County officials are a little upset that the state legislature has passed a host of gun control laws.
Littleton is planning on hosting a meeting to discuss what the laws mean to citizens — or whether El Paso County will simply secede from the Union. (Little joke there ... we hope.) El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, who has offered teachers free lessons in hunting down mass shooters, will also be in attendance.
Commissioner Littleton Schedules Town Hall Meeting on Pending State Gun Laws
Sheriff Terry Maketa to Answer Citizens Questions
El Paso County, CO, March 9, 2013 — El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa will join County Commissioner Peggy Littleton for a “town hall” public meeting this Thursday to answer citizens’ questions about legislation under consideration in Denver and Washington which would impose additional regulations on the ownership and sale of firearms and ammunition. Earlier this year the Board of El Paso County Commissioners unanimously adopted a Resolution in support of second amendment rights and urging both federal and state lawmakers to reject new legislation which would seek to limit those rights.
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa also issued statement in support of second amendment rights and indicating that the Sheriff’s Office would not support the enforcement of Presidential orders or similar rules of administrative agencies which would be in conflict with second amendment constitutional guarantees.
Commissioner Peggy Littleton says, “There is a lot of talk new gun restrictions in Denver and in Washington and we have been getting questions from El Paso County residents who want to know more about what’s being proposed and what these proposed restrictions would mean here in El Paso County. Sheriff Maketa will be there to answer citizens' questions about local enforcement requirements.”
The public meeting will be held Thursday night, March 14,
20182013 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Commissioners Hearing Room at Centennial Hall, 200 South Cascade Avenue. Free parking is available in the El Paso County parking garage on Sawatch Avenue directly west of Centennial Hall.
John Leavitt, who was just hired to represent the El Paso County Clerk & Recorder's Office, previously worked for the City of Colorado Springs as a senior communications specialist.
Leavitt lost his job a year ago, along with Bill Beagle, when the city "eliminated two positions" in the communications department. At the time, the city claimed that the move was "part of the organization-wide efforts to pursue efficiencies wherever possible." However, the city quickly hired two new communications specialists to replace Beagle and Leavitt, and many felt their elimination was tied more to ideology than budget concerns.
Among media circles, Leavitt was known as a responsive and professional spokesperson, who strictly adhered to open records laws. In 2011, the Indy named Leavitt and Mary Scott (who has since left her job at the city) as the best public communications officers in its annual Best Of competition.
The city has struggled to meet open records laws since Mayor Steve Bach, a vocal critic of the media, took office. Recently, the city began charging for public records.
John Leavitt Named Public Information Officer for El Paso County Clerk & Recorder Wayne Williams
[March 4, 2013 — Colorado Springs, CO] — El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams today announced his office has hired John Leavitt, APR, as its new public information officer. Leavitt, a local public relations veteran, brings 19 years of government communications experience to the position.
“We are excited John has joined our team,” said Williams. “He will be charged with ensuring two-way communications to provide citizens with vital information from the Clerk and Recorder’s Office and to provide our management team with feedback from citizens for continuous improvement of our processes.”
Leavitt most recently served as a public relations consultant for Junior Achievement USA in Colorado Springs. Before that brief stop, Leavitt served in senior communications positions with The City of Colorado Springs, Memorial Hospital, Colorado Springs School District 11, and Colorado Springs Utilities. Leavitt was named the Best Government PIO in 2012 by one media outlet.
Leavitt said, “It is an honor to join a team charged with such important and fundamental tasks as election management, motor vehicle registration, issuing marriage licenses, and recording real estate transactions. Virtually every El Paso County citizen at some point does business with this office. It’s a tremendous responsibility to be charged with communicating for this organization.”
Williams said Leavitt was chosen from a deep and talented pool of applicants. His strong commitment to public access to information, existing relationships with local officials, and professional reputation with local media were among his strengths. “John’s long-time ownership of a small business [a local Sports Clips franchise] means he understands private enterprise and the struggles our citizens face,” noted Williams.
Leavitt lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, Susan. They are parents of six children and are expecting their first grandchild. Leavitt has a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from Brigham Young University and a Masters of Public Administration from UCCS. He is accredited in public relations by the Public Relations Society of America and can therefore use the APR designation following his name.
El Paso County is moving forward with an exploration of stormwater funding — with or without Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach's support.
Bach has continually interfered with a process to explore the region's stormwater problem and possible solutions, saying he has his own ideas for funding stormwater — namely asking citizen-owned Colorado Springs Utilities to bear the city's $687 million burden.
