Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Colorado Springs Council votes 6-3 to ask voters for excess money

Posted By on Tue, Jan 24, 2017 at 2:48 PM

Mayor John Suthers' ballot measure seeking voter approval to keep up to $12 million in excess revenue flushed out the guy who wrote the measure that made a ballot measure mandatory:
Douglas Bruce speaks to City Council against a ballot measure asking voter permission to keep excess revenue.
  • Douglas Bruce speaks to City Council against a ballot measure asking voter permission to keep excess revenue.
Douglas Bruce.

After serving prison time for a probation violation in an earlier tax evasion case last year, Bruce has been back in Colorado Springs for several months and today showed up at the City Council meeting to put in his two-cents worth.

The measure seeks voter permission to keep $6 million from 2016 excess revenue collected above caps imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, and another $6 million from any excess raked in during 2017. All the money would go to stormwater projects.

First, Bruce noted that although government officials frequently bemoan TABOR's effect of not allowing revenues to grow, nothing could be further from the truth. He said the city's general fund has increased by 150 percent since TABOR, which he authored, was passed by voters in the early 1990s. That doesn't include the city's other taxes dedicated to public safety and trails, open space and parks, he noted.

He also cited salaries of several city employees: $159,000 for the budget director, $192,000 for the city attorney and $190,000 for the chief of staff.

Then he launched into the mayor's and council's 20-year agreement with Pueblo County to sink $460 million the city stormwater system to better control flooding and help water quality, notably in Fountain Creek.

"Even if you get $6 million every year for 20 years, you’re still $320 million short of your self-inflicted wound of this illegal obligation," he said. "We’re being told to give up our tax refunds in order to benefit Pueblo County, because of an illegal obligation you made in violation of your oath. I don’t think that’s a very strong selling point to make to your voters."

Councilor Tom Strand piped up saying, "I want to make it clear my motion is to ask the electors, not to tell them. This will be on the ballot to freely choose how they want to use these excess funds."

Three councilors voted against the measure: Helen Collins, Andy Pico and Bill Murray.

Murray railed against the measure, saying that public safety needs are taking a backseat to stormwater. He noted the mayor himself has said police pay needs to increase to prevent an exodus of officers to other departments and that response times are lagging. He also noted firefighters could use some new equipment to keep them safe.

"None of these are addressed in this ballot measure," he said.

Murray also called the measure a precursor to a stormwater fee to be imposed later. "This ballot issue is nothing more than a BAND-AID which will be followed by a fee, guaranteed."

The measure includes language stating which flood control projects will be completed with the money and that the excess revenue spending is above and beyond the $460-million deal with Pueblo County.

The city election is April 4.

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Lamborn reintroduces Broadmoor bill

Posted By on Tue, Jan 24, 2017 at 2:42 PM

The main lodge on the 83-acre Ranch at Emerald Valley, located about nine miles southwest of The Broadmoor. - PHOTOS BY PAM ZUBECK
  • Photos by Pam Zubeck
  • The main lodge on the 83-acre Ranch at Emerald Valley, located about nine miles southwest of The Broadmoor.

Rep. Doug Lamborn and two other Colorado legislators have reintroduced several bills dealing with public lands, his office said in a news release issued today.

Among them is the Crags, Colorado Land Exchange Act. This is the deal in which The Broadmoor will trade forest land west of Pikes Peak for the acreage upon which its Ranch at Emerald Valley sits. Under its agreement with the Forest Service, The Broadmoor has to account for revenues to the government. If the resort owned the property outright, of course, that requirement would go away.

Here's how the swap is described in a news release jointly released by Lamborn, a Republican, Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat, and Scott Tipton, also a Republican:
This bill would convey 320 acres of land on the west side of Pikes Peak to the U.S. Forest Service. The Broadmoor Hotel currently owns the land, and in exchange, the government will transfer an 83-acre parcel located at Emerald Valley Ranch to the Broadmoor.
The Emerald Valley property is a verdant respite from urban life.
  • The Emerald Valley property is a verdant respite from urban life.
We previously reported on this land swap a couple of times.

