Local News

Friday, August 19, 2016

911 Authority eyes 171 percent rate hike

Posted By on Fri, Aug 19, 2016 at 12:02 PM

When you get your phone bill, do you notice the 70 cent charge for 911 service? Probably not.

But you might notice if the charge is $1.90 a month. That's what the El Paso County-Teller County 911 Authority board wants to levy under a proposal soon to be submitted to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

Read all about that in our report here, in which we break the story about the pending rate increase.

Here are five things you probably don't know about the local 911 Authority:

• Its 70-cent fee raises $6.3 million a year. If the rate hike is approved, that amount will exceed $17 million a year.
• It overspent revenue in 2015, due to transferring nearly $3 million to local agencies to supplement their call-center expenses.
• The state law governing 911 charges limits spending to ""equipment costs, the installation costs, and the directly-related costs of the continued operation of an emergency telephone service..." The board has interpreted this as allowing salaries of call takers to be funded with 911 revenue. Doing that frees up money for agencies to spend however they like.
• The board members of the 911 authority are: Michael Dalton, Pat Rigdon, Vince Niski, Dave Rose, Robert McDonald, John Gomes, Robert Weller, Chris Truty, Ron Reeves.
• The current rate is comparable to many counties in the state. See a rundown of all counties' charges by going to this link.

Read the El Paso-Teller 911 Authority's 2015 annual report here:
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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Clinton taps Salazar to chair transition

Posted By on Tue, Aug 16, 2016 at 10:53 AM

Former U.S. Sen. and Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar has been tapped by the Hillary 
Salazar tapped to segue to a Clinton administration. - U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Salazar tapped to segue to a Clinton administration.
Clinton presidential campaign to chair her transition team, The Denver Post reported. Salazar is former Secretary of the Department of the Interior.

From that story:
“Once Hillary Clinton makes history by being elected as the nation’s first woman President, we want to have a turnkey operation in place so she can hit the ground running right away,” Salazar said in a statement released Tuesday by the Clinton campaign.
Republican nominee Donald Trump has chosen New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to head his transition team.

In related news, The Post also reported that Trump added to his campaign team in Colorado, which includes Dylan Sparks in El Paso County. Sparks reportedly just finished high school and is starting his first semester this fall at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. His Facebook page says he worked on campaigns for Colorado lawmakers Larry Liston and Lois Landgraf and also was part of John Suthers "campaign staff" when he ran and was elected Colorado Springs mayor.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Long-time firefighter chosen as chief

Posted By on Fri, Aug 12, 2016 at 1:17 PM

  • Ted Collas
Long-time Colorado Springs firefighter Ted Collas has been chosen as fire chief. If he's confirmed by City Council next month, he'll replace Christopher Riley, who left under a severance agreement in March. Collas is currently interim chief.
The city's news release:
Mayor John Suthers announced today his appointment of Acting Colorado Springs Fire Chief Ted Collas as the new Fire Chief, pending confirmation by City Council at the Sept. 27 Regular Council Session. Chief Collas has served in the Colorado Springs Fire Department since 1985 and has been the Acting Chief since March 2016.

“Ted’s 31 years with the Colorado Springs Fire Department, combined with his extensive leadership, training and operational experience will serve as a vital asset to our community,” said Mayor Suthers. ”I am pleased with the hiring process and the level of nationwide interest in the position. However, after interviewing the other candidates it was clear that Chief Collas was the best choice to move our fire department forward.”

Chief Collas will earn $160,235 annually and will oversee a department of 482 sworn and civilian positions and 22 fire stations. Over the past 31 years he has served in the department's ​Operations Division, Training Division, and the Medical Division. Collas holds an associate degree in Fire Science, a bachelor's degree in Management, and a master's Degree in Organizational Leadership.

A nationwide search was conducted and 45 candidates applied. After a telephone interview process, seven candidates were selected for formal interviews by several groups, including fire department personnel. The mayor and two City Council members interviewed three finalists, from which Collas was selected.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

UCH comments on disinfection procedures

Posted By on Wed, Aug 10, 2016 at 10:41 AM

Memorial Hospital is accused of violating protocols in handling medical devices. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Memorial Hospital is accused of violating protocols in handling medical devices.
In Wednesday's edition of the Independent, we published a story about a lawsuit filed against the University of Colorado Health by a former worker, who contends she was fired after calling attention to a patient safety issue.

