City Gov

Monday, October 31, 2016

Have a voice in water planning

Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2016 at 2:59 PM

Construction on the Southern Delivery System in 2010 on the city's east side made the pipeline possible. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Construction on the Southern Delivery System in 2010 on the city's east side made the pipeline possible.
Just months after activating the long-awaited Southern Delivery System Pipeline in April, Colorado Springs Utilities is hosting an open house on Wednesday, November 2 to gather comments for its Integrated Water Resource Plan.

The plan hasn't been updated in 20 years.

Here's the news release:
With some of it traveling more than 200 miles to town, water continues to be one of Colorado Springs’ greatest challenges and opportunities. Water planners at Colorado Springs Utilities are looking to the future and how they can continue to provide reliable, safe and high-quality water for our community.

The public is invited to learn about the Integrated Water Resource Plan at an Open House Wednesday, Nov. 2 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Conservation and Environmental Center (2855 Mesa Rd., Colorado Springs). We will share information about our water system and our plan to meet future needs. Residents will have a chance to weigh in on long-term planning and provide input on water decisions for Colorado Springs. Topics include:

· Water system reliability
· Potential regional water service challenges and opportunities
· Water Supply challenges and risks
· Opportunities to mitigate risks
· Tradeoffs between risk and costs


The Water Resource Plan was last updated in 1996 and laid the groundwork for the Southern Delivery System.

“We have seen a lot change since the last plan was completed. Drought, fires, greater variability in supply and demand, and other factors have really challenged our water resources. The future of our water supply system is equally uncertain,” said Kevin Lusk, Colorado Springs Utilities water planner. “We have undertaken this planning process to address these challenges. It will set the direction for 50-plus years into the future with the goal of ensuring clean, safe and reliable water service for our customers.”

Customers unable to attend the Open House can review planning documents and provide input at csu.org.


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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Who has the highest water rates in Colorado?

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 10:56 AM

A company based in Austin, Texas, has performed a comparison of water rates in Colorado, and guess what. Colorado Springs has the highest rates, according to LawnStarter Lawn Care, a for-profit company that says it helps people find, schedule, pay for and manage lawn care services.
The nearly $1 billion Southern Delivery System that brings water from Pueblo Reservoir was completed in April. This photo shows pipeline construction on the city's east side in 2010. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The nearly $1 billion Southern Delivery System that brings water from Pueblo Reservoir was completed in April. This photo shows pipeline construction on the city's east side in 2010.
From the company's blog about that:
For Colorado Springs, the annual residential bill was $469.73 for 60,000 gallons of water. That bill was 56 percent higher than the state average among surveyed systems and 39 percent higher than the national average, according to LawnStarter’s review of Food and Water Watch data.

Meanwhile, residential customers of the community water system in the Denver suburb of Centennial enjoyed the state’s lowest bills, at $183 a year.
Read the entire blog here.

We asked LawnStarter why it did the comparison and heard back from spokesman John Egan: "We are going to be entering the Denver market in the near future, and we were curious about water bills in various communities around the state. Since we're a lawn care startup, we have a keen interest in water usage and costs."

Springs Utilities told LawnStarter that one reason rates are higher in Colorado Springs stems from the fact the city is not located on any major waterway, meaning the city has to import water from elsewhere. That includes a transmountain pipeline, and those don't come cheap. The other is a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir, recently completed.

Here's a listing provided in the blog of highest to lowest rates in Colorado:
Colorado Springs Utilities: $469.73
City of Aurora: $460.92
City of Greeley: $376.80
City of Fort Collins: $347.76
City and County of Broomfield: $292.20
City of Aspen: $285.00
City of Boulder: $277.20
City of Westminster: $270.24
City of Arvada: $246.78
Denver Water: $245.88
City of Thornton: $242.04
Board of Water Works of Pueblo: $220.80
Centennial Water District: $183.00
Water rates here will take another leap if a rate increase is approved next month by City Council.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

It's open season (next season) for farm stands in Colorado Springs

Posted By on Thu, Oct 13, 2016 at 5:25 PM

City Council legalized farm stands in Colorado Springs this week after a near-unanimous vote. The only dissenter was Helen Collins of District 4, who described the ordinance designed to bring the city up to speed with state law as “a waste of time.” Luckily for local food advocates, her opposition didn’t waste much time holding up the otherwise uncontroversial measure aimed at empowering citizens to sell veggies and other homemade food items from their own yards.


