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10 tips about local government

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No. 1. In 2011, Colorado Springs voters approved a switch to a "strong-mayor" form of government, giving the mayor control of operations and most spending. City Councilors, once basically in charge of everything, are now limited to setting policy and overseeing the city auditor. The transition has been ... rough, not least because Mayor Steve Bach has wasted no time in replacing longtime city employees and reshaping the way much city business works.

2. Bach's office is in the City Administration Building (30 S. Nevada Ave.), as are most city operational offices, including those of the city attorney, public communications, city clerk, human resources and the like. If you have a question for the mayor (or one of his support staff), visit bachsoffice.com, where you'll find e-mail, phone and social media contacts.

3. City Council, a nine-member elected body, meets the second and fourth Mondays of the month for informal sessions with presentations and discussion but no action taken, and the second and fourth Tuesdays, when Council does take formal action. All meetings, unless otherwise posted, happen at City Hall (107 N. Nevada Ave.). To speak publicly before Council, sign up before formal meetings; Council has been known to limit citizens to three minutes each.

4. The city actually has a decent web presence at springsgov.com. If you click "Online services," you'll find information and forms for everything from obtaining a block-party permit to paying parking tickets. If you're more of a traditionalist, call the city's all-purpose number, 385-CITY.

5. Unlike city government, which is at least nominally nonpartisan, all five members of the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners proudly trumpet their Republican credentials. You can find them meeting at 9 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday in Centennial Hall (200 S. Cascade Ave.).

6. Most other county services, detailed at elpasoco.com, originate in the Citizens Service Center (1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road). Come here to register to vote, pay taxes (among the country's lowest), register your vehicle, sign up for food assistance, look for a job, get vaccinations for overseas travel and more.

7. For emergencies, 911 is the number to call. Otherwise, for Colorado Springs police, dial 444-7000; for the county sheriff's office, 390-5555. The city also allows you to report certain crimes in an online portal at springsgov.com. Click "Departments," then scroll down to "Police."

8. Roads here generally aren't terrible, and both the city and county will accept a heads-up on a pothole. If your complaint is for the city, try 385-7623; if it's for the county, go with 520-6891.

9. Colorado Springs Utilities made news in 2010, when the budget crunch led Councilors (who serve as the board of this municipal enterprise) to turn off roughly 9,000 of the city's 25,000 streetlights. Nowadays, they're all lit again — except for the broken or burned-out ones. To report one of those, call 448-4800.

10. In some of our lovely parks, you can rent a pavilion. For a county park, try 520-7529; for a city park, visit springsgov.com. Click on "Residents," then scroll down to "Parks, Trails and Open Spaces."

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