Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Team Canada-Quebec wins Breck Snow Sculpture Championship

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 3:58 PM

In Seven Days to Live last week, we mentioned that U.S. teams haven't done all that well recently in Breckenridge's annual International Snow Sculpture Championships.

Once again, in 2012 the foreigners outdid us. Team Canada-Quebec took first place, as announced yesterday, followed by Team Germany and Team Baltic (Latvia and Estonia).

TCQ team captain Claudia Cote with the winning piece.
  • TCQ team captain Claudia Cote with the winning piece.

From the press release, words on TCQ's success:

Team Canada-Quebec secured first prize in the 22nd annual International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge, Colo. with “Great Expectations,” a complex and cohesive piece depicting the “ice houses” once used to preserve meat, poultry and fish on the Saint Anne River in central Quebec. Along with 15 other teams and artists from 11 other countries, Team Canada-Quebec worked across five days, for a total of 65 hours, to create an enormous work of art from a 20-ton block of snow.

Team Germany won second with “Dancing Screens,” an ambitious and superbly executed piece that rendered harmony within an imbalance of angles. Team Baltic (Latvia/Estonia) won third with “Discover the Edge of the World,” which used flowing lines to create 360-degree interest.

“Team Canada-Quebec created a sculpture that demonstrates all virtues of carving snow: clean execution, anatomically correct figures and animals, texture, balance and more,” said Jenn Cram, judge coordinator and Arts District administrator for the Town of Breckenridge.

Read more on the winners, and see photos of the other sculptures here. And if you want to see the things in real life, they're on display through Feb. 5 (weather permitting).

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Marijuana acts: Who has your vote?

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 1:59 PM

Cannabis act backer Michelle LaMay.
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  • Cannabis act backer Michelle LaMay.

Though we recently brought word that the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has likely collected enough signatures to make the November ballot, there's another effort in the works to do something similar.

The backers behind The Relief for the Possession of Cannabis Act of 2012 says the title board has finalized the wording of their act, meaning it's now time to get those signatures as well.

The proponents of The Relief for the Possession of Cannabis Act of 2012 have met with the Colorado Initiative Title Setting Review Board for the November 2012 ballot. The title board set the question as: Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado state constitution directing the judiciary branch of all governing bodies in the state of Colorado to prohibit their courts from imposing any fine or sentence for the possession of cannabis?

"The costs and the damage to Colorado families and society and to small governments' budgets far exceed the public's perception of danger," says proponent Michelle LaMay. "Times have changed. I think it as similar to mandatory sentencing or "three strikes you're out" laws. It is clearly not legalization and it doesn't cost the taxpayers a dime."

Petitions will go out February 1 around the state. More than 88,000 registered voters need to sign to get on the November 2012 ballot. To contribute or volunteer to circulate a petition, LaMay can be reached at 303-886-7998, email relief4possession@gmail.com and http://relief4possession.webs.com.

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REVIEW: The Show Trial

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 11:23 AM

Some plays need to come with a warning. I already know what warning THEATREdART's world premiere of The Show Trial deserves: "Caution! You may bust your spleen from laughing."

Pretty impressive for a play that tosses around references to Kafka, Kierkegaard and Stanislavski as though they were confetti.

Think of it as The Producers, if it were written by Quentin Tarantino
  • Think of it as The Producers, if it were written by Quentin Tarantino

The Show Trial comes from the mind of Jeff Keele, a UCCS senior who also happens to be one of our city's most promising playwrights. While this is his first full-length play, he's had a number of short works produced around town. And if you've seen any of those, you already know what a twisted mind he has. (He's the guy who came up with the rat bursting out of a man's chest for Springs Ensemble Theatre's recent 24SEVEN.)

Keele is assisted by first-time director Jordan Mathews, who has made his own name as an over-the-top comic actor for THEATREdART and the Millibo Art Theatre.

The nearly three-hour play starts slow, but once it gets going, it hurtles forward with all the momentum of a bullet train. In it, a longtime prisoner named Kay — played with grim determination by Steven Schubin — is finally released from his cell. Not to freedom, but to something more sinister. He is to appear in a dramatization of his own life, something called a "prisoner play," before being executed.

