Officials debate tax increase 

Maketa, McElhany discuss ballot issue

Though the debate between City Councilman Scott Hente and state Rep. Douglas Bruce stole the limelight Tuesday at the Colorado Springs Leadership Summit XV (see p. 11), it wasn't the only spectacle.

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa sparred with state Sen. Andrew McElhany over the proposed 1 percent sales tax to fund county public safety and health. Both Maketa and McElhany seemed to think the county needed the extra funds, acknowledging overcrowding in the county jail and understaffing in the sheriff's department.

But McElhany argued this was a bad time to ask voters to raise the sales tax, because he said it would stress small-business owners and consumers even as the economy is tanking. The senator focused only on that point in his summation, using only about 30 seconds of his allotted three minutes.

Maketa countered that there's never a good time to raise taxes. He said the public can either face the music now, or watch the city and county make service cuts while funding those public-safety costs that are mandated. JAS

Summit signs questioned

An alert reader sent photos to the Independent of campaign signs for Sen. John McCain posted outside buildings owned by Summit Ministries, a Manitou Springs-based religious nonprofit.

Though the signs were quickly taken down, a Summit representative says they were actually legal because they were posted outside buildings the organization rents.

Summit owns a large hotel, a patch of cabins and multiple homes on several city blocks above the south side of Manitou Avenue, using the properties to conduct educational programs and publish materials aimed at spreading a Christian worldview. Only the hotel, which houses students during summer camp programs, and a couple other buildings are exempt from property taxes.

Nonprofits can risk losing their tax-exempt status by taking positions in political races. AL

Vets' group backs Obama

Editor's note: Click here for updated information on Rick Duncan, who was interviewed for the story below.

Colorado Veterans Alliance, a locally based veterans' advocacy group, publicly endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president on Friday, Sept. 12.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Jay Fawcett (who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2006), and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Leroy Garcia came to the event to accept the endorsement on behalf of Obama. State Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton, and 5th District congressional candidate Hal Bidlack also attended.

A press release stated many vets felt Obama would be the better candidate to help soldiers both when deployed and at home.

The CVA claims 32,000 members statewide and focuses on the plight of post-9/11 soldiers. The group is led by Rick Duncan, a former U.S. Marine who was injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Duncan is active in the veterans' movement in Colorado Springs. JAS

Federal money helps with heat

El Paso County commissioners have accepted federal money to help the county's poor and disadvantaged pay their heating bills this winter. The Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) is administered by the county government, but is fully funded by the feds. The county's Department of Human Services contracts with Goodwill Industries of Colorado Springs to administer the program, at a cost of $448,404.

Last year, LEAP helped 11,320 people locally, and paid $4,692,995 to meet energy needs.

"In most cases, LEAP benefits are paid directly to the utility or fuel supplier," county commissioner Sallie Clark stated in a press release. "To be eligible, a household must pay heating costs to a supplier, or pay heating costs as part of their rent. With rising energy costs and the approach of winter, it's important to accept these federal funds to assist families in need."

LEAP funds are available to needy county residents from Nov. 1 to April 30. Call 866/432-8435 for more information. JAS

Rose named county spokesman

A couple weeks of uncertainty at the El Paso County public information office have ended with Dave Rose, a veteran local broadcast journalist, stepping in as spokesman.

Rose most recently was news director for 12 years at KRDO TV Newschannel 13.

The public information officer is responsible for keeping the public informed about county business, typically by sending news releases to local media organizations, and also helps with requests for government documents as required by the Colorado Open Records Act.

Bailey Miller, the county's former spokeswoman, left in early September. AL

Pols seek state shale control

U.S. Reps. John Salazar and Mark Udall are urging support for a measure that would let Colorado control oil shale leasing on the state's federal land.

The measure is part of an energy bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives this week. It would lift the current ban that keeps the Bureau of Land Management from determining final rules for commercial oil shale leasing, but Salazar and Udall say in a joint statement that it would leave Colorado a "safety valve" so state legislators can control oil shale development.

The BLM could issue a record of decision this year that would make oil shale development possible on about 360,000 acres in Colorado, but many still question the economics and environmental cost of leasing the land before technological questions are resolved.

Republican lawmakers and the Bush administration have been pushing to move forward with development, and the measure faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate and under Bush's possible veto pen. AL

Compiled by Anthony Lane and J. Adrian Stanley.

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