Friday, December 2, 2016

Inmates riot over food

Posted By on Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 3:32 PM

The Criminal justice Center had a riot break out last month due to inmate food, according to authorities. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The Criminal justice Center had a riot break out last month due to inmate food, according to authorities.
Bad food and short rations have inmates in an uproar, literally, with nine men charged on Thursday with crimes in connection with a Nov. 19 riot in the county jail over the food. One charge is riots in detention facilities, a Class 5 felony.

According to the affidavit, at 5:42 p.m., after one ward at the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center was served the dinner meal, "Several inmates became upset over the food portions and demanded extra food. Inmates began to yell, became angry, threatened to flood their cells, kicked open the food traps and also kicked their cell doors."

They also covered their cell windows, obstructing the view and threatened to assault staff if they came into the cells to remove the coverings, the affidavit says. The so-called rioting continued until 10:15 p.m. One deputy was struck in the chest but the extent of his injuries isn't known.

Charged were Michael Martinez, 40; Sean Hazlett, 26; Ronnie Faubush, 30; Aucus Bone, 30; Henry Bukowski, 22; Paul Myles, 26; Scott Brushwein, 24; Jonathan Hernandez, 19, and Tero Rhame, 24.

El Paso County changed contractors on Sept. 1 from Aramark Correctional Services, LLC, to Trinity Services Group, Inc. Trinity has contracts with 28 jails in the state of Colorado and untold correctional outfits across the country. The reason for the change, county officials say, is the jail food contract came up for renewal and so it was competitively bid.

In 2015, the county paid $1,890,980 to the food contractor. This year, the cost will total about $1.88 million, and next year, the county expects to pay just under $2 million.

According to a week's worth of menus obtained by the Independent, a typical breakfast consists of one cup of oatmeal, two links or patties of sausage, a biscuit, a tablespoon of jelly, one cup of a beverage and one cup of milk.

A typical lunch is three pieces of turkey salad, whose size is not specified, a hoagie roll, tortilla chips, four carrot sticks, iced cake and two cups of a beverage.

A typical dinner is comprised of one and a quarter cup of stew, a half cup of mixed vegetables, a piece of cornbread, one tablespoon of margarine, a brownie, and two cups of a beverage.

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The Indy celebrates Best Of in style

Posted By on Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 2:51 PM

  • Cayton Photography
  • Carrie Simison
It’s only appropriate to celebrate the Indy’s annual Best Of awards with the best party in the Springs, so that’s exactly what we endeavor to do every year. Thursday night, we honored our 2016 winners, plus the folks who worked their tails off to make Best Of happen.

The Indy rented out three rooms in the Mining Exchange Hotel, filling each of them with food, booze, dancing and almost 500 people. Staff from the Independent and the rest of Colorado Publishing House attended, plus our award-winners and some other big players (and partiers!) in the Springs community.

Thanks to DJ Marty Rubio (karaoke master of Johnny's Navajo Hogan), the top floor hosted nonstop karaoke, including a crowd-pleasing rendition of "Free Fallin'" by our publisher Carrie Simison.

Downstairs, people posed for photos with Cayton Photography, danced along to tunes spun by DJ Brandon Lee and sipped on Bristol-donated beer and Distillery 291's welcome cocktail, the "Christmas Old Fashioned."

The evening wasn’t just in honor of another successful Best Of edition, but also in honor of our vibrant community. A friend of mine — while drinking her whiskey and munching on some rocking Mining Exchange chicken kabobs — said, “I feel so local right now,” a statement which definitely captured the feeling of the night.

It’s always our greatest pleasure to celebrate The Springs, so here’s to another successful year!

  • Cayton Photography

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AFA football coach uses tweets to evangelize

Posted By on Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 11:18 AM


Back in 2004, then-Falcons coach Fisher DeBerry was officially reprimanded for hanging a banner in the football team's locker room that said, "I am a member of Team Jesus Christ."

The action came amid allegations from Mikey Weinstein that the Air Force Academy favored Christianity and triggered the academy's vow to instruct cadets in religious sensitivity while balancing their right to freedom of expression with the prohibition of government establishment of religion contained in the U.S. Constitution.

Now, 12 years later, Weinstein's Military Religious Freedom Foundation is strenuously objecting to the Falcon's tight end coach Steed Lobotzke's tweets that involve promoting Christianity.

The tweets were sent on the Twitter account that identifies him as being with the academy's football program.

Most tweets are academy football related and include team and academy photos. But he also uses the account to evangelize, citing Bible verses.
As an official with MRFF notes in an email to the Independent, "There is no disclaimer on his Twitter page saying that these are his own views and not the views of the Air Force Academy. In checking most of the other USAFA Football coaches twitter accounts, we did not find any evidence of them using their official accounts to promote their personal religion."

Find some examples here, here, here and here.

Weinstein says via email:
Twelve-plus years ago, Air Force Academy Head Football Coach Fischer DeBerry proudly and boldly displayed a large banner across the main locker room of the football team which stated 'We Are All Members of Team Jesus Christ. We Are First and Last Christians.’ At least THAT unconstitutional horror of fundamentalist Christian tyranny occurred before the advent of social media. He intentionally and unlawfully marked that place for Jesus, just as a dog marks a tree, despoiling with reckless abandon the Constitution along the way.

