Local News

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

UPDATE: UCCS will host Milo Yiannopoulos — but only because it must

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at 2:54 PM


Since posting, we heard back from UCCS spokesperson Tom Hutton on a few questions we posed. So, in case you were wondering whether the university will pay for additional security, should it be necessary for the event, the answer is "no."

Per Hutton: "the event sponsors are responsible for any additional security as determined by the UCCS Chief of Police." And about the university's preparations for protestors, Hutton says that "the university is anticipating the possibility of demonstrations. If demonstrations occur, there will be an area that is designated to ensure the safety of all participants."

——- Original post, JAN. 18, 1:57 P.M. ——-

Troll incoming! Today, a press release from the
University of Colorado in Colorado Springs announced that right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos is officially scheduled to speak on campus. Two student groups — chapters of the College Republicans and Turning Point USA — invited the guy and will pick up the tab. To repeat: No university dollars will be spent on the affair.


The university does not endorse this speaker’s views (which, as we previously reported, are pretty repugnant), but because the university’s public, cannot turn him away for it. Yiannopoulos — who has been scorned by some in the so-called alt-right movement he purportedly speaks for because of his identity as a gay jew — will also speak at CU-Boulder on the 25th. Students there organized an event featuring Laverne Cox, a black trans actress, to speak at the exact same time, hoping to draw attention away from the smug, transphobic misogynist.

Yiannopoulos lives to insult. - WIKIPEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikipedia Commons
  • Yiannopoulos lives to insult.

UCCS’s release also highlighted another event going on at the exact same time that was planned months ago. The “university appreciation event,” the release says, will “include comments by [Chancellor Pam] Shockley-Zalabak, music by members of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, who will perform works by composer Leonard Bernstein, and a brief video presentation with campus community members stating support for the university's core values.”


Shockley-Zalabak penned a letter on the matter, found below:


A response to elected officials concern over the rhetoric Milo Yiannopoulos

I absolutely reject this type of rhetoric.

The statements that Mr. Yiannopoulos has made at other campuses are clearly in opposition to the values of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs and its commitment to creating an inclusive community that welcomes all.

Moreover, his tactics of personal denigration, as well as racist and misogynist comments, are both personally reprehensible and contrary to the university's values of civil, respectful discussion of difference and difficult topics. We ascribe to The Board of Regents' Guiding Principle that the University of Colorado shall always strive to be "provide an outstanding, respectful, and responsive living, learning, teaching, and working environment."

At the same time, the University of Colorado system adheres to the freedoms embodied in the United States Constitution, which include the freedom of speech contained in the First Amendment. Under well-established constitutional principles, when a student group invites a speaker, the University of Colorado does not censor the speaker because it disagrees with his viewpoints.

In doing so, we draw guidance from, and I quote the words of, the United States Supreme Court, which recently reaffirmed that speech touching on social and political matters are within the bounds of constitutional protection. When speech is on a matter of public concern, even though it it racist or sexist, it "cannot be restricted simply because it is upsetting or arouses contempt" and we "must tolerate insulting, and even outrageous, speech in order to provide adequate 'breathing space' to the freedoms protected by the First Amendment."

Mr. Yiannopoulos's attacks on others constitute "vehement, caustic, and unpleasant expressions" that "can stir people to action" and "inflict great pain." We can, and do, condemn his words, but, as a nation, "we have chosen to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate." As a public university, we know of no legal grounds to prevent Mr. Yiannopoulos from coming to our campus based on his comments elsewhere.

UCCS will, however, require the organizations that invited him to campus, the College Republicans and Turning Point USA, to be responsible for all costs, including security. Additionally, the university will handle all ticketing to ensure that fire codes and other legal requirements are met. I will continue to emphasize that while Mr. Yiannopoulos may be speaking at UCCS, he in no way represents us as a campus community or our values.

Respectfully,

Pam Shockley-Zalabak

Chancellor

Colorado Springs Anti-Fascists are still planning to protest the event. “We’re planning a direct action as well as a more general nice picket thing for those that are less militant,” says a representative of the group, who would direct anyone who’s interested in participating to keep an eye on the event page for an upcoming planning meeting.


Plans to get the biracial, progressive comedian Trevor Noah to speak on campus concurrently appear to not have materialized.


Find tickets and other time/place details about the Yiannopoulos event here.



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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

UPDATE: New website blasts El Paso County Sheriff Elder

Posted By on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 5:47 PM

From the website that was recently mounted in opposition to the sheriff who promised to heal the Sheriff's Office. - DIRTYELDER.COM
  • dirtyelder.com
  • From the website that was recently mounted in opposition to the sheriff who promised to heal the Sheriff's Office.
UPDATE:
This just in from El Paso County in response to the website, including the County Commissioners' statement of confidence in the Sheriff:
The Board of County Commissioners has recently received anonymous letters regarding allegations involving processes and personnel at the Office of the Sheriff and has been made aware of an internet site outlining similar allegations, also made by unidentified individuals. El Paso County has in place robust processes and procedures for investigation where needed and where allegations are made with such specificity and credibility that an investigation is warranted.

All allegations in the anonymous letters recently received have been investigated and/or evaluated with the advice and oversight of the County Attorney’s Office. This is particularly relevant to allegations surrounding policy changes and changes to promotional and disciplinary processes. Since January 2015, the El Paso County Attorney’s Office, and not counsel selected only by the Sheriff, has been providing legal advice and counsel to the Office of the Sheriff. This ensures consistency and transparency with the Board of County Commissioners.

As to allegations made in one letter that a female deputy was “forced to a full physical touching of her entire body captured on jail security video” and subject to multiple “sexually explicit text messages,” the Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that no evidence exists to support these claims, and no member of the Sheriff’s office has made these claims.

