Local News

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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Friday, July 8, 2016

Longinos Gonzalez has won the District 4 primary

Posted By on Fri, Jul 8, 2016 at 10:03 AM

  • Courrtesy Longinos Gonzalez Jr.
  • Longinos Gonzalez Jr.
Longinos Gonzalez Jr. is the Republican nominee for the District 4 El Paso County Commissioner seat, according to the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office.

The announcement came Thursday, following a squeaker of a race in the June 28 primary. Final vote tallies show that Gonzalez prevailed over his rival, Scott Turner, 3,450 votes to 3,416 votes. The gap was too large to require an automatic recount. (The gap would have had to be 18 votes or less to require that move.)

Via an email to the Independent, Gonzalez says he's glad the race is finally over.

"It was a long nervous week, but I just wanted to again thank the grassroots effort, especially those that supported me, helped me campaign, and prayed for me," he writes. "I am tremendously grateful for their efforts. Our race showed how important every person's vote is, and I hope that will motivate even more people to participate in our election process in the years to come."

Turner, meanwhile, told the Indy via email that he was disappointed:

Yes this is difficult but it is also part of our process and as such must be respected. All votes matter, as you never know what the results will be until they are counted. I’m more disappointed that only 6866 people out of a registered voting population of 22,573 took the time to vote for the one office that directly affects each and every one of them. What that really means is that 15.3% of the registered republican voters actually voted for the winner, and only 50 people out of 22,573, (.0022%) actually made the decision for the rest of the population. Every vote counts in every race, our country was founded on principals of representative government, to let the people have a say in our republic and our communities. It is unfortunate that we have reached such a high level of apathy.

I would like to congratulate my opponent and do wish him well. He has a big job ahead of him and the people are looking to him to do the right thing for them and their community. He needs to remember that the people of District 4 did the voting, and it is those people he has a responsibility to serve.
 You can read more about the two candidates here.

Gonzalez will face Democrat Elizabeth Rosenbaum in November for the District 4 seat, which pays over $113,000 a year. The office is currently held by the term-limited Dennis Hisey, who endorsed Turner in the primary.
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Thursday, July 7, 2016

UPDATE: Anschutz in bed with anti-LGBT forces

Posted By on Thu, Jul 7, 2016 at 1:19 PM

The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs is one of many holdings of Phllip Anschutz, who reportedly donates money to anti-LGBT rights groups. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs is one of many holdings of Phllip Anschutz, who reportedly donates money to anti-LGBT rights groups.
We received this a couple of hours ago from the Anschutz Foundation:

The Anschutz Foundation is not a member of Jonathan Capehart's alleged "vast right wing conspiracy." The Anschutz Foundation donates to hundreds of worthy organizations each year, and it does not attempt to dictate to those organizations how to spend their monies. Moreover, those donations are made in accordance with our process and guidelines, and neither process or guidelines identify or reference in any way sexual orientation or gender issues.

Mr. Anschutz, and the Anschutz companies, invest in many businesses employing tens of thousands of people. In all instances, personal lifestyles are neither a requirement or limitation to employment.

Mr. Capehart's attempt to smear individuals with unfounded allegations is straight out of the Saul Alinsky playbook. It is unworthy of him and of the publication by which he is employed.

This is no reason to comment further on his unfounded statements or on the individuals quoted in his article.

—-ORIGINAL POST 1:19 PM JULY 7, 2016—-

Two groups supportive of LGBT issues are calling out the owner of The Broadmoor and the Gazette as a funder of anti-LGBT efforts after The Washington Post reported who's behind legislation to overturn LGBT rights.

Philip Anschutz, the billionaire entertainment and energy mogul whom we profiled here in regard to the city's land swap with The Broadmoor, has given money to organizations that oppose LGBT rights. Here's what the Post reported about him:
Phil Anschutz is one of the richest people in America, with an estimated fortune of over $10 billion, and is listed at #42 on Forbes' U.S. Billionaires list as of May 17, 2016.

