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Waller runs for AG, state toxicology lab shuts down, and more

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Waller running for AG

Colorado Springs Rep. Mark Waller announced Monday he would seek to replace the term-limited John Suthers as Colorado's attorney general. Declared contenders for the office include Republican Cynthia Coffman — chief deputy attorney general in Suthers' office, and wife of U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman — and Democrat Don Quick, the former Adams County district attorney.

And though the election won't come until November 2014, Waller already knows why you should vote for him.

"I think I have a more well-rounded set of experiences than they do: military experience, prosecutorial experience and legislative experience," Waller tells the Independent, noting he spent 14 years in the military, and formerly served as a deputy district attorney in Pueblo.

He adds that he will keep his House seat but give up his leadership position during the race. — Bryce Crawford

State suspends lab ops

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has shut down its toxicology lab indefinitely due to evidence of bias and sloppy practices in the lab ("Blood and circus," cover story, Nov. 7, 2012).

El Paso County was one of scores of local governments that used the lab for testing; reached Tuesday morning, Sheriff's Office spokesperson Lt. Jeff Kramer said the county will use Boulder-based ChemaTox. Colorado Springs police had already moved to ChemaTox for its testing earlier this year.

Since questioning of lab practices has intensified, both lab supervisor Cynthia Burbach and department director Chris Urbina resigned suddenly. — J. Adrian Stanley

Memorial fireworks back on

There will be fireworks after all at the July Fourth celebration in Memorial Park. After high fire danger caused their cancellation last week, several days of rain have convinced the city to allow public fireworks displays at approved locations.

In a release from the Philharmonic, communications director Nathan Willers writes, "The Colorado Springs Fire Department will have a thorough presence on site, and the show is produced by a professional pyrotechnical company with high altitude fireworks that dissipate in the air." Fort Carson's "Fourth on the Third" show has been moved to Aug. 31. — Edie Adelstein

Cutting Carson

Fort Carson will lose soldiers as a result of the Army cutting the post's 3rd Brigade Combat Team (4th Infantry Division) by Fiscal Year 2017, one of 12 BCTs to go.

How many soldiers will be lost isn't clear, since other structural changes will send new soldiers here. U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn estimated that all but 750 of the soldiers will stay at Carson and be reassigned to other missions, and that Carson could actually see a net increase of 1,800 active-duty personnel.

That said, Carson issued a statement saying it "cannot speculate" about the number of soldiers affected. — Pam Zubeck

Ute Valley may expand

Ute Valley Park will more than double in size, growing by 200 acres, if the city approves the purchase of adjacent land owned by Hewlett Packard for $7 million. But many recreationists may not even realize there's been any change, as the Rockrimmon-area land in question is already frequently used by those unaware that it's private property.

The purchase would be made mostly with money from a dedicated sales tax for open space, known as Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS). The TOPS Working Committee has approved the deal. The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and City Council will consider the approvals later this month. — J. Adrian Stanley

More on Morse

Wednesday, July 3, is shaping up to be a big day for Colorado Senate President John Morse as he and his backers try to fight off a politically motivated recall election.

First of all, Secretary of State Scott Gessler is expected to rule that day on the legality of the petition to oust Morse, who represents Senate District 11 in Colorado Springs. His fellow Democrats have said the wording does not meet the state constitution's requirements.

Also, Wednesday is the deadline for A Whole Lot of People for John Morse, led by El Paso County Democratic Party executive director Christy Le Lait, to take a shot at invalidating the actual, verified signatures on the petitions. Last week, after studying 500 such signatures, Le Lait reported more than 50 forgeries discovered by her volunteers. She needs about 3,000 signatures to be invalidated to derail the recall effort. — J. Adrian Stanley

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