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Local GOP taps new leaders 

Longtime volunteer will chair county party

For El Paso County Democrats, electing a new county chair was somewhat impromptu: Two candidates stood up and said why they should be picked, and Jason DeGroot was elected by an overwhelming show of hands.

Local Republicans made it more formal, with candidates Kay Rendleman and Cami Bremer each creating Web sites supporting their candidacy. Rendleman won by a 199-190 vote at the party's Feb. 7 reorganization meeting. The county's GOP leaders picked Colorado Springs City Councilor Darryl Glenn as vice chair and Nancy Meadows as secretary, also by close margins.

Rendleman, a longtime local party volunteer and campaign worker, lists a plan on her Web site to retake local legislative seats that are in Democratic hands by, among other things, "holding Democrats to account for their misdeeds and misguided policies." Glenn says his goal as vice chair is to "make sure we bring the party together." AL

City ballot almost ready

The city's April municipal election ballot is almost final. Council candidates include incumbents Scott Hente, Darryl Glenn and Jerry Heimlicher. As of press time, Hente and Glenn appeared to be unopposed, with one-time Hente opponent Nicholas Lee having unofficially announced his withdrawal.

Dave Gardner has filed all necessary paperwork to fight for Heimlicher's District 3 seat. Conrad Czajkowski has filed a declaration of candidacy, but as of press time hadn't submitted all paperwork. Lisa Czelatdko has officially withdrawn her candidacy.

For term-limited Margaret Radford's District 4 seat, former Councilman Bernie Herpin is competing against former mayoral candidate Tony Carpenter. Obama campaign workers Rob Andrews and Regina Vigil may also remain in the race.

There's still a slim chance that candidate lists could change; Friday is the last day for candidates to withdraw and for write-in candidates to file an affidavit of intent.

Ballot questions are more certain. The city will ask voters to amend the city's version of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights to allow city enterprises to accept more federal grants, to extend a .665 mill levy for the purpose of job retention and creation, to keep up to $1.2 million in taxes collected over TABOR limits, and to allow more Trails, Open Space and Parks money to be used for parks maintenance. JAS

Study: pluses to moving tracks

Moving most freight railroad traffic away from Front Range cities and into the eastern plains could yield a $1.5 billion benefit over 19 years, according to a study released this week by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). That's despite up-front costs of more than $1 billion to build a new route for the trains.

Money would be saved because of reduced fuel and crew costs to railroads, less wait time at railroad crossings and economic growth to the east. Many plains-area residents have opposed the plan to relocate railroads through their area, saying tracks would split their land holdings and add unwanted noise, traffic and safety hazards.

CDOT will use the new study to determine whether taxpayers should help pay to reroute trains. A separate study being conducted by Rocky Mountain Rail Authority will determine the feasibility of putting passenger rail along the Front Range. It is due to be finished in July. JAS

Not everyone loves a parade

Once again, downtown merchants are lining up against downtown events organizers. Business owners don't like big events blocking their doors and keeping paying customers away. Event organizers counter that merchants ought to be glad the events bring so many people downtown.

At Tuesday's public hearing, John O'Donnell, chairman of the St. Patrick's Day Parade, took heat from Jackie Gunn, owner of Kirk & Hill Clothing Co., 129 N. Tejon St.

"I guess we're wondering why we're closing the stores on Tejon Street on the busiest day of the week," Gunn said of the parade scheduled for Saturday, March 14. "Many [business owners] downtown are holding on by a thread."

The Downtown Partnership's Ron Butlin was also vocal, saying merchants should be involved in the process of picking a parade route. Currently, that's up to event organizers as well as safety and traffic considerations.

The city's special events committee will consider the input before giving final approval for the parade. JAS

White Acres staying green?

A plan to place houses on a rugged, park-rimmed plot of land in western Colorado Springs could be put on hold as the property owners go through renewed negotiations to sell the land to the city as open space, according to Chris Lieber, manager of the city's Trails, Open Space and Parks program.

"We remain optimistic that a deal could come together that would represent a good value for taxpayers," Lieber says.

The 43-acre plot known as White Acres, bordering Red Rock Canyon Open Space and Section 16, managed to escape development for decades under the ownership of Bethany Baptist Church. Negotiations to keep the land as city open space fell apart last year.

Bethany then planned with a developer to have 27 single-family homes and up to 20 townhomes built on the lower part of the property. Tuesday, Bethany asked for a two-week postponement in its application for annexation as negotiations go forward.

Any purchase of White Acres, Lieber says, will be secondary to plans to use TOPS money to buy Section 16. AL

Artists brace for cuts

The Colorado arts community faces scary times ahead: A current state budget proposal may reduce funding for the Colorado Council on the Arts which gave out 133 grants to Colorado individuals, organizations and schools last summer from $1.6 million to about $800,000.

To provide insight on the cuts and to hear ideas from all over the state, the CCA recently initiated a 13-city listening tour. At its Colorado Springs meeting Feb. 5, at the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado offices, fine arts, theater and dance groups, local artists, and even Girl Scouts leaders and concerned parents voiced concerns while discussing the economic challenges specific to their organizations.

The CCA has postponed its March 12 submission deadline for 2009-10 grant proposals indefinitely, but representatives at the Springs meeting said they're hopeful any cuts will be temporary. RC

Compiled by Rhiannon Conley, Anthony Lane and J. Adrian Stanley.

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