Today, the Air Force Academy senior leadership clearly shows that unchecked Christian extremism is worse than ever at the Academy, especially on its football team, with the shocking discovery of what the football team's Tight Ends Coach, Steed Lobotzke, a 1992 USAFA grad, has been doing with his official USAFA football twitter account. Lobotzke’s official twitter feed is filled with illicit proselytizing in the name of Jesus Christ and even includes such biblical citations juxtaposed with pictures of official football team meetings. Unconstitutional filth, thy name be Steed Lobotzke.

MRFF is representing 5 members of the Academy’s Athletic Department and 3 members of its 'Fighting Falcon' football team as complainants who have come forward on this latest disgrace to the Constitution of unlawful, fundamentalist Christian supremacy. MRFF legal counsel plan to file an official Inspector General Complaint with the DoD/IG on Monday as MRFF’s experience with the Academy’s own IG and the Air Force IG at the Pentagon on the Air Staff has proved both organizations to be less than worthless in protecting the precious freedoms guaranteed by the separation of Church and State in our nation's Constitution.
We've asked the academy to comment on the coach's tweets and will circle back when we hear from the school.

The issue arises in the wake of two other issues at the academy involving Christianity. We wrote about these here and here.

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

New hospital is like "a nice hotel"

Posted By on Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 3:37 PM

  • Courtesy UCHealth
The newest hospital in Colorado Springs has only 18 rooms, but is likened to "a nice hotel" by an official representing the owner, UCHealth, which leases Memorial Hospital from the city.

Here's the news release:
Colorado’s newest hospital, UCHealth Grandview Hospital, is now open and providing advanced, community-focused care with highly skilled and experienced physicians and nurses.

The Joint Commission, an independent organization that evaluates and accredits healthcare facilities nationwide, has certified the new hospital, a step that also allows all four freestanding UCHealth Emergency Room locations in the region – three in Colorado Springs and one in Fountain - to now accept Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare patients.

Located at 5623 Pulpit Peak View, adjacent to the University Village shopping center near North Nevada Avenue and Interstate 25, UCHealth Grandview Hospital provides the highest quality care in a smaller, more personal and convenient environment. Each patient will receive the expert care they need, delivered with exceptional service.

  • Courtesy UCHealth
“UCHealth Grandview Hospital was designed to provide personalized service and care similar to a nice hotel,” said President and CEO Derek Rushing. “Our warm, community atmosphere, combined with the highest quality and most advanced medical care, will help ensure our patients receive the very best medical outcomes and are able to go home as soon as possible.”

The hospital is opening with:
· 18 spacious, private, inpatient rooms
· Three advanced operating suites for general and orthopedic surgeries, such as appendectomies and joint reconstruction.
· Four-bed intensive care unit
· High-quality laboratory services
· 24/7 emergency department staffed by board-certified emergency medicine physicians
· Comprehensive outpatient surgical center
· Advanced imaging technology
· 24/7 respiratory therapy techs

“UCHealth is nationally recognized for providing the highest quality care along with advanced treatments including clinical trials through our partnership with the University of Colorado School of Medicine,” said Dr. Richard Zane, UCHealth’s Executive Director of Emergency Services and Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the CU School of Medicine. “UCHealth Grandview Hospital will continue that tradition of excellence in this comfortable and convenient location.”

Amenities like free Wi-Fi, a play area for children, a coffee station and comfortable waiting areas will help patients and visitors feel welcome.

UCHealth Grandview Hospital is helping to address Colorado’s need for improved access to emergency medical care with this new hospital as well as with freestanding UCHealth Emergency Rooms located in the Pikes Peak region. The American College of Emergency Physicians gave the state of Colorado a D+ grade for access to emergency care in 2014 on their Emergency Medicine Report Card. This report shows the need for increased access to emergency medicine, not just in Colorado, but also across the nation.

The four UCHealth Emergency Room facilities in the region that now accept Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare are located at:
· 13510 Meadowgrass Drive, Colorado Springs
· 2770 N Powers Blvd., Colorado Springs
· 3790 E. Woodmen Colorado Springs
· 7890 Fountain Mesa Road, Fountain

UCHealth Grandview Hospital is operated through a partnership with Adeptus Health, a patient-centered health care organization dedicated to expanding access to the highest quality emergency medical care.

About UCHealth
UCHealth is an innovative, nonprofit health system that delivers the highest quality medical care with an excellent patient experience. UCHealth combines Memorial Hospital, Poudre Valley Hospital, Medical Center of the Rockies, Colorado Health Medical Group, Broomfield Hospital, Grandview Hospital and University of Colorado Hospital into an organization dedicated to health and providing unmatched patient care in the Rocky Mountain West. With more than 100 clinic locations, UCHealth pushes the boundaries of medicine, providing advanced treatments and clinical trials and improving health through innovation.

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UPATE: Did dinosaurs and humans co-exist? Flier at USAFA says yes.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 12:19 PM


UPDATE: This just in from the Air Force Academy:
We have not received any complaints regarding the publication you reference. The clinic staff did not place the publication in the waiting area nor are they aware of how it may have been placed there. Often, patients will leave magazines in waiting areas after they have finished reading them. Additionally, the publication you sent us is not a USAFA publication.

———————-ORIGINAL POST 12:19 P.M., THURS., DEC. 1, 2016———————-

When did Dinosaurs roam the planet?

According to Discovery News, which is described by the newspaper itself as "A publication of Significant Archeological Discoveries and Biblical Truths," dinosaurs and humans co-mingled on planet Earth.

This defies all scientific research, which has long concluded that dinosaurs went extinct some 65 millions year ago and that homo sapiens didn't emerge until about 200,000 years ago.

