Thursday, July 12, 2012

UPDATE: Meet Barbara von Hoffmann (before the Smithsonian does)

Posted By on Thu, Jul 12, 2012 at 1:13 PM

The local artist contacted us recently about her trip to the Smithsonian, and documented her stay with some photos. She hopes to exhibit her work here in town next, possibly at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, but no plans have been made yet.

In the meantime, here are some shots from the show:

The exhibit at the Smithsonian.
  • The exhibit at the Smithsonian.

Visitors in front of von Hoffmanns photograph.
  • Visitors in front of von Hoffmann's photograph.

Von Hoffmann speaking.
  • Von Hoffmann speaking.

——- ORIGINAL POST, OCT. 19, 2011, 3:29 P.M. ——-

The winning image: Rothschilds Giraffe
  • Barbara von Hoffmann
  • The winning image: "Rothschild's Giraffe"

You may know Barbara von Hoffmann for her professional pet photography. Or you may know her as a wildlife photographer who frequents Africa and other locations around the world. But Von Hoffmann is now one of the 16 winners in the Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International 2011 Awards Exhibition, a nationwide contest in which winners get their winning shots displayed at the Smithsonian Institution.

This is a prestigious contest, von Hoffmann says, on par with the Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year award in Britain. To get an idea about the level of photography, view last year's winners here.

Of the 15 category winners and one grand prize winner, von Hoffmann is the only woman, and one of four Americans. Her contribution, under the Zoos & Aquariums category, is a tender image of a week-old giraffe nuzzling its mother. She captured the shot at the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, while waiting there on a layover.

Von Hoffmann, who says she rarely enters competitions, submitted 20 photos, most of them of African wildlife. She decided to throw in the giraffe image last.

“I was notified when I was one of the 500 in the semifinals, and at that point I was beside myself,” she says.

Then she got the news she was one of the winners, having beaten out 21,000 other submissions. “It’s one of those things you dream about, but doesn’t really happen,” she says.

Von Hoffmann has lived in the Springs since coming here in 1979 to follow her son’s figure skating career. She was already an avid photographer, having learned the trade from her father, a filmmaker and photographer, and from a man she met in 1970 on her first trip to Africa, noted Canadian photographer Freeman Patterson. On another trip in 1973, she developed a love of wildlife, and most especially, elephants.

She wouldn't return to Africa until 1991, when both of her sons had grown. But she's made annual trips there ever since. Starting in 2001, von Hoffmann has led small photo safaris through Africa every February.

Capturing wildlife on film is her passion, she says, and she’s traveled to places like Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands and India to do it. Her photos have been made into calendars, and have appeared in publications like Outside, National Geographic World, Discover, Smithsonian and more.

Von Hoffmann will go to Washington, D.C., next spring for the opening of the Nature’s Best show, along with the other winners. (Categories include: Youth Photographer of the Year, Conservation Photographer of the Year, Birds, Endangered Species, Oceans, People in Nature, Landscapes, Plant Life.) The exhibit will be up for six months, and von Hoffmann wants to make the most of it.

“I think I’ll pitch a tent and walk in every day and say, ‘Oh my god.’”

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Need an ambulance? Costs are going up.

Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2011 at 5:03 PM

American Medical Response, El Paso County's sole emergency ambulance provider, wants a rate increase of 5.318 percent effective Jan. 1.

The rate hike already has been approved by the Emergency Services Agency, a board with representatives from the county, Colorado Springs and surrounding towns.

  • AMR website

The last increase came in October 2010 when rates went up by 5.8973 percent as an inflation adjustment.

The proposed rate hike for next year would, for example, drive the cost of an advanced life support ride to $709 from $674. Mileage charges (per loaded mile) would go up to $16.50 per mile from $15.67.

As a member of the ESA, El Paso County's approval is necessary before a rate increase can take affect. Commissioners are due to consider the change Tuesday at their meeting that starts at 9 a.m. in the County Administration Building, 27 E. Vermijo Ave.

Local officials approved a new five-year contract with AMR, with subsequent years to extend the contract, which became effective in January 2009.

ESA's budget this year is $218,500, nearly all of which comes from AMR in the way of a contract administration fee and fines for violations of the contract, such as cases of documented response times that don't meet contract obligations.