Councilor Jill Gaebler brought the ordinance to her colleagues at the recommendation of the Food Policy Advisory Board — a year-old city/county board convened to study local food sovereignty in a region that trucks in close to all the food it eats from out of state. This measure, nearly identical to one Denver passed in 2014, was the board’s top priority because of how simple and rewarding it may be for the community.


The ordinance expands the home occupation permit to include cottage foods — a category defined by a 2012 state law that gave people the right to produce and sell certain non-perishable homemade foods without a commercial license. It includes canned and pickled veggies, jams, jellies, honey, breads, teas and all sorts of other goodies that pretty much won’t get you sick if you’re equipped with eyes, a nose and a brain.


The fine print contains some details that all would-be farm standers should know: get permitted through the planning department for a one time fee of $60; to sell from a farm stand, take the food safety course offered through the El Paso County Health Department; only set up your stand between dawn and dusk from April to November; don’t block traffic; be kind to your neighbors.


Councilor Gaebler heralded the measure as a victory for not only personal liberty and private property rights, but for good old-fashioned, neighbor-to-neighbor community building.


We’ll say cheers with some homegrown tea to that!


Read the full text of the ordinance here:


CottageFoodStandHomeOccORD-2016-09-06.pdf
Editor's note: This story has been updated with corrected permit information.
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Springs Rescue Mission caves to city pressure, forces tent city to disband

Posted By on Thu, Oct 13, 2016 at 10:40 AM

Campers living at 5 W. Las Vegas Ave got a rude awakening Wednesday as word of eviction quickly made way around the tent village. It came first from security guards with Springs Rescue Mission, the property owner, and later more emphatically from Colorado Springs Police Department’s HOT team. The message was unequivocal: everyone must pack up and leave by 3 p.m.


Anguish and frustration mingled with the harsh chill of the season’s first truly wintery morning.


“Where am I supposed to go now?” asked a 20-year-old survivor of human trafficking who goes by Miss America. “When you’re a girl, everyone goes after you,” she said while hurriedly packing up her once cozy tent. “But they,” she said, gesturing to her neighbors on either side, both men, “they stop these creepy guys from raping me at night.”

During the sweep. - RAVEN
  • Raven
  • During the sweep.

The campers reluctantly disbanded, some pushing carts or bikes. One man in Army pants with visibly deformed ankles leans heavily on his walker as another man seems to have an anxiety attack facing a wall. There’s disagreement over whether it’s better to find a new spot together or separately, call motels or churches, go find food or warmer clothes. The cold drizzle veers into sleet as people step out into an even less certain future.


The Last Sanctuary — as the camp is called — was born with a longer life expectancy. As the Indy previously reported, people first set up in SRM’s parking lot in September to avoid trouble on trails, under bridges and in open spaces where camping is illegal. The Mission’s property is private, where camping can be legal.


Key words: can be. It’s dependent on owner permission and code enforcement.


The Mission originally gave permission for the camp to stay until November 10, when 185 new shelter beds are slated to open. “It wasn’t an intentional strategy,” SRM spokesman Travis Williams told the Indy at the time, “but we just recognized there [were] very few options for people to go where they feel safe.”


At the time, law enforcement was eyeing the situation but reported no major issues. Campers tried to keep it that way by convening meetings to strategize keeping the place tidy, orderly and limited in size.

Before the sweep. - NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
  • Before the sweep.


It worked, but only to a degree. Trash accumulated in — and eventually around — the available bins. More people moved in and set up camp, crowding the village into close quarters. And interpersonal tensions arose as they’re wont to do in such circumstances.


Sign that city officials had had enough first came at an early morning “Coffee and Civics” event hosted by the Council of Neighborhood Organizations where Mayor John Suthers told attendees the issues at the camp were “insurmountable.” Later that afternoon, the city issued a notice to SRM giving them 48 hours to provide a “plan of action” for disbanding the camp. The next morning SRM issued the wake up call telling campers to leave by 3 p.m.


Making that call was “devastating” for SRM CEO Larry Yonkers, who told reporters at a Wednesday morning press conference that “this has been one of the worst days of my life.” He emphasized that his nonprofit is “using all the resources we have” and “working as hard as we can” to get a new $28 million campus up-and-running, but that given “the legal liability we have since it’s on our property, I felt we had to take action today and move as quickly as we could to minimize risk.”


As for what exactly made the camp a violation now and not weeks ago, head of the neighborhood services division Mitch Hammes explained “it’s difficult in a code enforcement situation to say you can have 12 tents not 15 or three bags of trash not four [...] but we saw a proliferation of conditions and that’s the point we said we have to put a stop to this.”


