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Noted: Bach hands out pink slips 

City makes layoffs

Mayor Steve Bach once again is reaching for the pink slips. According to sources, the city's planning department will say goodbye to Dick Anderwald, land development review division manager; Michael Maloney, planning assistant; Denise Tortorice, planner II; and Brett Veltman, development review enterprise manager.

Traffic engineering is suffering two losses: Robert Stinson, maintenance technician 2, and David Krauth, principal traffic engineer. Bach's office refused to confirm the layoffs or comment by the Indy's deadline, but sources say an e-mail to staff Friday cited financial needs for the layoffs. That, despite a budget surplus this year. The workers' last day is Oct. 8. — J. Adrian Stanley

Panhandling ban on agenda

City staff will begin discussions Monday with City Council on a possible panhandling ban for downtown Colorado Springs, as well as part of the west side known as No Man's Land. The controversial proposed ordinance was being looked at by the city attorney's office to determine legal viability. City Attorney Chris Melcher is expected to discuss options and make recommendations.

Council's informal meeting — at which no formal action can be taken — is at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave., at 1 p.m., Monday, Aug. 27. — J. Adrian Stanley

Gessler tries new tactic

Secretary of State Scott Gessler thinks he's figured out a novel way to track down Colorado's illegal voters — by form letter. His office is sending out 4,000 letters essentially asking recipients to clarify their citizenship. He told CBS 4 in Denver: "It's a pretty straightforward, friendly letter saying, 'Hey, we need your help to make sure the voter rolls are clean.'"

What happens if people simply choose to ignore these friendly letters? As Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause, points out, no one really knows. Gessler, she says, "has not been transparent about his game plan. I find it concerning that our chief elections officer ... is choosing to focus on questioning voters' eligibility instead of working on policies to ensure all eligible voters are able to participate." — Chet Hardin

Manitou's BAC vandalized

Last Wednesday, an individual or group entered the Business of Art Center's Venue 515, stopped up every sink in the building, taped over floor drains, and let the water flow. BAC executive director Natalie Johnson estimates the damage at about $100,000, and though much will likely be covered by insurance, she figures the BAC should raise about $10,000 to cover ancillary costs. The damage done to artwork includes two paintings worth more than $10,000 each.

Ten businesses renting space in Venue 515 are severely affected, their offices not functional. Manitou police have no concrete leads, but Johnson thinks it might be someone with a mental illness.

Venue 515 could reopen in three to four weeks, and Johnson hopes to have it be better than ever. According to an e-mail blast sent Monday, plans include a "new and improved Gift Gallery" and "coffee/soup/tea bar/café" both slated for Sept. 1.

Stargazers Theatre and Event Center will host a BAC benefit at 7 p.m., Thursday featuring the J. Miller Band. Also, a "Group Hug" event last Saturday netted 30 new memberships and 15 renewals. — Edie Adelstein

Liability cap uncertain

If and when University of Colorado Health takes over city-owned Memorial Health System, the amount in damages that patients can seek might change dramatically. While the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act allows public entities to limit damages to $150,000, Memorial adopted a policy more than a decade ago upping that limit to $1 million.

While $150,000 may be sufficient for some cases, says Springs attorney Drew Wills, it may not be adequate to compensate others, including the families of people who die.

Wills says the Institute of Medicine reports medical errors kill as many as 98,000 Americans every year, and injure many more. "If the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were to include preventable medical errors as a category, it would be the sixth leading cause of death in America," he writes on the Indy's website.

Asked what liability policy UCH will adopt, spokesman Dan Weaver, via e-mail, says, "UCHealth is still discussing the cap on malpractice payments at Memorial, and no final decision has been made at this time."

Voters will decide Aug. 28 whether to lease Memorial to UCH. — Pam Zubeck

Message from Uganda

In Uganda, a number of voters and lawmakers consider homosexuality a crime punishable by death, and speaking out for the LGBT community is bold and brave. This is why Rev. Mark Kiyimba, a Unitarian Universalist minister in Uganda, was recently awarded The Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights by the U.S.'s National Education Association.

"He's about the only religious voice in Uganda speaking out against the death-to-gays law," says the Rev. Nori Rost of Colorado Springs' All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church. Saturday, Kiyimba will be here for a free screening of the film Homosexuality: Africa's Last Taboo at All Souls, 730 N. Tejon St., and Sunday he will preach at All Souls' 10:30 service. — Chet Hardin

Disability access forum on tap

The Independence Center will host a forum from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 30, at the Pikes Peak Area Agency on Aging (14 S. Chestnut St.) to discuss how access for people with disabilities can be improved during emergency situations. People with disabilities and their family members are invited to attend and participate along with emergency officials from Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs and El Paso County.

Organizer Amanda Lunday says the goal is to open a dialogue with city and county officials on how people with disabilities fit into official emergency plans. During the Waldo Canyon Fire, deaf and hard-of-hearing people complained about inconsistent closed-captioning and ASL interpreting during news conferences ("Sign of the times," News, July 11). Lunday also says some evacuation shelters lacked fully wheelchair-accessible facilities. — Wyatt Miller

July jobless numbers rise

The Colorado Center on Law & Policy, a Denver nonprofit that keeps track of U.S Bureau of Labor unemployment statistics, has published its monthly Colorado Recovery Watch report, and the July news was bad.

"Colorado's unemployment rate increased for the fourth consecutive month to 8.3 percent keeping pace with the national unemployment rate which was also 8.3 percent," the report reads. "The July unemployment rate in Colorado is now 4.2 percentage points higher than when the recession began." Colorado still has 55,300 fewer jobs than it did when the recession hit in 2007. — Chet Hardin

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