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Noted: Burn area water declared safe 

Burn-area water safe

Discolored water has spilled from taps in Mountain Shadows, Piñon Valley and surrounding neighborhoods, but Colorado Springs Utilities says the water is safe.

Utilities says it's taken 500 samples for testing from the area struck June 26 by the Waldo Canyon Fire, to assure the supply meets safe water standards. Utilities suggests customers with discolored water flush household plumbing by using an outside spigot first. If that doesn't do the trick, they can run indoor faucets, cold-water lines only, to clear the water.

The cause is "an unusually high rate of hydrant use and other water use in your neighborhood due to rebuilding activity," Utilities says in a statement.

A meeting for fire victims will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 12, at Manitou Springs Elementary School, 110 Pawnee Ave. County and federal officials will discuss the Burned Area Emergency Response team's progress in forest lands and flood risk mitigation options for private property. Flood Insurance Program reps also will be on hand. For more updates, visit coloradospringstogether.org. — Pam Zubeck

Beg ban includes Acacia

A proposed downtown no-panhandling zone will include Acacia Park, after all.

City Attorney Chris Melcher originally proposed a no-solicitation zone excluding traditional places of public speech such as the Pioneers Museum, City Hall and Acacia Park. Leaving the park open to panhandlers ruffled feathers on City Council, some fearing the home of the Uncle Wilber Fountain would attract the homeless. Melcher, advocating for the ordinance, originally defended his proposal, saying that leaving Acacia Park out would shield the ordinance from legal challenges.

However, at Council's meeting Monday, Melcher said further research reveals other cities include parks in no-solicitation ordinances. Thus, it will be included.

Many Councilors support the ordinance. Councilor Tim Leigh wishes the zone were larger and that police could address loitering, saying groups of 20-somethings downtown look "menacing."

"The problem isn't just hanging out," he said, "it's the type of people hanging out."

Others were less convinced. Councilor Lisa Czelatdko prefers banning active solicitation (asking for money), while allowing passive solicitation (holding a sign), because a total ban means no Salvation Army bell-ringers, nobody raising money for Uncle Wilber and no Girl Scout cookies. "I think we're hurting ourselves and we're going to stunt and limit ourselves," she said. — J. Adrian Stanley

Regent worries about funds

Democrat Stephen Ludwig is traveling the state to ensure that he keeps his unpaid job, seeking re-election to the University of Colorado Board of Regents.

Ludwig stopped in the city Monday during his 10-day tour of every county and arguing that he is better suited for the job than his Republican opponent, Brian Davidson. If re-elected, this will be Ludwig's second, and final, six-year term.

What's the biggest concern he has heard from voters? The rising costs of higher education. "And when I share with them that there won't be any public money for higher education by 2023, they are stunned," he says. "I would advocate in my second term ... to go to voters to say that we need to dedicate a revenue stream for higher education." — Chet Hardin

Another Gazette rumor

Last week, the Denver Business Journal reported that Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz — who last year bought the Oklahoma Publishing Company, and The Broadmoor as part of it — is interested in acquiring the Gazette or starting a new daily newspaper in Colorado Springs.

Aaron Kushner, new owner of Gazette parent company Freedom Communications, has said he's open to a sale. "It may also be that there is an owner for the Gazette who can do an even better job than we can," he told the paper on July 27. Reached for comment, Freedom spokesman Eric Morgan referred us back to that statement.

Clarity Media Group, Anschutz's company that controls properties including content-farm examiner.com, failed to return a phone call by press time. But company president Ryan McKibben was quoted in the Journal as saying, "The only thing I can tell you is that we've had some of our people on the ground in Colorado Springs investigating buying or starting a paper there." — Bryce Crawford

Political journo to speak

Nate Silver, noted political analyst, creator of fivethirtyeight.com and writer for the New York Times, will hit Colorado College's Gaylord Hall at 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 13, to give his free take on the nation's current political atmosphere.

A former baseball statistician, Silver gained deserved acclaim when his computer model correctly predicted the outcome of all but one state in the 2008 presidential election. Currently, he gives Barack Obama a 79.8 percent chance of winning the presidency for a second time.

"As I wrote on Saturday night, Mr. Obama's polls could easily cool off quickly," Silver blogged Sept. 10. "If we return to the equilibrium where Mr. Obama is about two points ahead in the polls — about where they were for months on end heading into the conventions — then Mitt Romney's position won't be too badly damaged. Still, Mr. Romney will be the underdog, and he'll have had two or three weeks of time run off the clock." — Bryce Crawford

Fiery look at Twitter

We first found out there was something burning — then labeled the Pyramid Mountain Fire — on Twitter. We first saw video of the mass of smoke oozing down the hills at the top of Garden of the Gods Road after it was posted on Twitter. And we found out the Waldo Canyon Fire was 100 percent contained on, as you'd imagine, Twitter.

Judging from a joint study being conducted by the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the University of California, Irvine, we weren't alone. The effort, dubbed Project HEROIC, "aims to understand the relationship between hazard events, informal communication and emergency response," says its website, heroicproject.org. To do this, researchers are analyzing roughly 100,000 tweets tagged #waldocanyonfire sent by some 25,000 people.

A few interesting points revealed so far: Activity peaked at over 100 tweets per minute at around 9 p.m. on June 26, with the fire in the Mountain Shadows area; most commonly used words included "I25," "evacuation" and "help"; and "when an event occurs local organization[s] gain large numbers of followers."

The study is funded by the National Science Foundation. — Bryce Crawford

Latino voters activate

A number of national Latino and Hispanic organizations have targeted Colorado communities — especially Denver and Pueblo — in an effort to turn out the vote this November.

In a release, organizers of Todos A Votar (Let's Vote), noted that the Hispanic influence in Colorado elections grew from 8 percent of total voters in 2004 to 13 percent in 2008. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanic voters sided overwhelmingly with Democrats in the previous two presidential elections.

The goal is to register 35,000 Hispanic and Latino voters in Colorado. — Chet Hardin

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