But experts have long said stormwater is a regional issue, since water doesn't recognize political bounds. And with the Waldo Canyon burn scar exponentially increasing flooding risks in the region, El Paso County apparently isn't waiting for Bach's blessing to pursue solutions. Today it passed a resolution and announced the formation of a steering committee to look at funding options.
El Paso County commissioners approved a resolution this morning stating an intention to work regionally on a solution to stormwater management and flood control. City Council is expected to consider the same resolution soon.
Commissioners made a few changes to the wording of the resolution, which was recommended by the Regional Stormwater Task Force. The resolution originally addressed only "stormwater" and called for an agreement between Colorado Springs and El Paso County.
Commissioners tacked on the words "community partners" in an effort to get smaller communities like Manitou Springs and Monument to consider passing the resolution as well. And they added the words "flood control" to the title, after agreeing that the term "stormwater" had negative connotations (given the city's unpopular past efforts to fund the problem). Commissioners also agreed that the words "flood control" were more informative to citizens.
Commissioner Amy Lathen said the county is also setting up a steering committee to look at funding options. The county has already compiled a list of over 100 names of people who will be asked to participate. It includes interested citizens, and representatives from organizations such as neighborhood groups, the military, school districts, and special districts.
The county plans to allow the committee to choose how it will structure itself in a kick-off meeting next week.
Alissa Vander Veen, El Paso County deputy clerk and recorder, is bidding county government adieu to take a job in marketing with Challenger Homes.
Challenger is owned by 2011 mayoral candidate Brian Bahr.
"It was a great opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it," she says via e-mail. "Don’t worry I will still be around doing some political stuff."
Vander Veen sent this message to media outlets this morning:
I just wanted to let you all know that today is my last day as the Communication Manager for the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, as I am leaving for a new job opportunity. Please direct all media inquiries and request to either Clerk Wayne Williams at WayneWilliams@elpasoco.com or 719-439-1870. If you are unable reach him please contact either Dave Rose, PIO for El Paso County at DaveRose@elpasoco.com, or 719-520-6540, or Jennifer Brown PIO for El Paso County Department of Human Services at JenniferBrown@elpasoco.com, or 719-444-5533.
I would like you to know that it has been a pleasure working with all of you and I look forward to crossing paths in the future. Thanks for everything!
Former El Paso County commissioner, hard-core conservative and lawyer Duncan Bremer gave a presentation to the current commissioners today advising them that they may be able to deny their employees access to birth control.
Access is guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act, but has been opposed by religious groups and conservative businesses, notably the Catholic Church and Hobby Lobby.
Bremer noted that when he was in office, the county banned using county insurance to pay for elective abortion. Bremer — making the same arguments that "Personhood" proponents have used to advocate full citizenship for fertilized eggs — said that birth control was comparable to abortion.
"There have been in those intervening circles around the sun, some new technology that has developed and become available — drugs, procedures, chemicals, whatever — that have the ability to take a fertilized egg and prevent its implantation or perhaps kill it by other means," he told the Commissioners. "There's obviously a debate about whether that constitutes an elective abortion or not. That's really for you to decide as it applies to your particular policy."
Bremer said Obamacare "mandated the use" of such procedures and chemicals. (Though, actually, it only mandates coverage for birth control.)
Bremer said that assuming the commissioners wanted to avoid covering birth control, they have three options. First, since the county self-insures, he said, it falls under special regulations that could present a loophole. Second, grandfather provisions could protect the county's existing ban. Third, he said, since the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act "as a tax," it's possible that the state couldn't be forced to pay penalties for noncompliance because the state cannot be forced to pay a tax to the federal government.
Commissioner Dennis Hisey, smiling widely, called Bremer's presentation "very interesting."
If you're somebody, you've probably been invited to the "ribbon-shooting" ceremony at 11 a.m., Wednesday to mark the opening of the Cheyenne Mountain Shooting Complex.
The ceremony is invitation only, but the range, a project by Fort Carson and El Paso County, will be open from 1:30 to 4 p.m.
The range idea emerged after the U.S. Forest Service shut down the Rampart Shooting Range in July 2009 after an Aurora man was killed in a shooting accident.
Here's Carson's news release:
The shooting complex, which is the largest outdoor shooting range in the State of Colorado,
is a joint project between Fort Carson, El Paso County, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, the National Forest Service and the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. It will be open to the general public with minimal daily rates of $10 per person.
The 400-acre site is located on Fort Carson land near Interstate 25 just off mile marker 132. The entrance is just outside Fort Carson’s Gate 20 security perimeter. Shooters using the range will not have to enter the installation nor register their weapons with Fort Carson to utilize the range.