We'd reached out to UCH for a comment on Monday afternoon but didn't get a statement until the Indy went to press.

Here's that statement:
Patient care and safety are top priorities for Memorial Hospital.

Memorial regularly works closely with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to ensure that we provide the very best and safest care for our patients.

Earlier this year, the CDPHE conducted a survey and found that certain steps in a complex cleaning process for a type of ultrasound device were not always being followed or properly documented. While we are not aware of any infections associated with the devices or any patients who have been impacted, Memorial Hospital immediately retrained staff members and put in place new processes to ensure the devices were being properly cleaned.

Memorial Hospital teaches disinfection procedures in new employee orientations, through regular employee education and through rounding and direct observation by supervisors and hospital executives. UCHealth also has a system-wide committee specifically dedicated to high-level disinfection processes.

The hospital urges employees to “Speak up for Safety”, to coach coworkers on best practices, and to anonymously report any concerns so all issues can be quickly investigated and corrected. In addition, Memorial Hospital has a dedicated team of infection prevention experts whose sole job is to ensure the safest possible environment for our patients.

We cannot comment on personnel issues or potential litigation.

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New details about Trump's elevator escapade

Posted By on Wed, Aug 10, 2016 at 10:40 AM

  • a katz / Shutterstock.com
Much has been made of Donald Trump's visit to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs last month. Now, Denver7 news has dug deeper and found some interesting backstory on the stuck elevator issue, as well as Trump's blaming the Springs fire marshal for not letting more people into his rally.
Fire Marshal Brett Lacey - COURTESY CSFD
  • Courtesy CSFD
  • Fire Marshal Brett Lacey
Read the story here.

Meantime, we asked U.S. Senate candidate El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn what he thinks of the latest statement by Trump regarding 2nd Amendment supporters at a rally yesterday. Referring to Hillary Clinton's nomination of Supreme Court justices should she be elected, he said, "Nothing you can do folks, although the 2nd Amendment folks, maybe there is...I don't know."

The comment has been interpreted by some as a call to violence against the Democratic nominee. Others have argued Trump's opponents are spinning the statement wrongly.

The state Democratic Party had this to say in a news release:
“What does Donald Trump have to say or do to lose Darryl Glenn’s support?” said Chris Meagher, spokesman for the Colorado Democratic Party. “It wasn’t enough to make fun of a disabled reporter. It wasn’t enough to suggest that Mexicans were criminals and rapists. It wasn’t enough to say he would close off our country to entire religions. And it wasn’t enough to insult a Gold Star family. Now he has suggested that perhaps gun violence against his opponent would be an appropriate response to losing this election.

“Donald Trump is running for President. His latest comments are inappropriate and show once again is unfit to lead our country. The response by Darryl Glenn, who refuses to stand up to Trump’s dangerous rhetoric any more than the occasional slap on the wrist, is just as appalling. It's time for Darryl Glenn to show leadership and stand up against this hateful, dangerous rhetoric.”
We sent the Glenn campaign an email yesterday seeking a comment and haven't heard back. We'll update if and when we hear something.

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Monday, August 1, 2016

Peace group plans atomic bomb protest

Posted By on Mon, Aug 1, 2016 at 11:36 AM

  • Clyde Robinson
A group of local residents will mark the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 71 years ago with demonstration outside Peterson Air Force Base from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. on Friday.

Citizens for Peace in Space is sponsoring the commemoration of the victims of the bombings, which claimed an estimated 129,000 people.

The group is calling for the removal of 49 hydrogen bombs that are on 24/7 alert in Colorado. The Minuteman III ICBMs are part of thousands of nuclear bombs in the United States arsenal, the group says, noting each bomb is up to 20 times as powerful as those dropped on Japan to end World War II.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Trump event at UCCS stirs controversy

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 2:14 PM

click image GAGE SKIDMORE
  • Gage Skidmore
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will speak at 2 p.m. Friday at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' Gallogly Event Center.

Not everyone is happy about it.