The Board of El Paso County Commissioners this morning received legal advice as to the processes and procedures in place at the Sheriff’s Office for conducting investigations and legal advice that had been previously given surrounding changes to promotional and disciplinary processes. The Board of County Commissioners hereby expresses confidence in Sheriff Elder and his staff; that the processes and procedures are sound and if there are sustained improper work actions, there will be an immediate response. 
Simultaneous with the above statement, we received this comment from Sheriff Bill Elder through a spokesperson: "Sheriff Elder has sent a response to the latest anonymous letter to the Board of County Commissioners. He will not be making any comments to the media about anonymous letters contained within the dirtyelder.com website."

——————ORIGINAL POST 3:37 P.M. MONDAY, JAN. 16, 2017————————-

Sheriff Bill Elder has been in office for two years and apparently someone or some group thinks things are so bad in the department that they have created a website called dirtyelder.com.

The site's professed goal is "to stop the corruption, intimidation and nepotism." Regardless of the veracity of the allegations and implications contained on the website, it's worth noting that someone has mounted such a website and already populated it with a lengthy batch of complaints.

While many links on the site don't have anything to offer yet, some do.

Under "Character Counts," there's this:
Bill Elder promised to follow all policies. He even signed a copy of the policy that states all policies apply to the Sheriff. Since then he has pretty much done what ever he wants. If he doesn’t like a policy he just changes it or gets rid of it.

Bill Elder promoted and/or rehired 6 individuals on his first day on the job. What policy says individuals can be promoted without going through a promotion board? So the same day he promised to follow policy he broke it. I wonder how many contributed to and/or worked on his campaign? We will get to that in an upcoming article.

Bill Elder promised to create an impartial promotion board, evaluation process and create an independent disciplinary board. How’s that working out? More to come…
Sheriff Elder talking with the media some time ago. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Sheriff Elder talking with the media some time ago.

The Indy has made its own observations on some of this behavior. For instance, Elder adopted a Disciplinary Action Board, and a year later he abolished it.

When we asked about this a while back, we got this explanation on Dec. 22 from Lisa Kirkman, an attorney who works for Elder:
With respect to the change in the Disciplinary Action Board, please be advised that the review of the Disciplinary Action Board (DAB) procedure began in September, initiated by EPSO legal advisor, as a result of a decision made in 2015 at the time the Board was enacted. The DAB was a novel procedure and it was decided that it would be reviewed at the one year time frame. At the lieutenant/command staff meeting in September 2016, the legal advisor announced that the matter would be reviewed. The Sheriff made the decision to suspend the Board at a time when no cases were completed and ready to go before the Board. The Sheriff was concerned about the lack of appeal, except for termination and that the Sheriff had no review authority with respect to the Disciplinary Action Board. Also, please be advised that not all investigations per the previous policy were heard by the Disciplinary Action Board.
The dirtyelder.com website also has this under the heading "Broken Promises":
When Bill Elder was elected sheriff in 2014 he stated things would change. They did; for the worse.

This website is dedicated to the hard working men and women of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office who deserve better than to have to work in a hostile work environment for corrupt leadership. Law Enforcement requires complete and total honesty and transparency. Command staff should be held to a higher standard and the Sheriff to the highest standard. Bill Elder has shown his campaign promises were nothing more than fiction. He has created a hostile work environment that includes intimidation, corruption and nepotism. This website will expose Bill Elder for what he is with documented and verified facts.

This Website is sponsored by concerned citizens with the goal of bringing the corruption at the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office to an end. It is also to keep employees informed of all the activities being done by Bill Elder and his command staff. This website is not to spread rumors, make personal attacks or get into politics.

We are empowered by you. Everyone knows a little bit about what’s going on at the Sheriff’s Office. Silence is the endorsement of corruption. We need your help to continue our mission. All material will be anonymous and verified. It’s time for employees to take a stand and demand integrity from their leadership!

Articles will show Bill Elder misled our community and evidence he committed multiple crimes to include official misconduct. We will present evidence that suggests Bill Elder could even be guilty of accessory to murder. We will show evidence of corruption by his current command staff and other personnel within the office. We will present the evidence, and you can be the judge.

One of the first promises Bill Elder made to staff and the community is that all policies would also apply to the Sheriff. We will show he has broken this promise and ultimately does what ever he wants. Below is Bill Elder, early in his term, signing the new policy. We will provide more information in an upcoming article.
 Should the El Paso County Commissioners launch some kind of probe? In the past, commissioners have taken a hands-off approach until smacked in the face with visual evidence of things going haywire — just look at the  Sheriff Terry Maketa fiasco.

For now, we don't know if any of the complaints referenced on the Web site, with one exception, has been forwarded to the commissioners. The one exception deals with a record we've been trying to get for some time. It references a potential lawsuit, and has been denied by County Attorney Amy Folsom. In response to the Independent's Colorado Open Records request, she gave these reasons for refusing to release it:
1. Pursuant to 24-72-202(6)(a)(II)(C) this document is not a public record because it is a communication by constituent to an elected official that clearly implies by its nature or content that the constituent expects that it is confidential on a matter not yet public.
2. Pursuant to 24-72—204(1)(b) and (c) inspection of this record would be contrary to federal rule or regulation and rule promulgated by the state supreme court; namely FRE 408 and CRE 408; and
3. Disclosure of the document is prohibited by 24-72-204(3)(a)(II)(A) in that it contains information pertaining to a personnel matter and which would otherwise be contained in a personnel file. 
We've invited the Sheriff's Office to comment on the new website and will update if and when we hear back.

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

A handy guide to upcoming local actions around inauguration day

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 2:09 PM

Do you have a gnawing pit of dread in your stomach? You know, the one that wells up every time you see, hear or even think about what’s going on in our federal government right now? If so, this post is for you!


