City Gov

Friday, January 20, 2017

Colorado Springs City Council candidate bags race before it starts

Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2017 at 2:31 PM

Carlson: He's out of the race.
  • Carlson: He's out of the race.
A young professional who had sought to run for Colorado Springs City Council says he has decided to bag the effort out of disgust for the power structure here, notably Colorado Springs Forward, and a dicey encounter with a man he didn't know on Friday morning.

The man came to Joseph Carlson's home and told him he was expected to "play ball or be silenced." Carlson tells the Independent he will file a police report.

But even before that, Carlson, 27, chairman of the board of Colorado Transitioning Veterans Association and Army veteran, had harsh words after his experience with CSF during a recent endorsement interview that, needless to say, didn't land him the endorsement.

In fact, Chuck Fowler, another candidate in southwest District 3 (up for grabs because Keith King chose not to seek a second term) informed Carlson as he was exiting the CSF interview that he was their choice for the district race, Carlson says.

Carlson says during the subsequent interview with a handful of CSF members he realized his goals don't align with CSF's or vice versa. He says CSF wants to "crush" the cannabis industry, which it blames for the apparent rise in the homeless population, and change the governance of city-owned Colorado Springs Utilities.
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"They made it clear," he says. "They're only putting people in positions of power because they want to represent their agenda. They don't care about the people. They care about their businesses."

After it became clear Carlson wasn't CSF's choice, he says, its executive director, Amy Lathen, a former El Paso County commissioner who left her elective post early to take the CSF job, unfriended him on Facebook.

Also worth noting: Carlson says Fowler told him he's personal friends with Steve Bartolin, chairman of The Broadmoor and a CSF board member.

Carlson, who studies nonprofit leadership at Colorado Technical University, says he wants to help the homeless and the less fortunate. Although he's acquired almost all the needed signatures to qualify to run, he won't turn in the petition and become a candidate.

Rather, he says he'll work the next two years to "do more to fight this moral corruption," with an eye to seeking an at-large Council seat in 2019, he says.

Asked about his CSF interview, Carlson says, "It haunts me. I have far too much integrity to associate myself with that organization. They're stacking the deck to get what the rich want, not helping the poor."

Carlson said on Friday afternoon that he wouldn't put the lives of his family in danger "knowing what these individuals are capable of." He was not specific on who those individuals might be or what he views the threat as.

Candidate filing deadline is Monday. Carlson had not yet turned in signatures when he decided not to run.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

CSPD bestows honors on its own and citizens

Posted By on Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 1:00 PM

A sampling of the awards bestowed by the Colorado Springs Police Department on officers, civilians and citizens at a Wednesday ceremony. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF CSPD
  • Photos Courtesy of CSPD
  • A sampling of the awards bestowed by the Colorado Springs Police Department on officers, civilians and citizens at a Wednesday ceremony.

Wednesday night, the Colorado Springs Police Department honored citizens and their own at a ceremony at the Stargazers Theatre.

Here's an account of those honors, provided by the CSPD:
The Colorado Springs Police Department Honor Guard was formed in 1974. The Honor Guard was established to reflect the honor and integrity of the Colorado Springs Police Department on various solemn or auspicious occasions.

Each year an “Honor Guard Member of the Year” is selected by a vote of the team in order to recognize that individual’s extraordinary dedication and service to the Honor Guard and the Department.

In 2014 members of the Honor Guard voted to change the name of the award to the “Laura Cochran Honor Guard Member of the Year” to honor our fellow officer, teammate and friend who passed away in December of 2013. Laura’s dedication and commitment to the Honor Guard were an inspiration to all who knew her.

The department's drill team was on hand to perform during the ceremony.
  • The department's drill team was on hand to perform during the ceremony.

This year’s recipient is Detective Nancy Gifford. Detective Gifford has been a member of the Honor Guard since December of 2001. This is the third time she has been selected as Member of the Year. The Honor Guard was involved in 50 events in 2016 and Detective Gifford participated in 29 of those events.

Detective Gifford exemplifies the commitment and dedication required of all members of the CSPD Honor Guard and we are privileged to present her with the “Laura Cochran Honor Guard Member of the Year.”
Officer Robert Lichti is being recognized for his untiring efforts following the Planned Parenthood shooting on November 27, 2015.

Within 20 minutes of being notified, Officer Lichti responded to the shooting scene with the police department’s mobile command post, and remained on scene for 20 hours following the call-out.

During his time on scene, he successfully worked with Planned Parenthood personnel in Denver to get a video feed from the cameras inside the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood facility. Officer Lichti was able to maintain the feed during the entire incident, which provided invaluable information to the staff responsible for decision-making and safety for officers inside the Planned Parenthood building.

For his dedication to duty and ingenuity, Officer Lichti is presented a Department Commendation.
Detective Jerry Schiffelbein is receiving a Department Commendation for his remarkable efforts following the Planned Parenthood shooting on November 27, 2015.

Understanding the incident required an extraordinary amount of investigative resources; detectives and supervisors undertook a variety of critical duties. Detective Schiffelbein, assigned to the Homicide Unit, was assigned as the lead detective on the case and was responsible for interviewing the suspect once he was taken into custody.

In addition to getting the suspect’s confession, Detective Schiffelbein worked countless hours interviewing witnesses and compiling evidence for the anticipated prosecution phase. He also coordinated efforts and resources among local, state, and federal agencies that responded to the shooting, sometimes working full-time with the prosecution team from the District Attorney’s Office.

To keep up with the enormous work volume generated by this case and organize the indescribable complexities of its investigative processes, Detective Schiffelbin worked closely with the District Attorney’s Office – reaching far beyond the normal daily demands of an already rigorous homicide detective’s job.

