Noted: County foreclosures decline 

Local foreclosures decline

Foreclosure filings for El Paso County will reach 5,000 within days, Public Trustee Thomas Mowle's latest report states.

Released Tuesday, the report shows that the number of new foreclosures filed was down in November (370, after 434 in October), but that's small consolation, since a seasonal drop was seen most years in the past decade.

A map prepared by the county assessor's office of foreclosures started between summer 2008 and last spring shows the biggest concentrations in Fountain, southeast Colorado Springs, an area east of Powers Boulevard between Cimarron Hills and Woodmen Road, and a spot along Union Boulevard between Academy Boulevard and Woodmen.

Mowle noted that despite his office having only three auctions in November, more properties than usual were sold, an average of 74 per sale. The higher number than normal reflects the number of foreclosures started in July. — PZ

Pot poll yields bliss

A statewide poll commissioned by a medical marijuana advocacy group shows overwhelming support for licensing and regulating pot dispensaries now spreading across the state, the Denver Post reports.

The telephone poll of 500 likely voters shows that 64 percent said they would vote "yes" on a hypothetical ballot measure that would license dispensaries while giving communities some control over where and how many open shop. Backers of the poll — conducted by Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation — cast the poll as a sign that marijuana is entering the medical mainstream.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers counters that public support will wane once people recognize the system is being abused by healthy young people looking to get high, according to the Post. — AL

State lawmaker going for commissioner seat

Apparently, state Rep. Michael Merrifield missed the "No Democrats Allowed" sign on the door to El Paso County commissioners chambers. OK, there's no sign. But there might as well be, considering no Dem has been elected to the commission in more than three decades.

Yet Merrifield's entering the 2010 race to replace term-limited Jim Bensberg in District 5, in east-central Colorado Springs. Merrifield says he's not afraid to shake things up after working across party lines in the Capitol. If El Paso County wants to be red, he says, that's OK — as long as residents accept the consequences of low taxes and small government, instead of begging the state to fund programs it can't afford.

"I'm just saying we need to be realistic in addressing the needs, and one thing we've got to do is stop being hypocrites," he says. "We need to walk the walk and talk the talk."

Merrifield will officially announce his candidacy at 1 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 12 at Hooked on Books at 3918 Maizeland Road. If elected, Merrifield says, he'll focus on helping children and under-served populations as well as protecting the area's wild places. Merrifield is the only Democrat running so far, with five Republicans — Patrick Carter, William Guevara, Ed Jones, Peggy Littleton and David Williams — in a primary. — JAS

Women lose in reform bill

You've probably heard of the Stupak-Pitts amendment to the health care reform bill: That's the one the U.S. House tacked on, reiterating that no government plan will cover abortions. You may not have heard that the amendment would also forbid people covered by a government plan from buying a supplemental private plan — with their own money — that would cover an abortion.

"The Stupak abortion coverage ban would result in the most far-reaching restrictions to access to abortion coverage since the Hyde Amendment [which banned federal funds used for abortion] was passed in 1976," notes Monica McCafferty, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

The amendment was a bargaining chip to get Republicans and conservative Democrats to vote for the bill, but only one House Republican cast a yes vote. The Senate has not yet voted on the legislation.

In response to Stupak-Pitts, U.S. Reps. Louise M. Slaughter of New York and Diana DeGette of Colorado, co-chairs of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, issued a statement saying the amendment "sets a terrible precedent and marks a significant step backwards. This effort will effectively ban abortion coverage in all plans, both private and public — marking a significant scaling back of the options offered under existing laws." — JAS

Cell law may be deterrent

Putting your phone away before starting the car may not be such a bad idea after all. Not only are drivers on cell phones four times more likely to be in an accident, but a no-texting law that went into effect Tuesday, Dec. 1, makes texting while driving a primary offense. In other words, if police catch you texting behind the wheel, they can pull you over.

This bill also makes it illegal for any driver younger than 18 to use a cell phone while driving, whether it's hands-free or not.

Such a law is hard to enforce, says Colorado Springs police spokesman Lt. David Whitlock, who adds, "Frankly, it's not going to be a priority for us. Phones can be used for so many different things other than texting." — LE

Charity runner seeks letters

If you think running a marathon sounds miserable, try running 26.2 miles in the Florida humidity wearing full military fatigues and boots, and carrying a 30-pound ruck sack. Air Force Academy sophomore Malcolm Strong plans to do just that Jan. 10 at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. He's calling his feat the Run for the Fallen, and he's asking people to send him letters about soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.

"He wants to physically carry with him messages from people that talk about how they knew a veteran who gave their life for their country," says Tony Wolusky, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7829 in Monument.

Wolusky is helping Strong publicize the run and is encouraging donations to helpvfw.org, which provides soldiers money for basic needs: to call home from overseas, or to help keep their houses out of foreclosure while they're deployed. Folks can donate in the name of a fallen veteran if they like. Strong hopes VFW donations will make his run worthwhile both to families of fallen soldiers and of soldiers still serving.

If you'd like to send a letter for Strong to carry, e-mail him at run_for_the_fallen@hotmail.com. — JAS

Health care minus teabaggers

Members of the Colorado Springs Chapter of Health Care for All Colorado (HCAC) are inviting the public to join them for a civil presentation and conversation on universal health care. The event will take place at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 10 (Human Rights Day) in the Carnegie Room of Penrose Library, 20 N. Cascade Ave.

The program includes a showing of PBS' Sick Around the World, a film explaining how other industrialized nations have provided health care to all citizens while containing costs. State Rep. Dennis Apuan of Colorado Springs and HCAC executive director Dick Barkey will speak. Activist and attorney Bill Durland, of the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission, will moderate. — JAS

Holiday campaign needs help

Volunteers for programs like Feed the Children are real-life Santas, bringing holiday cheer to families that can't put food on the table, let alone buy kids presents.

But Feed the Children needs help, in the form of money or supplies, with approximately 2,400 families depending on it for everything from food to winter coats. As of Tuesday morning, the program still needed to raise $18,000 and to collect toys, stuffed animals, bikes and bike safety equipment, books, craft supplies, winter coats, hats, gloves, mittens, socks, heavy-duty trash bags, bottled water and more.

The annual Feed the Children event will take place on Saturday, Dec. 19 at Phil Long Expo Center. To donate, call Rebecca Jacobs at 444-8191 or e-mail rebeccajacobs@elpasoco.com. To volunteer, call Cheryl Schnell at 444-8153 or e-mail cherylschnell@elpasoco.com. — JAS

NORAD plans its usual duty

Using gee-whiz technology, the North American Aerospace Defense Command again is preparing to track Santa Claus' flight around the world starting Christmas Eve. The site, noradsanta.org, is operational, featuring games and activities that will change daily. The site is available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Chinese, and on Dec. 24 will stream videos on NORAD "Santa Cams" from cities.

This year, NORAD has added tracking on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and trooptube.mil. Just search under @noradsanta.

Starting at midnight MST on the morning of Dec. 24, online visitors can watch Santa prepare. Trackers will begin answering phones and replying to e-mail at 4 a.m. MST on Christmas Eve (877/446-6723 or noradtrackssanta@gmail.com). — PZ

Get your parade on

Hard to believe: The annual Festival of Lights parade is this Saturday, Dec. 5 at 5:50 p.m., moving south along Tejon Street from St. Vrain Street to Vermijo Avenue. So pack up the kiddies, find a good spot and watch the pretty floats.

A tip: The downtown garages are your best bet for parking. — JAS

Compiled by Lora Elliott, Anthony Lane, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.


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