The production team for his play is put together, and Kay soon finds himself in a world gone mad. A world in which power-crazy directors shoot troublesome actors, bloodthirsty "Playwright Tamers" are sent to wrest scripts from writers who've gone feral, and armed guerrillas man the sound booth.

Think of it as The Producers, if it were written by Quentin Tarantino.

The promotional materials advertise it as a play within a play within a play, but that barely does justice to it. Most works like this go deeper with each layer, but in a unique twist, The Show Trial moves both up and down, until the audience becomes the cast of a meta-play that The Show Trial is only a part of.

Confusing, maybe. Genius, definitely.

Unfortunately, the story eventually loses its way, shifting its focus from the prisoner's plight to the growing chaos on stage. But even then, the gags keep coming. And I've rarely heard an audience laugh so loudly or so often.

Michael Lee is his usual hilarious self as demented playwright Regan. Adam Blancas takes what could be a boring role, that of the prison warden, and turns it into comedy gold with his rubber-faced expressions. And foghorn-voiced Karl Brevik is brilliant as the director Sergei, a man who keeps a tight grip on his cast while keeping a very loose grip on reality.

"We don't put on plays so much as emotional assaults," Sergei tells Kay early on.

Emotional assault? Yep, that pretty much sums up The Show Trial.

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University and Fort Collins hospitals merge

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 10:01 AM

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A new entity has been created that will further facilitate the lease of city-owned Memorial Health System: University of Colorado Hospital announced today it has completed its merger with Poudre Valley Health System of Fort Collins.

The new entity wants to bring Memorial into its fold, and University was selected as the preferred bidder with which the city is now negotiating to finalize a lease. The deal would help create a medical school in Colorado Springs and provide the city with roughly $5 million a year in lease payments, plus a one-time payment of $74 million.

Here's University's press release about the new pact:

Colorado (Jan 31, 2012) - Poudre Valley Health System (PVHS) and the University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) have finalized a joint operating agreement that creates a health system its leaders say will widen health care services and provide unparalleled patient care in the Rocky Mountain region.

Called University of Colorado Health<http://universityofcoloradohealth.org>, the new system combines one of the top-performing community health systems in the nation with the highest-ranked academic medical center in quality in the country. With annual net revenue of $1.5 billion, it will be one of the region's largest locally-owned health systems and, with nearly 10,000 employees, one of Colorado's largest employers.

"We're excited about this partnership because it's all about improving the quality of care for our patients," said Rulon Stacey, president and CEO of Poudre Valley Health System. "Separately, we have provided extraordinary, safe, inventive and empathetic care for our patients. With our combined strength, we aim to raise the bar for quality in Colorado even higher as we learn from and share with each other."

University of Colorado Hospital was named the top-performing academic hospital in quality in America last September by University HealthSystem Consortium<http://www.uch.edu/about/news/2011/uch-top-academic-hospital/> and is currently ranked the No. 1 hospital<http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/area/denver-co> in the metro Denver area by US News & World Report.

Poudre Valley Health System in January was named one of the top 15 health systems<http://thomsonreuters.com/content/press_room/healthcare/tr_announces_top_health_systems> in the United States by Thomson Reuters and is a recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award<http://www.nist.gov/baldrige/>, the nation's highest presidential honor for quality. PVHS and UCH are both three-time Magnet designation winners<http://www.nursecredentialing.org/Magnet.aspx>, the gold standard for nursing care.

The new system combines the best in academic medicine with the best in community medicine, said Bruce Schroffel, president and CEO of University of Colorado Hospital, adding that the new organization's logo combines the University of Colorado name with the four intertwined hearts long associated with Poudre Valley Health System. Names of the organization's three existing hospitals - University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins and Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland - will not change.

"This agreement brings two of the finest health care organizations in the West together into a significant and novel partnership that we believe could be an example for other independent hospitals to follow," said Schroffel. "While the future of health care could bring some challenges, University of Colorado Health will be stronger and better able to meet those challenges while still providing the highest quality care for patients."