This marks the completion of the first of a three-phase construction plan. The complex currently consists of seven shooting ranges with approximately 120 covered shooting positions. Three ranges are designated for rifles with distances from 300 to 500 yards. There are also four designated pistol ranges and one multi-position range prioritized for law enforcement and public safety training purposes.
A small archery range will also be on site with plans to expand it as funding becomes available and a five-stand trap range is expected to be available in the spring for shotgun enthusiasts.
The second phase of the project will include the construction of five skeet & trap ranges and a club house. The club house will include a retail store, class rooms and offices. Completion of the project will occur during the third phase with the addition of a restaurant.
One 1,250-yard-long shooting range will be for the exclusive use of law enforcement, Monday through Friday, and open to the public on weekends.
The range complex will be staffed by Department of Defense Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation civilian personnel. Although on-duty Soldiers will not train on this range, the complex will be open to off-duty military personnel shooting their personal firearms, DoD civilians, retired military and all civilians.
Profits from the range will be used to fund the Fort Carson FMWR program, which supports Soldiers and their Families.
El Paso County has established a nonprofit organization called the Soldier’s Friend Foundation to raise funds for the next two phases of the complex. A web site under construction will allow for donations to help fund the two additional phases of the project.
With the Waldo Canyon Fire having wiped out 345 homes last summer, it appears Colorado Springs and El Paso County are working on ways to help homeowners figure out how to work with their insurance companies and prepare for the next disaster.
First, the latter. Last night, roughly 300 people packed Cheyenne Mountain High School auditorium to hear the city lay out suggestions for preparing for evacuations and how to mitigate flammable materials around homes to retard fire spread in the future.
Tips for evacuations:
— Put together a 72-hour kit containing everything you need to live outside your home, such as phones, clothing, medicine, and other essentials.
— Take important documents with you, including birth certificates, passports, insurance policies and bank statements. Also, constantly review your policies for adequate coverage, including replacement value.
— Make an inventory of your possessions and video your home if possible.
— Home businesses should back up data at an off-site area.
— Share your cell phone number with your homeowner association or neighbors so you can be reached quickly.
— Back the car into the garage for a quick departure, but make sure you know how to open your garage door if the power goes out.
— Depart in one car, not multiple cars so your family stays together.
— Those with disabilities should call 211 to get on a list of those needing assistance in evacuations.
— Sign up your cell phone for reverse 911 calls by going to http://www.elpasoteller911.org/
It's important to be ready, says city Emergency Operations Manager Bret Waters, because, "Pre-evacuation notices may not always be issued prior to mandatory evacuations."
Christina Randall, who oversees wildland fire mitigation programs for the Colorado Springs Fire Department, says it costs $900 to $2,400 per acre to mitigate against fire threat. With 28,800 acres in the city in the wildland-urban interface, the city needs all the help it can get. Randall urged residents to do their own mitigation. She reminded the crowd the city has 36,485 addresses and 91,200 people in the threat area.
But the city can help. She said if a dozen neighbors get together to mitigate, they can schedule the city's chipper to come by and take away the slash. For information, call her at 385-7368.
The county also is lining up help for homeowners.
“Many Mountain Shadows residents got their claim checks and have started to rebuild or repair their homes but others, especially those with homes that were damaged but not destroyed, are getting little help and a lot of red tape from their insurance carriers,” Commissioner Sallie Clark says in a news release.
“They have warped windows that don’t open and close properly. They are living with soot in the attic and smoke and heat damage throughout their homes and they are having a difficult time trying to get their property back to the way it was before the fire.”
Clark says anyone experiencing trouble with insurance claims can turn to United Policyholders, an organization that received grant funding from the Colorado 2012 Fire Relief Fund specifically to help victims of Colorado’s Waldo Canyon and High Park fires.
The agency offers information and advocacy services to insurance consumers in all 50 states and does not accept funding from insurance companies. To begin, fill out an online questionnaire at: www.uphelp.org/survey
In addition to claims assistance services, United Policyholders can also help homeowners to review policies and better understand the coverage available through the National Flood Insurance Program.
Freshman State Sen. Owen Hill, who swept into the Legislature on a wave of local grassroots support, has made his choice known for the upcoming party elections.
In February, the El Paso County Republican Party will be electing its officials, including the chair, vice chair and secretary. Running for the chair position is the current vice chair, Dave Williams, and Hill has endorsed Williams' bid.
