News briefs from the Front Range

Parting is such ...

wait, when is Bruce going?
The beginning of the end of Commissioner Douglas Bruce's reign of grouchiness in El Paso County took on aspects both grandiose and combative at a board meeting Monday.

Bruce, addressing his colleagues at the first meeting since he was selected to fill a legislative spot opened by a bit of Republican Party leapfrog, invoked Mahatma Gandhi as he planned for his battles in the State House: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you ... then you win."

Bruce said he plans to step down as an El Paso County commissioner only after the Legislature convenes in January. Bill Louis, acting county attorney who has frequently sparred with Bruce over legal and other matters, said Bruce might be bound to step down whenever he takes the oath for his new post.

Bruce may put that off until mid-January, anyway. The Gazette reported Wednesday he is considering joining the Legislature a few days after its session begins Jan. 9, allowing him to avoid having his first term count against him under the state's term limits, which permit House members four two-year terms. AL

Lamborn seeks mountain report
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn says he's asked for an upcoming report on NORAD and the ongoing plan to move its primary operations from Cheyenne Mountain to a building on Peterson Air Force Base.

He couldn't guarantee he'll get the report, expected to be the final version of draft documents obtained by the Independent in October. Those documents, which emanated from the defense secretary's Program Analysis and Evaluation Office, state the mountain is a better site than Peterson for the North American Aerospace Defense Command mission.

Lamborn declined to discuss those documents following a breakfast meeting of local business and military leaders on Nov. 30. Lamborn said he had toured NORAD a day earlier and met privately with Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, who heads U.S. Northern Command.

"He expressed their vision is for going forward" with the transition, Lamborn said, adding he was told the mountain doesn't have enough space for homeland defense and NORAD missions. Sources have told the Indy there is even less space at Peterson. MdY

Parade saga not really over?
St. Patrick's Day parade marcher Eric Verlo is glad he'll avoid another trial, but he's disappointed the city of Colorado Springs still hasn't coughed up those six little words: "We're sorry. It won't happen again."

The city may wish it had offered an apology if Verlo decides to sue. He hasn't ruled out the possibility.

Verlo was among seven peace marchers arrested in the 2007 St. Patrick's Day parade. Marchers say their arrests were in violation of freedom of speech rights, and were both inappropriate (they had a permit to march) and unjustly rough.

The city brought criminal charges against the seven, citing them for intentionally blocking the parade route. The ACLU defended them, and their trial in August ended with a hung jury.

The city eventually announced it would retry only Elizabeth Fineron and Verlo. But a day before their scheduled pre-trial conference, the city dropped all remaining charges.

For Verlo and Fineron, that might have spelled the end of a long and tiring legal process. But a statement made by City Attorney Patricia Kelly angered both. Kelly insisted police did nothing wrong, and that there was plenty of evidence to convict Verlo and Fineron.

While Fineron says she won't sue, Verlo says he's mad enough to consider it, especially if the ACLU continues to offer its support.

"I am concerned that people may be intimidated by what happened on St. Patrick's Day," he says. "So, if people are feeling even slightly intimidated, I feel like we've lost." JAS

Better off on Bijou
If you can avoid driving the Colorado Avenue bridge for a few days, you might want to. COSMIX spokeswoman Michele Majeune says there will be lane closures due to conflicts with utilities lines, which have necessitated rethinking the drainage plans and installing a huge manhole in the path of westbound traffic.

First, COSMIX will finish paving the eastbound lanes, expected to take one day and to avoid rush-hour impact. Starting Friday night after rush hour, COSMIX will close the westbound side of Colorado Avenue under Interstate 25, and divvy up the two eastbound lanes to preserve east-west flow. Work on the westbound lane is expected to last through about 5 a.m. Monday.

But, of course, Majeune notes, "Our schedule is always subject to change."

The Bijou Street bridge is probably a better choice. The city and COSMIX are putting final touches on Bijou decorative lighting, some railings, a few touch-ups with no adverse impact. JAS

Millions for parks, preservation
Locals have something to show for all those losing lottery tickets.

State lottery-funded Great Outdoors Colorado doled out $75 million around the state Monday, and GOCO gave nearly $6.8 million to projects that affect El Paso County.

That money will help Colorado Springs purchase the Section 16 Open Space near Manitou Springs, east of Red Rock Canyon, and build a new skate park in Memorial Park. Cheyenne Mountain State Park will now have the money to swallow the top of the mountain.

A whopping $4.75 million will go to the Peak to Prairie Land Conservation Initiative, which seeks to preserve wild and agricultural lands that buffer Fountain Creek in El Paso, Pueblo, Lincoln and Crowley counties. JAS

Defense official notes 'embarrassing' local-business outreach
Just the thought of it would probably give local peace activists a bellyache.

But last week, Colorado Springs businesses, universities and lawmakers more or less received lessons on how to better succeed inside the confusing bureaucracy that fuels the military-industrial complex.

James I. Finley, the nation's deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and technology, handed out brochures Friday during a breakfast at Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, telling local leaders of his commitment to increasing the role of small businesses and universities in defense contracts.

"It is embarrassing," he admitted, that small businesses make up roughly 1 percent of Pentagon business. The goal is 3 percent.

Finley toured local defense installations with Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican who recently was named to the House Armed Services Committee. MdY

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


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