In a letter released to the public, Chancellor Pam Shockley- Zalaback noted that, "Many faculty, staff, and students have expressed disappointment and anger at Mr. Trump's appearance on our campus." 

 It should be noted that UCCS, as a public university, cannot refuse to host a political event on the basis of preference for (or distaste for) a candidate. But many faculty at the university have signed on to a protest letter in advance of Trump's event. Both the faculty protest letter and a letter from the Chancellor explaining the decision to host the event are posted below after the jump:

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

UPDATE: Ranch Foods Direct beef recalled for possible E. Coli

Posted By on Wed, Jul 27, 2016 at 11:29 AM

We spoke with Dave Anderson, Ranch Foods Direct manager, about the recall over the phone. Anderson stressed that the recall is the result of a single customer getting sick following eating raw ground beef. Ranch Foods, he says, always recommends that customers follow basic food safety precautions — like cooking beef to 160° F before you eat it. 

“In our view," he says, "microorganisms are inherent in all meat products, so it’s very difficult to be 100 percent sure.”

That's why you cook meat, he says.

He added, “This is a single instance. The initial test on the sample did not disclose the contamination and it had to go through the state, through the USDA and — I understand — through the Center for Disease Control to register the contamination. So it’s a trace amount.”

Anderson sent along Ranch Foods' own advisory following the recall:


——- ORIGINAL POST, TODAY, 11:29 A.M. ——-
  • Carnivore Locavore

Ranch Foods Direct
is recalling many "non-intact beef products" after the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service found that they may be contaminated with E. Coli.

The questionable products were produced on June 6, 7, and 8, 2016. Food Safety found that one person was sickened, possibly from the beef, and that the beef in question was adulterated with E. Coli. The meat products affected by this recall should not be eaten, and should either be returned or thrown away.

Ranch Foods Direct, owned by rancher Mike Callicrate, has been hit hard by recalls lately. This, however, is the most serious infraction. The Independent attempted to reach Callicrate, or manager Dave Anderson, but was not immediately successful. However, we did leave a message for Anderson and will update this blog if and when he returns the call.

Recall Release
Congressional and Public Affairs


WASHINGTON, JULY 26, 2016 – Good Food Concepts, LLC, doing business as Ranch Foods Direct, a Colorado Springs, Colo. establishment, is recalling approximately 2,606 pounds of non-intact beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The non-intact beef items were produced on June 6, 7, and 8, 2016. The following products are subject to recall:

• Packages containing “Callicrate Beef Ground Beef: Beef 4-1 Ground Beef Patties 15# case.”

• Packages containing “Callicrate Beef Ground Beef: Beef 4-1 Ground Beef Patties 5# box.”

• Packages containing “Callicrate Beef Ground Beef: Beef 3-1 Ground Beef Patties 5# box.”

• Packages containing “Callicrate Beef Ground Beef: Beef 2-1 Ground Beef Patties 15# case.”

• 1-lb. packages containing “Callicrate Beef Ground Beef: Beef Ground Beef 85% 1#.”

• 1-lb. packages containing “Callicrate Beef Ground Beef: Beef Ground Beef 80% 1#.”

• 1-lb. packages containing “Callicrate Beef Ground Beef: Beef Ground Beef Sirloin 90% 1#.”

• Packages containing “Callicrate Beef Ground Beef: Beef Ground Beef 85/15 1# x 20 Bundle.”

• Packages containing “Callicrate WAGYU Beef Ground Beef: WAGYU Ground Beef 1#.”

• 1-lb. packages containing “Beef Stew Meat Tenderized.”

• Packages containing “Ranch Foods Direct Ground Beef 85/15.”

• Packages containing “Ranch Foods Direct Ground Beef 80/20.”

• Packages containing “Ranch Foods Direct Ground Chuck.”

• Packages containing “Ranch Foods Direct 80% Lean 20% Fat 3/1 Patties NET WT. 15#.”

• Packages containing “Ranch Foods Direct 80% Lean 20% Fat 2/1 Patties 7 OZ NET WT. 15#.”

• Packages containing “Ranch Foods Direct 80% Lean 20% Fat 3/1 Patties NET WT. 5.0#.”

• Packages containing “Ranch Foods Direct 80% Lean 20% Fat 4/1 Patties NET WT. 15#.”