His entertainment company, AEG, is the world’s largest owner of sports teams and venues, including the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings, the Staples Center, and O2 Arena. In addition, Anschutz owns The Weekly Standard, the Washington Examiner, and Regal Cinemas. He’s also one of the largest landowners in the country.

Anschutz Foundation gave $110,000 to Alliance Defending Freedom between 2011 and 2013.

Anschutz Foundation gave $50,000 to National Christian Foundation between 2011 and 2013.

Anschutz Foundation gave $30,000 to Family Research Council between 2010 and 2013
James Dobson, founder of Springs-based Focus on the Family, known for its opposition to LGBT people and its focus on conversion therapy over the years, also is named on the list of donors to various anti-LGBT rights organizations. Tom Minnery, also with Focus, is listed, along with the king of LGBT hatred, Gordon Klingenschmitt, who holds a Colorado House seat but was defeated in the June 28 Republican primary race for a state Senate seat.

Here's the One Colorado news release:
DENVER – One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Coloradans and their families, and ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, released the following statement in response to a report in the Washington Post showing that Colorado billionaire Phil Anschutz has funded anti-LGBTQ groups.

“Today the Washington Post revealed that while making a fortune off hardworking Coloradans – including LGBTQ Coloradans – billionaire Phil Anschutz has been giving money to organizations that have been designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center,” said Dave Montez, Executive Director of One Colorado.

“Instead of investing in individuals and groups that spread misinformation and advocate violence, Phil Anschutz could invest in improving the lives of LGBTQ Coloradans and their families. LGBTQ students still face bullying and harassment in our schools, transgender Coloradans are denied access to the health care, identity documents, and basic rights they deserve, and it is still legal for to subject young people to the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy.”

"Phil Anschutz's extensive influence in Colorado politics has been known for years, but the degree of his support for anti-LGBTQ groups that fund extremist hate groups like Gordon Kligenschmitt’s ‘Pray in Jesus Name’ is shocking," said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Ian Silverii. "At a time in American history when discrimination and violence against LGBTQ citizens is on the rise, support for pro-discrimination groups puts Anschutz on the wrong side of Colorado, and on the wrong side of history."

"The Anschutz name is emblazoned on public institutions across our state," said Silverii. "Now that it has been revealed that his charity is also going to organizations that support political figures who call for gays and lesbians to be killed, it's time to ask Anschutz to take a good look at where his money is being spent. The Alliance Defending Freedom props up the same politicians who have introduced hundreds of rights-destroying bills in legislatures across the country – including right here in Colorado. Today, we’re asking Mr. Anschutz to cancel his checks to the ADF, and instead invest in Colorado-based organizations that help improve the lives of LGBTQ friends and neighbors, not try and strip their rights away."
Anschutz has been known to use his publications to showcase his investments, which was reported by Corey Hutchins for the Columbia Journalism Review, titled, "The Oklahoman runs a puff piece on its billionaire owner’s new resort property." 

So one might ask, what agenda on Anschutz's behalf is being carried out by the Gazette? We've sent an email to Gazette publisher Dan Steever about this and will report back if and when we hear from him. The newspaper's newsroom is overseen by newly hired editor Vince Bzdek, a former editor at The Washington Post.

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The county has a new engineer. Here is why you should care.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 7, 2016 at 6:32 AM

Jennifer Irvine - EL PASO COUNTY
  • El Paso County
  • Jennifer Irvine

Police and firefighters get all the glory. The county engineer? Yeah, not so much.

Chances are you don't even know who the county engineer is or what she does, let alone that her work keeps you safe every day.

In short, the county engineer ensures the safety of infrastructure like stormwater systems, utilities, and roads. It may not be sexy stuff, but it sure is important.

André Brackin was the El Paso County Engineer for 20 years until he retired in May. 