Three other bills dealing with public lands, as outlined in the news release:
• Bolts Ditch Access and Use Act - This legislation would allow the town of Minturn to use its existing water right to fill Bolts Lake by giving the town special use of the Bolts Ditch headgate and the segment of the Bolts Ditch within the Holy Cross Wilderness Area. When Congress designated Holy Cross Wilderness Area in 1980, Bolts Ditch was inadvertently left off the list of existing water facilities.

• Arapaho National Forest Boundary Adjustment Act - This bill would expand the Arapaho National Forest, informally known as the “Wedge,” to include ten new parcels of land, which are currently undeveloped. The move enables the U.S. Forest Service to effectively protect and preserve an area were millions of people travel annually.

• Elkhorn Ranch and White River National Forest Conveyance Act – This legislation would resolve a costly title dispute between the federal government and private landowners. It would convey a small portion of land near Rifle to its property-owners who have used and paid property taxes on the acreage for years.

Lamborn: He says he's looking out after public lands. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Lamborn: He says he's looking out after public lands.
"Last Congress," the release adds, "all four bills passed the House of Representatives, but did not make it to the U.S. Senate for a vote. Both Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and Cory Gardner, a Republican, introduced Senate companion legislation last Congress."

Lamborn is quoted as saying, "I am pleased to have worked alongside my House colleagues, Jared Polis and Scott Tipton, to introduce these commonsense bills to resolve various land disputes and improve access to our public lands. I hope to see these four bipartisan bills enacted into law as quickly as possible.”

We know this is no surprise, but it's worth noting that Philip Anschutz, owner of The Broadmoor, contributed $2,700 to Lamborn in May.

As you may recall, The Broadmoor and the city did a land swap last year.

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Trump signs orders to resume Keystone and Dakota Access pipeline construction

Posted By on Tue, Jan 24, 2017 at 2:07 PM

  • Shutterstock
Environmental and Native American rights supporters were both dealt blows today with the announcement that Donald Trump has signed executive orders to resume construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.  

The move comes at an especially critical time in the case of the Dakota Access pipeline, where Standing Rock protests culminated in the Army Corps of Engineers calling a halt to pipeline construction, pending an environmental impact review of risks posed to the nearby Sioux Reservation's water supply.

While the new president's reversal of Obama administration policies is not surprising, what happens next is not entirely clear. This excerpt from a December Sierra Club FAQ sheds some light on a few of the possibilities:
Can the incoming administration reverse the Corps’ decision?

The incoming administration may very well try to reverse the EIS decision, but that may not be a simple feat. Agency decisions must be based on sound reasoning and well-supported by the facts. The Corps decided that an EIS is warranted after months of careful consideration. It set forth the legal basis and reasoning for the decision in a memorandum from Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy, and the decision to prepare an EIS is fully supported by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its implementing regulations.
If a Trump administration were to reverse course on a decision like this, it too would have to be accompanied by sound reasoning that makes a rational connection between the facts found and the decision made. Any hasty or arbitrary decision would be legally vulnerable and subject to further litigation. Of course, that’s not to say the incoming administration won’t rush a decision.
Another scenario would be for Congress to approve the final easement and deem it compliant with all environmental laws, either through an appropriations rider, a stand-alone bill, or some other mechanism that garners enough support from the House and Senate.
For further information on the Dakota Access Pipeline and the controversies surrounding it, see the following Indy feature stories:

Occupy America: Activism before and after Standing Rock

Water Warriors: Indigenous locals travel to Standing Rock to join pipeline resistance

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Southern Delivery System wins engineering award

Posted By on Tue, Jan 24, 2017 at 12:58 PM

The outlet at Pueblo Dam that feeds the pipeline to Colorado Springs. - COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities
  • The outlet at Pueblo Dam that feeds the pipeline to Colorado Springs.
Back in June, local officials saluted the April completion of Colorado Springs Utilities' Southern Delivery System pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir.

