Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Blaha: Lamborn throws local business under the bus

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2012 at 4:43 PM

Robert Blaha, candidate for 5th Congressional District, El Paso County Republican
  • Robert Blaha

As we detailed in our story today, political campaigns aren't typically bastions of truth or fidelity.

And today, Robert Blaha, the Republican businessman who is hoping to oust U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn from office in the 5th Congressional District, has gone to the media to defend himself against the numerous attacks made by Lamborn against his character and business history.

You can see these attacks on Lamborn's website, theblaharecord.com.

Blaha's website, therealrobertblaha.com, contains much of the information that he presented to the Indy, as well as other media outlets.

Let's start with a the Lamborn claim that Integrity Bank & Trust, the bank co-founded by Blaha, has been fined by the FDIC and and "ranked among the worst in the region."

As we have noted, that claim has largely been debunked by the Denver Post:

The data they [the Lamborn campaign] are citing are from the unofficial commercial rating site, BankRate.com, and reference a 2010 rating. Lamborn’s anti-Blaha website claims, Integrity Bank & Trust, is currently ranked with a 2-star, but when you click on the link, it actually has a 3-star rating, which is defined as having “a generally satisfactory financial condition.” Either way, it is important to note that this site is not from an official regulatory agency.

As for the FDIC claim, [Blaha campaign manager Tamra] Farah said it was an isolated incident by one bank employee.

“There was a civil penalty for not completing one form completely, and I don’t want to diminish that, but it is a clerical error and is fairly routine,” Farah said.

Blaha points out that, in attempting to injure his reputation, Lamborn is also attacking the reputation of a constituent-owned bank in his own district — a bank that Blaha argues is doing quite well.

"This is an attack on a local bank that is locally owned," he says. "You have a sitting congressman attacking his constituents in an attempt to get re-elected."

This "attack" didn't sit well with the bank's president, Jim Wyss, who earlier this month wrote a press release stating:

Because of these choices, not only is our bank not one of the “worst banks in the region” as Congressman Lamborn wrongly asserts, we are growing in customer base, capital holdings and in the number of Coloradoans we employ. Bank regulators have repeated acknowledged our progress during these tough times and commended our board involvement. For our own Congressman to suggest otherwise is both unexpected and unfair.

In the course of a political campaign, we know that tough statements will be made from both sides. But we at Integrity Bank & Trust would hope that the candidates would themselves show some integrity and not unfairly target small businesses in the community for their own short-term political gain.

Days later, on May 18, the law firm of Stinson Morrison Hecker sent a letter to Lamborn, on behalf of the bank, demanding that the congressman pull all ads that make claims about its client.

"We understand you have claimed that Integrity Bank 'is currently rated below average by the widely cited BankRate.com,'" the letter reads. "This assertion about Integrity Bank & Trust is simply false."

True; the assertion is false. The bank is rated by this private rating firm with a three-star "performing" ranking.

The letter continues by demanding that the false information be taken down from Lamborn's website, as "its continuing appearance there poses a threat to the public's sense of confidence in the bank."

And just for some added incentive, the letter points to a Sec. 11-102-508 of Colorado Revised Statute, which makes it a class 2 misdemeanor to make false and damaging statements about a state bank (who knew?):


Any person who willfully makes, circulates, or transmits to another any false statement, written or oral, that is directly or by inference derogatory to the financial condition of any state bank and that results in an extraordinary withdrawal of funds from such bank or that results in impairing public confidence in such bank and any person who shall counsel, aid, procure, or induce another to start, transmit, or circulate any such statement knowing the statement to be false commits a class 2 misdemeanor and shall be punished as provided in section 18-1.3-501, C.R.S.

We'll look into more of the claims in this race as the week progresses.

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War stories and other book notes

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2012 at 4:29 PM

A few book-related activities going on:

America, Steven Clevenger, book, war

First up, on Saturday, June 2, photojournalist Steven Clevenger will host a signing and presentation on his book America's First Warriors: Native Americans and Iraq.

You can listen to a 2011 NPR interview with Clevenger, who's been covering wars for almost four decades, and see a slideshow of his work here. Then head to Poor Richard's Bookstore from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday to meet the man.

Radical Equations, Robert Spiller, Colorado Springs, book

Next up, local author Robert Spiller is running a deal on the Kindle version of Radical Equations, the fourth book in his Bonnie Pinkwater mystery series.

Starting Friday, Radical Equations will be available online here for just 99 cents. If you're looking for a light, summer read, this series featuring a high school math teacher (written by a former math teacher) with multiple Colorado references might be just what you need. Now's a good time to check out this series, since Spiller is plugging away on the fifth book, Napier's Bones, and plans to release it in 2013.

Third, for those of you with kiddos, Pikes Peak Library District's summer reading program starts June 1 and runs through July 31. Learn more about how your children can win prizes, just for reading, here.