• Packages containing “Ranch Foods Direct 80% Lean 20% Fat 2/1 Patties NET WT. 15#.”

• Packages containing “Ranch Foods Direct 80% Lean 20% Fat 6/1 Patties NET WT. 15#.”

• Packages containing “Ranch Foods Direct Ground Beef (73/27).”

• Packages containing “Ranch Foods Direct Ground Tenderloin.”

• Products identified as “Cowpool D 1/4.”

• Products identified as “Cowpool A 1/8.”

• Packages containing “Chef’s Bundle: 4-Skirt Steak, 6- NY Strips, 6-Top Sirloin, 3-Chuck Roast, 2-Cube Steak, 15-Ground Beef 80% Lean 20% Fat.”

• Packages containing “Colorado Bundle: 4-Skirts Steaks, 4-Chuck Eye Steaks, 4-Top Sirloin, 2-Chuck Roast, 15-Ground Beef 80% Lean 20% Fat.”

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 27316” inside the USDA mark of inspection and “PACKED ON” dates of June 6, 7, and 8, 2016. These items were shipped to wholesale and retail locations in Colorado.

FSIS was notified of an E. coli O157:H7 illness possibly associated with ground beef consumption on July 14, 2016. Working in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the El Paso County Public Health Department, FSIS determined that there is a possible link between the ground beef products from Ranch Foods Direct and this illness. Based on epidemiological investigation, one case-patient has been identified in Colorado with an illness onset date of June 12, 2016. FSIS confirmed ground beef products originating from Ranch Foods Direct were adulterated with E. coli O157:H7 on July 25, 2016 through laboratory testing and traceback investigation. FSIS continues to work with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the El Paso County Public Health Department on this investigation and provides updated information as it becomes available.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps 1–10 days (3–4 days, on average) after exposure the organism. While most people recover within a week, some develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This condition can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children under 5-years old and older adults. It is marked by easy bruising, pallor, and decreased urine output. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.

FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers' freezers.

Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

FSIS advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume ground beef that has been cooked to a temperature of 160° F. The only way to confirm that ground beef is cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature, http://1.usa.gov/1cDxcDQ.

Media and consumers with questions regarding the recall can contact Dave Anderson, Manager, at (719) 574-0750 x 241.

Consumers with food safety questions can "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov or via smartphone at m.askkaren.gov. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day. The online Electronic Consumer Complaint Monitoring System can be accessed 24 hours a day at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/reportproblem.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Independence Center celebrates ADA anniversary

Posted By on Tue, Jul 26, 2016 at 3:53 PM

Mayor John Suthers presented the People's Choice Drivers' Awards - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS / KIM MELCHOR
  • City of Colorado Springs / Kim Melchor
  • Mayor John Suthers presented the People's Choice Drivers' Awards

Tuesday marked the 26th anniversary of the day President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act, the crowning achievement of a civil rights movement that is still in progress.

The Independence Center held a luncheon to celebrate the anniversary at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Colorado Springs. Speakers highlighted the importance of public transit to those with disabilities and the larger community.

Keynote speaker Marilyn Golden, a senior policy analyst at the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, spoke at length about the struggle to make public buses accessible to those who use wheelchairs. Golden is an expert on the law, and was closely involved in its proposal and passage, as well as with the continuing battle to see it implemented.

Golden noted that before people with disabilities were protected by the law, a disability was seen as the responsibility of the person with the disability. It was only through direct action like sit-ins (including one that lasted 28 days) and people who use wheelchairs physically blocking buses (sometimes leading to arrest), that our current system came to be.

Golden pointed out that before buses became accessible, people with disabilities weren't just confined to the back of the bus, as African-Americans were before their own civil rights movement. A person who used a wheelchair couldn't even get on a bus.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers also took the stage at the luncheon. He outlined the millions of dollars that have been reinvested in the transit system since he took office, expanding routes and increasing frequency of buses on key routes. He also noted that the passage of 2C last year, which pumped more money into city road repairs, is also being spent on concrete repairs that improve access for people with disabilities. Because concrete must be in good shape to protect new roads, and because the ADA requires that roads and sidewalks be made accessible if roads are improved, 45 percent of 2C dollars go to concrete repairs, like sidewalks and ramps.

