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Noted: Firefighters looking for recruits 

Hiring replacements will be a slow process, three years later

It's a cruel twist of fate for the Colorado Springs Fire Department: Things are finally improving, except they're not.

The department's last recruited firefighters started training on Feb. 20, 2007 and graduated June 22, 2007. Due to budget troubles, no one's been hired since, and the department has racked up more than 20 vacancies.

The good news is that the city budget is now a little more flush, so Interim Fire Chief Dan Raider finally gets to fill those slots. The bad news: He doesn't have anyone lined up to fill those slots, which means the department can't begin training new recruits until next April.

Under normal circumstances, the department accepts applications. Applicants are tested, polygraphed and subjected to extensive background checks. After that process, recruits are ranked on a scale that sets the order in which they'll be trained and hired. But since the department hasn't had an academy since 2007, it doesn't have a list anymore. Anyone approved in 2007 has to go through that entire vetting process again to ensure they're still viable. In other words, Raider must start from scratch.

If you want to be a firefighter, the department will make applications available from Dec. 6 through Dec. 17, with final offers coming on or around March 18. The department will also host 60-minute orientations for those interested in learning more (attendance is not required for applicants) at 10 a.m. on Nov. 6, 6 p.m. on Nov. 30, and 2 p.m. on Dec. 11, all at the Fire Department Complex, 375 Printers Pkwy. For more, call 385-5950. — JAS

New hotel joins Wyndham

Downtown's Mining Exchange Hotel, set for a spring 2011 opening, announced this week it has finalized a franchise agreement with the Wyndham hotel chain. The venture will now open as The Mining Exchange, A Wyndham Grand Hotel.

Mining Exchange partner Perry Sanders Jr. says he's thrilled: "Now we have an 800-pound gorilla on our side." Wyndham calls its Grand hotels "the crown jewel of the Wyndham family." The 27 other Wyndham Grands are in locations as familiar and near as Nashville, Tenn., and foreign and far as St. Petersburg, Russia.

Sanders says he was "courted" by several other major hotel chains, but "came to have great faith in Wyndham" over the past year. That process included an audit by an international inspector who "walk[ed] every square inch" of the historic property, ensuring that it would meet the Wyndham Grand's minimum four-star criteria. — MS

Putting the 'us' in stimulus

From 6 to 8 p.m. next Thursday, Oct. 28, the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado, 315 E. Costilla St., will host a community forum on benefits available from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Topics will range from applying for unemployment insurance to finding tax credits for families to landing green jobs. Spearheaded by 9to5, the National Association of Working Women, along with its allies on the left, similar events are being conducted throughout Colorado.

"It's a sort of moving forum," says Rosemary Harris Lytle, 9to5 national public relations coordinator. "The whole idea is to offer, in one place, all the information that can make the stimulus package accessible to all people, those things that people might not know about but that can really increase their income and make it easier to survive in these economic times." It will be free and open to all, with childcare and dinner provided; for more, call 800/522-0925. — CH

Denver preps rally for 'Sanity'

"Because you can't go to the real thing, but you still care." That seems to be a popular reason to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity on Saturday, Oct. 30, at Denver's Civic Center Park. Organizers expect a few thousand to gather in support of "restoring sanity to politics," one of hundreds of satellite rallies inspired by comedian Jon Stewart's main event in Washington, D.C.

Stewart's rally and Stephen Colbert's March to Keep Fear Alive are tongue-in-cheek responses to Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally back in August. Stewart and Colbert are calling for "the people who've been too busy to go to rallies" to gather at the National Mall.

Colorado Springs native Megan Fossinger and the four other Denver rally organizers are seeking more funding and sponsors to help provide live streaming of the D.C. event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The nonpartisan, family-friendly affair will feature local speakers, comedians and booths. Political candidates, including governor hopeful John Hickenlooper and incumbent U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, have been invited to answer questions but will not give speeches. For more information, visit sanitydenver.com. — LB

Colorado: No. 4 for business

Forbes magazine has ranked Colorado fourth on its "Best States for Business and Careers" list — high praise for a state some political candidates would have you believe thumbs its nose at the business community. Utah tops the list.

