The moral police win 

Watch out. Chief Lorne Kramer's moral police are out in force. This week, backed with anecdotes deriding panhandlers as bums, drunks and criminals, the police chief convinced members of the City Council to outlaw people from asking for assistance along highway offramps.

The cops tried to convince City Council members to pass the ordinance three months ago, claiming that panhandlers pose safety and traffic problems, because motorists sometimes slow down to give them some change. However, at that time, cops couldn't back up their assertions on increased traffic problems and accidents with actual data. The local ordinance is modeled after a similar law in Aurora, where cops claimed banning begging is a public-safety, not free-speech, issue. That argument has held up in court.

In addition, several community and civic leaders, including Terry Sullivan of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, have said in letters of support that beggars standing around in highly visible parts of Colorado Springs taint the city's image.

Still, as much as some wanted to get those embarrassing lowlifes off the streets, local lawmakers got queasy over the idea of criminalizing the homeless and sent the cops back to prove their public-safety argument.

They didn't. Shortly before the cops' presentation on Tuesday before the City Council, Deputy Chief Pat McElderry plainly stated, "There is no direct link between the number of accidents and panhandling." In fact, cops couldn't say how many accidents occurred as a direct result of panhandlers. Instead, Sgt. Michael Spitzmiller offered anecdotes and a multimedia presentation consisting of a short videotape showing cops interviewing panhandlers and asking them what they spent their money on -- food or drugs or booze.

In addition, McElderry warned that some panhandlers have criminal records. Of course, that is not illegal. People with criminal records also go to Furr's Cafeteria or The Citadel mall, for that matter as Steve Handen, a longtime advocate for the poor, pointed out.

"I don't think this is a safety issue, I think it's an image issue," Handen said.

Councilmen Ted Eastburn and Richard Skorman voted against the ordinance. Noting that there are already laws in place that prohibit public drunkenness, urinating in public, fighting, assault and disturbing the peace, Eastburn defended the practice as market-driven.

And, noted Handen, even if there's a traffic problem, who is really the culprit, the panhandler or the person who stops to contribute?

X marks the G-Spot. Get ready, Colorado Springs. The city's daily newspaper has decided to officially nickname itself the G.

The daily plans to drop the big-type "azette" on its front-page masthead during its unveiling over Thanksgiving Day weekend.

Reliable sources say the masthead will picture a huge letter G but will retain its Old English type style, which, according to former Publisher N. Chris Anderson, makes it a "real newspaper." Tiny letters "Gazette" will appear directly below the gargantuan stand-alone G.

So, is the new name supposed to prove that the paper is hip and sassy and ultracool?

Probably not. The story is, some marketing genius convinced the grayhairs over there that the shorter the name, the better the "package." Now, instead of calling the paper The Gazette (way uncool), people will be able to toss the new name right off their tongue. As in, "Did you check out today's G?" Way cool.

Some readers, of course, will remember the paper's previous name-shortening and redesign project three years ago, from The Gazette-Telegraph to just The Gazette. Then, the paper's new masthead closely resembled that of The Pueblo Chieftain's, which proved to be an embarrassing oversight that was corrected during several weeks of subtle alterations.

This time around, another potentially scandalous visual was caught before it had a chance to go public.

An early design for the paper's new masthead had to be scrapped after employees started snickering and making lewd jokes. You see, the giant front-page G had been not-so-subtly tucked inside an oval-shaped design, and, without going into graphic detail, the entire effect apparently had titillated staffers calling their paper The G-Spot.

G-whiz, and here we thought they were a family newspaper.

At least one thing's for sure -- we bet the new product'll feel good.

What a coincidence! Just two weeks before city voters weigh in on a $51 million cable franchise fee and agreement, the city's cable company sent a letter to its customers to tell them just how much they are loved and cherished!

The recent letter was sent to cable subscribers across the city, offering them free goodies, including a cable-service upgrade, free pay-per-view and a free month of HBO.

"I believe in listening carefully to you, our customer, and providing the kinds of viewing opportunities you prefer," wrote Century Communications General Manager David W. Johnson in a form letter. "

"Let me again thank you for being our customer. And remember, everyone at Century Communications cares about your comments and the quality of service you receive."

Such sweet words, and from a corporate guy to boot.

Next Tuesday, don't forget to vote.


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