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Panhandling enforcement, city donates land, and more


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City Council members, Mayor John Suthers and other civic leaders have asked voters to support 2C. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • City Council members, Mayor John Suthers and other civic leaders have asked voters to support 2C.

'Vote yes' draws donations

Money poured in to Springs Citizens Building the Future, the "vote yes" committee for the Issue 2C city tax hike for potholes that was decided by voters on Tuesday.

As of Friday, Oct. 30, the committee raised $387,402 and spent $358,764. Less than $10,000 of that was spent in Colorado Springs, while large payments for canvassing, mailing, postage, radio ads, media placement and campaign consulting went to outfits in Denver, Greenwood Village, Grand Junction, Florida and Virginia.

Among the biggest donors: Nor'wood Limited Inc., owned by developer David Jenkins, $20,000; Associated General Contractors of Colorado (Denver), $15,000, and local businessman Phil Lane, $12,500.

Contributing $10,000 each were The Broadmoor, Pikes Peak Electrical Partnership, Transit Mix Concrete, and Issues Mobilization Committee (Realtors, of Englewood).

The amount raised prior to the election bested the $352,885 spent to promote a ballot measure a year ago to impose fees for a regional storm drainage authority. That measure failed. — PZ

375 panhandling cases tossed

Following decisions in a state court and the U.S. Supreme Court, Colorado Springs officials have continued to backpedal on panhandling enforcement.

The city has long had laws against aggressive panhandling, which remain in place. But records show that police have also ticketed people for legally passively panhandling — generally just holding a sign asking for money.

An investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, which has written several letters to the city complaining about the tickets, found the city had jailed hundreds of people who could not pay fines for panhandling, even though the violation doesn't carry a jail term. (Allegedly, some "offenders" were actually legally passively panhandling.)

In a recent press release, however, the ACLU notes that the city has sought to correct its past actions by "dismissing charges, vacating outstanding fines and sentencing requirements, and voiding warrants in 375 active panhandling-related cases."

The city is also retraining police to ensure people are not ticketed for passive solicitation in the future.

On Oct. 30, City Attorney Wynetta Massey sent a letter to ACLU Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein detailing the city's rationale in prosecuting panhandling cases, announcing the dismissal of hundreds of cases, and addressing specific cases that the ACLU had concerns with.

Silverstein seemed satisfied with the letter from Massey, stating in a press release: "We appreciate the City Attorney's prompt, thorough, and positive response to the ACLU's reporting that homeless and impoverished individuals had been inappropriately cited, prosecuted, and sentenced for violating panhandling laws that they didn't actually violate." — JAS

Acre declared surplus

Later this month, City Council will vote on transferring, at no cost, one acre downtown to an entity controlled by David Jenkins, chairman of Nor'wood Development Group, the region's biggest developer.

The 42,766-square-foot strip of land is located at 228 W. Cimarron St. and 400 S. Sierra Madre St., the planned site of the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame.

City officials say in documents the city has no use for the property, which is contaminated with pollutants from decades of operations of a gas plant nearby.

As noted in the resolution authorizing the transfer: "Due to its shape and size, utilization of the Property has limited potential development value to the City for its purposes; and ... no City department or enterprise is interested in receipt of the Property."

Council plans to give the land to SRPC LLC, which owns adjacent properties and will, in turn, give a piece of it to the museum.

The Jenkins family already has donated 1.7 acres to the museum. Cleanup for the parcel coming from the city is estimated at $354,710, while the property is worth only $76,979, the city says. — PZ

Domestic violence persists

October is gone, and with it Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence, however, still is alive and well in Colorado Springs.

TESSA, the local nonprofit agency that houses and helps victims of domestic violence, has seen steady demand for its services.

In its 2015 fiscal year (Oct. 1-Sept. 30), it provided 11,793 nights of protected shelter to 361 adults and kids; counseled 247 adult victims; provided in-person advocates for 1,578 clients in its main office; and provided community-based advocacy and support to another 1,775 people (including help with court, hospital advocacy, help navigating the Department of Human Services, etc.).

Community Outreach Coordinator Claire Chadwick says those numbers are generally similar to last year's counts, but that's because TESSA only has so much capacity. If there were more room in its Safehouse, for instance, the organization could easily fill it.

Colorado Springs Police Department spokesperson Lt. Catherine Buckley said that no numbers on the rate of domestic violence in the city were immediately available because the department doesn't classify domestic violence separately, instead placing the cases in larger categories such as "assault" or "harassment."

The department has handled three domestic violence-related murder-suicides in 2015, and a fourth domestic homicide with an arrest. — JAS

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