Detective Schiffelbein’s dedication, teamwork and professionalism contributed immensely to a successful investigation and is worthy of this Department Commendation.
Commander Adrian Vasquez is being recognized for his efforts throughout 2015 to develop and implement a new policy on officer involved shootings.

Working in conjunction with several law enforcement partners, Commander Vasquez painstakingly developed a policy that was subsequently adopted by both the Colorado Springs Police Department and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

The policy, developed in accordance with a new statutory requirement, provides investigative support to every police agency within the 4th Judicial District.

His efforts included developing training materials used by all the participating agencies to ensure all entities were well informed and on board with how these sensitive and difficult incidents would be investigated, culminating in all the 4th Judicial District agencies signing a Memorandum of Understanding adopting the policy. Throughout the entire process, Commander Vasquez continued to handle the duties of the Violent Crimes Lieutenant.

The new policy was crucial to the successful investigations of four officer-involved shootings that occurred in the final months of 2015, being the Halloween and the Planned Parenthood shootings, which both involved an active gunman and multiple victims, drawing national attention and intense public scrutiny. Due to his leadership, the Colorado Springs Police Department successfully navigated through these events while still finalizing the policy itself.

Throughout, Commander Vasquez displayed the highest level of leadership, organizational ability, and dedication. His efforts led to the development of a policy impacting the entire 4th Judicial District. Commander Vasquez is awarded a Department Commendation for going well beyond his normal duties. 

Civilian of the Year Award
Heather Edwards works in the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Human Resources Section and is receiving this year’s Civilian of the Year Award.

Heather was nominated for her extreme dedication to all Colorado Springs Police Department employees. She believes human resources should provide superior service to ensure officers and other staff are able to fulfill the department’s mission.

She’s always seeking to do the right thing for the long-term interests of the city, the department and its employees.

Besides being humble, Heather is a great communicator, a great organizer, and believes responsiveness is a key to success.

All the department’s sworn and civilian staff knows they well get a quick answer and their concerns will be addressed promptly by Heather.

With Heather’s leadership, the department has implemented a new injury reporting software and a new examination process for police recruits.

She is a great asset to the Colorado Springs Police Department and Heather deserves this recognition for all she does.
Here are the awards given to citizens:
Citizen_Awards_-_Rev.pdf
And here's a list of department life-saving awards:
Life_Saving_Awards_-_Rev.pdf
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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Local developers make two picks for Colorado Springs City Council

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at 2:58 PM

It's clear from the most recent round of campaign finance reports that the development community has chosen their darlings in the April city election in Colorado Springs, and they are Lynette Crow-Iverson and Deborah Hendrix.

Hendrix: Making her second try. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATES
  • Photos courtesy of the candidates
  • Hendrix: Making her second try.
Crow-Iverson is challenging incumbent Jill Gaebler in the city's central District 5, while Hendrix is taking another run at Helen Collins in southeast District 4. Hendrix also was the one who carried the ball to try to oust Collins in a recall election two years ago but failed.

Those two challengers have raised $11,000 each from businessman Phil Lane and Classic Companies, $2,500 each; Ralph Braden Jr., with Norwood Development Group, $1,000, and Nor'wood Limited, Inc., $5,000. Crow-Iverson also gave her campaign $100.

Crow-Iverson: The choice of developers.
  • Crow-Iverson: The choice of developers.
Those are their donors. Nobody else.

We're going out on a limb here and guessing those will also be the choices of Colorado Springs Forward, a local political activist group that wants to change the governance of Colorado Springs Utilities from the current panel comprised of City Council. CSF wants an appointed board. It's headed up by Amy Lathen, the former El Paso County commissioner who left her elective office early to take the CSF job.

In contrast, Gaebler has raised $10,870 in 78 separate donations, some of them heavy weights by virtue of their past community service. Among them, former Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin, former Council President Scott Hente, former Vice Mayor Richard Skorman, former Councilor Mary Ellen McNally, former NORAD commander Ret. Gen. Gene Renuart, neighborhood advocate Jan Doran and former Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace.

In District 4, Collins has yet to file a report. Another southeast District 4 candidate who's challenging Collins, Yolanda Avila, an advocate for the disabled — herself being legally blind — has brought in $2,781 from 34 donations.

While six of the Council's nine seats are up for election, developers have yet to give money to candidates in the northwest District 1, north District 2, southwest District 3 and eastern District 6. That might become more clear at a CSF fundraiser slated for next week.

The filing deadline for candidates is Monday.

Check in with the Independent next week for election coverage.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

North Nevada renewal draft plan revealed Tuesday

Posted By on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 10:45 AM

Blue indicates the area of focus for the study. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • City of Colorado Springs
  • Blue indicates the area of focus for the study.
A long process that dates back six months comes to at least partial fruition this evening with the unveiling of the draft plan for North Nevada Avenue.

Now, Nevada is a hodgepodge of motels, restaurants and some retail stores in the study area, which lies north of the Rock Island Trail.

Here's the city's release about tonight's meeting:
A draft plan to renew the North Nevada Avenue corridor from Garden of the Gods Road/Austin Bluff Parkway to the Rock Island Trail/railroad right-of-way two blocks south of Fillmore Street will be unveiled at an upcoming community open house to be held on:

Tues, Jan. 17 6 to 7:30 p.m.
The Mortgage Solutions Financial Expo Center,
3650 N Nevada Ave. Colorado Springs 80907

Those interested in the project are encouraged to drop by any time between 6 and 7:30 p.m. to view displays, visit with the project team, and submit comments about the draft plan. There will be a brief presentation and question-and-answer session beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Media please note: If you are unavailable to attend the meeting, interview opportunities are available with Project Manager, Nina Vetter on Wednesday between 11-12 p.m. RSVP Krithika Prashant at kprashant@springsgov.com.

