Friday, April 29, 2011

Aspiring authors convene for 19th annual conference

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 5:02 PM

This morning the annual Pikes Peak Writers Conference kicked off at the Colorado Springs Marriott.

In its 19th year, PPWC offers mainstream fiction writers opportunities to attend more than 80 workshops with published authors, pitch manuscripts to editors and agents, and connect with other writers.

This year's conference features nearly 50 faculty members and four keynote speakers: John Hart (The King of Lies), women's fiction novelist Beth Kendrick, "First Lady of the West" Linda Lael Miller, and today's lunch speaker Debra Dixon.

Deb Dixon

Dixon is president of Belle Books, a former Romance Writers of America president and an author, perhaps best known in the writing world for her non-fiction book, GMC: Goal, Motivation, Conflict.

Dixon's talk focused on her motto: "You have to be present to win."

"Imagine five birds on a wire," she said. "Three decide to fly. How many are left?" She paused. Then answered, "Five."

"Making a decision isn't action. ... Moments of decision have to be followed by action." For example, she said, you can't just say you're going to write a book, you have to sit down and "do it."

After lunch the 300-plus attendees dispersed to a series of afternoon workshops. At one of the Read and Critique sessions, author/editor/jack-of-all-trades Phil Nutman, literary agent Denise Little and editor/author Sharyn November listened to a facilitator read first pages of unpublished manuscripts from conference attendees, and then gave feedback in an American Idol-type format.

From left: Denise Little, Sharyn November and Phil Nutman
  • Kirsten Akens
  • From left: Denise Little, Sharyn November and Phil Nutman

Probably one of the best pieces of advice came from Nutman, who said, "If the first two paragraphs don't kick me in the ass, it gets put back on the shelf again."

At this point, registration for this year's conference, which runs through Sunday, is closed. However, if you'd like to attend the Saturday evening Awards Banquet with keynote John Hart, tickets are still available for $50 per person. Contact to reserve a space.

And watch the IndyBlog on Monday for a list of this year's winners in the annual Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Writing Contest, as well as information about next year's big 20th anniversary celebration.

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Tragedy strikes Air Force Academy

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 4:02 PM

It's been a bad week for the Air Force Academy. First, a professor was killed in an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday.

Now, the academy is announcing that two graduates also perished in Kabul that day.

  • Bryant

The release:

Lt. Col. Frank Bryant, class of ’95, and Maj. David Brodeur, class of ’99, were serving on a NATO team training the Afghan Air Force in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"Wednesday’s tragedy in Afghanistan continues to deeply affect our Air Force Academy family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of these graduates,” said Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, Superintendent of the Air Force Academy. “As we prepare cadets for leadership in the world’s greatest Air Force, these events showcase the perils they will face in the profession of arms. The Academy will forever be grateful for the sacrifices of Colonel Bryant and Major Brodeur."

Lieutenant Colonel Bryant, 37, graduated with a degree in General Engineering, lettered in wrestling from ‘93-’95, as well as the team captain and MVP in ‘95, and was currently assigned to Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.

  • Brodeur

Major Brodeur, 34, graduated with a degree in Political Science and was currently assigned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

Lieutenant Colonel Bryant and Major Brodeur are the 13th and 14th Air Force Academy graduates killed while supporting operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The two graduates were killed in the same shooting incident as Major Philip Ambard, Academy Assistant Professor, previously released.

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Local parkour: When the stairs are just too lame

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 3:10 PM


I like to think of myself as something of a professional parkour-er. Let's just say I've been known to start wildin' out on whatever edifice I can think to, um, lay on, while somebody else takes a picture.

Well, a few days ago KRCC's The Big Something ran down Cheyenne Mountain High School graduate Justin Sheaffer who, with a few of his buddies, does the real thing. Check it out. It's pretty ... well, it's pretty badass.

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Crank rolls big bucks into anti-Skorman ad

City Sage

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 2:39 PM

The voice is stern, authoritative, tinged with anger. It’s a woman’s voice, one that might belong to an exceptionally tough prosecuting attorney, or to the 30-something HR hard-ass who just fired you, and took particular pleasure in telling you that no, you won’t get any severance, and no, you’re not eligible for unemployment.