But Discovery News champions the co-existent theory to under cut evolution, citing on its website that a revelation that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time would support the claim "that all species, including man, were created at one time."

What you read in your living room is your business, but when this kind of drivel is distributed at the Air Force Academy, it gets people's attention.

One retired Air Force officer encountered the publication during a visit to the academy's ophthalmology clinic and reported it to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, saying:
Most distressing about this situation is that previously on two appointments I had ignored Christian proselytizing materials found there leaving them in situ, but this was just too much.

Here we have the “Discovery News”, that someone has placed in the waiting area, on top of the other magazines, with the obvious intent
that someone could be attracted to its colorful front page and then see a creationist set of ridiculous myths that through a series of contortionist pseudo-science set of disproven facts proves the bible is to be believed verbatim, that is through a series of cartoon panels that Jesus died for your sins.

I have never been so offended in my life and decided at that moment to pick this piece of silliness up and throw it away with the same fervor that it had been placed there. Who did put it there? Was it a member of the staff? Do the doctors of the 10th Medical Group all believe Earth is clearly less than 100,000 years old? I wanted to take this cartoonish piece of propaganda into the Doctors’ office where my wife was being treated and ask the Doctor, “DO YOUR REALLY BELIEVE THIS?” And
then follow up with, “OK, then why do you allow it to be in your waiting room?”

Does Gen [Michelle] Johnson [academy superintendent] refute 100s of years of careful science and contort herself into allow the teaching of creationism in the USAF clinic because of fundamentalist evangelical Christian beliefs?

The purpose of the visit was medical care, not a defense of the theory of evolution against creationism. I also worry we’d get treated differently if they knew we didn’t share their same beliefs about the
world being created in six days and people and dinosaurs walked around together and (fill in the blank). That's why I'm coming to the MRFF.
Of course, MRFF's founder and chief executive Mikey Weinstein wasted no time in putting the word out.

We've asked the academy to address allowing this type of literature on its campus and will circle back when we hear something.

Weinstein's take, via email:
The putridly anti-science, fundamentalist Christian proselytizing material which continually adorns the patient waiting areas of USAF Academy’s Medical Clinic only further establishes how breathtakingly far the Academy has intentionally deviated from generations of Constituionally-mandated church/state separation mandates.

Let’s just be very clear here. Allowing this Christo-centric religious supremacy to fester and bloom, indeed encouraging and nourishing such sectarian evil, is a felony violation under the Uniform Code of Military Justice....

MRFF has had a stern, clarion call “Parental Advisory” out for a number of years about the Air Force Academy warning all concerned of this perpetual, unconstitutional, Christian triumphalism disgrace. These latest two outrageous instances of the proselytizing — an Air Force Academy cadet in his uniform on You Tube and now the USAF Academy Medical Clinic permitting the very visible and public distribution of anti-evolution, anti-Big bang, “Young Earth”, fundamentalist Christian mythology — only serve to boundlessly buttress MRFF’s warnings to every caring and thinking person to carefully avoid this place of bitter religious oppression.
It's worth noting that MRFF recently persuaded an Army hospital in the Washington, D.C., area to remove proselytizing materials from waiting rooms.

The flier at the academy clinic said that Discovery Ministries International is located in Divide and is looking for help distributing its news to hospital waiting rooms, doctors' offices, VA clinics, nursing homes, restaurants, motels, truck stops, schools, etc.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

UPDATE: AFA cadet wears uniform for Christian testimonial

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 5:17 PM

Cadet Watkins: Called by God.
  • Cadet Watkins: Called by God.
The YouTube recording was taken down sometime after 9:45 a.m. today.

But it wasn't because the academy demanded that. Rather, the academy ruled the video allowed under the service's rule which permits free exercise of religion. From the academy:
The Air Force Academy's goal is to foster a climate of respect. The Air Force has policies in place concerning what is and is not appropriate in regards to religious expression. These policies aim to balance the individual's right of religious expression with avoiding the appearance of inappropriate endorsement.

When allegations are made about potential violations of these policies, they are thoroughly reviewed.

Regarding the complaint concerning a cadet making an on-line video statement about his High School experience, his personal faith, and preparation for college; we have determined that the cadet's behavior is consistent with AFI 1-1, paragraph 2.11 and 2.12, Free Exercise of Religion and Religious Accommodation.
—————ORIGINAL POST 5:17 P.M. WED., NOV. 30, 2016———————————-

Whatever kind of religious sensitivity training is going on at the Air Force Academy, it's not having the desired effect, says Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

He offers as the latest evidence a YouTube video of a third-class cadet, a sophomore, giving a testimonial for the Western Christian Schools of Upland, Calif., where he graduated a couple years ago.

The cadet, Jake Watkins, appears in academy uniform saying, "I believe that God has called me to be a leader ... and to work for the Lord and not for men."

Says Weinstein via email:
Here we go again, U.S. Air Force Academy. 46 USAF Academy cadets, staff and faculty join MRFF as its clients in being outraged at this cadet’s blatant sectarian Christian proselytizing video which directly violates Air Force Instruction 1-1, Section 2.12, the No Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, bedrock U.S. Supreme Court caselaw as well as additional DoD and USAF regulations, directives and instructions.

I spoke for over 7 minutes to Major Jamie Johnson, the Air Officer Commanding of this cadet, in Cadet Squadron 29 and registered MRFF’s and its 46 USAFA clients’ collective and unbridled disappointment and shame at seeing this illicit, unconstitutional and unauthorized Christian proselytizing/"testimony" video which was recorded in the offending cadet’s official Academy uniform.

