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District attorney regrets drinking episodes seen on TV

Report: DA Newsome drank during normal work time
A local TV station aired a report Tuesday night appearing to show John Newsome, district attorney for El Paso and Teller counties, drinking large amounts of beer at local bars during typical work hours before driving in a county-owned vehicle.

The fallout was unclear Wednesday morning as Newsome responded to a story he said creates the "perception of wrong-doing."

"I regret putting myself in that situation," Newsome told the Indy. "I should be setting an example and I will do so in the future."

He explained that he does not have a normal schedule, working many late nights and early mornings. The question of whether Newsome could safely drive given the number of beers he was shown drinking has driven much online chatter, but Newsome said he does not think he was impaired.

Newsome took office in 2005 and was the lone Republican candidate seeking the spot at this year's 4th Judicial District assembly April 26. No Democrat has announced plans to compete for the office, though the Democratic Party's assembly for that position is not until May 16. If someone wanted to petition onto the Aug. 12 primary ballot, they'd have until May 29, but county party officials said Wednesday that they did not know of anyone who was thinking of running.

The KOAA Channels 5/30 story said Newsome was observed drinking beer "during work hours" four times. In one case, the report said, Newsome consumed about 130 ounces between 4:15 and 9:30 p.m. During that period, he also was observed driving. AL

NORAD's 50th draws fanfare

A time capsule will be opened. There will be an air show and a gala ball. The media will tour Cheyenne Mountain, the high-security hub of North American Aerospace Defense Command. And Defense Secretary Robert Gates will be in Colorado Springs.

It all begins May 12, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the NORAD Agreement by the United States and Canada.

NORAD initially operated at the former Ent Air Force Base (now the U.S. Olympic Complex) before moving into Cheyenne Mountain amid concerns of vulnerability to bazooka attack. Commanders at NORAD and U.S. Northern Command are now pushing to move NORAD to the basement of a building on Peterson Air Force Base.

The ball is open to the public at $140 a ticket. (Military discounts are available.) For information, visit norad.mil/50. MdY

Corral Bluffs: a city park?

Elated opponents of a proposed off-highway vehicle park east of Colorado Springs hoped to turn the plan's death last week into another sort of victory Wednesday, as they suggested the land be bought for city park land.

El Paso County commissioners voted May 1 against pursuing plans at Corral Bluffs after 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.

Jackie Hilaire said the proposal before the Trails, Open Space and Parks committee Wednesday morning was intended as a first step toward preserving the 520 acres. Hilaire spoke in her new role as head of the Corral Bluffs Alliance, a group that had been led by Lee Milner during a vigorous campaign to stop the dirt-bike park proposal. AL

San Luis gas leases deferred

San Luis Valley residents worried about an oil and gas boom in their backyards got a bit of breathing room last week when the Bureau of Land Management announced it was bumping 144,000 acres proposed for drilling in the valley from its May 8 lease sale.

Valley residents had rallied against the proposed sales; U.S. Rep. John Salazar and U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar wrote BLM officials to ask for a deferral because of concerns about water contamination and harm to wildlife, and to give local officials time to consider how to regulate oil and gas drilling.

The San Luis Valley has largely been free of drilling. But residents of Crestone, on the valley's eastern edge, have recently fought a Canadian company's plans to drill on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge, adjacent to Great Sand Dunes National Park. Lexam Explorations owns rights to drill on the refuge, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing comments from its environmental assessment to see if more review will be required.

The BLM plans to lease drilling rights to property near Crestone not on national forest land. Residents are protesting and looking at buying the leases themselves. AL

Potholes, bridges and traffic
From April 28 to May 2, the city filled 1,694 potholes, bringing the total filled so far in 2008 to 13,696. The "Pothole Week" tally should put the city on track to fill about as many potholes as usual in a year. In 2005, the city filled 15,351. In 2006, it was 18,170. No year compares to 2007, when 57,830 holes were filled after a particularly harsh winter.

In other traffic news, the city expects to open three lanes not four, as originally announced of the Cimarron bridge on May 15. Robin Kidder, city roadway engineering manager, says this will ensure the safety of construction workers who will be installing sidewalks, bike lanes and railings until the bridge fully opens Aug. 15.

There's also a chance that the bridge may not open May 15, though it will open in time for Memorial Day traffic. Kidder explains that the concrete deck must be 90 percent cured before the bridge can safely handle traffic; cold weather can slow down that process. JAS

Schaffer questions Army motives
Bob Schaffer, roundly criticized in his campaign for the U.S. Senate for not making his positions better known, changed course this week by saying the Army hasn't presented a good enough case so far to justify plans for expansion of its Pion Canyon Maneuver Site east of Walsenburg.

Schaffer, the Republican candidate to replace retiring Sen. Wayne Allard, told the Pueblo Chieftain he is "adamantly opposed to the use of eminent domain by the government. ... As far as I am concerned, the Army has not made its case for expanding Pion Canyon."

U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, Schaffer's Democratic opponent, has made similar comments for months and has ordered a Government Accountability Office study of the Army's plans. Udall also has questioned the Army's activities since Congress passed a one-year moratorium for 2008 on spending toward the expansion.

Schaffer did tell the Chieftain that his view might change if the Army can present a more convincing case on the need for more training space in southeast Colorado. RR

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

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