Jeff Crank
  • Jeff Crank

“Do Colorado Springs citizens think that Richard Skorman is a liberal?” says the cold, accusatory voice, that of an actress. Hired to read the script for a 30-second attack commercial created by Jeff Crank, who heads the Colorado chapter of Americans for Prosperity, it’s her job to convince us poor schmucks that Richard Skorman is a (Choke! Gasp!) liberal.

The commercial has drawn an immediate angry response from the Skorman campaign, which claims that AFP, funded by the notorious (at least to lib’ruls!) billionaire Koch brothers, is well-known for vicious and deliberately misleading negative campaigns.

“This attack by a shady political action committee must end immediately,” Skorman says in a press release. “The Bach campaign must come clean about its role in running these negative ads. Steve Bach should speak out now to keep secret, out-of-state interests from influencing a Colorado Springs election.”

“The Skorman campaign discloses all campaign contributions and expenditures and we are completely transparent about where funding comes from for all of our advertising,” Skorman adds.

As such pieces go, this one is surprisingly mild.

It’s available on the web at, which also contains an account of Skorman’s career in advocacy and in politics. Apparently, Skorman has spent every waking hour for the last two decades raising taxes, scheming to raise taxes, or planning to funnel our hard-earned tax money to bureaucrats and politicians.

Here’s a sample.

Skorman Has Repeatedly Opened the Door to Raising Taxes:

Skorman said he’d be willing to ask for voters’ permission to raise taxes. Skorman: “I think there is a lot of ways to be more efficient and I would take a long time to try to make sure that happens first, and then if down the road, if we have to ask permission to raise taxes I would be willing to do that too…” (Abbie Burke, “Mayoral Candidates Sound Off On Funding Priorities,” Fox21,, 3/23/11)

“Skorman said he would not come out against any new taxes, saying he will decide on a case-by-case basis.” (KKTV, “Strong Mayoral Candidates Live On KKTV,”,, posted on 3/15/11)

Skorman said he would not sign the “No New Tax Pledge”. Question: ”Ok. What do you say about no new taxes?” (3:03) Skorman: “Well I wouldn’t sign the no new tax pledge because I feel like it’s difficult to say I wouldn’t never support any tax. Maybe I want to support a downtown development tax that would help my business or maybe I would want to support a library tax and so I don’t want get pigeonholed and I think it is disingenuous to say that you’ll never ever support tax increases again.” (Richard Skorman, “Strong Mayoral Candidates Live on KKTV,”

And here’s a real shocker!

Skorman Supported the TOPS (Trails Open Space and Parks) Sales Tax Increases in 1997 and 2003

•Skorman directed the TOPS initiative in 1997 and 2003: “As director of the Trails Open Space and Parks (TOPS) initiative, Skorman persuaded Colorado Springs voters to pass a penny tax increase to fund the purchase of open space in 1997, and its renewal in 2003.” (Leslie Jorgensen, “Springs Mayor Candidates Eye Change,” The Colorado Statesmen,, 1/21/11)

•The initial tax hike, approved in 1997, would have expired in 2009. In 2003, Skorman fought to extend the tax through 2025: “‘We’re feeling optimistic, but it’s a tough economic time,’ said City Councilman Richard Skorman, one of the main backers of the original TOPS initiative. A tax extension might be a tough sell given the current recession, he said. ‘We’re not taking this for granted.’” (“Not Taken For Granted,” Colorado Springs Independent, 3/19/03)

In keeping with the rules governing such pieces, the authors give us either partial truths, or outright falsehoods authored by others. In this case, Jorgenson’s article contained a glaring error, misstating the the TOPS tax by a factor of 10. It wasn’t a penny tax - it was a one-tenth of a cent sales tax. The piece also fails to note that the extension passed by a nearly 2 to 1 margin, or that its passage made possible the preservation of Red Rocks open space, the creation of Cheyenne Mountain State Park, and a dozen other worthy goals.

But that’s OK, and it’s not Jeff Crank’s fault that Jorgenson had her facts wrong. He quoted her accurately.

Crank was amused by the angry reaction of the Skorman campaign.