"Colorado Springs is making headway in our goal to make our city fully accessible," he told the crowd.

Suthers also handed out awards to bus drivers that were voted the best in their field by riders. The People's Choice Drivers' Award recipients were: Robert Bailey (Metro Mobility), Ricky Brooks (Mountain Metropolitan Transit), Charles Jennings (Mountain Metropolitan Transit), Gary Maestas (Mountain Metropolitan Transit), Wayne Peacock (Fountain Valley Senior Services), Ray Schwartz (Community Intersections), Melvin Smith (Amblicab), and Jack Souders (Silver Key Senior Services).
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UPDATE: Recount of District 4 race completed. Results unchanged.

Posted By on Tue, Jul 26, 2016 at 2:44 PM

The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office has completed the recount paid for by the campaign of El Paso County Board of County Commissioners District 4 candidate Scott Turner. The results of the race remained unchanged, meaning Turner lost the race by 34 votes.

In a press release, Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman said he was proud that the results held.

“We’re always happy to complete our work on behalf of our citizens, and the recount requested by Mr. Turner is no different,” he stated. “It’s important for voters to have confidence in election results, especially in close races. I’m proud of the work my staff did in completing this recount—including a retesting of the counting machines to ensure accuracy—a day and a half earlier than allotted by law.”

Turner, likewise, emailed a press release about the results, stating:

I would like to thank the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s office for their time and effort in validating the primary election results. They hold themselves to the highest standards and perform with efficiency and professionalism.

I would like to formally congratulate Mr. Gonzalez on his primary victory and wish him good fortune in the general election. I’m sure he will serve the people of our district well.

——- ORIGINAL POST, JULY 19, 2:15 P.M. ——-
Scott Turner - FILE
  • FILE
  • Scott Turner

El Paso County Board of County Commissioners
District 4 candidate Scott Turner will pay for  a recount of the Republican primary election votes in his race, the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office has announced.

Turner lost the race to Longinos Gonzalez Jr. by just 34 votes. An automatic recount would have been triggered only if the difference in vote totals had been 18 or fewer votes. Because an automatic recount was not triggered, Turner will pay for the cost of the recount.
Longinos Gonzalez - FILE
  • FILE
  • Longinos Gonzalez
"We were very close to just walking away from it," Turner says over the phone. 

The candidate says he discussed pursuing a recount with family, friends and supporters. He says he's received many phone calls urging him to pursue the recount. While he believes that the clerk's office is very capable, he says the count was so close that it "seemed like a recount was appropriate."

 "I didn't want to go to sleep for the rest of my life thinking I coulda, woulda, shoulda," Turner says.
A friend offered to foot the bill for the recount, and Turner agreed. Turner says if he is not the victor after the recount, he will likely focus his energy on supporting other candidates, including Republican U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn

Here is the release from the clerk's office:
Clerk to Conduct Candidate Requested Recount for County Commissioner District 4

[Colorado Springs, Colo. – July 19, 2016] The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office has received a formal request from candidate Scott Turner to recount the ballots for the County Commissioner District 4 race in the Republican Party Primary Election. The final results for this race did not meet the threshold set in Colorado law to trigger an automatic recount. The cost to conduct the recount will not be at taxpayers’ expense, therefore, but will be paid by the candidate who requested the recount.

The final official election results as certified by the bipartisan Canvass Board show 34 votes separating the two candidates for the Commissioner District 4 race. That vote margin is nearly twice the amount required by statute (C.R.S. 1-10.5-106) for an automatic recount in that race, which would have been 18 votes.

“This request for a paid recount by a candidate is the first in our recent institutional memory,” said Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman. “Our Elections staff will conduct the recount for the candidate, with their skilled expertise and resolve.”

The machines used for the election processing will be tested again prior to conducting the recount. The election equipment undergoes extensive testing before and after every election and passes with 100% accuracy.

After the equipment testing is complete, the ballot recount will begin on Friday, July 22, and should be concluded within a few days. It is not anticipated that the recount will change the results.