Schroffel added that the system may get larger over time, providing more Coloradans with even greater access to the most innovative medicine available.

"We're already negotiating with the Colorado Springs City Council to allow us to lease and operate Memorial Health System there," said Schroffel. "If we reach an agreement, we will have a system that stretches along the Front Range. Poudre Valley would be its northern hub, Memorial its southern hub, with the University of Colorado Hospital at its central geographic and academic core in the Denver metro area."

UCH and PVHS have a proven track record of economic growth, adding more than 1,800 well-paying jobs over the past five years among their locations and bringing a strong benefit to the region's economy.

"Collaboration and partnerships are often at the heart of successful endeavors," Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said. "It's even better when these kinds of efforts result in new jobs, improved infrastructure and better healthcare options for Coloradans. We want to congratulate Poudre Valley Health System and University of Colorado Hospital on their new joint operating agreement."

University of Colorado Health would continue UCH's historic role of providing advanced and complex care at the Anschutz Medical Campus headquarters and offering specialty and family care throughout the metropolitan area. Poudre Valley Health System has two acute care hospitals in Poudre Valley Hospital and Medical Center of the Rockies, as well as a wide network of primary care and specialty clinics in northern Colorado, southern Wyoming and western Nebraska.

UCH will continue its close relationship with the University of Colorado School of Medicine - all its attending physicians are on the medical school's faculty - and help extend the medical school's research and residency programs through the new system to the entire region. In addition, UCH's close collaboration with the other health sciences schools on the Anschutz Medical campus will continue.

"We expect to contribute not only to the University of Colorado's academic programs, but also to expanding the accessibility, quality, cost-effectiveness, clinical outcomes and patient-responsiveness of care to communities throughout Colorado and the region," said Stacey. "Patients in northern Colorado can look forward to greater access to clinical trials which are at the forefront of new medicine."

The agreement, which has been approved by both existing systems and their partners, would establish a governing board of 11 directors and an executive team to guide the new organization.

Bruce Schroffel<http://pvhs.wordpress.com/about/university-of-colorado-health-board-of-directors/bruce-schroffel-president-university-of-colorado-health-board-of-directors/> was named president of University of Colorado Health as well as chairman of the board of directors. Rulon Stacey<http://pvhs.wordpress.com/about/university-of-colorado-health-ceo/> will serve as CEO of the University of Colorado Health.

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Simpsons leak news of Julian Assange guest appearance

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 9:59 AM

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Hot on the heels of the Muppets responding to being condemned by FOX News, the Internet is buzzing this morning with the news that Julian Assange will be making a guest appearance on the 500th episode of the Simpsons, which is scheduled to air Feb. 19.

The cameo will be one of many feathers in the cap of the animated program that has, in the past, scored guest appearances by everyone from Michael Jackson to the notoriously reclusive Thomas Pynchon.

All this follows Assange's announcement last week that he'll be hosting a new television series featuring "in-depth conversations with key political players, thinkers and revolutionaries from around the world."

According to the Wikileaks announcement:

"The series will begin airing in mid-March, in ten weekly half-hour episodes. Initial licensing commitments cover over 600 million viewers across cable, satellite and terrestrial broadcast networks."

And of course, this makes a great excuse to revisit that Ramones' Simpsons appearance as the minstrels who are hired to soothe Mr. Burns' jangled nerves:

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Zoo introduces its new 'Bank On It' campaign

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 7:00 AM

When you get home at the end of the day, where do you empty your jingling pockets? A jar by the front door? A table? Maybe some of it falls from your pocket into your couch cushions?

Perhaps instead you could drop it in an elephant bank and help your local zoo.

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has recently announced a new community campaign, "Bank On It." This campaign is a way to support Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's new Encounter Africa exhibit.

Community members need only donate $50 and get themselves an elephant bank from any US Bank location, at the front gate of the Zoo or online through the zoo's Bank On It website.

