Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Update: Over the River snagged

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 3:29 PM

OTR spokesman Miles Graham clarified OTR's stance in the lawsuit via e-mail. He writes:

Over The River holds the permit being challenged and has a fundamental interest in the outcome of this legal action. Christo intervened to ensure that the project’s interests are adequately represented. This intervention does not mean that Over The River is providing financial or any other assistance to BLM. It is not. Rather, Christo’s participation is to defend the unique interests of Over The River, such as protecting his and Jeanne-Claude’s artistic vision for this temporary work of art.

——-UPDATED POST, WEDNESDAY, 9:59 A.M. ——-

Today, Over the River Corp. announced that it would side with the BLM in its suit from ROAR. The opposition group feels the BLM's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was inadequate and that it also "violates the Federal Land Policy and Management Act," says its press release.

Christo and Co. clearly feel otherwise, and need an Over the River-friendly ruling to continue the project. The release goes on to say, "The outcome of this lawsuit is critical to Christo moving forward with this temporary work of art. Because the interests of this project are directly affected by this lawsuit, Christo decided it was in the best interests of Over The River to intervene and join BLM in its defense of the EIS and of its decision to grant the permit last fall."

——- ORIGINAL POST, 5:09 P.M., TUESDAY ——-

Three lawsuits filed against state agencies, not Over the River Corp., have put a major roadblock in Christo's plans for the Over the River project.

Two of the suits were filed by Over the River's main opposition group, ROAR, which is challenging Colorado State Parks and the Bureau of Land Management, two agencies that gave their stamp of approval for the project. (ROAR got help from Denver University's law clinic.) The third suit is an administrative appeal through the federal Interior Board of Land Appeals by three individuals in response the BLM's Record of Decision allowing the project.

No water under the bridge for Over the River

According to a Denver Post article, U.S. District Court Judge John L. Kane ordered construction, ostensibly, to stop until the federal appeal is resolved. Judge Kane also denied the BLM's motion to dismiss ROAR's suit in early July.

While the Post adds that Over the River is "indefinitely suspended," OTR spokesperson Miles Graham calls it a "temporary postponement" and tells the Indy that not all OTR work has ceased. The team is using this time to work on other aspects, including the Event Management Plan and the bighorn sheep treatment program.

Graham says the litigation comes at "pivotal moment" for the project, which was making ready to clear the permitting process and begin ordering materials for the first leg of construction, slated to begin in a few months.

"It forced us to make the tough choice on whether to proceed, and while Christo’s very, very confident these legal challenges won’t succeed, it would just be unwise to start ordering materials and begin installing the project before the lawsuits are successfully resolved," Graham says, adding, “We think it’s fairly unlikely that they’ll be resolved within the next few months, so Christo’s just working with the stuff he can control right now."

Ultimately, the team remains optimistic, citing the lengthy battles it fought to make Running Fence and Surrounded Islands happen.

“While this is disappointing, it’s certainly not unusual for these kind of hurdles before the realization of these types of works," Graham says. "So Christo remains upbeat and confident that we can clear these hurdles and move forward with the project.”

Graham says the team has no idea how long the litigation period will last, but they expect it will be "long and slow."

Read OTR's press release after the jump.

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

ReMINDers ready to rap

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 6:21 PM

Aja and Samir of the Reminders
Things are getting pretty busy in the ReMINDers camp this summer, as Colorado Springs' favorite hip-hop couple prepares for a national tour with Rhymesayers artist Brother Ali, and puts the finishing touches on a way-too-long-awaited sophomore album.

In order to press enough CDs to last throughout the whole tour, Aja and Samir have launched a funding campaign at indiegogo.com/theremindersbornchampions. There are numerous contribution levels, with premiums ranging from an autographed advance copy of the album to a scarf in the color of your choice knitted by Aja herself.

As of this writing, the ReMINDers have raised $2,760, with five days left to go. The couple even got a message of support from A Tribe Called Quest legend Ali Shaheed Muhammad:

"Salaam: Know that your struggle is worth it, because you bring forth the element of remembrance and the spirit of love which inspires and motivates people in ways that you are unaware of."

Nice. For further motivation and inspiration, here's a couple of videos we like:

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Crowdfunding seminar tomorrow

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 4:51 PM

Wanna learn how to help a small business get off the ground? Wanna learn how to get your own small business off the ground?

Crowdfunding Colorado Springs
  • Bennet: Inviting you to be part of the crowd.