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Springs shows up for racial justice, answering national call-to-action

Posted By on Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 12:48 PM


“I never thought it’d be someone I know,” said Myecha Taylor, holding a #JusticeForJesse sign outside the Pioneers’ Museum during a public demonstration Thursday. That hashtag refers to her late friend Jesse Garcia, a 23-year-old Hispanic man from Colorado Springs, who was fatally shot in what she says was a racially tinged altercation on July 16. Friends and family know exactly who did it, according to Taylor, though no arrests have been made.

“[The killer] should be in jail right now but instead he’s walking free,” she told the Indy. “But I’d still be here even if he didn’t pass. This is a beautiful thing.”

Gathered alongside Taylor were over a hundred others, there for an action to “end white silence” in the escalating struggle for racial justice. It was organized by the newly formed local chapter of SURJ — or, Showing Up For Racial Justice — a national network of activists that calls on white people to mobilize in support of the movement for Black lives.

Actions with varying degrees of agitation went down in cities across the country on Wednesday and Thursday, including up the Front Range where the Denver SURJ chapter blocked the entrance of the downtown police station with a massive fluorescent orange sign blaring "Under Construction Until Black Lives Matter."

Four arrests there contrast the non-confrontational and family friendly vibe of the Springs action. 

“When you think about why there’s not a centralized Black Lives Matter in Colorado Springs, it kind of makes sense,” said Naomi Wood, Colorado College professor and COS SURJ co-founder. “There’s a real fear of what the white supremacists will do. But that’s why it’s really important we make our presence known.”

The demonstration, though windy and thunderous at times, remained wholly peaceful. Protesters migrated from the sidewalk in front of the Pioneers’ Museum to the one outside the courthouse across the street, chanting phrases like “white silence equals violence!” and “black lives matter!”

Springs shows up for racial justice, answering national call-to-action
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Springs shows up for racial justice, answering national call-to-action

By Nat Stein

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A private security guard contracted by the Downtown Partnership stood just off the curb, head on a swivel and hand on her belt. “It’s not [the protesters] we’re worried about,” she told the Indy, requesting anonymity. “It’s all the cars. You know how it is these days, people like to shoot.”

CSPD spokesman Lt. Howard Black said police did have their "eyes on it," but "are all about people being able to express their opinions peacefully." 

One counter-protester was in the midst, but caused no trouble. Holding a sign that read “Unity,” 61-year-old Rob Blancken paced further away from the assembled crowd, insisting he was not a part of them. “Black Lives Matter is just ginning up hatred between the races,” he told the Indy, pointing to the other side of his sign emblazoned with the counter-slogan “All Lives Matter.” “You see, I’m here to convince them that what they believe in is actually bigoted.”

Throughout the rest of the crowd, though, the mood was overwhelmingly positive and hopeful.

26-year-old Josh Rumple, a white man, was just waiting for an opportunity to get involved. “My friend told me about this yesterday and I was like, ‘finally,’” he said. “This is a dialog that needs to happen and needs to continue.”

19-year-old DJ Banks, a black man, agrees: “All the people in my circles will be so down for this.”

Wood emphasizes that COS SURJ exists to create space for and take cues from organizations led by people of color. Anyone wanting to engage is welcome to attend the group’s next meeting at Mountain Fold Books this Sunday, July 24th, at 3 p.m.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Broadmoor makes move on city reservoir

Posted By on Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 12:16 PM

The Ranch at Emerald Valley has only small lakes, and Anschutz reportedly is in the market for a big one. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The Ranch at Emerald Valley has only small lakes, and Anschutz reportedly is in the market for a big one.
News of secret dealings between the city's Colorado Springs Utilities and The Broadmoor to sell the Rosemont Reservoir to the resort broke Thursday in the Colorado Springs Business Journal.

As noted in that story and a companion editorial, the deal emerges just two months after City Council approved the trade of the city's Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor — an issue that drew persistent protests from hundreds of citizens.

The Business Journal also notes the negotiations, about which nobody is revealing anything, come after the late April activation of the Southern Delivery System, which cost ratepayers nearly $1 billion and spanned decades. It's a project Utilities claims will keep the Springs supplied with water until 2042.

Word on the street among real-estate circles is that The Broadmoor's owner, billionaire Philip Anschutz, is in the market to buy land within an hour's drive of the resort for a fishing and hunting getaway. Perhaps Rosemont Reservoir is the centerpiece of such a new retreat.