In his letter of support, Hill wrote in part:
As someone who came up through the grassroots myself, I know that at least one thing for sure . . . with Democrats controlling both Legislative Chambers and the Governor’s office, our best chance to retake the majority will begin and end with the largest Republican County in Colorado, El Paso County.
But unless we elect new leadership that can credibly reach out to the new voters we need to win, Colorado will continue to be governed by liberals from Boulder and Denver rather than by genuine conservatives here in Colorado Springs.
That’s why I’m writing to you personally to make a sincere and urgent appeal for you to please join me in voting for David Williams to be our new Republican Party Chairman.
That's all well and good, but Hill's letter also included a more critical eye:
In just a few days, I will be sworn in as El Paso County’s newest Republican State Senator.
But in order for me and other Republicans to succeed at the Capitol, I need your help back here at home to rebuild our County Party that has been discredited by ineffective, out-of-touch, and even corrupt leadership.
Unfortunately, failed leaders chose to go their own foolish route and, as a result; we have seen staggering election losses. Thankfully, many of us who ran our own campaigns saw the impending train wreck and avoided the staggering losses that the failed GOP leadership produced for folks like State Rep. Mark Barker and Jennifer George.
If only they listened to Dave Williams, we might still have the Colorado State House in Republican control to offer at least some resistance to the Democrats in the Senate and to Hickenlooper.
Blistering under this criticism of party leadership, the current chairman, Eli Bremer, responded with his own email, stating in part:
As Chairman, one of my responsibilities is to defend the Party against false denunciations.
This week some of you received a letter from newly-elected State Senator Owen Hill accusing the Republican Party of everything from corruption to gross incompetence. His accusations are baseless and unjustified, and Senator Hill is well aware of this. His slanderous and deceitful statements are harmful to the efforts of grassroots Republicans who are working to win elections in El Paso County and in the State of Colorado.
As a former military officer, Senator Hill took an oath requiring honesty and integrity. It’s disappointing that Senator Hill has chosen a path of deception, and we encourage him to be more honest with Republicans in the future. Senator Hill could be a powerful force for conservative principles in our state if he changes course and embraces integrity and truth instead of dishonesty and political posturing. We encourage the Republicans of El Paso County to hold Senator Hill and all our Republican elected officials to the highest ethical standards as we fight to preserve our freedom and liberty from those who would take those rights from us.
We've reached out to Hill to ask him about all this; if we hear back, we'll update this post.
In the meantime, though, it's worth noting that the response from Bremer irritated Colorado Springs' state Sen. Kent Lambert, who tells the Indy: "I think that this was a step over the line."
"This was a public attack on Owen Hill on his first day of the Senate," he says. "If nothing else, it was stupid."
Lambert says that he forwarded on Bremer's email to the party's state chairman, Ryan Call. He adds that Call said what Bremer did was "inappropriate."
Reached by the Indy, Call won't discuss the matter, stating: "It is my policy not to discuss the nature of any private conversations I have with Republican candidates or elected officials."
However, according to Lambert, Call considers dealing with this internal feud a "top priority."
"A party chairman at the county level is supposed to be neutral," says Lambert. "Eli's consistently not done that, and has used the same kind of statements against anybody who differs with his opinion. ... this is unacceptable and there is a consistent track record of Eli Bremer doing this."
In an email to the Indy, Bremer responded:
It is surprising that Senator Lambert has taken offense to this. He has continually taken the position that the Party should stand on principle. Integrity, honesty, and being a person of your word should be something we all agree upon as the basic standard of behavior for Republicans and Democrats alike. Weather it is properly representing one's resume or speaking only substantiated truth in political campaigns, the Republican Party believes that truth and character are universals values that all voters, should expect to receive from their elected officials. No one is perfect, but Republicans should always strive to set the example of integrity and truthfulness in our political engagement. It is unrealistic to expect voters to support our policies if they do not view the Republican Party and our Republican candidates and office holders as upholding the truth ahead of political considerations.
You can read all of these emails after the jump.
A coalition of public officials and others from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs is pushing Colorado's congressional delegation to secure funding for help with watershed protection and mitigation after wildfires in Colorado claimed more than 600 homes and 100,000 acres of forest land last year.
A letter dated today, Jan. 9, was sent by leaders in El Paso and Larimer counties, the cities of Colorado Springs and Greeley, Pikes Peak Council of Governments, Colorado Springs Utilties, Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, Colorado Municipal League, and Colorado Counties Inc.
The money would come from a bill for disaster help for Hurricane Sandy, which the House of Representatives failed to act on last week.