Since July 2016, the City of Colorado Springs has been conducting a community involvement process to create a plan that will result in continued investment in the North Nevada Avenue corridor. Community roundtables, an online survey, and a series of four community workshops have generated the involvement of over 825 residents. Results from the process to-date can be found on the website: www.coloradosprings.gov/renewNNAve.

The final recommended plan will be considered for approval by the Colorado Springs Planning Commission in February and by City Council in March.
The plan will be available on line after the meeting, a city spokesperson says.

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Colorado Springs Forward holds fundraiser for select council candidates

Posted By on Mon, Jan 16, 2017 at 10:13 AM

Colorado Springs Forward is wasting no time trying to influence who's elected on April 4 to the six district slots on the nine-member Colorado Springs City Council.

Two days after the Jan. 23 filing deadline, the group is hosting a fundraiser for the candidates it's supporting. The announcement went out on Jan. 9, so I guess CSF isn't interested in waiting to see who files.

It seems clear CSF has already chosen its candidates. One is Lynette Crow-Iverson, a former CSF board member, who's opposing incumbent Jill Gaebler in District 5.

We reported in depth on CSF here. ("Calling the shots," Cover, Nov. 16, 2016.)

For information on how to file to run for Council, go here.

As for the fundraiser, we don't know who got invitations, but it doesn't appear to be a public event. Therefore, if you decide to show up, be aware you might be turned away if you're not in the inner circle.
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We've asked Amy Lathen, former El Paso County Commissioner who left her elected job six months early to run CSF, who the chosen candidates are. We'll update if and when we hear back from her.

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Friday, January 13, 2017

U.S. Olympic Museum wants money from Colorado Springs

Posted By on Fri, Jan 13, 2017 at 3:26 PM

An artist's rendering of the project. - U.S. OLYMPIC MUSEUM & HALL OF FAME
  • U.S. Olympic Museum & Hall of Fame
  • An artist's rendering of the project.
The U.S. Olympic Museum & Hall of Fame wants tax money to help build the museum southwest of downtown, according to a recent filing.

The museum has filed an application for Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax money from the city, seeking $500,000 over three years.

Using LART money for capital improvements isn't unheard of — upgrades to tennis courts to be used for pickle ball is one example — but it's rare.

The museum, part of the city's City for Champions tourism venture that features four venues, needs money fast. It lacks some $8.6 million of making its $75.3 million goal. Projected completion is sometime in 2018. The museum and other three projects — a sports medicine center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, an Air Force Academy visitors center and a downtown stadium — must see substantial progress within five years in order to receive state tax money under the Regional Tourism Act. The state granted the city $120.5 million in December 2013.

Here's a description of the LART program:
The City of Colorado Springs’ Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax (LART) fund is administered by City Council, with the guidance of the LART Citizen’s Advisory Committee. LART funds are required to be used for tourism or economic development purposes — events, projects and services that attract visitors or enhance the economy of the City and Pikes Peak Region.
Read the application here:
USOM_-_2017_lart_application_-_SMALL.pdf
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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Colorado Springs parks report shows good value

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 5:04 PM

Parks Director Karen Palus gives media interviews at The Broadmoor regarding a new study that shows parks are a gem for the city, including for economic development. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Parks Director Karen Palus gives media interviews at The Broadmoor regarding a new study that shows parks are a gem for the city, including for economic development.
Thursday, the city participated in what seems like a futile exercise by introducing an $85,000 study called "The Economic Benefits of Parks and Recreation in Colorado Springs."

The study was funded and conducted by the Trust for Public Lands, a nationwide conservation organization that's done many such studies.

The study was unveiled at a gathering at The Broadmoor, which recently closed on its land-swap deal with the city that's in litigation.

But why the study?

City Council recently voted 6-3 not to place a small sales tax hike on the April city election ballot to fund parks maintenance. The three who were interested in a ballot measure were Tom Strand, Bill Murray and Jill Gaebler.

As one park supporter who showed up said, "If parks are the golden goose, why would you starve it?"

So promoting the parks system as a boon for the city at this point in time seems to be inconsequential. (Some say the study was done in order to provide ammo to persuade voters to cough up another .1 of a percent sales tax.)

But don't say that to Karen Palus, parks director, who says it's important for citizens to understand how valuable parks, trails and open space are to them and the business community.

"It's an important message for our community," she tells the Independent.

You can view the report here.

But here are a few highlights:

• There are 38,900 homes within the city limits that sit within 500 feet of parks, and those homes have a value that's enhanced by that location by $502 million.

• Parks, trails and open space have the capacity to remove air pollution. That tallies to 338,000 pounds of bad stuff ranging from carbon monoxide to ozone.

• Direct travel spending by visitors comes to nearly $1.5 billion; of that, $135 million is how much tourists spend a year whose primary reason for coming here is to visit parks, trails, open space and "facilities."

• People can save $1,180 per year on medical costs by exercising regularly, presumably in parks, on trails and in open spaces.

• More than 45,000 people use parks, trails and open spaces here regularly every year, a total health care benefit topping $50 million.


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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

UPDATE: Parks benefit Colorado Springs economically, study shows

Posted By on Tue, Jan 10, 2017 at 11:06 AM

The Broadmoor is hosting a meeting that will likely lay the groundwork for a sales tax increase proposal. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • The Broadmoor is hosting a meeting that will likely lay the groundwork for a sales tax increase proposal.
UPDATE:
Regarding the question of who's funding the use of The Broadmoor for this event, the city communications office offers this:

El Pomar’s Pikes Peak Recreation and Tourism Heritage Series is hosting the release event for the TPL economic benefit study and has arranged for the space. The TPL economic benefit study was privately funded for the City of COS. No City funding has gone into this program.