PPLDs 2012 summer reading program for kids and teens in Colorado Springs

And finally, less book-related though still library-involved, PPLD now has the first season of the PBS hit Downton Abbey available to card-holders, for free. Learn more here. The video-loaning is a part of the library's OverDrive Virtual collection, which includes not only video, but eBooks and audio books.

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UCH to Memorial workers: We're taking over Oct. 1

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2012 at 3:55 PM

Colorado Springs Memorial Health System

The University of Colorado Health System will take over city-owned Memorial Health System on Oct. 1, if voters approve of a lease at an Aug. 28 special election, the head of UCH told about 125 Memorial employees today.

Bruce Schroffel, CEO of University of Colorado Health, met today with the employees in the Cuchara Room in the Memorial building on east Pikes Peak Avenue (the old Montgomery Ward building) during a routine senior leaders meeting with workers.

According to internal live-blogging by Memorial communications specialist Brian Newsome, Schroffel reported the lease is in its final stages, or down to the "last sentences."

"He said it is not all that different than what was in the original proposal, but now it is a 100-page document full of legalese," Newsome reported. "He said we've come to agreement and both parties are happy."

University of Colorado Health System
  • Schroffel: PERA will be history.


Schroffel predicted that Colorado Springs City Council would review the lease later this month and possibly approve it June 26. UCH would sign it the following day.

Here are the highlights of Schroffel's remarks:

• UCH is putting together a "vote yes" campaign to communicate with the public.

(It's unclear if the campaign-financing filing by an organization calling itself "Great City. Great Care," filed May 14, is the campaign committee Schroffel was referring to. The filing says that committee will work to support the lease of Memorial.)

"Bruce says they are taking a proactive approach," Newsome wrote. "There is a campaign that will roll out over the next several weeks. There are well-known citizens who are very supportive of this."

Quoting Schroffel: "We're prepared to educate the community."

• If voters approve the lease, Memorial workers would become UCH employees Oct. 1, but it's unclear exactly what their benefits would look like.

UCH's proposal said it wouldn't lay off anyone for six months after the lease became effective, and today Schroffel reportedly said, "there won't be thousands of jobs moving to Denver."

• "[Schroffel] said Memorial's financials and quality are concerns," Newsome wrote. "There is a lot to do in a very short time. He said he recognizes this is an anxiety-inducing time, but the intent is to grow this organization."

Newsome then noted that Memorial's acting CEO had a couple things to say.

"Mike Scialdone is now asking how many people think taking an overarching governing body about politics and giving it to one about health care is a good thing. Big show of hands."

Memorial Health System Colorado Springs
  • Scialdone: Keep your chin up.

Quoting Scialdone, Newsome wrote, "If you look at UCH and its ability to do that, it is phenomenal, he says. This is turning a page and really embracing something in which we align with organizations of like mind, around quality, and taking this out of politics."

• Schroffel also told employees, "You will not have PERA. You know that." The Public Employees Retirement Association covers all city employees, including those at Memorial, but UCH is working a deal to leave PERA and replace it with another retirement system that won't be "as rich" as PERA but would be comparable to others in the UCH system and a better plan than those offered by Centura Health and HCA, a for-profit conglomerate that unsuccessfully bid on Memorial.

Quoting Schroffel, Newsome wrote, "There will be about 15k employees in the new system, so it is a 'big, big' decision. 'PERA is in trouble,' he says. 'It is not a sustainable model in this country, I think.'"

• Schroffel noted the new Memorial board will have 11 members, at least seven from the community.

There also was talk that morale at Memorial is low, but Scialdone reportedly told employees, "You can sit idly by and cast stones, or you can do something about it and get engaged."

Scialdone also reported that Memorial's first-quarter results were "solid," but workers shouldn't slack off. He also noted that reports that there had been no raises is false, and that in 2011 alone, more than $10 million in pay increases was given. He also noted a salary survey is under way to assure employees are paid fairly.

Newsome also reported that Tracy Narvet, controller, gave a financial update. Volumes are low, but Memorial has offset that by managing costs. She also said inpatient volumes are down, but ER visits are up.

"Mike Scialdone gives a big thank you to everyone for the work you've done to strengthen our operations," the blog reports. "When it comes to stewardship, he says, any area in which we are not being effective and efficient is an opportunity cost to do something with those dollars (people, community health, equipment, etc.) Mike says the balance sheet is in the best shape its been in the last couple of years, but he also notes that the first quarter is typically the strongest. We must continue to be vigilent [sic] about being good stewards of our resources."

To read the entire blog, go here.

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Local Hometown Hottie needs your votes

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2012 at 10:59 AM

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A senior loan processor for Cherry Creek Mortgage Co. by day, Kristi Gates is a few more things in her free time: a model for local artist and gallery owner Brett Andrus; a dancer, who goes by the name of Misha Minx, with the Peaks and Pasties burlesque troupe; a coach with fitness company Beachbody; and a contestant in Maxim magazine's Hometown Hotties contest.