Find below a handy guide to all upcoming opportunities for good, ol’ fashion direct action in the Springs area. Showing up not only strengthens the resistance to certain people and policies, but it also strengthens the networks we’ll need if we’re to have any say over our fate in the coming years.

Trump resistors join hands in solidarity after the November election. - NAOMI PUEO WOOD
  • Naomi Pueo Wood
  • Trump resistors join hands in solidarity after the November election.


Sunday, January 15

Our First Stand: Save Healthcare


Congressional Democrats, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, have called for rallies across the country to show opposition to Republicans’ health care agenda. Unite Colorado Springs, a progressive activist organization, has honored the request, calling on all those who don’t want to see Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security or Planned Parenthood totally decimated to come express that in public. “Our First Stand,” organizers have dubbed the rally, signaling that, yes, there’s more to come.


Bring yourself and a sign to the steps of City Hall at 1:30 p.m.


Sunday, January 15

COS SURJ community meeting


Learn about strategies for resisting deportation and other threats to immigrant, Muslim and LGBTQ communities. This local chapter of “Showing Up for Racial Justice” works to call white people into the struggle against racism, bigotry and systemic oppression through supporting groups led by people of color. Per organizers description:

This community meeting falls within a moment of national calls to action by MoveOn.org and coalitions of concerned democratic congressional leaders. We will be unveiling our Front Range SURJ campaign: ‘100 Days of Resisting Trump’ and discussing concrete daily actions that we can all take to make our voices heard and pressure our representatives to respond to our concerns.


Feel free to bring the kiddos, and, remember, it’s timed so you can go to Unite’s health care rally right after.


Show up at the Casa Verde Co-Housing Community (1355 Lindenwood Grove) at 12 p.m.


Friday, January 20

Inauguration Day bannering


The inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump is almost certainly going to be a shit-show, but, luckily, you can stay far, far away from it. Citizens for Peace and Space — a pacifist group led by Indy contributor Loring Wirbel — will hold what’s likely to be a far more benign gathering here in the Springs. Bring signs, bring banners, bring a friend.


Join at noon at Acacia Park.


Friday, January 20  Saturday, January 21

Women’s March on Denver


Nearly 20,000 people are expected to attend this march in our state’s capital city that’s designed to support a similar one in D.C. The organizers are women unaffiliated with any activist group who got a permit from the city to hold this massive event, replete with a badass lineup of lady speakers and performers. The Pikes Peak Dems have organized two buses to Denver, leaving from their downtown office at 7 a.m. There are only a few spots left so call to reserve yours at 473-8713. (Warning: some attendees will be sporting knit pink pussy hats which may or may not be seen as trivializing a dead-serious cause.)


Activities will span 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Denver’s Civic Center Park.


Saturday, January 21

Day 1: March on Colorado Springs


Don’t waste any time after the President-elect gets sworn in. This sister march” to the ones in Denver, D.C., and around the country will take place the day after the inauguration and is meant to usher in the first hundred days of resistance. Co-hosted by COS SURJ and the NAACP State Conference, the event will include marching, bannering and a benefit concert featuring hip-hop (by locals Kevin Mitchell & Lord Damage and Stoney Bertz), spoken word poetry (by local wordsmith, community organizer and sometimes Indy contributor Nico Wilkinson) and other speakers yet to be announced. From the co-hosts:

“We strive to provide an outlet and support for those who wish to: 1) Advocate for and defend the most marginalized members of our community. 2) Connect with like-minded individuals and organizations within local Colorado communities. 3) Serve as a model of peaceful demonstration for future generations. 4) Honor those who have fought before us for human, civil, and women's rights.”

Meet at Acacia Park at 1:30 p.m.


Saturday, January 21

Silence in Solidarity


Omtastic Yoga Studio, in the Roswell neighborhood just north of the Old North End, provides a break from all the noise. For a half hour after the march downtown, gather in candlelit silence before another half hour of mingling. The opportunity is meant for people unable to participate in loud, outdoor, ambulatory protests but still want to be apart of the public conversation. It’s also meant for those who do participate in those kind of actions, but just need a little break to take care of themselves. Bring food or drink.


Silence begins at 5:00 p.m.; mingling at 5:30 p.m. The studio is at 2727 N. Cascade, suite 140.


Monday, January 23

First 100 Hours Climate Justice Vigil


Faith communities across the country are holding vigils to mark a new era in the climate justice movement. Locally, the Colorado Springs Council for Justice, also active on refugee issues, will facilitate what’s described as “a moment to ground ourselves and create community to help us process our grief, our anger, and our fear.”

The action may be vague but the need is not: While President Obama may have not been the perfect ally to environmentalists, he’ll start to look like a downright saint relative to the gang of climate change deniers and fossil fuel executives set to be making climate policy decisions.


Gather around Uncle Wilbur’s Fountain in Acacia Park at 5 p.m.


If we missed anything, please speak up!


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Inside/Out Youth Services launches first satellite program

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 11:22 AM

Past members of Inside/Out Youth Services march in a pride parade. - FILE PHOTO
  • File Photo
  • Past members of Inside/Out Youth Services march in a pride parade.

Through a partnership with the Pikes Peak Library District, Inside/Out Youth Services, our local LGBTIQA+ youth center, announced an expansion of its after school program. They will establish a group in Library 21c in order to serve students in District 20, who may not always be able to reach the center’s downtown location.

Inside/Out’s after school youth program helps create a sense of community for LGBTIQA+ students, reducing the risk of suicide and self-harm. According to Mary Malia, executive director of Inside/Out, the El Paso County Public Health Department has said that LGBTQIA+ youth make up an estimated 60-70 percent of completed youth suicides. Malia has been working with the department on reducing that number.

