The list of potential bidders for city-owned Memorial Health System includes only two for-profits: Banner Health from Phoenix, which operates two hospitals in Colorado, and Nashville-based HCA/Health One, which operates six. The rest are not-for-profit operations.
But that doesn't tell the whole story. Other for-profits could team up with another operator in Colorado to bid on leasing Memorial, City Council task force members were told today.
The task force is trying to meet a mid-October deadline for issuing a request for proposals for a lease that will be negotiated by the end of the year. The winning bidder's proposal will go to voters for approval in early 2012.
One topic of discussion today was who might bid. The list worked up by consultant Michael Anthony of Chicago includes the two for-profit companies, and also every hospital system and hospital with more than 110 beds. Some won't bid, obviously, because their interests are narrow, such as Cedar Springs Behavioral Health System.
It's also doubtful that Catholic Health Initiatives, which runs Penrose-St. Francis Health Services here. will make a stab at Memorial, because of anti-trust issues that discourage monopolies. Another group of hospitals unlikely to step up include several government-owned facilities that either have a narrow focus, such as Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, or a different service area, such as Boulder Community Hospital.
Although the task force didn't approve a final list, task force chair Jan Martin, also the Council president pro tem, said she'd like to see the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, based in Lenexa, Kan., disqualified, because it's a Catholic system.
"I think there's some women's health issues that would eliminate a Catholic hospital in this community," she said. "It concerns me if we were to go with two Catholic health systems in Colorado Springs."
Although Memorial doesn't perform elective abortions, it does perform those that are "medically indicated," Memorial spokesman Brian Newsome says. Memorial also will tie the fallopian tubes of women during caesarean section births, if requested to do so, unlike Catholic hospitals. In addition, Memorial provides birth-control counseling on request, which Catholic-owned facilities doesn't provide.
Consultant Larry Singer suggested the task force set out the criteria the city wants in a hospital operator and then analyze what each bidder proposes.
Developer Doug Quimby, who represents the Regional Leadership Forum, suggested the RFP be sent to the top 15 hospitals in the country for quality of care.
Anthony said that would be difficult, because whose measuring stick would be used?
The panel then turned to what values will be represented in the RFP. Among those is local control. Though some task force members want more than half the board of Memorial to be comprised of El Paso County residents, it's unlikely any local board would have say-so over major operational decisions, Singer said.
Rather, he suggested the RFP ask bidders to define the range of decisions that would be made by a local board.
Among the questions that arose:
— Can the city require Council approval of decisions on closing facilities or shifting services elsewhere? That may be impossible for a lessee to commit to for a 40-year term, given the evolving nature of health care, Singer said. He also noted that if some services and facilities are abandoned, it might diminish the value of the asset when it's returned to city control at the end of the lease.
— Should the city require bidders to include a post-graduate medical school program here? Members seem to agree it's a good idea, with Dr. Michael Welch of Peak Vista saying Colorado Springs is the largest city, or close to it, in the nation without a medical degree program.
— Would a lessee be bound by existing contracts with medical staff and other providers? City Attorney Patricia Kelly, who retires next week, said yes, until those contracts are either redone or expire.
— How much charity care should be required? "Indigent care is important," Martin said. "When it comes to community values, I think this one ranks very high."
A subcommittee has been formed to work through all the values questions and make a recommendation next Friday to the task force. Members are Councilman Merv Bennett, Memorial nurse Carolyn Flynn, Dr. David Corry from Memorial, either Quimby or Phil Lane, Charles Sweet, an attorney from UCCS, and Welch.
While it's certainly not the first casualty of the recession, the "hiatus" of the Urban League Child Development Center still seems like a shocker.
The program, which offers affordable day care for poor and minority children, has been around for more than three decades and served countless kids.
The good news is that the closing may not be permanent. But the Urban League will need more funding if it's to reopen the center.