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White House rejects petition to legalize marijuana

Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2011 at 4:38 PM


After the Obama administration created a site where citizens could petition the government on an issue, the question of legalizing marijuana took precedence over all others. The petition, "Legalize and Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol," had more than 61,500 signatures when we mentioned it last week, far more than any other petition on the site.

Well, Friday night the White House — via Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy — finally issued a response to the petition, and you'll never guess what the answer was.

We know from an array of treatment admission information and Federal data that marijuana use is a significant source for voluntary drug treatment admissions and visits to emergency rooms. Studies also reveal that marijuana potency has almost tripled over the past 20 years, raising serious concerns about what this means for public health — especially among young people who use the drug because research shows their brains continue to develop well into their 20's. Simply put, it is not a benign drug.

Like many, we are interested in the potential marijuana may have in providing relief to individuals diagnosed with certain serious illnesses. That is why we ardently support ongoing research into determining what components of the marijuana plant can be used as medicine. To date, however, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine have found smoked marijuana to meet the modern standard for safe or effective medicine for any condition.

This answer has not gone over well with any hopefuls who thought the signatures might change long-established federal drug policy. Besides the new petition demanding that Kerlikowske resign — 1,224 signatures and counting — there's this statement from the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition:

"Five of the top 10 petitions on the 'We the People' site are about some aspect of marijuana or drug policy reform. The eight marijuana petitions that the White House's Friday rejection was intended to address have collectively garnered more than 150,00 signatures," said the press release. "Even though recent polls show that more voters support marijuana legalization than approve of President Obama's job performance, the White House categorically dismissed the notion of reforming any laws, focusing its response on the possible harms of marijuana use instead of addressing the many harms of prohibition detailed in the petitions."

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Chairs and stares in Manitou Springs

Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2011 at 4:06 PM

Even three weeks later, it’s too early to say whether the Manitou Chair Project was a financial success. (You can find some details about "chair money," and other financial angles of the art installation, here.)

But organizer Sean O’Meallie has high hopes. And most everyone associated with the project has good and unusual memories.

Everything in its right place.

See, when O’Meallie explained what was going to happen Oct. 9, he left out a few minor details. Yes, on that morning he actually did line up nearly a thousand chairs from Tubby’s Turnaround to the Business of Art Center in Manitou. Yes, he did proceed to take pictures of the empty chairs on an absolutely beautiful Sunday morning. And, yes, he did allow the chairs’ owners to sit in the chairs for some pictures, as well.

All of that is true. But what he failed to explain was that the chairs would only be part of the spectacle.

People sang opera from open windows. A puppet parade threaded its way among the chairs, and a one-man band delighted onlookers. There was even chair yoga and a mob dance.

About 500 people attended the event, including Colorado Springs artist Juel Grant. “The morning was perfect," Grant said. "You couldn’t ask for a better setup, and the event was awesome.”

O'Meallie is working on the images, documenting the event, and there’s a cool video in the works, too.

“It’s still going, and still growing,” he says.

At 6/10ths of a mile, O’Meallie feels sure the Chair Project was the largest single installation ever in the area. But he hopes his project isn't the last installation of its kind; in fact, he'd like it if the Chair Project was just the beginning.

"This has the potential to show us that large scale art is all around us," he says. Using Manitou as a townscape, he sees nothing but potential art.

Where do we go from here?

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Bonus CineFiles: A Very CineFiles Halloween 2011!

Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2011 at 1:26 PM

Duh-duhduh dhuh do do dodo duhduh dhuh…

That’s the theme song to John Carpenter’s classic horror flick Halloween. It’s not as effective written out like that, but I assure you it delivers a real chill when overheard on this holiday, coincidentally also known as Halloween.

Yes, the once-a-year celebration of all things evil is upon us once again today, and if you’re like me, you probably weren’t invited to any parties, which is fine because I happen to become an extremely judgmental jerk around six-packed bros in rented velvet pimp costumes (veiled racism!) and latchkey tweens dressed as sexually active bumblebees (broad pedophilia!). I’m no fun to be around. The only option I have on Oct. 31 is to sit home, pass out the remaining Almond Joys I haven’t gorged on, and watch horror movies.