At the time of his retirement, then-El Paso County Commissioner Chair Amy Lathen noted in a press release that Brackin was, “instrumental in the execution of initiatives that have greatly benefitted the citizens of El Paso County, including: the development of 1041 permit process, the adoption of stormwater drainage and utilities placement specifications and requirements and the establishment of countywide transportation impact assessments for new development.” 

Jennifer Irvine, who joined the county as Engineering Services Manager and Project Management Supervisor in 2000, was appointed to serve as interim county engineer at that point. This week, she was given the job permanently, becoming the first female El Paso County Engineer. 

“She has shown excellent engineering, leadership and mentoring skills,” County Administrator Henry Yankowski said at a county meeting. “She has excelled in financial, budget and program management, and she has been a leader in regional collaboration. The big bonus to the County is the institutional knowledge she brings to the position. She knows not only what has been done in the past, but the why."
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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Air Force hopes to fix water contamination problem

Posted By on Tue, Jul 5, 2016 at 4:24 PM

Members of Team Pete take the oath as they are reenlisted by Lt. Col. Chris Hammond, U.S. Air Force Thunderbird’s commander and leader, on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., May 31, 2016. The Thunderbirds are in Colorado preparing to take part in a flyover at the United States Air Force Academy graduation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amber Grimm)
  • Members of Team Pete take the oath as they are reenlisted by Lt. Col. Chris Hammond, U.S. Air Force Thunderbird’s commander and leader, on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., May 31, 2016. The Thunderbirds are in Colorado preparing to take part in a flyover at the United States Air Force Academy graduation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amber Grimm)
In the wake of serious contamination problems with the water supply in the Security, Widefield and Fountain areas, Peterson Air Force Base has issued a news release outlining efforts to hire a "rapid response" contractor to treat drinking water.

The actions comes after discovery that wells in those areas are contaminated with perfluorochemicals believed to come from the base. Here's the full release:
With the ongoing investigation into perfluorochemicals in the Security, Fountain and Widefield watershed, the Air Force has awarded a $4.3 million rapid response contract as an interim measure to treat drinking water.

"This proactive measure is being taken as a good neighbor approach while the investigation continues," said Lt. Col. Chad Gemeinhardt, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron commander.

The money will be used to evaluate affected potable water systems and develop short-term treatment solutions. The treatment system is expected to be granulated activated carbon filters installed in the affected potable water systems to remove PFCs from drinking water. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will meet with El Paso County Health, Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, Air Force Civil Engineer Center and water district representatives July 6 to determine the best course of action.

Additionally, Peterson Air Force Base officials requested and received an expedited date for further investigation as a possible source of the chemicals. The site investigation contractor will arrive at Peterson July 7, to determine best locations to drill monitoring wells. The wells will determine source and extent of the contamination, if any is found. Drilling will begin in October 2016 and an internal draft report from the contractor is expected in March 2017. Soil samples will also be collected and sampled for PFCs to try and determine the source, according to Air Force Civil Engineer Center officials. The base was originally scheduled for further testing in May 2017, but testing was moved up to October 2016 based on the request.

PFCs are a class of man-made chemicals used in many industrial and consumer products such as nonstick cookware, waterproof fabric and some food packaging. PFCs have been used for many years to make products that resist heat, stains, grease and water.

"We take environmental concerns seriously including those that could impact our neighbors and communities," Gemeinhardt said. "We are fully cooperating in the investigation and want to help quickly find and resolve the matter.

"After a preliminary assessment was received in June, we requested follow-up testing be moved to the soonest date possible," he said.

Peterson AFB provides airport firefighting and emergency services to the city of Colorado Springs in exchange for leased property from the city, and are the first responders for any aircraft or medical emergency on airport property.

Peterson AFB used aqueous film forming foam, or AFFF, in joint fire training on Peterson AFB, where fire departments from across the region used the training sites to adequately prepare for emergency response actions to provide public safety. The AFFF was used in a legal, responsible manner in full compliance with Environmental Protection Agency guidelines at the time.