Last night, Matthew Schniper and I attended the grand opening of Douglas Rouse's Warehouse mural, what Rouse calls "the mothership" of his 12 Mural Project.
Finished Sept. 9, the mural is stunning. It wraps around the three most visible walls of the building, and features a sunny, verdant promenade populated by Rouse's friends, family and community members, including, to our surprise, Indy publisher John Weiss and his two sons. (The Indy was a sponsor of the project, we knew that much.) Rouse's mother kneels in a garden bed, and his father pauses by two large sculptures depicting Rouse and his wife. On another wall, late local artist Timber (Timothy Kirwan) rides a bike.
For more images of the mural, click here. (All photos by Matthew Schniper.)
There also was a presentation of brand-new clothing. You can also see it here.
For his next project, Rouse will begin working on a wall at CorePower Yoga on North Nevada Avenue. Look out for updates on that in the future.
The Resurgence blog is interesting, as always, if you like to follow the conversations going on in the world of evangelical Christians.
Yesterday, Harvey Turner, a pastor in the Acts 29 church-planting network who oversees a church in Reno, posted an essay on Matthew 11:19 that fits into the general conversation raised by this week's cover story.
I’ve heard many Christians say, “Oh, we're trying to remain holy.” Jesus was holy. His holiness caused him to reach out to people whom the culture deemed sinners, criminals, adulterers, fornicators, offenders, outlaws, and materialistic. Jesus was known to hang out with these types of crowds, so much so they accused him of being a drunkard and a glutton.
Turner lays out the Biblical argument for loving the sinner, and the criminal, etc. Of course, the criminal is a lot more flexible of a concept — as is clear in the realm of undocumented immigrants — than the sinner.
Coming on the heels of yesterday's blog about a TV campaign being tested in Colorado Springs by Citizens for Responsible Legalization, our associate editor received a large mailer at home today with a faux coffee stain on the envelope.
Inside is an expensive-looking, two-page glossy with facsimiles of a typed letter and lined notebook paper. It looks pretty slick.
The letter, from "Karen," apparently, starts "Dear Neighbor" and continues, "Let's talk about marijuana. I don't use it or like it. But the fact is, it's a $400 million industry in Colorado and we get no benefit. If we tax it, that's millions of dollars we could use to fund schools, law enforcement, and health care.
"A legalized, regulated marijuana industry has the potential to grow to $117 million in tax revenue and law enforcement savings in Colorado. So now I'm thinking about it. It's time to have a conversation about legalization. Let's talk."
The notebook paper contains hand-drawn smiley faces, as well as three notes on how marijuana would be regulated: "Stiff penalties for selling to minors; regulated from seed to sale; tough sobriety testing."
After all, the Das Racist song is actually creative, clever (hilarious, in fact) and eminently listenable. But the indie hip-hop group has one helluva long way to go if it's going to even come close to the success of the Maroons' Christina Aguilera-fortified single, which posted its third week at No. 1 yesterday.
That said, I'd gladly listen to this week's debut album by Mick Jagger's semi-supergroup, SuperHeavy, ALL THE WAY THROUGH A SECOND TIME if it only meant never having to hear "Moves Like Jagger" again. But hey, you can judge for yourself by watching the two videos below.
The state Health Board voted yesterday to ask R.J. Reynolds Company to remove Camel Sticks, Strips and Orbs from Colorado until a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to regulate such products as tobacco products is made.
Those products already have been removed from some markets.
“In passing today’s resolution, the board made an important statement — that dissolvable tobacco products are a risk to the public’s health,” Dr. Chris Urbina, the state’s chief medical officer and executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a press release.
The products are seen as a way to entice young people to start using tobacco or continue its use. Some of these products are packaged to look like breath mints or gum.
The FDA is expect to rule on dissolvable tobacco products regulations next year.
