Buckland concerned about potential
Despite omnipresent images of people walking around in surgical masks, as of Wednesday morning no cases of swine flu had been reported in Colorado. Almost 100 cases of swine flu had been confirmed in the United States, with one death confirmed, that of a child in Texas. The disease is believed to have caused at least 150 deaths in Mexico.
Kandi Buckland, director of the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment, says the virus is particularly concerning because it is entirely new to humans, who'll thus have no resistance to it.
"It has the potential to set up for a possible pandemic," she says.
Several cases from El Paso County have been submitted for testing. Buckland says there is much residents can do to minimize its spread, if and when it does arrive here. To stay healthy, people should wash their hands frequently and avoid those who are sick. Buckland says those who are sick should stay home.
The health department has posted information on swine flu at elpasocountyhealth.org. People can also call a state help line for information: 877/462-2911. — AL
Farewell, Dan Cleveland
Few can claim to have done as much to keep Colorado Springs full of wide-open spaces as Dan Cleveland, who has announced he will retire as executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition on May 15.
Cleveland helped pass the sales-tax-driven Trails, Open Space and Parks program that has given the city Red Rock Canyon, Stratton Open Space, Corral Bluffs, White Acres and Cheyenne Mountain State Park, as well as trail extensions and neighborhood parks. Cleveland worked to preserve land in El Paso and Teller counties, too.
He says he'll continue to work with TOSC to ease the transition, and he'll stay on the city's planning commission. But retirement will allow him more time for his family and for work on a book he's writing.
"I have all kinds of mixed emotions," Cleveland says. "I know I'll miss it. I've worked my whole life, and this is something I feel like was really giving back to community."
Vince Cloward, the current assistant director, will serve in his place on an interim basis. — JAS
Care and Share CEO resigns
The area's needy have lost one of their greatest advocates.
Nicholas Saccaro, president and CEO of Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, which provides staples for charities across the region, has announced his resignation. Saccaro has accepted a job as the vice president/general manager of Revolution Foods' new branch in the Denver area.
Care and Share has been dealing with increasing demand as more people have found themselves out of jobs. While working to meet the challenge, Saccaro oversaw the building of a multimillion-dollar warehouse off Powers Boulevard in eastern Colorado Springs, which greatly increases the organization's ability to store food, particularly refrigerated and frozen items.
"This decision to leave the organization has weighed heavily on me and my family, but after everything Care and Share has accomplished and the strides we've made in the fight against hunger, I know it's time to let someone else take the reins," Saccaro wrote in a company newsletter.
Saccaro's last day will be May 13. Chief Operating Officer Alex Edwards will fill his position on an interim basis during a national search for Saccaro's replacement. — JAS
Suicide forum announced
Back in 2004, a study by the National Association of County and City Health Officials uncovered a dark secret: Of the 53 largest U.S. cities, only Las Vegas had a higher suicide rate than Colorado Springs.
Pikes Peak Behavioral Health Group has been trying to get to the bottom of the problem ever since. In a soon-to-be-unveiled analysis, the group found disturbing trends, including evidence that veterans are killing themselves at a disproportionate rate.
That, and other findings, will be discussed at the "El Paso County's Suicide Rate — Cause for Alarm?" community forum on Wednesday, May 20 at Crowne Plaza Hotel, 2886 S. Circle Drive. The event, from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., will feature local and state experts and keynote speaker Thomas Joiner, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Florida State University and author of Why People Die by Suicide.
The event, which includes lunch, costs $30 per person. To RSVP, call Sharon Hunnicutt at 314-4309 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. — JAS
Tilley leaves arts post
After 15 years serving as president of the Pikes Peak Arts Council, Eve Tilley will step down May 21. Taking her place is local artist and council secretary Jay Miller.
Although Tilley jokes she still doesn't know quite what the council should do in the community, she explains that one of her main PPAC projects has been to uphold its financial sponsorships.