What’s on my checklist this year? Here are five titles that might help you as you slowly sink into a nougat-induced depressive coma, no matter your tastes:

For the Twilight crowd: I “get” Twilight, I really do. The mainstream public doesn’t want to see blood and gore — they want romance and sparkles and baseball and Mormon morality. Stephanie Meyer’s vampiric abstinence fable has spawned numerous imitators, creating a whole new subgenre of horror that focuses on good-looking, brooding teens who are full of emo angst about their newfound monstrous conditions. The makers of The Howling: Reborn (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment, pictured left), knowing this market full well, decided to have nothing to do with the previous seven (!) Howling movies, instead focusing on a geeky high-schooler (Landon Liboiron) who’s just discovered he’s a werewolf. He stalks, he broods, he dances to bad techno … it’s everything the kids love, minus the promise rings.

For the sequel crowd: Sometimes we’re afraid to try new things. That’s why a movie like, say, Insidious gets ignored during its theatrical run, but a not-very-good movie like Scream 4 (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment) is liked just fine by everyone else. There’s nothing wrong with that, though, because a movie like Scream 4 is the cinematic version of comfort food, something familiar that you don’t need to think about in the slightest. And there is absolutely no thinking needed when it comes to Scream 4. Filled with your old favorites (Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, etc.) and rising teens I’ve never heard of (Emma Roberts, Lucy Hale, etc.), it’s a decade later and the Ghostface killer is back, with all the prerequisite final-act twists you’ve comes to know and love. It’s a big steaming bowl of store-brand mac and cheese, but sometimes that’s all you need.

For the documentative crowd: From some of the creative forces behind the exhaustive Nightmare on Elm Street documentary Never Sleep Again comes a similarly thorough history lesson regarding the 1985 splatter comedy Return of the Living Dead. With More Brains! (CAV Distributing Group), director Bill Philputt and crew go above and beyond to tell the story of the “little horror movie that could,” filling every second with interesting (to horror nerds, at least) anecdotes and behind-the scenes gossip that is almost better than the actual movie they’re talking about! It’s awesome to live in an era when a cheap zombie movie like this would get a two-hour tribute.

For the grindhouse crowd: B-movies don’t get any scuzzier than Frank Henenlotter’s 1981 classic Basket Case (Image Entertainment, pictured right), still the greatest movie ever made about mutant conjoined twins and their psychotic murder spree in old-school New York City. Remastered and re-released on Blu-Ray, the high definition makes this movie even uglier than ever, with everything and everyone resembling the floor of a sleazy 42nd Street moviehouse. Basket Case is a grotesque classic best watched in stained sweatpants with a jug of the cheapest rotgut you can find. It might also help to invite a sleeping homeless dude to sit with you. Or, if you’re lucky, your own conjoined twin. Sadly, I ate mine in the womb.

For the Occupy crowd: Government sucks! Banks suck! But you know you really sucks? The cops, man! Walking around with their guns and night-sticks, kicking simple, peaceful peeps out of their city park campsites. Well, I got news for you: Those mean ol’ pigs are nothing compared to the Maniac Cop (Synapse Films)! Like the tagline says, “You have the right to remain silent … forever!” In this William Lustig classic from 1988, recently released on Blu-Ray, genre vets Bruce Campbell and Tom Atkins have to stop a deformed killer in a cop outfit before more slobs are victims of total police brutality. He might be the 1%, but you'll be 100% entertained at his law enforcement antics.

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Book review: Rossetti: Painter and Poet

Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2011 at 12:39 PM


It’s funny how people have a “type.” Especially when the type is weirdly obvious and/or specific. (I’m thinking Ron Swanson’s Tammys from Parks and Recreation.)

Artists have types, too, naturally. Peter Paul Rubens was into portly women, Michelangelo was into muscular men, and the English artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti had a thing for women with strong jaws, prominent features and heavy-lidded eyes.

That’s a topical way to get into Rossetti, but his art is so much more than striking women. Rossetti was a Victorian-era painter, poet, translator and co-founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (a school of thought related to art and literature). He was a high-profile figure during his own day, and even if his name isn't all that well-known now, his art is fairly popular.

Artwork like Rossetti’s is made for romantics. Not only because his main subject is beautiful women. His settings are flowery, medieval in landscape and style (think of the chivalrous stripe), and his themes vary from woman as idol to woman as devil.