Hammes said his division collaborated with the office of community development and CSPD but that the call was ultimately his — not the Mayor’s (though some have voiced speculation about top-down pressure coming from the executive who pushed for the sit-lie ordinance and plans to propose a new measure outlawing panhandling on medians).


CSPD spokesman Lt. Howard Black clarified that the 28 calls for service regarding the camp over the last three weeks became increasingly serious. Assault, theft and drug use have all recently been called in, but only one arrest was made.


Community Development manager Aimee Cox, who has been working on homelessness issues in the city for many years, also emphasized that the camp was unsafe, but conceded “it’s very likely these people will be dispersed back into camp settings on public rights of way.”


With SRM’s forthcoming shelter, there’ll be a total of 488 beds this winter in the city, compared to 463 last year. 234 of those will be “low-barrier,” meaning no sobriety or clean record requirements. The latest Point-In-Time count estimates there’s under 400 chronically homeless adults in the region, but advocates generally agree the real number is likely much higher.


About the obvious shortage, Cox said “there simply is not the capacity in our community right now for somebody to manage another facility.” Exasperated, she added “this isn’t just about a building [...] we need to find long-term solutions so we’re not in crisis mode every winter.”


Advocates worked diligently Wednesday afternoon to find shelter and resources for displaced people, but they worry that now, without a central locus, those in need will be harder to reach. Those wanting to lend a hand can find more information at the Coalition for Compassion and Action’s Facebook page.


“It’s so sick,” a camper, Raven, said about watching what she helped to organize, disband. “We try to do the right thing, to help ourselves and each other, and this is what we get.”


TV news crews arrived later in the afternoon to film the tattered remnants of the Last Sanctuary. 
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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

ACLU sues city over "racially-based policing"

Posted By on Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 11:08 AM

The city of Colorado Springs was sued Wednesday morning by two black men that the ACLU of Colorado alleges were targeted in a traffic stop in March 2015 because they're black.
Ryan Brown says he was unfairly targeted by police because he's black. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Ryan Brown says he was unfairly targeted by police because he's black.
We've written about the case of Ryan and Benjamin Brown in the past ("Obstructed view," Nov. 18, 2015), and also about the Colorado Springs Police Department's record involving minorities in traffic stops, hiring and promotion. ("Targeting or happenstance," June 1, 2016)

The city traditionally has not commented on pending litigation, but we asked for a comment anyway. If we hear back, we'll update.

Here's the petition filed Wednesday:
RyanBrownLawsuit.pdf
It's only the latest headache for Police Chief Pete Carey, who's been dogged with problems for more than a year. The Independent has reported over the last eight months that his department lost its certification from the Police Officers Standards and Training board, was kicked out of the military surplus program after not properly accounting for an M16, lost track of a vehicle take-home list that contained officers' rank and home addresses which fell into the hands of drug dealers, and saw crime rates soar in the last year after diverting patrol officers to special units that left street cops vulnerable and shorthanded. ("Are we less safe?" Aug. 24, 2016)

(Carey didn't give the Indy an interview for the crime rates story but three weeks later announced he was shutting down some special units to return officers to the streets in order to beef up patrols.)

Despite all of those problems, Mayor John Suthers has supported Carey and even allowed him to stay beyond his mandatory retirement date.

The ACLU of Colorado's news release:
DENVER – In a lawsuit filed this morning against Colorado Springs police officers and the City of Colorado Springs, the ACLU of Colorado charged that two young African-American men were victims of the police department’s “custom and practice” of engaging in racially-biased policing and carrying out groundless, racially-motivated stops and searches.

In 2015, the lawsuit asserts, Ryan and Benjamin Brown were pulled over because of their race, handcuffed, searched, and detained at gun point and taser point, all without legal justification. Despite a video recording that clearly showed the officers drawing their weapons without cause, refusing to identify the reason for the stop, and using unnecessary force, an internal affairs investigation concluded that the officers’ actions were “justified, legal, and proper.”

“This is a clear-cut case of racial profiling,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “Ryan and Benjamin Brown were stopped because of the color of their skin. There is no place for such racially-biased policing in a country dedicated to equal justice under the law.”

According to the ACLU lawsuit, “Colorado Springs has a custom, policy, and/or practice of doing the following to minority individuals: (1) engaging in racial profiling at the initial stop of individuals; (2) searching them without reasonable suspicion that they are armed or dangerous; and (3) unnecessarily detaining them for extended periods of time in an effort to build some basis for arrest.”

African-American males are stopped by the Colorado Springs Police Department as much as 161% more often than would be expected based on their proportion of the population, according to the complaint.