"I didn't even know about the contest until my friend Justine saw this tiny fine print in a Maxim magazine," Gates writes via Facebook. "She called me and told me I should submit. So I said sure, why not? Haha, I submitted some pics and a bio back in March and actually forgot about it until [yesterday] when I received an email from Maxim saying that I was selected for week 2 and that my profile was ready on their website!"

You can view her profile here, and vote once a day until June 5.

In the meantime, Gates says, for how far she's ranged, she's actually fairly new to the practice.

"I really didn't start modeling till this year when I turned 29, so I am still super new," she writes. "Modeling is harder work than people think. It's still strange when people ask me to shoot. I'm like 'Are you sure? I am old haha! Shouldn't you ask some 19 year old?'"

And as far as her dancing: "What can I say about Burlesque?? I am in love with performing! It is a huge rush getting on stage and entertaining everyone, knowing that they came to see you do your thing."

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mistake leads to $2,305 hotel bill

Posted By on Tue, May 29, 2012 at 7:13 PM

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A story from the Travel Troubleshooter, a nationally syndicated column from Tribune Media Services, details the recent troubles a Seattle woman had with a Colorado Springs Holiday Inn, when she erred in making her reservation. Of course, why should that be all that goes wrong?

Unfortunately, that day at work I was severely bitten on my right hand by a dog. I had to go to the ER after work and the doctor told me I had to cancel my trip for the next day, as I would most likely need surgery. I called the Holiday Inn that evening to tell them that I would not be able to make it and asked the office manager to return my call to discuss the error I had made.

See the story for resolution, and why, as you already know, you should always read the fine print. (And maybe enact a pre-travel canine ban.)

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Rep. Doug Lamborn's father passes

Posted By on Tue, May 29, 2012 at 5:03 PM

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn and his wife, Jeanie
  • U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn and his wife, Jeanie.

While we enjoy beating up on our elected representatives, it's times like these when we're reminded that they're real people.

And real people lose their fathers.

Today, according to a press release, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn's father passed away at the age of 93.

The release includes some details about Robert Lamborn. It sounds like he had a full life.

Robert Lamborn, 93, a veteran of the Second World War and former corrections officer at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, died May 29, in Leavenworth Kansas. Mr. Lamborn is the father of Congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs.

At age 23, in March 1942, Mr. Lamborn enlisted in the Army at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. He served for nearly 3 ½ years, attaining the rank of sergeant and was credited with 11 battle or campaign stars. Mr. Lamborn served as an armorer for P-40 Warhawks with the 79th Fighter Group. During the war, Mr. Lamborn fought in nine countries, including Malta, Sicily, Corsica, and France.

In civilian life, Mr. Lamborn served 25 years with the federal Bureau of Prisons at Leavenworth Penitentiary. In 1955, Mr. Lamborn was one of five corrections officers selected from a nationwide search to serve at Spandau Prison in West Berlin. There he helped guard Nazi war criminals who had been convicted of crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg trials.

Mr. Lamborn was a fourth generation Kansan whose family homesteaded near Leavenworth. He farmed this land his whole life.

Mr. Lamborn’s wife of 53 years, the former Madeline Brockman of Junction City, Kansas passed away in 1998. In addition to Doug, he is survived by three other sons, nine grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

“My father passed on to his four sons a love of God, family, and country. He taught us to work hard and give our best to everything we do. He was part of the greatest generation, but thought only that he was doing his duty. Like many who served with him in the Second World War, my father’s life was marked by hard work, sacrifice, and service.” – Doug Lamborn (CO-05)

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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Commissioners say 'no' to trails

Posted By on Tue, May 29, 2012 at 3:00 PM

El Paso County bicycle path
  • County commissioners aren't interested in building more of these with Rural Transportation Authority tax money.

Trails lost out today when the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners voted against including a line-item for trails projects in an upcoming ballot measure.

Or as trails supporter Lee Milner said, "No crumbs."

The Pikes Peak Transportation Authority 1 percent sales tax expires at the end of 2014, so local elected officials are preparing for a ballot measure this year. (If it fails this year, they'd still have another year to take a second run at voters.)

The tax generates about $70 million a year for roads and bridges in the county, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Green Mountain Falls and a couple of other small towns.

Today, commissioners were presented with several options to include trails in the new RTA 2 proposal to be decided by voters Nov. 6.

The one drawing the most discussion was a measure that would include $106,000 for trails, which would help fund 20 percent of any project's cost, requiring the other 80 percent come from "partners" such as Great Outdoors Colorado, grants and private contributions.

A couple members of the county's Highway Advisory Committee said accommodation for bicycles shouldn't be included in the transportation system funding package because trails are used for recreation at least 90 percent of the time. In other words, trails aren't used by commuters.