“In these kind of commercials,” he said, “candidates generally go after your facts, and Skorman hasn’t done that. We’re just saying that he’s a liberal — and on the commercial you can hear his voice saying “I don’t know why people think I’m a liberal.” Well, he is a liberal - and we’re just giving people the evidence.”

“You notice that we aren’t attacking Richard,” he said, “just his policies. That’s deliberate - I was the victim of personal attacks myself (in the 2006 Republican congressional primary) and I won’t do that. And all the stuff about the Koch brothers, and links between AFP and the Bach campaign is completely baseless. Laura Carno (who is Bach’s campaign manager) has been the volunteer, unpaid producer of my radio show, and she’s taken a leave of absence to work for Bach. She’s never gotten a penny from AFP.”

How big is the media buy?

“We originally authorized $50,000,” Crank revealed. “And just yesterday, I authorized another $50,000. That may be all, but we haven’t made that decision yet. As you know, that’s a pretty substantial buy. We’re still in the black, so we may commit more.”

And where did the money come from?

“All the money in the Colorado AFP is money that I’ve raised,” Crank said. “None of it comes from the Koch brothers. It comes from donors who are sympathetic to what we do-it’s not committed to any particular action program.”

And why the “mean girl” voice?

“We listened to a lot of voices,” he said,” and we chose that one. Mean girl? I never thought about that.”

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A taste of the wines of San Felice

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 1:26 PM

An incredible apéritif featuring housemade limoncello, cranberry and (likely) unicorn tears, garnished with a lemon peel.
  • Bryce Crawford
  • An incredible apéritif featuring housemade limoncello, cranberry and (likely) unicorn tears, garnished with a lemon peel.

Last Sunday Monday night, Summit at The Broadmoor was the spot to find Italian oenophile Paolo Boselli introducing the subtle wines of San Felice.

"So, from my accent you can understand that I make a tremendous effort to speak with a strong Italian accent," the elderly Boselli joked — in, indeed, heavily accented English — during an opening introduction.

"San Felice is a beautiful resort. Let me introduce to you a few basic points that I like to stress, that I like to underline," Boselli said, flipping through a slide show. "Just to give you an idea, you can see there where is Tuscany — we are in central Italy. We are in Tuscany, and Tuscany is a magic place. If you were not in Tuscany, I can tell you one thing: You didn’t live yet. So, please go to Tuscany in order to have an experience of what is life, OK?"

From a menu from the brilliant Bertrand Bouquin featuring squid ink gnocchi and halibut poached in black olive oil, diners sampled glasses of an '09 Vermentino, an '06 Chianti Classico Riserva, an '05 Brunello di Montalcino, an '06 Vigorello and a dried-apricot-like dessert '04 Vin Santo del Chianti Classico. To my palate, the interesting thing about all the wines was they seemed very simple, very straightforward. I didn't taste layers of rolling flavor; more, one bold taste, or even the lack of one — a quiet, almost clean and water-like, wine — seemed to carry each vintage.

See below for more pictures and menu descriptions.

Continue reading »

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Weekend (and weekday) update

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 1:12 PM

Yes, it's time to peep into the weekend and next week to give you a heads-up on some worthwhile happenings around town.

• Let's talk about yoga first, since the majority of Indy readers are probably still having trouble getting images from Rich Tosches' naked men's yoga class out of their minds.


Pranava Yoga Center just graduated its first class of 200-hour certified teachers (disclosure: my girlfriend is one of them) and those new instructors and the studio are looking to immediately practice their seva, or selfless service to others.

As such, the studio, as of this Sunday, May 1, has added a Sunday morning donation-based class from 8 to 9:30 a.m. (suggested donation $5 to $10) that will be taught by a different new teacher each week. All of the proceeds raised will go directly to charities or local nonprofits, including outfits like the Red Cross, the Alzheimer's Association and the Manitou Art Theatre, according to studio co-owner Mike Matsumura.

Sign up for Pranava's newsletter on its website for advanced notice on which organizations will receive the proceeds.

• Next up, catch a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1:30 on Monday, May 2, for the new Harrison Urban Garden (HUG), located on the west side of the Harrison School District 2 Central Administration Building at 1060 Harrison Road (off Lake Avenue).


Pikes Peak Urban Gardens (on whose board I sit) has taken the lead role in organizing the project, and will maintain a small urban farm on a portion of the site.