—ORIGINAL POST 11:06 A.M. TUES., JAN. 10, 2017—

A report showing how important parks are to economic development will be unveiled on Thursday at The Broadmoor, likely part of the effort to place a tax hike on the April city election ballot for parks maintenance.

Parks advocates apparently want to raise the sales tax by 0.1 of a percent, though no official presentation has been made to City Council so far.

We sought the economic development report, dubbed "Economic Benefits Study," last week under the Colorado Open Records Act, but the city denied access on both Friday and Monday saying the report remained in draft form at that time. Here's the city's denial:
A search of City files located no record responsive to your request, which we interpret as a request for the final Economic Benefits Study. At this time, the requested record is in draft form and has not been finalized by the third parties who are completing the study. However, it is the understanding of the City that a final report will be available on
January 12, 2017.
So if you want to see the report when it's presented on Thursday, feel free to attend, because the event has been posted as an open meeting for City Council, many members of which are likely to attend. The meeting notice is the third one down.
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Here's the city's news release announcing the meeting at The Broadmoor on Thursday:
The City of Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation System’s Economic Benefits Study will be released on Thursday, Jan 12 from 4-6 pm as a part of El Pomar Foundation's Pikes Peak Recreation and Tourism’s Heritage Series. The event will take place at The Broadmoor, Little Theater, 1 Colorado Ave. Colorado Springs, CO 80906. The report will be presented by the Trust for Public Land followed by a panel discussion.

A new report by The Trust for Public Land shows that the parks and recreation system in Colorado Springs generates hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits each year. “The economic benefits study gives us quantifiable information on the benefits of our park system that we have long recognized but considered too difficult to quantify. The report will be an asset for promoting Colorado Springs as an incredible place to live, work, and vacation,” says Mayor John Suthers.

Colorado Springs’ public parks and recreation system includes nearly 14,370 acres of parks and open spaces, over 150 miles of trails, and numerous recreation and cultural facilities. These amenities include: Garden of the Gods Park, Monument Valley Park, Red Rock Canyon Open Space, Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, Meadows Park Community Center, Starsmore Discovery Center and many more.

The parks and recreation system provides seven major economic benefits that are measureable: health, tourism, economic development, property value, stormwater infiltration, clean air, and recreational use. “The strong results of this analysis demonstrate that the parks and recreation system in Colorado Springs provides real economic value to the community’s residents and businesses,” says Karen Palus, City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director.

The report was prepared for the City of Colorado Springs by economists at The Trust for Public Land. "For years, we have talked about the intangible benefits of the park and recreation system in Colorado Springs, but until now we have never had an economic analysis that put a dollar value on the benefits of the parks, trails, open spaces, and recreational facilities," says Jim Petterson, The Trust for Public Land’s Colorado State Director.

“El Pomar Heritage Series seeks to bring together key organizations, stakeholders and leaders to discuss how the region can best promote and protect recreation and tourism in a diverse economy with high quality of life,” says R. Thayer Tutt Jr. President and Chief Investment Officer, El Pomar Foundation.

About The Heritage Series

Utilizing the Penrose Legacy to inspire discussion, understanding, and promotion of our regional outdoor assets, El Pomar Foundation launched the Pikes Peak Recreation and Tourism Heritage Series in 2015. The intent is to increase knowledge and interest in an important part of the region's economy and quality of life.

About The Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live near a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.
It's worth noting that The Broadmoor just closed on a land swap deal with the city in which it acquired the controversial 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space. One argument for trading it to the resort focused on the city's limited resources available to maintain the property.

We've asked how much the city is paying, if anything, for use of The Broadmoor space for this event and will circle back if and when we get an answer.
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Friday, January 6, 2017

UPDATE: Will Colorado Springs' mayor be tapped for federal judgeship?

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 10:59 AM

Will Mayor Suthers be waving goodbye to his mayor's job? - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Will Mayor Suthers be waving goodbye to his mayor's job?
UPDATE 10:59 A.M. THURSDAY, JAN. 12:

Mayor John Suthers, appearing on the Richard Randall show on KVOR radio, apparently gave a stronger response to the idea of being tapped for a federal judge position than he gave us. He tweeted: "Richard, I am not going after a federal judgeship. Have people called me & asked if I was interested? Yes. But I said, 'No, I'm not.'"
——————————
UPDATE:
Glenn Sugameli, of Washington, D.C., who's headed the Judging the Environment judicial nominations project since 2001, set us straight on openings on the federal bench. He noted the openings referred to in the 10th Circuit are on district court benches, not the appeals court:
... they are all on the district courts within the Circuit- including Judge Blackburn's seat in Colorado- there are no vacancies on the U.S, Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit itself (unlike the four on the 9th circuit indicated by CCA for Circuit Court of Appeals).

