Noted: "A new beginning" starts for Memorial 

Memorial transferred

All went as planned in the transfer of Memorial Health System operations to the University of Colorado Health earlier this week, ending three years of haggling over what to do with the $600 million enterprise and leading Mayor Steve Bach to call it "a new beginning" for the city hospital.

The city got $340 million cash from Memorial to retire the hospital's debt of the same amount, City Attorney Chris Melcher says.

UCH's lease payment, $74 million plus $185 million to settle the city's obligation with the Public Employees' Retirement Association, has been placed in a Wells Fargo escrow account. It will earn "very low" interest, Melcher says, until the PERA lawsuit is resolved.

PERA contends it's owed from $191 million to $246 million to prevent those remaining in its local government fund, including Springs Utilities and Colorado Springs city government, from paying more to keep the fund solvent. The city has sued PERA, claiming it owes nothing.

The Colorado Springs Health Foundation, which will control the lease proceeds, will be appointed by the mayor and confirmed by Council in months to come but isn't expected to begin spending money until 2014, Melcher says.

UCH has promised to retain all employees at their current pay for six months, and UCH CEO Bruce Schroffel says the goal is to create jobs, not lay people off. — PZ

Churches buck IRS

In 1954, Congress placed restrictions on political speech promoted by a religious organization. To be found campaigning for a candidate or party would jeopardize the religious organization's tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service.

Not once has a pastor been censured for political speech, says the Alliance Defending Freedom; however, it argues, this restriction is a violation of the church's First Amendment rights. So, this Sunday pastors will be challenging the restriction.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday, a nationwide movement started in 2008, will see pastors taking to their pulpits Oct. 7 to, according to its website, "evaluate candidate(s) running for political office during a regular worship service in light of biblical Truth and church doctrine."

According to Alliance Defending Freedom, 1,200 pastors have signed up to participate, including local pastor Mark Cowart of Church for All Nations. — CH

Fire death report released

Barbara Everett, 73, died June 26 of "thermal injuries and smoke inhalation" in the Waldo Canyon Fire, the El Paso County Coroner's Office reported this week.

Everett and her husband, William, 74, lived on Rossmere Street in the Mountain Shadows area, where the city failed to impose a mandatory evacuation notice until flames had entered neighborhoods. The Everett home burned to the ground.

A coroner's report on William Everett hasn't been released.

"Investigative information indicates that the decedent and her husband called a relative from their home, indicating that they were in the process of evacuating their house shortly before the home caught fire," Dr. Daniel Lingamfelter wrote. The autopsy was conducted July 2. — PZ

Pueblo same-sex vote Oct. 9

After tabling the question of whether the city should provide health insurance benefits for same-sex domestic partners, the Pueblo City Council will conduct a public hearing and final reading of an ordinance allowing such benefits on Tuesday.

A week before the vote, Council President Chris Kaufman couldn't predict if it will pass. After Councilors asked for additional information several weeks ago, the measure was "expediently" put back on the agenda, and a first reading was held two weeks ago, Kaufman says.

"I don't know whether there is support," he says. "My hunch is it probably will pass, but I don't know what the votes will be. We are facing a substantial crisis financially in our community. The perception of adding $55,000 a year [to the budget] that takes care of six to seven people weighs heavy on people's minds." — PZ

Non-endorsement for George

A mailer for Jennifer George, the Republican running for the state House District 18 seat, features a picture of the smiling Republican posed in front of the logo for Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado. It's just one of a number of local nonprofits for which George has volunteered, as she's stressed in her campaign.

However, as Luis Toro of Ethics Watch points out, using Care and Share's logo in her political mailer puts that charity in an uncomfortable situation. "If the nonprofit allowed the candidate to pose in front of their logo, that could be considered an endorsement," Toro notes, adding that an endorsement would jeopardize the charity's tax-exempt status.

Contacted about the flier, Stacy Poore, Care and Share's chief development officer, replies: "Jennifer has been a volunteer ... we did not see the picture before it was published. Care and Share is not endorsing Jennifer George." — CH

Pride Center burgled, vandalized

In an e-newsletter, the Colorado Springs Pride Center confirmed that it was burgled Sept. 11.

Center employees could not give details about the robbery, because it is an open investigation, but the newsletter explained that the crime happened in the morning hours before opening and that the Center was also vandalized. No one was hurt.

The Pride Center also released a series of photos of the crime, showing a broken window, and opened drawers and cabinets.

Police did not return phone calls to the Indy seeking more information. — JAS

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

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