In the Pikes Peak region, the Waldo Canyon Fire ignited June 23 and destroyed 345 homes and charred more than 18,000 acres. The High Park fire, which started June 9 in Larimer County, claimed 259 homes and some 87,000 acres. The Waldo killed two people in the city, and the High Park, one.
Here's the letter:
We are writing to urge you to support the inclusion of $19.8 million for Colorado Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) funding in the Supplemental Appropriation for Disaster Assistance. The EWP program is a critically important tool in assisting our communities by implementing emergency recovery measures for restoring our watersheds, and protecting life safety and critical infrastructure damaged by this summer’s devastating Waldo Canyon and High Park wildfires. Both El Paso and Larimer counties believe that EWP is needed to allow the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to fund critical wildfire restoration and mitigation projects.
Waldo Canyon Projects
The City of Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs Utilities need additional funding to reduce flooding, sedimentation and debris flow impacts on facilities critical to collecting, storing and conveying raw drinking water to approximately 70% of city residents.
El Paso County is working with private landowners, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), School District 14 and others to protect the City of Manitou Springs and Highway 24 West from significant erosion and flooding issues which also threaten lives and property in the Ute Pass areas of Chipita Park and Cascade. Additionally, the Navigators and Flying W Ranch need additional funds to protect public and private facilities, including significant historic structures such as Glen Eyrie Castle.
High Park Projects
High Park fire area water providers (City of Fort Collins, City of Greeley and the Tri- Districts) use the Cache La Poudre River to supply drinking water to over 300,000 residents as well as many water-dependent industries that support the economic viability of the region. Watershed restoration funding is critical to reducing sediment loads and infrastructure damage, and therefore maintaining a safe, economical drinking water supply in the region.
Over 200 miles of roads exist within the High Park fire burn area in Larimer County. This includes 42 miles of Larimer County roads, 25 miles of State Highway, 40 miles of US Forest Service Roads, and 98 miles of private roads. These roads provide customary and emergency access to the residential and traveling public, as well as access to fire fighters. Emergency watershed restoration funding would assist in protecting or restoring the integrity of these roads by reducing peak runoff flows and preventing debris hazards and damage.
The distribution of power in the county was decided in a board meeting yesterday.
The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners voted 3-2 to make Dennis Hisey chair, Amy Lathen vice chair and Sallie Clark third chair.
The arrangement was opposed by Commissioners Darryl Glenn and Peggy Littleton, who have often formed a minority voting bloc since pushing for a second vote on term limits.
In 2010, county commissioners successfully asked voters for the ability to serve three terms instead of two, but many voters afterward said they felt tricked by misleading language. Littleton and Glenn pushed for the an item on the ballot revisiting the change in 2011, but the item was not added until 2012, giving Hisey and Clark a chance to run for third terms.
In 2012, voters reduced term limits to two terms, while simultaneously re-electing Hisey and Clark to third terms.
The term limits debate clearly is still affecting county politics — both Glenn and Littleton said they opposed Hisey as chair because of that issue. "I've looked at this a variety of different ways, and the big issue is term limits," Glenn noted.
Both commissioners, however, said they would respect Hisey's authority following the vote.
Aside from leadership roles, the commissioners also addressed rules and procedures yesterday. Littleton and Glenn scored a victory when commissioners agreed to revert to old language on a rule that Hisey had proposed changing.
The rule allows two commissioners to refer an item to the agenda, but Hisey wanted to change it to allow three commissioners to remove an item from the agenda. Littleton argued that such an arrangement constituted a de facto vote on measures before they were brought before the public.
"This is an end-run around public process," she said.
Glenn noted that if Hisey's recommendations were in place in 2011, the term limits issue never would have been brought to the ballot again. Several citizens sided with Glenn and Littleton, prompting the other commissioners to agree to revert to the old rule.
County Commission Chair Amy Lathen reports that the stormwater task force met today and expects to continue working as planned, despite reports that Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach sees stormwater as a city issue.
"This whole thing has been a regional effort from the beginning and it can’t work if it’s not regional," Lathen says in an interview. "The problems are about stormwater and drainage. It’s a fact we have to deal with. Our first order of business was to collect data from all entities throughout the county: what are the problems and what are the resources, so we can begin to sort through it."
Although task force members say Bach ordered them not to, Lathen says two task force subgroups will give their reports to commissioners Jan. 17, as scheduled. She also says the task force will meet Thursday as planned at the City Administration Building at 1 p.m.
"This task force is not owned by anyone. This is all of our issue," Lathen says. "I think the whole group agreed we need to proceed as we have been."
We asked Bach's communications director, Cindy Aubrey, for a comment from Bach this morning. We hadn't heard from her as of 5:40 p.m.