They are then invited to decorate their elephant bank any way they wish, take a picture of it and email it to the Zoo by April 1 to be included in the art display that will be inside the Encounter Africa exhibit. Like any old piggy bank, the elephant is hungry for spare change. Once you've filled it up, you may bring your donation to any front gate of the Zoo between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Finally, prizes will be awarded to certain age ranges for best decorated bank and most money raised.

All the proceeds for this campaign will support what Cheyenne Mountain Zoo calls its "biggest project ever," the Encounter Africa exhibit. The exhibit will feature elephants, meerkats, lions, and black rhinos and is projected to open in late 2012.

For more information visit: www.cmzoo.org

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Monday, January 30, 2012

REVIEW: Joe Turner's Come and Gone

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 5:15 PM

When the late great playwright August Wilson set out to document the African-American experience, he didn’t stop at just one play. He wrote 10, now referred to as his Pittsburgh Cycle or Century Cycle, each play set in a different decade of the 20th century. Some are merely good. Two have won the Pulitzer Prize. Four more were nominated.

Despite a few missteps, TheatreWorks does justice to an American classic.
  • Despite a few missteps, TheatreWorks does justice to an American classic.

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone belongs to that last group. And after viewing TheatreWorks' powerful new production, you may wonder why it wasn't among those that captured the most prestigious award in American theater.

(Side note: Joe Turner's Come and Gone occupies its own niche in recent history as the play that Barack and Michelle Obama saw on Broadway five months after the president was inaugurated.)

Set in 1911, the play tells the story of the first wave of African-Americans to migrate from the agrarian South to the urban North. They sought jobs. They sought equality. But most of all, they sought a new and meaningful identity for themselves and their children.

What they got was a different matter. Jobs were plentiful, but only if your skin was white. Equality was just a far-off dream. As for the meaning of life, well, as one character says early in the play, “You got to figure that out for yourself.”

Joe Turner's Come and Gone centers on the hardworking and ambitious Seth, who runs a boarding house frequented by many of the newly arrived migrants, and his wife Bertha, who runs Seth.

As the play opens, Seth has just two concerns: raising the money needed to expand his tinsmithing business and stopping their oldest boarder from sacrificing pigeons in the backyard.

But then a tall, brooding man with the name of Herald Loomis arrives at the boardinghouse, his little girl in tow. He claims to be a preacher, but there’s nothing saintly about him. His every word bristles with anger, and when he talks about Joe Turner, a mysterious figure whom he blames all his troubles on, we can’t be sure whether he’s talking about a man or something else.

The production is directed by Clinton Turner Davis, a Colorado College professor who has dedicated much of his career to interpreting the works of Wilson. And in this production it shows, most particularly in the care the entire cast takes to make Wilson's sometimes-difficult language accessible.

Seth and Bertha are played with warmth and humor by Cris Davenport and local actress Lynne Hastings. Timothy C. Johnson gives a finely nuanced performance as Bynum, an aging "conjure man" who keeps his spiritual gifts hidden beneath an amiable exterior until they’re called forth in a scene of breathtaking intensity.

Of the leads, only Calvin M. Thompson as Herald still needs time to grow into his character. With his menacing presence, it was impossible not to keep my eyes riveted on him every moment he was on stage. But in the end, his performance was too one-note, failing to evoke an emotional transformation that was critical to the resolution of the entire work.

On the tech side, Matthew Myhrum’s sprawling set was gorgeous, but I found it almost too gorgeous, lacking a lived-in feeling.

Like most of Wilson’s work, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone is not a play you can just sit back and watch. It begs to be pondered and talked about and wrestled with. But those who put in the effort will be richly rewarded.

Read more coverage about the play here.

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A chef change at the Craftwood Inn; new items at Jun

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 5:07 PM

A little teaser of some breaking food news that will likely be expanded upon in this upcoming week's Side Dish column:

• Chef Ben Hoffer told me late last week that he'd put in his notice at Craftwood Inn.

Outgoing Craftwood Inn chef Ben Hoffer, as seen at this past weekends Glass Slipper Ball.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Outgoing Craftwood Inn chef Ben Hoffer, as seen at this past weekend's Glass Slipper Ball.