According to Malia, the program’s goal is to “reach more youth, give them the chance to have that experience, to say ‘being LGBTQIA+ is okay, and I’m okay.’”

This expansion is a pilot program, hopefully the first of many across school districts in El Paso County. Provided Inside/Out can find the volunteers and the funding, they hope to make a decision about further expansion by this summer.

Inside/Out will hold an informal open house with more information about the program on Jan. 24, 4-5 p.m. at Library 21C in the ENT Conference Center. The program itself will launch on Jan. 27. This group, like Inside/Out’s downtown after school program, will be open to all LGBTIQA+ youth (whether they live in District 20 or not) between the ages of 13-22, or allies of the same age.

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CO legislative leaders propose deal to bring more affordable housing

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 11:12 AM

Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran - COLORADO HOUSE DEMOCRATS
  • Colorado House Democrats
  • Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran
You've probably at least heard of the "construction defects bill."

Considered a top goal for the state Legislature, some form of this bill has appeared in Colorado's legislative session for years. It's almost a ritual at this point. Early in the session, representatives and senators often say that this is the year the bill will pass. But it doesn't.

Still, it would seem this year will be different.  The new speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, Crisanta Duran, and the new Senate president, Kevin Grantham, are cosponsoring the bill this session, having arrived at a compromise.

So why is this such a big deal? Because it's thought that getting the bill passed will lead to more building of affordable, multi-unit housing like apartments, condos and townhomes.

Why? Because builders and developers say that such projects are too risky currently — they say they are too liable for problems. The construction defects bill is meant to limit their liability, and entice them to build more multi-unit projects. Here's a story I wrote about that back in 2014. And here's one from 2015.

Anyway, the flip side of this is that HOAs and homeowners say that they should be able to sue if something is wrong with their homes.

According the the House Democrats, here's the deal:

Duran Brings Bipartisan Construction Defects Deal
New Speaker Says Bill Will Drive Down Insurance Costs to Spur Condo Builders


(Jan. 11) – The new speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, Crisanta Duran, began the 2017 legislative session this morning by announcing a bipartisan compromise on construction defects reform, a perennial sticking point in the legislature.

In her opening day speech after being formally elected by the 65-member House, Speaker Duran said that she and the new Senate president, Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, had agreed to be prime sponsors of a bill intended to tackle the sticky issue of insurance, one of the issues identified by stakeholders as impacting new home starts.

The bill, with the co-prime sponsorship of Assistant Minority Leader Cole Wist, R-Centennial, and Sen. Angela Williams, D-Denver, is scheduled to be formally introduced this afternoon.

“By targeting insurance rates we’re addressing the problem without reducing consumers’ right to protect the property that they spent their life’s savings to buy,” said Speaker Duran, D-Denver.

The bill will allow insurers to go to court to apportion defense costs equitably among liability insurers who are required to defend a defect claim through an expedited process. The legislation seeks to address one of the root causes making it harder to build more condos, without compromising consumer rights.

In other highlights of her opening day speech, Speaker Duran said she was involved in “promising discussions” with members of both parties in both chambers to devise a comprehensive statewide plan to upgrade Colorado’s crumbling, overburdened transportation system.

“Anyone who’s been on I-25 at rush hour, anywhere from Fort Collins to Pueblo, knows the need is real,” she said, adding that the emerging plan “will provide new resources and will benefit our entire state.”

Speaker Duran also noted discussions about education funding and a long-term solution to the state’s chronic budget problems.

She closed with an appeal for “an inclusive Colorado” where bullying of people because of their gender, race, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation is off-limits.

Speaker Duran is the first Latina speaker in Colorado history. She presides over a House where Democrats expanded their majority to 37-28, a six-seat swing, in the November 2016 elections. 



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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

UPDATE: PPACG's MacDonald sees contract canceled

Posted By on Wed, Jan 11, 2017 at 11:52 AM

MacDonald: After nearly 20 years with PPACG, the board terminated his contract on Wednesday. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • MacDonald: After nearly 20 years with PPACG, the board terminated his contract on Wednesday.
UPDATE:

PPACG board chair Andy Pico reports that MacDonald's contract was terminated with the board giving the required 30 days notice. Cancellation is effective Feb. 10.

The notice was given without cause, Pico noted.

"So we just said enough, thanks for your service, goodbye," he says. "We're starting a nationwide search for that."

Pico also says two other staffers who were placed on leave in December are pending resolution.

———ORIGINAL POST 11:52 A.M. WEDNESDAY, JAN. 11, 2017 —————————

Rob MacDonald's contract with the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments was terminated without cause today by the PPACG board.

The termination comes after MacDonald was placed on paid administration leave for an indefinite period last month.

No word on the status of two other employees, Craig Caspar and Bev Majewski, who also were placed on indefinite leave on Dec. 22.

Check back for updates.


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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Modbo and SPQR plan to go in different directions

Posted By on Tue, Jan 10, 2017 at 1:02 PM

Modbo and SPQR's joint Small Works exhibit will still take place as planned next year. - FILE PHOTO
  • File Photo
  • Modbo and SPQR's joint Small Works exhibit will still take place as planned next year.


Big changes are in store for The Modbo and SPQR, two well-loved local art galleries that, historically, have functioned almost as one.

Modbo/SPQR co-owner Lauren Ciborowski announced this morning that, moving forward, the businesses are going to go in separate directions. Not to worry, though, the split is amicable, and it’s exciting news for our local arts community.

“We just felt we had plateaued,” Ciborowski says, “things were good, but they weren’t growing.” She says they had lost their “novelty edge” and considered ways to get it back. Since The Modbo’s lease was about to expire, co-owner Brett Andrus suggested Ciborowski take The Modbo space and “run with it.”

