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Noted: Sheriff backs down on postcard policy 

Maketa averts legal action

Even inmates deserve some privacy, or so argued the ACLU in its lawsuit against El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa over his postcard-only restriction for occupants of the county jail. And with only two days to go before the county would have to defend its stance before a federal judge, the sheriff backed down this week and revoked the policy.

Back in August, Maketa started refusing inmates the right to use envelopes for all except their legal correspondence. It was a policy similar to one put in place in Boulder County, and Maketa told the Indy that he did it as a cost-cutting measure. The ACLU saw it as infringing on inmates' 1st and 14th Amendment rights.

"The El Paso County Jail's 'postcard-only' policy violated the rights of both prisoners and their correspondents," says Mark Silverstein, ACLU of Colorado legal director. "Incarcerated individuals will no longer be forced to avoid personal topics such as medical, financial or relationship issues simply because their words were in plain sight for anyone to read." — CH

Downtown woos county

El Paso County commissioners made no decision on a proposal Tuesday from the Downtown Partnership to consider renting in the downtown area instead of building a wing onto the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department at 2880 International Circle.

Downtown Partnership executive director Ron Butlin outlined three ideas for available downtown space ranging in rent from $370,000 to $396,000 a year. Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce official Stephannie Finley urged commissioners to stay downtown, confiding that the chamber was wooed with a "sweetheart deal" three years ago to move north. "The Downtown Partnership came to us and showed us the love and how, symbolically, they needed the chamber downtown," she said.

Commissioners will get an update on negotiations sometime in January. The discussion was prompted by the county's plan to move human services, health department, treasurer, assessor and other offices to a recently purchased complex on Garden of the Gods Road. The commissioners' current home at 27 E. Vermijo Ave. will be used by the sheriff, whose operations are scattered. The coroner, in turn, gets the sheriff's training facility near the jail. No firm cost has been attached to the Regional Building option. — PZ

Liquor King reigns

Jignesh "Jiggy" Sheth and his Smoker King shop on Uintah Street will sell alcohol after all, following a 6-1 vote in his favor by the Colorado Springs Liquor and Beer Licensing Board.

Back in September, Sheth thought he was set: He had a thriving business, an empty storefront next door to expand into, and all the money in order. He even had commissioned a survey of more than 400 people in the neighborhood that showed overwhelming support. So he was shocked when his application was turned down by the board ("King vs. Queen," News, Dec. 2).

Sheth sued, claiming the board had no legitimate reason for denying his application. Further, he pointed out, the board at least appeared compromised by the fact one of its members, Kit Abrams, was co-owner of the only competing liquor store in the neighborhood. Abrams resigned from the board, and last week, before the suit went very far, the board allowed Sheth to re-apply for a license. — CH

Vegas approves reform

Nevada's Clark County commissioners voted this month to add an ombudsman to represent families' interests in inquest proceedings, a victory of sorts for Bill and Linda Scott of Colorado Springs, whose son, Erik Scott, was gunned down by police on July 10 at a Costco store in Las Vegas ('This can't be real,' News, Aug. 5).

The inquest ruled the shooting justified, but the Scotts said the system was rigged to validate reckless use of force. In 30 years and 200-plus cases involving Las Vegas police, only one officer has been found at fault. Scott says his son, a West Point graduate, had a concealed carry permit and was disarming outside the store when we was shot seven times, five times in the back after he fell. The family's lawsuit against the city and Costco is pending. — PZ

Poore may leave D-11

Colorado Springs School District 11 is once again at risk of losing one of its most experienced administrators. Deputy Superintendent Mike Poore is one of two finalists for superintendent in Bentonville, Ark. Poore has been a finalist for several other superintendent positions, including D-11's top spot in 2009 that went to Nick Gledich.

Poore has worked his way up from history teacher to second-in-command at D-11 over a 27-year career. He left to serve as superintendent of Sheridan schools (in southwest Denver) from 2003 to 2007, and helped Sheridan come off the state's "watch list" for troubled districts.

Poore says he expects to hear from Bentonville after Christmas. — JAS

Penrose backs nonprofit idea

As the debate continues over whether city-owned Memorial Health System should be converted to an independent nonprofit agency, Penrose-St. Francis Health Services says it supports the move.

Itself a nonprofit, Penrose-St. Francis responded last week to the Independent's question of where it stands on the Memorial question. Its statement: "The commission was spearheaded by objective, community-minded leaders who put tremendous effort into their work. We believe the process was complete, fair, and appropriate. Not-for-profit health care has been the foundation of American health care delivery for more than 100 years ... We believe strongly in not-for-profit healthcare, and support Memorial's attempts to fully retain their charitable community purpose."

Meanwhile, the Colorado Springs Business Journal reports the city's two largest physician groups, Colorado Springs Health Partners and Mountain View Medical Group, also endorse the idea. — PZ

Toddler still struggling

Four-year-old Luzdeestrella Flores-Rios is having a tough time. The toddler was featured in an Independent cover story ("System failure," June 3, 2010) after city-owned Memorial Health System settled a lawsuit over its failure to provide her parents with Spanish-language informed-consent forms for Luzdeestrella's kidney surgery.

After she had a kidney removed, she went into renal failure and has been on dialysis ever since. When the story ran, Luzdeestrella was on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, but she was lifted from the list in recent months after complications arose.

Speaking through an interpreter, her father, Jesus Flores, says the child had a liver tumor removed several months ago in a 10-hour surgery. She went through chemotherapy and two additional surgeries, one for an infection and another because she was retaining fluids.

Luzdeestrella must wait until she improves, possibly a year or more, to get back on the transplant list. She remains on dialysis three times a week but no longer at home. Now she goes to a hospital.

"They're struggling to keep her alive," the interpreter says. — PZ

City changes bus operators

The city's Mountain Metropolitan Transit bus service has a new contractor. McDonald Transit Associates Inc. has agreed to a one-year contract, with four years of optional renewals. MMT administrator Andy Garton says the city received two bids for the contract. The McDonald bid, though higher, was the "best value."

The contract will cost $6 million in 2011, a price that covers added Saturday service. The cost will increase each year based on the Denver-Boulder price index or by 3 percent, whichever is lower. MMT's 2010 contract cost $5.9 million. McDonald says it plans to hire the transit workers currently serving the city. — JAS

Compiled by Chet Hardin, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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