News briefs 

Isaac memorial service set for Friday at City Auditorium

Longtime Springs mayor dies

Robert M. Isaac, mayor of Colorado Springs from 1979 to 1997 and the dominant figure in local city government for a generation, died Friday of complications from pneumonia.

Isaac, 80, had long been in declining health and spent his final few years at the Union Printers Home.

A memorial service, open to the public, will take place at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the City Auditorium, 221 E. Kiowa St. Isaac's funeral will be private, for family and invited guests, at Grace Church.

Born here on Jan. 27, 1928, Isaac grew up on the city's south side, went to South Junior High and then Colorado Springs High School (now Palmer), where he graduated in 1945. He left for the Army and then the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and after his Army commitment (1951-57), went to law school at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

He returned to the Springs with his law degree in 1962, began private practice and embarked on his career, soon becoming municipal judge. He was first elected to City Council in 1975, then as mayor in 1979. Isaac ruled the local government, pushing for dependable city services as well as forward-thinking improvements along with low taxes.

Among his many priorities that became reality were the new airport, Ray Nixon power plant and improvements to U.S. Highway 24 and Powers Boulevard. He also forged the deal that brought minor-league baseball back to Colorado Springs in 1988, as the Hawaii Islanders relocated here and became the Sky Sox.

City Council voted in 2002 to name the airport terminal in his honor, and the downtown municipal building also bears his name.

Isaac announced in late 1996 that he wouldn't seek another term, then retired as mayor in January 1997. He continued to have a visible presence for a few years, including a stint hosting a local radio talk show, until his deteriorating health took him out of the public eye.

Arrangements have not been announced. RR

County to look elsewhere for OHV park

Surprise, relief, resignation and disappointment were all displayed Thursday as El Paso County commissioners voted not to hire a trail planner for a proposed off-highway vehicle park east of Colorado Springs.

El Paso County Parks Director Tim Wolken told the board that an environmental review of the property revealed a prairie falcon nest, the possibility of rare fossils and other attributes that could be damaged by a single-track trail system intended for dirt bikes.

The county had applied for a $320,000 state grant to help buy 520 acres in an Corral Bluffs area, known for steep hills and sandy washes. Other funding would have come from the countys conservation trust fund, and the proposed park would have been operated by the Aztec Family Raceway, which runs a private dirt bike park on adjacent property.

Opposition to the park north of Colorado Highway 94 spread among neighbors and open-space advocates after the proposal, championed by Commissioner Jim Bensberg, came to light last year. Bensberg expressed disappointment Thursday that the plan appeared destined for failure, arguing that off-highway vehicle enthusiasts have few local options for riding and that the park was an appropriate use of state funds collected through OHV registrations.

Lee Milner and other opponents of the park volunteered to work with the county to help find an alternative site for a county OHV park that would not generate similar opposition.

Several dirt-bike enthusiasts spoke, with one man explaining how he enjoys dirt biking with his family at a time when all types of outdoor recreation face pressure from dwindling undeveloped land.

Commission Chair Dennis Hisey said he thinks off-highway vehicles should have a place in the countys open-space system, adding, Open space and motorized use are not mutually exclusive. AL

Cimarron, Manitou projects will be done before holiday
The cities of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs say they're on track to better handle tourist traffic jams over Memorial Day weekend.

The rebuilt Cimarron Bridge on the southwest side of downtown is expected to be partially open, as planned, on May 15, with two lanes of vehicle traffic in both directions. City spokeswoman Carrie McCausland says that should be a relief to business owners who depend on tourist dollars over the holiday.

"That was always the downtown's concern, so we want to definitely honor that," she says.

Additional work on the bridge eventually will lead to a bicycle lane and other cosmetic improvements.

In Manitou Springs, Mayor Eric Drummond says improvements to Manitou Avenue on the west side of downtown should be done before the big weekend. The main road through Manitou has been ripped up in different phases of the project as workers have buried utility lines and widened sidewalks to create a more walkable business district.

More work for the area is planned, but it will not take place during the busy summer tourist season. JAS

Gay military campaign coming to Springs for reception Friday
Supporters of an effort to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays will be in Colorado Springs on Friday to promote their cause.

Representatives of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network will attend a public reception from 5 to 7 p.m. that day at the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado, 315 E. Costilla St. The visit, according to a news release, is the final stop on a three-city tour in Colorado aimed at raising awareness of the campaign to repeal the regulation that prohibits open homosexuality or bisexuality in the military service. Similar earlier events took place in Denver and Boulder.