An industry-standard fire suppressant used to extinguish flammable liquid fires such as jet fuel fires, the foam was used from 1970 until about 1990 when Peterson fire fighters began training in a lined basin using water to fight a controlled propane-fueled fire, which provides realistic firefighting conditions in an environmentally-safe and controlled manner. Since developing the new lined training area, AFFF has only been used in emergency response situations.

"This is our home too. We have Airmen living all along the Front Range, including the Fountain, Widefield and Security area," Gemeinhardt said, "so this is a very real concern for us."

"We are working with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, the Environmental Protection Agency, Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, El Paso County, the City of Colorado Springs, the Colorado Springs Airport, and other partners to determine the way ahead on this issue," he said.

In addition to providing the filtration assistance and receiving an accelerated testing schedule, officials here are double checking aircraft hangar fire suppression systems for residual PFCs, and continuing the investigation into past PFC use at Peterson AFB. Fire officials here are also replacing their current stock of AFFF with a newer EPA-compliant synthetic foam.

Various Air Force representatives, including wing leadership, civil and bioenvironmental engineers, will be at the El Paso County Public Health town hall meeting scheduled at 6 p.m. July 7 at the Mesa Ridge High School auditorium, to help answer questions about the investigation.

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Friday, July 1, 2016

New role for Cole with GOP

Posted By on Fri, Jul 1, 2016 at 3:46 PM

Cole: Moving on but sticking around. - COURTESY DANIEL COLE
  • Courtesy Daniel Cole
  • Cole: Moving on but sticking around.
Daniel Cole, formerly executive director of the El Paso County Republican Party, has left that post only to pick up where he left off. Cole served as director since July 2013 and raised the central office's profile by making himself available to local media for interviews and commentary regarding local politics.

The party has decided to, as of today, contract with Cole's new company, Cole Communications, for services similar to those provided by Cole as director.

Cole tells the Independent that the GOP isn't his only client, but demurred when asked to name others.

He posted this on  his Facebook page today:
Yesterday was my last day as Executive Director of the El Paso County Republican Party. I would get sappy and sentimental, but today is the first day of a contract between the El Paso County Republican Party and my new company, Cole Communications, to provide many of the services I provided as an employee. The more things change, the more they stay the same; but they are changing.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

5 surprising facts about homeless camps

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2016 at 8:14 AM

Not exactly a fun weekend in the woods: The Forest Service is finding homeless camps all over national forest lands. - COURTESY USFS
  • Courtesy USFS
  • Not exactly a fun weekend in the woods: The Forest Service is finding homeless camps all over national forest lands.

In this week’s cover story,
I wrote about the problems that homeless camps will cause this summer, as they mushroom throughout our urban park and trail systems and into our national forests. Since there’s a shortage of shelter beds, police can’t usually boot campers, as they have nowhere else to go. But having people living on the streets is anything but ideal — certainly not for the people who live in these make-shift camps, but not for those of us who are more fortunate either.

Here are some surprising facts you may not know about our local homeless population:

1) They are increasingly young.
Officer Brett Iverson, of the Colorado Springs Homeless Outreach Team (HOT Team) says that perhaps 40 percent of the people they encounter on the streets now are under 35. They also say that many of them are coming to the state for legal weed, though at least one service provider says she thinks a bigger driver is jobs.
Either way, many of the young people aren’t interested in the help service providers have to offer, and may even see homelessness as a lifestyle choice. Unfortunately, it’s likely not a safe one. The homeless can often end up as victims of crime or get sucked into unhealthy choices, like heavy drug use.