Here's how PPUG director Larry Stebbins describes HUG and its significance:

This is our most unique garden project to date. When fully developed It will combine community gardens (from neighbors, school district employees, Harbor House, Greccio Housing, churches, schools and more ...), an urban farm to grow produce for those less fortunate in the neighborhood and an educational outdoor classroom and kitchen (second phase, 2012) ...
As of today we are fully booked for our community garden plots, with 28 plots reserved and over 48 men, woman and children involved in gardening. Next year we will open an additional 12 plots to fully build out the .6 acre garden. We will be looking for funding this year for our outdoor educational classroom and outdoor kitchen.

While on PPUG: It'll offer a final spring class, "Grow Your Best Warm Season Organic Veggies Ever!" from 10 to 11:30 a.m., Saturday, May 14, in the Horace Mann Middle School auditorium. Entry is $5.

And PPUG will also be offering a Junior Gardener Class for 8- to 11-year-olds from 10 to 11:30 a.m., Wednesdays, June 15 through July 20 at the Harlan Wolfe Ranch. The cost is $75 for the series. Visit PPUG's website for more on all of the above.

• Looking ahead to Tuesday, May 3, the Blue Star will hold a Leopold Bros. Spirits Dinner at 6:30 p.m. Not unlike the cocktail dinner I recently attended at the Summit at the Broadmoor, it will feature five liqueur-paired courses.

Click here for the full menu, price and more: Leopold_Brothers_Spirits_Dinner.pdf

• Lastly — not to leave you hanging for a fourth day in a row — Wednesday, May 4, ushers in a gluten-free night at the Melting Pot in honor of Celiac Awareness Month. Catch a four-course menu for $28 plus tax and tip.

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"Sharrow" meeting, mayoral debate on Monday

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 8:30 AM


The city gets no points for planning on this one.

In an effort to draw community-minded folks into the discussion, the city is hosting a meeting on "sharrows" - markers that will be put on select roads to indicate where bicyclists should position themselves in the right lane. The aim of sharrows is two-fold. First, they are supposed to let drivers know that yes, bikes are allowed on the road. Second, they are intended to position cyclists in the safest portion of the right lane — steering them clear of the swung-open doors of parked cars.

The Sharrow project has heavily involved newly-minted City Councilor Tim Leigh. But it's been criticized for not garnering enough community input.

So, voila! The city has decided to plan a public meeting, scheduled conveniently on a Monday night ... the same Monday night of the most highly-publicized mayoral debate of the election.

So anyway, you'll need to choose. Here are your options:

Public meetings on Shared Lane Markings

On Monday, May 2, at 5:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers (107 N. Nevada Ave.) the City of Colorado Springs, the Council of Neighborhoods and Organizations and the Organization of Westside Neighbors, will host a public meeting to provide information about Shared Lane Markings (sometimes termed “sharrows”) that are placed on streets without bike lanes as an awareness tool that motorists and cyclists are sharing the road. The meeting will include solicitation of public input to help shape guidelines that can be applied when considering roads where marks could be applied to improve safety.

This topic will also be discussed at the Tuesday, May 3, meeting of the Citizens’ Transportation Advisory Board (CTAB) which is also open to the public. The CTAB meeting will be at 2 p.m. on May 3, also in City Council Chambers (107 N. Nevada Ave.).


Two candidates remain in the race for Colorado Springs' first strong mayor. Each has a vision for the future of our city. Each has a plan to accomplish his goals. But only one can win.

Be informed when you cast your vote.

Attend the Mayoral Debate on May 2nd at 6 p.m. to hear the candidates debate issues facing Colorado Springs.

Also, introducing the newly elected City Council president and council members. Meet and greet the candidates and city council after the debate.

Tickets are $10. A reception will follow the debate.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bum deal, dude: UCCS tuition increases

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 5:15 PM

Stock up on ramen, its time for a tuition increase.
  • Stock up on ramen, it's time for a tuition increase.

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is increasing its tuition by 7 percent next year, or about $450 a year.

That's hardly good news for struggling students, who are already facing high unemployment, rising gas prices, and the Republican proposal to cut Pell grants that help some 9 million poor families afford college.

