Saturday, December 10, 2016

Enjoy Sin City without the sin

Posted By on Sat, Dec 10, 2016 at 9:34 AM

Red Rocks Canyon Nat'l Conservation Area - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Red Rocks Canyon Nat'l Conservation Area
Las Vegas is a city of excess. There’s just too much of everything — too many people, too much traffic, too many buildings and lights. It's just too much.

Having grown up near Atlantic City, I’ve come to realize that the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas and Atlantic City is mostly just a front. That kind of scene isn't for me.

But if you find yourself in Las Vegas, as I did recently, and you feel the same way I do, you'll be happy to know there's plenty of outdoor recreation available to calm your nerves and satisfy your wander lust.

A little under 20 miles west of Las Vegas, Red Rocks Canyon National Conservation Area is a very beautiful park with plenty of trails to explore. At over 197,000 acres in size, there's something for everyone — hiking, cycling, rock climbing and 4-wheeling. A one-way, 13-mile loop leads as deep into the area as the majority of its 2 million visitors per year ever get. But, for the hiker there are many trails of various lengths and difficulty. I hiked to the top of Turtlehead Peak, roughly 5 miles round trip that starts off easy before becoming pretty strenuous. With over 2,000’ of elevation gain, the views are stunning, and the relatively small summit still boasts great 360° views. The trail is well marked, except for the last hundred feet or so to the summit.

There is a $7 per day entry fee to enter Red Rocks Canyon; if you have a “America the Beautiful Pass” you can get in without paying at the gate.

About 45 miles north east of Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park was established as Nevada’s first state park in 1935. Exiting I-15, Valley of Fire Road drops down into a wide open valley of bright red rock formations, with canyons, arches and sandy dry washes. The red rocks in the park seemed brighter to me than similar places in the southwest and may have been why it was named the Valley of Fire. Besides the incredibly beautiful rock formations, there are hundreds of petroglyphs left from the ancient people who once inhabited the area.

There are a number of hiking trails in the park that are maintained by the park staff, but you are free to roam where ever you wish, unless otherwise posted. Valley of Fire is a mecca for landscape photographers, and my brief visit was spent mostly taking photos. With only a few hours to spend there, I elected to photograph the “Fire Wave,” a formation of sandstone with curves, waves and grooves of varying shades of red and orange. It’s not as big, or as famous as the “Wave” on the Utah/Arizona border, but it’s much easier to get to, and just as pretty and photogenic.

There is a $10 fee to enter Valley of Fire and since it is a state park, National Parks passes are not accepted.

Valley of Fire Park - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Valley of Fire Park

On the most northwestern edge of the Las Vegas metro area, at the dead end of a road through yet another relatively new housing development, is Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument. Established in 2014, it has no entrance gate, no visitor’s center, no established trail system, no staff and a single ranger who, I believe, divides his time between the monument and a National Park Service office in Boulder City. On my visit, I found one small sign that indicated that a National Monument even existed, but the area is open to exploration if you have the time to visit.

Tule Springs Fossil Beds Nat'l Monument - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Tule Springs Fossil Beds Nat'l Monument

This of course only scratches the surface of the outdoor recreational opportunities in the Las Vegas area. Death Valley is only a few hours west, Zion National Park a couple of hours northeast and the Grand Canyon is about 4 hours east. But if you find yourself in Las Vegas and need to get away from the maddening crowds, this should get you started.

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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Friday, December 9, 2016

AFA coaches must provide "appropriate disclaimer" on Twitter accounts

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 5:19 PM

  • From the AFA website

A week after we first asked the Air Force Academy about a football coach's proselytizing on his Twitter account, we finally got an answer.

Read the background on this issue here.

The Academy says via email:
We appreciate you bringing this to our attention. Upon looking into this matter, we learned that all athletic coaches' social media accounts are personal and not maintained by the Air Force Academy Athletic Department. The views and comments within these accounts are personal and not the views of the Air Force Academy or Air Force. However, we appreciate that the accounts could appear official and have advised that an appropriate disclaimer be included to avoid confusion in this regard.

The Academy remains committed to protecting individuals' right to practice any religion they choose, or no religion, provided their practices do not violate policy or law, or impede mission accomplishment, military readiness, unit cohesion, standards or discipline. 
As we understand it, this means the coaches are free to use Academy images on their "personal" Twitter accounts that they use to proselytize, but they have to insert a disclaimer that it's not an official Academy account.

It's worth noting that after we raised the question a week ago, triggered by a complaint to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the Academy removed links to coaches' Twitter accounts from the AFA athletic division website. So if you see a Falcon coach tweeting with images from the Academy and Bible verses, know that it's not officially coming from the Academy.