These are simplifications, of course, but if you ever wanted to know more about this artist, look no further than Rossetti: Painter and Poet by J.B. Bullen. Even if Rossetti isn’t your immediate cup of tea, this book is no less fascinating. For one, Rossetti led an interesting, scandalous life, replete with passionate love affairs, fame and infamy, and drug addiction.

From Bullen’s website:

Bullen’s premise is that Rossetti was a courageous pioneer in the late-nineteenth-century world of evasion and repression. He dared to explore the hidden recesses of the mind and to claim that the libido was a driving force in human life. Both Rossetti’s art and his poetry were castigated for their "fleshliness" but Bullen maintains that in his painting and in his poetry Rossetti’s focus on the erotic life was a way of asserting the centrality of the sexual drive.

And one can easily trace his developments — and affairs — in his works. His passion for Elizabeth “Lizzie” Siddal, the woman who would later become his wife, burned hotly in the beginnings of their courtship, but waned as she took ill and his interests strayed. After her death by suicide, Rossetti painted her again, one result being “Beata Beatrix,” one of his best-known works, which portrays Lizzie in an allegory of death laced with a sense of mythical eroticism.

Beata Beatrix
  • "Beata Beatrix"

Other lovers, Fannie Cornforth and Jane Morris, held similar symbolic roles. Cornforth, the subject of the subversively lascivious “Bocca Baciata,” which graces the cover of the book, was his paragon of physical desire. The more severe Morris was an ideal of beauty.

Before relying more heavily on symbolism, Rossetti’s work was largely informed by such epics as Dante’s Divine Comedy and Sir Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. His portrayals of doomed lovers like Paolo and Francesca, and Lancelot and Guinevere are particularly intriguing for their glorious consummation in hell and guilty stolen moments, respectively.

Painter and Poet was published Oct. 11 and is available here.

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The Haunted Windchimes' Prairie Home weekend: Listen and watch here

Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2011 at 9:40 AM

This was a busy weekend for the Haunted Windchimes, including their live Prairie Home Companion performance on Saturday afternoon, and gigs both Friday and Saturday night with three-fifths of the band performing as the Ghost of Michael Clark.

If you missed any or all of the above, we have some pretty good consolation prizes.

You can go here to listen to a podcast of the entire Prairie Home Companion show, which also included an opening song by Garrison Keillor extolling the virtues of Colorado Springs.

And if you scroll down just a bit, you'll find a beautiful video clip from Friday's Ghost of Michael Clark performance at S.P.Q.R. Thanks to the inimitable Roger Harris for shooting it and sending it our way. (Find his other local music videos on YouTube, where he posts as RocketRoomVideo.)

Last but hopefully not least, if you're in a reading mood, check out our interview with Mike Clark from last week's issue here and take a trip down memory lane with the Indy's 2008 Haunted Windchimes cover story here.

Congratulations to all. Now keep up the good work!

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Late-Friday afternoon distraction

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 4:55 PM

After 14 years of public outcry, Beavis and Butt-Head is finally back on the air.

All you 9-to-5ers out there, if you grew up on Mike Judge's ode to stupidity and you have nothing else to do than wind down the clock at work (which is in no way how I came across this video), then enjoy.

In this first episode, the duo are inspired by Twilight to become a vampires to pick up chicks:

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A love letter to downtown Colorado Springs from itself

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 4:50 PM


A video released yesterday by the Downtown Partnership shows the upside of downtown Colorado Springs through the eyes of Susan Edmondson with the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, Richard Skorman of political/restaurant/literary fame, and biking enthusiast Chris Carmichael.

It's really well-shot — if you can ignore the corny music — with fun angles of well-known landmarks. This includes shots of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, Mediterranean Café, St. Mary's Catholic Cathedral, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Breakfast, Blues Under the Bridge and a quick cameo appearance by our Mayor Steve Bach and his family.

Here's what the initial trio said.


You know, downtown never ceases to surprise me, and in really terrific ways. So when I think about the future, I don’t know what it will hold, but I know there’s going to be a new festival, or a new gallery, or a new restaurant, or something that’s going to give me another reason to enjoy the time that I spend in downtown Colorado Springs.