MRFF demands that this cadet and his responsible chain of command be appropriately and swiftly disciplined pursuant to the cited Air Force Instruction and other applicable military regulations to ensure that no other similar breaches of Constitutional law ever occur again at the USAF Academy.

The Air Force Academy continues to earnestly search for what it’s institutional “brand” should be. Based on the nearly 13 years that I and MRFF have been battling unlawful, fundamentalist Christian supremacy and oppression at USAFA, it would seem, most tragically, that The Cross is USAFA's most deserved “brand’.
Air Force instruction states, in part:
2.12. Balance of Free Exercise of Religion and Establishment Clause. Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for their own free exercise of religion, including individual expressions of religious beliefs, and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. They must ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of, or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief. 
Read the full instruction here:
Weinstein says he's spoken with a person at the academy who has vowed to "get this going in the proper channels."

We've also reached out to the academy for a comment on Watkins' testimonial and will update when we hear back.

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A second look at Colorado Springs Forward's IRS report

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 2:21 PM

Questions have arisen as to the accuracy of an IRS Form 990 filed by Colorado Springs Forward, a business nonprofit that finances local political campaigns and strives to change public policy.

Notably, CSF would like to see the Colorado Springs Utilities board, now comprised of City Council, become an appointed board possessing technical expertise in utilities and operating beyond the reach of voter recall.

Our cover story on Nov. 16 took a deep dive look at the agency.

It might be a little thing, but CSF misrepresents at least one board member on the Form 990 for the 2015 calendar year.

Jariah Walker, a property manager who ran for City Council in April 2015 but was defeated despite backing from CSF, served on the board from May 2015 until February 2016 when he took a job with the city's economic development office.

But he's not listed as a board member on CSF's 2015 report. There might be some other board member discrepancies as well. We're waiting to hear back on questions we've raised about that.

In addition, CSF reports it spent $173,307 on political activities. That, indeed, is the amount the organization pumped into the 2015 city election via its political action committee, but could some of its other spending qualify as political activity spending? For example, William Mutch, a political consultant, was paid $105,500 during the 2015 year. Though his official title was "policy director," did he not spend any time on candidate politics?

This is important, because CSF's nonprofit status rests on its involvement for or against political candidates NOT being its primary purpose. The organization states its goals on the Form 990 as advocating for:
CSF says on the Form 990 it spent $467,020 in 2015. Half of that would be $233,510. If Mutch spent only half his time on candidate politics, the spending figure would be $225,557 for the year for or against political candidates, which nears the half-way mark. That means an argument could be made that its primary activity is advocating for or against political candidates.

It's also worth noting that CSF's then-director John Cassiani was paid $65,292 in 2015; yet, the Form 990 reports on its first page that "salaries, other compensation, employee benefits" totaled $59,373. (That figure includes $54,875 in "compensation of current officers, directors,
trustees, and key employees" and $4,498 in payroll taxes. That leaves a $5,919 difference between Cassiani's pay and the total employee cost reported on the Form 990.)

In any event, the agency overspent its income by about $54,500. Isn't that deficit spending? Luckily, CSF had money left over from 2014 to cover the overage.

We're not sure what happens, if anything, if a nonprofit provides inaccurate information on its Form 990.

We raised most of these questions with CSF's executive director Amy Lathen, former El Paso County commissioner, and its contract communications director Cindy Aubrey, who also works for Pikes Peak United Way, on Monday but haven't heard back. If we do, we'll circle back and update.

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Bee Vradenburg Foundation gifts $5,000 in surprise grants

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 1:12 PM

Executive Director David Siegel - BEE VRADENBURG FOUNDATION
  • Bee Vradenburg Foundation
  • Executive Director David Siegel
It's always nice when hard work gets recognized. And last Wednesday, the Bee Vradenburg Foundation gave out five surprise $1,000 grants to local organizations who did cool things for the arts in Colorado Springs this year. Congratulations and thanks are in order — to the Bee Vradenburg Foundation and to the hardworking grant recipients: “First and foremost we wanted to select organizations doing incredible art, and groups that may be less well known than they ought to be," says David Siegel, Executive Director for the Bee Vradenburg Foundation. "We also tried to select a diverse group of art forms — everything from spoken word, to modern dance, to public art — to highlight the diversity of the arts community in the Pikes Peak region.”

If the Foundation's unprecedented act of kindness leaves you feeling charitable, both Ormao Dance Company and Springs Ensemble Theatre are a part of this year's Indy Give! campaign.

Read the full text of the press release below:
November 23, 2015 Colorado Springs, CO – Five Colorado Springs arts nonprofits received surprise $1,000 “thank you” grants this week from the Bee Vradenburg Foundation to celebrate a banner year for the arts in the Pikes Peak region. In an unprecedented move for the Foundation, the grants are unsolicited and designed to celebrate the often unsung arts organizations that enhance the community year round.

“We want to extend our sincere gratitude during this season of giving to the exceptional arts organizations that make the Pikes Peak region a great place to call home” said Foundation Board President, Phil Kendall. “We reap the benefits of these organizations daily – whether it’s a mosaic in a neighborhood park, or youth poetry slam after school – this is a very small way for us to say thanks.”