Although the resort's Ranch at Emerald Valley and Cloud Camp have been opened since Anschutz bought The Broadmoor in 2011, neither has a large lake like at Rosemont. 

In any event, the Business Journal notes the city has spent more than 100 years amassing the water rights it owns in a city that's not located on any major waterway. During that time, the city has sold exactly none of its water rights.

We're working on getting more information on the city's water rights situation and will bring you a story in the July 27 edition.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Urban Peak breakfast hosts 900 people

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2016 at 2:15 PM

A huge crowd gathered for the Off the Street breakfast. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • A huge crowd gathered for the Off the Street breakfast.

Urban Peak's Off the Street Community Breakfast drew approximately 900 people Wednesday morning. The crowd gathered to support the nonprofit's mission of ending youth homelessness in Colorado Springs.

The annual breakfast is held under the Colorado Avenue bridge downtown, a setting not unlike those that many of the area's less fortunate residents call home. Event-goers were treated to a breakfast provided by Picnic Basket Catering and a moving program, including a video about a young person who was helped off the streets by Urban Peak, and two performances from the Hear Here Youth Poetry Slam Team.

Urban Peak executive director Shawna Kemppainen told the crowd that money raised at the breakfast would help the organization expand its programming for homeless youth, like health care, a shelter, educational services and outreach. While the nonprofit works with nearly 600 youth in a year, she says it only reaches about 20 percent of the youth who need it. Ultimately, she says, she wants to get to a point where no young person is ever turned away from Urban Peak's doors, and instead each person is put in the appropriate programs within 24 hours.

"In an ideal world," she said, "we would expand every program that we have Monday." 

In the meantime, she said, every dollar earned at the breakfast will go directly to programs to help homeless youth who face steep challenges. For instance, according to Urban Peak, 20 to 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ. Twenty to 30 percent of female homeless youth are pregnant. And 45 percent of the homeless youth that Urban Peak serves identify as having a mental illness.

One of the most moving parts of the program was the speech given by 18-year-old Jorge, who spoke of how he escaped an abusive home and a dysfunctional safety net in Indiana and came to Colorado Springs. Here, Urban Peak's outreach workers provided him with needed necessities and encouragement that he had never experienced before, giving him confidence to get his life back together.

"Urban Peak taught me I should stop doing it for everybody else and just do it for me," he said, choking back tears.

Jorge told the crowd that he now has a full-time job and is about to sign a lease on his first apartment. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Other presenters included Greg Morris, executive director of Ascending to Health Respite Care, who has worked with Urban Peak for decades. He said that a homeless person can expect to die 30 years before his or her housed peers, meaning that many of the youth that Urban Peak helps could be halfway through their lives if they don't find a way off the streets.

Another presenter, John Spears, executive director of Pikes Peak Library District, told the crowd that struggled to tell his family he was gay when he was a young man, which led to 20 years of substance abuse. His life, he told the crowd, "had many dark chapters." It was only because of the support of friends and family that he didn't end up on the streets.

Because of that, Spears says he's very drawn to helping the struggling youth of today, who need support so that they can leave their own dark chapters behind and go on to "write the story that they were meant to." 

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City unveils plan to prevent flooding

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2016 at 1:22 PM

Key Elements of MS4 Program Improvement
  • Key Elements of MS4 Program Improvement
Facing possible sanctions from the Environmental Protection Agency, the city has compiled a draft Stormwater Program Improvement Plan that's "designed to dramatically improve the city’s infrastructure and meet federal requirements," the city said in a release.

"Today the City of Colorado Springs has released a draft Stormwater Improvement Plan. This is significant for our stormwater program, our citizens, and our City. The draft Stormwater Program Improvement Plan reflects strong leadership by the Mayor and City Council. We began this effort last fall and we reached a preliminary draft in January. Today’s release includes updates through July 2016," City Public Works Director Travis Easton said in a statement.

The city encourages the public to comment on the plan in the next 60 days. To do so contact Richard Mulledy, the City’s Stormwater Division Manager at rmulledy@springsgov.com or by mail to: Richard Mulledy, Stormwater Division Manager, City of Colorado Springs, 30 S. Nevada Avenue, Suite 401, Colorado Springs, CO 80901.