Bill Koerner of the Trails and Open Space Coalition disagreed, saying many people pedal to and from work. Problem is, many trails are interrupted.

"The key thing is connectivity," he said, adding that roads "need to connect with city trails and other county trails. We feel the RTA can play a role in making these connections."

Dan Stuart, chairman of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and EDC's committee that will advocate for the extending the tax, also spoke in favor of the $106,000 option.

"We know trails are not just for commuting," Stuart said. "Trails are for quality of life and they also improve economic vitality. The county’s list of trails when combined with the city’s list provide faster and safer ways to get around the region."

Commissioners Sallie Clark, Dennis Hisey and Amy Lathen
balked at the $106,000 proposal, saying it would be too complicated to include a line-item with only 20 percent funding, which would remove RTA's control over whether the project gets funded. If no donations came in, they argued, projects couldn't be funded, undermining the RTA slogan of "promises made, promises kept."

"How does that play, when we have to say, '[Promises were kept], except where we didn’t have the right partnership'?" Hisey said.

Said Clark, "A lot of intersection improvements could be done with $106,000. I’m just real concerned about eroding what most folks think of as transportation." She added that trails aren't as important as vehicular roads in the mission of moving people from point A to point B.

Clark
  • Clark

Commissioners eventually voted unanimously to accept another option, which includes $85,000 for the B Street trailhead and trail that will connect with a city trail and the newly constructed pedestrian overpass on B Street.

Clark, Hisey and Lathen stressed that their opposition to the $106,000 option wasn't because they oppose trails. (Commissioners Darryl Glenn and Peggy Littleton favored the $106,000 option.)

"It's not about whether we like trails," Lathen said. "It's about what this model looks like going forward." She was referring to the definition of transportation contained in the first RTA ballot measure, which restricts spending to vehicular traffic and transit.

To that, Milner, who had earlier pleaded with commissioners to include the $106,000 in the RTA package as "a crumb" for the hiking and biking community, said, "You put money behind things you support."

Milner also noted that the RTA tax extension, given the economic times, might face a tough road with voters who are strapped and don't want to extend the sales tax. Including trails projects, he said, could have helped generate enthusiasm from trails supporters.

The county's package does include accommodations for bicycles of twice that amount, from $8 million to $10 million of the county's total of $160 million for its project lists. County engineer Andre Brackin said several road improvement and widening projects will include wider shoulders; some will be built with parallel bicycle trails. Brackin couldn't explain why commissioners were so dead-set against funding trails separately but voted to approve spending millions on trails when they coincide with motorized vehicle roads.

Lathen
  • Lathen

As a footnote.....
The RTA board, comprised of representatives from entities who get a stake from the tax, are haggling over ballot wording, Lathen said during today's commission meeting.

Some board members don't want the measure to conform to the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which requires tax measures begin by stating, "Shall taxes be increased by (insert amount here)...."

Because the RTA tax is an extension of an existing tax, the reasoning goes, the measure could begin by asking, "Shall the RTA tax be renewed" or "extended" or some other kind of term that might not be so off-putting to taxpayers. After all, this camp argues, the city's measure that extended the trails, open space and parks (TOPS) tax some years ago used language that deviated from the TABOR requirement. Here's the ballot wording for that measure:

Colorado Springs trails open space and parks

But Lathen said that's because the TOPS tax extension was used to tackle the same list of projects that the original TOPS tax was designed to tackle. RTA 2 will tackle a whole new set of projects not listed in the RTA 1 ballot measure, she said.

"Therefore," Lathen said, capping this argument, "It’s a new tax and must comply" with TABOR.

In coming weeks, the RTA board will finalize the ballot language and the list of projects from all participating governments.

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An earlier Starlight Spectacular

Posted By on Tue, May 29, 2012 at 2:53 PM

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I don't want to sound old or anything, but I'm personally thrilled to hear that this year's Starlight Spectacular will start at 10:30 instead of the usual midnight.

What can I say, I need my sleep.

And it's hard to imagine that an earlier start time will make this bike ride through the dark any less fun. It's a rare thing to be able to see the city and Garden of the Gods by moonlight without any fear of being hit by a car. And rarer still are the huge groups of cyclists that show up for this ride, hooting and hollering, wearing funny costumes strung with Christmas lights. Plus, it's a benefit for the deserving Trails and Open Space Coalition.

This year, Starlight will feature all the old traditions — including pancakes — as well as some new stuff. Like an armadillo.

Hey, sounds good to me. I'll be there, bright and early (well, relatively), with bells on (literally). If you'd also like to go, visit trailsandopenspaces.org/starlight-spectacular to sign up.

Moonlight Bicycle Ride through Garden of the Gods
Still Sparkling! Still Spectacular! But – Now at a New Earlier Time!