Recipients of the unsolicited $1,000 grants are:
• Colorado Springs Creative Collective championed a feasibility process to assess the validity of an Artspace Development to provide affordable live/work space for local artists.
• Concrete Couch unveiled several impressive “community built” public art installations including a mural at the Penrose Public Library and a giant pumpkin on the corner of Pueblo and Nevada Avenues.
• Hear Here continues to champion the local slam poetry scene and recently brought a team of local high school students to compete at the Brave New Voices festival in Washington DC.
• Ormao Dance Company premiered a groundbreaking “site-specific” dance work at the former Gazette newsroom and print shop earlier this year.
• Springs Ensemble Theatre is always on the cutting edge of live theatre and with productions like an all-female Titus Andronicus, 2016 was no exception.

“2016 was a banner year for art in the Pikes Peak region, largely thanks to innovative organizations like these” said Foundation Executive Director, David Siegel. “On any night of the week you can see live theatre, perform at a poetry slam, take in a dance performance, or enjoy public art. This remarkable access to art enriches our community and these grants are our way of saying thanks.”

Bee Vradenburg Foundation furthers the legacy of Bee Vradenburg by advancing the relevance, resilience and greatness of the arts in the Pikes Peak region. To date the Foundation has awarded more than $2.5 million to local artists and arts organizations with the knowledge that the arts are the soul of a thriving community.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Utilities set to meet new clean-air standards, official says

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 5:12 PM

Drake Power Plant downtown will lose the use of one of its three units by year's end. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Drake Power Plant downtown will lose the use of one of its three units by year's end.
There's been a lot of allegations tossed around regarding Colorado Springs Utilities' coal-fired power plants and whether they meet federal emissions standards. We won't go into all that in detail, but did think it timely to ask whether the Drake and Nixon power plants will meet clean air requirements when new regulations kick in on Jan. 1.

That's been the impetus behind CSU spending roughly $170 million on new technology invented by local physics wizard Dave Neumann via his Neumann Systems Group.

Here's an explanation on the status of that technology applied to Drake downtown, CSU's compliance and its other project involving adding scrubbers through a different company at Nixon, a plant located 10 miles south of the city.

Amy Trinidad from CSU writes:
There are two new sulfur dioxide mandates that impact our power plants in 2017. The first is the National Ambient Air Quality Standards and the second is the Regional Haze Rule.

In accordance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, the state of Colorado must demonstrate that areas around power plants meet sulfur dioxide air quality standards. At each the Drake and Clear Spring Ranch campus (where Nixon Power Plant is located), the state has chosen to demonstrate that air quality standards are met through an emission limit (1,995 tons per year at each site) that becomes effective Jan. 1, 2017.

In order to meet this limit at the Drake Power Plant, we committed to ending operations of Unit 5 by the end of 2016 and partial operation of the scrubbers during 2017. As for Nixon, our projected SO2 emissions at Clear Springs Ranch demonstrate compliance with these new limits. Once scrubbers at Nixon are commissioned in the fall of 2017, projected SO2 emissions will be even further below this limit.

Starting Jan. 1, 2018, the more stringent Regional Haze emissions limits take precedence. One of our responsibilities under the Regional Haze Rule is to meet a sulfur dioxide emission limit (0.13 lb/mmbtu for Drake’s Units 6 and 7 and 0.11 lb/mmbtu on Nixon Unit 1, each on a 30-day rolling average). Scrubbers are required on both of our coal-fired power plants to comply with these mandates.

As of Sept. 26, we took full control of the Neumann scrubbers on Units 6 and 7 at the Drake Power Plant. As you can see from the chart, the scrubbers are successfully demonstrating that we can reduce SO2 emissions to levels that will allow us to comply with new permit limits, including the Regional Haze requirements, in 2017. Our workforce has been trained to provide operational and mechanical support for the scrubbers and will be working over the next year to optimize the system.

As I already mentioned, we are also installing scrubbers at the Nixon Power Plant. Construction will wrap up in the spring and we expect to commence system testing in the fall of 2017 in order to meet the year-end deadline.
She further explains, in response to questions, that Unit 5 at Drake does not have the Neumann technology attached and will be decommissioned at year's end.
Neumann: Invented a new approach to emissions control. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Neumann: Invented a new approach to emissions control.
"By decommissioning Unit 5 and operating the scrubbers, we will be able to meet the new NAAQS yearly limits in addition to the 30-day average Regional Haze mandates," she says.

"As for Nixon, the reason we will meet the new NAAQS yearly limits, which start Jan. 1, is because of the installation of the scrubbers in the spring. Most of the SO2 emissions from this facility will occur January through March," she adds. "Then in March the plant goes into an outage (no emissions being produced) to incorporate the scrubbers. Once that is finished around mid-year, we will be testing and running the scrubbers which will decrease our SO2 emissions to ensure we meet this yearly limit."

In other words, the new limit that takes effect on Jan. 1 is measured on a yearly basis, not daily, so that the addition of scrubbers on Nixon later in the 2017 year will still mean CSU will comply. The Regional Haze limit, however, is a 30-day rolling average limit.

Meantime, Leslie Weise, a Monument resident whose son attends school in the Drake area, continues her battle over her contention that CSU is not meeting clean-air standards. Read more about that here:
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Many local police officers honored for bravery

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 1:00 PM

What's probably a record number of Colorado Springs Police officers were honored earlier this month with various medals for their bravery, and it's never too late to acknowledge those who performed heroic acts.

First, here's a complete list of officers and the awards they received:
The awards, held Nov. 18 at The Broadmoor, were sponsored by the Police Foundation of Colorado Springs.