The project spanned more than a decade and will deliver water to Colorado Springs for 40 years or more. It was a long ordeal getting from square one to a finished product.
A celebration was held on June 17 to mark the completion in April of the SDS pipeline. City and county officials from Colorado Springs and Pueblo were on hand, along with contractors. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • A celebration was held on June 17 to mark the completion in April of the SDS pipeline. City and county officials from Colorado Springs and Pueblo were on hand, along with contractors.
Perhaps nobody knows that more than CH2M Hill, which was the lead design consultant on the project since 2002. Now, it has been recognized for that.

Here's a news release from the PR wire:
Engineering News-Record (ENR) selected Colorado Springs Utilities' Southern Delivery System Program as the recipient of the ENR Mountain States Best Projects Award in the Water/Environment Category. Projects were judged on design and construction quality, contribution to the community and the industry, and how they overcame unusual challenges through teamwork and innovation.

"The Southern Delivery System Program is a game-changing water infrastructure project that is ensuring the vitality of the Colorado Springs community and surrounding areas for years to come," said Greg McIntyre, CH2M State & Local Governments Client Sector President. "We're honored to be a part of the SDS Program and to receive this recognition from ENR for the outstanding work completed by the team."
Officials celebrate the groundbreaking on March 21, 2013 of the water treatment plant that's part of the SDS pipeline project. - COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities
  • Officials celebrate the groundbreaking on March 21, 2013 of the water treatment plant that's part of the SDS pipeline project.
Serving as the lead design consultant since 2002, CH2M provided planning and engineering services for elements of the SDS Program. Over the years, the firm contributed to the full spectrum of services, from project management, preliminary through final design, value engineering, permitting assistance, land acquisition services and services during construction for the pipelines, pump stations and water treatment plant.

The $825 million SDS Program, the largest single infrastructure project ever undertaken by Colorado Springs Utilities, finished on schedule and nearly $160 million under the original budget. As one of the largest water infrastructure projects built in the Western United States, it has contributed millions of dollars to the local economy.

The program consists of a reservoir connection at the north outlet works of Pueblo Dam; 45.4 miles of 66-inch-diameter raw water pipeline; three pump stations that lift the water 1,500 feet in elevation; a new 50-million-gallon-per-day water treatment and finished water pump station; and 4.6 miles of large-diameter, finished water distribution pipeline.

The SDS Program is no stranger to receiving awards, including having won 2013's Best Projects Award by ENR Mountain States for the South Pipeline 2 project and the Pueblo Dam Connection, two of more than 20 projects that comprise the program.

The regional awards program recognizes top projects across the nine-state region, which includes Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. The winners were honored at two breakfast awards events in October in Salt Lake City and Denver. Detailed highlights on all projects appeared in the October issue of the ENR Mountain States publication.

About CH2M
CH2M leads the professional services industry delivering sustainable solutions benefiting societal, environmental and economic outcomes with the development of infrastructure and industry. In this way, CH2Mers make a positive difference providing consulting, design, engineering and management services for clients in water; environment and nuclear; transportation; energy and industrial markets, from iconic infrastructure to global programs like the Olympic Games. Ranked among the World's Most Ethical Companies and top firms in environmental consulting and program management, CH2M in 2016 became the first professional services firm honored with the World Environment Center Gold Medal Award for efforts advancing sustainable development. Connect with CH2M at www.ch2m.com; LinkedIn; Twitter; and Facebook.

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A guide to local resistance in week one of the Trump-era

Posted By on Tue, Jan 24, 2017 at 12:56 PM

  • Riley Bratzler

Ok, so you participated in the historic Women’s March this weekend. Good for you! You deserve many pats on the back. But wrap it up quickly, because there’s work to do.

A lot has already gone down.

President Trump wasted no time issuing a flurry of executive orders to ban government aid for NGOs that provides abortions, direct the weakening of Obamacare, enact a hiring freeze on all non-military federal employees, pull out of the Trans Pacific Partnership and re-negotiate the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines.

So that happened.