Taking the yawn out of what is already an exciting ride, the 18th annual Heuberger Subaru Starlight Spectacular will begin 90 minutes earlier this year, at 10:30 p.m., Saturday June 9th. Leaving from the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center. cyclists will have the option of riding 14 or 21 miles. Riders are encouraged to add a loop through Garden of the Gods to take in the giant, geological wonders like they aren’t normally seen, just one more element that makes the Starlight ride spectacular!

Riders will travel through the west side of Colorado Springs and Old Colorado City, with two rest stations along the way. Once again REI will host one rest station and Colorado Springs Cycling Club will host the other at Bancroft Park wearing costumes and offering tasty, nutritional snacks.

What’s new this year?
New time at 10:30. Our cyclists love the novelty of seeing some of Colorado Springs’ best attractions by moon and starlight but not all are night owls and the previous midnight start time made for some Sunday fatigue in the past. This year they’ll be able to ride, have breakfast and be in bed before 2 a.m.
Pancakes are back! While cyclists enjoyed last years’ breakfast burritos provided by Whole Foods, pancakes are popular among pedalers. So Whole Foods is expanding the menu and pancakes will be hot and ready for finishing cyclists.
NEW: Aye! Moo! Rah Matey!
Cyclists will be sent into the night by a unique team of “cheerleaders”: a pirate, cow, armadillo (we don’t know what sound they make) and the Starlight Princess.

Returning Favorites:
Boriello Brothers’ Pizza
The popular West One Group Challenge Trophy for the largest team
Cruiser Bikes for Most Creative Attire and Most Extravagantly illuminated Rider and/or bike
Lots and lots of “out”door prizes
Live Music by Pulpit Fiction

Proceeds Benefit the Trails and Open Space Coalition (TOSC)
Dedicated to the preservation of open spaces and parks and the creation of a network of trails, bikeways and greenways for the Pikes Peak region.
Now celebrating our 25th year!
TOSC receives no public tax dollar support.
The Heuberger Starlight Spectacular is our biggest annual fundraiser.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

U.S. 24 environmental assessment available for review

Posted By on Mon, May 28, 2012 at 3:52 PM

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In the future, west-bound U.S. Highway 24 could receive a major revamping.

But first, the environmental impact of those changes must be considered. The state recently released the environmental assessment of the proposed project and the public has until July 11 to comment on the findings.

The document can be viewed online at coloradodot.info/projects/us24west, or you can grab a copy of it in person at one of several locations.

A public hearing will be held June 11, from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Community Partnership for Child Development office at 2330 Robinson St. in Colorado Springs. The meeting will include a presentation on the proposed alternative.


US 24 WEST ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT AVAILABLE FOR PUBLIC REVIEW

Colorado Springs, CO – The Environmental Assessment (EA) for the US 24 West project is now
available for public review. The project document details the recommended future improvements for
the 4-mile corridor from I-25 to the Manitou Ave. exit.

The document is available for review at these locations:

Pikes Peak Library District
Old Colorado City Branch
2418 West Pikes Peak Avenue
Colorado Springs, CO 80904
(719) 634-1698

CDOT Region 2
North Program Office
1480 Quail Lake Loop, Suite A
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
(719) 227-3200

Pikes Peak Library District
Penrose Branch
20 North Cascade Avenue
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
(719) 531-6333


FHWA Colorado Division Office
12300 West Dakota Avenue, Suite 180
Lakewood, CO 80228
(720) 963-3000

Pikes Peak Library District
Ute Pass Branch
8010 Severy
Cascade, CO 80809
(719) 684-9342

Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments
15 South Seventh Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80905
(719) 471-7080

Rampart Library District
Woodland Park Branch
218 East Midland Avenue
Woodland Park, CO 80866
(719) 687-9281

City of Colorado Springs
City Clerk Office
30 South Nevada Ave # 101
Colorado Springs, CO 80903-1802
(719) 385-5901

Manitou Springs Public Library
701 Manitou Avenue
Manitou Springs, CO 80829
(719) 685-5206

CDOT Headquarters
Public Relations Office
4201 East Arkansas Avenue, #277
Denver, CO 80220

Electronic copies are available at: http://www.coloradodot.info/projects/us24west.

"We encourage the public to review the EA prior to the Public Hearing," said David Watt, CDOT
Resident Engineer and Project Manager. "Members of the project team will be available that
evening to answer questions about the EA and proposed highway improvements.”

The public will have 45 days to comment on the EA, from May 28, 2012 to July 11, 2012. The Public
Hearing for the document will be held on Monday, June 11, 2012, from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the
Community Partnership for Child Development office at 2330 Robinson Street in Colorado Springs.
A presentation from 5:30 to 6:00 will provide information about the proposed alternative.

Note: Dates are subject to change.
###

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Dems planning big party, and you're invited

Posted By on Mon, May 28, 2012 at 3:10 PM

Food, drink, music, politics.

Sounds like a good summery time.