Sen. Michael Bennet is co-hosting a crowdfunding seminar from 5:30 to 7 p.m. tomorrow at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave., for small and start-up business owners and entrepreneurs looking to raise early stage capital, his office says in a release.

The seminar will outline how crowdfunding works and how businesses can make it work for them.

Co-hosts of this free event include Epicentral, Startup Colorado Springs and the Small Business Development Center of Colorado Springs. Space is limited, so those wanting to attend should sign up on the senator's website.

From the release:

Bennet included the crowdfunding provision in the JOBS Act, which was recently signed into law. It allows small, young and rapidly growing businesses to raise funds from small, individual investors online and through social media. The law seeks to address the difficulties small businesses, young businesses and start-ups face in securing capital, compared with larger companies.

Participants will hear from local entrepreneurs and business owners, legal experts and representatives from traditional investment firms in Colorado, including venture capital, banks and microfinance. Scheduled panelists will include: Paul Lizer, CEO, Devium; Jeff Thomas, founder, Invertual; Ben Sparks, attorney, Sparks Willson; Justin Vause, Accion; Robin Roberts, President, Pikes Peak National Bank; Chris Franz, entrepreneur, Angel Investor; John Street, entrepreneur, Angel Investor; Ric Denton, Colorado Springs Technology Incubator.

In addition to learning about crowdfunding, participants will have an opportunity to weigh in on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s rulemaking process and offer key input for the commission to keep in mind as it develops specific regulations.

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Oil and gas 'mythbusting'

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 3:23 PM

On June 26, the Western Energy Alliance issued a press release proclaiming "Washington Suppresses Western Oil & Gas Production; Shrinks Vital Revenue Source."

Today Western Energy Alliance unveiled new data sets for its Western Oil and Natural Gas Dashboard, which confirms that changes in federal land management policies are suppressing oil and natural gas production on America’s energy-rich federal lands. According to the Dashboard, a compilation of oil and natural gas statistics derived from government data sources, between FY2008 and FY2011 natural gas production on federal lands in the West declined 4%, while production on state and private lands increased 29%.
...
Key indicators in the Dashboard show the result of policies that reduce access to public lands in the West from FY2008 to FY2011. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offered 81% less acreage, which has resulted in a 44% drop in leasing revenue, down from $356 million to $201 million. Nationwide, royalty and leasing revenue have declined 12%, from $4.2 billion to $3.7 billion.

For Colorado, WEA claimed that:
• BLM issued 97 percent fewer leases.
• BLM offered 4 parcels for lease in FY 2011, a 98 percent decrease.
• 71 percent of leases offered have been protested.

royalty-revenue-vs-wellhead-price.jpg
  • CHECKS AND BALANCES PROJECT

These claims didn't sit well with the Wilderness Society and the Checks and Balances Project, which "have combed through the report line by line to present an accurate picture of oil and gas drilling on public lands."

What they found was released today. The nonprofits presented their retorts Mythbusters-style:

1. WEA Claim: From FY2008 to FY2011 in the West, BLM offered 81% less acreage.

Fact: In the Rockies (CO, MT, ND, NM, SD, UT, WY), BLM only leased 21% fewer acres in FY 11 than it did in FY 08, even though industry nominated 38% fewer acres in FY 11 than it did in FY 08. Additionally, BLM actually leased a higher percentage of acres nominated by industry in FY 11 (90%) than it did in FY 09 (70%). Finally, as of July 2012, over 88% of the public lands managed by BLM in the Rockies (not including ND and SD)—nearly 51 million acres—were available for oil and gas leasing.

2. WEA Claim: From FY2008 to FY2011 in the West, over 70% of leases offered were protested.

Fact: Protests are dramatically declining in the Rockies. Between FY 07 and FY 09, 74% of leases sold in CO, NM, UT and WY were protested.[v] In FY 11, the percentage declined to 61% throughout the Rockies, and has declined even further in FY 12—to 22%.

3. WEA Claim: From FY2008 to FY2011 in the West, federal Application for Permit to Drill (APD) approvals declined 39%.

Fact: In FY 11, BLM received 54% fewer APDs from industry than it did in FY 08—hence, the decline in approved APDs. And don’t forget that at the end of FY 11, industry was “sitting on” (not utilizing) over 7,200 approved APDs.

