Noted: Outsiders' view of downtown 

Downtown ideas emerge

While Mayor Steve Bach stole the show by proposing an Acacia Park smoking ban, the Urban Land Institute also presented some ideas at the Downtown Partnership's Mayor's Breakfast on Oct. 10.

The ULI, a nonprofit research and education institute, examined downtown Colorado Springs and interviewed more than 100 residents. It recommended that downtown appoint an ambassador to better coordinate various groups and identify common goals, and that local governments and branches of city government strive for more cooperation.

It also proposed several projects and improvements, including:

• renaming America the Beautiful Park "Olympic Park," adding walls engraved with Olympians' names, and building a pedestrian bridge from the park to downtown;

• creating an "arts and entertainment district" to include a downtown Sky Sox stadium/performing arts center;

• building an initial 150 moderately priced apartment units downtown, perhaps for college students;

• shrinking Tejon Street to two lanes and adding bike lanes;

• and adding north-south bus rapid transit between University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and downtown.

Bill Hudnut, ULI's panel leader, said that funds should be "cobbled together" to meet those ends through partnerships between public, private, nonprofit and stakeholder interests. Indeed, the approximately $150,000 to fund the study came from 23 various groups, governments and private businesses. — J. Adrian Stanley

Infrastructure grades: ugly

As a public service, the American Society of Civil Engineers has issued a "2012 Infrastructure Report Card" for Colorado Springs — and it ain't pretty.

While the city gets a B- for drinking water infrastructure and a B for wastewater, two services managed by Colorado Springs Utilities, it doesn't rate higher than a C- on services it manages itself.

The engineers gave the Springs a D- for stormwater, noting that a 100-year storm is due any time now, and will cause millions in damage if it comes. We got a D for roads, with engineers noting that if the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority sales tax is not reapproved by voters, the city is at risk of once again becoming one of the most congested of its size. The Springs got a D+ for bridges, because under current funding conditions, city bridges would need to last an average of 600 years.

The Springs did surprisingly well on transit, earning a C-. — J. Adrian Stanley

Budget meeting Thursday

This year's city budget just hasn't ticked off people the way the old ones did.

After years of recession-era cuts, Colorado Springs is actually adding things back. But there's bound to be someone unhappy with the budget because, well, there always is. If you happen to be that unhappy person, your opportunity to be heard comes at a public budget meeting held from 5 to 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 18, at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave.

Those wishing to speak at the meeting can begin signing up at 3 p.m. Those who can't attend can watch the meeting live on SpringsTV, cable channel 18, or springsgov.com. Comments and ideas will be accepted by phone at 385-5961; by e-mail at 2013springsbudget@springsgov.com; on Facebook at facebook.com/springsgov; or on Twitter at @springsgov. — JAS

Cash floods local races

El Paso County should be flattered. According to House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, the race in state House District 18 is the second-most-expensive in the state. And neighboring HD 17, which covers much of southeastern Colorado Springs, is no slouch, either.

In HD 18, which covers downtown Colorado Springs and much of the west side, including Manitou Springs, incumbent Democrat Rep. Pete Lee had raised $136,851 as of Monday, Oct. 15. His opponent, Republican Jennifer George, had raised $148,929.

In HD 17, GOP Rep. Mark Barker's at $71,808, and Democrat Tony Exum Sr., $81,574.

Add to that political action committees spending tens of thousands of dollars to blanket both districts with mailers, and it appears that El Paso is seen as a critical win for both parties. Ferrandino says he believes the Republicans need to oust Lee while protecting Barker; anything less, and they might lose their House majority.

For a more detailed examination of the candidates' funds, see the IndyBlog at csindy.com. — Chet Hardin

Partners covered in Pueblo

After a start-and-stop process, Pueblo City Council last week approved granting benefits to the same-sex partners of city workers, on a 6-1 vote.

Council President Chris Kaufman opposed the change, according to the Pueblo Chieftain, saying gays and lesbians aren't a minority group, and that the issue isn't about equal rights.

The Council took up the matter several weeks ago but sidelined it, pending a report on cost. Pueblo human resources officials estimated extending the benefits to roughly six employees who qualify would add $55,000 the budget. — Pam Zubeck

Groundbreaking at AFA

After several years of fundraising and planning, the Air Force Academy will host a groundbreaking ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday for the Center for Character and Leadership Development, a $40 million facility that will share space in the Terrazzo area near the Cadet Chapel.

The Center's mission is to advance the understanding, practice and integration of character and leadership development, the academy said in a press release.

The building is funded by allocations in the annual military construction budget and more than $10 million from donors. The Air Force Academy's Endowment has helped raise money for the building, which has been projected to feature a 105-foot glass skylight compass jutting at a 39-degree angle toward the North Star ("Secular signature," April 11, 2012). The public is invited to the groundbreaking. — Pam Zubeck

Redistricting feedback given

Of 22 people who spoke Oct. 13 at Hillside Community Center on the proposed Colorado Springs City Council redistricting map, the vast majority wanted the maps changed to better preserve neighborhoods and racial/ethnic blocks.

Districts are being redrawn to accommodate six district Councilors, instead of four, because of a voter-approved change in governance. Once new districts are drawn, it is unlikely that their layout will be changed dramatically in future years, making this map important.

Speaking at the meeting, local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People president Rosemary Harris-Lytle said that the 1965 Voters Rights Act recommends keeping "communities of interest" together. She noted that other cities had consulted the public to help the government define those boundaries, and that a similar process might work well for the Springs.

"This is an opportunity for the city to engage its neighborhoods," she said.

Both the Council of Neighbors and Organizations and the Colorado Springs Diversity Forum presented redrawn maps that they said would better keep communities intact. City Clerk Sarah Johnson said she would take all comments into consideration, but would not favor a single group.

"Unfortunately," she said, "at some point, the lines have to be drawn.

The final map is due for release Nov. 13. — J. Adrian Stanley

To resolve or proclaim?

School District 11 board member Rev. Al Loma and Joe Barrera, with the Latino/Black Coalition, are not happy with a possible change in how the board honors themed months and other special occasions, such as Black History Month.

According to Elaine Naleski, board secretary, she and her colleagues are looking at whether to continue to do resolutions at board meetings as they have in the past, or issue proclamations at public events that mark the occasions. The reasoning is simple: Not enough people turn out for school board meetings.

"We passed a resolution in September for Hispanic Heritage Month," she says, "and there was nobody there, and people didn't even know that we had passed it."

The board is engaged in fact-finding, to see how other boards conduct this business.

"There are some discussions whether we are going to keep doing resolutions, or are we going to change," she says, "and do proclamations. And instead of doing them at a board meeting, we would go to the event."

Barrera counters that the board ought to do both, pointing out that the members can go to the events "in addition to passing resolutions from the dais." — Chet Hardin

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