———————————ORIGINAL POST MONDAY, JAN. 7, 11:44 A.M.——————————————
Mayor Steve Bach summarily dismissed citizens from a task force on stormwater management needs last week, and declared that city-owned Colorado Springs Utilities would be responsible for the city's stormwater work, according to a community volunteer and others who attended a meeting Friday in Bach's office.
Jan Doran, who has volunteered for community and city committees for at least two decades, says in an interview she's never been treated so shabbily. "Basically, we were chopped liver," she says.
Doran also says the task force has been seen as a regional panel since it was formed months ago, and its membership reflected that, with County Commission Chair Amy Lathen and City Councilor Brandy Williams serving, as well as citizens from both the city and county, and Colorado Springs Utilities representatives.
As County Commissioner Sallie Clark says in a Facebook post, regional entities "must collaborate, especially at the forefront of the watershed and flooding issues post Waldo Canyon Fire. While the City of CS is an important component, it is not an island. The regional approach that is currently underway is appropriate and necessary."
But Bach told those at the Friday meeting otherwise, according to Doran and others.
"We were told this was a mayor's task force, not a regional task force," Doran says, adding that Bach demanded the task force not present its findings publicly to City Council, as scheduled Jan. 22, or to the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners, which is to hear the presentation Jan. 17. (A high-ranking county official says the presentation will, in fact, be presented to commissioners as scheduled.)
"We were pretty well put into place," Doran says. "This was the mayor's task force and we weren't really needed. As a person who has volunteered for many years, I felt like I was being reprimanded. I've never been talked to like that."
She described Bach during the meeting as "stern, angry and very much in control," and said he "spoke in a voice that got our attention. It wasn't a friendly conversation across the table."
Robin Roberts, a member of the stormwater task force, also was at the meeting. Here's her account posted on Facebook in a discussion of what transpired:
I was on this committee and in this meeting on Friday. The way Jason [Hann, another committee member whose own Facebook post is included below] is reporting it is accurate, although I do remember that the suggestion of Utilities taking over the storm water function was just a suggestion, an option thrown out there. Here's my thing. Actually a couple of them. I volunteered (key word) to serve on this committee because I knew very little about storm water and wanted to learn more as well as do something for my community. What I learned is that storm water is a very big issue and really is crucial to this region. 889 million [dollars] in needs because we have not maintained our infrastructure in 20 years is unacceptable. Keep in mind that the 889 million does not include what is needed after the fire. We have GOT to address this issue as a REGION and stop playing petty politics over who has control of the money or who pays more into what.
Second, I will NOT be talked to by a city employee or elected official the way we were in that meeting ever again. As I have said before, they work for us, we do not work for them. The arrogance, the suggestion that we volunteers had hidden agendas, the insistence that no tax was going to be supported, the obvious beef with the utilities folks in the room, the absolute denial that a regional solution is required, and the dismissal of our volunteer hours and time was disgusting and offensive. It will be a cold day in hell before I volunteer my time on a committee for this city again.
The bottom line is that this region has significant storm water needs and instead of fixing the problem, they are making this a political issue and putting things off until the economy gets better and utilities scrubs their budget. I heard a lot of "the voters won't approve that." Hey voters, are you going to let them decide what you approve or won't approve? I sure don't want these people thinking for me.
When someone is so arrogant that no one else in the room can speak or have an dissenting opinion, there is a real problem. And the problem is with them. I wonder what it is?
Bach also told the citizen members on hand that their work was done. They were not to disclose the aggregate stormwater needs figure (apparently $889 million) and are not to pursue research on possible funding sources.
Because City Attorney Chris Melcher, who also attended the meeting, said the city's portion would be funded with money earmarked for installation of the Neumann Systems Group's emissions technology on Martin Drake Power Plant, Doren says.
"If the Neumann project is stopped, we will have more than enough to do the city's portion" of stormwater projects, Doran quotes Melcher as saying.
Accounts of the meeting shared with David Neumann, owner of Neumann Systems Group, prompted Neumann to send a letter to Melcher on Sunday night, saying:
You are being quoted by a number of sources as expressing extreme prejudice toward our company and CSU as part of a Storm Water meeting last Friday which was presided over by the Mayor and held in the Mayor's office.
Additionally, we are in receipt of a letter from you to two council members which instead of providing them with legal guidance on how to determine conflict of interest you single out the employees of our company and employees of CSU as being the definition of a conflict of interest.