More importantly, Senators Bennet and Gardner jointly recommended and strongly pushed for action on a nominee. There is every reason why they should continue to do so given the caseload and need to move quickly to fill this seat that they both cited, and the continuing need for both home-state senators to approve any hearing (scroll down).
See these press releases:

Sens. Bennet, Gardner Urge Judiciary Committee to Consider Regina Rodriguez Nomination: President Nominated Rodriguez in April Following Bennet, Gardner Recommendations
(Republican - Colorado) 07/12/16
Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner today urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to work swiftly to consider the nomination of Regina Rodriguez to fill the vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The Colorado senators wrote to Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy urging them to schedule a hearing and a vote on confirmation as soon as possible.... "Given the court's caseload, it's crucial that the Judiciary Committee move quickly and thoroughly to consider this nomination," Bennet said. "Regina Rodriguez is eminently qualified to serve on the District Court. We're confident that her impressive background in both the public and private sectors will serve her well on the federal bench." "Regina Rodriguez has a long record of service to Colorado," said Gardner. "She is immensely qualified to serve on the federal bench, and I'm certain that her broad experience will allow her to better serve Coloradans in a new capacity as a judge on the U.S. District Court for Colorado."

—————————-ORIGINAL POST 10:59 A.M. FRI., JAN. 6, 2017————————-

News over the past two months has focused on who Donald Trump is choosing to fill various cabinet and other posts.

Now, we hear that our own Mayor John Suthers might be in line for a presidential appointment, and he's not denying that he might be interested.

After he takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, Trump will nominate people to fill 114 judgeships across the land, as reported by CBS News.

Word is that Suthers is currently being vetted by the Republican Attorneys General Association, though RAGA has yet to confirm this to the Independent. When we hear back, we'll update.

A place on a federal bench would be a natural culmination of Suthers' career. He's served as district attorney, U.S. Attorney, Colorado Department of Corrections chief and Colorado Attorney General. He was elected mayor in mid-2015.

Trump is looking for people who "will reflect conservative opinions on a wide array of issues, from gun control and abortion access to regulatory reform," according to CBS News, and Suthers seems to fit that bill perfectly.

He's adamantly opposed to recreational marijuana, for example, and his Catholic background translates to opposition to abortion.

When we posed the question of a federal court appointment to the mayor's office, we got this response from city spokeswoman Kim Melchor:
Mayor Suthers has had several inquiries about his interest in various positions. This is not uncommon after a Presidential election. But as he has indicated in the past, there are very few positions he would seriously consider at this point in his career. The press would undoubtedly become aware if he was being considered for a position he was interested in. 
According to this website, there are six vacancies with the U.S. Court of Appeals 10th Circuit, Denver.

So what if Suthers is chosen and answers the call? The City Charter says Council President — currently Merv Bennett, former CEO of the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region — steps into the mayor's shoes.

The Charter says:
If a vacancy occurs in the office of Mayor, duties and responsibilities of that position shall transfer according to section 4-20 of this Charter, and Council shall call an election within ninety (90) days, unless a general municipal election will occur in one hundred eighty (180) days and nominations for the office of Mayor can be timely filed in accord with municipal election law, for the purpose of electing a qualified person to the unexpired term of the office of Mayor. If a general municipal election will occur within one hundred eighty (180) days, the provisions of section 4-20 of this Charter shall apply until a successor of the Mayor last elected pursuant to the provisions of section 2-10 of this Charter is elected and qualified, in accordance with this Charter. (1909; 1961; 1975;
1987; 2010)
And here's section 4-20 from the Charter:
(a)Whenever the Mayor is unable, from any cause, to perform the duties of the office for more than a temporary or short-term absence, the President of the Council shall be the acting Mayor and shall hold such office until a successor of the Mayor last elected pursuant to the provisions of section 2-10 of this Charter is elected and qualified, in accordance with this Charter, at which time the President of the Council may return to his or her seat on Council. (2010)

(b)If the President of Council refuses or is unable to discharge the duties of the Office of Mayor, the Council shall elect one of its members acting Mayor, who shall hold such office until a successor of the Mayor last elected pursuant to the provisions of section 2-10 of this Charter is elected and qualified, in accordance with this Charter. (2010)

(c)Whenever the President of Council becomes the acting Mayor, Council shall elect a new President of Council to serve during the absence as provided in this Charter. (2010) 

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Monument woman goes to court over Drake emissions

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 2:27 PM

Drake Power Plant - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Drake Power Plant
A "squeaky wheel" complainer about emissions from Colorado Springs Utilities' downtown Drake Power Plant is due in court Friday to defend herself against allegations she mishandled a confidential court document.

Leslie Weise, a Monument resident who's an attorney, though not licensed in Colorado, is being taken to task for releasing information from a document erroneously sent to her as part of a Court of Appeals case.

Weise contends the report she was inadvertently given proves the Drake plant is poisoning the air. Colorado Springs Utilities argues the report is based on modeling, not actual data, and that scrubbers have been added to Drake, and one unit decommissioned, to improve air quality.

We asked Springs Utilities about all this and received this statement via email:
This hearing tomorrow is being held because the Court of Appeals has determined that Ms. Weise may have violated its court order when she publicly discussed documents sealed by the District Court after she inadvertently received the information. The attorney representing Colorado Springs Utilities will be requesting an evidentiary hearing on this matter.

We want to clarify information regarding the impact of the Martin Drake Power Plant on air quality. This plant meets all Environmental Protection Agency and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) air regulatory requirements. Official air quality reports are public information and available through CDPHE.

Here's the news release issued by the Weise camp:
Denver, CO – On Friday January 6th, at 10am, El Paso County resident Leslie Weise has been ordered to appear in the Colorado Court of Appeals to determine if her efforts to seek truth and transparency regarding a damning air quality report that Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) has prevented the public from seeing will be met with sanctions and fines from the Court. Weise was inadvertently given access to the secret report after she filed a petition in District Court for release of the report under the Colorado Open Records Act. CSU has requested the Court of Appeals to punish her for speaking about it.

Who: Three-judge panel at Colorado Court of Appeals will consider if concerned parent Leslie Weise should receive sanctions and/or fines for whistleblowing Colorado Springs Utilities’ Air Quality Violations; many Weise supporters plan to be in attendance wearing red.

