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D-49 parent cleans up his act


Anti-Obama sign had been visiting elementary school daily

Parents of children attending Falcon School District 49's Stetson Elementary were irate earlier this month.

Shortly after the Nov. 4 election, a parent at the school began picking up and dropping off his child in a vehicle with the words "Fuck Obama" scrawled in large letters on the back. At first, school officials weren't sure what their legal rights were, but apparently they were able to resolve the problem; the offending obscenity has since been removed from the man's truck.

Courts have long ruled that First Amendment rights are limited on school property, especially when it comes to obscenity and threats, says Loring Wirbel, local co-chair for the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Never assume that it's full free speech on school grounds for either students or parents," he says. "It is not. Not even close."

Apparently, parents aren't the only ones glad to see the foul language removed. Mike Patterson, a 77-year-old crossing guard at Stetson, says he doesn't take kindly to potty-mouthed words around the kids.

"He was fooling with the wrong guy," Patterson says coolly. "I'll bust him in the kneecaps with a 2-by-4 to get his attention." JAS

Focus cuts 202 jobs

With donations down, Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs-based conservative Christian nonprofit, announced this week it will lay off 149 workers and eliminate 53 vacant positions.

Focus spokesman Gary Schneeberger says the organization would have needed a $160 million budget for fiscal year 2009 in order to maintain all staff and services at 2008 levels. But at this point, the budget is only $138 million. Like many nonprofits, Focus has been hit hard as families cut back on spending and giving in the tough economy.

"We're like everybody else, watching the economy to see what it does," Schneeberger says. "The reality is, we're a donor-supported organization."

Schneeberger says Focus will still provide counseling and resources to families. JAS

Apartment vacancies drop

Apparently, there is some good news in the local housing market.

The Colorado Division of Housing's third-quarter survey results show that apartment vacancies in Colorado Springs are down from the previous quarter. City vacancies are sitting at 9.2 percent, down from 10.2 percent earlier in the year (though still higher than last year's third-quarter rate of 8.6 percent).

The Security/Widefield/Fountain area had the highest vacancy rate in the metro area, with 24 percent of apartments unoccupied. The northeast and far-northeast sections of the city fared best, with vacancy rates of 7.5 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively. JAS

More drilling on horizon

The Bureau of Land Management is seeking public comments as it looks at opening nearly 20,000 acres to oil and gas drilling near Gunnison. The agency is planning for an environmental assessment in the waning days of a presidential administration that has produced a vast increase in approved oil and gas leases in Colorado.

In August, the BLM leased nearly 55,000 acres for drilling on the Roan Plateau near Rifle despite vocal protests from environmentalists, hunters and others about the impacts from new road development, traffic and chemicals used in drilling. Other Western states have seen similar expansion of drilling activity.

Comments on the Gunnison proposal should be sent by Dec. 12 to Thane Stranathan, Uncompahgre Field Office, 2465 S. Townsend Ave., Montrose, CO 81401. AL

GLBT stories welcomed

Local response has been warm thus far to the gay-community-produced publication Colors of Courage, according to Ryan Acker, executive director of the Pikes Peak Gay & Lesbian Community Center (aka the Pride Center of Colorado Springs).

The free 88-page book is a compendium of poetry and life-stories across subjects such as childhood, relationships, parenting and spirituality, from local gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents.

Colors of Courage hit local pickup sites, including Pikes Peak Library District libraries and several bookstores, in conjunction with National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11.

"It's been empowering for members of our community," says Acker, "and we've had feedback that it's been really helpful for learning about different points of view."

Acker says the Pride Center is already discussing avenues for re-creating the project, perhaps next year. MS

Police open DNA lab

On Nov. 21, Colorado Springs police will finally enter a new age of crime fighting, with the opening of the Colorado Springs Metro DNA Lab.

"It's been a long process to get this lab opened and a lot of resources, a lot of grants," police Lt. Jane Anderson says.

Before the lab opened, local police had to send DNA samples to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for processing. Getting results often took six to eight months depending on the type of case and the state lab's backlog. Now that Springs police have their own lab, they expect to process samples in 45 days.

Colorado Springs becomes the state's second police department (after Denver) to have its own DNA lab. The cost was approximately $1.5 million. JAS

Intersections done early

Attention, motorists: The Powers Boulevard and Woodmen Road interchange is finished, well ahead of schedule.

The $26 million Colorado Department of Transportation project was planned to be done in mid-2009. With the project finished, construction will no longer inconvenience the 100,000 vehicles that pass through the intersection every day. Traffic on Powers can pass over the intersection, since signals have been removed. CDOT also completed the first section of a trail through the area, making it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Also, the new intersection at Constitution Avenue and Circle Drive has opened. City officials expect some lane closures as improvements continue. The project includes improvements to the Rock Island Trail. JAS

Compiled by Anthony Lane, Matthew Schniper and J. Adrian Stanley.

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