4. WEA Claim: From FY2008 to FY2011 in the West, federal leasing revenue dropped 44%, from $356 million to $201 million.

Fact: This is not inconsistent with the declines in nominations and drilling (such as the thousands of unused permits to drill already approved) that are controlled by the industry and affected by natural gas prices.

5. WEA Claim: From FY2008 to FY2011 in the West, nationwide, federal onshore revenue declined 11%, from $4.2 billion to $ 3.7 billion.

Response: This is not inconsistent with the declines in nominations and drilling (such as the thousands of unused permits to drill already approved) that are controlled by the industry and affected by natural gas prices. Also see chart below.

As for the claims about Colorado, they wrote that in Colorado "industry nominated 68% less acres in CO than it did in FY 08" and that "in FY 11, 54% of parcels initially offered by the BLM in CO were protested. That represents a 39% decline from FY 07 thru FY 09, when 93% of leases sold in CO were protested."

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Blindfolded alligator wrestling, anyone?

Posted By on Mon, Jul 30, 2012 at 3:28 PM

It's been a long time since I wrote about the Colorado Gators Reptile Park, my favorite Colorado roadside attraction, and home to Mr. Bo Mangles.

I return to it today with word of its 17th annual Gatorfest, happening this weekend. The big draw of the fest is none other than the Alligator Rodeo, in which wily varmints wrestle gators as big as 11 feet in length. According to Colorado Gators, this is how they capture their animals to check them for wounds and give them medication. However, anyone who has taken alligator-wrestling classes can compete.

As if that weren't a liability nightmare in itself, there's the above-mentioned blindfolded wrasslin', explained this way in the press release:

This year's rodeo will be as exciting as ever with a new event, blindfolded alligator wrestling! Wranglers will enter a pond with over 50 alligators blindfolded and attempt to find and catch an 8 to 10 foot alligator by feel.

Let's all take a minute to picture that one.

To be fair, Colorado Gators' webpage on its wrestling classes stipulates that it's not actually "wrestling" they offer to instruct, but "how to handle these creatures safely and responsibly." Though the pictures of people sitting on the alligators and holding them backwards by their top jaws looks barbaric, I'm no expert.

And just in case you, like me, think this blindfolding business is a bit too far-fetched to be true, I give you Eggfest, which involves watching employees snatching alligator eggs from their mothers' nests.

Around the first of July, the female alligators build a nest and lay their eggs in the night. Then she covers them up. We can either go out the next day and fight off the female to gather the eggs and put them in an incubator (it’s too cold for them to survive outside). Or, we can collect the eggs in the middle of the night as the female is laying them. She's in a trance while she's laying eggs, so she doesn’t even know we are there.

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Conway's on its way out

Posted By on Mon, Jul 30, 2012 at 1:12 PM

This past March, I reported on the closure of Conway's Red Top's 1526 S. Nevada Ave. location.

At the time, Kidwin Qualey, human resources manager and grandchild of company founder N.F. Conway, cited economic reasons for the closure.

Where there were once six locations in the family burger dynasty, we were down to three, but on Friday, the company posted on Facebook:

Saturday 7/28 will be the last day of business for Fillmore and Carefree locations. You still have one week to get one of the best burgers ever at our Circle Drive location. Thank you to all of our loyal customers. Stop by to purchase a menu for $5.00 and keep a piece of Colorado Springs History.

Our call to Conway's business office have not yet been returned for formal confirmation of all this news, so we cannot say whether there is anything more to the closures than the aforementioned economic woes that shuttered the Nevada Avenue store.

Former president Jim Conway did depart from the family business earlier this year, leaving Dan and Pat Conway and three silent partners in charge of three remaining stores.

One thing that any casual observer can easily note is the increase in burger competition here and in virtually all major markets of the U.S.

Conways Colorado Springs burger
  • Bryce Crawford
  • Empires rise and fall, but there will always be someone to make you a good burger.

Just think about recent additions to our scene: Larkburger, Crave, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and Smashburger, to name a handful.

And that's to say nothing of all the fast-food burger chains, beyond the gourmet ones.

We'll update this blog as we receive more news.

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Ex-mayor weighs in on Drake

Posted By on Mon, Jul 30, 2012 at 11:18 AM

Former Mayor Lionel Rivera wrote a letter yesterday to City Council about Councilor Tim Leigh's allegations concerning Drake Power Plant. Makes a person wonder where Leigh is getting his information. Since Rivera debunks Leigh's comments one by one, we'll just get out of the way and pass on his letter in full. Rivera served as mayor from 2003 to 2011.