Then, Tuesday morning, Senate committees cleared Ben Carson to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, Elaine Chow for Secretary of Transportation and Wilbur Ross for Secretary of Commerce.

That all happened too.

But, looking to the future, organizers have defensive actions planned to stave off what’s not yet a done deal.

Colorado Springs Showing Up For Racial Justice, which co-hosted the local Women’s March, will be celebrating #ResistTrumpTuesday by putting some pressure on Colorado’s Democratic Senator Michael Bennet. Organizers have invited the public to come down to his local office at 409 N Tejon St. to urge “no” votes on billionaire privateer Betsy DeVos (nominee to head the Department of Education) and climate change denying Scott Pruitt (nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency.)

DeVos’s next hearing has been delayed after her less-than-assuring performance at the first. Sen. Bennet, who sits on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, will get his chance to cast a vote on her nomination on January 31.

Sen. Bennet will not, however, get a chance to vote on Pruitt in committee. He would should it come to a floor vote.

The goal of Tuesday’s action at the downtown office, organizers say, is to convey concerns about those appointments and request an in-person meeting with Sen. Bennet (who’s in D.C. right now.)

"We realize he doesn't sit on the committee that will confirm Pruitt," organizer Brooke Sassi told the Indy. "But, he's our voice there so hopefully he can advocate to his colleagues."

The focus on the education and environment nominees, Sassi says, comes from a concern about the issues that affect children the most. 

Wednesday and Thursday bring more opportunity for local action, but not in the legislative realm. As we've reported, a well-known and widely reviled figure from the so-called “alt right” movement — which contains elements of white supremacy, misogyny and homo/transphobia — is coming to Colorado. Milo Yiannopoulos will visit the campus of CU Boulder on Wednesday and the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs on Thursday. Carpools are headed to join protesters in Boulder, then actions here the following day plan to both protest and outright shut down the speaker.

Such attempts have been successful on other campuses, although an anti-fascist protester in Seattle did get shot last week. That episode of violence has prompted renewed calls for these Colorado universities to call off the speaking engagement. Neither institution has caved. 

On Friday, Denver Homeless Out Loud holds their annual “Right to Rest Fest” to rally support for a state homeless bill of rights. Advocates there have been embroiled with local law enforcement and city officials over a series of sweeps that stripped homeless people of their possessions and dignity. As we’ve reported, these issues strike close to home. That’s why a local contingent is making the trek to support the Denver cadre. They’ve got room for three more, so hit up Raven Canon, editor of the Springs Echo at 719/287-6027, if you wish to join.

On Saturday, pastor and professor Stephany Rose will speak at Ebenezer Baptist Church (4040 E. Bijou) on what it takes to build a movement, not just a moment. That includes conversation, community building and direct action, according to her description.

Following Tuesday's news about Trump pushing ahead with previously stalled pipeline plans, the progressive organization Unite Colorado Springs has called for a rally outside City Hall. (Our city government, of course, has nothing to do with this but the location is symbolic.) Meet there at 2:30 p.m. to hear from a yet-to-be-announced lineup of speakers and to make noise for indigenous rights, climate justice and an end to corporatism. "The only way for the United States to achieve true energy independence is to radically transform our energy infrastructure away from fossil fuels and towards renewable, sustainable energy," organizers assert.

Then rest up, because next week will be just as packed.

Editor's note: This post has been updated for content and additional information.
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Monday, January 23, 2017

Springs' sister march biggest in local history

Posted By on Mon, Jan 23, 2017 at 2:59 PM

  • Nat Stein

Our newly inaugurated President has proven himself quite sensitive about the size of his hands (and other body parts), the size of his precious wall and the size of his crowds. And if bigger means better, then mathematics may tell us all we need to know about the popular majority of Americans who oppose his capricious and regressive agenda. 

That truth was on display around the world this weekend. Women’s Marches overwhelmed public squares in nearly 700 cities, according to organizers of the seminal one in Washington, D.C. An estimated 4.8 million people took part in the mass demonstrations, designed not only to inaugurate resistance to the new administration, but also to reaffirm, through celebration, a collective commitment to the values of liberal democracy that may now to be under threat. 