From the Peak Dems:

It's almost summer which means it is time for a Party! Join all of your dem friends for burgers, drinks, dancing (live music!), and more.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Callicrate Beef will be providing the burgers and there will be 3 exciting non-raffles — including 2 tickets to Bill Maher.

Go here and register.

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War and remembrance: A camouflaged memoir

Posted By on Mon, May 28, 2012 at 12:29 PM

Civil War Union soldier, Liljenquist Family Collection, Library of Congress
  • Civil War Union soldier, Liljenquist Family Collection, Library of Congress

The phrase "Happy Memorial Day" — which today finds its way into newspaper headlines across the country, as well as websites from ESPN to perezhilton.com — can be seen as:

• a more specific variation on the theme, "Happy Three-Day Weekend";

• a reflexive symptom of Hallmark-fueled desensitization;

• or an expression of the indomitable spirit of the American people.

In any case, the holiday itself is an observance that dates back the American Civil War, a remembrance of those lost in the theater of war that remains all too real and all too relevant to this day.

This past Friday, I received an uncorrected proof of Donald Anderson's Gathering Noise From My Life: A Camouflaged Memoir. Anderson is a professor of English and Writer in Residence at the U.S. Air Force Academy whom I'd interviewed, along with his student Jason Armagost, for a cover story a couple years ago. Armagost was in the lead aircraft of the "Shock and Awe" mission that signaled the beginning of the Iraq war.

Here is a passage from Anderson's memoir, which threads his own draft-age experience with those of young soldiers today. The book will be published by University of Iowa Press in September. Scroll down further for a video of Richard Thompson's "Meet on the Ledge" that may provide some measure of solace on this most poignant of holidays.

"Draft lottery '#1' for the 1970 drawing is July 9: my birthday. I immediately join Air Force ROTC. My plan is to stay clear of the army (more soldiers being buried than airmen). And if forced to Vietnam, I mean to be forced there as a lieutenant — an officer in charge of his future. The month I sign up for the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, the Pentagon releases to the public news of 34 deaths in 209 incidents in Vietnam of officer "fraggings" — that is, U.S. officers being attacked by their own soldiers. Attacks on officers by their own troops in time of war reached unprecedented proportions in Vietnam, with some historians reporting as many as 2,000 incidents a year.

A female air force captain, recently returned from Afghanistan, rightly spoke of the youth of the troops: "All they want to do is eat pop tarts and play video games and all we do is give them grenades.'"

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Despite AS220 success, not all rosy in Providence

Posted By on Mon, May 28, 2012 at 11:05 AM

38 Studios

When we wrote about the revival of downtown Providence, R.I. — a feat helped largely by arts organization AS220 — one of the successes we documented was the establishment of video game company 38 Studios.

38 Studios, founded by former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, had set up shop right across the street from one of AS220's three buildings and symbolized Providence's success in attracting multimillion-dollar businesses to its formerly troubled downtown. The state had offered the company a $75 million loan guarantee to move there in 2010, which "officials said would bring jobs and tax revenue," the New York Times reported last week.

The reason why it's in the news now? 38 Studios was late on last month's payment of $1.1 million to the state economic development agency. Worse, it's laid off its entire 400-person staff.

Perhaps worse still is that the state of Rhode Island is now responsible for part of 38's debt, according to an article posted today by CNNMoney. The cash-strapped state now owes $112 million in loan principal, interest and fees, and taxpayers have little chance of making up even a quarter of their potential losses.

The article points to evidence that the entire enterprise was flawed from the beginning. Despite good intentions of attracting jobs and setting up a skilled technology business with the hopes of attracting others, 38 struggled both internally and externally. Those outside the company feel the state didn't do its due diligence in the deal, either. The article says that nearly all the members of board of directors for the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation have resigned or asked to not be reinstated when their terms end.

"I think Rhode Island was star-struck by Curt Schilling," says Alexander Sliwinski, news editor for the video game site Joystiq. "You didn't see Rhode Island give Harmonix, Irrational, Turbine — all companies with established track records — $75 million to move."

Though analysts estimate 38 Studios is worth about $20 million, its staff (cut with no pay) is where the value of the company lies, intellectual property and half-finished products aside. It's expected that the state will sell all the assets to Electronic Arts.

Forbes, however, sees a silver lining in the fallout. Per an article published Saturday, often the death of a large video game company can prove to be fertile ground for other smaller companies to grow.

The message for state governments looking to boost their economies is to make themselves attractive as a place for games companies to set up. The trick is to achieve a critical mass of developers under your roof, so even if games companies go under, new ones will arise and take root in your soil.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

PJ's Bistro expands menu in Manitou Springs

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2012 at 5:42 PM

www.pjsbistro.png

Manitou Springs' PJ's Bistro sent a statement notifying the world that, having already cornered the pierogi market in southern Colorado, it has expanded its menu with more pub-style food, added more beer, wine and specialty drinks and "artisan" desserts, and changed the look of the place overall.