Colorado Springs Utilities Drake
  • Drake Power Plant

Esteemed Council Members,

I write you today to give you the facts regarding the previous City Council’s decision to move forward on the Neumann Systems Group scrubber technology for the reduction of SOx and the decision not to provide funding for vigorous testing of NOx and CO2 reduction. I will also address directly Council Member Leigh’s contrived information from an unnamed source. I was there at the time and have a clear recollection of what occurred.

Council Member Leigh states the following in a newsletter he publishes;

· I was told Drew Rankin brought Neumann forward “as someone with new technology that could save CSU millions in compliance costs by solving the 3-fold emissions problem generated by Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulfur Dioxide and Carbon Dioxide (SOX, NOX, CO2).”

The Neumann scrubber technology was brought to the previous board as a possible alternative to conventional scrubber technology that would need to be installed at Drake to lower emissions of SOx and possibly NOx in order to comply with new EPA regional haze standards in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States. While the technology may also have had the potential to scrub CO2, it was not a consideration for full testing and evaluation unless Congress changed the law or the EPA promulgated a rule to limit CO2 emissions. Congress could never get a simple majority in the Senate to change the law and the EPA did not promulgate rules requiring our power plants to reduce CO2.

As briefed by CSU staff, the technology had the potential to accomplish the scrubbing with lower upfront capital cost, lower ongoing operational cost, and a much smaller footprint. Both Drew Rankin and Tom Black were excited about the potential for this technology.

A second quote from Council Member Leigh;

· Neumann’s scrubber’s original intent was grande and its promise bold. Imagine a 3-fold solution to environmental regulation compliance at a discount. Unfortunately, something happened on the way to the Forum.

As I stated in the previous paragraph, the board was not looking for a three fold solution, but a solution to meet the future regional haze standard with the best value, reliable technology in order to save rate payers the sizeable rate increases needed to pay for conventional scrubber technology.

A third quote from Council Member Leigh;

· I was told that while the idea worked in the lab, it failed in field testing. Yes, it solved the SOX problem but it did not solve the other 2 problems. Based on those tests Rankin (the father of the original conversation) recommended killing-the-baby. Apparently, at the time there were 48 other existing technologies that solved the SOX problem with less capital cost.

As briefed to us by CSU staff, the Neumann scrubber technology met our testing requirements in all phases of testing. Funding of full scale commercial testing of NOx and CO2 emission reduction was never a proposed by staff nor would it have been approved by the board since Nixon and Drake met the proposed NOx regional haze standard with their current technology and there was no CO2 standard to mitigate.

Niether Drew Rankin nor other members of CSU staff never recommended to kill the Neumann SOx scrubber nor are there 48 other existing technologies that solved the SOx problem with less capital costs. To the contrary, CSU staff worked with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to allow them to complete the 20MW test of the Neumann scrubber system so it could be used on Drake and Nixon if successful. Below is an excerpt from the Colorado Regional Haze State Implementation Plan dated January 2011 http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/ap/regionalhaze.html Appendix C, Drake Power Plant

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment - Air Pollution Control Division

The Division conducted site visits and determined:
• Unit 5
o CSU determined dry FGD controls are technically feasible although available
physical space was severely constrained and some demolition and site reconfiguration
would be required; the Division conducted a site visit and determined that dry FGD
controls were not appropriate considering the space constraints, shown in Figure 1
and Figure 2. Therefore control effectiveness and impacts for dry FGD are not
evaluated in this analysis.
o Traditional wet FGD controls are possible considering that there is adequate space
near the baghouse to allow for the installation of controls, but is being eliminated
based on other considerations within the five factors (i.e. energy and non-air quality
impacts). Refer to the energy and non-air quality impact section for the Division
review regarding wet FGD controls for Unit 5.

• Units 6 and 7
o Dry FGD controls are technically feasible for Units 6 and 7.
o Traditional wet FGD controls are possible considering that there is adequate space
near the baghouse to allow for the installation of controls, but is being eliminated
based on other considerations within the five factors (i.e. energy and non-air quality
impacts). Refer to the energy and non-air quality impact section for the Division
review regarding wet FGD controls for Units 6 and 7.