Well, downtown has treated me well over the years — being in business for 35 years — and I think that its future is gonna be brighter and better. We’re getting more and more of everything, and hopefully the people in the community will keep supporting us in the way they have.


The community reaction to the USA Pro Cycling Challenge was absolutely stellar. People said to me, “Hey Chris, what do you need in order to get this race going and make sure we put our best foot forward as far as the city of Colorado Springs?” The Downtown Development Authority grabbed a hold, and same thing, they said “Chris, we’d love to have this race finish in downtown Colorado Springs. How can we help, what can we do?” And they were there with us every step of the way. Our expectations were exceeded.

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Piñon Canyon art comes to town

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 4:43 PM

Peace activist Bill Sulzman is putting out the word about the Piñon Canyon Preservation Exhibition in Colorado Springs next week. He forwards the following from one of the organizers, Doug Holdread of Trinidad:

On Nov. 3rd we’ll have a press conference at 3:00 in front of the exhibit which will be set up on Cascade Avenue in front of the Worner Center. This will be a photo op, and an opportunity for any of the artists who are present to make a brief statement if they want to do that.

Then at 4:30 in WES room (downstairs Worner Center) we’ll have a public information program with a short slide show about the Artists Against Expansion efforts, explaining the purpose of the "Piñon Canyon Preservation Exhibition."

At 5:00 we’ll be doing a general update on the current status of the Piñon Canyon issue with Lon Robertson, President of the Piñon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition, PCEOC, followed by a question and answer session.

On Friday, Nov. 4th and Saturday, Nov. 5th, the exhibition will be open to the public from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. We are looking for volunteers to staff this.


Here's some information about Holdread from his website:

Doug Holdread has been exploring and depicting the landscapes of Southeastern Colorado for forty years. And he has explored his own inner landscape in the process. Doug's work has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions, including one at the National Palace of Fine Art in San Miguel, Mexico.

His career began as an artist for the Coast Guard. He has been an educator, a television art director and a historical illustrator. His paintings are on display at the National Santa Fe Trail Center and the National Park Service has used a number of his paintings for exhibits along the Trail, from Missouri to New Mexico.

Doug coordinates the art program at Trinidad State Junior College and he is working on several murals there, including one depicting the history of the Purgatory River Valley.

If you want to volunteer to help, contact Sulzman at 389-0644.

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The Joy of Tebowing

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 3:06 PM

One of the best things about viral posing phenomenons like planking and owling is that they have a mercifully short half-life.

And since nature and the internet both abhor vacuums, it's time for a new micro-trend: Tebowing. In the last 24 hours of so, cyberspace has suddenly become glutted with photos of people emulating the Denver Broncos quarterback's distinctive one-kneed victory pose in a variety of unlikely settings.

As yet, no major celebrities have joined in (apart from Tebow himself), and there have been no reported fatalities.

While Tebow's ceremonial pose has been widely interpreted as a form of short-attention-span praying, I can't help thinking of it as a nod to Rodin's Thinker, as seen above. In any event, here are just a few of the many thoughtful contributions you'll find at, which is currently adding a new photo every minute or so.






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King Tut still lives on at the Gazette

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 2:10 PM

From the listings desk: Last month, we pointed out that according to the Gazette's Go! section, the Denver Art Museum's Tutankhamun: The Golden King & the Great Pharaohs was still on display.

The show closed back in January.

Well, as of today's Go!, Tut is still up:



Actually, except for a A Visual Alphabet: Herbert Bayer's Anthology Paintings, all the other shows listed have come and gone, too. Charles Deas actually exited the museum last November.

What's missing from the G's rundown are three stellar exhibits: Xu Beihong: Pioneer of Modern Chinese Painting and Threads of Heaven: Silken Legacy of China's Last Dynasty, both of which open Oct. 30, and the already-open Robert Adams: The Place We Live, A Retrospective Selection of Photographs.

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UPDATE: Councilors skip annual citizens' meeting

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 12:04 PM

City Councilor Tim Leigh has had more to say about his absence from the e-town hall.

Leigh sent out a mass e-mail yesterday, explaining his skipping of the citizens' meeting. Long story short: He's still not sorry he missed it. Not even a little bit.

Read on:

Pay attention. Be informed. Make a difference. Keep it real.