Ryan and Benjamin Brown were driving just a block away from their home in a predominantly white neighborhood when they were pulled over by Colorado Springs police. To justify the stop, an officer later claimed that the men had been observed earlier in the day driving slowly through “a high crime area,” terminology that the complaint asserts is law enforcement code for “driving while black.”

A taser-wielding officer ordered Benjamin Brown, the driver, out of the car. He was handcuffed, searched without cause, and detained in the back of a police vehicle, even though he had been cooperative, no weapons or contraband were found, and there was no evidence to suggest that he had been involved in a crime.

Ryan Brown then began recording the scene on his phone. His repeated requests for the officers to identify the reason for the stop were ignored. Officers worked together to force him out of the car, push him to the ground, face down in the snow, search him, and cuff him, all the while at gunpoint.

While dragging Ryan Brown out of the car, officers on the video are heard saying that he is not under arrest and that they were just checking him for weapons. No weapons were found. Officers grabbed his phone and threw it in the snow.

Brown filed a complaint with the department following the incident. He received a brief boilerplate letter in June informing him that police had conducted a “complete and thorough” investigation into the incident and concluded that the officers’ conduct was “justified, legal, and proper.”

“That the Colorado Springs Police Department saw nothing wrong with the conduct of its officers in the stop of Ryan and Benjamin Brown speaks volumes about the department’s culture and mentality when it comes to the constitutionally-protected rights of Black men,” said ACLU cooperating attorney Darold W. Killmer of Killmer, Lane & Newman LLP.

The ACLU lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages. The case is being litigated by Killmer and Andy McNulty of Killmer, Lane & Newman, as well as Silverstein and ACLU staff attorneys Sara Neel and Rebecca T. Wallace.

Resources:

Watch Ryan Brown’s video recording of the stop:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkvPlxps7zo

Read the letter from the Colorado Springs Police Department clearing the officers of wrongdoing: http://static.aclu-co.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/2015-06-08-Brown-Cmdr.-Howard-IA-Investigation-Decision-REDACTED.pdf

Visit the ACLU case page: http://aclu-co.org/court-cases/colorado-springs-racial-profiling/

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Police identify "cases of interest" to release online

Posted By on Thu, Oct 6, 2016 at 10:37 AM

Ryan Brown is among those who felt he was treated differently  by police because he's black. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Ryan Brown is among those who felt he was treated differently by police because he's black.
Want to dive into police reports about a high profile incident? The Colorado Springs Police Department has started a new service that will allow citizens to study redacted police reports.

Called Cases of Interest, the site now includes only four incidents: the Halloween shooting in which Noah Harpham killed three people before being gunned down by police; the case of Ryan Brown, who's black and was pulled from his car by police for no apparent reason in March 2015, the Taco Bell shooting in which a man was killed by a citizen, and the Springs Creek Juvenile Detention Facility riot.

Missing are the Planned Parenthood shooting last November, a case that's pending after a judicial finding that accused shooter Robert Dear isn't competent to stand trial, and Officer Tyler Walker who left the department after an internal affairs investigation of his slamming to the ground of Alexis Acker in Memorial Hospital's emergency room. A video of the incident went viral after the Independent posted it on July 15, 2015. The city paid $100,000 to settle the case earlier this year. The matter wasn't investigated by police until Acker threatened to sue in 2014. Walker was not fired as a result but rather left on his own accord.

It's unclear who decides which incidents constitute a "case of interest," but it's fair to say the police make that decision.

Here's CSPD spokesman Lt. Howard Black's media advisory about the new site:
Welcome the CSPD's cases of interest. Here you will find redacted copies of police cases of a local or national interest that are frequently requested by citizens and the media. The information in these cases cannot be used to harass, intimidate, or seek retribution on any party listed in the case. All cases are redacted in accordance with the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act. There is not a charge to view or download the reports.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Suthers presents 2017 budget, optimistic about city's future

Posted By on Tue, Oct 4, 2016 at 2:38 PM

Suthers: Optimistic about the city's financial future. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Suthers: Optimistic about the city's financial future.
Mayor John Suthers has submitted his 2017 city budget proposal to City Council. It contains something for everyone, including more money for transit, raises for city personnel, including police officers and firefighters, and flood control.

The tax-supported General Fund budget is $272.4 million, $5.7 million or 2.1% more than the 2016 budget due largely to a projected increase in sales and use tax revenue.

In a phone interview on Monday, Suthers was upbeat about the direction of the city, a turn-around from his predecessor, Steve Bach, who more than once said the city was doomed to insolvency by 2019 without an infusion of cash.

