Local News

Monday, January 30, 2017

Pipeline protest draws hundreds in opposition to one of Trump's latest orders

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2017 at 6:38 PM

NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein


About 300 people gathered outside City Hall on Sunday to protest President Trump’s executive order to revive the stalled Keystone XL and Dakota Access (DAPL) pipelines.

His action wasn’t some final stamp of approval for DAPL, the hard-fought oil pipeline that, if built, would threaten the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s drinking water in violation of generations-old treaties. Rather, the document instructs the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for permitting the project, to “review and approve [remaining pipeline sections] in an expedited manner, to the extent permitted by law.”

NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein

But, the action certainly signals what observers have long assumed: that the Trump administration will be dogged where the Obama administration was sheepish in its approach to fossil fuel infrastructure projects. So this executive order comes as no surprise, especially given President Trump’s own private investment in DAPL, disregard toward climate science and overall disdain for anyone who dares challenge state-guarded corporate power.


Some such people heeded a call from Unite Colorado Springs to come hear speakers from various environmental and activist groups before setting off on a short march through downtown to show local opposition to the pipeline order.

NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein


“We are not going to let Trump steal these victories without a fight!” former state representative
Dennis Apuan of the Colorado Springs Council for Justice declared, referring to hard-won progress on energy policy and land conservation over the last eight years.

NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
Protesters carried a diverse array of messages about respecting indigenous rights, protecting the environment and resisting the new administration. Without a parade permit, marchers kept to the sidewalks, chanting slogans like, “Resist, rise up, keep the pipeline down!” and “the people, united, will never be divided!”

The Army is preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) relating to Dakota Access LLC’s request for an easement to build the pipeline under a contested section of the Missouri River near the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota. You can send your opinions to Mr. Gib Owen, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, 108 Army Pentagon, Washington, DC 20310-0108 or email them to gib.a.owen.civ@mail.mil until public comment closes on February 20.

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Council candidate bows out, handing race to opponent

Posted By on Thu, Jan 26, 2017 at 5:08 PM

cityelectionsbug-web_360.png
Attorney Tim Dietz has withdrawn from the Colorado Springs City Council race, citing his client work load and private considerations.

That means that another attorney, David Geislinger, who now serves as a chaplain in the Penrose-St. Francis Health System, is the only remaining candidate on the ballot for norther District 2. (Incumbent Larry Bagley decided against a run.)

Dietz issued this news release:
Press_Release_01-26-17.pdf He also tells the Indy in an interview, "I've talked with Dave [Geislinger]. I think he's a very nice guy. There's no animosity between the two of us. I don't know where he stands on the issues, but we've had some friendly conversations."

Calling the Council campaign "a full-time job," Dietz says he simply can't just drop his clients to stump for a part-time job on Council that pays a mere $6,250 a year.

Dietz says he's already informed the City Clerk's Office of his decision in time so that his name will not appear on the ballot.

Voters will elect six of the nine members of Council at the April 4 city election. Go here for a list of candidates. Want to learn more? Check out our article on the candidates from earlier this week.


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New professional cycling race coming to Colorado Springs

Posted By on Thu, Jan 26, 2017 at 11:13 AM

This summer, a new four-day cycling circuit called the Colorado Classic will kick off in Colorado Springs. The first stage will be held here, the second in Breckenridge and the final two in Denver. Each stage will start and end in the same location, so fans can catch many more than one glimpse of the cyclists. The route isn't yet finalized, but organizers suggest it'll include both downtown and more rugged roads. 

"Attracting this sort of high profile event is great news for Colorado Springs,"  said Mayor John Suthers in the announcement. "Along with the prestige of elite sport, the Classic will bring significant tourism dollars, thousands of visitors and positive national and international coverage for our beautiful city."

COLORADO SPRINGS SPORTS CORP
  • Colorado Springs Sports Corp
Colorado Springs Sports Corp is the organizing committee of the local stage. President and CEO Tom Osborne, says in the release that the Corp "is absolutely thrilled to be able to help bring back elite professional cycling to the state. We are honored that our city was awarded the first stage of this spectacular event."

The announcement comes as professional cycling struggles to get footing domestically. Past events like the USA Pro Challenge of course hoped to be sustainable in the long-run, but that particular race died after 2015's running, having launched in 2011.

More details about the Colorado Classic route, public participation opportunities and musical performances are forth-coming, but the dates are set on August 10-13. The race is being produced by RPM Events Group, with sponsors including USA Pro Cycling, the City of Colorado Springs, Nor'Wood Development, El Pomar Foundation, the Guadagnoli family and the Gazette.


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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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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
  • 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
  • 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.

Slideshow
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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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

CSPD bestows honors on its own and citizens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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