Here are some details of the various awards:

Distinguised Service Award
On June 1, 2016, Officer Thane Gilmore was dispatched to a local hotel to assist with a runaway complaint. The investigation quickly revealed that the runaway was being held against her will and prostituted by two males who were seen with guns, knives, and Tasers in a hotel room on the third floor.
Officer Gilmore was making his way up the east stairwell to the third floor when he made contact with a male party coming down the stairwell who fit the description of one of the suspects. Officer Gilmore began to pat the suspect down when the suspect began to scream and then ran from him. Officer Gilmore gave chase, catching the suspect from behind, when the suspect pulled out a handgun and raised the weapon. Officer Gilmore continued to hang onto the suspect with one hand and then pulled out his service weapon with his other hand ordering the suspect to stop. The suspect, still fighting, tried to spin out of Officer Gilmore’s grasp while trying to point his weapon at Officer Gilmore. Officer Gilmore ordered the suspect to drop his weapon, which the suspect refused to do. Officer Gilmore was unable to use his radio to call for assistance because both of his hands were occupied. Officer Gilmore believed the suspect was going to shoot him before the suspect dropped his weapon. After the suspect dropped his weapon, he continued to fight until Officer Haynes, who had begun to look for Officer Gilmore, helped subdue him.
The suspect was arrested for first degree assault on a peace officer and the runaway was rescued from a life of prostitution.
Officer Gilmore, while faced with imminent risk of serious bodily injury, displayed courage in carrying out the necessary action to contain the situation. He is being recognized for his selfless actions with a Distinguished Service Award.

On July 2, 2015, at approximately 11:34 a.m., Officer David Simpson responded to a disturbance call in the 1900 block of Erin Loop South. The call for service details indicated the disturbance was involving a mentally disturbed 30 year old, 6'2" male, assaulting his mother inside their home. The victim's sister was present in the home and physically attempted to stop the attack, but she was unable to subdue him and she was also assaulted by the suspect.
Officer Simpson arrived on scene before his backup, and without hesitation, ran into the residence to find the victim's sister bleeding from the nose and yelling that the suspect had his mother in the upstairs bedroom. Officer Simpson observed a bedroom door knocked off the frame and a chair lying on its side as he entered the bedroom. He encountered the male straddling his mother, who was pinned down on the bed. His hands were around her face and he had been attempting to drive a cross with the image of the Virgin Mary into her eyes to "cast out demons.”
Officer Simpson single handedly engaged the suspect, pulling him off of the victim, and subdued him. His quick actions prevented the victim in this incident from being blinded or even killed by her mentally unstable son. During an interview, the suspect stated he was going to drive the cross as far into the victim's eye as he needed to in order to remove the demons.
When faced with imminent risk of serious bodily injury, Officer David Simpson displayed courage in carrying out the necessary action to contain the situation. His selflessness and professionalism reflected positively on both himself and the Colorado Springs Police Department and he is being recognized with a Distinguished Service Award.

Various awards for the Planned Parenthood shooting
On November 27, 2015, members of the Colorado Springs Police Department were called to the Planned Parenthood Clinic regarding an active shooter armed with a rifle at that location. Citizens were being actively shot by the suspect who was last seen entering the clinic where he continued to shoot from inside the building. During the shooting spree, three citizens, to include a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Police Department (UCCS) Police Officer, were shot and killed. Numerous officers began to arrive on scene which included officers from the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD), the UCCS Police Department, and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO). Ultimately, an additional four CSPD officers, one EPSO deputy, and three citizens were shot by the suspect and received serious but non-life threatening injuries. Well over 300 citizens sheltered in place for hours as multiple officers and detectives responded to secure the scene, placing themselves in the line-of-fire as the suspect continued to target arriving officers. Tactical teams entered the building to end the threat and rescue any victims inside the building. Over the next several hours, numerous citizens were rescued from the clinic and ultimately the suspect surrendered to authorities and awaits trial.
The men and women of the Colorado Springs Police Department and surrounding agencies demonstrated extraordinary heroism by responding to a highly volatile environment and subjecting themselves to the imminent risk of serious bodily injury or death. This situation was above and beyond the normal call of duty.

Medal of Valor and DSA
On October 31, 2015, officers were dispatched to a man walking around with a gas can and a gun. The call quickly turned into shots fired, and then citizen shot at 230 N. Prospect Street, and then more shots fired. Officer Gary Darress and Sergeant Patrick David were the first to arrive in the area of Platte Avenue and Prospect Street. Officer Darress was eastbound and observed the suspect with a rifle on Platte Avenue walking westbound between N. Corona Street and N. Wahsatch Avenue. Officer Darress recalls that he and the suspect watched each other as Officer Darress drove past and made a U-tum around the median at N. Corona Street. Sergeant Patrick David was traveling eastbound and came up right behind Officer Darress. Officer Darress could see that the suspect had entered the intersection of Wahsatch and Platte Avenues.
Officer Darress and Sergeant David positioned their vehicles in the intersection and got out of their vehicles to confront the suspect, who was now standing on the median of Wahsatch Avenue. As Officer Darress ordered the suspect to drop his weapon and get on the ground, an unsuspecting citizen also standing in the median, dropped to the ground. The suspect immediately raised his rifle and fired upon Officer Darress and Sergeant David. Both ducked behind their vehicles for cover. Both vehicles sustained multiple rounds; however, neither Officer Darress nor Sergeant David were shot.
Training Officer Scott Hallas with Recruit Officer Charles Surratt, and Training Officer Ed Crofoot with Recruit Officer Matt Anderson, arrived at Platte Avenue and Wahsatch Avenue almost simultaneously. Officers Anderson and Crofoot positioned themselves in the intersection to the west of Officer Darress. Officers Surratt and Hallas positioned themselves on Platte Avenue north of the Wendy's restaurant. Officer Hallas ran from his position of cover to the Wendy's parking lot because he could see the suspect backing up as he was firing upon Officer Darress and Sergeant David. Officers Surratt, Hallas, Anderson and Crofoot fired at the suspect; and as a result, the suspect fell to the ground. The suspect was later determined to be deceased.
These officers deliberately surrounded the suspect, despite the risk of being shot themselves, to prevent the suspect from continuing his killing spree. For their extraordinary heroism and courage in an extremely dangerous situation, they are being recognized with a Medal of Valor.

