ACLU sues over postcards
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa is facing a class-action lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Colorado, charging that he, as head of the county's jail, is violating the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution with a new policy that allows inmates to send only postcards for outgoing personal mail.
After installing the policy, Maketa said he expected it would save time and money and cut back on crime sometimes orchestrated through letters. Maketa said he did not feel the violation infringed on rights of inmates, as they still could communicate via postcards, phone calls and in-person visits. They also could continue using envelopes for mail that's legal in nature.
Mark Silverstein, ACLU of Colorado legal director, disagrees: "This postcard-only policy severely restricts prisoners' ability to communicate with their parents, children, spouses, domestic partners, sweethearts, friends or almost anyone else who does not fall within the jail's narrow exception to the newly imposed ban on outgoing letters," he says in a release. "This unjustified restriction on written communications violates the rights of both the prisoners and their correspondents."
Recently, the ACLU filed suit against Boulder County for a similar policy. This new lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Denver, says that gay prisoners are hesitant to write partners for fear of being outed in the jail; that inmates have not been able to discuss medical conditions with family members, and are afraid to give parenting advice to a spouse for fear their kids will read it first; that they can't communicate privately with clergy members or reporters; and that they don't have room on postcards to share art or quotations, or submit articles for publication. — JAS
No bikes on walks
Bicyclists, skateboarders and roller skaters are banned from sidewalks in Acacia Park and the Pioneers Museum block under an ordinance adopted Tuesday by the City Council on a 7-2 vote, with Tom Gallagher and Sean Paige voting no.
While those who like to roll rather than walk were already banned from downtown sidewalks, adding park areas within the city's core arose from complaints that bicyclists were endangering children using the Uncle Wilber fountain in Acacia Park, Vice Mayor Larry Small says.
Paige called the measure "a silly ordinance" unworthy of Council's time: "I've just not heard of a lot of bloodshed and carnage in Acacia Park because of people on bicycles and roller skates." — PZ
Aztec to stay; RAP may go
Homeward Pikes Peak's emergency homeless housing program at the Aztec Motel on Platte Avenue is shifting focus, executive director Bob Holmes says. The program will house small families, rather than the mostly singles and couples it has in the past. Holmes thinks he has enough grant and government funding to keep a family-centered program running through April 15, 2011.
Meanwhile, the grant-funded Resource Advocate Program, part of Springs Rescue Mission, will end if it cannot secure $50,000 by Oct. 1. The money would keep the program going for another six months.
In RAP, advocates — many of whom are formerly homeless — act as ongoing counselors to homeless individuals in finding services they need, at their pace. These advocates stay with their homeless clients until they are off the streets and dealing with the long-term problems that got them there in the first place.
RAP is used extensively by the Colorado Springs police's Homeless Outreach Team, which works to help homeless campers find places to live. To help RAP, call Springs Rescue Mission at 632-1822, or visit springsrescuemission.org. — JAS
Clerk debate set for Monday
County Commissioner Wayne Williams and Public Trustee Tom Mowle, the candidates for El Paso County clerk and recorder in the November general election, will have a debate at 6 p.m., Monday, Sept. 20 at Colorado Springs Christian School's auditorium, 4845 Mallow Road (off Austin Bluffs Parkway, east of Nevada Avenue). Admission will be free.
Local candidates in other races have also been invited to speak at the event, which is sponsored by the Independent and the Constitutionalist Today. — RR
EDC audit in 2011
Following impassioned arguments from City Councilor Sean Paige, the city has agreed to audit the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp., which receives city funding.
But not until 2011.
Paige, long a critic of city funding flowing to the EDC, got enough support from Councilors for the audit, but opponents noted the EDC is independently audited every year and an audit would cost the city thousands of dollars. Some accuse Paige of singling out the EDC for extra scrutiny.
Paige has said the EDC's yearly audits cover very limited territory. He says the public deserves a more detailed analysis of how its money is being spent. — JAS
Sales tax figures still rising
City sales and use tax collections were 1.9 percent higher in August 2010 than August 2009, keeping with a trend from throughout the year. Collections have increased 5.18 percent compared with the first eight months of 2009.
Grocery stores and sales to business showed largest gains; utilities and auto repairs and leases were the only categories to show decreases. — JAS
Burn precautions imposed
As forest fires burned near Boulder and Loveland and dry weather continued, the Colorado Springs fire department imposed burn restrictions this week, saying the city's wildland fire danger is high.
Restrictions prohibit bonfires, fireworks, model rockets and recreational fires. Outdoor burning is allowed only for approved agencies, and smoking is limited to inside vehicles and where allowed in buildings.
The fire department called current conditions, including low moisture levels in grass and weeds, "very serious" and noted fire season is still in full swing. Information about fire restrictions is at springsgov.com/page.aspx?navid=1990.
Meanwhile, Springs Utilities announced plans to conduct a controlled burn on 115 acres of Pikes Peak's North Slope to reduce potential fuels and improve forest health. Utilities said in an e-mail that it will work with the Colorado State Forest Service to assure the fire is managed safely. — PZ
Lights, camera, action!
New cameras begin snapping photos of red-light runners at four intersections Thursday, but drivers will get only warnings for a month. Citations will be issued by mail starting Oct. 15.
The four crossings are: northbound Nevada Avenue at Bijou Street, eastbound Barnes Road at Oro Blanco Drive, westbound Platte Avenue at Murray Boulevard, and westbound Platte Avenue at Circle Drive.
For more, go to springsgov.com. — PZ
Rally opposes strong mayor
Don't llike the idea of a strong mayor? Or just want to learn more about why it might be a bad idea? The League of Women Voters of the Pikes Peak Region will kick off its opposition at 9:30 a.m., Saturday at Colorado College's Slocum Commons.
League member Jane Merritt says the city manager form of government has worked for the city for 90 years. "We have fiscal problems, not managerial problems," she says.
Merritt adds the League opposes the measure because of "the possibility of a single mayor being bought and paid for by developers, and that seems to be where a lot of the push is coming from this time. It's easier to influence one person."
George Fellows, former longtime Spring city manager, will speak. RSVP to Mary Alice Ayling at 633-2376 or firstname.lastname@example.org. — PZ
Balink bails on Maes
Last week, El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Bob Balink jumped ship as campaign treasurer for embattled Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes, saying he's too far away to handle ongoing duties.
Maes has been fined for campaign finance violations related to reporting requirements, and Balink stepped in a few days after the Aug. 10 primary "to help in the area of tracking expenditures and contributions," Balink said in an e-mail to a Denver radio station.
"So I stepped up to assist the Republican party nominee, and for about 2 1/2 weeks we set up processes and procedures to accomplish that task with the help of office manager and asst treasurer CJ Garbo," he wrote. "... But I do not have the time needed to monitor those processes on a daily basis from 65 miles away."
While other Republican leaders are putting distance between themselves and Maes, who's been painted as increasingly unelectable, Balink is hanging in there. Sort of.
"I remain in support of the assembly and primary process," he wrote, "which selected Dan Maes as the Republican nominee." — PZ
Compiled by Ralph Routon, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.