At the outset of the local march here in the Springs, co-organizer Mac Sargeant recited those values, the full version of which can be found here. In short, they include affirmations of the rights of women — especially black, brown, native, LGBTQ, poor, differently abled and immigrant women — to live free from injustice. Environmentalism, workers’ rights and an end to wars, police brutality and mass incarceration also got shouts out. The march’s message and goals were far-reaching, but unified by the recognition that all these struggles are interconnected. 

On Saturday, Sargeant was joined on stage by other local social justice leaders, including NAACP State Conference President Rosemary Lytle, Local NAACP Chapter President Lisa Villanueva, Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission Executive Director Anjuli Kapoor and All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church Reverend Nori Rost. Some elected officials made appearances too, including Rep. Tony Exum, Rep. Pete Lee and Sen. Michael Merrifield. They’re all Democrats. Local rappers Stoney Bertz, Kevin Mitchell, Lord Damage and poets Chris Varano and Nico Wilkinson all performed for the crowd, though reportedly could not be heard towards the back. 

Colorado Springs Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) plans to fundraise for a louder PA system at their next community meeting on February 19. 

At about 2:30 p.m., the river of humans began to flow down Tejon St. Cars stood in standstill, some honking their support and some gesturing exasperation behind the wheel, as some 7,000 people made their way through downtown. The mood was near elated, and for good reason — they were part of the biggest public protest in local history. 

Chants like “my body, my choice!”, “not my president!” and “love trumps hate” rang out sporadically. Signs were diverse in message and tone. See a smattering below.

If bigger means better, local Women's March was the best in Springs history
If bigger means better, local Women's March was the best in Springs history If bigger means better, local Women's March was the best in Springs history If bigger means better, local Women's March was the best in Springs history If bigger means better, local Women's March was the best in Springs history If bigger means better, local Women's March was the best in Springs history If bigger means better, local Women's March was the best in Springs history If bigger means better, local Women's March was the best in Springs history If bigger means better, local Women's March was the best in Springs history

If bigger means better, local Women's March was the best in Springs history

By Nat Stein

Click to View 82 slides

Organizers were blown away by the turnout, leaving them both exhausted and energized. 

Now, they’re strategizing about how to keep all these newcomers mobilized over the next four years. At a post-march debrief with the Indy on Sunday, SURJ organizer Olivia Romero asked rhetorically, with a hint of frustration, “where were all these people before?” 

Ultimately, though, she welcomes this new era of political action that seems to be dawning. 

“The response I heard overwhelmingly from people afterwards was ‘so, what’s next?’” Romero says. “And we’re already putting that together for them.”

SURJ chapters across the Front Range have devised an action plan for the first hundred days of resistance that can be found on their Facebook page

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3 things Colorado Springs firefighters want to fund with excess revenue

Posted By on Mon, Jan 23, 2017 at 2:23 PM

Flames like these seen during the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012 make adequate fire protective gear essential for firefighters. Local firefighters want 60 sets of new gear with excess revenue from 2016. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Flames like these seen during the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012 make adequate fire protective gear essential for firefighters. Local firefighters want 60 sets of new gear with excess revenue from 2016.
Colorado Springs firefighters have written to City Council seeking $1.22 million from the estimated $6 million in excess revenue from 2016.

Mayor John Suthers wants to spend the entire $6 million, and a like figure in excess revenue from 2017 tax collections, on stormwater control.

The letter to Council, from David Noblitt, president of Colorado Springs Professional Firefighter Association, Local 5, says, in part:
Understanding the success or failure of convincing the citizens of our community to allow the city to retain these Tabor dollars depends upon proper justifications. Public safety, I believe, is one of those items that falls within a favorable category to support the retention of those dollars. Committing all the dollars to Storm Water, a sometimes-divisive issue, may negatively impact the retention of funds. Even if successful, it could impact future and hopefully the timely discussion of implementation of the necessity of a separately funded Storm Water enterprise. 
The group wants funding for a new front-line pumper truck, 60 sets of protective fire gear, and an egress/access improvement road for Squad 8 with storage for training pumpers housed at the Fire Department Complex.