We asked for clarification on this point — whether coaches can still use AFA images and represent themselves as with the Academy in evangelizing messages — but were told that everyone had gone home today and that a response will come on Monday.

We checked in with MRFF's founder and chief executive Mikey Weinstein, who said in an email, "My response is that this is complete and utter bullshit and there will be a lot more to come on this."

MRFF filed a complaint with the Defense Department's Inspector General's Office, which apparently has already opened an investigation. It's unclear whether the Academy's solution as stated above ends the investigation.

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Trump's pick for Interior no friend of America's parks, nonprofits say

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 11:16 AM

  • U.S. Forest Service
Environmental groups are up in arms over the nomination by President-elect Trump of Cathy McMorris Rodgers, an oil and gas friendly congresswoman, to lead the Interior Department.

The Center for Western Priorities writes:
DENVER—In response to reports that President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers to lead the Department of the Interior, the Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala:

“This week, President-elect Trump told America he wants to follow in Teddy Roosevelt’s footsteps by conserving America’s parks and public lands. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, unfortunately, has shown little interest in the issues she would encounter on a daily basis as Secretary of the Interior.

“Before the Senate considers her nomination, the American people deserve to know where McMorris Rodgers stands on the issues facing our public lands today, particularly at a time when members of her party are encouraging the President-elect to take the unprecedented step of erasing national monuments from the map and selling off public lands.

“If Cathy McMorris Rodgers is confirmed, we hope she takes her new boss’s words seriously and follows in the conservation tradition of Teddy Roosevelt, not the robber barons who would have drilled, mined, and clear-cut their way across the West a century ago.”
In 2011, Cathy McMorris Rodgers was a co-sponsor of HR 1126, which would have sold off more than 3 million acres of public lands to private interests. This year, McMorris Rodgers voted against an amendment that would have prevented efforts to dispose of public lands outside of the established planning process. These positions should raise a red flag for anyone who values keeping our public lands public.

President-elect Trump this week promised to honor “the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, believe it or not, one of our great environmentalists.” When asked by a reporter earlier this year about proposals to “transfer” American public lands to states, Trump said, “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do. I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold. We have to be great stewards of this land.”

President-elect Trump’s statements are contradicted by the crusade by some members of Congress to dispose of public lands into state and private hands.
The Western Values Project also issued a statement, saying:
President-elect Donald Trump's nomination of Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, who has pushed for the sell off of public lands owned by all Americans, is drawing a stark contrast with his previously stated desire to honor “the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt” — the iconic President that led a massive expansion of America’s Parks System.

A longtime member of the political establishment in Washington, D.C., Congresswoman McMorris-Rogers has frequently opposed the expansion of national public lands, while taking a lifetime total of $357,340 from oil and gas companies. That record is a clear sign the next Department of Interior will prioritize resource extraction over the protection of important Western landscapes that drive the outdoor economy.

Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project, issued the following statement in response to the nomination:

“Rep. McMorris-Rodgers traded Washington state’s conservation values for Washington, D.C.'s pay-to-play traditions a long time ago. During her long career in Congress she cozied up to special interests while openly leading the charge to privatize our nation’s public lands. If personnel is policy, then it’s fair to say the incoming administration is setting itself up to erase Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy of expanding and protecting our most valuable landscapes.
“The vast majority of Westerners believe that no one set of special interests should dominate the way our lands are managed. Far from draining the swamp, this pick is a clear sign that the incoming leadership is willing to rig the public lands system in favor of the extraction industry, and at the expense of access to public lands. If that’s the direction this administration goes, Westerners will hold them accountable for turning their backs on a core part of our heritage.

“The incoming administration has plenty of tools at its disposal if it wants to avoid the public lands problems of the past, and we'd be happy to be proved wrong about Congresswomen McMorris Rodgers’ commitment to making public lands work for everyone.”