The city has gotten an infusion of cash from a voter-approved sales tax that started this year and will generate $250 million over five years.

Asked about the city's financial picture in the near future, Suthers said:
It depends on whether we have any kind of economic downturn or not. The increases in revenue [from sales taxes] allowed us to basically give raises, spend more on stormwater, transit and pensions.

What the dooms-dayers would focus in on is if we have another downturn we’re going to have problems again, and I think that’s true. Not unlike the private sector, you have to lay people off and strategically deal with a downturn. I would love to give more relief to the Police Department, given what their staffing issues are, but this is all we could afford this year.
We also asked his thoughts on whether the presidential race's outcome will impact the city's finances. Wall Street and the financial markets are on edge about a possible Donald Trump presidency, with stocks falling sharply on Sept. 26 before the first presidential debate; they've since bounced back after Republican candidate Trump's poor performance, which some say boosted Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
My personal feeling is it won't [affect the city] a lot. The city’s revenues are a little property tax that won’t be impacted too much; sales tax, that, obviously, if people start laying people off and you have a recession, you have a significant impact.

My sense is Colorado Springs is on a bit of a roll economically. We were slow out of the recession but now we've got some momentum. If there’s a national downturn, it will affect us. I feel pretty good about how we’re attracting new business, we’re adding jobs and I don’t think those are going to disappear because people are nervous about who’s elected.
On another election issue, we asked Suthers why he agreed to be a spokesman in favor of Amendment 71, which would make it more difficult for citizen-driven initiatives to amend the state Constitution. He's appearing in statewide television ads urging support for the measure. Is this an effort to raise his profile for a possible run for governor?
I’ve been harping on our constitutional issues for a long time. All the time in my tenure as attorney general I said that our constitution is a mess, and we’ve made it so easy to amend.

So I think when the folks behind Amendment 71 thought I’d be a pretty good spokesman. I'm willing to do it because I feel strongly about it. I would not make the assumptions that I’m seeking a higher profile. My profile is high enough.
You can sift through the entire budget here:
2017pbudgetfullcopy.pdf  
 
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Protect Our Parks group seeks ballot measure

Posted By on Tue, Oct 4, 2016 at 10:38 AM

Outside the City Administration Building today, a group led by Richard Skorman, center, submitted its statement of intent to circulate a petition for a ballot measure that would require voter approval of liquidation of park land. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Outside the City Administration Building today, a group led by Richard Skorman, center, submitted its statement of intent to circulate a petition for a ballot measure that would require voter approval of liquidation of park land.
Tuesday morning, a group of citizens submitted a statement of intent to circulate a petition to amend the Colorado Springs City Charter to require a vote of the people for sale or trade of park land.

The group needs about 15,200 signatures of registered city voters to be placed on the April 4, 2017, city election ballot. And it has only weeks to gather them.

The petition stems from the city's decision to trade the city's 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor in exchange for about 400 acres of wilderness and trails easements property. The deal, backed by Mayor John Suthers, was approved by City Council on May 24 on a 6-3 vote, with Bill Murray, Helen Collins and Jill Gaebler opposing it.

Read more in Wednesday's Independent.

The measure has been dubbed POPS, for Protect Our Parks. Here is the statement of intent, followed by a fact sheet distributed by supporters of the measure.
POPSPetition.pdf POPSFactSheet.pdf
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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

City district boundaries changed, slightly

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 1:44 PM

CITY CLERK'S OFFICE
  • City Clerk's Office
Boundaries for redrawn City Council districts were unveiled today by City Clerk Sarah Johnson, which will determine eligibility of candidates for the April 2017 election.

No currently serving Council members would find themselves in a new district due to the changes.

A dozen precincts will be shifted to other districts. Those are 107, 108, 111, 163, 178, 601, 196, 453, 650, 125, 148 and 152.

A public hearing will be conducted at 1 p.m. on Oct. 18 at the City Administration Building, 30 S. Nevada Ave.

The City Charter requires boundaries to be redrawn every four years. Johnson took into account feedback from citizens and a seven-member advisory committee, which conducted seven public meetings.

Following the Oct. 18 public hearing, Johnson will tinker with the map or leave it intact and present the final version on Nov. 14, though that could change depending on feedback. Council and mayoral approvals are not required.

See the map here.
To comment by email: election@springsgov.com.
Or call 719-385-5901, option 4.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Officer charged with felonies got to keep his badge and gun

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 12:56 PM

Dave Henrichsen faces felonies, and has retired from the CSPD. - DOUGLAS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Douglas County Sheriff's Office
  • Dave Henrichsen faces felonies, and has retired from the CSPD.
In this week's edition of the Independent, we provide further information about a former Colorado Springs police officer who's charged with multiple felonies after working for years on a counterfeit sports gear scheme. ("Taking leave.")