What: Colorado Court of Appeals to consider if Weise should be punished for whistleblowing Colorado Springs Utilities’ Air Quality Violations.

When: Friday, January 6th, at 10am

Where: Colorado Court of Appeals, 1st floor of the Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center at 2 East Fourteenth Ave, Denver 80203

Why: More than 1,400 Coloradans have signed a petition and over 45 business and community leaders have signed a group letter asking Colorado Springs Utilities to release the air quality report showing non-compliance of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and drop their threat of sanctions, fines and imprisonment against Leslie Weise. Dozens of community members protested outside the Utility Board meeting last month and 15 residents spoke during the public comment period of the meeting, calling for transparency and dropping charges against Weise. A separate letter was sent by the City of Manitou Springs Mayor and City Council expressing their concerns over the air quality impacts to their community located just west of the Martin Drake Plant.

Nevertheless, CSU and the Utility Board appeared unmoved and are proceeding with their legal force to silence and punish Ms. Weise. CSU’s CEO Jerry Forte continues to claim that SO2 emissions from the coal fired Martin Drake Power Plant have been in regulatory compliance despite all of the multiple professionally-completed air models revealing dangerously high spikes in SO2 along the foothills of the Pikes Peak region. The EPA designated the region “unclassifiable” for the SO2 standard for safe levels of air quality. Nearly 300,000 people and 120,000 children live within a five mile radius of the Martin Drake Plant.

The combination of CSU withholding the air quality report whose non-compliance results were made known through Weise’s Court filings and the media and CSU filing for sanctions and fines against Weise has many citizens questioning the management and operations of their municipally-owned “schoolyard bully” Utility and its governing Board. Many supporters of Weise’s efforts plan to attend the court proceedings Friday, in what they consider to be a David vs. Goliath fight, with the City of Colorado Springs trying to silence a brave, single mother concerned for the public and the safety of her son attending elementary school near the Martin Drake Plant.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) has been found by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to cause severe health impacts in concentrations as low as 75 parts per billion. Exposure to SO2 for as little as five minutes can cause respiratory distress, increased asthma symptoms, and aggravate heart disease; impacts are felt most acutely by children, the elderly, and asthmatics.

While the air quality report (created by AECOM under contract from CSU) applies only to SO2 concentrations, many local residents are concerned about other by-products of burning coal, some of which can cause cancer, birth defects and respiratory ailments, and are pushing for Colorado Springs Utilities to transition to clean renewable power sources, which are now at cost-parity or in some cases cheaper than fossil fuel energy. Residents and local leaders are demanding transparency via the release of air quality reports from Colorado Springs Utilities and dropping legal action against Leslie Weise for bringing air quality violations to the light of day.


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Save Cheyenne appeals ruling in Colorado Springs land swap case

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 2:21 PM

citysigns.jpg
If you've been keeping up with the Save Cheyenne court battle over the city's swap of Strawberry Fields to The Broadmoor, listen up.

The nine-page appeal sets out 20 possible bases for appeal. We'll copy the first three here:
(A) In granting the Defendants’ motions to dismiss Save
Cheyenne’s first claim for relief, did the District Court err in declining to
apply the common law doctrine regarding the dedication of parks, as
delineated in McIntyre v. Bd. of Comm’rs, 61 P. 237 (Colo. App. 1900), and Friends of Denver Parks, Inc. v. City and County of Denver, 327 P.3d 311 (Colo. App. 2013), which holds that the municipality to which land has been dedicated as a park holds it as trustee, solely for the benefit of its citizens, and mandates that it may not impose upon it any burden or servitude inconsistent with park purposes, nor may it alienate the ground, or relieve itself of the authority and duty to regulate the park’s use?
(B) Did the District Court err in holding that the City does not hold
Strawberry Fields as a trustee, solely for the use and benefit of its citizens as a park, based upon a misperception that the Save Cheyenne’s argument is based upon a “public trust doctrine,” existing in Pennsylvania and some other states, but not Colorado, as opposed to the application of the terms of a common law dedication articulated in McIntyre and Friends of Denver Parks?
(C) Did the District Court err in concluding that, because the
Colorado Springs City Council in 1885 had dedicated the lands including Strawberry Fields as a park, and stated that Council may always “direct any act or thing to be done concerning said parks, which they may deem best for the improvement of said parks,” it had thereby abrogated all the terms of a common law dedication, including the restrictions on conveyance, use, and the requirement that the City retain regulatory authority over the park?
To read the entire appeal, here you go: SaveCheyenneAppeal.pdf
As we reported in our newspaper this week, and on our blog on Dec. 31, the city closed on the deal on Dec. 19, the same day The Broadmoor filed its conservation easement with Palmer Land Trust.


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UPDATE: Colorado Springs, El Paso County face another lawsuit over stormwater

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 12:21 PM

This image of the Mountain Valley Preserve, outlined in black, comes from a Sept. 17, 2015, city Planning Commission agenda. The property ultimately was annexed by the city in early 2016. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • City of Colorado Springs
  • This image of the Mountain Valley Preserve, outlined in black, comes from a Sept. 17, 2015, city Planning Commission agenda. The property ultimately was annexed by the city in early 2016.

UPDATE:
Late yesterday, we received this explanation via email from Richard Mulledy, the city's stormwater division manager:
The City anticipates that construction of a full spectrum detention pond in accordance with the Professional Engineer's design plans will be in place in February. This permanent detention on the Mountain Valley Preserve subdivision will appropriately manage the runoff from the new development and accommodate for significant flood events.