Further evidence of your extreme bias toward our company and CSU is shown in your negotiating a deal with the Sierra Club that involved damaging our company and a CSU project approved and budgeted for by the CSU Board. You attempted to cut a deal with a radical environmental group that could have resulted in a $400 million loss in ratepayer assets and a 30-50% increase in electric rates and may have prevented the Drake plant from receiving required emissions controls.
Additionally, we expect that any meeting discussing the merits of our contract or our company's past, present or future relationship with CSU will be discussed openly with an opportunity for public comment. Furthermore, we demand that you release to the public the records of past private meetings dealing with our contract with CSU so that the public may determine whether your conduct is appropriate to your position.
Finally, based on information from two separate Council Members, your alignment with Councilmember Leigh has become clear and it appears that you are attempting to stonewall or deflect the Ethics investigation of Councilmember Leigh.
We can only wonder why you have not taken action directly against Councilmember Leigh when you have explicit examples of his providing false information to the public and the Board. It is obvious that you have examined our contract with CSU in detail. Therefore, when Councilmember Leigh says the contract title says it is for "Experimental" equipment you know that is false. When he says the CEO did not sign it you know that is false. When he says there are no specs, you know there are over ten pages of specifications. We are prepared to present over twenty separate counts of ethical and legal violations by Councilmember Leigh should we be given the chance.
Request that you explain to the public how your actions above and other related actions you have done as required by the Mayor are consistent with the appropriate conduct of the City Attorney. Perhaps you can also explain the responsibilities any lawyer has to avoid conflicts of interest. How is it possible for you to do the will of your boss the Mayor under threat of termination, while simultaneously representing the best interests of the City, the Council and Colorado Springs Utilities when their interests are in conflict?
David K. Neumann
Here's how Jason Hann, the aforementioned task force member who didn't attend the meeting, reacted to accounts of how Friday unfolded. This is posted on Facebook:
As part of the Stormwater Business task force for Colorado Springs I've spent a few days in meetings and several hours working with many in the business community on our Stormwater issues. Recently our team was asked to provide a debrief to Bach, Melcher, Neumann and few others. Utilities were also present and the chair of the Stormwater task force. As reported back to us on the task force so unfortunately I don't have direct quotes...
Melcher stated that NO regional cooperation would take place and if there were collaborative efforts for projects the City would be at the helm. Bach commanded that he knew there were several agendas at the table and that he was going to tell us what our agenda is. Bach stated there will be NO tax recommendation and that while his administration existed, CSU was going to be responsible for paying for stormwater. That CSU needed to "scrub" their budget again (despite the City not being able to execute a zero-based budget themselves). That the Neumann cleaner technology should be removed and that would provide millions right away and for years to come.
After continually being "dressed down" and told the group's task was NOT to provide solutions, that is what the City is for and would do (yet hasn't done for years), and that we were only supposed to give information regarding the metrics/numbers, our research, time and work was a waste. Many volunteers from the community gave our time and expertise only to be addressed like employees and yet it is the other way around. Melcher and Bach work for us! The City, despite ample hours being spent on analysis and research by City and County engineers, plans to hire a consultant to confirm the information provided by the task force (which was already completed once) - more money wasted. Bach then stated your services here are done and left the room, ending the meeting. Appalled and infuriated many of us are! The condescending tone and arrogant nature in which Bach and Melcher conducted themselves told many of us we will NEVER volunteer for the City again.
Everyday, it seems, we hear of an infrastructure failure like a water main break or leak that impacts homes, businesses and transportation. Why? Because the region is looking at a $889 MILLION dollar infrastructure issue. What was put out publicly to the community is NOT accurate. Bach specifically told the chair that she will NOT release this number publicly until confirmed by the outside agency. Well, I don't work for Bach and believe we should all know what we face as a community.
You want to know what is really going in your local government…please, please dig into more than what the media shares. They do a great job but often there is so much that goes on behind the scenes even they can't report on the REAL reason our community isn't realizing our full potential. Our leaders are corrupt and act upon personal agendas NOT our best interest. Demand for better Colorado Springs…we live in an amazing place and if we aren't willing to protect it, guide it and care we do not deserve it.
You want transparency…there some of it is. Yes, this is the type of "leadership" we are saddled with. "Are you not entertained?"
We've asked Bach's communciations director to seek a comment from the mayor about the meeting. If and when we hear back, we'll update our post.
Everyone enjoys a good list, right? Such a fun, easy way to say a lot about something with absolutely no need to use a boring narrative. David Letterman's nightly Top 10 List is a cultural touchstone; the editors at Buzzfeed and Cracked have basically made careers out of their list-making skills.