Dave Henrichsen was deeply involved for many years, he told investigators, and even after his involvement apparently surfaced, was allowed to continue collecting his pay. He needed five more months to become vested in the pension plan, and he was paid during that time leading up to his voluntary retirement.

One loose end of the story left dangling because the Colorado Springs Police Department failed to respond to an Indy request submitted on Sept. 7: Was Henrichsen allowed to keep his badge and gun after retirement?

Yesterday after the Indy's press time, Lt. Howard Black said via email: "Both gun and badge were given to Hendrickson (sic). The Chief waited several months wanting to see the outcome of the investigation. With still no info on the investigation, he allowed the items to be released based on our matrix."

Here's the matrix he's speaking of:
 
Retirement_Matrix.pdf

 
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Pollution control equipment protested

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 10:21 AM

Drake Power Plant: A workhorse but also an albatross? - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Drake Power Plant: A workhorse but also an albatross?
An electric ratepayer of Colorado Springs Utilities has filed a notice of claim with Colorado Springs Utilities demanding tens of millions of dollars be refunded to customers due to an alleged faulty decision on pollution control equipment at the Martin Drake Power Plant.

Nicola Rosa said in an Aug. 11 letter, submitted by attorney Perry Sanders representing her, that she believes the amount due "will be tens of millions of dollars on the low side and in excess of 100 million dollars on the high side."

At issue is the Utilities Board's decision in 2009 to award a sole-source contract to Springs-based Neumann Systems Group for pollution control equipment at Drake, which is required to meet EPA standards beginning next year. The equipment was experimental in nature, although numerous tests conducted at Drake over several years proved the equipment feasible.

The letter asserts that other companies were able to provide the equipment in the small footprint at Drake, but that wasn't the case at the time, according to statements made by Utilities staff and Utilities Board members at the time.

It's no secret that Rosa has dogged Utilities on emissions levels from Drake for several years. She's among those who want Drake removed. The plant supplies roughly a quarter to a third of the city's power and burns coal, although it's able to burn natural gas. The Utilities Board has voted to decommission the plant by 2035, but that's not soon enough for many critics.

Read the letter here:
Rosa_Nicole-NOC.pdf  
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CSPD announces "do it yourself" policing policy

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 10:19 AM

Chief Carey: Trying to restructure his department. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Chief Carey: Trying to restructure his department.
Citing "diminishing" resources, the Colorado Springs Police Department on Tuesday announced "alternative response strategies" that consist mostly of having citizens fill out their own crime reports without the expectation of an officer responding.

The change comes after the revelation that the number of cops on the streets had dwindled to the lowest level in years while crime rates are surging significantly. Police Chief Pete Carey earlier announced he would beef up patrols by dissolving several specialized units and reassigning those officers to patrol.

Read all the details here:

Press_Release_1609-007__CSPD_Announces_Alternative_Response_plan_.pdf
The department also yesterday demonstrated how its body cams work and promised to roll them out soon. This comes nearly a year after the CSPD initially said they'd implement body cameras, as reported here. The release:
On Tuesday, September 20, 2016, the Colorado Springs Police Department began the roll out of the Body Worn Cameras that will be assigned to each patrol officer. During the press conference held this morning, a demo of the Body Worn Camera was conducted. Attached to this release, please find a short clip that was recorded during that demonstration. This footage will be typical of the type of video that the cameras can produce.

Note to Media: There is an email address that is contained in the watermark of the video. This is an accountability measure and is not related to the video itself. We are also in the process of being able to condense the video clips, however, on this first clip; there is a small amount of superfluous footage. The first 30 seconds of the video is the portion that was intended for media use.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

More CSPD cops shifted to patrol

Posted By on Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 11:34 AM

screen_shot_2016-09-16_at_11.27.19_am.png
Three weeks after the Independent reported dire crime rate numbers, a shortage of patrol officers on the streets and the slowest response time to top priority calls recorded in years ("Are we less safe?" Aug. 24, 2016), Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey announced dramatic changes.

The report was based on a mid-year crime rate report the CSPD refused to release but was obtained by the Indy through other sources. The Indy also reported that workload was a top concern among members of the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association, according to a survey conducted in June. The Indy obtained the report through sources other than the PPA and subsequently also obtained a copy from the city via the Colorado Open Records Act.
SurveyResults.pdf Among those are several steps to beef up patrols on the streets, a move long awaited by officers who say the numbers are so thin that rarely can they count on backup and often respond to calls hours after they're received.

