Noted: Weiss registers the Sun 

A new place for the Sun?

Local media circles were abuzz this week after confirmation that Independent publisher John Weiss had registered the name, Colorado Springs Sun.

The Sun was a daily newspaper here until 1986, when Freedom Communications, the parent of the Gazette, bought it and closed down the competition.

Weiss says he wants to own the name should he find himself in the position to acquire the Gazette, which along with Freedom's other newspapers, radio and TV stations, is for sale following the Freedom bankruptcy last year.

"We want to be able to pounce if the opportunity emerges," Weiss says. "The companies who call themselves a vulture media hedge fund now control the Freedom company. If the Gazette is going to be sold, our hope is that it can be locally owned."

Weiss says he understands Freedom wants to sell the TV stations first, then the flagship newspaper, the Orange County Register. Those buyers then will be given first crack to buy other Freedom properties, he says. Many of Freedom's smaller newspapers are "very profitable," Weiss says, because they're essentially monopolies — the only media in small towns.

The Gazette is worth from $5 million to $50 million, Weiss says he's been told by financial advisers. He says he'd be interested in acquiring the newspaper for the low-end price, then possibly renaming it. Or, should someone else buy the daily, he could start a competing paper and call it the Sun.

Weiss is encouraged, he says, because since he registered the Sun name and word spread about it this week, his phone and e-mail have "lit up." "Several additional people have expressed interest in investing," he says. — PZ

Banning Lewis for sale

The mammoth, 20,500-acre Banning Lewis Ranch on Colorado Springs' eastern edge is for sale, according to a bankruptcy court order dated Dec. 23 and a property listing.

The court approved retention of Eastdil Secured of New York City as listing agent, giving it exclusive rights to sell the property through May 31 for a fee of 1.5 percent of the gross sale price, plus expenses up to $50,000. No asking price is stated in the property listing. The ranch's California owners filed for bankruptcy last fall, saying $242 million was owed against the property.

Banning Lewis Ranch is a major reason the city is building the Southern Delivery System pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir, costing ratepayers $2.3 billion over the next three decades. So far, several hundred homes have been built there, far from the 75,000 initially envisioned. The sales advertisement says the owners have made "significant major infrastructure investment" in "one of the largest master-planned communities in the United States."

City spokeswoman Sue Skiffington-Blumberg says the sale will have no impact on the city. County Assessor Mark Lowderman says the property is valued at $9 million, but 93 percent of it currently is assessed for agricultural use. — PZ

Off-duty and suicidal

The number of active-duty Army suicides decreased slightly in 2010 as compared to 2009, according to a report released Wednesday. Yet the number of suicides doubled among soldiers in the Army National Guard and Reserves not on active duty.

In a Wednesday briefing, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, said the Army is able to "more effectively influence those soldiers serving on active duty and help mitigate the stressors affecting them. Conversely, it is much more difficult to do so in the case of individuals not on active duty, as they are often ... removed from the support network."

Of 343 total suicides in 2010, 156 were committed by active-duty soldiers. Of the 112 Army National Guard soldiers who completed suicide, only 11 were on active duty.

"The analysis from 2010 shows that it is not a deployment problem, because 50 percent of the people who committed suicide in the Army National Guard in 2010 had never deployed," said Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter, acting director of the Army National Guard. Only 15 percent of those who committed suicide were unemployed at the time, yet over 50 percent had an issue with their partners. The only obvious conclusion, he says, is that "it is a young, white male problem." — CH

Lamborn unsure on seating

The spirit of bigger-picture bipartisanship so affected U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn after the tragic shooting in Tucson that the Republican congressman invited media to his home on a Sunday and decried the vitriol that often passes for political discussion. So, will Lamborn follow the popular call of Colorado's Sen. Mark Udall to cross, literally, the party divide and mingle with Democrats in the audience for President Obama's State of the Union speech?

"We haven't been asked that yet," says Catherine Mortensen, Lamborn's spokeswoman. Udall's call for this overture of civility has been answered by dozens of lawmakers, but not Lamborn and his GOP colleagues in the state's House delegation. As of Wednesday morning, it was unclear whether Lamborn had decided where he will be sitting Tuesday night. — CH

UCCS teaching by video

Last fall, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs tested a new system to extend its educational reach to community colleges throughout the state. Teaming with international networking company CISCO, it debuted a videoconferencing tool that provides high-definition streaming of audio and video. According to CISCO spokesman Marc Musgrove, the technology enables professors to teach courses anywhere in the world from anywhere in the world, "extending the skills and expertise of the UCCS professors."

In the fall semester, UCCS used the technology in nursing and engineering courses, says Tom Hutton, director of university relations. Hutton points out that one nursing student last semester had her associate's degree, worked in an emergency room in La Junta, and couldn't find the time to drive the two hours each way to take advanced courses at UCCS. The technology allowed her to further her education at a community college. And, says Hutton, "You really do feel like you are there."

This semester, UCCS will introduce a class on building circuits. "A lot of the community colleges don't teach engineering," Hutton says, "which can put those students behind when they transfer into a four-year school." — CH

Tancredo returns to GOP

Tom Tancredo has ended his short love affair with the American Constitution Party, which he joined last year to make a late run as a candidate for governor. According to the Denver Post, Tancredo says the relationship was "opportunistic on both of our parts," with an understanding that he wasn't committing himself.

Tancredo, known for his anti-immigration views, has switched back to the GOP, saying, "They're the only game in town."

An ACP spokesperson told the Post that Tancredo promised loyalty, and the party was "disappointed." Tancredo got 36 percent of gubernatorial votes, for a distant second behind Democrat John Hickenlooper, in the November election.

But a jilted party isn't Tancredo's only problem. Some GOP members, including former Gov. Bill Owens, have stated publicly they don't want Tancredo back. — JAS

Gas prices gouge again

After inching upward for several weeks, a gallon of regular gasoline has reached $2.90 at most locations in Colorado Springs, according to coloradospringsgasprices.com. Locally, the website showed a low price of $2.76 at Sam's Club, but many other outlets were selling at $2.89. On Dec. 21, the price was $2.70.

Oil was trading this week at $90 a barrel, and the Denver Post quoted a trader as saying if oil reaches $100 a barrel, the price at the pump could rise to $3.50 for the first time since mid-2008. The Post's report said analysts blame higher energy demands from places like China, and a U.S. monetary policy that weakens the dollar.

One of Colorado Springs' larger dealers, Acorn Petroleum, had no comment. — PZ

Wadhams to run again

Colorado Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams, apparently undeterred by disaster, has announced he will run for a third term at the party's state assembly in March.

"I've had a lot of challenges these last four years, but I've had a lot of fun," Wadhams told the Denver Post. "I feel good about my chances of getting re-elected."

Following the November election, many members of Wadhams' own party called for his resignation, saying he had steered Colorado Republicans into an iceberg. Despite a nationwide GOP surge, Colorado conservatives lost the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races. They were able to recapture control of the state House and also defeat two incumbent Democrats in Congress, but those victories were overshadowed by what Wadhams himself called a "soap opera" in the gubernatorial race.

As you may recall, GOP favorite Scott McInnis lost the primary after a plagiarism scandal, leaving inexperienced Tea Party candidate Dan Maes as the nominee. Maes was plagued by financial issues, and former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo entered the race in a third-party bid. To make matters worse, it was well-known that Wadhams asked Maes to drop out, and was rebuffed.

It's thought that the gubernatorial mess may have also contributed to the defeat of Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck.

Interestingly, Democratic Party Chair Pat Waak, who, considering the circumstances, did quite well last November, has announced she isn't running for another term. — JAS

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

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