Here's the state resolution adopted Wednesday:
Colorado State Board of Health Resolution
R. J. Reynolds Camel Sticks, Strips, and Orbs
WHEREAS, the Colorado State Board of Health is empowered to act in an advisory capacity and to determine general policies in administering and enforcing the public health laws of Colorado; and
WHEREAS, Camel Sticks, Strips and Orbs contain tobacco and nicotine, and therefore are defined as tobacco products under C.R.S. 18-13-121(5)(a); and are also defined as a tobacco product under 21 U.S.C. §321(rr) ; and
WHEREAS, tobacco products are detrimental to health and contribute to numerous cancers, heart disease, lung diseases and stroke; and
WHEREAS, the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act grants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products; and the Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee, convened by the FDA, is studying “dissolvable” tobacco products; and
WHEREAS, Camel Sticks, Strips and Orbs cannot be considered a safe alternative to smoking and may endanger individuals who initiate their tobacco use by using these products; and
WHEREAS, individuals such as teenagers may be attracted to the flavoring and discreet nature of the products and use the product illegally and inappropriately; and
WHEREAS, research shows that increasing the price of tobacco products decreases teen initiation and use of tobacco products; and
WHEREAS, studies show teenagers who use nicotine are those most likely to become adult users; and
WHEREAS, the state of Colorado has made significant progress in reducing youth smoking rates, and these products may impede that progress by enticing young people to start using tobacco or continue to use it; and
WHEREAS, regulation of Camel Sticks, Strips and Orbs or like products by the Food and Drug Administration would provide the American people with an assured means of determining present and future chemical contents of the products; and
WHEREAS, on July 20, 2011, the Colorado State Board of Health was requested to hold a public hearing regarding the test-marketing of these products and held an informational hearing on Wednesday, August 17, 2011, concerning the test-marketing in Colorado of Camel Sticks, Strips, and Orbs products of the R.J. Reynolds Company;
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Colorado State Board of Health objects to using Colorado as a test market of Camel Sticks, Strips and Orbs, or similar products; and
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Colorado State Board of Health requests that the R.J. Reynolds Company remove Camel Sticks, Strips and Orbs from Colorado until a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to regulate such products as tobacco products is determined; and
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Colorado State Board of Health petitions and requests the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the Camel Sticks, Strips and Orbs products, or any similar products, as a tobacco product; and
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Colorado State Board of Health requests that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment educate the public, including parents, youth, family members, school officials and others about the availability and potential dangers of these products; and
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Colorado State Board of Health requests that the Colorado General Assembly investigate and consider imposing the tobacco excise tax on dissolvable tobacco products, as it is imposed on other forms of smokeless tobacco; and
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Colorado State Board of Health requests that the R.J. Reynolds Company cease marketing their Camel Sticks, Strips and Orbs in any way that may potentially attract youth to the products.
Dated this 21st day of September, 2011
Laura J. Davis, President
Colorado State Board of Health
And just to, uh, clear the air, R.J. Reynolds wants to set the record straight on its products:
Camel dissolvables are tobacco products, NOT mints or candy.
ς These are tobacco products. Finely milled tobacco is the predominant ingredient.
ς They are sold on the same store shelves as other tobacco products, behind the sales counter, requiring a
clerk’s assistance to access them.
ς They carry the same health warnings as other smokeless tobacco products.
ς They are taxed at the same rate as other smokeless tobacco products.
ς Their sale is age-restricted, requiring proof of age before purchase.
ς The packaging is child-resistant.
ς The front label on all Camel dissolvables’ packaging clearly identifies the contents as “dissolvable
ς Those who keep referring to these tobacco products as “candy” or “mints” are irresponsibly perpetuating
false and misleading information. If a minor hears these products referred to as “candy,” they may be
more likely to try to get them. A better approach is to make sure everyone knows these are tobacco
products, and like all tobacco products they carry risks and should only be used by adult tobacco
consumers who have made the informed decision to use tobacco products.
Camel dissolvables are marketed to adult tobacco users, NOT to children.
ς Camel dissolvables are tobacco products made for and marketed to adult tobacco consumers.