On October 31, 2015, Officer Dale Zehner and Officer Ronnie Taylor were dispatched following reports of an active shooter on Platte Avenue. As they arrived, they observed a bicyclist deceased in front of the address and smoke billowing from the building. A citizen said he thought there was a female victim in the apartment, so Officers Zehner and Taylor went in the smoke-filled second story apartment to look for a victim. They cleared the apartment with no victims found. Officer Taylor opened the door of the first floor business and saw the fire moving throughout the floor and approaching three or four 20 lb. propane tanks. Officer Taylor requested the Colorado Springs Fire Department respond. The fire department arrived and the fire was extinguished. Both officers risked their safety to check for and rescue any victims that were inside the burning building. For their acts of bravery, they are being recognized with a Distinguished Service Award.

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Appreciating the volunteers this Thanksgiving

Posted By on Sat, Nov 26, 2016 at 8:38 AM

There's no doubt volunteer work essential to our park lands. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • There's no doubt volunteer work essential to our park lands.
Thanksgiving is now a couple days behind us. Turkey was consumed in mass quantities, and "Black Friday" was spent either standing in long lines waiting for a bargain, or more hopefully, spent outdoors working off Thanksgiving dinner.

"Giving thanks" is a usual tradition, and that's what I'm here to do. I'm not going to bore you with stories about my family and how I'm thankful for them — that's a given. Instead, I'm giving thanks to the people who help make our parks and trails enjoyable and usable.

Our federal, state, county and city park systems have hard working staff who maintain our public lands. But any of those groups will tell you that they wouldn't be able to accomplish much past their basic functions without the help of many dedicated volunteers. Volunteers have become the backbone of many parks departments, "friends" groups and other organizations that work in the outdoors. Volunteers help plan, execute and fund-raise projects in parks. They greet visitors, conduct kids camps and classes and take visitors on hikes. They help clean the parks and fix trails damaged by overuse, fire or floods.

It's easy to say that volunteers are valuable, but how valuable — in dollars, cents and hours worked — are they? In 2016, according to the Colorado Springs Parks Department, 5,000 volunteers have performed 150,000 hours of service, an estimated value of $3.45 million.

"We are truly Thankful for all of our extraordinary volunteers who serve our community and our Park System" says city parks director Karen Palus in an email.

The El Paso County Parks system projects 33,000 hours of volunteer time with an estimated value of almost $600,000 in 2016.

"Obviously, our volunteerism is incredibly valuable to us," says Tim Wolken, community services department director.

The Rocky Mountain Field Institute does work in city, county and federal lands, and relies heavily on volunteers to carry out their projects. According to volunteer coordinator Molly Mazel, volunteers worked 14, 429 hours, worth more than $339,000 this year.

So while you're burning off that second helping of stuffing this weekend and enjoying the outdoors, be thankful for the volunteers who make your outings more enjoyable.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website ( E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob:
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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Marine Stewardship Council clarifies business model

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 9:19 AM

Last week, we reported on UCCS's recent certification by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), affirming its commitment to serving sustainable seafood on campus. As part of the article, we made note of a three-article series from NPR calling into question the MSC's diligence, describing a fundamental conflict of interest in their business model. Ultimately, Mark Hayes, director of Dining and Hospitality Services for UCCS, considered the situation and decided that MSC was sufficiently legit to pursue their certification.

After we released the story, MSC's US Media Manager, Jon Corsiglia, reached out to the Independent to clarify MSC's business model. With his permission, we've run the letter below:
I wanted to reach out and correct the notion that there’s a conflict of interest in the MSC business model.

The MSC does not set the sustainable fishing standard by itself. Our standards were developed through consultation with the fishing industry, scientists, conservation groups, experts and stakeholders. These standards detail the requirements for fisheries to be certified as sustainable. Fisheries and seafood businesses voluntarily seek certification against the standards. To ensure that certification is credible and robust, assessment to our standards is carried out by independent, third party assessment bodies. The MSC does not do the assessments; does not make the decision whether or not the fishery is certified sustainable; and does not receive any money from the fisheries for their assessment/certification.

The MSC does charge companies a licensing fee to use the blue MSC ecolabel on consumer facing products. However, certified fisheries can use the trademark to promote their achievement of certification free of charge. It is also important to note that, while the MSC receives no payment from fisheries, MSC certified fisheries do make a considerable financial commitment and contribution to becoming MSC certified. For example, they must pay independent certification bodies to carry out assessments to the MSC Fisheries Standard, and employ staff / scientists to ensure that the requirements of the MSC Standard are met.

