Occupying all over again
The local Occupy Wall Street movement started fairly strongly last fall, but ran into complaints from downtown business owners and had its tents swept out of Acacia Park. In addition, internal squabbles divided the movement in two: Occupy Pikes Peak meets at 7 p.m. on Thursdays in Old Colorado City's Bancroft Park, while Occupy Colorado Springs protesters still frequent Acacia Park.
Now, as spring arrives, the nationwide movement considers its next phase. Since Monday, the 99 Percent Spring movement has been hosting online and in-person trainings, according to its website, to: "tell the story of our economy," "learn the history of non-violent direct action," and "get into action on our own campaigns to win change." It was launched by moveon.org and a number of labor unions.
While the99spring.com site shows an "equal pay" rally scheduled for Tuesday in Denver, as of press time it did not include any events in the Pikes Peak region. Contacted by the Indy, members of OCS and OPP refused to be quoted, but indicated their willingness to participate. — CH
Hospitals fund detox
Helping the community pay for detox services will cost local hospitals more than $600,000 in the next year.
Under a plan approved Tuesday by El Paso County commissioners, city-owned Memorial Health System would contribute $423,649, and Catholic Health Initiatives, which runs Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, $180,039. The amounts represent a 5.9 percent increase for both agencies.
Detox formerly was run by AspenPointe, but the nonprofit mental health agency backed out with just two months' notice in 2009, calling it too expensive. Sheriff Terry Maketa proposed building a detox structure next to the Criminal Justice Center, where intoxicated patients could be housed until sober and get referral for treatment.
Maketa built the structure with money his department receives for holding illegal immigrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but didn't have funds for operations. So the hospitals pitched in to fund the program, rather than having drunks brought to their emergency rooms.
The agreement is essentially a renewal for one year. It's unclear whether University of Colorado Health System will agree to fund detox if and when it takes over Memorial under a lease currently being negotiated. City Attorney Chris Melcher didn't return an e-mail seeking comment. — PZ
Velasquez probe costly
Terri Velasquez, who directed city finances for years before being fired in 2011, sued the city and lobbed all sorts of allegations. Notably, she said the city tried to hide misdeeds, including alleged misuse of El Pomar Foundation grant funds for the U.S. Olympic Committee retention deal. She also alleged gender discrimination.
In response, Mayor Steve Bach launched an investigation, and the city attorney's office hired outside help. Now done, the investigation found Velasquez's claims baseless.
This doesn't mean much, as the Velasquez lawsuit is still on. And since it's considered to fall under attorney-client privilege, the public won't be able to see the findings. But the investigation cost taxpayers $65,000. — JAS
Hectic time for GOP
It's going to be a busy weekend for local Republicans. On Friday, GOP delegates from throughout the 5th Congressional District will meet in Denver to choose which candidates will make the June 26 primary ballot without taking the petition route. In that race, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn is seeking his fourth term, with newcomers Robert Blaha and Doug Bergeron trying to unseat him.
Blaha has kept up his assault on Lamborn. According to a release, Blaha's campaign has filed a complaint with the Franking Commission (or Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards), alleging that Lamborn used taxpayer dollars for a campaign mailer.
While it appears that Lamborn will seek the ballot via the delegate route, Blaha campaign leaders say that they have already secured enough signatures to petition onto the ballot. Bergeron is trying only to win over delegates, with no plan to petition.
A day later, on Saturday, the GOP will have its statewide assembly, also in Denver. — CH
Indy writer honored
J. Adrian Stanley captured the Media Champion award Saturday from the Colorado Springs Pride Center, the second consecutive year an Independent staffer has won the category. Associate editor Kirsten Akens won the award last year. The Pride organization works to connect, support and empower the LGBT community.
Other Pride awards went to: World Arena/Pikes Peak Center as Business of the Year; Daneya Esgar, Community Activist; Dan Murphy, Community Service; Wasson High's Gay-Straight-Trans Alliance, Education; Manitou Springs City Council, Government Official; Julia Rohleder, Health & Wellness; Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church, Community Ally; Girl Scouts of Colorado, Organization; Linda Rankin, Lifetime Achievement (presented posthumously); and Michael Gerbig, Linda S. Rankin Special Recognition Award.— PZ
Wommack on agenda
A plan to build a Charis Bible College campus on wooded land west of Woodland Park goes before the town's Planning Commission at 6 p.m., Thursday.
Andrew Wommack Ministries, Inc., of Colorado Springs, is planning to build a college and retreat center called "The Sanctuary" on 157 acres at 5849 Trout Creek Road, off U.S. Highway 24 (see "Mixed blessings," Nov. 10, 2011). The college now is located in Colorado Springs just off Garden of the Gods Road and west of Interstate 25.
The Planning Commission's actions — on the planned unit development zoning district, the final plan and preliminary plat — will be forwarded to Woodland Park's City Council for action, likely at its May 17 meeting. — PZ
Watchdogs pursue Gessler
Watchdog groups Colorado Ethics Watch and Colorado Common Cause have filed a complaint in Denver District Court against Secretary of State Scott Gessler, alleging that his rule-making has illegally weakened campaign finance law.
These aren't the first such allegations. Last year, Gessler was forced to respond after a similar complaint led to a court order. He withdrew another rule that would have loosened regulations, after Ethics Watch filed suit. Gessler's latest rewrite of election laws, effective March 7, greatly reduced regulations on groups that fund campaigns.
"Secretary Gessler appears not to have gotten the message that both the court and the Legislature have already sent: His job is to enforce the laws on the books, not rewrite them to his liking in an election year," Luis Toro, director of Ethics Watch, says in a release. "We are confident that the result in this case will be no different from what has happened before." — JAS
No pink slime in D-11
With many consumers still angered about ground beef containing a chemically treated additive known derisively as "pink slime," Colorado Springs School District 11 is striving to get the word out about its "Good Food" movement.
Not only does D-11 meat not contain pink slime, it's Callicrate beef, free of antibiotics and hormones. D-11 is returning to from-scratch cooking and no longer uses highly processed foods or foods with growth hormones, antibiotics, artificial dyes and preservatives, hydrogenated oils or added sugars. The district also tries to buy local foods with minimal packaging.
D-11 nutrition officials Rick Hughes and Jamie Humphrey will discuss the program from 12:11 to 12:49 p.m., Wednesday, April 18, at the City Administration Building, 30 S. Nevada Ave. Attendees are encouraged to bring a sack lunch. — JAS
Compiled by Chet Hardin, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.