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Good news and bad

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As is the usual case, we've got good news and bad news. The good first. For the second year in a row, the Independent has been nominated by Utne Reader for overall excellence in the category of local/regional reporting.

Since 1989, Utne, the nation's leading magazine of alternative ideas, has showcased what it considers to be the best of the alternative press throughout the United States and Canada in categories ranging from reporting excellence to cultural and political coverage, to international coverage.

"The Colorado Springs Independent stands out as an important voice in the North American media," said Utne Editor Jay Walljasper.

In our category, local/regional reporting, we are one of 11 newspapers nominated -- others include High Country News, the L.A. Weekly, Metro Times in Detroit, The Stranger in Seattle, and the Texas Observer. (For a full list of other nominees and other categories, check out Utne's Web site at

www.utne.com.)

In determining those publications for citation, Utne's editors select nominee publications through a careful examination, rather than a competition requiring entry forms and fees.

"Each year since 1989, Utne's editors have gathered around a table in our library, surrounded by nearly 1,600 publications that come through our doors, to talk about the magazines, newsletters, and zines that most informed, inspired and intrigued us over the past 12 months," the magazine noted.

"We'll debate the merits of our favorites, recall great articles from past issues, consult a few outside sources, and eventually come to some consensus about which publications most deserve special recognition."

Winners will be announced in the magazine's January/February 2003 issue. And of course, just being nominated is, for us, a tremendous honor.

For much of the rest of our community, this week's bad news came in the form of a big-ass new jail and courthouse -- and at the expense of transportation, roads and bridges, and public health.

The $41-million project was approved on Monday on a 4-1 vote from a commission whose individual behaviors bordered on the bizarre -- from the pompous (Tom Huffman) to the mute (Ed Jones) to the autocratic (Duncan Bremer) to the downright rude (Chuck Brown).

It was exactly a month ago when voters rejected 2-1 a proposal for a new jail, and dozens of people flocked to Monday's hearing in protest. The commissioners variously acted punch-drunk and gleeful, clearly getting a kick out of disparaging those who disagreed with them.

Ed Jones just sat there, with a blank look on his face, saying nothing.

Huffman rolled his eyes while a blind man talked about the hardships of living without public bus service.

Bremer blamed us stupid people for "abdicating" our responsibility in understanding the facts of life. With all due respect for Bremer, bullshit. No one was in on this backroom deal but the people who secretly devised it. The rest of us were blindsided.

Even Commissioner Brown joined Huffman, getting their jollies by lambasting City Councilwoman Sallie Clark.

Brown is clearly old enough to remember the decorum of the past, when elected officials treated other elected officials with dignity and respect. After Monday, it's obvious that long gone are the days when Brown himself called on men who came before the board of commissioners to "remove your headgear out of respect for the ladies" when approaching the podium.

Only Commissioner Jeri Howells showed any compassion -- or indication that she was actually listening to the people in the audience. At one point, she attempted to read her colleagues the riot act, noting the arrogance of exceeding authority and ignoring the will of the voters. Her colleagues should be embarrassed by their antics. But it is clear that they could care less.

For the past couple of weeks, angry constituents have bantered around the words "recall election" -- which is difficult, time-consuming and requires a sort of strident devotion. The last time anyone attempted to remove a local commissioner from office, the target was Betty Beedy, who ultimately lost re-election to Huffman.

Citizen activist Jim Alice Scott notes that in Beedy's case, people were embarrassed and offended by her racist and sexist rantings. This time, Scott says, the government entity itself -- and the people it's supposed to serve -- is being damaged by the commissioners' actions.

Following Monday's vote, the recall discussion has begun in earnest.

The Committee for Responsible County Government has scheduled a town meeting on Saturday, Dec. 14, at the City Auditorium, 221 E. Kiowa St., from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

The public is urged to attend.

-- degette@csindy.com

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