It is worth noting that CSU-Drake is currently testing a new, innovative non-traditional wet scrubber control system that appears to be as effective, if not more effective, at controlling SO2 emissions with much less pressure drop (less parasitic load from increased fan demands) and requires a much smaller operational foot print area in comparison to traditional wet scrubbing. The pilot-scale wet scrubber control system, called the NeuStream-S FGD process, is presently being tested on a 20 MW flue gas stream. CSU anticipates scaling the non-traditional wet scrubber control to full scale pending successful outcome of the current testing. This new wet scrubber technology uses a unique contacting vessel that makes it different from traditional wet scrubbers. It affords a higher liquid to gas contact ratio and so uses much less water / has lower
pressure drop. It also uses a dual alkali system that is somewhat unique when compared to most traditional wet scrubbers. In comparison to traditional wet and LSD scrubbers, this new technology will have smaller water and energy requirements. There are several non-air quality aspects of the NeuStream-S process that compare favorably to traditional scrubbers, described in Step 4. Regarding the applicability of the NeuStream process to Drake Unit 5, the Division notes that this technology is not commercially available at this time. CSU has not determined if this technology is feasible for this smaller unit. However, the Division will re-assess this technology in the next Regional Haze planning period.

Although the technology being tested by CSU does not technically meet the definition of
“available” as set forth in the BART rules, the Division is willing to allow CSU the opportunity to prove the technology and if successful, the opportunity to install the NeuStream-S FGD scrubber. This process will be required to meet the emission limits established for the LSD technology established in this BART determination. Regardless of the technology utilized, Drake has to meet the LSD-based BART limits within 5 years of EPA approval of the BART SIP. CSU will test the NeuStream system until December 2011, and at that time, determine the control technology that will be used to comply with the specified SO2 BART limits for Units 6 and 7.
You will also find this language in the Nixon power plant appendix.

And finally from Mr. Leigh;

Then politics entered the arena when Lionel Rivera pushed for a continuation of the project, expressing emotion over empiricism and reason, on the high notion that if the scrubbers worked, (even, if only at the SOX level), CSU should continue making an investment (venture capital funding), “go into business” with Neumann, sell the work-product, create jobs and experience a windfall. And while that sounds just great, there is seems to be a problem. . . we don’t have any customers. So the story morphed from “being a job generation machine” to being a “mere compliance mechanism.”

As I stated before, the goal of the Board and CSU staff was to meet the new regional haze standard with the most cost efficient reliable technology. The NeuStream process met that criteria empirically as briefed to us by CSU staff. I was and still am a supporter of the NeuStream system. I spoke highly of what we were doing at CSU with my fellow Mayors at the US Conference of Mayors Energy Committee meetings.

CSU staff had already developed a revenue sharing concept with Dr. Neumann when the technology was introduced to us and the board supported the concept. If the technology becomes commercially viable outside of CSU there will be some revenue sharing with CSU and it should help mitigate future electric rate increases and create a primary manufacturing employer in Colorado Springs.

At the time we made the decision to move forward with the NeuStream process the idea of decommissioning Drake was never on the table. The cost to decommission, reclaim the site, and acquire more electric power from Front Range and/or the spot market or longer term contracts made that decision extremely expensive and would have required much larger rate increases than investing in new scrubber technology. I would imagine that from a cost standpoint it is still better for rate payers to keep Drake. From what I read in the Gazette it appears the conversation has turned more political and aesthetic and is less about what the cost is to rate payers. I support your last decision to move forward with the NeuStream System. If you choose to study it more, CSU has the capabilities to give you the estimates you need for decommissioning cost and reclamation of the site, and they are the experts for projecting future electric costs without a Drake power plant. I hope you don’t spend $500,000 for information CSU staff should be providing to you.

If you’re not getting the information you need in a timely fashion and the detail you require then hold the CEO accountable. We had the same challenge when I chaired the board. It will take more of your time to get the detail you need and dig into it, but we the rate payers need that kind of leadership to protect our interests.

Council Member Leigh please disclose who are the “folks who were present at the time” who gave you your misguided information. You owe it to your colleagues so they can verify your version of history.

Good luck in your deliberations.

Lionel Rivera

We've asked Leigh to react to the letter. If and when we hear something, we'll post his response.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

A look at New Belgium's East Coast expansion

Posted By on Sat, Jul 28, 2012 at 8:33 AM

Yes, Asheville, N.C., is a long long way from here, leaving some of you to perhaps exclaim, "Why should I care?"

New Belgium Asheville
  • Behold the riverfront.

But my guess is that there's enough of you out there with Fat Tire in your fridge that are happy to keep apprised of the goings-on at America's third largest craft brewer: New Belgium Brewing Co.