"In order to get people involved in the movement ... we must go to where they live and ask for their support," SLDN executive director Aubrey Sarvis said in a release.

Research by UCLA's Williams Institute indicates more than 15,000 lesbian and gay military veterans live in Colorado, with an estimated 65,000 gay and lesbian service members on active duty and in the reserves. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (HR 1246), a bill that would repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," has broad support in Congress. RR

Udall will be the nominee
State Democratic Party officials announced earlier this week that U.S. Rep. Mark Udall of Eldorado Springs is the only individual to have qualified to be the party's candidate in November for the state's open U.S. Senate seat.

No other candidate received enough support for there to be a race in the Aug. 12 primary, according to a news release. Udall will receive the party's official nomination May 17 at the Democratic state convention in Colorado Springs.

Former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer will be the Republican candidate in the November election to replace Sen. Wayne Allard. AL

County looks at another large budget shortfall for this year
El Paso County commissioners heard a sobering prediction this week that they might need to cut $8.3 million from this year's budget to balance their books.

The biggest portion of that shortfall comes from a spike in medical insurance expenses, which were nearly $3 million over budget in the year's first quarter. The county is self-insured, and has seen a dramatic increase in claims.

Commission Chair Dennis Hisey says he is hopeful some of the expenses will subside and that commissioners will not need to make cuts for the full amount projected by Nicola Sapp, the county's financial services director.

The county has already shifted most employees to a four-day work week so it can close county buildings once a week and save on utility costs. It's unclear where additional cuts would be made.

Sales tax collections and recording fees from the Clerk and Recorder's Office, which generally support other county departments, are also below projections for the first quarter of 2008. AL

Long, hard night in D-11
After voting twice to extend an abysmally long meeting, the School District 11 Board of Education finally threw in the towel after midnight on April 24. It hadn't even come close to finishing its agenda.

Instead, the board spent about six hours hearing from citizens. The crowded auditorium at the Nikola Tesla Educational Opportunity Center, as well as an overflow room, bustled with parents, kids, teachers, administrators and homeowners.

Most of them were there to beg the board not to close two elementary schools, Longfellow and Pike a move the district was considering to save money.

Parents told heartwrenching stories. One woman said Pike had been the only stabilizing force in her kids' lives when their dad died. Others said the schools allowed them to keep jobs so they could provide for their kids. Some spoke of generations attending a school.

"In a land of dollars and cents, hearts and minds are priceless," one man said.

The board eventually took an unofficial tally and decided not to close the two schools in the 2008-09 school year. The schools likely will close for the 2009-10 school year. JAS

NORAD/NorthCom simulating threats in training exercises
During the next week, military commanders in Colorado Springs will lead troops in a variety of training scenarios, ranging from responding to a hurricane to fighting a coordinated terrorist attack.

The "National Level Exercise 2-08," which runs May 1-8, is meant to give U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) feedback on ways to strengthen responses should there be a real emergency.

NorthCom, which is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, will conduct exercises in Washington state, the site of simulated multiple terrorist attacks.

Oregon is slated to be the site of an imaginary accidental chemical release. Also, the Washington, D.C., area will face a simulated severe hurricane during the training exercise. MdY

Local peace activist dies
Monday morning, local homeless advocate Steve Handen was doing what he always does, putting together food packages for the poor. But this day was different, because Elizabeth Fineron wasn't there to help him.

Fineron, 66, was found April 23 in her home, having apparently died in her sleep, by a visiting nurse. She had suffered from many illnesses in recent years, but complications from recent neck surgery led to her death.

She became well-known when police forcibly removed her and other peace marchers from the 2007 St. Patrick's Day Parade. Fineron, who walked with a cane, was dragged by police across the asphalt, leaving her with bloody abrasions. The incident made national news.

A longtime activist, Fineron was a nun early in life, then a teacher. Since moving here 25 years ago, she had volunteered to help feed the hungry, to provide the poor with health insurance, and to help the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission.

A memorial service took place in her hometown of Chicago, but her funeral was here, Monday at Benet Hill Chapel. Family and friends remembered a spunky, upbeat woman.

"She was a happy lady ... she wanted lots of singing, dancing and hugs at her funeral," Handen said. "That's pretty typical Elizabeth." JAS

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


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