Earlier this month, Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law the hotly contested mill levy freeze, a legislative effort to make local school districts shoulder the burden of public education.
By many accounts, the controversy is just beginning. The freeze, an amendment to the School Finance Act, would allow the state to kick fewer dollars toward public schools, freeing up monies for other programs. The initiative succeeded on a partisan vote, with Republicans deeming it a tax increase.
Now, some of the freezes opponents vow a lawsuit, saying it violates the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR. Jon Caldara, president of the libertarian Independence Institute, likened the measure to fiscal date rape as he announced his battle.
El Paso County Commissioner Douglas Bruce, who authored TABOR, says he doesnt expect to be named a plaintiff in the suit but will serve as an advisor.
Tax Ritter is going to be the governors name of choice among conservatives for as long as he is there, says Bruce, who adds that he has urged Attorney General John Suthers to file suit. NZ
D-8 opens superintendent search
Dwight Jones was not a micromanager, Cheryl Walker says. And if the Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 superintendent leaves, as expected, to become Colorado's next education commissioner, the district will do just fine with someone similar.
"We don't need someone to come in and fix everything," says Walker, assistant superintendent for business services. "We have good infrastructure."
Jones, who's been with D-8 since 2003, is the sole finalist in State Board of Education's search for a new commissioner, with an offer expected May 24. Under Jones' direction, the district has raised graduation rates, closed achievement gaps and increased student scores on statewide tests.
The school board has posted the superintendent position on its Web site and is accepting applications from both in and outside the district until June 18.
The district, which includes 5,900 students and expects thousands more as troops surge into Fort Carson in the next few years, will feel the loss, Walker says. She describes Jones as having a great drive to push everyone, including himself, to provide better services to the students. AL
Cops sue city for overtime
Five career Colorado Springs police officers, alleging they regularly worked unpaid hours, have filed a lawsuit against the city that if successful, a city attorney says, will cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
The suit seeks class-action status for the 400-officer department. It claims that for several years, the department did not pay officers for routine tasks such as completing case reports, gearing up for duty and fueling their vehicles.
"Police officers are required to complete all of the off-the-clock work and are subject to disciplinary action if not completed," alleges the suit, filed April 13 in U.S. District Court.
The suit claims the department violated the federal labor law that sets minimum wage and overtime standards. Generally, U.S. workers who toil more than 40 hours in a week are entitled to receive at least one and one-half times their regular pay for the extra hours, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
Deputy City Attorney Stacy Gatto says the city plans to aggressively fight the case.
"It doesn't appear the allegations have merit," she says, declining to elaborate since the city has yet to file paperwork. MdY
Attacks on homeless spike
A small group of men in their early 20s have repeatedly entered homeless camping areas with baseball bats and beaten homeless men.
Bob Holmes of Homeward Pikes Peak says eight men have been assaulted in recent weeks. Colorado Springs police have been notified of only two incidents. One man said he was attacked while looking for the perpetrators, but police suspect it was a case of transient-against-transient violence.
"Homeless people don't tend to run to the police when they have a problem," says Holmes. "A lot have arrest warrants."
Holmes hung signs at area service agencies, asking those with more information to come forward. So far, the perpetrators have not been caught. Holmes hasn't heard of additional attacks.
A homeless man was also stabbed at a camp on Monday. Police arrested a woman hiding in a nearby apartment complex, whom the man identified as his assailant. Holmes didn't know if the recent incident was connected to the beatings.
If you have any information regarding the attacks, call 444-7958 or 444-7452. NZ
Colorado group backs national green bills
The Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act in the U.S. Senate and Safe Climate Act in the House could help prevent global warming, according to Environment Colorado.
Matthew Garrington, spokesman for the group, says research shows the global-warming trend threatens the state economy with drought and forest fires.
"One obvious worry is tourism," he says.
The companion bills require better energy efficiency and the use of more renewables, such as wind and solar power. If passed, the bills by 2050 could reduce U.S. global warming by 80 percent.
Earlier this month, a United Nations panel found that if nothing changes, global pollution will skyrocket by as much as 90 percent by 2030, compared with 2000 levels. To prevent the advance of global warming, local, state and national governments should use existing technologies to cut harmful emissions in half by 2050, the panel found. MdY
Compiled by Amanda Lundgren, Michael de Yoanna and Naomi Zeveloff.