Noted: State campaign dollars building 

Campaign money adds up

Last week, financial report filings gave snapshots of what state Republicans could spend on contested June primaries, and how other candidates look for November.

More than $100,000 is at play in the heated House District 19 primary. Relying largely on self-funding, Rep. Marsha Looper reports $42,000 with an additional $8,000 loan; her opponent, House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, has raised $64,000. In Senate District 10, current Rep. Larry Liston has raised $44,000 with an additional $5,000 loan in his primary against Owen Hill, who has raised $37,000.

As for November races, in House District 17 Democrat challenger Tony Exum has raised $10,000 for his bid against incumbent Republican Mark Barker, who has amassed nearly $27,000. It's also clear that a battle is brewing in House District 18. Republicans' first-time candidate, Jennifer George, has collected $56,000. Incumbent Democrat Pete Lee has roughly $40,000. — CH

No dogs on the Incline

To put it in kindergarten terms, trespassing on the Manitou Incline is "bad," but bringing your dog along is "badder."

Though governments and private agencies are well into the process of opening the trail to legal hiking, the old cog railway known as a gruesome uphill slog is still officially closed. That doesn't prevent an estimated 350,000 to 500,000 people from climbing it every year, many with their pups. If meetings are any gauge, people have had mixed feelings about the preponderance of canines on the trail.

"When we went through the public process, one of the hot items ... was the question of dogs with two main issues in mind: people not picking up the waste of their dogs, and dogs just running loose and maybe creating a possibly dangerous situation," city parks official Kurt Schroeder says.

In the end, reps from involved cities decided to ban dogs. Of course, given the lack of success at keeping people off the Incline, it seems reasonable to wonder if officials can rid the area of pooches. — JAS

Mining Exchange opens

Though fewer than half of its rooms were complete, The Mining Exchange, a Wyndham Grand Hotel, opened last week, after more than five years of work and about $30 million in investment. Sole owner Perry Sanders tells the Indy he wanted the renovated former stock exchange building at 8 S. Nevada Ave. to become a hub of downtown ("Project projections," News, Feb. 2).

The other half of the hotel's 117 rooms are expected to open within a month. The hotel's restaurant, Springs Orleans, was the first part of the project to be completed. — JAS

FREX users won't quit

Most Colorado springs City Councilors have appeared supportive of a Transit Solution Team plan that would eliminate the Front Range Express (FREX) bus service linking Colorado Springs and Denver. But FREX riders aren't giving up.

Local supporter Jon Rogers set up a website, savefrex.org and says he's collected nearly 800 signatures on its "save FREX" petition, which he'll present to Council. (See "Save the FREX," on p. 8, for more.) Meanwhile, the city bus service, Mountain Metropolitan Transit, is hosting required public meetings to talk about changes.

The last two meetings are at noon and 6 p.m., Thursday in Council Chambers at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave. — JAS

Ruling may impact AFA

After a state Court of Appeals decision calling Colorado's Day of Prayer unconstitutional, Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation says the Air Force Academy should cancel its prayer breakfast and related events.

Federal institutions don't normally have to comply with state laws, but Weinstein says the AFA should, after following state law in forbidding same-sex couples from marrying on campus ("Wedding bell blues," News, Oct. 13, 2011). Same-sex marriage is illegal in Colorado, and under a Pentagon directive, same-sex marriages are only allowed on military campuses in states where the ceremonies are legal.

Using that logic, Weinstein feels the academy should also follow the state's lead in canceling government-sponsored religious events. Or, Weinstein says, the AFA could reassert its right to ignore state law, by allowing same-sex marriages on the campus.

"You cannot have it both ways," he tells the Indy. Either change would please Weinstein. But it's not clear whether Weinstein's demands will be considered, or whether they have legal merit. AFA officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. — JAS

Seniors catch a break

For the first time since 2008, the Colorado Legislature has funded the Senior Homestead Exemption, giving some older citizens a property tax break. It reduces property taxes by exempting 50 percent of the first $200,000 value, and will cost the state $98.6 million in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

For a typical home assessed at $200,000, seniors in Colorado Springs and School District 11 will save $484 for taxes due in 2013, says Steve Schleiker with the El Paso County Assessor's Office.

Voters approved the exemption in 2002 to become effective for taxes due in 2003. But in 2003, facing a budget deficit, the Legislature suspended the break. It was restored in 2006, suspended in 2007, restored in 2008 and suspended since then, Schleiker says.

To be eligible, seniors must have been 65 as of Jan. 1, and have lived in the home as a primary residence for 10 consecutive years. Find other rules at elpasoco.com. — PZ

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


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