Well, bowing to public pressure, El Paso County Public Health has put out its own Top 10 list: Top 10 Local Public Health News for El Paso County in 2012!
Granted, it doesn't sound as funny as Letterman (or maybe it does) or as zeitgeist-y as Buzzfeed, but it is certainly filled with interesting info, such as:
Reported cases of Pertussis (whooping cough) are on the rise in Colorado. As of December 27, El Paso County had 73 confirmed cases of Pertussis.
Read on, after the jump:
One in 28 residents of El Paso County has a concealed handgun permit (CHP), and the Sheriff's Office has been flooded with new applicants since the July 20 Aurora theater shooting, and more recently, the Dec. 14 massacre of 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
As of Dec. 4, there were 22,341 active CHPs in our county of 636,000 people (according to July 2011 Census numbers). That's the most permits of any county in Colorado, says Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Kramer.
On Tuesday, the department received so many calls about getting a CHP that there was a 106-call backlog by the end of the day. Kramer didn't know how many people called to set up appointments during the entire day.
The New York Times issued a breaking news alert today, saying:
President Obama said Wednesday that he will submit broad new gun control proposals to Congress no later than January and will commit the power of his office to overcoming political opposition in the wake of last week’s school massacre.
Kramer, who's worked in the CHP office since May, says the office has been "going from busy to extremely busy."
Asked what he attributes the uptick to, he says, "I think when people see news like out of Connecticut, all of us have an emotional response to that. For some people, they think with this type of violence in our society, especially in places we like to assume are a safe environment, 'I'm going to choose to purchase a firearm and get a permit and protect myself if I were in one of these environments and something like this occurred.'
"Another segment of folks, they want to get a permit so they might be able to intervene in a situation that comes up."
Be aware that the process for obtaining a CHP isn't quick, and involves background checks and required gun training. More information on the process is here.
Although more residents here have concealed carry permits than elsewhere, they seem to be a law-abiding group. Kramer says he's unaware of any CHP holder who's been arrested for a gun-related crime.
The county's active concealed carry program was launched by then-Sheriff John Anderson in the 1990s and has since been continued by Sheriff Terry Maketa.
Yesterday, the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners gave the preliminary OK to two measures restricting the use and sale of recreational marijuana.
The first resolution, which passed unanimously, banned the use or possession of marijuana on county property. So regardless of Amendment 64, you still can't smoke a joint at the county courthouse or in a county park.
The second resolution, Ordinance 13-01, which will prohibit "the Operation of Marijuana Cultivation Facilities, Marijuana Product Manufacturing Facilities, Marijuana Testing Facilities, and Retail Marijuana Stores in Unincorporated El Paso County," passed by a 4-1 vote.
The lone dissenting vote came from Commissioner Peggy Littleton.
"I made my case yesterday: It did pass in the state of Colorado and it did pass in El Paso County," she says in an interview with the Indy. "In my district, Commissioner District 5, which encompasses almost all of the city, it passed by over 54 percent. I told my constituents, while I personally voted against [Amendment 64], I told my constituents that I would collect data and make well-informed decisions.
"At this point in time, it is pre-emptive for us to rule on this without getting information from the governor's council, which should have some of its findings in the middle or end of January."
In the wake of the passage of Amendment 64, Gov. Hickenlooper formed a task force to "consider and resolve a number of policy, legal and procedural issues, involving various interests and stakeholders, to implement the new constitutional amendment."
"I don't want to act in haste and repent in leisure," Littleton says. "I want to collect data and information and see how other governing bodies act and respond to this amendement."
The next reading of the ordinance will take place the second Thursday of January.
At 1 p.m. Tuesday, the Board of El Paso County Commissioners will take up two proposals relating to Amendment 64, the legalization of marijuana for recreational use as approved by statewide voters in November.
The commission wants to ban marijuana possession, display and use from county property in a resolution that finds such a ban is in the "best interest of the public safety, health and welfare."
A related ordinance also up for consideration on Tuesday goes further, banning the cultivation and sale of marijuana in the unincorporated portion of the county, arguing that:
The Board of County Commissioners of El Paso County (“Board”) finds that the licensing and operation of marijuana establishments provided for in Amendment 64, by making marijuana more readily available in the community and facilitating the recreational use of marijuana, presents a threat to the health and education of El Paso County’s children, to the safety of the workplace and the travelling public and to the public health, safety and welfare as a whole.
Under provisions of the ordinance, the ban would become effective Feb. 15, after duly required votes and publications.
Colorado Springs City Council members have expressed a desire to enact similar bans.