Ciborowski sees it as an exciting opportunity make a career in the arts, something she has wanted to do for a long time. She plans to turn The Modbo into a more self-sustaining, profitable business — a functioning commercial gallery that takes advantage of its unique space and downtown location.

She’s thinking of making the space available for rent (for small business get-togethers and parties), as well as hosting more performances. There’s even talk of a potential “Shakespeare in the Alleyway” production this summer, which is still in its planning stages.

Meanwhile, Andrus will keep the reins of SPQR and concentrate on his artistic career. The part of the business Andrus has always enjoyed most has been nurturing the next generation of artists through classes and mentorship programs, which he will still run out of the SPQR space. He will also use the gallery to exhibit his own work as well as occasional guest artists.

The business may be split, but Ciborowski assures us that The Modbo and SPQR will still collaborate on occasion, at the very least for their annual Small Works show, which is a local favorite.

See The Modbo’s full Facebook post with more details about the split below:



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Monday, January 9, 2017

UPDATE: Save Cheyenne raises money to challenge Strawberry Fields land deal

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2017 at 3:37 PM

Strawberry Fields photograph by John Fielder.
  • Strawberry Fields photograph by John Fielder.

UPDATE: New tallies are in for the Save Cheyenne fundraiser, pushing the total raised to $7,878, reported Richard Skorman, the group's president.

———————-ORIGINAL POST 3:37 P.M. MONDAY, JAN. 9, 2017———————-

On Sunday, backers of an effort to overturn the city's deal to trade Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor got together at Rico's downtown to raise money to fund their legal challenge.

Save Cheyenne, a nonprofit that sprang amid debate last year over the land swap, has appealed a district judge's ruling in the city's favor to the Colorado Court of Appeals, arguing that the 189-acre tract is dedicated park land. Voters approved its acquisition in 1885. Therefore, it can't be sold or traded without voters' permission, Save Cheyenne argues.

We checked in with Save Cheyenne president Richard Skorman to see how things went. Here's his report:
At yesterday's fundraiser, we sold 10 framed pastels of Strawberry Fields by Missye Bonds, 3 John Fielder photographs of Strawberry Fields and a dozen calendars of Strawberry Fields wildflowers. We also raised some cash. The total of everything was $3838.00. Well over 125 people came to the event yesterday and enthusiasm for our cause is still strong.

The goal, he says, is to raise $40,000 to $50,000 for this next phase of legal challenges for the Appeal. So there's a lot more to do.

If you want to donate, here's how:
• On paypal on-line at savecheyenne.org or through Save Cheyenne on Facebook.
• Or donors can write a check to Save Cheyenne P.O. Box 60298 CS, CO 80960 or drop cash or check by Poor Richard's Bookstore, 9a.m. to 9p.m. everyday.
• Also, the Missye Bonds and John Fielder Art Show will be up for 3 months, (there are 20 more Missye's to sell, and three more John Fielder photos).
• On Sunday, February 12th, a pre-Valentine's Day fundraiser is planned, called "Be Mine, Strawberry Fields Forever Steve Barta and Friends Concert" at the Gold Room of the Mining Exchange from 3-5p.m. Contact 578-5513 or skormy@aol.com for tickets and information. Tickets can be bought at the door. More details to come, including another book signing opportunity with Fielder.

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UPDATE: Colorado Springs wind storm wreaks havoc

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2017 at 10:09 AM

Between 8:30 and 9 a.m. Monday, a tree toppled onto a car in the Pioneer Museum block. - RYAN HANNIGAN
  • Ryan Hannigan
  • Between 8:30 and 9 a.m. Monday, a tree toppled onto a car in the Pioneer Museum block.

UPDATE: And to close out the day, this just in from the city:
The Colorado Springs Emergency Operations Center activated today as several City departments, along with Colorado Springs Utilities respond to impacts from high winds in Colorado Springs today.

· The Colorado Springs Fire Department responded to 450 calls for service from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. today, 90 percent of which were requests for assistance for a variety of wind-related issues ranging from downed trees in the public right of way, damage to buildings and vehicles, electrical concerns, and numerous grass and structure fires.
· As of 4 p.m. today Colorado Springs Utilities is responding to 307 outages, with 8,157 customers affected. Progress is being made as wind conditions slowly improve.
· Several City departments including the Parks Department’s Forestry Division, Public Works Operations and Maintenance Division, Colorado Springs Fire Department and Colorado Springs Utilities continue to respond to a high volume of calls for downed trees throughout the city.

Calls for Downed Trees

· The Public Works Operations and Maintenance Division received 46 storm related calls for service, the majority of which were downed trees in roadway.
· The City’s Forestry Division received approximately 150 calls for service for downed trees, which include downed trees in parks and medians. Please note that some calls for downed trees may overlap across departments.
· Residents can call 24-hours-a-day to 719-385-ROAD or may also use GoCoSprings, the City’s mobile app, to report a downed tree in the public right of way. https://www.coloradosprings.gov/gocosprings. Report a new issue and select “downed tree”. Reports to the mobile application will be processed Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
· For downed trees in a street median or city park call 719-385-5942 (Monday- Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.).


Traffic Signals

Motorists are advised to stay off the road if possible as there are reports of twisted traffic signal heads that can fall on the roadways. Numerous traffic lights are also experiencing power outages. Darkened intersections should be treated as four-way stops.

