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Noted: AFA religion battle continues 

No surprises at AFA

A retired general has caught nobody off-guard by lauding Air Force Academy leadership for creating a "healthy and improving" religious climate. "Outside assertions claiming that an unacceptable climate of religious tolerance exists ... were universally unsupported," Gen. Patrick Gamble wrote in a 22-page report issued April 29.

"I'm sorry I wasted my time by speaking with the committee — and trusting that my inputs, views, and experiences would be considered. I won't make that mistake again," a faculty member wrote to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. Another faculty member, an AFA grad, wrote, "This study is pure whitewash — or may I say hogwash. I maintain my long-held opinion the Academy will do anything to avoid negative publicity, including disguising the truth in a bewildering sea of rosy legal-babble."

The Air Force noted the Gamble report was one of several "initiatives" on religion at the Academy that will lead to "development and enhancement of Force Development Policy in this area." — PZ

Parks tax headed to vote?

The citizen coalition Great Parks-Great Communities intends to ask voters in November for a county-wide tax to support parks maintenance. The group still needs the blessing of El Paso County commissioners to get it on the ballot.

Susan Davies, executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition and head of Great Parks, says the group plans to ask commissioners in June to approve a ballot question. If commissioners say no, it could effectively kill the issue, since Davies confirms the group cannot petition the question onto the ballot.

Commissioners so far are resisting ballot issues to avoid associated costs — though some say they're actually trying to avoid asking voters whether county term limits should be cut from three to two. Still, Davies is hopeful, given the long public process and apparent voter interest.

The group has been meeting since fall 2009, during the city parks budget's fall to $3.7 million (from $19.6 million in 2008). El Paso County's tax support declined from $2.4 million in 2003 to $194,000 in 2009.

In a recent scientific survey, Great Parks found 53 to 59 percent would favor paying a tax for parks maintenance, and 82 percent support at least voting on the issue. Davies says the question would ask for a small sales tax for maintenance, just over a tenth of a cent per dollar, about $21 per household per year. It would bring in about $9.4 million, and governments would maintain separate funding for parks. The tax would sunset in 2025. — JAS

Bach, Skorman go social

Given the constant talk about attracting "young professionals," it's safe to say Steve Bach and Richard Skorman hope they can make Colorado Springs hip enough for the under-40 crowd if elected.

But does either mayoral candidate really understand the younger generation's issues? Time to find out. On Monday, May 9, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., the Springs Vision Forum is hosting a Young Professionals Mayoral Forum viewable live online.

Young adults are encouraged to ask mayoral candidates questions via Facebook or Twitter. To participate, go to springsvisionforum.com. — JAS

Mail ballots coming fast

As of Tuesday, 26,853 people, or 17.72 percent of eligible voters, had submitted votes in the mayoral runoff. Ballots were sent to about 151,000 active voters.

The last day to vote is May 17. Drop-off locations are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday until the official election day, May 17, when hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Voters also can return ballots by mail.) Locations for submitting ballots include: city clerk's office, 30 S. Nevada Ave., #101; Colorado Springs Senior Center, 1514 N. Hancock Ave.; Fire Station No. 8, 3737 Airport Road; Fire Station No. 17, 3750 Tutt Blvd.; Fire Station No. 19, 2490 Research Pkwy.; Fire Station No. 20, 6755 Rangewood Drive; Gold Hill Police Substation, 955 W. Moreno Ave.

Inactive voters (who did not vote in November 2010) can go to the city clerk's office, reactivate their status and pick up a runoff ballot during regular business hours through May 17. Inactive voters whose name or address changed since they last voted must start the activation by making necessary changes at an El Paso County elections office. Find those locations online at car.elpasoco.com/election. — JAS

Bonded out in the Senate

After a long, hard slog, Senate Bill 11-186, state Sen. John Morse's alternative-bond bill, passed the Senate on Wednesday. For a bill sponsored by the majority leader, this has proven to be a challenge.

"I am taking on very wealthy, powerful interests, no question," said Morse in the days before Tuesday's second reading. "I still think that I can get this bill passed." And he did, narrowly, in 18-17 bipartisan votes on both the second and third readings. It now moves to the House.

Morse says he didn't get the bill through without compromise. It was amended to cap deposit bonds at $5,000 and to institute a waiting period for five days to allow defendants to put together collateral to secure bail bonds of larger than $5,000.

"And a year from now, after this bill passes," Morse says, "we'll be looking around and saying, 'Huh, how come all the bail bondsmen didn't go out of business like they said they would?'" — CH

Sewage disrupts Manitou

Considering the rash of devastating, tragic tornadoes and floods that have ravaged our country, it's hard to call what happened in Manitou Springs last weekend a "disaster."

So let's just say it was a crappy situation. Real crappy. A water main under Manitou Avenue, in the heart of downtown, burst early Sunday morning. Adam's Mountain Café, Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant and a few other businesses were partly flooded with a mix of water and sewage. Damage, however, was limited, and professional restaurant clean-ups were expected to be swift.

The pipe has been repaired and the road reopened Wednesday, though some work will likely continue into next week. — JAS

Compiled by Chet Hardin, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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