Task force opens up
After weeks of sparring over how much the public is entitled to know about the process of leasing city-owned Memorial Health System, the issue was scheduled for burial Wednesday afternoon.
That's when Memorial task force members were to be officially appointed by the entire Council. The official appointment of all members makes them subject to the state's Sunshine Law, which bars more than two at a time from meeting in private without giving public notice and admitting the public.
The task force had informally come into being a few months ago, with four Council members volunteering and then inviting others to join. Mayor Steve Bach and three others from the Regional Leadership Forum wanted to be part of the task force, but exempt from open-meetings mandates and other rules. A struggle ensued.
Amid growing public concerns, task force chair and Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin finally put her foot down last week and said all must be appointed and observe the law, or stay off the panel.
Appointees were expected to be Council members Martin, Brandy Williams, Tim Leigh and Merv Bennett; Leadership Forum reps Doug Quimby and Phil Lane (Chris Jenkins will not be appointed, at his request); Bach and his economic vitality specialist, Donna Nelson; former Councilor and former Memorial trustee Randy Purvis; Dr. David Corry, surgeon at Memorial; Memorial RN Carolyn Flynn; Dr. David Steinbruner of Memorial's emergency department; HealthSouth CEO Steve Schaefer; University of Colorado at Colorado Springs director of strategic planning Charlie Sweet; and Peak Vista's Dr. Michael Welch. — PZ
Great Parks party still on
Susan Davies, executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition, originally envisioned the Great Parks Festival as a get-out-the-vote effort. Davies had a leadership role in Great Parks, Great Communities, which wanted to put a measure on the upcoming county ballot, asking for a tax dedicated to regional parks maintenance. That measure was ill-fated.
But a festival celebrating the region's parks still is a darn good idea, Davies says, so TOSC, with El Paso County Parks, has put together the first Great Parks Festival.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday at Bear Creek Regional Park, locals can enjoy free activities like a soccer clinic, kite demonstration, family yoga, disc golf, a fly-fishing clinic and more. Families are encouraged to bring a picnic or buy barbecue on-site from Whole Foods. — JAS
AFA limits religion edict
While most Air Force bases widely distributed a warning from Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz about religious neutrality, the Air Force Academy kept the edict within a small circle of officers. This has triggered more allegations that the academy favors evangelical Christianity, with AFA airmen asking the Military Religious Freedom Foundation why they haven't seen the memo.
In a statement, the academy said Lt. Gen. Michael Gould "shared its contents with his subordinate USAFA commanders and senior leadership team members during a weekly staff meeting." Gould also stressed to them that religious neutrality should permeate every part of the academy, the statement said.
But what about everybody else? "The only place MRFF has had any complaints of [military members] not seeing this is the academy," says MRFF founder and academy grad Mikey Weinstein.
Calling Schwartz's memo "one of the critical watershed directives to come from the Pentagon in generations," Weinstein notes other Air Force leaders distributed it en masse through e-mails to all personnel. But not the academy. "This is an incredible embarrassment," he says. "It's clear the academy doesn't like the message."
At Peterson Air Force Base here, staff "promptly disseminated [Schwartz' message] throughout the wing," a spokeswoman says. — PZ
City recycling diverts tons
The city of Colorado Springs announced that since the Earth Day installation of 150 public trash and recycling bins downtown and at seven city parks, 20 tons of recyclables have been kept out of landfills.
According to data from project coordinator Greener Corners, that represents 41 percent of total waste collected during that time. Plugging that into calculators, "environmental equivalency factors" would be more than 330,000 kilowatt hours of energy saved, or 58,000 pounds of greenhouse gas averted.
Waste Management services bins, and Greener Corners sells ads to cover costs.
"When there's more recycling, there's more jobs that come from it indirectly, and more money coming from selling those products domestically and internationally," says Greener Corners principal Aaron Klein. He adds to expect more bins in 2012 during a phase-two effort as the program "continue[s] to build on its own success." — MS
Manitou joins election
For a while, it didn't look like Manitou Springs would participate in the El Paso County election that ends Nov. 1. There weren't enough candidates for four Council seats or for the mayoral office to warrant the ballot.
Mayor Marc Snyder and Ward 2 Councilor Coreen Toll are unopposed, but four seek three available at-large seats: former Manitou Councilors Nancy Barnes and Donna Ford, former Manitou employee Gary Smith and Randy Hodges. So all of Manitou will take part in the election. — JAS
Aztec looks for helping hand
Homeward Pikes Peak executive director Bob Holmes says he's waiting to hear from possible funders for his homeless outreach program headquartered at the Aztec Motel on East Platte Avenue.
The program, which has been funded through El Pomar Foundation, Springs Rescue Mission, the city of Colorado Springs and other donors, could shut down this winter if new money does not materialize. The program was expected to be taken over and fully funded by Springs Rescue Mission, according to an earlier agreement, but the Rescue Mission pulled out of the deal over the summer, instead stepping up its own efforts at battling homelessness and substance abuse.
That left the Aztec program high and dry. In a recent e-mail to interested parties, Holmes wrote: "At this point, due to funding uncertainties, we are looking at reducing the number of rooms utilized at the Aztec motel from 24 to 18 as of Nov. 1." He added that the "Bus Ticket Home" program was discontinued as of Sept. 15, and the outreach program (12 hours a week) will end Oct. 15.
As of a few days ago, 57 homeless people, including 29 children, still called the Aztec home. Holmes reports the program has helped more than 1,000 people since its founding about 18 months ago. — JAS
Compiled by Matthew Schniper, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.