2) They leave behind tons (and tons, and tons) of trash in our wild spaces.
Between May 1, 2015 and May 30 of this year, Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful, a nonprofit that contracts with the city, collected about 22,000 tons of trash, or 164 30-cubic-yard construction dumpsters of junk from homeless camps. All of that was collected in 305 clean-ups, by 2,043 volunteers doing 12,801 hours of work. Most came from a single trail — Pikes Peak Greenway.


3) Camps put the city at risk for another Waldo Canyon or Black Forest fire.

Everyone from Manitou Springs Mayor Nicole Nicoletta to District Ranger Oscar Martinez (who work for the U.S. Forest Service’s Pikes Peak Ranger District) cites this as a concern. The fact of the matter is, most people don’t properly put out their campfires, and homeless camps tend to have fires. On a recent tour of a popular urban homeless camping spot, this reporter personally witnessed several scorched trees near old fire pits.  Since more and more people are camping in the dry forests surrounding the city, the risk for a major fire will be high this summer.

4) There are lots of drug needles in the camps.
Dee Cunningham, executive director of Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful, estimates that the number of syringes she finds in clean-ups “has increased probably 20 times from five years ago.” She says she finds needles everywhere — on the side of trails, woven into tents. Martinez, meanwhile, says one of his staffers recently ended up with a drug needle stuck in his boot.
On a tour of homeless camps in Colorado Springs, this reporter noticed many bright orange needle caps.

5) The people who most need help are often the least likely to get it.
The HOT Team’s Iverson says there’s still a high population of people with mental illness on the streets. There are very few programs to help these people, and often those who are seriously ill will refuse help because their illness prevents them from understanding they have a problem. It’s a vexing predicament, and one that Iverson says troubles him.
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Friday, June 24, 2016

Olympic Museum scratches its early 2018 opening date

Posted By on Fri, Jun 24, 2016 at 2:30 PM

The U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame won't open on the date planned. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • The U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame won't open on the date planned.
So today we learn that the Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame won't make its goal of opening the facility in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics as originally planned, because fundraising has fallen short. The Gazette carried the story on Page 1 of Friday's issue.

Dick Celeste, former governor of Ohio and president of Colorado College who's heading the museum effort, says the board refuses to begin the project until it has commitments for money to cover all of the project's hard costs — construction, that is. Those costs total $67 million to $68 million, he says, and the organization is $10 million short.

"We don't want to begin without knowing we have all the commitments to finish the project," he says.

(The ultimate goal is to raise $80 million so there's ample funding for contingencies and soft costs, such as grand opening expenses and hiring of staff.)

So far, the museum hasn't mounted a public campaign, but Celeste says there will be one.

"I think there will be a public campaign, but that's going to be more for the soft costs, in terms of the opening," he says, including hiring staff prior to opening the doors. The museum has but one full-time and one part-time employee. "Everything else is volunteer," Celeste says.

So it's probably no surprise the Olympic Museum hasn't hired a fundraising company, and probably won't. "Essentially, this is a board responsibility and a community responsibility, so that's the direction we're taking," he says.

Celeste says the museum board doesn't have a specific goal for starting the project, and adds, "From the moment I can say we've got the hard costs covered, it will be two and a half weeks to be in the ground. We'll line up Colorado Springs Utilities to do the underground work and line up [general contractor] G.E. Johnson crews to start digging the foundation."

Nor'wood Development Group has donated 1.7 acres of land for the museum west of the intersection of Vermijo Avenue and Sierra Madre Street, but so far the land is still held by an entity controlled by the owner of Nor'wood. (The site was cleared months ago.)

But no sweat, Celeste notes. "We have an agreement; the gift is there. There's been no reason to go ahead with the land transfer until we're ready pull the trigger on the groundbreaking."

And Chris Jenkins with Nor'wood confirms that, saying via email, "Our donation agreement with the museum provides for the title to transfer upon commencement of construction."
The museum is part of the City for Champions tourism venture that has been awarded $120.5 million in state sales tax rebates. 