1995 HEADLINE: “McMorris Seeks Halt to State Land Buys” As far back as 1995, then state representative McMorris Rodgers sponsored a bill to block a state Recreation Agency “from giving grants to buy land for parks, trails and other recreational lands.” She said at the time that “too much land is going off tax rolls and into public ownership.” [Bruce Rushton, “Legislature ’95: GOP Sends ‘Message’ With Bill on Park Lands,” The News Tribune, 02/06/95]

“McMorris said the state owns enough land, and instead of buying more land the state should manage what it owns more carefully.” She also said, “‘At a time when there's not enough funding for vital state services, the money saved should be used to fund prison and school construction.’” McMorris also “said when public lands are removed from a county tax base it is much more difficult for counties to maintain needed services.” [Staff, “McMorris Seeks Halt to State Land Buys,” The Wenatchee World, 02/12/95]

McMorris also said, “‘The government owns enough land in Washington state’.” [Michael Paulson, “Wildlife Program Threatened: GOP Wants to Curb State Land Purchases,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 02/23/95]

At a hearing on the proposal in March of 1995, McMorris “said ‘more public lands are not needed.’” [Michael Paulson, “Lobbying for State Land Buys Conservations Don’t Want a Bank,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 03/04/95]

“Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said changes are needed to limit funding for federal land acquisitions.” According to the Spokesman Review, “Federal land acquisitions are often poorly managed and inaccessible to the public, McMorris Rodgers said recently in a statement. If changes are made, it’s likely the fund could be back soon, she added. ‘As we look to reauthorization, we must bring the LWCF into the 21st Century,’ the Spokane Republican said. ‘I want to look at ways to strengthen our state and local parks and limit the practice of bureaucrats in (Division of Conservation Services) buying up large swaths of farmland and rangeland.’” [Kevin Graeler, “Republicans seek land funding change,” The Spokesman-Review, 10/04/15]

2012: McMorris opposes “removing lands from private ownership” in speech to logging industry At her 2012 keynote speech at the Society of American Foresters National Convention, McMorris Rodgers said “It is no coincidence that many of the counties with the highest unemployment rates in the country are those which are surrounded by federal forests.” McMorris’s speech advocated for return of national forests to local, private ownership saying “By removing lands from private ownership – and thus, from the local municipal tax rolls – the government stifles locally-driven development and makes rural communities more dependent on Washington, DC.”

2011: Cathy McMorris Rodgers co-sponsored “The Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act” The bill would compel the Secretary of the Interior to sell federal lands throughout the West “previously identified as suitable for disposal.” [H.R. 1126, the Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act of 2011]

Since 2004, Cathy McMorris Rodgers has raked in $357,340 from the oil and gas industry. [Center for Responsive Politics - Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers Industries, accessed 12/08/16]
But not everyone is critical of the selection of McMorris Rodgers. The Boulder-based Outdoor Industry Association says this in a release:
It is being reported that Donald Trump will nominate Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican representative for Washington State’s 5th Congressional District and Chair of the House Republican Caucus, to be the next Secretary of the Interior.

“As the outdoor industry well knows, the U.S. Department of the Interior is one of the most important cabinet offices for our issues,” said OIA Executive Director Amy Roberts. “We believe we will have a productive and collaborative relationship with Representative McMorris Rodgers like the ones we enjoyed with Secretaries Jewell, Salazar, and Kempthorne before her.”

McMorris Rodgers currently represents several outdoor industry businesses in her district, understands that public lands and waters are the foundation of the massive $646 billion outdoor recreation economy, and was an original cosponsor of the Outdoor REC Act that was just signed into law.

When discussing the outdoor recreation economy, McMorris Rodgers said: “Here in the Northwest, spending time outdoors in nature is a way of life. For many, it’s a big part of the reason we choose to live here, and it also is an economic driver. In the West, there are 640 million acres of federal land. This land belongs to the people, and I believe it should be open to many types of activities — providing enjoyment and economic opportunity for local communities.”

OIA has an excellent relationship with McMorris Rodgers and her staff, and we would look forward to working with her to continue the investment in and protection of outdoor recreation on America's public lands.

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Rev. Nori Rost and All Souls Church host two commemorative events this weekend

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 11:14 AM

All Souls Unitarian-Universalist Church has a big weekend coming up, honoring two anniversaries with special services and community discussions.

Saturday, Dec. 10, the church will host a Service of Remembrance to honor victims of gun violence, marking the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Considering how deeply our own community has been affected by gun violence (between the Planned Parenthood and the Halloween shootings last year), it is sure to be a powerful service. It will be held at 2 p.m.

Then, on Dec. 11 at 10:30 a.m., join Rev. Nori Rost for “Our Rights. Our Freedom. Always,” a commemoration of Human Rights Day, which honors the day that The United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the two international Covenants on Human Rights, which will be the focus of Rost’s presentation.

Other speakers include Thomas Barnes, a criminal defense attorney, Dr. Bill Durland, a retired civil rights attorney and Dr. Bill Hochman, history professor at Colorado College.

The audience will have a chance to share their thoughts and engage in the discussion.