Still, it's not as bad as it could have been. The Colorado Department of Education would have allowed UCCS to increase its tuition by a whopping 9 percent.

Here are the details:

CU Regents approve modest tuition increase for UCCS students
DENVER — Undergraduate students at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs will pay an additional $450 per year in tuition costs beginning next fall, according to plans approved today by the CU Board of Regents.

Meeting in downtown Denver in a special meeting, the Regents approved tuition increases for all four CU campuses. The approximately 7 percent average increase for UCCS undergraduate students was below a 9 percent rate cap established by the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

The UCCS rate increase will likely be among the lowest in Colorado. Tuition increases are necessary because of 30 percent reductions in state funding during the past three years. Colorado ranks 48 nationally in its public financial support for higher education.

“We recognize the financial difficulties that many students and their families face,” Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said. “We continue to do everything possible to contain costs, maintain quality and work with students individually to ensure that they can achieve their goal of a college education.”

The total cost of attending UCCS — tuition, fees, room, and board — is expected to increase no more than 5.3 percent.

Most new full-time Colorado resident freshmen and continuing sophomore-level students will pay $6,720 for two semesters of tuition beginning in fall 2011, a $450 increase from the $6,270 paid this year. Full-time Colorado resident junior and senior level undergraduate students will pay $7,230 for two semesters of tuition beginning in fall 2011, a $480 increase from $6,750 this year.

The 7 percent increase is for Colorado resident undergraduate students. Non-Colorado resident students pay more than double that of Colorado residents. Those students will see a rate increase of 2 percent beginning in the fall. A full-time undergraduate student from outside of Colorado will pay $16,240 for two semesters of tuition beginning in fall 2011, a $320 increase from the $15,920 paid this year.

Colorado resident graduate students at the university will also see tuition increases averaging 7 percent.

U.S. News and World Report recently ranked UCCS graduate programs in business, nursing, and public affairs as among the best in the nation. Last fall, the magazine editors ranked the UCCS undergraduate engineering program as among the nation’s best and the university as a whole in the top 10 of Western regional public universities.

A website to assist UCCS students in calculating tuition and fees will be updated by May 1. The site is

Located on Austin Bluffs Parkway in Colorado Springs, is one of the fastest growing universities in the nation. The University offers 36 bachelor’s degrees, 19 master’s and five doctoral degrees. The campus enrolls about 9,000 students annually.

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Make it to Miral at Kimball's

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 4:45 PM

Because it's amusing and gives a quick look behind the scenes of film screening and reviewing, I'm sharing the gist of a cordial phone conversation I just had with Kimball's Peak Three owner Kimball Bayles.


Bayles called to playfully razz me (who acts as our film editor as part of my general "arts editor" title) for running a review of a film aimed at teenage boys directly across the page from a film-related essay bemoaning the predominance of movies aimed at teenage boys over thoughtful films for adult audiences.

Point made. Ha ha — I suck.

What really sucks more though is that Indy readers didn't get to see a print review of the film Miral , which opens on Friday at the theater.

Bayles says it is fantastic, and that controversy over the Jewish/Palestinian tension presented in the film (supposedly pro-Palestinian, even though director Julian Schnabel and distributor Harvey Weinstein are Jewish) has fueled great interest in the movie.

So here's the reveal as to why we didn't run a review:

The theater didn't find out that they were going to be able to receive a copy of the film until late this past Monday afternoon, which meant we didn't find out until Tuesday. By then, we'd already scheduled and designed our other review and essay that we were able to obtain on regular deadline for this week's paper.

When we did find out, we checked with our regular batch of contributing freelance film critics and cast a quick net, which came up empty of a full-length write-up on such short notice. With a little more notice, we likely could have reached out to a sister alternative newsweekly in a bigger city and perhaps slotted in a Miral review cleanly.

So, it boils down to a logistical matter of time and timing.

But the good news is that you can find nearly 70 reviews of this film right here.

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Air Force Academy instructor killed in Afghanistan

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 4:31 PM


Maj. Philip D. Ambard, a professor at the Air Force Academy, was killed Wednesday in Kabul, the Academy announced today.

