Early voting starts Monday 

Three locations available for beating the Nov. 4 rush

Registered voters in El Paso County may take part in early voting for the 2008 general election starting Monday, Oct. 20, at any of three locations. The actual days for early voting are Oct. 20-25 (Monday through Saturday) and Oct. 27-31 (Monday through Friday). The sites, and their hours, are:

Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.;

The Citadel, Suite 3124, upper level near JCPenney, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.;

Chapel Hills Mall, Suite 179, lower level near food-court escalator, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Those locations, and the County Clerk and Recorder's motor-vehicle registration kiosks in the two malls, also will accept mail-in ballots from voters wanting to drop them off instead of sending them via the Postal Service.

If you vote early, bring identification with correct address (plus your voter-registration card, if possible) to expedite confirming your status. It's also still possible to apply for a mail-in ballot in person at Centennial Hall or online at car.elpasoco.com/election, but the clerk must receive mail-in applications by Tuesday, Oct. 28. Another reminder: Mailing in your ballot requires 59 cents postage.

Also, you can confirm your registration status in seconds at car.elpasoco.com/election. Any other questions, contact the county elections office at 575-VOTE (8684). RR

Gardner targeted for perjury

A Denver attorney has asked for an investigation into whether John Gardner, information systems manager for the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder, committed perjury when he testified about his background in a 2006 lawsuit about the state's testing program for electronic voting equipment.

Gardner worked for the El Paso County clerk for several years before taking a job with the secretary of state and quickly becoming head of its testing program. His qualifications and the nature of tests were major issues in the lawsuit, which eventually forced the secretary of state to repeat voting machine tests in 2007 and 2008.

In his letter to the Denver district attorney's office and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, attorney Michael Williams, one of the plaintiff's attorneys in the lawsuit, argues that Gardner should be investigated for first-degree perjury, a felony. A Denver DA spokeswoman writes in an e-mail that the letter is being reviewed.

Gardner, who returned in June to oversee voting equipment and other computer systems for the county clerk, gave sworn testimony that he graduated from Montana State University in 1994 (see "Issues of oversight," News, Sept. 25). Earlier job applications gave other graduation dates. The Montana State registrar's office has said there is no record of Gardner graduating. AL

Forum brings mixed news

The 12th Southern Colorado Economic Forum brought hundreds of Coloradans to the Antlers Hilton hotel on Oct. 10 for more than four hours of discussions of all things economic.

Keynote speaker James W. Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Fargos Wells Capital Management, told the crowd the economic downturn was more mind than matter.

Our problem today isnt bad debt, Paulson said. Our problem today is we cant get anyone to bid on good debt.

Scott Smith of La Plata Communities, Inc., offered another bit of encouragement, saying if history was any guide, building permits should rise toward the trend line again by 2011.

Those were bright spots in an overall gloomy forecast that pointed to businesses fighting for survival, declines in manufacturing, and the continuing downturn in the housing sector. Another big point of discussion: Despite our low taxes, many businesses are frustrated by a tax structure complicated by TABOR, home-rule cities and the states Gallagher Amendment. JAS

Locals offer clarity on tax plans

Two Colorado College students have developed a Web site and text-messaging service to tell you how much you would save under tax plans offered by two presidential candidates.

The site, taxinfo2008.org, calculates savings of $113 a year under McCain's plan and $892 for Obama's, given a salary of $30,000. Jump to $250,000 a year, according to the calculator, and your taxes will go up by $12 with Obama but drop by $7,871 with McCain. The site was developed by Kyle Cureau and Jess Arnsteen, founders and co-owners of the local business, BuyWell Fair Trade Coffee.

You can also get a free tax estimate by sending a text message to 95495 with the word "TAX" and your salary (ex.: "TAX $39,000"). AL

Cascade changes lose vote

City Council, by a 5-1 vote, rejected Tuesday a plan by Colorado College to reduce Cascade Avenue to two lanes and install roundabouts. The college had sought the changes to improve safety for students and other pedestrians who cross the busy street without the help of traffic signals. The changes were part of a larger CC development plan.

The decision came after Council heard hours of appeals from the public. Many were concerned the changes would shift traffic to Nevada and Wahsatch avenues and Weber Street, as well as side streets, putting younger school children in greater danger. Others were concerned the changes would compromise Cascade's historic character.

Other safety features are being installed on Cascade to aid pedestrians, such as button-operated, blinking pedestrian signs. JAS

Smoke clearing in bar battle

Colorado Springs bar owner Bruce Hicks has pleaded guilty to one count of violating the state's smoking ban, but says his fight against the law will continue. Hicks, owner of Murray Street Darts at 609 N. Murray Blvd., was convicted of violating the ban in two separate jury trials last month. He was ordered to pay $221 fines in each case.

With his latest guilty plea last week, the final of four charges was dropped. Hicks plans to appeal both convictions. In one case, his attorney alleges a juror did extracurricular investigating to find out what signs were posted at Hicks' bar, which would be a legal no-no. AL

J&P moves to new spot

The Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission has announced it will move from its offices at 214 E. Vermijo Ave., to a smaller space at 332 W. Bijou St., #106 on Oct. 27.

J&P will have a yard sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 25, with books, videos and memorabilia. An open house will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. on Nov. 8 at the new location. Peace-lovers will be invited to celebrate the new space and the election results. JAS

Compiled by Anthony Lane, Ralph Routon and J. Adrian Stanley.

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