Throughout construction of the subdivision temporary stormwater controls have been in place. The City of Colorado Springs will continue to work with Mountain Valley Preserve throughout construction and will inspect all drainage aspects of the project as they are completed.

————ORIGINAL POST 12:21 P.M. THURSDAY, JAN. 5, 2017—————
"Our subdivision is not to be used for the city's stormwater sewer."

Thus ends a four-page claim filed by dozens of homeowners in Toy Ranches Estates subdivision against the city of Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Tim McConnell, an engineer with Drexel, Barrell & Co., the city director of public works Travis Easton, Mayor John Suthers, the county's planning director Craig Dossey, FEMA, and Newport Center, LLC, the developer of the subdivision that's allegedly causing flood damage to Toy Ranches, or threatens to.

Newport Center's registered agent is long-time developer Leroy Landhuis, and the development in question is called Mountain Valley Preserve. The 44.71-acre subdivision has 41 single-family residential lots, landscape tracts, detention areas and public roads, and is located east of Marksheffel Road and south of Dublin Boulevard, according to city records. See the City Council action here:

Legislation_Details__With_Text___11_.pdf file:///Users/pamzubeck/Downloads/Legislation%20Details%20(With%20Text)%20(9).pdf" target="_blank">
Council annexed the property and approved zoning about a year ago.

(Landhuis tangled with Colorado Springs Utilities last year over value of land required for the Southern Delivery System. He sought $39 million in damages, and won $378,000.)

Toy Ranches, a square-mile subdivision in the county, is located adjacent to Mountain Valley Preserve.

The city, already facing a federal lawsuit alleging violations of the Clean Water Act due to neglect of its stormwater system, doesn't need more evidence that it's dropping the ball in controlling flood waters.

But the Toy Ranches letter, dated Dec. 11 and titled "Notice to Cease and Desist," alleges the Landhuis development's detention ponds don't work and threaten life and property in Toy Ranches from flooding.

The letter accuses the city of "flawed interpretation of its own drainage criteria manuals," and claims the outfalls from the Mountain Valley Preserve detention ponds are faulty, leading to "significant erosion" to neighboring properties.

Worse, if the erosion affects natural gas and petroleum product pipelines in the vicinity, the letter says, "There could be a major catastrophic failure which could result in not only extensive property damage but also human physical harm or even loss of life."

Toy Ranches residents also allege a constitutional violation, because the flooding could constitute "an uncompensated taking" of their properties.

We've asked both the city and county for a comment on this, as well as the developer, and are awaiting word. We'll update if an when we hear back.

We also reached out to the resident who mailed the letter and will update if and when we hear from him.

Meantime, we asked City Councilor Andy Pico, who represents that area, for his thoughts, and he says via email, "First I've heard of it." A few hours later, he reported he'd consult an engineer on some of the technical aspects of the allegations.

Read the entire letter here:
Toy_Ranchs_NOC.pdf


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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Colorado Springs city election gets under way

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 5:09 PM

Crow-Iverson: business experience on Council missing. - COURTESY CROW-IVERSON CAMPAIGN
  • Courtesy Crow-Iverson campaign
  • Crow-Iverson: business experience on Council missing.
Those wishing to run for Colorado Springs City Council can pick up a petition starting today. Click on this for more information.

Deadline for filing is Jan. 23.

Already, a race is shaping up in the central District 5 between incumbent Jill Gaebler and Lynette Crow-Iverson, who recently resigned from Colorado Springs Forward, a politically active group that's sure to spend freely on the April 4 city election.

Another race is in the making as well between challenger Yolanda Avila and incumbent Helen Collins.

Here's Crow-Iverson's announcement:
Lynette Crow-Iverson a community leader who led the effort to pass Referendum 2C (the “Pothole Fix”) in 2015 is an entrepreneur and innovator. Iverson as a single mother raising 2 girls on her own built a successful franchise business in the medical field which continues to expand today. Conspire! provides industry compliance for a safe and drug free workplace.

“Noting the lack of many business experienced Members currently serving on City Council many of my colleagues have encouraged me to run. In a competitive environment and the need to lift our community in so many ways the feeling in the community and in the District is one of disappointment at the lack of leadership,” noted Iverson “I believe my experience and my innate leadership skills will be a good addition on Council and to support Mayor Suther’s vision for our City going forward.”

A community activist Lynette Crow-Iverson currently serves as a Trustee for the Colorado Springs Health Foundation, Vice Chair for the Pikes Peak Work Force Board, serves for Chancellor Shockley-Zalabak’s Regional Connect board, is a Member of the Regional Leadership Forum and past Chairwoman for Colorado Springs Forward.

“As a businessman and a colleague of Lynette’s I was thrilled to hear that she was running for City Council. I have served with Lynette on the Colorado Springs Health Foundation and I know firsthand her business acumen and creativity,” stated Jon Medved “Lynette Crow-Iverson is a first class leader and exactly what our City Council needs.” Jon Medved is a Co-Chair on the Friends for: Lynette Crow-Iverson Committee.

City Council District 5 includes much Colorado Spring’s Old North End, the Patty Jewett neighborhood and runs as far east as Powers Blvd.

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

City closes deal with The Broadmoor for Strawberry Fields

Posted By on Sat, Dec 31, 2016 at 3:20 PM

Richard Skorman gave tours of Strawberry Fields last spring and summer. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Richard Skorman gave tours of Strawberry Fields last spring and summer.
Without issuing a notice to the public, the city apparently quietly closed the deal on Strawberry Fields with The Broadmoor in recent days.

More on that is below from an email sent by Parks Director Karen Palus to various parks officials and others on Friday.

