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Public Eye



Time to dust off the old tongue, and say it proud, say it loud: Silverado. It's been more than a decade since Colorado Springs, economically barren after the Savings & Loan debacle, was dubbed the forfeiture capitol of the country.

Apparently enough time has lapsed to bring on back, with no less than a hero's welcome, one of the key players in that S&L scandal that rocked our city and nation. This week -- drumroll, please -- Neil Bush is coming to town, the keynote speaker for the National Volunteer Week luncheon at the Antler's Adams Mark Hotel downtown.

In addition to being President George W. Bush's kid brother, Neil Bush is also credited with running the Colorado-based Silverado Savings & Loan into the ground during the late 1980s, costing taxpayers $1 billion. Afterward, Bush's banking activities were curtailed by federal regulators, and he was fined $50,000.

But, as detailed in an excellent piece in the May/June 1991 issue of Mother Jones, with the help of his now-president brother and the Bush family name, Neil Bush has bounced back nicely.

During his brother's presidential campaign, Neil Bush founded Ignite!, a company that produces online multimedia educational curriculum. According to Mother Jones, Ignite! stands to benefit tidily from the Bush administration's push to pump federal money into private education companies just like Neil Bush's.

The Volunteer Center of the Pikes Peak Region, which shares offices with the local Chamber of Commerce and is sponsoring this week's event, noted that Neil Bush is also the Bush family representative on the National Advisory Board to the George Bush School of Government and Public Service.

In addition to the luncheon, scheduled for Thursday, April 25, the festivities include honoring local volunteers, a Volunteer Expo and several planned workshops, one of which is titled, "Ethics in Volunteer Management."

"Is it a joke?" wonders Indy reader Star Jorgensen, weighing in on the peculiarity of the circumstance.

No, Star. It is not.


Speaking of peculiar, last Thursday the five-member Board of El Paso County Commissioners decided they had nothing better to do with their time than to debate (if you can call it that) and then unanimously support a congressional resolution to pray in school.

Sponsored in part by several Colorado Republicans, including Colorado Springs Congressman Joel Hefley, the resolution -- a voluntary mandate, if you will -- was introduced in Washington, D.C. back in December.

It is unclear exactly why the five county commissioners -- all fellow Republicans -- felt it necessary to formally endorse a measure to give people the right to pray on public property, including in schools. Obviously it has been a long time since any of these politicians have been in school, where voluntary prayer is already as common as spitwads and bathroom passes, especially on test day.

One idea that jumps to mind is that the Republican commissioners were obviously engaging in what is commonly known as "butt-kissing" -- that is, exhibiting distasteful reverence to other politicians who are higher on the food chain.

Commissioner Duncan Bremer, who sponsored the local resolution and supports school vouchers, also cited his dislike of government-run schools (most people refer to them as "public schools") as another underlying rationale.

Numerous citizens showed up at the hearing to voice their opposition, citing the constitutionally-guaranteed separation of church and state. But Commission Chairman Tom Huffman reportedly killed the public comment session, claiming there was no point in discussing the matter.

It should be noted that the county government, thank goodness, has no actual oversight of any public school system, including deciding whether children can or cannot pray in class.

They sure do have other responsibilities, however -- so many that they are allegedly experiencing a desperate need for a new $90,000 assistant for County Administrator Terry Harris.

Call it an epiphany. Perhaps the county's government leaders should, instead of haggling over praying in schools, busy themselves with dealing with the crucial issues of the day, like the current budget crunch that places the county in dire financial straights. Or nursing a critically ill Health Department. Or coming up with a plan for dealing with the drought, including potential wildfires. Or dealing with the class-action lawsuit that's been slapped on them over alleged horrific conditions at the county's two jails that has resulted in nine inmate deaths since 1998.

The list does go on.


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