The release:

Maj. Philip D. Ambard gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to the United States. Maj. Ambard arrived at the Air Force Academy, Department of Foreign Languages in December 2003.
"The U.S. Air Force Academy family is deeply saddened by the loss of one of our own, Maj. Phil Ambard, and our heart-felt condolences go out to his family and friends,” said Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, Superintendent of the Air Force Academy. “While we grieve this loss, we are committed to helping Maj. Ambard's family through this extremely difficult time. Phil's ultimate sacrifice is special in that he touched the lives of so many people — cadets, Airmen, friends and family — and he will have a lasting effect on all."
As a fluent speaker of both French and Spanish, Maj. Ambard served as an instructor in both languages and was consistently rated as one of the top faculty members at the Academy. His superb performance in and out of the classroom led to his selection as the Department of Foreign Languages executive officer and subsequently served in that same role for the Dean of the Faculty.
Major Ambard’s sustained excellence was recognized in 2006 when he earned the distinction of Company Grade Officer of the Year for the Dean of Faculty and the entire Academy. In 2007, he was sponsored by the Department of Foreign Languages for a Ph.D. program at Denver University, which he completed in 2010 and was scheduled to return to the Department of Foreign Languages after a 365-day deployment to Kabul, Afghanistan.
“Maj. Ambard embodied the ideals of Integrity, Service and Excellence and this legacy carries on with his family,” said Brig. Gen. Dana Born, Dean of the Faculty. “He leaves a deep void at the Air Force Academy and will be missed by all of his family, friends, colleagues and the many cadets and officers whose lives he has touched.”

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Indy Minute

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 3:40 PM

Legendary musician Tim Reynolds brings his electric power trio TR3 to Colorado Springs, the Humane Society brings a "Pit Boss" to town, and the Steampunk Ball arrives from an alternate future. Check them all out in this week's Indy Minute.

Tune into the Indy Minute — as seen on ABC affiliate KRDO News Channel 13 — each week for details on all the events that entertain and bring our community together. It's simulcast on KRDO News Radio 105.5 FM and 1240 AM.

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The wrath of Dog

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 2:30 PM


According to this aggressively pink website, Senate Majority Leader John Morse has done it now.

Dog The Bounty Hunter’ says he may be forced into retirement if a Colorado politician’s bill is voted into law and while the pol is ducking Dog, the fugitive-chaser’s fans are hounding him!

State Sen. John Morse introduced a bill that would basically put bail bondsmen out of business and, say critics, flood the streets with criminals.

Why would the state senator from Colorado Springs, a former Fountain police chief, want to pass a bill that would throw open the doors at county jails? Sounds pretty terrible, right? But we're pretty sure that this reputably pink news outlet, Radar, hasn't done their due diligence in reporting the story (shocked!).

What Morse has proposed, which has so enraged Dog, is a bill that would introduce deposit bonds, a bonding option that judge's could use when releasing a defendant before trial. In essence, deposit bonds would allow a defendant to post up to 15 percent of their set bail not to the private bondsman but directly to the courts. Half of that money would go to fund the county's pretrial services, and the other half could be returned to the defendant if he is found not guilty. If he is found guilty, then the defendant's 50 percent would be used to pay off restitution and other fees associated with his trial.

You can read more about deposit bonds, here

The word was that Dog was going to head to Denver to lobby against the bill, just as he had done back in 2008 when similar legislation was proposed.

The most glaring oversight in the criticism that Radar and others, like Dog and his legion of Twitter fans, have leveled against Morse's bill is to paint it as liberal, anti-business, and pro-government while completely ignoring the fact that Rep. Mark Waller is sponsoring the bill in the House.

Waller, a Colorado Springs Republican, isn't exactly someone who'd be comfortable with being described as soft on crime and anti-business. In fact, he told me when I was writing our article on the issue a few weeks back that he considers this a smart-on-crime bill that will enhance public safety while creating a pool of money that might lessen the burdens on counties.

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How sweet it is — for now — between city and county

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 1:50 PM

If you poured honey over the entire meeting room at the Regional Building Department, you couldn't have made the atmosphere any sweeter.

No shortage of this last night.
  • No shortage of this last night.

City and county officials spent the first hour of their joint meeting Wednesday evening throwing kisses to one another and promising collaboration to A) save taxpayers money through better cooperation, and B) provide better and more efficient services to taxpayers through better cooperation.

