Columns » Newsbriefs

News Briefs

Politicians reap unlimited cash gifts

Politicians reap unlimited cash gifts

State lawmakers will be able to continue accepting unlimited cash gifts from lobbyists, political supporters and others after a legislative committee on Tuesday killed Senate Bill 174, which would have banned such goodies.

Rep. Bill Sinclair, a Colorado Springs Republican, sponsored the bill in the state House of Representatives. But Sinclair himself voted against it when it came before the House State Affairs Committee, which he chairs.

Sinclair could not be reached for comment by press time to explain his switch.

In all, seven Republicans voted to defeat the bill, including Sinclair and Colorado Springs Reps. Bill Cadman and David Schultheis. They were joined by one Democrat, while three Democratic representatives favored the proposal.

The bill had received bipartisan support in the Senate, which passed it on Feb. 23. Among its Senate backers was Sen. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican.

The bill's chief Senate sponsor, Democratic Sen. Ron Tupa from Boulder, said the intent was to plug a loophole in Amendment 27, the campaign-finance reforms approved by voters in 2002. The amendment restricts how much money legislative candidates can receive for their political campaigns, but candidates can still accept unlimited cash and in-kind donations to help cover office expenses and other costs they incur as legislators.

"It just undermines Amendment 27," Tupa said of the loophole. "It's a shame."

-- Terje Langeland

City considers doubling charges for documents

The Colorado Springs City Council is considering whether to charge citizens twice as much for photocopies of public documents, though some council members are expressing doubts about the proposed fee hike.

City Attorney Patricia Kelly on Tuesday urged the council to double the fee charged for most copies, from 50 cents per page to $1.

Kelly said requests for records have been increasing steadily. Upping the amount charged, she maintained, would "standardize" the city's fees since the police department already charges $1 for copies of criminal records.

Requests for public records typically come from companies and individuals, including members of the news media and lawyers seeking access to criminal records, as well as from ordinary citizens.

State law allows the city to charge up to $1.25 per page. Still, several council members questioned the proposed increase.

"I wonder if it's going to discourage citizens" from seeking information, said Vice Mayor Richard Skorman. "I'm concerned that this is a burden on people."

Mayor Lionel Rivera agreed, saying the city already receives complaints that the copy charges are too high. "I would think 50 cents per page is adequate," Rivera said.

Kelly told council members that the proposed $1 fee reflects the city's actual costs of providing copies.

However, at least three businesses within two blocks of City Hall provide photocopies at rates ranging from 3 cents to 8 cents per page.

Some council members said they'd like to see evidence of why the city should charge $1. "I have not seen any supportive data for these rates," said Councilman Larry Small.

Citizens who addressed the council also objected.

"Information is the lifeblood of our system of government," said Walter Lawson, a local activist. Many city reports exceed 100 pages, which means a citizen would have to pay more than $100 to receive a copy, he pointed out.

Kelly, however, questioned whether this would stop people from getting records. "I don't believe, personally, that it will dissuade anyone," she said.

The council is scheduled to revisit the issue on April 27.

--Terje Langeland

Council to hear opinions on I-25 widening

The Colorado Springs City Council will seek input from citizens about a proposed $120-million widening of Interstate 25 through the core of the city, at an April 27 public hearing in council chambers.

The Colorado Department of Transportation, which recently completed an environmental assessment of the widening plan, will make the decision about whether to proceed with the project. However, council members plan to vote on whether to endorse the plan.

Everyone on the council appears to back the overall project, which would expand the heavily congested I-25 to three continuous lanes, plus a high-occupancy lane, in each direction from Briargate Parkway to the Martin Luther King bypass. The project would also involve major reconstruction of some interchanges.

But the biggest question is whether the council should request that the Transportation Department address concerns raised by residents in the North End neighborhood, north of downtown. North End residents worry that the highway widening will lead to excessive noise in their neighborhood and have hired an attorney to represent them in the process.

Area residents say they don't oppose the project but that they want the Transportation Department to take steps to limit the noise. Department officials, however, have said the project won't increase the noise to a level that requires any such steps.

The Transportation Department is currently accepting public input on the project's environmental assessment, copies of which are available at area libraries and at www.inter

The department will also host a public hearing on the proposed project, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on April 22, at the Le Baron Hotel, 314 W. Bijou St.

--Terje Langeland

Add a comment

Clicky Quantcast