Community partners have come together to support both events. Moms Demand Action to End Gun Violence will contribute to the Service of Remembrance, and The Colorado Springs Civil Liberties Coalition and Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission will engage in the commemoration of Human Rights Day.

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Tax measures coming to a ballot near you

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 10:48 AM

Camp Creek erosion shows a need for stormwater control. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • Camp Creek erosion shows a need for stormwater control.
This week, we reported that Mayor John Suthers plans to ask City Council to refer a measure to voters in April that would allow the city to keep any excess revenue from this year and next. In other words, the revenue cap, imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, would be lifted for those two years.

Millions of dollars in extra money are expected to be collected above the TABOR cap, Suthers says.

Suthers wants the money to go to stormwater needs.

Meantime, the Parks Department is looking into a possible sales tax dedicated to parks. The city already has the Trails, Open space and Parks tax that's been in place for 20 years. But apparently it's not enough.

(FYI: In 2013, voters approved a measure, proposed by then-Mayor Steve Bach's Parks Solutions Team, that allowed the city to spend all of the 20 percent of the TOPS tax dedicated to parks, for parks maintenance. The rest of the tax money is split between trails and open space. The Trails and Open Space Coalition opposed the measure, worrying the city would simply rely on the TOPS money with no pledge of maintenance of effort.)

The total sales tax for purchases within the city limits is 8.25 percent, so one might wonder how high can we go before shoppers simply go elsewhere or buy everything online.

Here's how the tax breaks down: 3.12 percent for the city; 2.9 percent for the state; 1.23 percent for El Paso County, and 1 percent for the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority.

In any event, we asked Parks Director Karen Palus about this tax effort, and here's what she told us, via email:
The Trust for Public Land’s (TPL) Conservation Finance Division is providing technical assistance to the City and County to look at the feasibility of a conservation measure for our community. There has been a large group of community stakeholders working with TPL on this initiative. These stakeholders have worked with TPL to fund a public opinion survey to test a couple of parks questions related to additional funding. This community initiative is in part due to the information expressed by the community in our Park System Master Plan. As you may recall the analysis that was completed regarding parks spending per capita showed that our City compared to other communities our size was significantly underfunded and understaffed. The City of Colorado Springs is around $44.00 per person and the average of other communities is around $96.00 per person as shown in the Park System Master Plan report completed in 2014. The group of community stakeholders has been discussing sustainable funding for parks for some time with a recent emphasis that would help bring our community closer to the average. No decisions have been made as the group and TPL are still gathering information.

The TOPS measure that was passed in 2014 allowed the same amount of funding to be open to all Parks. This did not increase the funding for maintenance it just expanded the number of facilities where those funds could be spent. The TOPS Parks Category raises an estimated $1.4 million. This funding is now available for ALL parks(over 200 facilities) and can be used for a variety of things such as acquisition, development, construction, maintenance, repair and renovation.
So while the April 4 election will decide a majority of City Council with six of nine seats up for grabs, it also is expected to pose two tax questions — both of which will ask for more money.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

UPDATE: Youth filmmakers to be featured on PBS

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 3:21 PM

Rocky Mountain PBS reached out to me today to clarify that Legg's film is a part of a new series called “Insight with John Ferrugia.”

The special that Legg is featured on is called “Surviving Suicide” and will feature an interview with Legg and clips from her film.

PBS will be airing more YDA films in the future, though it's not yet decided what programs they will be a part of.

"We are excited to work with the Youth Documentary Academy and looking forward to what the possibilities are in the future," Laura Frank, PBS president and general manger of news, says. "These are talented filmmakers."

——- ORIGINAL POST, WEDNESDAY, 4:47 p.m. ——-

YDA filmmaker Madison Legg - JANA LILIAN KAISER
  • YDA filmmaker Madison Legg
As a journalist, I try not to get emotionally involved in my stories.

But it's tough not get excited when a bunch of ambitious, talented, bright, local teens get the recognition they deserve. So, excuse me if I seem a little giddy when I tell you that the Youth Documentary Academy is partnering with Rocky Mountain PBS. PBS is going to be broadcasting YDA's short documentaries, giving these powerful films a wider audience.

Madison Legg’s 2015 film Under the Wire will be the first to air. You can watch it on Thursday, December 15, at 7 p.m.

I wrote about Legg's film, and several other YDA films, here in October.

YDA is led by award-winning filmmaker Tom Shepard, who grew up in the Springs. The program offers training to talented teens free-of-charge, giving them the tools and skills to tell their own stories through film. 

So what stories do teens have to tell? How about the pain of a completed or attempted youth suicide? Or the struggle of growing up with a debilitating disease? Or the division in the black community based on skin shade?