The first meeting of the City Council and the Board of El Paso County Commissioners since September 2009 also featured a lot of sugar from officials with the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp, who were given a seat at the table with elected officials.

  • Lathen

Commission Chair Amy Lathen noted that while elected officials won't agree on everything, she was glad to see everyone willing to bring matters to the table for discussion.

Commissioner Darryl Glenn, a former City Council member, said while on the city panel he often felt frustrated that more collaboration wasn't taking place between the two boards.

"A lot of problems can be resolved by picking up the phone and saying, 'Hey, here's what's coming up.' This isn't an effort to consolidate the city and county," he said. "Our goal is to come up with efficient ways to serve this community."

  • Glenn

Commissioner Sallie Clark said while elected officials have been characterized as "dysfunctional families," the city and county already cooperate on a number of projects, such as regional building rules and fees, facilities management and law enforcement special investigations squads.

"If we're going to get anything done, we have to focus on the positive," she said.

After dinner provided by the Chamber, the officials got down to business and established three committees to work on specific issues:

Economic development policy: The city already has one, so the ball is in the county's court on this one. The county has no policy.

Centralized call center: This would create a single help number residents could call for any kind of government service, including to report a pothole, find out how to apply for food stamps, or get a street light turned on. The call center then would forward calls tot he appropriate office.

Animal control: The city and county have separate contracts with the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, both of which are due for renewal in January.

In working on those issues, the committees were instructed to apply these questions:
1. How will this make us more efficient?
2. Will it save or cost money?
3. How does this improve service to the citizens?

Council President Scott Hente said he thought the meeting was "OK," but didn't seem to be sold on the notion that relations had been reinvigorated. "I think it's a better start than it would have been if we never met," he said.

Council President Pro-Tem Jan Martin was a bit more optimistic.

  • Martin

"I think everybody felt it was a good place to start," she said. "But we've had these meetings before and they never went very far, so it's going to be up to all of us that we follow through and work on these specific areas. As we have successes, people will feel better about what we're working on.

"The real difference I saw was the change in commissioners and City Council," she added. "We had some personality conflicts previously and those are gone now, so it is a fresh start with a fresh tone."

In the past, city and county officials have sparred over control of Pioneers Museum. They've also been at odds more recently on the Copper Ridge shopping center proposal — the city approved it, the county didn't.

The city will host the next meeting, scheduled for June 15.

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Rabies alert

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 12:52 PM

Six skunks infected with rabies have been reported here this year, El Paso County Public Health reports today in a press release.

“Based on the locations of where these rabid skunks are being found, we know rabies is being detected in both rural and urban parts of the county. We strongly encourage the public in all the cities and towns within El Paso County to stay alert and take precautions to prevent rabies. These rabid skunks have been aggressive and have injured dogs and livestock,” said Kandi Buckland, R. N., M.P.A., executive director of El Paso County Public Health. “Unvaccinated pets or livestock are likely to get infected with rabies from these exposures, and that means the owner or family members are at risk. Rabies is a fatal disease, so we want to be sure that our community is hearing the message about how important it is to keep pets and livestock rabies vaccination up to date through a licensed veterinarian,” Buckland adds.


She recommends residents help prevent rabies by:

• Ensuring that dogs and cats are vaccinated properly against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. Rabies vaccination requires booster doses. Discuss vaccinating horses and other livestock with your veterinarian.

• Not feeding wild animals or allow your pets around them. Teach children to stay away from wild animals. Do not keep pet food outside as that may attract wild animals.

• Protecting all pets, particularly animals too young to be vaccinated, from contact with wild animals. Puppies and kittens can be vaccinated for rabies as early as 3 months old, depending on the vaccine used.

• Contacting your veterinarian if your dog or cat is bitten or scratched by wild animals, such as skunks, bats, foxes, coyotes or raccoons.

• Contacting your doctor and the Humane Society immediately if you or a family member has been bitten by a wild animal or a domestic animal.

• Making sure to keep kids and pets away from skunks or other wild mammals that act abnormally, such as stumbling or acting overly aggressive especially during daylight hours. Report the situation to the Division of Wildlife.