City Council is expected to refer a measure to the April 4 city election ballot on Tuesday.

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Snowshoe basics to keep you on the trails this winter

Posted By on Sat, Jan 21, 2017 at 2:22 PM

Few things are better than being the first to tread on virgin snow - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Few things are better than being the first to tread on virgin snow
Winter is here, and with it, snow.  While there hasn't been much snow in Colorado Springs — we didn't get our first measurable snow fall until after the beginning of December — there's been plenty in the high country, providing opportunities for outdoor recreation — you just have to be willing to work a little to get to it.

For the hiker, snowshoeing is the most natural progression for keeping on the trails when the snow hits. And although snowshoeing isn't particularly difficult, as you can imagine, it's a bit different than hiking on dirt in your usual hiking boots.

First, you need a pretty good base of snow for snowshoeing. There isn't really a set amount of snow you need before strapping on some snowshoes, but my rule-of-thumb is that it should be at least a couple of inches over the toe of my boot. You can snowshoe with less snow, but then you run the risk of the bottom of your snowshoes constantly hitting hard dirt, and that can get uncomfortable after a while.

When it comes time to buy a pair of snowshoes, there are a couple of key factors to look at before making your decision. Snowshoes are sized by the length of the snowshoe, and the length you need is based primarily on the weight they'll be supporting. This isn't just your weight, but the weight of your clothing, and any thing else you're carrying. If you're backpacking, you made need bigger snowshoes than if you're day-hiking. Also, there are different types of snowshoes for different types of terrain and activities. For the Pikes Peak region, if you're planning on snowshoeing in steep terrain, I suggest "mountaineering" snowshoes, with "heel-lifters" that help keep your feet horizontal while your snowshoes are at an angle. You'll want to go to your favorite outdoor equipment retailer for advice before you buy. Hiking poles will help make snowshoeing a little easier, and don't forget insulated, waterproof hiking boots.

So, now you're ready for some snowshoeing, but where? The usual snowfall doesn't last long in Colorado Springs, either packed down or melted after a day or so, neither of which makes for suitable snowshoeing. But with the right timing Red Rocks Canyon Open Space, the Seven Bridges Trail, Gold Camp Road up to and past tunnel #3, St Mary's Falls Trail, and Cheyenne Mountain State Park are good locations near Colorado Springs, as is Homestead Ranch Regional Park near Peyton.

Venturing out a little further, Catamount Ranch Open Space, Mueller State Park near Divide, and Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument are good options. Further away, the area around Buena Vista — Mt Princeton, Chalk Creek, St. Elmo and Cottonwood Pass — to the west, and Rocky Mountain National Park to the north offer good snowshoeing conditions well into the spring.

Don't let the winter weather keep you from enjoying yourself.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.
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Friday, January 20, 2017

UPDATE: Colorado Springs City Council candidate bags race before it starts

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

Carlson: He's out of the race.
  • Carlson: He's out of the race.
A young professional who had sought to run for Colorado Springs City Council says he has decided to bag the effort.

 Joseph Carlson, 27, chairman of the board of Colorado Transitioning Veterans Association and an Army veteran, dropped out for personal reasons.

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

Rather, he'll be an activist with an eye to seeking an at-large Council seat in 2019, he says.

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

This blog has been altered for content.

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New citizen watchdog group to push for answers and action on water contamination

Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2017 at 11:54 AM

An early meeting of the FVCWC gave opportunity to share experiences with contaminated drinking water. - NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
  • An early meeting of the FVCWC gave opportunity to share experiences with contaminated drinking water.

You're not the only one pissed to find out that your water was poisoned for years. You’re not the only one who’s frustrated at weak answers and thin information. You’re not the only one who’s anxious about your family’s health over the long-run. 