Carey's statement, issued on Thursday:
I am announcing several organizational changes. These changes come after much deliberation over several months that included discussions with the PPA [Police Protective Association] Board, officers in lineups, and Staff. These changes are designed to enhance our ability to respond to calls for service more quickly, maintain adequate officer safety, and reduce the overall wear and tear on employees of the Patrol Operations Bureau. The individuals most directly affected have already been informed of these changes by their respective chain of command.

It has become increasingly difficult to maintain our necessary staffing levels. Despite hiring 135 new recruit officers during the past couple of years and another 47 starting next month, we continue to struggle to keep pace with the number of retirements and resignations. While staffing challenges exist across the department, they are currently most critical in the Patrol Operations Bureau. Staffing shortages are related to a variety of outcomes including longer response times, reduced officer safety, and a variety of additional difficulties for employees (e.g. increased overtime, trouble getting days off).
I am announcing several organizational changes. These changes come after much deliberation that included discussions with the PPA Board, officers in lineups, and Staff. These changes are designed to enhance our ability to respond to calls for service more quickly, maintain adequate officer safety, and reduce the overall wear and tear on employees of the Patrol Operations Bureau. The individuals most directly affected have already been informed of these changes by their respective chain of command.

1. Effective September 18, 2016, Impact Team officers and Gang Unit officers will return to patrol sector assignments.

2. Effective January 1, 2017, officers currently assigned to traffic accident investigation within the Patrol Bureau will return to sector assignments.

3. Several alternative call response protocols will be implemented. These protocols will come out soon.

4. Modifications will be made to the types of calls that Community Service Officers are authorized to respond to (e.g. burglary investigations).

5. Effective January 1, 2017, the duties of Motor Unit officers will change. Unit members will split time between traffic enforcement duties and traffic accident investigation duties in support of the Patrol Bureau.

6. The number of citations referred to in the 2016 traffic performance goal for the Patrol Bureau will be removed; it will no longer be in effect for the remainder of this year. Traffic safety remains a top priority for me and for the community, but I understand the additional pressure a specific ticket count has put on officers.

7. Effective January 1, 2017, DUI Unit officers and their sergeant will again report administratively to the Patrol Bureau rather than to the Operations Support Bureau.

8. Specialized unit vacancies will remain unfilled until at least January 1, 2017. There will be exceptions to this general rule if the deputy chiefs and I agree that leaving a particular position vacant will have a severe negative impact on department operations.

My decision to move certain officers from their current assignments back to patrol sector assignments is in no way related to the importance, or the quality, of the work they currently do. We do not have anyone in our department performing unimportant work.


The changes outlined above are made in recognition of two key facts:
1. Patrol Bureau response to citizen generated calls for service is the most essential and time critical component of police service delivery to our community.

2. Our staffing shortages in the Patrol Bureau have reached a critical level. Officers need cover cars when they respond to potentially dangerous calls for service. And quite frankly, we aren’t meeting that need right now. My hope was we’d see a lower volume of calls as we came to the end of the summer, but that has not happened.

The changes above will result in an additional 30 positions being assigned to patrol sector responsibilities (not including supervisors). This means 20 more officers will be in Patrol this month because two positions are vacant; and another 8 in January. Additionally, there are currently 41 officers in field training who will soon be assuming independent patrol sector duties. I think these additional officers, in combination with the other changes I’ve noted, will have a significant, positive impact on patrol operations. Specifically, I want to see that we have more officers available to cover each other on calls. We will evaluate the impacts of these changes and make adjustments as necessary.
In an earlier Chief’s Corner article, I committed to work harder at communicating with all of you about decisions I make and projects we are working on. I know some of you might disagree with these changes. You might have other ideas in mind for which units should be folded back into patrol. I recognize that reasonable people can disagree about what should be on the list. When I made this decision, I did so recognizing that any decision will have downsides. I also know you may have a lot of questions about the timing of these decisions, how they were made, and why they were made.
Over the next several weeks, I intend to write a series of Chief’s Corner articles that further elaborate on the changes I’ve discussed in this article as well as the rationale behind them. I also intend to provide you with detailed information about our recent staffing and budgetary history that you may not be aware of.
I hope this information will allow you to better understand the steps we have taken to address our staffing shortages and help you put our current departmental challenges into perspective. I believe this information will also show that we have been thoughtful and diligent in our approach to the staffing difficulties facing our department. Unfortunately, these are complex issues that cannot be addressed by the mere application of simplistic formulas. I know that all of you are busy with your work, but I hope you take the time to read these upcoming articles and engage in constructive dialogue as together we continue to find creative ways to provide the best level of police service possible to our community. Thank you for what you do.

