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Public Eye


It could be argued that Sallie Clark is technically a member of the Colorado Springs media. But to Colorado Springs City Manager Jim Mullen, Clark apparently is another kind of enemy.

Mullen let his loathing for Clark be known last week when he unceremoniously kicked her out of a press briefing. Clark, a city hall activist who edits a neighborhood newsletter called the West Side Story, said she was "extremely stunned."

"I walked into the room and Mr. Mullen asked what I was here for, then he said, 'This is a closed staff meeting. You are not welcome here. You are not allowed to be here and you have to leave,' " Clark said. His comment that she was not "welcome" suggested personal, not professional, animosity, Clark said.

Also confusing was his insistence that the meeting was a "closed staff meeting," Clark said.

"Unless you guys are on the payroll, I would assume you are not staff; you are the public's representatives," Clark said of members of the Colorado Springs press corps. "What was he going to say in front of the media that he didn't want to say to me?"

Mullen recently began conducting press briefings designed to give his spin on the importance of upcoming City Council agenda items to members of the Colorado Springs media.

Mullen reportedly defended kicking Clark out by claiming in a Gazette news story that his meetings are "not open to the public." Unlike the City Council, which by law has to open up meetings to the public, the city manager can hold private meetings if he chooses. In such meetings Mullen can include -- or exclude -- anyone he wants.

But, Clark noted, the press briefing had been publicly posted as an official city meeting. And she found it odd that a citizen would be excluded from a press briefing, noting that the media are generally considered to be representatives of the public.

Interestingly, none of the reporters in attendance who observed the exchange spoke up, either to defend Clark or inquire as to why Mullen was bent on excluding her. (The Indy did not attend the PR briefing.)

"They just kind of sat there dumbfounded," Clark said.

There are so many changes going on at the daily newspaper it's enough to make your head spin. And the more they change over there, the more things stay the same. To wit: this week, the newspaper appointed its former editor Thomas Mullen as the new publisher. Mullen, 60, was editor for the decade stretching from 1981 to 1991 and has worked for the Gazette's parent company, Freedom Communications, for 41 years.

Mullen replaces Scott Fischer, who was dumped after just 15 months on the job. Fischer was, however, at the paper long enough to dump editor Steve Smith, whose concept of "community journalism" resulted in massive turnover in the editorial department and a significant decline in circulation.

Smith's replacement, Terri Fleming, has been with the daily for years, and with Mullen's return to the scene, it's a clear signal that the paper is trying to get things back on track.

Also this week, it was announced that columnist Ralph Routon is ending his yearlong exile on the metro pages and going back to sports, his previous beat.

Though the sports page is clearly where Routon belongs, we'll miss his musings -- like the unforgettable diatribe he wrote about what skanky losers homeless people are.

In all these changes, however, we find comfort in the fact that editorial page editor Dan Njegomir is clearly here to stay. You remember Njegomir -- he's the guy who hates the idea that the city owns a hospital.

Happy Tax Freedom Day. Beginning today, April 27, through the rest of the year, all the cash you earn is yours. Up until April 26, Coloradans have been working full time to pay their federal, state and local taxes.

That's according to the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit educational foundation that has monitored fiscal policy at all levels of government since 1937.

The Tax Foundation reports that Colorado is ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to tax freedom. Of course, sometimes it depends on who's doing the figuring.

Citizens for Tax Justice, another nonprofit research center, notes the wide disparity between rich and poor. In Colorado last year, poor families paid the highest percentage of their incomes for taxes (9.9 percent for those earning less than $27,000, compared with the wealthiest category of earners, $414,000 and higher, paying 5.1 percent).


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