I wasn’t at the Citizen’s Town Hall meeting last week. I was in the city that never sleeps doing the Citizen’s business.

The Citizen’s Town Hall meeting is a special contrivance where citizens plead their case before Council as it relates to the forthcoming budget. Frankly, by this time in the municipal budgeting process, any changes brought by special pleading by special interests are likely borne from emotion and not empiricism, and should be discounted on their face.

I actually thought about placing a mannequin or an orange cone (with my face painted with a moustache on it) in my chair so folks would know how much I was thinking about them while I was traveling; and I was, and I do care. I just think it’s horribly disingenuous and hypocritical to let the citizenry believe they can make last minute pitches and pleas and thereby modify a Quarter of Billion Dollar budget that took a team of professional accountants and budget planners nearly a year to create. And, while I appeared MIA, those who know me know I’m available and approachable for frank conversation anytime. I just believe that special meetings for special-interest groups while politically correct and appealing, (and good for ratings), are mostly non-productive. Alternatively, my time and our trip to the Big Apple was very productive.

And, we could beat the proposed budget to death because we all have good ideas. But, at some point we have to let it go. But, so I may stay in touch with my politically correct old self, here’s my quick two cents:

POOLS: Instead of subsidizing swimming pools, we should close them and purchase everyone who uses a public pool a free YMCA membership. We’d eliminate operational and capital costs associated with owning a public pool system and save hundreds of thousands every year. As it is, our pools can’t carry their own water.

CONTRIBUTIONS: Let’s cut contribution to the Colorado Municipal League (and other such membership organizations) by half and eliminate the Intergovernmental Affairs Liaison position. Our combined savings would be around $100,000. If we simply direct those savings to Parks, we’d re-open the Prospect Lake Beach House and re-fill Prospect Lake every spring.

ADMINISTRATION OF GOVERNMENT: Let’s move the Councilor’s offices to the City Administration Building producing operational efficiencies and financial savings while coincidentally solving personal safety concerns. Heck, if we played in the same sandbox, we might actually play together.

TOWN HALL MEETINGS: Citizens should talk to their elected officials more than once a year at a one-time, 2 hour meeting. To that end, we should hold regular monthly town hall meetings. These meetings could be very informal over coffee or wine and could provide a venue for citizens to showcase their programs and help drive public policy throughout the year - not just in a panic at budget time.

COUNCILOR’S SALARIES: For every dollar a councilor can find in savings to the budget by optimization he can keep ½. I’m sure I just found a couple of hundred thousand dollars with my ideas. . . .

I know my ideas will not be seriously considered, nor should they be. They are “off-the-cuff” as are many of the ideas brought forward in the town hall meeting where emotion and spur of the moment thinking reigns supreme. We need to discuss our “budget process” and the role of council in that process. We don’t need 9 city managers.

And so, while most of my co-councilors were at the Town Hall, I traveled with our utilities company (CSU) to the JP Morgan Utility Conference in New York City with a large goal of reducing borrowing costs and an alternative, nominal goal of finding 6 ounces of the fabled Pace Picante Sauce made famous in 1970’s cowboy commercials.

Utility companies from all over North America gathered at the JP Morgan Tower to pitch their bond issues to institutional investors. (Institutional investors are insurance companies and very large banks who buy municipal bonds.) By purchasing municipal bonds, institutional investors fund large-scale capital projects (like SDS, roads, bridges and sporting event centers) for cities. We were able to meet several investors privately and thereby place a name with a face with a person who writes a check.

The value of those meetings was enormous. Our personal selling and messaging (that we’re fiscally responsible and politically aligned — (OK - a salesman’s fib for our collective benefit!)) could produce a 3 — 5 basis point (.03% .05%) reduction in our long-term borrowing costs. If we borrow $250 million next year our trip could produce somewhere around a $1 - $1½ million borrowing-cost saving over time. That’s a real money savings to the rate payers (er, that’s us, folks!) By the way, I was the only elected official at the entire conference, and that I was there, (we were told) made a huge statement to the investors.

And now, in the grand old tradition of Halloween, campfires, the Grimm Brothers and Aesop, I’ll recant a simple municipal government horror story that we heard at the conference, with a lesson.