Incoming Craftwood Inn chef Dave Cottrill, as seen last fall at Conscious Table.
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Incoming Craftwood Inn chef Dave Cottrill, as seen last fall at Conscious Table.

In an email sent today, he says, "I will pop up somewhere soon and I have some serious plans to open something for myself here in the springs within the next year."

Meanwhile, local chef and former Conscious Table partner Dave Cottrill posted this on his Facebook page a couple hours ago: "I am now the Executive Chef at The Craftwood Inn."

We'll have more once we've spoken to the restaurant's management.

• Sushi chef Jun Aizu of Jun says his renovated North Academy Boulevard location should be open in time for Valentine's Day.

Most notably, the newly designed space allows for a trio of tables at which Shabu-Shabu (often called Japanese fondue) will be served. Also, Jun will debut some new Ramen noodle bowls — not the crap you lived on in college, but real, homemade bone broths prepared by and based on recipes from Jun's mom, Mieko Wada, who once ran a traditional Ramen house in Japan.

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The Urban Renewal Authority: Love it, hate it, or fix it

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 5:04 PM

Plans for Ivywild.
  • Plans for Ivywild.

The Urban Renewal Authority has seen better days.

It's taken quite a beating in the Gazette as of late. There was the revelation that the University Village Shopping Center hasn't produced as much dough as planned, leading to a likely default on some of the Authority's bonds. And then there was the spat between the mayor and a member of the Urban Renewal board, after the mayor accused the board of trying to milk more than a million out of the Ivywild school project, a project whose total costs are only around $3 million. The board member denied the claim.

So is it true? Is the Urban Renewal Authority run by a bunch of incompetent money handlers and moochers? That's hard to say. Sure, some might argue that the Authority should have seen the worsening economy coming when issuing those shopping center bonds, but it certainly wasn't the only entity to bet wrong in this economy. Apparently, the whole thing can be resolved through some reworking of the payment schedule.

And then there's the Ivywild issue. The Indy talked to Mike Bristol, who is heading up the Ivywild project, last week about the tussle. Bristol confirmed that original estimates called for more than a million in fees, but says that was early in the process. Bristol said he and his partners simply requested lower fees, noting that theirs was a smaller project than the Authority was used to. The Authority knocked the fees down to about $450,000.

Bristol doesn't recall the mayor's office being involved in the process at that point, so Bach may have had it wrong when he claimed it was his office that got the fee lowered from that sky-high first estimate. But Bristol noted that mayoral employee Steve Cox did contact him last month and worked with him to get the fees halved again. He was grateful for the help.

"The mayor's office, they sort of balked at the fees and we did too," Bristol said. "And so we were able to come to an agreement with them."

The point of this story is this: If, after reading this, you still think the Urban Renewal Authority needs serious help, there is something you can do: Volunteer for the board. Vacancies are waiting to be filled.

Urban Renewal Authority seeks volunteers

The Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority is looking for interested citizens to fill vacancies on the Urban Renewal Board. The Urban Renewal Authority is looking for applicants with backgrounds in finance, urban planning and real estate. Experience in redevelopment, master planning and familiarity with the City’s Development Review Process is desirable.

Send letters of interest and resumes no later than Friday, February 10 to mdevine@springsgov.com or mail to City Council; Attention Marti Devine Sletta; P.O. Box 1575; Colorado Springs, CO 80901.

Or, fill out the Application for Appointment to a City Board, Committee or Commission, which can be found at www.SpringsGov.com by clicking on “Commissions and Committees” on the homepage. (The application cannot be submitted online at this time. Please send to the e-mail or physical address above.) For questions or more information, please call (719) 385-5453.

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New law shifts campaign disclosure requirements

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 4:55 PM

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law today the first bill to make its way through the state Legislature.

The bill, SB 12-014, will update the schedule for disclosure requirements for candidates, committees and political parties, to reflect the June primaries.

Bob Gardner
  • Rep. Bob Gardner

As it stood before this legislation, the biweekly disclosure reports were to begin the first Monday in July — which would have been effectively useless to the voters in primaries. Now, thanks to the bipartisan bill co-sponsored by the Springs' Republican Rep. Bob Gardner, the disclosures will begin the first Monday in May.