In other words, these films are made by kids, but they weren't treated with kid gloves. YDA's young filmmakers explore deep subjects in surprisingly raw ways. Prepare the tissues. 

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UPDATE: AFA coach's tweets spur demand for investigation

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 1:48 PM

The academy's chapel and iconic symbol. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The academy's chapel and iconic symbol.
A New York lawfirm representing Military Religious Freedom Foundation says it's already been contacted by a Defense Department Inspector General's Office investigator. From an email to MRFF shared with the Independent:
Earlier this afternoon, I spoke with the DoD/IG Investigator assigned to MRFF’s IG Complaint about a AFA football coach’s use of a Twitter account linked to the AFA’s Athletic Department for proselytizing his religion. I confirmed that I was their counsel on this matter and that MRFF did not desire that this be handled anonymously, as it is a matter of public interest especially since it is and has been an on-going issue at the AFA.
Moreover, it appears the academy has removed all twitter accounts of coaches from its athletics website.

————————-ORIGINAL POST 1:48 P.M. THURS., DEC. 8, 2016—————-

Citing the an Air Force Academy's football coach's use of Twitter to evangelize, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation submitted a request for an investigation to the Inspector General's Office on Wednesday.

Read the request here:
The coach, Steed Lobotzke, the letter says, "is using his official status as a government employee of the AFA to publicly proselytize his particular brand of fundamental Christianity.... he engages in this misconduct via what to any reasonable observer is his official AFA Twitter account."

A couple of examples of Lobotzke's tweets:
The MRFF says it represents five members of the academy's athletic department and three members of the football team who object to the tweets.

Here's the evidence also sent to the IG's office:
The Independent reported on this last week.

Lobotzke has since added a line on his Twitter account saying, "Tweets are my own views."

"That may be," the MRFF letter says, "but he is still AFA football "CoachLobotzke," and posting on behalf of the AFA's football team using their Twitter account."

We asked the academy last week for a comment and haven't received one. We were told earlier this week the academy is still putting together a response. If and when we receive it, we'll update.

Meantime, MRFF reports its attorney has been contacted by a DODIG investigator, indicating the case is being fast-tracked.

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Calling all city candidates

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 9:58 AM

The star attraction at the April 4 city election will be electing a majority to City Council. Six district seats are up for grabs, forming a super majority of the nine-member Council. The other three are elected at-large.

With only Keith King saying he won't seek re-election in southwest District 3, candidates in the other five districts will challenge incumbents. Those are Don Knight, Larry Bagley, Andy Pico, Helen Collins and Jill Gaebler. Gabler already has announced her bid for another four-year term.

Besides the Council races, voters likely will be asked for more tax money. Mayor John Suthers says he'll ask Council to refer a ballot measure asking permission to keep the excess revenue collected in both 2016 and 2017 above caps imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, as we reported in this week's Independent.

In addition, as our story this week reports, the Parks Department it considering an additional sales tax to fund parks maintenance.

If you'd like a shot at serving on Council, even though the job pays only $6,250 a year, here's some information just in from the city:
The City Clerk and the City Attorney's Office will be conducting a Candidate Training Session from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 3, 2017 in Room 102 of the City Administration Building, 30 S. Nevada Ave, CO 80903.

Training topics will include: candidate filing, election information and campaign finance law. The training will be recorded and posted on the City Clerk’s website following the meeting.

On Tuesday, January 3, 2017, City Council district candidates for the April 4, 2017 General Municipal Election may begin to circulate nominating petitions. The six City Council district seats will be on the April ballot. Registered voters will vote only on the candidates for their respective district and on any questions that will appear on the ballot. Information on the City Council districts and an address look up feature is located at

Important Dates:
· Candidate filing documents and nominating petitions will be available beginning Tuesday, January 3, 2017. These documents may be picked up from the City Clerk’s Office (30 South Nevada Avenue, Suite 101), Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

· City Council district candidates will need to gather a minimum of fifty valid signatures from registered voters who live in the City Council district the candidate is filing to run in. Petitions must be returned to the City Clerk’s Office by 5 p.m. on Monday, January 23, 2017.

For additional candidate and election information, please visit, email, or call the City Clerk’s Office at (719) 385-5901 Option 4.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Cottonwood gets good news to the tune of $15,000

Posted By on Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 3:11 PM

The Soul of San Luis is one of three eclectic exhibits on display at Cottonwood through December
  • The Soul of San Luis is one of three eclectic exhibits on display at Cottonwood through December
Thanks to Colorado Creative Industries, a division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development, our very own Cottonwood Center for the Arts announced today that it has received a two-year, $15,000 grant. 