"We didn't want to rest on our laurels," says owner Paul Jakubczyk in the release. "We are already well-known for our Polish-influenced dishes — potato pancakes and pierogis. But our chef enjoys creating new dishes, and it was time to come out with an updated look and feel for the restaurant, so we decided to debut both at the same time.

"So far, the feedback has been very positive," says the native of Kraków. "Guests like the new logo, and new items such as the PJ's Fish and Chips are getting good reviews."

Look for more on the restaurant's new offerings in future issues of the Independent.

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When Marsha Met Craig

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2012 at 4:13 PM

Rep. Marsha Looper, House District 19, El Paso County
  • Rep. Marsha Looper

What was the cost of 2010's HB 1365, the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act?

According to Rep. Marsha Looper, the cost was jobs.

Looper is running in a primary against House Majority Leader Amy Stephens for the seat in state House District 19. It has been a rough-and-tumble primary so far, with Looper most notably hammering away on Stephens for her sponsorship of 2011's SB 200, which established Colorado's Health Benefit Exchange.

Now, a new campaign piece is being promoted by the Looper camp.

The video below features interviews with residents of Craig, a coal community in northwest Colorado, on the affects of HB 1365. Looper opposed the bill when it was before the House — a fact that this video highlights — while Stephens was one of the bill's co-sponsors.

HB 1365 mandated new emissions restrictions, suggesting the closure of some coal-based power plants as well as shifting a significant amount of the state's power generation away from coal to natural gas.

From the bill:

All rate-regulated utilities that own or operate coal-fired electric generating units located in Colorado shall submit to the commission an emission reduction plan for emissions from those units.

...

At the utility's discretion, the plan may include some or all of the following elements:

(I) New emission control equipment for oxides of nitrogen and other pollutants;
(II) Retirement of coal-fired units, if the retired coal-fired units are replaced by natural gas-fired electric generation or other low-emitting resources ...
(III) Conversion of coal-fired generation to run on natural gas ...

On her website, Stephens defends her co-sponsorship of HB 1365 by arguing that when you consider that "the Obama EPA has shut down 14 coal plants throughout the US" and that "a number of Colorado power plants have failed EPA standards," the bill was necessary to protect Colorado from federal intervention.

From her site:

If the Colorado [sic] had not acted, their power plants would now be under the control of the Obama EPA. Or our power plants would have been shut down making us dependent on outside energy sources and loosing [sic] valueable [sic] jobs in Colorado.

Stephens supported HB 1365 so that Colorado would be in control of their own energy future and not subject to the Obama EPA. And so that energy jobs would stay in Colorado.

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Is the city's oil and gas committee FUBAR?

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2012 at 2:49 PM

About 40 people gathered at the City Administration Building last night to hash out what should or shouldn't be required of oil and gas drilling companies within the city limits of Colorado Springs. The issue has been triggered by Houston-based Ultra Resources' plan to drill on 18,000 acres of the Banning Lewis Ranch.

Colorado Springs oil and gas committee
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Val Snider chats with Sean Paige as others huddle in groups.

It was part of efforts by the City Oil and Gas Committee to deliver a recommendation to the full City Council on June 26 about what's to be done. The funny thing is, the committee can't recommend anything specific.

The main problem: The City Attorney's Office is under the thumb of Mayor Steve Bach and can't follow instruction from Councilors unless there are at least five Council votes directing him to write detailed ordinances for Council consideration. There are only three Council members on the Oil and Gas Committee.

During the five months of meetings, this has meant those Councilors have been unable to request additional research or information from City Attorney Chris Melcher or his staff. Councilor Brandy Williams, who with Val Snider and Angela Dougan represent Council on the committee, admits that the committee hasn't had enough detailed information for members to form opinions on some potential areas of concern.

What's more, when the committee formulates its recommendation on June 4, it can only make general recommendations to the rest of Council. For instance, whether it might consider creating specific zones for drilling, setback requirements, water quality, impact fees and site plan regulations.

"I cannot ask staff to make it any clearer than that because [the city attorney's office is] in the mayor's branch of government," says Williams.

Some residents, unsurprisingly, aren't happy with how the committee process has gone. Several have complained the public was given no chance to comment until Thursday night, and then the format forced people to meet in groups rather than voice their opinions to everyone, as is commonly done in such circumstances.

Colorado Springs City Councilman Val Snider
  • Snider: 'politely frustrated.'

"It's a poor replacement," resident Lotus told committee chair Snider, referring to the group format. "It's not what we came here for."

One resident labeled the entire process FUBAR, a military acronym for Fucked Up Beyond All Repair.

Other residents complained that the committee never invited residents and officials from other communities that have experienced problems from oil and gas drilling to share their experiences with the city committee.

Lotus said in only three weeks, he's gathered a stack of documents and information about problems that the committee apparently never addressed in a meaningful way.

