Panhandling ban rolled out
Colorado Springs City Council got its first look Monday at an ordinance banning all solicitation inside the core downtown area, and is planning action for Sept. 11.
City Attorney Chris Melcher drafted the ordinance after researching limits for panhandling, a First Amendment-protected form of speech. Having considered laws around the country that have passed legal scrutiny, Melcher proposed focusing on downtown but excluding public gathering places such as Acacia Park, City Hall and Penrose Library. To the dismay of west-side activists and business owners, Melcher recommends against banning panhandling west of 31st Street; he believes extending the ban to other areas would make the law vulnerable.
The ban was first proposed by the mayor's Downtown Solutions Team, and Dave Munger, Council of Neighbors and Organizations president, spoke on behalf of that team. Though the city already bans aggressive panhandling, he said, shoppers and tourists are bothered by "persistent panhandling" and downtown needs a "more comfortable" environment to thrive.
Some Councilors, including a vocal Bernie Herpin, wished the zone were larger. Many were concerned it didn't include Acacia Park. Angela Dougan and Brandy Williams questioned the ban, calling aggressive panhandling the problem. Many pointed to people who give to panhandlers.
A map of the area will likely be included in the agenda (soon available at springsgov.com) for Council's Sept. 11 meeting, at which the public may comment. — J. Adrian Stanley
FREX finished Friday
If you've never taken the FrontRange Express commuter bus to Denver, your chances are evaporating. After a political spectacle that pitted City Council against Mayor Steve Bach, FREX was axed, with Bach saying he will use the savings to offset city costs for local bus service. FREX's last day is Aug. 31.
The city will also charge disabled riders 50 cents more to ride paratransit, bringing the one-way fare to $3.50. That will go into effect later this year. — J. Adrian Stanley
Parkside HOA strategizes
The Parkside at Mountain Shadows Owners Association seems to be getting on track after an Aug. 23 meeting about the Waldo Canyon Fire, which destroyed 141 of 178 Parkside homes. Homeowners later discovered that HOA manager Chuck Fowler and the board had not insured common areas and assets ("Neighborhood dissociation," News, Aug. 15).
Several committees will tackle issues ranging from insurance to rebuilding according to rules that include specific setback requirements, says HOA member Terry Rector. HOA member Jackie Calvano reports the membership might file suit to invoke the board's liability policy to pay for common-area damage, including cul-de-sacs and the sprinkler system. Encouraged by the committees, she said by e-mail: "Something is better than nothing." — Pam Zubeck
Bikes testing on Peak
For local cyclists, it's long been a gripe: Except for the annual Pikes Peak Cycling Hillclimb, no bikes are allowed on Pikes Peak Highway. Well, that's just changed.
The city and the U.S. Forest Service recently announced cyclists may ride the peak from Sept. 4 to 30, a test period that will help determine if cyclists should have permanent access. Riders must sign a liability waiver and use agreement, and pay regular admission fees. Children under 18 must be escorted by an adult.
Cycling activist Al Brody has ridden the highway and descended it on a unicycle. He wants the road open to cyclists and thinks it could become a tourist draw, adding: "I think a lot of people want to say, 'Hey, I biked Pikes Peak.'" — J. Adrian Stanley
Pool access limited
When the YMCA took over city pool operations earlier this year, many expected to visit their favorite cool-down spot any time between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
But with kids back in school, the Y has cut hours. City parks staffer Kim King says the move doesn't violate the Y's contract. Nevertheless, swimmers can now access Monument Valley Pool only on weekends.
The news is better for the next few days at Prospect Lake Beach and Wilson Ranch and Portal Pool. Weather permitting, they're open weekdays through Sept. 3 and weekends through Sept. 16.
Due to limited staffing, city-run fountains also are affected. Uncle Wilber Fountain in Acacia Park is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Julie Penrose Fountain in America the Beautiful Park is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, as well as Sept. 2 and 3. — J. Adrian Stanley
Lamborn, Akin compared
You know U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, the Missouri Republican who torpedoed his campaign last week with his theory on "legitimate rape" and pregnancy.
Local independent congressional candidate Dave Anderson has put out a release tying U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn to Akin. Anderson's campaign points to "legislation that would take away a rape survivor's access to health services. They've blocked efforts that would provide care for female military personnel who have been raped. These two even co-sponsored a bill that would subject women to humiliating, invasive medical procedures."
Lamborn's office did not respond to a request for comment. — Chet Hardin
Gessler's quest intensifies
Secretary of State Scott Gessler certainly is tenacious. Last week Gessler's office sent out thousands of form letters to registered voters, inquiring about proof of citizenship. That drew criticism from several immigrants rights organizations, but this week Gessler's office says he's stepping up the game.
According to a release, Gessler has struck a deal with the Department of Homeland Security to use that agency's Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program, which tracks immigration status. The release also answered how his office will handle those who receive a letter but don't respond: "Gessler announced that his office will hold hearings prior to taking any action on their voter records." — Chet Hardin