That's the message of the newly-formed Fountain Valley Clean Water Committee wants to send residents affected by water contamination in Security, Widefield and Fountain. The committee hopes to unite over their shared concerns and thirst for solutions.

Co-organized by former El Paso County Commissioner candidate, local café owner and community activist Liz Rosenbaum and Venetucci Farm co-manager Susan Gordon, this nascent citizen watchdog group will hold its first meeting on  Jan. 24 at the Fountain Library, located at 230 S. Main Street. The goal, they say, is to bring neighbors together to share information and develop goals and a plan of action.

As we’ve reported over the last half year, nearly 80,000 people discovered their drinking water contains high levels of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) back in May. Multiple class-action lawsuits were filed in September, but will take years to resolve. Residents of the communities, located to the south of Colorado Springs, are demanding the state pay for blood testing, but to no avail. Water districts turned off their groundwater wells and are now scrambling to get their systems pumping clean water by the time summer rolls around, but water rates are almost sure to rise.

The areas represent the largest affected community in the whole country and, until recently, were one of the few without a community organization actively pursuing remedies.

Visit the event page for more information about the meeting and the group’s page to stay in the loop going forward. Email Liz Rosenbaum at 2lizrosenbaum@gmail.com to get involved.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Media to Trump: Game on

Posted By on Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 4:23 PM

This is a graphic reminder of the size of the media industry that has been and will continue to cover Donald Trump. This is just one section of a warehouse north of Denver where The Denver Post and many other newspapers are published, including the Independent. Rolls of paper are brought in by rail car. That's Indy founder and chairman John Weiss in the middle. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • This is a graphic reminder of the size of the media industry that has been and will continue to cover Donald Trump. This is just one section of a warehouse north of Denver where The Denver Post and many other newspapers are published, including the Independent. Rolls of paper are brought in by rail car. That's Indy founder and chairman John Weiss in the middle.

Journalists aren't too keen on being pushed around, so two groups of news media have authored letters to Donald Trump, who becomes the nation's 45th president on Friday.

The first is from Columbia Journalism Review, which states, in part:
In these final days before your inauguration, we thought it might be helpful to clarify how we see the relationship between your administration and the American press corps.

It will come as no surprise to you that we see the relationship as strained. Reports over the last few days that your press secretary is considering pulling news media offices out of the White House are the latest in a pattern of behavior that has persisted throughout the campaign: You’ve banned news organizations from covering you. You’ve taken to Twitter to taunt and threaten individual reporters and encouraged your supporters to do the same. You’ve advocated for looser libel laws and threatened numerous lawsuits of your own, none of which has materialized. You’ve avoided the press when you could and flouted the norms of pool reporting and regular press conferences. You’ve ridiculed a reporter who wrote something you didn’t like because he has a disability.

All of this, of course, is your choice and, in a way, your right. While the Constitution protects the freedom of the press, it doesn’t dictate how the president must honor that; regular press conferences aren’t enshrined in the document.

But while you have every right to decide your ground rules for engaging with the press, we have some, too. It is, after all, our airtime and column inches that you are seeking to influence. We, not you, decide how best to serve our readers, listeners, and viewers. So think of what follows as a backgrounder on what to expect from us over the next four years. 
To finish reading the letter, reference the link above. It's really worth the time.

In addition, the Society of Professional Journalists issued a letter to Trump, which includes this:
Our Founding Fathers knew the importance of a press that is free to
report on the activities of our government and elected officials. “Our
liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited
without being lost,” said Thomas Jefferson in a January 28, 1786, letter.
Yet here we are, almost exactly 231 years after Jefferson wrote those
words, and attempts to stifle the flow of information to citizens of the
United States continue. 
SPJ asks for a meeting with Trump, saying, "We would like to have a conversation regarding how we can work together to ensure that self-government as outlined by the Constitution survives and flourishes, and that a free press remains a cornerstone of our nation and our liberty."

I don't know whether SPJ has been asleep for the last year or what, but can anyone imagine Trump saying, "Okey dokey, let's sit down and discuss this like adults"? Not gonna happen.