Among Cottonwood’s usual programming (such as its rotating art exhibits, classes and theater performances), the grant will also fund such special projects as the neighboring alleyway they’ve been improving with the help of Concrete Couch, which is meant to be an outdoor creative space for artists and performers.

Some money will also funnel into Cottonwood’s newest entity, Textiles West, which provides resources for textile and fiber artists.

Considering Cottonwood’s programming continues to go above and beyond, we’re all anxious to see what they’ll do with this opportunity. Check out this portion of the press release to see what Cottonwood has to say:

State grants are highly competitive, and signifies that Cottonwood provides high-quality programs, community service and administrative ability to the city and the state at large. Cottonwood serves over 25,000 visitors annually, and works tirelessly to give a voice to underserved populations. These include fully scholarshipped art classes, programming with TESSA, Finding Our Voices and Urban Peak, as well as exhibitions that partner with entities such as the United Court of the Pikes Peak Empire and the Colorado Springs Queer Collective.

2016 has proved to be a banner year for Cottonwood Center for the Arts. This grant will join the gifts and donations from the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, Richard Petritz Foundation, Griffis/Blessing, Inc., Google, and the kindness of individuals throughout the community.

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Ladyfingers Letterpress hosts all-local holiday sale

Posted By on Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 2:44 PM

Local printmakers, card-makers and stationery-sellers Ladyfingers Letterpress are always worth a visit. Their unique (and often tongue-in-cheek) hand-printed and uniquely designed greeting cards became somewhat of an internet sensation after they printed a card based on the Netflix hit, Stranger Things.

But Friday, they’re giving us one more reason to drop by. Ladyfingers’ Sweet Holidaze Sale isn’t just a sale of their own locally made wares, but features some other artisanal goodies from local makers.

With The Universe Conspires’ jewelry, Flourish’s terrariums, Wandering Ink’s screen-printed apparel and what their flyer calls “other artisanal radness,” everything at this shindig is locally made. And all of it is a little off-the-beaten-path, a little indie and DIY, much like Ladyfingers’ whole aesthetic.

Our last three issues of the Independent have contained a shop local guide, encouraging you to keep your holiday dollars in our local economy. Well, it doesn’t get more local than this. Support your hometown business and artists, and pick up some one-of-a-kind gifts for the rest of the folks on your gift list. Trust us, this beats Amazon.


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Don't expect a fly-over today

Posted By on Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 9:48 AM

Just so you won't be gazing heaven-ward this morning at 10:48, there won't be a fly-over of the downtown Pioneers Museum by F-16s from Buckley Air Force Base today as previously planned.
  • Defense Department
The fly-over had been planned as part of a commemoration of the attacks at Pearl Harbor, 75 years ago today.

But due to adverse weather conditions at the airport of departure, the F-16s will not fly, according to a release about the event.

The ceremony inside Pioneers Museum will go on as scheduled at 11 a.m.

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Elton John, Guns N’ Roses top new concert announcements

Posted By on Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 9:47 AM

Shows sell out, you get sad, we’re here to help. Here’s our latest batch of new show announcement for your planning pleasure:

Jonah Werner Christmas Concert, The Loft, Dec. 11
Triple Nickel Anniversary Show, Triple Nickel Tavern, Dec. 17
The Day Before New Year’s Eve with Krizz Kaliko, Dec. 30, Black Sheep
Nappy Roots, Black Sheep, Jan. 13
Hilary Scott, Zodiac, Jan. 20
Mogwai, Boulder Theater, Boulder, Jan 22
AFI, Gothic Theatre, Englewood, Jan. 28
Dashboard Confessional, Summit Music Hall, Denver, Jan. 31
Hieroglyphics, Black Sheep, Feb. 23 (Tickets on sale Friday, Dec. 9)
Elton John & His Band, World Arena, March 16 (Tickets on sale Dec. 9)
Bob Margolin, Stargazers, March 31
MeadowGrass Music Festival, La Foret Conference & Retreat Center, May 26-28,
Guns N’ Roses, Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Aug. 2 (Tickets on sale Dec. 10)
Justin Beiber, Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Aug. 12
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Monday, December 5, 2016

TILL refocuses on 'what's working'

Posted By on Mon, Dec 5, 2016 at 7:59 PM

The winner of this year's Indy Best Of for Overall Restaurant and New Restaurant, TILL, has ceased operation of its retail bakery arm and grab-and-go coffee shop.