MSC labeled products can be traced back to fisheries that have been independently certified as sustainable. These fisheries are ensuring that the fish populations and the ecosystems on which they depend remain healthy and productive, now and in the future.

As more consumers, restaurants, retailers and processors choose MSC certified seafood, other fisheries are encouraged into assessment. Many make improvements in the way they fish the oceans in order to achieve certification. This is where real and lasting change can be delivered.

As supplies of sustainable seafood continue to grow, market awareness, demand and commitments to sustainable sourcing also increase. We hope this expanding cycle of supply and demand will ultimately lead to sustainable seafood becoming the norm.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Kanye’s post-meltdown cancellation + latest concert announcements

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 2:35 PM

Kanye and Kim... - in happier times. - PHOTO: OVIDIU HRUBARU/SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Photo: Ovidiu Hrubaru/Shutterstock
  • Kanye and Kim... in happier times.

Shows sell out. You get sad. We’re here to help. Here, for your planning pleasure, is our latest batch of
 newly announced concerts and club shows.

The big news this week is that Kanye West has called off the remaining dates on his San Pablo Tour, including a scheduled Nov. 28 performance at the Pepsi Center.

The rapper was reportedly hospitalized in the aftermath of Saturday’s Sacramento show, which consisted of just two songs followed by a rambling rant about Jay-Z, Mark Zuckerberg, Malcolm X, Donald Trump and others.

You can watch it for yourself in the following video, then scroll down for upcoming shows that actually ARE happening.

Queensryche, with Armored Saint,
Black Sheep, Dec. 15

The Wailers, Fox Theatre, Boulder, Dec. 28

Talib Kweli, Gothic Theatre, Englewood, Dec. 29

Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, Denver, Dec. 31

Decadence NYE, featuring Testio and others, Colorado Convention Center, Denver, Dec. 31

The Expendables, Black Sheep, Jan. 11 (Tickets go on sale Nov. 25)

T.I., Cervantes, Denver, Jan. 11

Passafire, Black Sheep, Jan. 26

Devendra Banhart, Boulder Theater, Boulder, Feb. 3

Less Than Jake, Ogden Theatre, Denver, Feb. 3

Datsik, 1stBank Center, Denver, Feb. 4

George Porter Jr., with Zigaboo Modeliste and John Medeski, Boulder Theater, Boulder, Feb. 9

J Boog, Black Sheep, Feb. 11

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City releases PSA to help residents cope with tragic anniversaries

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 2:33 PM

For many Colorado Springs residents, this is a hard season to weather. Two major shootings took place in our city last year around this time: Halloween’s shooting on Platte Avenue, and the tragic events at Planned Parenthood on Black Friday.

The City of Colorado Springs has put out a PSA to let residents know that it’s normal to feel sadness or fear, or for memories of these traumatic events to come up, especially if you were directly affected. They also want to spread the word that there are resources out there to help you and loved ones through the trauma.

The PSA (also available in Spanish) mentions the website, a trauma recovery resource base for people living in the Pikes Peak Region. Whether you need longer-term help such as a recommended therapist, or some techniques to help with intermittent feelings of panic or pain, it’s there to help.

Check out the interview below to hear UCCS Professor Dr. Charles Benight talk about and how to take care of yourself this season.

WeAreCOS: Shooting Anniversary with Dr. Charles Benight from City of Colorado Springs on Vimeo.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

UPDATE: Trans Day of Remembrance on Sunday

Posted By on Mon, Nov 21, 2016 at 1:43 PM

At Sunday's Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil, local law enforcement agencies showed unexpected support, sending a police officer and sheriff’s deputy to address attendees. Event organizer Dana Stevens also read a letter from Mayor John Suthers, who wasn’t there in the flesh, but nonetheless declared that the group’s dedication to raising awareness should be commended. It was the first time a sitting Springs Mayor recognized the day.

  • Urban Reporter / Shutterstock
This Sunday is Transgender Day of Remembrance across the nation, a designated time to memorialize lives lost to violence against people targeted for their gender or sexual identity. Here in Colorado Springs, a candlelight vigil will be held at 6pm at the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church downtown, sponsored by Peak Area Gender Expressions — a local group that provides resources and support to transgender people, their friends and family in a region once known as a bastion of intolerance.

This annual event is held in November to honor the life of Rita Hester, a black trans woman, who's stabbing murder in 1998 sparked the "Remembering Our Dead" online project and, subsequently, these days of remembrance. They're a time to raise awareness about the disproportionate rates of violence affecting the LGBTQ community and advocate for strengthening human rights for everyone — but especially the most vulnerable.

2016 has been the deadliest year for transgender people on record, according to GLAAD which found 26 (reported) murders in the first 11 months of the year. The majority are trans women of color. The FBI didn't start tracking crimes against gender non-conforming people until 2014, but has since reported that LGBTQ people are the most targeted group in the country.

Fears are high amongst the trans community since the election of Donald Trump and, especially, his running mate Mike Pence, the religious liberty-loving former governor of Indiana who's notorious for his crusades against same-sex marriage and for gay conversion therapy. Instances of hate speech have been reported around the country, including in Denver where a trans woman's car was vandalized with swastikas and tags like "die he she" and "tranny." Vandalism in a similar vein was also reported at Colorado College.

The Trans Day of Remembrance website keeps a list of the names and identities of those who've fallen victim. That can be found here.

Keynote speaker at Sunday's vigil is Dr. Datti Kapella — a trans woman, veteran of the U.S. military and advocate for the LGBTQ community.
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