News briefs from the Front Range

Health Department warns of impending disaster

"We're in the midst of what I would call the gathering perfect storm," Rosemary Bakes-Martin, El Paso County public health administrator, said Monday at a "State of Public Health" address.

Pressure caused by underfunding and understaffing has made the department increasingly reactive rather than proactive, she said. The health department is no longer able to thoroughly investigate some types of serious outbreaks, increasing the risk that disease will spread. For instance, the department has largely given up on investigating cases of chlamydia, and has limited the scope of investigations of cases of gonorrhea.

Routine restaurant inspections are far behind, leading to more complaints from consumers. With inspectors tied up investigating complaints, routine inspections will continue to take a backseat, exacerbating the problem. Bakes-Martin said she sees the day coming when inspections will be limited to investigating serious complaints and an initial inspection when a restaurant opens.

The county could ask voters in November for a tax increase to fund services like those provided by the health department and sheriff's office. JAS

Boedecker leaves S-CAP job

Linda Boedecker resigned April 4 as executive director of the Southern Colorado Aids Project, after three years in the position.

"We accepted her resignation, though we certainly didn't ask her to leave," S-CAP board president Bill Mead said in confirming Boedecker's departure. "Linda has been a big advocate and a great mover for S-CAP. Fortunately, we have a great staff to carry on."

Mead says board members will help more in preparation for S-CAP's major annual fundraiser, the Red Ribbon Ball, on May 16 at the Colorado Springs Marriott.

A search has begun for Boedecker's replacement, and interested applicants should contact Bill Scharton at 578-9092. Mead said the board hopes to have a replacement by June 15. RR

Police report crime decrease

Colorado Springs crime dropped overall in 2007, but forcible rapes and homicides increased, according to the city police department's annual crime report.

Springs police investigated 285 reported rapes in 2007, up from 256 the previous year. There were 27 killings, including two men who died in a January arson fire, two sisters shot at New Life Church, and one justifiable homicide in which a liquor-store owner killed a would-be robber.

Robberies were down for the year by 13 percent, and police saw an overall drop of nearly 8 percent for the violent crimes of homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. AL

Randolph elected W-P mayor

Steve Randolph, a member of Woodland Park's City Council since 2002, will become the city's new mayor after a convincing victory in the mail-in election that ended Tuesday. Randolph, 63, defeated Darwin Naccarato 846 to 451.

"It's a nice feeling, because I didn't have a single sign in anybody's yard, or on the street anywhere," says Randolph, who counted on voters approving of his work on City Council. He will take over as mayor on April 17, creating a vacancy on Council. An appointed replacement, who will serve until 2010, will be named in the next few weeks.

Three other City Council positions were decided, with incumbents George Parkhurst (960 votes) and Jon DeVaux (932) prevailing along with newcomer Betty Clark-Wine (901). Val Carr was fourth (646). RR

GAO looks into Musgrave's concerns on Pion Canyon

Federal investigators will check into U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave's concerns about the legality of an Army study relating to Fort Carson's proposed expansion of training grounds in southeast Colorado.

"Please investigate and confirm that this [Army study] and any funds allocated to perform the study are not being used in violation of federal law," Musgrave wrote in a Feb. 27 letter to Ralph Dawn, a congressional relations director for the Government Accountability Office.

The request "was accepted and wrapped into ongoing work we are doing for the House Armed Services Committee that looks at the Army's land acquisition strategies," GAO spokesman Chuck Young said this week, adding that "the report is expected to be complete sometime later this year." Young declined further comment. MdY

Don't get nickel and dimed

The Easy Park system, which allows use of prepaid cards, rather than change, at parking meters, is expanding its reach this month to more of downtown and all of Old Colorado City. More than half the city's meters will take the cards by the end of the year, with more to come in 2009.

Easy Park automatically gives you maximum time at a meter, but if you come back before time expires, it allows you to "check out" and charges you only for the minutes you were there. The cards can be "reloaded" with more cash.

They're available at the Kiowa Street and Bijou Street/Cascade Avenue parking garages; the City Administration Building parking garage (on Nevada Avenue); the Parking System office in the City Administration Building; and online at easypark.springsgov.com. Cards can be reloaded at kiosks at 218 N. Tejon St., 6 S. Tejon St., 107 N. Nevada Ave. and 2418 W. Colorado Ave. JAS

Focus, Freethinkers organize 'under God' debate

Michael Newdow, a constitutional attorney known for efforts to remove "under God" from the pledge of allegiance, will come to Colorado Springs April 23 for an event sponsored by get this Freethinkers of Colorado Springs and Focus on the Family.

Newdow will debate on "Are we one nation under God?" with Chris Leland, senior fellow for Christian Worldview Studies for Focus on the Family Institute, at 7 p.m. at Focus headquarters, 8685 Explorer Drive. The debate is free and open to the public. For more, go to freethinkerscs.com. RR

CC students assess mountain states in annual report

Per capita shares of public land are shrinking, and many communities in Rocky Mountain states face a shortage of affordable housing, according to Colorado College students who authored the fifth annual State of the Rockies Report Card released this week.

Students spent weeks doing research for the report last summer, and the final report includes chapters on immigration, renewable energy, river restoration, affordable housing and extractive industries.

Former Interior Secretary Gale Norton was among the speakers at an early April conference for the project. The report is available online at coloradocollege.edu/stateoftherockies. AL

Hotline for racially profiled

A new hotline aims to fight back against racial profiling and discrimination by Colorado police. The nonprofit Colorado Progressive Coalition, in cooperation with civil rights leaders, launched the hotline April 8, citing the need for greater accountability from law enforcement. Callers will be helped with finding legal assistance and filing formal complaints.

The hotline is sometimes manned, but most callers will be asked to leave a message. Calls will be returned within 24 hours in either English or Spanish. Call 866/329-0908. JAS

New trees for an old burn
Efforts to bring back the forest destroyed by the Hayman fire will continue this spring as officials transport more than 130,000 one-year-old seedlings to be planted on 970 acres of the burn area.

Tree-planting efforts have gone forward each year since the 2002 fire, which seared nearly 140,000 acres in Teller, Park, Douglas and Jefferson counties. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the cost to plant trees runs about $600 for each acre. The goal is to plant the trees immediately after snow melts so they can get established before the soil dries out. AL

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


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