For example, he said the committee visited Greeley, where drilling is rampant, but left many rocks unturned. "There was no mention of asking for any chemical analysis," Lotus told Snider as other residents huddled around tables. "How many lawsuits have been filed by the people in Greeley? It was like, 'Why did you go there? Doesn't it make sense to go to the communities that are complaining?' I'm baffled by the way this committee can stifle the public the way it has."

Huerfano County is one place where people are up in arms over drilling. Groups have formed to protest and try to stop further drilling by Shell Oil. But the committee didn't consult with those groups or visit Huerfano County.

Snider responded by saying the public wasn't allowed to comment during the committee meetings, because "I was looking to educate the committee. Now we're getting public input, which is great."

Speaking of educating the committee, Williams says outside counsel Howard Boigan with Hogan and Lovells, an international law firm chosen by Melcher to advise the committee, was charged with setting up experts to give presentations to the committee about aspects of the business. Boigan has long represented oil and gas companies, which Williams called "perfect" for the committee, because he brings a great deal of familiarity of the industry to the table.

In any event, Snider admitted the entire process was put off-kilter by the restrictions on the committee that kept it from obtaining staff support, notably from Melcher's office. Asked if he was frustrated, Snider replied, "What's a word for 'politely frustrated'?"

Although some friends of the environment wanted to hand out some information, the city didn't allow it at first. At the end of the meeting, it was given out, but many had left by then. Here's the text of one of those handouts:

POTENTIAL TALKING POINTS
Oil and gas development in Colorado Springs has the potential to cause significant harm to our health and lifestyles. Consider raising the following concerns with City planners and elected officials.

● Restrict Oil and Gas Activities to Appropriate Locations: Do not allow oil and gas activities in residential zones or zones that allow mixed residential and commercial use. Allow oil and gas exploration and development only in industrial and agricultural zones. City regulations would apply everywhere and must take into account impacts to developed areas as well as the undeveloped Banning Lewis Ranch.

● Require Reasonable Setback: Where permitted, oil and gas activities must be set back as far as reasonably possible from homes, occupied buildings, businesses, and sensitive locations such as hospitals, nursing homes, and schools, parks and public gathering places; and in all cases a minimum of 500 feet. (Current COGCC setbacks range from 150' to 350' for wellheads.)

● Develop Additional High Density Requirements: Require applicants to undertake a more detailed public notice/public participation process where operations would be located in high density areas. This would include preliminary public scoping meetings to identify specific impacts to surrounding properties.

● Require Detailed Site and Operation Planning: Require operators to prepare a site plan, describing the site and the surrounding neighborhood, and how drilling or location of facilities would impact both the site and surrounding properties. Require operators to prepare a detailed operating plan and reclamation plan. These plans must contain details necessary to allow impacts to other property owners to be identified and mitigated.

● Require Adequate Water Quality Monitoring: Analyze all drilling permit applications to determine potential impacts to aquifers and surface water. Require pre-drilling baseline data gathering and periodic groundwater monitoring to detect spills or leakage of oil, gas, or drilling chemicals and products into aquifers. Require reporting of all spills to City officials.

● Require Applicants to Address Other Environmental and Safety Concerns: Require applicants to address wildlife impacts, impacts to sensitive areas such as streams or wetlands, geohazard or fire hazard areas. Require applicants to prepare a traffic control and safety plan and demonstrate that roads can support heavy equipment traffic or that adequate upgrade or remediation measures will be taken.

● Develop Standard Conditions of Approval: City requirements should be incorporated into standard conditions of approval. By incorporating these conditions into city regulations, the City’s Local Government Designee would be able negotiate agreements with operators and the COGCC with the power of binding local land use regulations at his back. The conditions of approval contained in the COGCC permits for the first two permits should be the standard minimum, included on all permits.

● Impose Impact Fees Covering Actual Costs of Oil and Gas Activities: Require oil and gas permit applicants to pay an up-front fee covering the City’s cost to analyze the application and to inspect oil and gas operations, plus actual impacts to roads, other city infrastructure. Require operators to fund the cost of city inspections if the state lacks adequate staff or funding to conduct needed inspections.

● Limit Waiver of Local Rules to Cases of Actual Hardship or Operational Conflict: Require oil and gas operators to comply with all local rules and restrictions unless this is proven to be technologically or economically impossible or in actual conflict with state regulatory requirements. Require applicants to seek relief through standard City processes, by requesting zoning changes, variances, special use permits, waiver of standard permit conditions, and the like. The burden should always be on the operator to show that it cannot reasonably comply with City oil and gas regulations.

THE BOTTOM LINE:
● No Oil and Gas Operations Near Residential Neighborhoods
● Adequate Local Controls on All Oil and Gas Operations
● Oil and Gas Operations Could Occur Anywhere. City Regulations Must Recognize That.

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