News briefs from the Front Range

Artists' school pursues new downtown home
Developers and planners are still awaiting test results to see if and how toxic sludge under the city's old gas administration building will impact a hotel planned to take its place. If all goes well for Cottonwood Artists' School, which has leased the building near America the Beautiful Park for three years, those test results will not make much difference the artists and teachers will already be gone.

Peggy Vicaro, executive director of the nonprofit, says she hopes inspections and other final details go smoothly so the school can close on a 36,000 square-foot building at 427 E. Colorado Ave. in late February, as planned. With 6,000 extra square feet and wiring to handle kilns and other heavy-duty equipment, Vicaro says, the new space should allow the school to nearly double the number of studios it rents, to around 80, while offering opportunities for potters to spin their stuff.

The gas administration building had been viewed as a temporary home until news that coal tar under the site from an old coal gasification plant could scare away developers. That ignited hope the school could stay put, tempered only slightly by fears the buried sludge could pose health risks.

Vicaro is cautiously expressing hope the Colorado Avenue building will provide a permanent home. The building is under contract, Vicaro says, meaning the school at least does not face the threat of being outbid by another buyer, as happened when the school lost out on a North Nevada Avenue building to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Development plans call for the former gas building to be replaced by an Embassy Suites hotel. AL

Bush coming to Colorado?
Rumor has it that President Bush will visit Denver at the end of this month in an effort that will help fill U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer's campaign coffers.

Schaffer, a former congressman from Fort Collins, is vying to replace Wayne Allard, a fellow Republican, who at the end of this year will retire from the Senate.

The Independent could not confirm the rumored $1,500-a-plate dinner by deadline.

U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, a Boulder County Democrat opposing Schaffer, has a roughly 3-to-1 advantage over Schaffer when it comes to cash on hand, according to the most recent election data available. MdY

City starts version of 911.com
The theft of your lawn mower is important just not so important that a police officer should have to haul out to your house to take a report. That's the gist of a recent news release from Colorado Springs police urging citizens to report certain types of crimes online.

Police say citizens can report a crime online so long as it occurs within city limits, is no longer in progress and is nonviolent. Online reporting also requires that there is no specific suspect information (except in cases of gas drive-offs), no obvious evidence and the reporting party is at least 16 years old.

Examples of eligible crimes include vandalism and thefts from sheds, garages and lockers. According to police, online reporting is convenient for citizens and good for police, who can spend more time patrolling and responding to more serious crimes. Online reporting is available at springsgov.com. JAS

Gazette explains Parade issue
To anyone who understood the impact of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's recent assassination, the cover story of Parade magazine inserted each week into the Gazette, along with about 400 other newspapers across the nation provided a painful jolt Sunday. Parade's cover showed Bhutto's face, and asked whether she is "America's best hope against al-Qaeda."

The story inside went into detail about Bhutto's crusade to return to power as prime minister, and her battle against terrorism. Though the tabloid was dated Jan. 6, it obviously was printed before Bhutto was killed by shrapnel from a suicide bomber on Dec. 27.

Parade always has been zealous about informing newspapers of similar situations, and editors there decided to go ahead with distribution. Papers from the Washington Post to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Houston Chronicle and Las Vegas Review-Journal knew enough to run prominent messages to readers on Sunday (or earlier) informing them about the Parade story's unfortunate timing. Here, the Gazette ran nothing Sunday, but printed a "correction" Monday.

Gazette editor Jeff Thomas, in an e-mail response to a request for comment, said: "Parade may have attempted to notify us, but I have no record." In an online blog, Thomas referred to other papers' proactive measures and wrote, "We would have done the same had we received notice from Parade." He couldn't say for sure if he had seen an advance copy, as usually would be the case. RR

Parking tickets: fewer excuses
City Council has closed a loophole that had allowed many parking tickets to be excused in past years. Parking tickets issued while owners are in Municipal Court will no longer be written off, as of Council's action Tuesday, and jurors will no longer be given free street parking (though free parking for jurors is still available at the Kiowa Street and Nevada Avenue parking garage). Most city workers who get parking tickets will also no longer be excused. JAS

Bruce makes news to the end
Elected officials typically speak their minds near the beginning of El Paso County board meetings, and Commissioner Douglas Bruce is typically not one to pass up the chance. On Monday, at Bruce's second-to last meeting before he leaves to become a state representative, he took a bye, explaining he was saving his comments for his last meeting Thursday, Jan. 10.

Other commissioners laughed, perhaps with a touch of apprehension. Bruce's final meeting comes a day after the Legislature convened Wednesday. Bruce has been criticized for delaying his start in the House a few extra days to avoid having his first year in the seat vacated by Bill Cadman, now a state senator, count toward the three-term limit.

Keeping with Bruce's disgust at using taxpayer money for going-away presents, a box soliciting donations for a send-off cake for Bruce was positioned outside commissioners' offices.

In apparently unrelated news, City Council approved a measure requiring future ballot initiatives to go through a review process aimed at making sure they are understandable. The measure will not affect Bruce's plans for two initiatives that would complicate things for the city's enterprises, particularly stormwater. AL

No savior for the Roan
The Roan Plateau, on public lands outside Rifle in northwest Colorado, is known for its pristine beauty and wildlife habitat. Now it's known for something else: The long political battle that tried to preserve it, but failed.

The Roan, which is rich in gas, will soon be opened to further drilling despite an outcry from environmentalists, the area's tourism industry and legislators. After an unsuccessful fight to protect the land, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, Rep. John Salazar and Rep. Mark Udall announced that they would support a plan to further open the plateau to drilling, which was recommended by Gov. Bill Ritter.

The legislators have proposed a new plan ensuring the state milks more cash from the leasing agreement, and that millions go to Western Slope conservation efforts. JAS

FCC checking into Comcast
Kevin Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, told the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev., that the FCC will be investigating whether Comcast Corp. interferes with Internet customers as subscribers share files online, the Denver Post reports.

"We're going to investigate and make sure that no consumer is going to be blocked," Martin said of Comcast, the primary cable provider in Colorado Springs with high-speed Internet services for its area customers. RR

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


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