The sustainability-minded, employee-owned hops giant, as most know by now, is expanding out of Fort Collins to the East Coast with a second brewing facility.

In a press release distributed yesterday, the brewery is sharing early conceptual renderings of what the new facility is expected to look like, including "a 'liquid center' tasting room, a 200-barrel brewhouse, malt building, packaging hall and cellar space."

New Belgium Asheville
  • A 'walkable' space.

CEO Kim Jordan is quoted as saying, “We could have built on a lot of sites but we wanted to be on a livable, walkable site."

Now what that means logistically:

The new facility will have to be elevated above the 100-year flood zone along the French Broad River. Buildings and material from the old Asheville stockyard will be recycled during deconstruction this fall with heavy demolition being done November thru December and ground-breaking in January.

The brewery is working with the city and state Departments of Transportation to make infrastructure improvements including the widening of roads, smoothing of curves and the addition of traffic signals. An off-site warehouse facility at a yet-to-be-determined location will minimize trucking traffic in the area.

New Belgium Asheville
  • View across water.

The brewery will have a 700,000-barrel capacity, producing both bottled and kegged beer for distribution along the east coast. The project is slated for completion in 2015.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Gazette and Wayne Laugesen, thy name is class

Posted By on Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 5:12 PM

The brain trust that is the Gazette's editorial board thought it might be super-neat if, on a Facebook post, they combined an editorial "so politically incorrect that big-city mayors might harm anyone who repeats it," as it reads, with an image fitting for a daily with its reputation.

1.jpeg
  • ColoradoPols

"We keep thinking there must be a too-clever-by-half message in using this photo to support Chick-Fil-A during the present controversy, but like we said, we haven't figured out what it is," write the good folks at Colorado Pols, noting that the image is actually anti-Chick-fil-A. "And some interpretations of the meaning here are, needless to say, not real good."

Editorial writer Wayne Laugesen quickly pulled the image, saying, "As so many found the original cartoon offensive, I have replaced it with this [a similar image, with cows holding signs that spell out, "No Gay Marriage"]. The cartoon that caused so much commotion was a slam against homophobia, obtained from a gay rights publication. It characterized the business as the anti-gay Westboro Baptist cult and then said 'we didn't invent homophobia, but we inextricably [sic] endorse it.' This was presented to illustrate the strong nature of the backlash against the company and was clearly not presented as an insult to gays."

It's not really all that surprising coming from a man who, in his posts, routinely pairs photos of near-naked women who have the barest relation to whatever asinine bit he churned out that day with some asinine bit he churned out that day.

Screen_shot_2012-07-27_at_5.23.08_PM.png

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Memorial officially most-radical skatepark in nation

Posted By on Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 5:07 PM

skateboard
  • TomenoNaoki

Memorial Park’s skate park hits the big time tomorrow.

The Colorado-based Sk8-Strong Foundation has gifted two vert-ramps to the area, which already features a large skate park designed by industry experts. The vert ramps range in height from 6 to 7 feet for the “mini” to 13.5 to 17.5 feet on the larger structure. As Sara Horton reports in this week's Indy, the grand opening for the ramps — and a "Destroy the Bowl Jam" — is tomorrow.

And maybe bigger events will follow. “The addition of the vert ramps gives the Memorial Park Skate Park all four skate board disciplines,” a city press release notes, “making it the only public park in the nation with such a facility.”

Here's a city release:


Dedication of Memorial Park Vert Ramps

The City of Colorado Springs and the Sk8-Strong Foundation invite the community to the grand opening and dedication of the Memorial Park Vert Ramps on Saturday, July 28 at 11:00 a.m. Immediately following the dedication, a full afternoon of fun events will commence including ramp and best trick competitions, as well as professional athletes giving a demonstration on the ramps.
The addition of the vert ramps gives the Memorial Park Skate Park all four skate board disciplines, making it the only public park in the nation with such a facility. Valued at over $200,000, the two ramps are being donated to the City of Colorado Springs by the Sk8-Strong Foundation. Sk8-Strong is a Colorado-based organization that was founded to help skateboarding athletes achieve their goals and promote a healthy environment at skate parks.
With the addition of these ramps, the Memorial Park Skate Park is in an ideal position to host both national and international professional skate boarding competitions as well as showcase a potential Olympic Sport.

Vert Ramp Specifications:
Mini-Ramp Dimensions:
40 ft wide and 6 ft tall on one end with an escalator to 7 ft on the other end.