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

11 possible sites for downtown bus station

Posted By on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 at 3:18 PM

Mountain Metro Transit has narrowed the search for a new downtown bus station to 11 sites in the downtown area.

It's not clear how much the agency is willing to spend to acquire a site, but some of the 11 are in prime real estate areas, such as right next door to yours truly, the Independent. Property in the vicinity of 235 S. Nevada, where the weekly newspaper resides, is owned by entities controlled by developer David Jenkins, owner of Nor'wood Development Group.

Anyway, the sites still in contention are located north of Cimarron Street, south of Bijou Street, east of Interstate 25 and west of Wahsatch Avenue.
The green spots are still under consideration, while the red spots have been eliminated.

Here's a PDF of the map so you can enlarge on your screen and see exactly where each possible site is located.
Check this out for more information on the issue.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

About that Waldo Canyon Fire recovery group...

Posted By on Wed, Jun 22, 2016 at 9:11 AM

Then-Mayor Steve Bach speaks at a news briefing on June 27, 2012, the day after 347 homes were destroyed in the Waldo Canyon Fire. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Then-Mayor Steve Bach speaks at a news briefing on June 27, 2012, the day after 347 homes were destroyed in the Waldo Canyon Fire.
Remember when then-Mayor Steve Bach was caught off guard by the destruction of 347 homes by the Waldo Canyon Fire in June 2012?

We have a story updating the investigation of the fire's cause here.

Remember how, because the city was caught flat-footed without a plan, Bach quickly drafted retired businessman Bob Cutter to create Colorado Springs Together? The organization was supposed to help people who lost their homes understand the process of getting back on their feet.

The main thing CST did was rent a former Blockbuster Video store in the Mountain Shadows area where meetings with insurance consultants, fire inspectors and other professionals were held for residents to attend and learn how to have their foundations pulled, obtain new building permits, learn about changes in building codes triggered by the fire, fill out paperwork for insurance adjusters and the like.

Back then, it was like pulling teeth to get a dollar figure of how much money was being raised and how it was being spent.

Now we know, based on filings with the IRS.

Colorado Springs Together's recovery center as it looked on Aug. 20, 2012, nearly two months after the fire swept into the city. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Colorado Springs Together's recovery center as it looked on Aug. 20, 2012, nearly two months after the fire swept into the city.

Turns out, the biggest chunk of the $509,195 raised from 2012 through 2014 went to build a park project in Mountain Shadows ($123,000) and erect a memorial ($44,500) to commemorate the fire.

Amounts raised by year were $207,307 in 2012; $173,736 in 2013, and $128,152 in 2014. 

Other amounts spent during the three-year period:

$130,181 for information technology.
$105,465 for rent.
$57,463 for an anniversary night party in 2013.
$38,902 for wages to a part-time worker.
$9,179 for insurance. (There's no explanation on the IRS form for what insurance was purchased. It could have been for the board of directors liability coverage.)

Cutter never drew any pay, although he said in the report he worked an average of 49 hours per week in that six months after the fire. He worked an average of 26 hours a week in 2013, and 5 hours a week in 2014.

No 2015 report has yet been filed.

To see what's become of some of the key figures in the fire, go here.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

He's baa-aack! Mike Miles appointed to charter school board.

Posted By on Tue, Jun 21, 2016 at 1:22 PM

Mike Miles - FILE PHOTO
  • Mike Miles
Back in 2010, Mike Miles was the superintendent of the economically-challenged school district on the city's southeast side, Harrison District 2. If one thing could be said definitively about his leadership style, it was this: He tended to inspire strong feelings. Really strong feelings.

Miles saw himself as a reformer, and he was a favorite of the Gazette's news and editorial staff, which lavished praise on him. Many of the teachers and other staff in the district, however, were less thrilled. For a breakdown of the situation, check out this article I wrote at the time.