Colorado Springs Utilities Update

· As of 4 p.m. today Colorado Springs Utilities is currently responding to 307 outages, with 8,157 customers affected, so progress is being made as wind conditions slowly improve.
· To date, Colorado Springs Utilities has received 150 calls for downed trees impacting power lines and 75 cases for downed electric lines.
· Four restoration crews are currently dispatched and more crews will return to the field tonight as wind conditions continue to improve.
· In addition to Springs Utilities line crews, three contract crews have augmented restoration efforts along with nine tree trimming crews.
· CSU will work through the night to restore power to affected customers, but due to the extent of the damage to utilities infrastructure, the number of outages and wind conditions delaying the ability to make above-ground repairs, more complicated restoration efforts could extend beyond Tuesday.
· Customers are encouraged to check on the status of power outages via our online outage map at www.csu.org.

UPDATE: Courthouse will reopen at noon Tuesday. From the county:
El Paso County hopes to do an initial assessment of the roof damage and make temporary repairs with the goal of re-opening the Terry R. Harris Judicial Complex by 12 Noon Tuesday, January 10, 2017.

Hurricane force winds tore of large sections of the South Tower roof and toppled a communications antenna on the top of the building this morning. The complex was evacuated and the Sheriff’s Office set up a temporary closure of streets and sidewalks surrounding the building to protect drivers and pedestrians from falling and blowing debris.
Courthouse staff should plan for the building to be re-opened at 12 Noon. Jurors should report at 1 PM. All others with scheduled appointments should call (719) 452-5000 for additional scheduling information.


UPDATE:
Bus service will resume shortly. From the city:
Mountain Metropolitan Transit (MMT) will resume regular bus service at 3:30 p.m. Earlier today, due to extreme wind conditions, MMT suspended service for three hours at the direction of CDOT regarding high profile commercial vehicles. We will continue to update the media and post the most current information on our Facebook and Twitter pages, #MMTRA, on recorded phone messages and at 385-RIDE (7433).
Mountain Metropolitan Transit provides local fixed-route bus service and Metro Mobility ADA paratransit service for Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region. All buses are wheelchair-lift equipped. Mountain Metropolitan Transit also provides other services such as Metro Rides’ ridesharing, vanpool, and bicycling programs. For added convenience, there are bike racks on all buses for riders who want to utilize the bike-n-bus program. For additional information regarding Mountain Metropolitan Transit please visit www.mmtransit.com, or call (719) 385-RIDE (7433).

UPDATE:
City Response to Downed Trees

· The Forestry Department is responding to a high volume of calls for downed trees throughout the city with downtown and the city’s west side most impacted.
· Residents should report downed trees that are blocking roads to 719-385-ROAD
· To report a fallen tree in street median, parks and parkway strips 719-385-5942
· Residents can also report a fallen tree by using the City’s GoCoSprings app https://www.coloradosprings.gov/gocosprings


Colorado Springs Utilities Update

· As of 11:30 a.m. Colorado Springs Utilities is currently responding to more than 200 reported electric outages in its service territory caused by high winds. Approximately 18,000 customers are being affected by these outages.
· The outages are concentrated in the southern portion of Springs Utilities’ system, which has the highest percentage of overhead lines.
· Most of the outages are being caused by blowing debris, construction materials and metal siding getting into our lines causing circuits to trip.
· Customers should be on the lookout for fallen power lines or trees that have come into contact with a power line. If a customer witnesses either, they should stay away from the line and/or tree, and call us at 448-4800 or call 911.
· To help reduce call volume and expedite emergency-related calls during this wind storm event, Springs Utilities is asking customers to use its online outage map at csu.org (http://stormcenter3.csu.org.s3.amazonaws.com/default.html) for electric outage information and status updates, and to not call 448-4800 unless a customer is reporting a downed electric line, a tree into an electric line, or some other utilities-related emergency that poses a safety risk.


UPDATE:
Mountain Metropolitan Transit (MMT) will suspend bus service temporarily at 12:00 p.m. today due to extreme wind conditions. Drivers will finish their current routes and return to the bus depot and wait out the wind. This is per CDOT’s direction of the safety concern regarding high profile commercial vehicles. We will continue to update the media and post the most current information on our Facebook and Twitter pages, #MMTRA, on recorded phone messages and at 385-RIDE (7433).
UPDATE: This just in:
Due to extreme high winds in the area, Colorado Department of Transportation is restricting travel of high profile vehicles in El Paso County. Semi, tractor trailers, commercial buses and all other high profile vehicles aren’t allowed on the roadways in El Paso County at this time.

Wind gusts are estimated at more than 100 miles per hour and it isn’t safe to have these vehicles on the road. El Paso County is under a high wind advisory until 5pm.

——————ORIGINAL POST 10:09 A.M. MONDAY JAN. 9, 2017———————

The El Paso County courthouse is being evacuated after high winds dealt severe damage to the roof. And the county emergency center also has been opened.

The release:
Due to extensive roof damage the El Paso County Terry R. Harris Judicial Complex is now being evacuated. County facilities staff is working to mitigate damage but strong gusty winds are making it impossible to do a damage assessment at this time.

Preliminary damage reports indicate extensive damage to the south tower roof. El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputies have closed portions of Tejon Street in the area of the building and pedestrians are being asked to avoid the area as roofing materials continue to be torn from the building.

Courts appointments have been canceled today.

The El Paso County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has now been activated to assist in coordinating resources needed to respond to this storm. Further updates will be provided as information becomes available.
Mean time, trees are tumbling down all over town.

Here's advice from the county:
The El Paso County Office of Emergency Management is reminding everyone to stay away from downed power lines. Ongoing hurricane force winds have broken tree branches, toppled signs, turned over vehicles and pulled down power lines countywide.