TILL occupies quite a lot of space, captivating attention on a drive by the multifaceted structure. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • TILL occupies quite a lot of space, captivating attention on a drive by the multifaceted structure.
But CEO/president/owner of TILL and Garden of the Gods Gourmet, Mitch Yellen, says not to interpret that as a bad thing. Quite the contrary, he makes a case that it's quite natural for a restaurant to still be finding and defining itself in its early months, and adjusting around what's working and what's not.

Yellen, reached by phone Monday, says the Briargate area in which they positioned TILL didn't really embrace the coffee shop and retail bakery functions of the larger operation, though he says they've enthusiastically filled dining room, bar and especially private-dining-room seats to the tune of 400 to 500 covers a night, regularly, sometimes more.

"They're more into Kneaders for their baked goods," he says, "and I realized that we're more of a restaurant, not a bakery. ... A coffee drive-thru may have worked, but I nixed the plan. ... I think my vision got a little big. ... [But] we're not struggling or failing, we're being smart, like when a corporation says 'this department isn't making money.'"

That said, the bakery in-house won't cease operation in terms of feeding the dining rooms and wholesale accounts around town — it just won't host the retail front. And the sushi that was formerly offered in the retail market has moved into a dining room option now.

Most of all, Yellen says private-dining bookings have shown huge demand, not just around the holidays for parties, but for work meetings as well. He adds that the front-house space formerly occupied by the bakery and coffee counter will likely be utilized for more private-dining space soon.

"TILL is doing very well," he insists, noting that they own the building and land, and still have plans to add another, smaller location somewhere else in town, as well as possibly two more Garden of the Gods Gourmet models.

A handful of folks may not be doing so well, having been laid-off as part of the changes. Yellen says several people were repositioned elsewhere in the company, and that only five to seven (he didn't have exact numbers on hand) employees were cut outright. That's out of nearly 100 total employees on site.

"When I opened Garden of the Gods Gourmet's market, for the first year and half I didn't know what we were," he says. "We tweaked a lot of things, we have a high standard. ... It has taken us five months to discover what's working and what's not, here, and establish our footing. ... We're getting leaner because we want to be a big success. It's all positive."

Relatedly, newly launched happy hours started last week from 3 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and you can see a menu here:
TILL/Garden of the Gods Gourmet president Mitch Yellen says Till's private-dining facilities have taken off to the degree of inspiring the addition of more meeting and event space. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • TILL/Garden of the Gods Gourmet president Mitch Yellen says Till's private-dining facilities have taken off to the degree of inspiring the addition of more meeting and event space.

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Save Cheyenne loses bid for ballot measure on Strawberry Fields

Posted By on Mon, Dec 5, 2016 at 2:50 PM

Protect Our Parks President Richard Skorman on a tour of Strawberry Fields last spring. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Protect Our Parks President Richard Skorman on a tour of Strawberry Fields last spring.
This just in: The Protect Our Parks group has lost its attempt to mount a ballot measure to overturn the Strawberry Fields land swap and require all future parkland sales or swaps to go to the voters for permission first.

The ruling means there will be no signature-gathering effort to get a measure on the April 4 city election ballot. While the group plans to ask City Council next Monday to refer such a measure, it's unlikely to gain favor with the Council, which voted 6-3 on May 24 to approve the trade of the 189-acre open space known as Strawberry Fields to The Broadmoor.

Here's the measure the group will propose:
The ruling and Council's vote next week could set the stage for Strawberry Fields to become a campaign issue in the April election in which voters will chose six of nine Council members.

Here's the release from Protect Our Parks:
Ruling on the POPS Ballot Title Board legal action:
This morning, District Court Judge McHenry ruled in favor of the City's Title Board and against Save Cheyenne. He wrote in his ruling that the Protect Our Parks (POPS) Ballot Charter Change Title should exclude the "Strawberry Fields" clause in order to comply with the City Charter's single subject requirement for Initiated Ballot Titles. Judge McHenry stated in his ruling that including Strawberry Fields, even though the deal hasn't yet closed, could confuse some voters, as they may favor or oppose the Strawberry Fields land trade and the POPS voter "approval" requirement for future park disposition as well. Thus, he stated, POPS with Strawberry Fields clause in it, could be confusing for voters and constitutes two subjects.

Judge McHenry also ruled that, unlike the "future disposition" of dedicated Parks, the "Strawberry Fields" land deal is now an administrative decision since Council voted 6-3 to approve the transaction in May. It is not legal for citizens to place a Charter Change Initiative in front of voters that is "administrative" in nature.