In 2012, Miles left Harrison to become the superintendent for the public school system in Dallas, Texas. In 2015, he resigned the position, with two years remaining on his contract. That may not have been surprising to many in Dallas, as Miles was, to say the least, a highly controversial figure. 

At the time of his departure, the Dallas Morning News wrote:

Miles’ entire tenure has been marked by controversy and ambitious initiatives. He designed and implemented new evaluations for teachers and principals, which he called the most rigorous in the country. Despite his reform efforts, student scores on state STAAR exams have stayed flat or decreased during his time.

But he continually clashed with employees and several school board members over his management style. He survived several attempts by a few board members to fire him. Most recently, he quarreled with some school board members over his decision to fire three principals despite the board’s vote to keep them.
After leaving Dallas, Miles came back to the Springs, where his wife and child were already living without him. He began work as an education consultant, and appears to be getting back into the swing of things. Recently, the Colorado League of Charter Schools appointed him to their board of directors. Here's what they have to say about the move:

DENVER – The Colorado League of Charter Schools has appointed Mike Miles to serve on its board of directors.

Miles is a leader in education reform and the former superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District and the Harrison School District in Colorado Springs. Miles returned to Colorado Springs last summer and started an educational consulting company, Third Future. He was recently tapped to lead the transformation of the Pikes Peak Prep charter school in Colorado Springs and is also starting a charter public school in Aurora, the Academy of Advanced Learning, which is set to open in the fall of 2017.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the Colorado League of Charter Schools to expand choice options for students and to improve educational outcomes for all students,” said Miles. “I hope my experience in school districts and the education reform space will allow me to contribute to the important discussions and reform efforts Colorado will have in the next several years.”

A graduate of West Point, Mike Miles has also served as an officer in the Army’s elite Ranger Battalion. He later served in the U.S. State Department as a Diplomat to Poland and Russia. Miles holds degrees from the University of California at Berkeley and Columbia University.

“We are thrilled to have Mike Miles join the League’s board of directors,” said Nora E. Flood, President of the Colorado League of Charter Schools. “Mike’s commitment to ensuring that all students have access to a high-quality public school option directly aligns with our organization’s vision. His background and expertise will be an invaluable asset to our board.”

Other members of the League’s board include: Jay Cerny, Principal/CEO, Cherry Creek Academy; The Honorable Nancy Spence, Former Colorado State Senator; Sam Todd, Executive Director of Operations, Peak to Peak Charter School; Eric Duran, Managing Director and Public Finance Banker, D.A. Davidson & Co.; Andy Franko, iConnect Zone Superintendent, Falcon 49 School District; The Honorable Peter Groff, Former President, Colorado State Senate; Arkan Haile, Corporate Counsel, TransMontaigne; Erin Kane, Executive Director of Schools, American Academy; Carol Meininger, Chief Financial Officer, The Pinnacle Charter School; The Honorable Bob Schaffer, Principal, Liberty Common High School, and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives; Joyce Schuck, Co-Founder, Parents Challenge; and Todd Ziebarth, Sr. Vice President, State Advocacy and Support, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

The Colorado League of Charter Schools is a non-profit, membership organization dedicated to supporting the charter public schools in the state. The League is committed to helping these schools reach higher levels of student performance and overall success by providing information and resources, including technical support, advocacy, and public relations assistance.

Charter schools are tuition-free, public schools that have the flexibility to be innovative, entrepreneurial, self-governing, and yet are held accountable for student and operational performance.

In the 2016-17 school year, there are 226 charter public schools in Colorado serving more than 108,000 students, representing over 12 percent of public school enrollment in the state. If Colorado charter public schools were combined into one school district, it would be the largest school district in the state.

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Bike to Work Day is tomorrow

Posted By on Tue, Jun 21, 2016 at 11:12 AM

  • City of Colorado Springs
Tomorrow is Bike To Work Day, which means that if you ditch your car for two wheels, you can hang out with a lot of other cyclists and get a free bagel. 