ς They are sold on the same store shelves as other tobacco products (non-self-service), carry the same
health warnings as other smokeless tobacco products, are taxed as smokeless tobacco products, their
sale is age-restricted and the packaging is child-resistant.
ς They provide adult tobacco consumers another option for enjoying tobacco. They are spitless, have no
secondhand smoke and no cigarette-butt litter — thus, they are more in line with societal expectations
about tobacco product use today.
ς Dissolvable tobacco products have been sold in the U.S. for a number of years to adults interested in
consuming tobacco in places where smoking is not permitted or feasible.
ς Use of smokeless tobacco products by youth has declined substantially in recent years according to the
University of Michigan “Monitoring the Future” survey. Youth smoking rates have also reached historic
ς Any print advertising for Camel dissolvable tobacco products are placed in periodicals with at least 85
percent adult readership.
Camel dissolvables DO NOT contain significantly greater levels of nicotine than other
dissolvable/smokeless tobacco products.
ς These products are made of finely milled tobacco, and thus contain nicotine.
ς Dissolvable tobacco products have been on the market for several years (Ariva — 2001 and Stonewall
Hard Snuff — 2003).
ς The amount of nicotine in Camel dissolvables ranges from 1.2 milligrams of nicotine to 2.4 milligrams of
ς Other dissolvable tobacco products on the market contain as much as 1.5 milligrams of nicotine to 4
milligrams of nicotine.
ς Compared to other portioned smokeless tobacco products currently on the market, Camel dissolvables
contain less nicotine. A pouch of Camel Snus (0.6 gram) contains about 6 milligrams of nicotine, and
other portioned smokeless tobacco products contain as much as 8 milligrams of nicotine.
ς Adult tobacco consumers who use loose moist snuff products will expose themselves to varying levels of
nicotine, depending on the amount of loose snuff they hold in their mouth. While the amount of tobacco
used per pinch can vary widely, if an adult has 1-2 grams of moist snuff in their mouth, they will be
exposed to about 11-22 milligrams of nicotine.
ς Everyone uses smokeless products differently, and everyone uses Camel dissolvables differently. But on
average, tobacco consumers get roughly a similar amount of nicotine, or less, from a Camel dissolvable
as they do from other dissolvable or smokeless tobacco products currently on the market.
There is no clear evidence that smokeless tobacco products like Camel dissolvables prevent adult
smokers from quitting or that they serve as a “gateway” product for youth.
ς The best course of action for tobacco users concerned about their health is to quit.
ς Dissolvable tobacco products have been sold in the U.S. for a number of years to adults interested in
consuming tobacco in places where smoking is not permitted or feasible. During this time, the rates of
smoking among adults and youth have continued to decline.
ς Smokeless tobacco sales have increased in the U.S. over the last several years, even as smoking rates
have continued to decline.
ς There are more former smokers in the U.S. than current smokers.
ς Adult tobacco consumers should have access to a range of commercially viable tobacco and nicotinebased
ς Minors should never use tobacco products and adults who do not use or have quit using tobacco
products should not start.
ς Rates of youth usage of cigarettes are down about 50% from their historic highs.
ς In Sweden, where the smokeless tobacco product snus is far more popular than cigarettes, there has
been no trend of youth starting with smokeless tobacco products and moving to cigarettes. In fact, studies
generally suggest the opposite — that smokeless tobacco use in Sweden is associated with lower rates
of people taking up or continuing to use cigarettes.
ς Little research has been conducted in the U.S. on smokeless tobacco as a “gateway” to cigarettes. The
studies that do exist show conflicting results. Recently, several research institutions have received
government grants to study smokeless tobacco use trends, and if properly designed and conducted,
these studies may provide more insight.
Here's your periodic look ahead at area food and drink events:
More big news from our big five-star: Broadmoor wine director and sommelier Timothy Baldwin was awarded Top Sommelier at the World Finals of the Copa Jerez food and sherry pairing international competition in Jerez, Spain, earlier this week. Congrats to him and the Broadmoor.
