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Noted: Citizens Project award to Rosemary Harris Lytle


Harris Lytle labeled Divine

This year, to celebrate its 20th anniversary, Citizens Project will honor two activists and an advocacy organization for their work in promoting "equality, religious freedom, and respect for diversity."

Rosemary Harris Lytle, president of the local NAACP chapter and the state communications director for the ACLU, will receive the nonprofit's eighth annual Divine Award. According to Kristy Milligan, executive director of Citizens Project, Harris Lytle is being honored for work with "diverse organizations to ensure sustainable change."

Along with Harris Lytle, Citizens Project will award the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado a special Divine Organization Award. And local activist Sharon Berthrong will receive a Legacy Award.

The ceremony will be held from 5 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 2, at Stargazers Theatre. For more, see — CH

Centennial Hall gets update

The $1 million facelift of Centennial Hall is almost complete. About 140 county staff, including top elected brass and departments such as administration, finance, procurement and economic development, relocated to the building at 200 S. Cascade Ave. over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

The familiar customer-service counter design of the previous tenant, the county clerk and recorder, has morphed into a corporate setting with private offices for some, including the five county commissioners, and cubicles for others.

The move is part of a large-scale reshuffling of county offices. The county bought a new building on Garden of the Gods Road for six departments, is selling four old buildings, and is renovating other properties.

Centennial Hall's auditorium is not yet ready for commissioners' hearings, so they will continue to hold those at the Pikes Peak Regional Development Center, 2880 International Circle. Next up, the old county administration building at 27 E. Vermijo Ave., will be transformed into new headquarters for the county sheriff's office and its training academy.

Offices at Centennial Hall are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. A small clerk and recorder's branch remains in the building as well. — DK

Local tie to Sundance

A staff member from TESSA, the local nonprofit that works with sexual assault and domestic violence victims, has a role in a documentary that premieres at the Sundance Film Festival this week.

Joel Swanson was interviewed for The Invisible War, which investigates the prevalence and consequences of sexual assault within the American military. Swanson has worked TESSA's crisis line and as a social media coordinator for a year, and has spent five years in the field.

The film, described on Sundance's website as exposing a rape epidemic in the armed forces, is one of 16 films competing in the U.S. documentary category.

"Sexual assault in the armed forces is one of the most under-reported crimes in the United States today," Swanson says in the release. "A woman on active duty in the military has a greater risk of sexual assault than of being injured in combat." — PZ

Tim Leigh: the 1 percent?

City Councilor Tim Leigh recently commented on how alarming it would be for his middle-aged wife to happen upon a group of Occupy Colorado Springs activists, whom he characterized as unbathed protesters in Army clothes. Tuesday night, Leigh put himself in their company, joining more than a dozen Occupiers in downtown's Café Corto Coffee Gallery for an informal conversation.

He was reaching out, he said, not only to understand their goals and perspectives, but also to demonstrate his willingness to listen to citizens' concerns.

Much of the 90-minute conversation dwelled on possible fracking in eastern El Paso County, as well as issues of homelessness and poverty.

At one point, Occupier Raven Martinez stopped Leigh as he was explaining that he understands very well the economic system that many in the crowd see as oppressive — since he's used that system, he said, to make his wealth. "It sounds like you are aspiring to be in the 1 percent," Martinez said.

"I'm not aspiring," Leigh countered. "I'm probably in the 1 percent." — CH

State to county: Back off

El Paso County's proposed oil and gas regulations conflict with state law, the Attorney General's Office said in a Jan. 10 letter to the county.

The letter, written by Assistant AG Jake Matter Jr., states that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has no issue with the county's rules governing transportation, maintenance, site access, fire protection and emergency management. But other proposed rules "create operational conflicts with the COGCC's regulations," he writes, including water quality regulations and the county's proposed 14-step process for obtaining drilling approval, among others.

The county Planning Commission already has approved the rules, but final say rests with the Board of County Commissioners, which will take up the issue Jan. 31.

County Attorney Bill Louis says the letter is "under review," and county spokesman Dave Rose says, "The County Attorney's office doesn't agree entirely with the assistant attorney general's assessment." — PZ

Compiled by Chet Hardin, Debbie Kelley and Pam Zubeck.

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