The City of Colorado Springs is celebrating the day by hosting free breakfast and inviting the public to take a ride through America the Beautiful Park with Mayor John Suthers. You can register here.

Very few Springs residents ride their bikes to work on a regular basis, but most of the people I've talked to on past Bike To Work Days have said that they were surprised how easy and fun it was to commute by bike. Personally, I've observed the holiday off and on for many years, and am delighted by how much it brightens my day.

Want to give it a try? Here are the details from the city:

Join us for a bagel and fruit breakfast at a Bike to Work Day celebration location near you! The downtown celebration will be at America the Beautiful park with Mayor Suthers. We will also be at the University Village Colorado shopping center on Nevada and 10 YMCA locations throughout the city!

Join the fun with Mayor Suthers as he leads a community ride to America the Beautiful Park! Ride departs Goose Gossage Park at 6 a.m. More than 100 riders joined in the fun last year, and we’re looking to make it even bigger this year.

Mountain Metro Rides organizes Bike to Work Day activities each June to encourage bicycling for personal and community health, alternative transportation, recreation and sustainability. Help us celebrate by riding your bike to one of our many breakfast locations around the city. Invite your friends, family and coworkers to join the fun!

Worried about traffic? Here are a few "Share the Road Tips," courtesy of the Colorado Department of Transportation

For Drivers
· Give cyclists at least three feet of space when passing: Even if it requires crossing the center line, if it is safe – or risk a ticket.
· Wait a few seconds: If you don’t have three feet to pass then wait until there is enough room to pass safely.
· Take a brake: Reduce speed when encountering bicyclists.
· Scan, then turn: Look for bicyclists before making turns and make sure the road is clear before proceeding.

For Riders
· Cyclists must ride as far right as possible: And not impede traffic when passing other riders or riding two abreast.
· Side-by-Side Rule: Ride no more than two abreast; move to single-file if riding two abreast impedes the flow of motorized traffic.
· Ride Predictably: Scan the road, anticipate hazards, and communicate your moves to others.
· Signal First: Use hand signals to alert nearby vehicles to turns or lane changes.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Spraying to begin to combat moth and budworm

Posted By on Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 12:54 PM

The Douglas-fir tussock moth - U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • The Douglas-fir tussock moth
The city is about to begin a spraying program for the tussock moth, in cooperation with other agencies.

The city's release:
The Pikes Peak Region is currently experiencing a near-epidemic infestation of two species of defoliating moths in our forests; the Douglas-fir tussock moth and western spruce budworm. Their activity causes thousands of trees to become defoliated, or have the needles eaten down to the branch or twig. These trees are brown and “appear dead", although many may not be. In order to protect our forests, the City of Colorado Springs' Forestry Division will be implementing an aerial treatment plan to spray approximately 4,000 acres beginning June 21.

The treatment will take place over seven to ten days and is subject to change as application operations are highly weather dependent. The City has hired Frontier Helicopter, who will use a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter to apply a biological control pesticide treatment. North Cheyenne Canyon, Blodgett Peak Open Space, Jones Park, portions of Cheyenne Mtn. State Park, the Cheyenne Mtn. Zoo, isolated sections of the Pike National Forest and some Broadmoor amenities will experience road and trail closures for short periods of time during treatment. For more information on the progression of the spraying process, you can view the maps by visiting https://www.coloradosprings.gov/tussock. 
The participating agency, its acreage, and the amount contributed to the effort:

City of Colorado Springs, 816 acres, $64,464
The Broadmoor, 1,342 acres, $106,018
Cheyenne Mountain State Park, 338.5 acres, $26,741
El Paso County, 198.5 acres, $15,681
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, 275.4 acres, $21,756
Cheyenne Mountain Propagation, 198.3 acres, $15,665
Broadmoor Resort Community, 143.1 acres, $11,304
Pike National Forest, 399.5 acres, $31,560
Total Project Cost: $293,192

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