Chief Pete Carey     
Carey3.pdf
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Thursday, September 15, 2016

UPDATE: Regional Building takes second look at questionable deal

Posted By on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 10:32 AM

This vacant lot in lower downtown was one of two properties Regional Building planned to use to partner with Nor'wood Development Group. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • This vacant lot in lower downtown was one of two properties Regional Building planned to use to partner with Nor'wood Development Group.

UPDATE: It's worth noting that we've found out that the proposal for the land development deal was submitted verbally, not in writing, to the Regional Building Department board. This, along with the recent determination that the deal might not be legal, raises questions regarding El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey's statement in which he asserts "a great deal of research, due diligence and negotiation has gone into this Participation Agreement."

————-ORIGINAL POST 10:32 A.M. THURSDAY, SEPT. 15, 2016—————————

A deal reported in this week's edition of the Independent, "Partnering up," that would give Nor'wood Development Group control of $2.1 million worth of property in the lower downtown area is undergoing further examination for its legality.

The Pikes Peak Regional Building Department had agreed to pursue a "participation agreement" in which it would place two properties it owns near the Olympic Museum site into a new entity with Nor'wood properties. The new entity, with Nor'wood having a 63-percent stake, would then develop the property and have first right to buy the Regional Building land.

Now, Regional Building Official Roger Lovell tells the Indy the deal is on hold.

"We are investigating right now," he said today, "and it appears we may, indeed, have a problem here. We're starting back at square one to be sure we didn't miss something. We may have a violation [of state statutes] here. Initially, it appears we can't do this. State statutes prevent us from doing it. If that is the case, we are not going to push it."

Lovell didn't elaborate on which statutes are at issue, but state law dictates what government agencies can and cannot invest in.

When the Regional Building commission — comprised of El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey, Springs City Councilor Larry Bagley and Green Mountain Falls town trustee Tyler Stevens — approved moving forward with the agreement on Aug. 24, officials weren't aware of the law, he says. (All of the commissioners voiced support of the deal, saying it would help economic development and be good for the community.)

"I thought what we were doing was in the best interest of the community, but if it's illegal, it doesn't matter what our intentions are," Lovell says. "No way in hell are we going to move forward until we know this is fully vetted and legal. We're digging into it and researching it, and if we did made an error, we're going to make it right."

Regional Building is represented by attorney Todd Welch.

The reversal, he says, stems from the Indy's story, which triggered a bevy of emails to him, but he didn't disclose what those emails said or who they were from.

County Attorney Amy Folsom says via email she was not asked for legal advice on the agreement prior to its approval, nor should she have been. "The Regional Building Department has independent legal counsel so the County Attorney was not — nor should it have been —consulted," she says.

The City Attorney's Office hasn't responded to a similar question posed by the Indy on Wednesday.

Nor'wood is the biggest developer in the region, with projects under way throughout the city. Such an agreement between it and Regional Building would place the latter in a position of conducting building inspections and issuing permits to its business partner, which Colorado Ethics Watch's executive director Luis Toro says constitutes the appearance of impropriety.

Lovell didn't give a timeframe for determining whether to move forward with or scrap the agreement.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

3 ways Nor'wood is locking up lower downtown

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 10:49 AM

This building at 101 Costilla St. would be placed in a new entity with controlling interest held by Nor'wood Development Group under a deal given preliminary approval last month. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • This building at 101 Costilla St. would be placed in a new entity with controlling interest held by Nor'wood Development Group under a deal given preliminary approval last month.
Wednesday, the Independent reports on the latest maneuver by Nor'wood Development Group to control property in the lower downtown area known as the Southwest Downtown Urban Renewal Area.

Our story explains a "participation agreement," which won preliminary approval from the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, would allow Nor'wood to take charge of the agency's two properties located in the URA. (Note the sidebar on how the agenda item was handled.)

This would add to the amount of property Nor'wood, headed by long-time developer David Jenkins ("Building an empire," Nov. 19, 2014) controls in the roughly 100-acre URA and enable the developer to advance plans to convert the largely dormant area into a mixed use urban setting.

The other two ways are:

• Persuade the city to build an underground parking garage beneath a city block owned by Nor'wood interests. ("Going underground," July 6, 2016)

• Enable the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame to be built on 1.7 acres Nor'wood has pledged to donate in the immediate vicinity of the garage and the Regional Building property. Nor'wood also has made a play for city-owned property next door.





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