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County looks at tax plan, hears from Bruce

Commissioners listen to possible ballot proposal

El Paso County leaders in the midst of their latest budget battle reacted in different ways to details of a proposed 1-cent sales tax that would help pay for governmental buildings and programs across the region.

"When we talk about shared revenue, the next step is shared government," Commissioner Jim Bensberg said.

Citizens for Effective Government, a group that backed a 2004 1-cent sales tax to form the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, has come up with a proposal for November's ballot that, if passed, would fund an expanded jail and other facilities, while also providing money for law enforcement and public-health functions.

The new sales tax would raise an estimated $72 million its first year. County and city officials are scheduled to review the proposal at a joint meeting June 27.

Commissioner Sallie Clark called the proposal a "good step" toward regionalization without going too far. AL

Like old times

Fresh from stirring up the state Legislature, Rep. Douglas Bruce seemed to have not missed a beat when he showed up Monday at a meeting of county commissioners.

Commission Chair Dennis Hisey greeted his old colleague as "Commissioner Bruce." Bruce responded with the threat of a lawsuit, calling their plan to count the value of certain county properties toward $3 million in emergency reserves required by TABOR "patently unconstitutional."

"You can say a building is cash if you want, but you'll be laughed out of court," Bruce said.

County commissioners, including Bruce's replacement Amy Lathen, disregarded Bruce's warning, arguing other governments in Colorado have taken similar steps. They later approved a list of cuts and financial shuffles to make up a projected budget shortfall of nearly $9 million, stripping the health department of $507,000 and transportation of $500,000. AL

South Nevada 'lining up'

Assistant City Manager Mike Anderson has told members of the South Nevada Merchants Association "the planets are lining up to make something happen" in the effort to revitalize South Nevada Avenue.

At a recent meeting, Anderson said that in addition to long-term planning for redevelopment, the city was interested in working with residents and business owners to develop a short-term plan. Quicker fixes will likely include roadway and lighting improvements, crime-fighting, creek cleanups and better control over aggressive panhandling.

Anderson says that should clear the way for a bigger makeover, being mapped out by the city, El Pomar Foundation, developers and other interested parties. JAS

New police spokesman chosen

The Colorado Springs Police Department has picked a new spokesman.

Lt. Dave Whitlock will be replacing Lt. Skip Arms. Arms has accepted a position as commander of the Information Services Division, which was formed in mid-2007.

Whitlock currently works the night shift in the Stetson Hills Division, as the patrol lieutenant. He has served with the department for 26 years, working in patrol, traffic, investigations, internal affairs, the training academy, metro VNI and public information. As the new spokesman, he will be responsible for communications with the media.

He will start on July 7, following on-the-job training with Arms. JAS

Groans for the Roan

The battle to prevent oil and gas drilling on western Colorado's Roan Plateau entered a new phase this week as the Bureau of Land Management announced 55,000 acres from the plateau will be put up for lease in August. Gov. Bill Ritter and Sen. Ken Salazar, who backed a plan to lease the plateau in phases, issued statements critical of the BLM plan.

"The BLM decision will vastly shortchange Colorado ... including the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in lease bonus payments," Ritter said.

The BLM said Roan drilling would go forward one ridge at a time and rules would protect streams, wildlife and scenery. AL

Concert aims to stop drilling

Country musician Clay Canfield will perform Wednesday, June 18, at a concert to benefit the Front Range Environmental Resource Coalition, which is trying to stop proposed gas drilling near a residential area west of Monument.

The two-hour concert is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Pinecrest Event Center, 106 Pinecrest Way, Palmer Lake. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Information is available at or by calling 488-0874. AL

Coalition forum to address health care

The activist Colorado Progressive Coalition will host a forum on the health care crisis from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 12, at the Colorado Springs Pride Center, 2508 E. Bijou St.

Community members are welcome to attend the forum and share concerns about health care. Participants will learn how to influence legislation and push for health care reform.

"It's up to all of us to speak out and make our opinions known to politicians who'll definitely be hearing from the wealthy and powerful lobbyists opposing reform," the Coalition's Leah Bry wrote in an e-mail. JAS

Compiled by Anthony Lane and J. Adrian Stanley.

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