Boost for bus drivers
In 2009, Colorado Springs city government pulled the plug on a transit contract — and an underfunded pension that went with it — leading to the layoffs of 70 people, including 47 bus drivers, many of whom had served the city for decades.
The move led to multiple lawsuits. But a big one is being settled, with the city announcing last week its plans to fork over $8 million to First Transit.
Both parties declined to comment on the details of the settlement. But former First Transit driver Dan Francis says he's been told that the lion's share of the money will be used to shore up the workers' pension fund, as expected.
That's not the end of the transit headache for the city, which may still face huge consequences for eliminating those jobs, which were protected through the Amalgamated Transit Union. Since transit gets money from the federal government, it must follow the federal government's rules regarding unions. The ATU says the city failed to do that, essentially engaging in union-busting.
Tom Buescher, ATU attorney, says that case is in the pretrial discovery stage, scheduled for trial Sept. 17. If the ATU wins, it could result in another big payout from the city, and possibly some compensation for the canned workers. — JAS
GOP blogger chastised
Michelle Morin might not be the most famous local Republican blogger, but she is no slouch.
As she notes on her website, in 2010 she received the Vern Bickel Grassroots Leadership Award from the Independence Institute, a Libertarian think tank. That same year, she earned Campaigns & Elections magazine's "Top 5 Influencer in the state of Colorado."
As the Indy first reported last week, Morin linked to an article on Facebook about alleged child-sex abuse committed by a married gay couple, stating, in part, that if society "keeps inching away from the family structure as it was intended ... pretty soon 2 married men raping their own sons WILL be un-sensational ..."
The inference, that pedophilia is a symptom of homosexuality, and one that will be allowed one day by a politically correct society, didn't sit well with a number of conservatives, as reported by coloradopols.com.
Morin had yet to respond as of press time. — CH
Morse has friends, too
While the effort to recall Senate President John Morse might be in full swing ("Ready, aim, recall," News, April 10), so is the effort to support the Colorado Springs Democrat. And on Sunday, supporters gathered at Penrose Library.
"It went really well, we had a great turnout," says Christy Le Lait, campaign director for the anti-recall effort. Le Lait, who is also the executive director of the local Democratic Party, points out that if the recall effort is successful, voters in El Paso County's Senate District 11 will vote this fall whether to recall Morse — at a cost of up to a half-million dollars. And then, the following year, because Morse is term-limited, they'll head back to the polls to vote again.
That said, two Democrats have already signaled their interest in running in 2014 for Morse's Senate seat: former state legislator Michael Merrifield and longtime Democratic activist Mike Maday. — CH
Stormwater move OK'd
The soon-to-be-overhauled City Council approved a resolution to support a regional approach to stormwater management on a 6-2 vote April 9.
In the past, such a move may have been considered little more than ceremonial. But Mayor Steve Bach has made it a political issue, by advocating that the city deal with its stormwater issues on its own.
Despite the mayor's objections, a Regional Stormwater Steering Committee of dozens of citizen volunteers (with assistance from El Paso County) is studying how best to approach the problem. Regionally, the price tag for needed stormwater capital projects is thought to exceed $900 million.
Once they make a recommendation, county commissioners may refer the issue — which would likely recommend a governance structure for stormwater management and a funding mechanism or tax — to the ballot. The support of City Council should help the cause, though it remains to be seen whether the new Council will be as keen on working regionally as the current one. — JAS
Flood meetings coming
Two neighborhood meetings addressing Waldo Canyon Fire-related flood issues are coming up.
The Ute Pass Flood Awareness & Emergency Preparedness Town Hall was rescheduled because of weather and will now take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, April 22 at Ute Pass Elementary School, 9230 Chipita Park Road.
Manitou Springs has a meeting at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 24 at Manitou Springs City Hall, 606 Manitou Ave. — JAS
No misstep by Dougan
The city's Independent Ethics Commission ruled last week that former City Councilor Angela Dougan didn't commit an ethics breach.
An election opponent, Bill Murray, accused Dougan of a violation for accepting a $1,000 campaign contribution from Comcast and then voting on a measure that might have impacted Comcast.
"No violation of this Code of Ethics shall be found to apply to ... [a] campaign contribution as defined by law," the four-member panel's letter stated, quoting the ethics code.
Dougan issued a statement, saying, "Just as I said the day the complaint was filed publicly and in conflict with city procedures, I knew I would be cleared of these frivolous and politically motivated charges."
Murray dropped out of the race early, but Dougan was defeated by Joel Miller in the April 2 election. — PZ
Tuition hiked at UCCS
Some undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs will face a 6-percent tuition hike next fall.
The change will affect Colorado-resident UCCS undergraduate students enrolled in the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, and Colorado-resident graduate students. Out-of-state students will see a hike of 4 percent. Rates will vary slightly among UCCS's colleges and programs.
According to a college press release: "Tuition increases are necessary because of demands from growth, and the uncertainty of sustained state support of public higher education in the future." — JAS
Polaris project underway
No stinking sequester will keep the Air Force Academy from building a giant glass pointy thing next to the Cadet Chapel.
Construction is underway on the $40 million Center for Character and Leadership Development, which is to be completed in late 2014. Most of the cost, $27.5 million, comes from the 2011 military construction budget, with the balance from donors.
"The steel and glass tower aligns with Polaris sending a powerful message to all that leadership and character development are paramount in all that we do," an academy official said in a news release. — PZ
Compiled by Chet Hardin, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.