• For the remaining Sundays through Thursdays in September, Paravicini's Italian Bistro is offering a three-course dinner for two that includes a bottle of house Chianti or Pinot Grigio for $44.
• As we noted in today's Side Dish, Conscious Table is now offering cooking classes, with dinners to follow on Thursdays through Saturdays beginning Sept. 29. A full class schedule for September and October can be found on the outfit's Facebook page.
• Sept. 28 will also see the opening of Colorado Springs' third Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill location at 1685 Briargate Pkwy., #323. The store will be the Denver-based chain's 14th; the first opened here in the Springs in June 2010.
• Greek Night: An Evening in Athens will be held at Pueblo's Saint John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church on Saturday, Oct. 8. Look for cocktails, dancing, a dinner banquet and more. $50 tickets benefit the church.
• On the heels of one at the Blue Star, A Second Cup will host another Dogfish Head Beer Dinner on Oct. 10. Seats for five beer-paired courses are $39.99.
Prior to that (and cheers to Focus on the Beer for this compilation), catch releases of Two Moons Pale Ale (Sept. 23 or so), Revival Series #11, 1943 XXXX Wartime Ale (Sept. 30 or so) and Imperial Pilsner (Oct. 7 or so) at Phantom Canyon. Trinity Brewing will host a GABF tapping Sept. 28 (with several Colorado beers) and will release Brain of the Turtle ( a "sour beer aged on cherries, coffee, almonds, in oak barrels") on Oct. 2.
• Tri-Lakes Cares will benefit from the Empty Bowls Dinner and Silent Auction on Wednesday, Oct. 12. Tickets for soup, bread and dessert, along with a handmade bowl souvenir, are $20.
• Pikes Peak Urban Gardens will offer its final summer 2011 class, "What Worked, What Didn't and What We Learned" on Saturday, Oct. 15 at Mann Middle School. The $5 class will in-part cover what you should do to put your garden to bed for fall, including adding soil amendments.
• Pikes Peak Brewing Co. will host an inaugural Monument Beer Week from Oct. 17 to 22. According to a release, this will be "a six-day celebration of craft beer and the food and culture that go along with it." Look for beer cocktail tastings, a home beer chef contest, a beer academy, a German dinner and more.
Tune into the Indy Minute — as seen on ABC affiliate KRDO News Channel 13 — each week for details on all the events that entertain and bring our community together. It's simulcast on KRDO News Radio 105.5 FM and 1240 AM.
While the Colorado Springs Philharmonic celebrates Josep Caballe-Domenech's debut as new music director this past weekend, its Denver counterpart, the Colorado Symphony, finds itself in a considerably less enviable position.
The Colorado Symphony Association (CSA), which prides itself on having the state's only full-time professional orchestra, sent out a statement Wednesday evening offering "clarity and corrections" to media reports about its financial woes. At the same time, it noted that closed-door negotiations with the musicians union over proposed salary cuts will continue through Friday.
While the statement doesn't refer to a specific media outlet, it appears to be in response to a recent Denver Post story about an internal document warning that the symphony could disappear within the next two years.
The release, which you can read in its entirety below, takes particular issue with a reported $1.2 million cash shortfall, which it says is ameliorated by a "muti-year pledge campaign" that, in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, must be accounted for in the year of the initial pledge. The Symphony statement also objects to the Post's characterization of its "Sustainability Committee" as an "emergency committee," a semantic issue that seems largely beside the point in the face of much larger issues.
The most pressing of those issues, as evidence by current negotiations, is the orchestra's plan to increase performance time while enacting a 14% pay cut for musicians whose base salaries have already been reduced to less than half of what their counterparts in Dallas earn.
Interestingly, the statement does not appear to take issue with those figures.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
COLORADO SYMPHONY ANNOUNCES THAT NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE
DENVER — September 21, 2011 — The Colorado Symphony Association (CSA) announces that negotiations with the musician’s union are scheduled to continue until Friday, September 23.