"I think the primary purpose under my leadership," she says, "was to offer 501(c)3 status on a temporary basis to artists and organizations who had brilliant ideas and were not going to last long enough to get their own 501(c)3."
Miller, Tilley and other board members have talked since January about leadership changes.
"He's already started to change the face of the PPAC," Tilley says of Miller, specifically citing Miller's PPAC MicroGrants, $100 grants to be awarded monthly to local artists who apply. The money can then be used however they choose.
The council, formed in 1968, has sponsored local artists and culture organizations and produced events such as the Pikes Peak Arts Fest. — EA
Democracy on the Web
Don't trust that anonymous person in front of the supermarket offering to register you to vote? Too lazy to fill out a paper form? Relief may be on the way.
Colorado's Legislature has passed HB1160, which would allow voters to register online at the Secretary of State's Web site. The bill, which received wide bipartisan support, appears on its way to becoming law, but the House will need to give final approval to the Senate-amended bill, before sending it to Gov. Bill Ritter for his signature. — JAS
UCCS votes for change
After a long and sometimes bruising school year for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, student body elections this spring ended on a high note. Daniel Garcia and James Burge, both of whom are openly gay, were elected president and vice president for next year, according to Crystal Duckhorn, co-chair of the student group Spectrum.
"It's pretty amazing for this campus, and certainly historical," Duckhorn wrote in an e-mail.
Garcia defeated David Williams, the current UCCS student presiden, who came under fire earlier in the school year after he opted not to sign a funding request from Spectrum to support a "coming out day" celebration, citing conflicting religious beliefs. He could face an impeachment trial in the student senate before the end of this school year. — AL
Back to school?
With the job market falling to bits, take note: Colorado Springs' Education Fair will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday, May 6 in the City Auditorium at 221 E. Kiowa St. There, you can talk to representatives from dozens of small to large local schools, and find out which one best suits you.
Plus, there's free parking. — JAS
Local Dem gets in with county
Jason DeGroot, chair of the El Paso County Democratic Party, found out Wednesday morning he's been chosen for a second volunteer position — he's one of four new members of El Paso County's Citizen Outreach Group.
The group, known as COG, was formed in 2005 to help improve communication between county commissioners and residents. Commissioners just expanded it to 15 members with the addition of DeGroot as well as Bryan Jack, a battalion chief with the Tri-Lakes Fire Department;Kenneth Valdez, owner of an insurance agency; and Margaret LeClair, a systems engineer and analyst.
DeGroot says he applied for the position in December, before he was elected Democratic Party chair, and heard nothing more about it until he was contacted by the Indy. He says he's honored to be appointed and sees no difficulty managing both positions.
"I'll be there as Jason DeGroot, a citizen of the county," he says. — AL
No nights at this museum
City budget problems are rearing their head at one of the Springs' historic treasures.
The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, located at 215 S. Tejon St., will cut its hours on May 1 to save money amid the city's financial troubles. The new hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, which shaves an hour off the end of the museum work day and eliminates Sunday summer hours. The Starsmore Center for Local History, the museum's research center, will be open from noon to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
Current exhibits at the museum include Going for the Gold: Pikes Peak or Bust; Ancient Colorado Springs: The Paleontology of Red Rock Canyon; and One Man and His Vision: City Founder, William J. Palmer.
Admission to the museum will continue to be free. — JAS
More stimulus money blowing to Colorado
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden could ratchet up its research on alternative energy sources using an expected infusion of cash from federal stimulus funds.
President Barack Obama's new Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, announced Wednesday morning that the lab will receive close to $200 million for facility upgrades and research on wind and other energy sources. U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet praised the funding decision and trumpeted its effect on the state's economy.
"This new infusion of federal funding will help accelerate those efforts, creating jobs, hastening our recovery and laying the foundation for a cleaner, more sustainable energy future," Bennet said in a news release.
Colorado Springs' largest stimulus gift appears to be a $35 million grant that will go to the widening of Woodmen Road. — AL
Compiled by Edie Adelstein, Anthony Lane and J. Adrian Stanley.