Vert Ramp Dimensions:
56 ft wide and 13.5 ft tall with a 15.5 ft extension on one end and a 17.5 ft roll-in on the other end.

# # #

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Senators Bennet and Udall urge action on Farm Bill

Posted By on Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 2:09 PM

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-CO
You can be sure that something is a big deal on Capitol Hill when it provokes special-interest groups into spending $173.5 million on lobbyists alone.

Those were the numbers for the 2008 Farm Bill, according to a report from the advocacy group Food and Water Watch. That spending, which was reportedly among the highest ever for lobbying on any one piece of legislation, was small potatoes, however, compared to the bill itself, which directed about $307 billion in federal dollars to a huge slew of projects, from farm subsidies to research programs, from food stamp and nutrition programs to international aid. "Farm bills" of this magnitude, which are the federal government's primary tool for agricultural and food policy, and which go by many names (2008's was technically the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008), have been passed roughly every five years since 1965.

As with nearly everything related to the 112th United States Congress, however, the newest Farm Bill finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place.

As Politico puts it:

Never before in modern times has a farm bill reported from the House Agriculture Committee been so blocked. POLITICO looked back at 50 years of farm bills and found nothing like this. There have been long debates, often torturous negotiations with the Senate and a famous meltdown in 1995 when the House Agriculture Committee couldn’t produce a bill. But no House farm bill, once out of committee, has been kept off the floor while its deadline passes.

Our own U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet cited that very Politico article in a speech he gave on the Senate floor yesterday, urging the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to bring the House Agriculture Committee's version of the Farm Bill to a floor vote — and to pass it.

Sen. Bennet also wrote a letter with Sen. Mark Udall urging House leaders to do the same. That letter, which was addressed to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urged House action, especially with regard to the worsening drought:

Congress can be of immediate help by moving the Farm Bill forward. The tools farmers and ranchers use to manage risk—from invasive pests, to volatile commodity prices and adverse weather events like this summer’s drought—are authorized under the Farm Bill. Reauthorizing this legislation is the single best thing lawmakers can do to provide relief and certainty to our farmers and ranchers suffering from drought. Without Congressional action, many important Farm Bill programs will expire on September 30, 2012.

In fact, some permanent disaster programs lapsed at the end of September 2011, leaving a coverage gap for losses incurred during this 2012 growing season. Among these lapsed programs, the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Livestock Indemnity Program, and the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program are particularly important for Colorado livestock producers facing drought-stricken pastureland and a tightened supply of feed. Passing the Farm Bill will put these programs into effect for Fiscal Year 2012 and ensure that ranchers can depend on these resources in the future.

Some background: On June 21, the Senate passed its version of the bill, called the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012. The bill passed 64-35, without the usual party-line rigidity. "Neither the majority vote nor the minority vote was a partisan vote," said Sen. Bennet in yesterday's speech. "This was the Senate operating as the Senate is meant to do."

The bill then moved to the House Agricultural Committee, where after a mark-up (and now retitled as the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012) it passed 35-11 on July 11, also crossing partisan lines.

A bipartisan committee passage, however, doesn't mean everyone will be holding hands and singing Kumbaya on the House floor. Reportedly fearing a messy, divisive fight—and crucially, in an election year—Speaker Boehner has yet to bring the nascent bill to the floor.

"Instead," reports Politico, "Republicans are likely to try to extend the current farm policy that they’ve consistently decried as broken." And with less than a week of remaining days the Congress will spend in session before the August recess, it's increasingly looking as though this will be the case.

Of course, it's not as though the 600-page bill makes for easy compromise. In fact, it's something of a bipartisan mess, with odd alliances popping up all over the place. The issue of farm subsidies, to name one example, sees equal opposition from far-right free marketeers and progressives who note that subsidies artificially tip the scale away from poor farmers in developing countries. Meanwhile, the bill—and its redistributive measures for U.S. farmers—has rabid support from the hyper-conservative, otherwise anti-protectionist House Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. That's just one contentious issue of many.

In any case, until the bill is brought to the House floor, no one has even the opportunity to find common ground. The House recess begins Aug. 4.

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Photo of the day: Manitou Springs is so weird

Posted By on Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 1:58 PM

Rob Larimer, managing editor at the Colorado Springs Business Journal, snapped this photo earlier today. In posting it to Facebook, he wrote, "It's nearly 6 a.m. at the Manitou bus stop, so WHY WOULDN'T I see a guy dressed in cardboard boxes skate by?"

