both. MdY

Compiled by Ralph Routon, Colin Stroud, Michael de Yoanna and Naomi Zaveloff.

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