News briefs from the Front Range

Local peace activist dies
Elizabeth Fineron was best known around here as the disabled woman in her 60s who was forcefully dragged from the 2007 St. Patricks Day parade, leaving her with a nasty abrasion on her lower back. The chaotic removal and arrest of peace marchers from the parade was national news.

But for Fineron, standing up for what she believed in was nothing new. She was a school teacher, and early on, a nun. She was an advocate for the poor, and fought to give them health care. And, of course, she was a peace activist and hard-working member of the Colorado Springs Justice and Peace Commission.

Fineron, 66, was found dead in her apartment Wednesday morning by a visiting nurse. Fineron had only recently been released from the hospital after suffering side effects from an operation on her neck. She appears to have died in her sleep.

J&P members were grieving the loss of their friend Wednesday.

She was a real example of someone who was a scrapper, activist Bill Sulzman says. A real fighter both with causes and her health. JAS

Fires claim lives, homes
Two large fires in southern Colorado that started Tuesday, spurred by strong winds and low humidity, continued to burn Wednesday.

A fire near Fort Carson had swallowed nearly 10,000 acres as of press time, and claimed the life of a pilot whose plane crashed after dropping fire retardant. In the small town of Ordway, a similar size fire claimed two lives and destroyed or damaged at least 20 structures, including homes.

The fires have closed highways and forced mass evacuations. Gov. Bill Ritter named the Ordway fire a state emergency. Firefighters were hopeful early Wednesday that slowing winds and wetter weather would help them fight the flames. JAS

Space to city: Give us cash
The stroganoff wasn't the only beef in the room at a Broadmoor hotel luncheon sponsored by the Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation and the Space Foundation on Thursday.

William Tutt, chairman emeritus of the Space Foundation, told the crowd, "Colorado Springs needs to step up."

Specifically, Tutt wants the city government to help fund a new headquarters for the Space Foundation, despite the fact that its current facility is only about five years old. He cited the recent $53 million deal the city presented to the United States Olympic Committee as an example of what the Springs could do for the foundation.

Keynote speaker Robert Walker, director emeritus of the foundation, went on to tell the crowd that the foundation had received offers from two communities to move the foundation "just this week." He said the foundation would like to stay here, but warned, "It isn't always emotions that drive final outcomes."

The plea came on the final day of the National Space Symposium, which Walker says generates a $25 million economic impact in a week. JAS

Push comes to shove at annual space convention
Protesting for peace in Colorado Springs still seems a risky activity.

On April 7, a protester dressed as Darth Vader outside the National Space Symposium at The Broadmoor Hotel was de-helmeted with a straight-arm to the back. (You can watch the video at youtube.com/watch?v=xHQw-lYwaiY.)

The attack happened as people with the Springs Action Alliance, the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission and other groups gathered to protest what they see as an effort to militarize space.

The victim, identified as 27-year-old Brendan O'Connor of New York, can be seen in the video lurching forward after he is shoved. O'Connor does not plan to press charges, according to Mark Lewis of the Action Alliance.

Lewis says the man seen shoving O'Connor still has not been identified. He is critical of a security guard at the hotel who claims in the video that he did not see what happened.

The Springs had managed a full year of peace for demonstrators since seven arrests at the 2007 St. Patrick's Day parade. AL

A new year, more budget cuts
It may only be April, but El Paso County officials are bracing for another round of budget cuts.

With declining sales tax collections, less money coming in through recording fees at the clerk and recorder's office and shrinking interest earnings, county commissioners might need to trim more than $2 million to balance the 2008 budget, says finance director Nicola Sapp.

County leaders had cut nearly $11 million from the budget before it was approved last year. The effect of shrinking revenue has been compounded with the assessor's office's computer system recently needing an upgrade, the coroner needing equipment replaced and other unplanned expenses. AL

D-49 names new super
Falcon School District 49 has named Grant Schmidt its new superintendent.

Schmidt previously worked for the Del Paso Heights School District in Sacramento, Calif. He led the ethnically diverse district for two years and is credited with increasing student achievement.

He's previously worked in Longmont and Douglas County, Colorado. JAS

DeGette named first editor at Colorado Confidential
Colorado Springs Independent contributing editor Cara DeGette has been named editor of coloradoconfidential.com, an all-online news organization she helped launch in July 2006. The site is a project of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Independent Media, and has sister outlets in numerous other states, including Minnesota, Iowa and New Mexico.

As part of a coalition of journalists and progressive bloggers, DeGette has helped build Colorado Confidential into an award-winning source of original and investigative reporting. She'll be the site's first full-time editor, and will continue to write for it regularly.

DeGette, who helped launch the Independent in 1993 and served as top editor from 2001 to 2006, says she's thrilled about the challenge of her new role.

"As more and more people are going online for their daily news diet, there is a clear need to ensure that the information they are receiving is accurate and reported with integrity," DeGette said Wednesday. "It's fun, and a real challenge, to be at the forefront of the evolution of the journalism industry." KW

Compiled by Anthony Lane, J. Adrian Stanley and Kirk Woundy.


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