In fact, while I appreciate SPJ's earnestness, some lines in the letter are laughable, considering who they're writing to. Like this one, "We urge you to publicly affirm your commitment to transparency..."

Wait. This is the guy who still hasn't released his tax returns and won't. So, all we can say is good luck with that.

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Punk Against Trump: Colorado benefit set for inauguration day

Posted By on Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 2:30 PM

  • egorkeon / Shutterstock

January 20, 2017, a date which will live in infamy…

Yes, Friday will be the 35th anniversary of Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off a live bat in Des Moines, an event of indisputably historic importance!

In other news, Friday also brings with it the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump in Washington D.C., as well as an anti-inauguration “Punk Against Trump” benefit show in Denver.

The latter will feature a local bill that includes Three Grams, Screwtape, Allout Helter, The New Narrative and Colorado Springs’ own Cheap Perfume.

The all-ages show gets underway 7 p.m. at Summit Music Hall’s Moon Room, with proceeds from the $10 admission fee going to to potentially endangered organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and Food Not Bombs.

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CSPD bestows honors on its own and citizens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She is a great asset to the Colorado Springs Police Department and Heather deserves this recognition for all she does.
Here are the awards given to citizens:
And here's a list of department life-saving awards:
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Cirque du Soleil's OVO impresses

Posted By on Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 11:22 AM

I’m not saying I rate circus acts based on how many times it looked like the performers could’ve died if someone had made a mistake, but if I did, then Cirque du Soleil’s OVO would get a 10/10.

  • Courtesy Cirque du Soleil
  • Case in point.
These performers (or artists, as Cirque rightfully calls them) are on a level that is frankly unimaginable. It’s fitting that the aesthetic of Cirque shows is, by nature, surreal. Because when you see someone hanging by a single strap from a 30-foot ceiling — while holding a grown woman by the ankle as the pair swirls around the stage like a beautiful, high-flying blender — you start to feel like you’re dreaming.

Like most Cirque premises, the concept for OVO is a little opaque, but nevertheless enjoyable. The performers represent insects living in a thriving ecosystem, but it’s disrupted when someone brings a mysterious egg into their midst. I’m still struggling with the metaphor of the egg, but my companion guessed it could represent creativity or new beginnings. Both, or neither, might be accurate, but it’s fun to watch at any rate. Especially considering the plotty bits are acted out by the circus’ clowns (a beetle, a mosquito and a ladybug), who are just hilariously over-the-top.

The most impressive part of the whole thing, though, is how the the acrobatic performers somehow manage to act their parts (as spiders or crickets or whatever else) even while they’re, say, balancing on their chin on a unicycle on a slackwire.

This spider's slackwire routine caused more than a few audience-wide gasps. - COURTESY CIRQUE DU SOLEIL
  • Courtesy Cirque du Soleil
  • This spider's slackwire routine caused more than a few audience-wide gasps.

The costumes, too, deserve a mention, especially the grasshoppers, who had angled "legs" attached to their pants. It made for an excellent effect as they danced. Throughout the show, there was hardly a moment I doubted these people were supposed to be insects, and most of the time I felt I could accurately guess at which ones they were.

The ensemble did an excellent job diffusing the tension after acrobats flung themselves dangerously all over the arena. - COURTESY CIRQUE DU SOLEIL
  • Courtesy Cirque du Soleil
  • The ensemble did an excellent job diffusing the tension after acrobats flung themselves dangerously all over the arena.

Last night’s premiere at the Broadmoor World Arena was frankly flawless, at least as far as I could tell. I gasped, shook my companion by the shoulder and pointed wide-eyed at the stage more times than I care to admit. It really makes you feel like a kid again.

OVO will run daily through Jan. 22, so don’t miss your chance. The tickets might be a touch pricey (starting at $43), but it's certainly a memorable enough performance to warrant the splurge.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Local developers make two picks for Colorado Springs City Council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The filing deadline for candidates is Monday.

Check in with the Independent next week for election coverage.

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