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Public Eye



We've all seen the effect the local monopoly daily can have on public debate. The G is the main reason proposals to sell Memorial Hospital stay alive, and its editorial page becomes a de facto lobbying arm of the People's Libertarian Army every November.

But what happens when The G takes another tack, completely ignoring the negative implications of a feel-good issue it wants to promote? In the case of a small working-class downtown neighborhood, it may mean that homes get bulldozed.

Those homes in question belong to a small cluster of working-class homeowners who live near the Martin Drake Power Plant on South Sierra Madre Street.

And though many of those homeowners don't want to go anywhere, they've had the misfortune of living in the tracks of a proposed rail line that Colorado Springs Utilities wants to build through the neighborhood.

The rail line idea is connected to another proposal, by the El Pomar Foundation and the American Red Cross, to build a homeless shelter on power plant property, and knock down four more homes for a day-care center for shelter kids.

While The G has given ample room to those who are promoting the plan, it has given short shrift to those most affected by the project -- it's a group of about three dozen homeowners who are generally pretty angry about the way they're being treated.

The day after the shelter/rail spur/day-care plan was unveiled at a press conference, The G ran a Dec. 16 editorial that was downright gushing.

Headlined 'Compassion Anew,' the editorial lauded the campus complex as 'an extraordinary statement about the compassion of this community.' Though the editorial praised the rail spur idea, it made no mention of the homes that would be lost.

The editorial did make room to note, however, that the partnership behind the shelter 'has made a public commitment to work with the adjoining neighborhood to ensure that the project proves in the long run to be a source of revitalization.'

Exactly how should the city revitalize an area set to be boxed in by train tracks, a homeless mega-complex, a day-care center and a power plant? The editorial didn't say.

Since then, the daily's 'isn't-this-a-great-idea?' tone -- has continued. One story, headlined 'Neighbors Recognize the Need for Shelter,' included no interviews with nearby residents and focused solely on downtown developers.

Another story, 'Unique Alliance Shapes Shelter,' labeled an 'analysis,' chronicled the synergistic coincidences that made the project possible. No mention that the neighborhood was completely left out of the synergistic loop.

Several weeks later,The G failed to even report on news that residents -- freaked out by the city's plans for their neighborhood -- signed a letter to utilities director Phil Tollefson asking him to announce his intentions now.

Rather than live under the prospect of a rail spur down the line, some residents wanted to be bought out now. Doesn't exactly fit the 'neighbors-embrace-shelter' story line, does it?

Other stories have also superficially highlighted the proposal's positive dimensions, ignoring potential downfalls. But the kicker came this week, when G reporter Eric Gorski weighed in on the latest development: Utilities' intention to buy out only 10 homes and five undeveloped lots for a smaller rail spur.

Gorski's story basically spouted the power company's line that the new rail spur plan means the neighborhood can be preserved, though it contained no quotes from neighbors -- who are in fact sharply divided by the latest scheme.

Ten months after Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves at Columbine High School, it seems any hope for even modest state gun-control legislation has fizzled like a wet cap gun.

In a week capped off by the shooting of two more Columbine kids, the state legislature continued to gun down any serious attempts to regulate gun use, sales and ownership. Among the casualties:

a proposal that would require sellers to conduct criminal background checks of buyers at gun shows

a bill that would make owners liable for guns stored in an insecure way

legislation that would raise the legal gun ownership age from 18 to 21.

The list goes on. What kind of 'gun-control' efforts are still alive under the state dome? A plan to keep the ID's of concealed weapons permit holders secret is still on the table, while a proposal that would make it a felony for a felon to carry a gun is also alive and well, among other more politically 'safe' proposals.


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