• Not touching a dead skunk or other wildlife on your property. Remove the carcass with a shovel or other tool, and double bag it for the trash.

• Taking steps to bat proof your home.

Rabies is a viral disease than infects the brain and other parts of the central nervous system, causing brain swelling and damage, and ultimately, death. Rabies is spread primarily through the bite of rabid animals, resulting in the spread of the disease through their infected saliva. Rabies also can be spread when saliva from an infected animal gets into open wounds, cuts or enters through membranes of the eyes, nose, or mouth.

Preventive medication is available for people known or suspected to have been bitten by a rabid animal. But once rabies symptoms appear, the disease is almost always fatal. It is important for people bitten or scratched by a wild animal or an unfamiliar animal to contact their doctor.
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Colorado legislators speak out about federal anti-MMJ memo

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 12:42 PM

U.S. Attorney John Walsh
  • U.S. Attorney John Walsh

Recently, local governments have been seeking further federal clarification on the issue of state-legalized medical marijuana. California did it, Washington did it and now Colorado has received its own clarification from U.S. Attorney John Walsh, in response to a request from state Attorney General John Suthers.

"It is well settled that a State cannot authorize violations of federal law," Walsh wrote in a memo dated April 26. "The United States District Court for the District of Colorado recently reaffirmed this fundamental principle of our federal constitutional system in United States v. Bartkowicz, when it held that Colorado state law on medical marijuana does not and cannot alter federal law's prohibition on the manufacture, distribution or possession of marijuana, or provide a defense to prosecution under federal law for such activities."

In a somewhat frantic letter relaying the memo, sent the same day to Gov. John Hickenlooper and members of the General Assembly, Suthers said he felt "compelled" to advise the state that the DOJ "does maintain its full authority to vigorously enforce federal law against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law." (Emphasis not added.)

So, in a larger context, what does this change? Not much, say Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, Rep. Mark Barker, R-Colorado Springs, and Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs.

"I think it’s our responsibility to make sure that we responsibly manage what is embedded in our constitution now," Massey says, adding: "I think that we will try our best to address federal concerns."

Massey is a co-sponsor of House Bill 1043, known colloquially as the MMJ "clean-up" bill, which contains two measures the U.S. Attorney's office took issue with: a scheme to set up an investment fund which MMJ center owners could use for banking — which has since been stripped from the bill, even prior to federal feedback — and a plant limit for infused products manufacturers.

"The banking piece is really significant in the sense that we want this business to come out of the dark, and be able to actually manage from both a regulatory tax collection standpoint and the fact that we get the element that we’re worried about having," Massey says. "By not giving these folks a source for banking, we actually kind of push them in that direction."

Waller says he thinks federal pushback has been pending the whole time, and that we're not through with it yet.

"I’ve said all along that what these dispensaries are engaging in is still criminal activity at the federal level, and at some point, independent of state law, they can still be prosecuted federally," he says. "They all seem to believe that since the administration, you know, made some sort of executive order that said, ‘Look, if you’ve got a law on the books at the state level, we’re not gonna prosecute federally,’ that that makes them immune from prosecution. That’s not true! I mean, if we have a change in the administration, whatever the change is, that administration might say, 'Well, geez, we’re gonna start prosecuting all these cases.'

"And it wouldn’t be prosecuting cases going forward; you know, most of these things have a statute of limitations that are three or four years long. So they can certainly reach back and prosecute anybody that was doing it under the consideration of what the previous administration had decided."

Barker says he doesn't think the memo will compel any change of course from the state's perspective.

"I think, at the moment, the attitude, at least here that I’ve seen, is not to eliminate or remove these businesses — because they’re being regulated, they’re being watched; the industry, for the most part, wants to be legitimate and professionalized," the state representative says. "So I see that as a positive. I haven’t heard anyone wanting to just wholesale repeal everything and put these folks out of business. I do worry for their sake, but they’re going into it with their eyes open, and so they understand there is a risk.

"But from the state’s perspective, what I want to do is provide them with a structure that promotes a professional persona for the businesses. Like, Walgreens sells pharmaceuticals, but they’re not viewed as a drug dealer, and I would like a similar reputation for the legitimate medical marijuana facilities."

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