Richard Skorman, former vice mayor and president of nonprofit Save Cheyenne, which is opposing the land swap, says the closing doesn't stop the group's efforts to undo the May 2016 City Council vote. Save Cheyenne had filed a lawsuit objecting to the trade of 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space, which was purchased by the city in 1885 after voters voted in favor of acquisition. District Judge Michael McHenry recently ruled against the group, however.

But Save Cheyenne will file its appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals next week, Skorman says.

"If we are successful on appeal, we're going to ask the court to reverse this deal," he tells the Independent in an interview on Saturday. "We want to make sure there's no major construction [in the meantime]. The good part is The Broadmoor will have to go through the planning process before they start moving dirt."

Pending further advancement of the trade, Skorman says Save Cheyenne might ask the district court to stay progress pending the appeal.

Palus' letter:

I wanted to let you know that the land exchange with the Broadmoor has been closed. All necessary documents, including the conservation easement held by the Palmer Land Trust, have been executed and recorded.

Through this exchange, the City gained 371 acres of property and 115 acres of new public trail easements that include an expanded North Cheyenne Cañon Park, secured property for the Manitou Incline, expanded Bear Creek Park, and secured easements for the Chamberlain Trail, Barr Trail, South Cañon Trail, and trails to Hully Gully.

The land exchange from the City to The Broadmoor includes 180+ acres of the area called Strawberry Hill, as well as .55 acres adjacent to the Cog railway. A conservation easement has been placed with the Palmer Land Trust upon the 180+ acres of Strawberry Hill that was transferred to The Broadmoor; the public will continue to have access to all but 8.5 acres of the Strawberry Hill property to ensure conservation and recreation values are protected and public access is provided to the property in perpetuity. The conservation easement defines only an 8.5 acre private building envelope within the 180+ acre parcel to develop a picnicking area, horse stables and trail. In addition, the City received a public access easement over the entire parcel except the building envelope.

Public park master plan processes for the Strawberry Hill property and North Cheyenne Cañon Park will begin in 2017.

I want to personally thank you all for your engagement, thoughtful dialogue and creative approaches to the success of this project!

I hope each of you have a very Happy New Year!

Have a great day!

Karen



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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Update: Tim Mitros leaves his city job

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2016 at 2:48 PM

This flooding on Pope's Valley Drive is an example of the headaches that marked Tim Mitros' years with the city. - COURTESY DEAN LUCE
  • Courtesy Dean Luce
  • This flooding on Pope's Valley Drive is an example of the headaches that marked Tim Mitros' years with the city.
UPDATE:
According to the city's severance agreement with Tim Mitros, he's required to provide the city a letter "announcing his retirement effective Jan. 13, 2017."

He'll get six months of his annual salary of $117,051.43 in severance pay and other benefits if he abides by the agreement:
If Employee signs and does not revoke this
Agreement, and executes the Supplemental Release attached hereto as Exhibit A on or after
the Separation Date and does not revoke it, the City agrees: (i) to pay Employee an amount
equal to 6 months of Employee’s current base salary, to be paid within 5 working days following
the date the Supplemental Release becomes binding and non-revocable; (ii) to pay the
employer’s share of the cost of premiums to continue Employee’s current medical and dental
coverage through July 31, 2017, so long as Employee timely pays Employee’s share of the
contributions to the City; and (iii) to allow Employee to continue, if currently enrolled, in the
vision plan through July 31, 2017, so long as Employee timely pays the cost of the premium. All
payments shall be subject to legally-required withholdings. Further, the parties agree that no
PERA contributions will be made on these payments as they do not constitute salary for PERA
purposes. 
If he violates the agreement, he has to pay the city $30,000. Here's the non-disparagement section:
Mutual Non-disparagement. Employee shall not make negative or disparaging
comments relating to the City, its elected officials, employees or representatives, its services, or
Employee’s employment with the City. In addition, Employee will not disclose to any person or
entity the circumstances surrounding Employee’s departure from the City’s employment. The
City shall not make negative comments relating to Employee’s employment with the City or the
circumstances surrounding Employee’s departure from the City’s employment. All parties
acknowledge the City is subject to the CORA. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if either party is
subject to a valid subpoena or court order, or is otherwise required by law, to provide truthful
testimony in a proceeding, such testimony will not be a violation of Section 7 of this Agreement.

Here's the entire agreement:
Mitros_20161229135039.pdf
——————-ORIGINAL POST 4:03 P.M., TUESDAY, DEC. 27, 2016———————-

Tim Mitros, longtime city employee who worked on stormwater issues for many years, ends his service with the city today, he tells the Independent.

"Yes, I'm retiring from the city," he says — though it appears that he is being forced out.

Mitros came into the spotlight in recent years when the city got into a jam on failure to deal with its sizable stormwater drainage system.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a second report in August 2015 — the first came in early 2013 — blasting the city's failure to deal with drainage. Suthers has since struck a deal with Pueblo County in which the city agrees to spend $460 million in the next 20 years, much drawn from the city's general fund. Colorado Springs Utilities also will contribute.

But after that 2015 EPA report, Mayor John Suthers reassigned Mitros to the Office of Emergency Management as its engineering program manager. Many thought that Mitros, who was the city's development review and stormwater manager, was scapegoated for a funding problem for stormwater over which he had no control.

Mitros has been hailed by citizens as a hard-working, deeply caring city employee who worked long hours helping citizens understand the city's stormwater needs and finding ways to ease the impacts of the city's substandard system.

Mitros, 57, served for 25 years. He says he's prohibited from discussing his departure agreement or saying "anything that will disparage the city."

"I've enjoyed working for the city, and basically I've enjoyed serving the city of Colorado Springs," he says. "That's my joy."

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