The Colorado Symphony is negotiating in good faith, and will do so in private, behind closed doors and will appropriately not publicly discuss details of those negotiations.
What the CSA can do at this time is to provide some clarity and corrections to the figures printed recently in the media.
The Colorado Symphony’s preliminary statements for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011 show a $52,000 surplus. Therefore, the Colorado Symphony has neither a deficit, nor an accumulated debt.
The Colorado Symphony does have a cash shortfall of approximately $1.2M from the fiscal year ended June 30, 2011 (FY11) which is a serious financial and operational challenge that the organization must overcome to complete the season as scheduled. Even with a balanced budget for FY12, the organization has forecast cash shortfalls due to normal operations by mid-November without extraordinary fundraising necessary to bridge the need to fund operations with cash.
The reason that these facts are concurrently factual is due to: 1) a very successful multi-year pledge campaign which, according to GAAP, must be accounted for in the year pledged; 2) shortfall in budgeted cash donations for FY11, and 3) a 2% over-run in expenses including two weeks of furlough give-backs to the musicians of the orchestra.
The assembly of the 11-member Sustainability Committee which included three Board of Trustee members, three musicians from the orchestra, three community members, the Board Chair and the CEO of the Colorado Symphony, should not be characterized as an emergency committee. The committee was established by the Board of Trustees many months prior in September of 2010, and was discussed as early as June of 2010 to explore long-term solutions to ongoing industry challenges. The committee actively functioned from April through July 2011.
After a very difficult and lengthy budgeting process with administrative staff and several rounds of detailed vetting with the Board Finance Committee containing several musician representatives from the orchestra, a balanced budget for FY12 was prepared for approval which contains expense reductions in all operational areas as well as significant increases in earned revenues amounting to an approximate net positive change of $2M prior to asking for changes to the existing musician’s contract. The fixed costs in the CSA’s annual budget comprise nearly 70% of total expenses, the largest component of which is artistic staff salaries (the musicians of the orchestra). The Board of Trustees have prioritized their work around implementing a balanced and an approved FY12 operating budget and establishing an environment of donor confidence which will assist with advancing major gifts to help solve cash flow issues.
The Colorado Symphony Association (CSA) announces that negotiations with the musician’s union are scheduled to continue until Friday, September 23.
Marijuana legalization is all the rage these days in the Centennial State, and another group has joined the fray: CItizens for Responsible Legalization. In fact, the group will test a new TV ad in Colorado Springs for about a month; see below.
Brian Vicente, the group's attorney — whose organization, Sensible Colorado, is also backing The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol — told the Gazette, "We’re just going to kind of see how it goes in Colorado Springs. This is a reasonably sized city, with a lot of common sense.”
We contacted Vicente ourselves to get clarification on the roles of the different organizations.
"Citizens for Responsible Legalization is an organization — comprised of Colorado citizens — formed to conduct a limited public education campaign on the benefits of the regulation, taxation, and legalization of marijuana," he writes in an e-mail. "Citizens for Responsible Legalization is a separate entity from Sensible Colorado or the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. However all three groups support exploring alternatives to marijuana prohibition in Colorado."
Our partners at KRDO are reporting the local response has been mixed, while one MMJ advocate doesn't see anything he likes.
"If we treat it like alcohol and it passes, everything we worked for and fought for may come crashing down upon us," said KC Stark, with Go Green Cross. "Because at that point, the Supreme Court will have to act."
Stark said he believes that if Colorado tries to sell marijuana that's not medical, the federal government will shut down the entire industry.
"We have a model that works, it's called medical marijuana in accordance with Amendment 20," said Stark.
To catch you up on a few things, I'll wrap a few unrelated news developments that happened at the Colorado Springs Utilities Board meeting in a single blog.