Downed power lines can look relatively harmless, but don’t be fooled. They likely carry an electric current strong enough to cause serious injury or possibly death. Here are some electric energy safety tips can help you stay safe around downed lines:

* If you see a downed power line, move away from the line and anything touching it.
* The proper way to move away from the line is to shuffle with small steps, keeping your feet together and on the ground at all times. This will minimize the potential for a strong electric shock. Electricity wants to move from a high voltage zone to a low voltage one—and it could do that through your body.
* If you see someone who is in direct or indirect contact with the downed line, do not touch the person. You could become the next victim. Call 911 instead.
* Do not attempt to move a downed power line or anything in contact with the line by using another object such as a broom or stick. Even normally non-conductive materials like wood or cloth, if slightly wet, can conduct electricity and electrocute you.
* Be careful not to put your feet near water where a downed power line is located.
* Do not drive over downed lines.
* If you are in a vehicle that is in contact with a downed line, stay in the vehicle. Honk your horn for help and tell others to stay away from your vehicle.
* If you must leave your vehicle because it’s on fire, jump out of the vehicle with both feet together and avoid making contact with the energized vehicle and the ground at the same time. This way you avoid being the path of electricity from the vehicle to the earth.
* Do not touch or attempt to move communications wires that might not normally be electrically charged as the high winds may have brought them into contact high voltage electric lines.


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Friday, January 6, 2017

CDOT accelerates I-25 project north of Monument

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 11:17 AM

JOSEPH SOHM/SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock
The four-lane stretch from Monument to Castle Rock could be readied for construction within 2.5 years and be finished in another 2.5 years, the Colorado Department of Transportation announced Friday, offering one important caveat:

"If funding is identified for construction."

Still the word that CDOT was speeding up the environmental and planning processes for the highway was greeted with enthusiasm for improvement of the only remaining four-lane stretch between Colorado Springs and Denver — a cause that only recently became the top priority for the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments planning agency.

State Rep. Terri Carver, R-HD20 in Colorado Springs, issued a statement saying:
I had advocated to CDOT that the full environmental review for the I-25 widening project start immediately. We should not waste time and money to first do the PEL study, then still have to do the required environmental study before we can widen I-25. Today’s CDOT announcement is an important step to getting this vital road construction project done as soon as possible!

I will continue to fight for this I-25 widening project as a priority for CDOT and for state transportation funding.

Here's CDOT's news release:
DENVER – The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced plans to accelerate the environmental and planning process for improvements on I-25 from C470 to Colorado Springs, with attention to the gap area from Monument to Castle Rock. By accelerating the environmental planning for I-25, CDOT will have a project ready for construction by summer of 2019, with a project fully constructed between Castle Rock to Monument in five years, if funding is identified for construction.

“As congestion continues to build along I-25, CDOT has decided that this project can't wait,” said Shailen Bhatt, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Transportation. “We're going to do our part and get ready for construction in two years. Now we need others to help us come up with the $300 to $400 million we need to build it.”

CDOT is able to accelerate the funding of the environmental planning thanks to the financing of the C-470 Express Lanes project. CDOT plans to use funds that otherwise were allocated to serve as a “backstop” for loans that will be financing the project. As the details of the loans have been finalized in the last two weeks, it became clear that fewer of those funds would be necessary, allowing CDOT to redirect $15 million of those funds to I-25 environmental and preconstruction work. Those funds, along with the $6 million that is already programmed for the current Programmatic & Environmental Linkages (PEL) study, will allow the department to prepare for a construction project, should construction funds become available.

“Douglas County obviously shares CDOT’s prioritization of this project and has demonstrated our support as a funding partner, committing $250,000 to the early study and associated process,” said Douglas County Commissioner Roger Partridge. “As history shows, CDOT and Douglas County, and many others have successfully partnered to improve many of the seven state highways running through Douglas County during the past decade, with a few projects underway right now. With that in mind, we are committed to doing what is required to organize this coalition of like-minded leaders, working with CDOT, the City of Colorado Springs and the FHWA, on a construction-funding solution so that we can meet our 2019 ground-breaking commitment.”

“We urge the state of Colorado to make the widening of the I-25 corridor between Monument and Castle Rock a vital and immediate priority. As the area experiences record growth, we simply can’t afford to wait the previously proposed 10 years, dragging out the impacts of congestion restricting commerce and travel between Colorado Springs and Denver,” noted John Suthers, Mayor of Colorado Springs. “This is an improvement that will have immediate positive impact on safety and the economy and we commend CDOT and our neighboring governments for their support in working to streamline the process and get that section of the interstate construction-ready as quickly as possible.”

CDOT does not plan to only provide the newly available funds to the planning project, but is also committed, in participation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to streamlining and accelerating the environmental and pre-construction processes, including running a NEPA process on the “gap” (the 2-lane section between Castle Rock and Monument) concurrently with the Planning and Environmental Linkage Study that looks at the complete corridor, from C-470 to Colorado Springs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

CoCo Crafted to open in Mountain Fold space, and more downtown development to come in 2017

Posted By on Wed, Jan 4, 2017 at 11:08 AM

COCO Crafted founder Mundi Ross. - COURTESY OF COLORADO SPRINGS BUSINESS JOURNAL
  • courtesy of Colorado Springs Business Journal
  • COCO Crafted founder Mundi Ross.

2016 was a year littered with losses, as you may well remember. But amidst all the geopolitical absurdities and tragedies was a local loss that left the Springs’ small but mighty scene of artists, queers and progressives without what had become a downtown hub of creative activity.

After three years in business, Mountain Fold Books closed in November with an estate sale to off-load all its unique furnishings and bid adieu to loyal customers. But its emptied Costilla Street location will remain that way no longer, as the artisan promoting Colorado Collective prepares to move in.


Founder Mundi Ross announced the new venture via a Facebook video. “You’re looking at the future of COCO Crafted,” she says, gesturing at blank walls behind her. Ross explains the storefront will become a craft studio for the “makers” featured in Colorado Collective’s high gloss quarterly magazine to make and sell whatever it is they make. Facilities will include woodworking and jewelry making tools, Ross says, and a small kitchenette. Also expect skill-shares and other events for and about the city’s growing community of creative entrepreneurs.