According to a statement from Colorado Ethics Watch lauding the bill's passage, this was a necessary move after Secretary of State Scott Gessler attempted to use the change in the primary date as a reason to do away with the disclosure requirement altogether.

From the statement:

Ethics Watch filed suit in Denver District Court challenging the rule on the ground that the Secretary of State has no authority to override statutory disclosure requirements. The legislature's Legal Services Committee voted 8-2 to reject the rule as exceeding the Secretary of State's authority, leading the Secretary to withdraw the rule on December 27. After the rule was withdrawn, Ethics Watch voluntarily dismissed its lawsuit. This paved the way for the legislature to reassert its authority over campaign finance statutes.

From Luis Toro, director of Ethics Watch:

"We congratulate the legislature on its quick, bipartisan action to restore reasonable disclosure rules for the June primary. If Secretary of State Gessler had his way, voters would have been in the dark just as fundraising and spending pick up before the primary date. This is a victory for Coloradans from across the political spectrum who believe in the people's right to know about money in elections. We urge Governor Hickenlooper to sign this bill."

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SunShare solar project fully subscribed

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 2:50 PM

SunShare, a local start-up building solar community gardens, announced Monday that its project at Venetucci Farms south of Colorado Springs is fully subscribed. It's also fully operational and providing power to the Colorado Springs Utilities grid.

Gov. John Hickenlooper at SunShares groundbreaking in November.
  • Gov. John Hickenlooper at SunShare's groundbreaking in November.

Headed by Colorado College graduate David Amster-Olszewski, SunShare recently sold the remaining 509 solar panels from the project to Colorado Springs School.

The school said in a news release:

In a historic decision, The Colorado Springs School has purchased 115 kW of solar energy through the Sun Share leasing program, recently constructed at Venetucci Farms. This project provides a quarter of CSS’s electrical energy needs. It also represents one of the largest commitments to solar energy among Colorado schools, and possibly the first school in the United States to draw more than 100 kW from a “community solar garden.”

“The combination of rebates, low panel costs, and efficiencies of scale make this a timely and responsible financial decision,“ states head of school, Kevin Reel. “It demonstrates the school’s commitment to making innovative decisions with the well-being of the community and future generations in mind.”
The contribution of solar energy at CSS is further maximized by the fact that the school has recently undergone a careful energy-saving program as part of the “Green Cup Challenge” sponsored by the Green Schools Alliance, a nation-wide collaboration among independent schools to save energy.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with the Colorado Springs School. The board, faculty, and students have shown time and time again their dedication to the future and excitement for cutting-edge educational opportunities,” said SunShare CEO and founder, David Amster-Olszewski. After CSS bought the final solar panels in the Venetucci solar garden, SunShare is moving forward with development of its second solar garden in Colorado Springs, expected to be operational this spring.
The federal government supplies a 30% rebate on production costs for renewable energy systems, such as the community solar garden at Venetucci. Up to December 20, 2011, Colorado Springs Utility also provided a 30% rebate on renewable energy costs.

SunShare has taken reservations for nearly 50 percent of its second planned project in Colorado Springs.

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Sky Sox humidor not dead, not living

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 2:23 PM

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Back in October, our executive editor Ralph Routon opined, using info from the Denver Post, that the hometown AAA team, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, may be in danger of being moved.

To their credit, the Rockies finally have decided to do something they should have done years ago: They're planning to install a humidor for the Sky Sox, similar to one they've had since 2002 at Coors Field. When game balls are stored in a humid environment, they don't dry out and, because they're heavier, don't carry as far. They also act more normally for pitchers.

The local humidor would be a huge benefit to the Colorado Rockies club, because, while there's one softening up the "pop" of baseballs in the thin air of Denver, there's nothing for pitchers and hitters down here. This means, on the downside, pitchers' numbers balloon; on the upside, hitters' numbers balloon.

But great or not, Troy E. Renck told us yesterday that no action has happened on the issue.