He obviously lives there.

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  • Rob Larimer

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Bring on the USA Pro Cycling cowbell!

Posted By on Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 10:46 AM

Last night Chris Jenkins, president of the Pikes Peak Cycling Society, kicked off the local 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge season with some festivities at Carmichael Training Systems.

Chris Jenkins, left, chats with John Crandall, Old Town Bike Shop owner, at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge kickoff.
  • Kirsten Akens
  • Chris Jenkins, left, chats with John Crandall, Old Town Bike Shop owner, at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge kickoff.

The event, in its second year, will cross the state between Aug. 20 and 26, beginning in Durango and ending once again in Denver. Colorado Springs will host the finish of Stage 5 on Aug. 24, which will start that morning in Breckenridge and finish with three circuits around downtown that afternoon. While the riders are not expected to hit the Springs until 3 or 4 p.m., the downtown core will begin celebrating at 11 a.m. with music, an expo, the obligatory beer gardens and other activities.

USA Pro Cycling Challenge Stage 5 map
  • Kirsten Akens
  • The Stage 5 map for Colorado Springs; click to enlarge.

In 2011, the Challenge brought $83 million to the state, and per Jenkins and others at the event, the community is ready for an even bigger year than last. So far, five of the top 10 riders at the 2012 Tour de France have confirmed that they will be in attendance. While TdF winner Bradley Wiggins has not yet confirmed, the Challenge is still in pursuit of the first Brit to win the Tour. "Wiggo" must first tackle winning gold for his country with his four road-racing teammates at the 2012 London Olympics tomorrow.

As for the Springs, the T-shirts are ready.

Get ready to don your Colorado Springs Stage 5 tees.
  • Kirsten Akens
  • Get ready to don your Colorado Springs Stage 5 tees.

As are the cowbells.

More cowbell, please.

Now we just need the riders.

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Local cordwood home featured in the New York Times

Posted By on Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 7:00 AM

It's nice to see Woodland Park make national news outside of Waldo Canyon Fire coverage.

More specifically, it's nice to see my good friends Bryan and Lois Pratt earn attention for their truly amazing, solar-hot-water-heated, uber-eco-friendly cordwood home.

I've told you about the Pratts before, back in February 2011, when Bryan wrote this fiery essay on sugar slavery, and more recently this past March when the two offered a Paleolithic Diet talk at the Woodland Park Library.

Now, the two have caught the attention of the New York Times.

Michael Tortorello published this piece July 19, which quotes Bryan on the "six years of three-day weekends [it took them] to build the house," and more.

Also, the New York Times ran a photo of the home online in this Home & Garden slideshow.

Woodland Park New York Times Cordwood
  • Cordwood building is super energy-efficient, and attractive to many hopeful green builders.

So, congrats to the Pratts; look for a link inside Tortorello's article on a future cordwood building workshop that they plan to offer, if you're interested in seeing how it's done.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chicken out at National Same-Sex Kiss Day

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 4:47 PM

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  • Flickr/JasonParis

Hey, you probably didn't know, but fast food is a hot topic these days, and there's nothing hotter (oh yeah) than Chick-fil-A's sectarian stance against same-sex marriage. You may have heard about it?

The push-back is really freaking out certain people — namely those who equate acting on a difference of opinion, like the Jim Henson Company did when it severed its business relationship with the chain, with a militant attempt to squelch free speech. And now those people are being led by the bright duo of Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.

The Tremendous Two are urging the indignant, small-minded masses (who probably don't need the encouragement to begin with) to get a little more grease in their guts by eating at the restaurant on some day that you can Google if you want.

Conversely, those championing for gay couples to have the same right to lock each other into a legal conundrum built on emotional tension that heterosexual couples have, are boycotting the restaurant indefinitely. But not only that: There's also this great National Same-Sex Kiss Day coming up on Aug. 3, where — you'll never guess — you go to a Chick-fil-A and lock lips with your likewise-sexed loved one. (But I guess you don't order anything while you're there?)

"So grab a friend (or 20) and head out to your nearest Chick Fil A!" reads an event page that clearly overestimates the number of guys interested in making out with me. "And don't forget to post photos/videos of it here! For all the world to see!"

Just don't forget to take the advice of one commenter who's clearly been to far too many public make-out protests where things got more out of hand: "Just remember to keep it classy folks!"

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