“Now, I know for many the Mountain Fold space brought hope. It was a sanctuary; it was safe haven for many,” Ross noted. “I can’t be another Mountain Fold, but I’m really excited about what I’m about to bring to this space.”


COCO Crafted will join other buzzy businesses in that downtown nook termed the "New South End," with the likes of Loyal Coffee, Iron Bird Brewing and Fox & Jane Salon that bring that Springs closer to resembling bigger, hipper and pricier cities that attract and retain more young people.

That kind of development is precious to the Downtown Partnership, which touted 2016 as a record-setting year for street-level business growth.

The New South End is sticking with the arts. - GRIFFIN SWARTZEL
  • Griffin Swartzel
  • The New South End is sticking with the arts.


“We are seeing tremendous growth in our urban core,” says Sarah Humbargar, Director of Business Development & Economic Vitality for the Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs, in a press release.

23 new retailers, restaurants and other businesses opened up in 2016 and so far, 12 new ones are poised to do so in 2017. There’s a retail vacancy of less than four percent downtown, according Humbargar, who also emphasized new apartment and condo construction that’ll add much needed (though questionably affordable) housing inventory.


The Partnership's release also highlighted some notable newcomers to the downtown culinary scene, including Chef Brother Luck, who’ll open a new restaurant in the spring, and Oskar Blues brewery which will soon move into the Old Chicago building on Tejon Street.


So, if you spent 2016 wishing you had more opportunities to spend money, 2017 is about to provide.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

TheatreWorks founder Murray Ross remembered

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 5:10 PM

Our local theater community suffered a hard blow this afternoon when it was announced that Murray Ross (74), artistic director and founder of TheatreWorks, had passed away following a “short illness,” according to a release from UCCS chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak.

click image Ross (right) accepted his Eve Tilley Lifetime Achievement Award at last October's Pikes Peak Arts Council awards. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL / FILE PHOTO
  • Griffin Swartzell / File Photo
  • Ross (right) accepted his Eve Tilley Lifetime Achievement Award at last October's Pikes Peak Arts Council awards.

Following the news, friends, family and members of the community took to Facebook to share their experiences with Ross and express their condolences to his family. In between recurring words like “remarkable” and “visionary,” and stories recalling some of the 100-plus productions with which he was involved, it’s clear to see the effect that Ross has had on this community since starting TheatreWorks in 1975.

Drew Martorella, Executive Director of UCCS Presents and longtime friend of Ross', posted on TheatreWorks Facebook Page, "I have known and worked with Murray for over twenty years. And while I was the Executive Director of TheatreWorks we were essential to each other. We were best friends. I already miss him terribly. Once more, to quote Murray, 'In play we are free, and we are human, and in the theatre we are free and human together. We wish you joy.' I share his wish for joy for you all."

Here is what UCCS has to say about Ross and his accomplishments. Out of respect to his family’s wishes, the language is unchanged.

Murray joined UCCS in 1975 and is considered the founder of Theatreworks, the professional theater based at the university, as well as the academic theater program at the university. He produced classic and contemporary plays in classrooms, buses, warehouses, basements and the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater. Among his credits are directing, adapting and creating more than 100 works for the stage including the original scripts "Monkey Business," "The Last Night of Don Juan," "The Lady of Camellias," "Dar-al-Harb" and "I Am Nikola Tesla." He also wrote stage adaptations of classics such as "Huckleberry Finn" and "A Christmas Carol." His most recent adaption of "A Christmas Carol" was successfully staged this December. His first love and greatest passion was always Shakespeare, and his 1984 production of “The Comedy of Errors” in a circus tent started a tradition of outdoor summer productions that continues to anchor the Theatreworks season today. In 1988, noted scholar Stephen Booth wrote in Shakespeare Quarterly that Murray’s summer production was “The Best Othello I Ever Saw.”

Theatreworks received a Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts in 1994, a Henary Award for Oustanding Regional Theatre in 2013 as well as numerous local accolades. The program celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015, the same year UCCS marked the 50th anniversary of its founding. Murray directed four plays in 2016, and during his recent days in the hospital Murray was making active preparations for his next production.

In addition to his work with Theatreworks, Murray was a respected teacher and scholar. He taught theater as well as English literature. Murray and his wife, Betty, were fixtures of the Colorado Springs arts community. They were ardent supporters of the arts and the development of the under construction $70 million UCCS Ent Center for the Arts which contains a space named in their honor.

Murray worked with thousands of students, artists, actors and staff and left an impression on each. He was funny, smart, a bit of an anarchist and a great lover of life. Adventures, storytelling and spirited debate filled his life.

Murray earned a bachelor's degree from Williams College, a master's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and also pursued doctoral studies at UC Berkeley, where he began directing. He served in the National Guard from 1963-1969, and taught and directed at the University of Rochester before joining UCCS.

Survivors include his wife, Betty, his sisters Susanna, Christina and Kit, and his sons Felix, James, Orion and Matthew.

Please join me in offering condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Murray Ross. Notes may be sent to the family in care of the Office of the Chancellor, 401 Main Hall. At the request of the family, donations can be made to the Murray Ross Artists Endowment Fund with the CU Foundation.

There will be a campus memorial service Thursday, Jan. 19 at 5:30 p.m. at the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater in University Hall. Those who wish to make a donation in his honor may contribute to the Murray Ross Artists Endowment Fund with the CU Foundation.

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Colorado Springs city election gets under way

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

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

Deadline for filing is Jan. 23.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Update: Tim Mitros leaves his city job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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