Memorial Health System: Before the Utilities Board meeting got underway today, the City Council convened and voted 8-1 to officially appoint 14 people to the Council's task force on Memorial. The task force is charged with drafting, issuing and analyzing requests for proposals to rent the health system to either a non-profit or a for-profit.
Task force chair Jan Martin, president pro tem of Council, said this means everyone on the task force, including two businessmen and Mayor Steve Bach, will be subject to disclosure laws and open meeting laws. Those folks previously had balked at complying.
But here's a new wrinkle. Dr. David Steinbruner, who serves as an ER doc at Memorial and who is a former Army active duty physician, wasn't appointed at Martin's request.
Steinbruner, who was to represent the point of view of those covered by TriCare, which serves retired military and reimburses at a very low rate, says he wasn't appointed because Council member Lisa Czelatdko had words with Martin about him.
Seems the Steinbruners and the Czelatdkos used to be friends but aren't anymore. Steinbruner wants to keep it at this: "She had an objection to my presence, and I know it's personal."
Despite not being appointed, the doctor will still participate in the task force process, he says, as an observer.
"I'm going to still go to the meetings," he says. "We want a presence from the doctors. We need a presence from the military. We need to do right by TriCare."
The Council also approved $150,000 for consultant Michael Anthony from Chicago to help the task force shape the RFP (request for proposals).
Utilities business: Andrew and Sandra Knauf appeared before the Utilities Board to pitch their case about waiving reconnection fees for water and wastewater on a home they've owned next to their actual residence on the west side for at least 20 years. The reconnection charges quoted by Utilities exceed $11,000.
Utilities Board members raised various questions, including failure to notify families of the exorbitant charges and the fact that even the Utilities Board apparently doesn't have the authority to bend previously enacted tariffs.
Turns out, the Knaufs aren't the only ones. A man showed up saying he bought a house from foreclosure in 2006 or so and checked on reconnection fees. He was told there were minimal charges. He postponed doing anything with the home until 2009, and then got handed a bill of "thousands of dollars," he said.
That's because of the period of time since the house was last connected. Utilities charges depend on how long it's been off the system.
Anyway, the board told staff to do more research to see if the tariffs need to be changed, because redevelopment and infill development are priorities for the city. If reconnection charges are so sky-high that nobody can afford them, good luck redeveloping old parts of town.
"We want to send a message that we are not going to inhibit redevelopment," Councilor Tim Leigh says. "We want to promote it."
After that comment, Leigh slipped out of the meeting. While his colleagues were briefed on the biggest public project in the region's history — the $2.3 billion Southern Delivery System pipeline when financing charges are included — Leigh was strolling the lobby waiting for a TV news crew to show up and put his face on camera. Smile, Tim.
Wanting to make a tighter link between Fort Carson and Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, post officials are talking about renaming the southeastern Colorado training site “Fort Carson South,” the Pueblo Chieftain reports. The full report is here.
The idea apparently came from Carson commanders, not the Pentagon, and already is shaking some trees among ranchers who oppose expansion of the 238,000-acre site.
Not One More Acre! persuaded Congress in 2008 to ban funding for expansion of the site and in 2009 won a federal court decision to block plans to increase training there.
Ranchers are agitated by the name change, because Pinon Canyon is identified by name in the funding ban, the Chieftain reported.
Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., says he’ll suggest Carson leave the name alone, and Las Animas County Commissioner Mark Louden, an expansion opponent, agreed, calling it “a stupid idea.”
I was both flattered and confused when Lynne Telford, executive director of Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, insisted I come to a party the nonprofit was throwing.
Not that feeding half the state's hungry isn't worth celebrating, but I'll admit I was a little surprised to learn that Care and Share threw parties. And upon arriving last night, I was even more taken aback.
Men in tuxedos stood in the parking lot, waiting to shepherd my car through their free valet service. The delivery dock of the Care and Share warehouse had been transformed with strings of lights, tables dressed in black-and-white clothes, centerpieces of fruits and squashes, and a decadent display of hors d'oeuvres.