According to Forbes: "Our Best States ranking measures six vital categories for businesses: costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, current economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life. We factor in 33 points of data to determine the ranks in the six main areas. Business costs, which include labor, energy and taxes, are weighted the most heavily. We relied on 10 data sources, with research firm Moody's Economy.com as the most-utilized resource." — JAS

Tough week for Mayor Project

The Mayor Project hasn't gotten a whole lot of help from headlines lately. Mayor Lionel Rivera, originally a supporter of the project's "strong mayor" ballot initiative (which would give more power to the mayor and eliminate the city-manager position), withdrew his support in a very public manner. Rivera released a press statement Monday explaining that an op-ed he authored for the Gazette had been altered to suggest he supported the initiative. In fact, he says, he now opposes it.

The statement initiated a wave of news stories, which, in turn, elicited this response from Mayor Project spokesperson Rachel Beck: "Mayor Rivera's statement this afternoon on Issue 300 reflects the lack of leadership at City Hall that is precisely the reason our citizen committee brought this measure before voters. We are surprised and disappointed that, after carrying a petition himself and gathering signatures to get the initiative on the ballot, the mayor would reverse his support."

Rivera wasn't the Mayor Project's only problem this week. Campaign finance reports show CS Governance Initiative, a nonprofit corporation funded largely by developers David and Chris Jenkins, lent another $85,000 to the campaign. The Mayor Project has now borrowed more than $380,000 from the corporation, raising some eyebrows. — JAS

County voters get out early

By Wednesday morning, more than 20,000 El Paso County residents had voted — 19,000-plus returning mail ballots within a week of receiving them and more than 1,000 taking advantage of early on-site voting, according to county Election Manager Liz Olson. Before the Aug. 10 primary, 13,300 completed mail ballots were received in the first week.

"Everything seems to be as we would expect at this point," Olson says, adding that there have been "no glitches." Voters who registered to receive mail ballots must turn theirs in by 7 p.m. on Nov. 2 (election day). Any ballots that are returned by mail must arrive by that time. Most mail ballots require only a regular 44-cent stamp, but voters who include extra paperwork in the envelope — such as a copy of identification — may need additional postage.

Mail-ballot voters can also drop off their ballots at one of the three early voting sites (while they're operating) or at their polling place on election day. Those wanting to vote early can do so through Oct. 29 (excluding Sunday, Oct. 24) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave.; the clerk's Powers Branch at 5650 Industrial Place; and at Chapel Hills Mall, 1710 Briargate Blvd., #350. Identification is required to vote early. — JAS

Bruce in the doghouse, again

Douglas Bruce just can't stay out of trouble. This time, the local anti-tax activist is the subject of a complaint to the secretary of state's office.

Coloradans for Responsible Reform alleges that Bruce gave more than $100,000 to the campaigns for Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101 through his charity, Active Citizens Together. The complaint also accuses Bruce of overseeing the petition process to get the revenue-smashing measures on the November ballot. According to the objecting group, ACT is in violation of campaign finance laws and should have registered as an issue committee, which is required to publicly report contributions and expenditures.

This is not the first time ACT, which was founded by Bruce for "public education on civil rights," has been accused of being little more than a funnel through which Bruce pays for his ballot measures' campaigns. In October 2009, the Independent reported that ACT spent considerable funds to support the passage of Bruce's Issue 300, which ended the city's Stormwater Enterprise fee, among other changes ["Bruce's Benjamins," News, Oct. 29, 2009]. At the time, it appeared that ACT operated in a legal gray area. — JAS

Compiled by Leah Barker, Chet Hardin, Matthew Schniper and J. Adrian Stanley.

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