While we are disappointed with this ruling, w e do very much appreciate Judge McHenry's willingness to expedite this appeal process so that if he had ruled in our favor, we could have had enough time to collect 15,200 valid signatures.

​Next steps - No signature collection:
Save Cheyenne will continue its Court challenge of the original Council decision. Nothing in Judge McHenry's POPS Ballot decison should affect our claim that the City ​did not and does not have the legal authority to convey this land to the Broadmoor to begin with or that the City didn't comply with its own procedures in doing so. We will not move forward to collect signatures to place the "approved" Title in front on voters because the time-frame to collect 15,200 signatures is still very short (less than a month), and we do not want to force an expensive "special election" by taking our full three months as allowed by law if Strawberry Fields isn't included. At this time, ​ ​ we know of no other similar transaction pending to motivate us to go forward to collect signatures at this time.

We intend to ask City Council to refer the City-approved language to the ballot for April 2017:
At next Monday's informal, Save Cheyenne will ask Council to place the approved title language on the April 2017 ballot, without the inclusion of Strawberry Fields paragraph. We still strongly believe that all dedicated parks in the City's inventory should have the same "voter approval" protection as all TOPS and GOCO purchased properties as well as the same protections Denver City and County parks currently enjoy and have enjoyed since 1954. Colorado Springs lags in public policy to protect our most special lands.

This is particularly important to us now because of the bad precedent set by the proposed Broadmoor land swap. We are afraid this decision could open up the door to other similar land transactions in the future. It's important to note that other attempts, in the past, were made by City or County staff and some elected officials to sell or trade Boulder Park, Section 16, Bear Creek Park and parts of Monument Valley Park. It should also be noted that several local City or County officials were willing to allow Stratton Open Space, Red Rock Canyon, White Acres, Rock Ledge Ranch in Garden of the Gods, Union Meadows, Blodgette Peak Open Space and University Park Open Space to be developed for housing; it took a loud public outcry, major fundraising and voter petitions to protect these "well-loved" parks and open space for the entire public to enjoy.

We believe strongly that we are on the right side of both the law and, more importantly, the moral side for the people and wildlife who depend on these public lands. 

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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Dakota Access Pipeline halted after veterans join Standing Rock protesters

Posted By on Sun, Dec 4, 2016 at 5:19 PM

In a sudden turnabout that few could have predicted, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it's been ordered by the federal government to halt construction of the highly controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

This last-minute development comes in the wake of a weekend influx of more than 2,000 veterans to Standing Rock, where some 5,000 pipeline protesters have been camped next to the Sioux Reservation — many of them for months — in increasingly hazardous weather conditions. The incoming veterans vowed to create a human chain around the encampments tomorrow, in order to shield protesters from what was seen as a potentially violent forced eviction.

Concerns over violence were not unwarranted. Two weeks ago, an estimated 4,000 protesters faced off against police during an attempted march across the bridge to the pipeline construction site. Police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons, which were deployed in below-freezing conditions. A reported 300 protesters were injured, one of whom nearly lost her arm from a concussion grenade that police insist they did not fire.

Last Sunday, I spent three days camping out with protesters and joined them in a silent march across that same bridge. Halfway across, there was a barrier of razor wire, cement blockades, riot police and an elevated "sound cannon." An aircraft circled the area, while a drone silently hovered above the crowd. After a tense standoff, the large contingent of women leading the march turned their fellow protesters back around. While returning to the encampments, a heavy rain began falling, followed by a blizzard that would blanket the camp in nearly two feet of snow.

While the pipeline was originally intended to run along the outskirts of Bismarck (a North Dakota town with a 92% white population), community fears of drinking water contamination prompted a change of course. Energy Transfer Partners — whose investors have included president-elect Donald Trump — responded with a new plan to reroute the pipeline through Native American lands located more than 100 miles south of Bismarck. In addition to creating the same safety issues, tribal leaders say the new route would result in the desecration of sacred burial sites.

Prior to the veterans' involvement, national news outlets had virtually blacked-out coverage of the Standing Rock protests. But a CNN reporter reassured viewers, somewhat condescendingly, that this was not at all due to bias or negligence. Broadcasting live on a split-screen with scrolling social media reactions, she responded on camera to the barrage of angry, real-time posts.

"I don't think you saw a lot of national coverage when it comes to the last few months," she explained, "because there was this thing called the 2016 election."

We'll be posting further updates as events unfold in the days ahead. Meanwhile, you can read Nat Stein's Nov. 23 Indy cover story for an account of indigenous locals' participation in the Standing Rock protests.
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