It was, well, fancy. Much more fancy then one would expect from a place loaded with canned green beans and easy rice. That said, the food was wonderful. Little cakes made with lemon rind and topped with a fresh berry and whipped cream were delightful. Slightly sweet crackers topped with marinated beats and mint contained layers of tastes, each one surprising and delicious.
My mouth was definitely full by the time the actual presentation started. Rich Wood spoke first, introducing the organization, and repeating a proverb, "A person who isn't hungry has a lot of problems, but a hungry person only has one problem."
Next up, Walt Glover, CFO of the United States Olympic Committee and a former board member of Care and Share. Glover talked at length about all the effort it took to raise over $8 million and put Care and Share in their current warehouse. And he noted that part of that process was "building donor capacity" — or getting more people to give regularly.
Then Telford took the stand. She had a couple surprises. First off, the food I'd been stuffing my face with was made and catered by none other than Colorado Springs School District 11. Wow. I've know about District 11's cafeteria food revolution, and I wrote about it here, but this was really out of this world. Turns out, some of the yummy stuff I was eating was the same stuff the kids can get in their school cafeteria. So. Incredibly. Jealous.
Anyway, after that little stunner, Telford went on to tell us the reason we were all there. Care and Share is launching a new program called "Harvest" for people who donate more than $1,000 a year to the organization. There's already 250 donors that fit that description, but Care and Share wants to grow their ranks. And Telford said she also wants those donors to know that they're valued.
In future years, the party I attended will be a thank-you party for Harvest members. Harvest members will also be invited to quarterly meetings with Telford to ask questions and give advice.
And now, a few more pictures from the evening:
Anyone who's lived in the region for five minutes knows there's never a dull moment in Fountain.
It's a whacky town when it comes to city government, marked by recall attempts, wild accusations, even a City Council member throwing a punch at a citizen.
With the Nov. 1 election bearing down and seats on the Fountain City Council up for grabs, the town is littered with campaign signs and campaign talk.
Political blocs are holding private meetings around town, plotting their strategies, and others are doing their best to sabotage those efforts.
Among those seeking re-election are Lois Landgraf and Harold Thompson, neither of whom is on resident Al Lender's A-list. Why should they be?
Thompson clobbered Lender during the break from one City Council meeting in June 2010.
Lender was being rowdy because the council had taken action that substantially hurt his medical marijuana business. Thompson later alleged he was the victim, but Lender says that's a lie and he's taking his cause to the campaign trail. He's parked this sign along Santa Fe Street in Fountain.
Thompson isn't Lender's only target. He's also opposing Landgraf, who maneuvered to hold a so-called public meeting after members of the public had left a City Council session, also in June 2010, so their views wouldn't be heard.
Landgraf later tried to get a restraining order against Lender, because he called her "scum" at a June 8, 2010, Council meeting. A county magistrate ruled against her, saying Landgraf is a public official who must endure public criticism.
Landgraf more recently opposed adoption of an ethics code for the Council and persuaded a majority to help her defeat it.
Despite all that, Landgraf wants another term and has posted these signs around Fountain, saying she wants to protect Fountain. From what? Oh, right. All those cancer patients who would like to get a little relief from Mother Nature.
Lender isn't giving her a pass, and he's posted these signs around Fountain close to Landgraf's.
Landgraf and Thompson, who want another at-large term, are in a field of five candidates seeking two seats. The challengers are Jim Coke, Mark DuFord and Patricia St. Louis. Readhttp://www.epcan.com/news/local-news/3089-2011-election-coverage-five-to-vie-for-two-city-council-at-large-seats-two-seeking-ward-2-position-no-election-for-widefield-district-3-.html" target="_blank"> more about the race.
Not everyone is using creative campaign signs. Some are tame, like these:
The most important thing to remember about the election is this: VOTE. This year's election is being conducted by mail. Go here for information.