The plan also is designed to guide the city's and Colorado Springs Utilities' spending of $460 million over 20 years starting this year to improve the city's drainage system.

Blaming much of the problem on the citizens' call to defund the Stormwater Enterprise in 2009, Mayor John Suthers said the task of controlling flooding isn't an option. "It is something that we must do to protect our waterways, serve our downstream neighbors, and meet the legal requirements of a federal permit.”

The MS4 program, the federal permit for discharge of stormwater into waterways, is addressed starting on Page 13 of the report:
The City’s review found opportunities to improve the components of its MS4 Program by enhancing training, tightening enforcement, improving documentation, expanding maintenance, and addressing other specific program needs. Based on its review, the City will implement the following key improvements to its MS4 Program (see Figure 4-1):
• A Stormwater Management Plan will be prepared to describe the strategies, activities, BMPs, and resources used to address the MS4 permit requirements.
• Inspections of construction sites, industrial sites, municipal operations facilities, public BMPs, and waterways will be more rigorous and performed by dedicated stormwater inspectors who will receive frequent training.
• Enforcement actions will be more vigorously pursued as appropriate, and supported by the City Attorney’s Office and City leaders.
• Documentation and record-keeping will be improved.
• Stormwater Division staff will train City and CSU field personnel to observe and report potential illicit discharges.
• Maintenance issues in the City’s waterways will be identified and prioritized annually.
• Development reviews for permanent water quality BMPs will be more rigorous and final approvals will not be granted without an executed maintenance agreement.
• Development review staff will be provided with needed training to ensure compliance with City standards and criteria.
• Methods for citizens to report potential illicit discharges will be improved.
• Public education and outreach activities will be expanded and focus on improving the public’s support for the overall stormwater management program.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

171 firefighters, 11 engines assigned to Hayden Pass Fire

Posted By on Tue, Jul 12, 2016 at 10:52 AM

It's unclear if this high-tech firefighting aircraft has played a role in the Hayden Pass fire.
  • It's unclear if this high-tech firefighting aircraft has played a role in the Hayden Pass fire.
The Hayden Pass Fire has grown to more than 12,000 acres and a Type 2 firefighting team was assigned to take over management of the fire this morning at 6 a.m. Type 2 is the next step down from Type 1, which is the label for the nation's most elite and well-equipped firefighting groups.

The fire has fewer than 200 firefighters assigned as of Tuesday morning.

The national incident management website gives this description of the fire, which is believed to have started last Friday from a lightning strike about 20 miles southeast of Salida.

The Hayden Pass Fire continues to grow as the fire was active throughout the night. New estimates put the fire at 7,500 acres.
The Hayden Pass Fire, located 3 miles southwest of Coaldale, Colorado; started as a lightning strike on July 8th. Fire crews searched for smoke over the weekend but were unable to pin point its location in the rugged terrain of the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. Smoke from this fire reappeared on Sunday, July 10th, just after 2:00 p.m.; by 10:00 p.m. the fire had grown to over 5,000 acres. Strong winds, dry conditions and the large volume of dead woody debris in the area contributed to this rapid growth.
A Type 2 incident management team, Rocky Mountain Incident Management Blue Team, will assume command of this fire at 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 12th. The incident commander for this team is Jay Esperance.
Esperance is fresh off the Beaver Creek fire of last month, as reported by the U.S. Forest Service.

If you want to see how this fire compares to others currently burning in the west, check out this chart.

In this report, you'll find the resources assigned to the fire, which hasn't been reported in detail so far. This report shows 171 firefighters are battling the Hayden Pass Fire, with 11 engines and three helicopters assigned.

Officials describe the fire this way: "Extreme fire behavior with crowning, running and spotting. Structures threatened. Evacuations, road, area and trail closures in effect."

The Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center — which covers five states — has the most firefighters assigned of any area in the country at the moment, according to this report. It also has the most engines, as you can see from this chart.


As a footnote, there's been no mention so far about what, if any, role is being played by the state's new firefighting aircraft in the Hayden Pass Fire. ("A lofty proposal," Jan. 28, 2015) Colorado Springs vied as the base for the firefighting aircraft but lost out to Rifle

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