There's no greater example of how tough pitching in Colorado Springs was last season than Clayton Mortensen, shipped to Boston for new starting second baseman Marco Scutaro. The sinkerballer went 2-4 with a 3.86 ERA with the Rockies last season but 2-8 with a 9.42 ERA for the Sky Sox.

The lack of progress by several pitchers and the difficulty of evaluating hitters prompted discussion of adding a humidor to store baseballs in Colorado Springs. As of now, the Rockies haven't committed to the idea, but it has not been dismissed either.

"We are still studying the possibility," [general manager Dan] O'Dowd said. "We are not sure yet."

Meanwhile, at least the Rockies have extended their player-development contract with the Sky Sox, meaning their relationship will continue at least through 2014.

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A tantrum over DADT

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 1:37 PM

A Kansas congressman just can't swallow the idea that Don't Ask Don't Tell is history, abolished last September.

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Rep. Tim Huelskamp, obviously a Republican, has proposed a bill called the Military Religious Freedom Protection Act, which would ensure “that our military facilities are not used in contravention to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which states that marriage is between one man and one woman only,” according to a report by The Raw Story that can be found here.

Sorry, Tim, that train has left the station, with the Pentagon issuing a memo mandating that military chapels be made available to service members for ceremonies that are legal in the states in which the facilities are located. There's nothing stopping service members in other states from using facilities for commitment ceremonies, which the Indy reported about a few months ago.

Huelskamp also bellyaches about military chaplains being forced to conduct ceremonies to which they object. Get with it, buddy: A Sept. 21 directive from the Department of Defense said military chaplains "may participate or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law," but the DoD doesn't require chaplains to perform rites that conflict with their religious or personal beliefs.

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Cutting through the environmental rhetoric

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 9:42 AM

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In an effort to bring some clarity to the oft-heated environmental debate, the Checks and Balances Project has initiated the Western Lands and Energy Dashboard.

As you can see from the image above, this site will be a place to collect information regarding energy issues, such as federal subsidies that are profiting the oil and gas companies.

An interesting note: According to the Project, annual drilling for oil and gas has reached an all-time high under the Obama administration.

Read about the team behind Checks and Balances Project here.

From Friday's press release:

Today, the Checks and Balances Project launched its Western Lands and Energy Dashboard examining oil and gas development and public lands access in the West.

The dashboard is an impartial counter to the rhetoric of industry lobby groups such as American Petroleum Institute and Western Energy Alliance as well as politicians with deep industry ties as a result of oil and gas campaign contributions.

The dashboard presents the facts and figures of the oil and gas industry and public lands development in a simple and clear way, with links to original sources.

“After the State of the Union address, we saw a pile-on by industry lobbyists and Big Oil politicians to spread misinformation about the health of America’s oil and gas industry,” said Matt Garrington, Denver-based co-director of The Checks and Balances Project. “Our research demonstrates that business is booming for the oil and gas industry, and that those companies continue to underutilize existing access to public land while demanding taxpayer handouts.”

“Last year, under the Obama administration, oil companies reported $104 billion in profits and enjoyed the highest level of drilling activity since the Reagan era. This is the sort of information the oil and gas industry and their supporters in Congress neglect to mention. We want to set the record straight,” continued Garrington.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Speak up for your state

Posted By on Sat, Jan 28, 2012 at 10:01 AM

Sen. Michael Bennet
Bennet: democracy at its finest.

Following Obama’s State of the Union address and a bunch of talk and/or malarkey addressing the national economy, Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is taking the Colorado economy into his own hands and asking for feedback from residents in an attempt to make the federal-state relationship smoother and more efficient, especially where federal grants and contracting are concerned.

“The best ideas do not come from Washington; they come from people on the ground in Colorado,” Bennet explained. To give businesses and organizations a voice, he set up a website of two surveys: one for anyone who has applied for, submitted bids for, or been awarded federal grants, another for anyone similarly involved with federal contracts.

In addition, Bennet has built a convenient 82-page web document detailing all the grants available to Colorado organizations in his Affordable Care Act (AFA). Don’t worry, the document is searchable.

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