First the story: “Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love ain’t feeling the love!” The last good thing to come-out of Philadelphia (besides the Flyers) was Rocky. Over 30% of their residents live below the poverty line which means they don’t have the ability to borrow except at very high cost. (By the way, they are similarly sized to Colorado Springs and statistically 150,000 of their 500,000 citizens are broke.) When a city can’t afford to borrow it can’t make public improvements. When it can’t make public improvements, it can’t attract new citizens or businesses. When it can’t attract new citizens or businesses their population grows in the wrong direction. Their sale and property tax collections drop along with their quality of life. Think of the swirling sight and sound of a flushing toilet or think of Harrisburg PA, who filed for bankruptcy last week, or think of Vallejo, CA who filed in 2008.

Now the lesson: We need to be very aware of our demographic modeling which ultimately drives municipal finances and budgets. And, while we need to be fiscally conservative, we need to be willing to invest in ourselves so we continuously enhance the culture in Colorado Springs, naturally attracting a well trained and educated young, creative class. As we attract young creatives, we’ll attract employers who want to hire them and our budget conversations won’t center on continuous cuts, but will center on interesting projects that will preserve our way of living for our children and our children’s children.

Folks, budget conversations aren’t about budgets - they’re about policy. Policy conversations should not be conducted in short-term, emotionally charged, 2 hour long-meetings. They should be engaged over time so all possible points of view can be properly considered. By the time we get to implementation, larger policy considerations should have driven the conversation so the budget is a simple vote of unanimity. City Councilor’s should not sharp-shoot a budget line-by-line. City Councilor’s should be thinking great thoughts, dreaming big dreams and articulating vision.

Now, would somebody please pass the Picante Sauce?

Pay attention. Be informed. Make a difference. Keep it real.

——- ORIGINAL POST, FRIDAY, 12:04 P.M. ——-

Tim Leigh
  • Tim Leigh
Last night's annual "e-town hall" on the city budget didn't attract quite as many citizens as past years, but concerned community members still packed the room.

The dais, however, was less packed. At the start of the meeting, three councilors were absent. Lisa Czelatdko showed up a little late, missing the comments of three members of the public, but catching the vast majority of the meeting. Councilors Tim Leigh and Merv Bennett, however, never showed.

This reporter has been covering this annual meeting — citizens' chance to tell Councilors how they want their tax dollars spent — since 2007. Never has a single Councilor missed it.

After the meeting, Council President Scott Hente told me that Bennett was absent because of a long-held commitment to care for an out-of-state loved one following a surgery. Leigh, however, was in New York City, meeting with bond companies along with Colorado Springs Utilities employees.

This wasn't a required trip. But Leigh says he felt it was more important to go to the Big Apple than to listen to community members, in this case. Leigh says relationships with bond companies are "pretty critical," and he thought he could help save the city money in the long run by attending.

Besides, he says, the concerns of citizens won't weigh into how he feels about the budget, which is that the mayor's budget should stand.

"It's not like I would have come away and had any earth-shattering recommendation after watching it," he said. "... My position's pretty clear in how I feel about the budget."

Leigh says he hasn't watched the meeting on video either, but might next week "if I get a chance."

Leigh stressed that he thought long-term conversations about policy were more important than meetings like the e-town hall, which he characterized as "short-term" and "emotional."

The meeting, by the way, was attended by a variety of people who spent hours waiting for a turn to talk. Some, using wheelchairs and walkers, had to arrange for special transportation to attend the meeting, since buses don't run that late at night.

Among the concerns were funding for parks and North Cheyenne Cañon, as well as for more buses and alternative transit services for the disabled and elderly. Many people explained to Council the challenges of trying to walk up a hill, or the sadness they felt at not being able to see friends or relatives due to a lack of transportation. Often, all they wanted was a bus stop to stay in the same place at no cost to the city, or for less than $50,000 out of a $225 million budget to be dedicated to better options for the needy.

Bennett couldn't immediately be reached for this blog.

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A safe and savvy Halloween

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 11:32 AM

Looks like the moon could use a ride.
  • Looks like the moon could use a ride.

From the listings desk: If you're planning on a rager to enjoy Halloween, keep in mind that your intoxicated self may now enjoy a safe ride home thanks to McDivitt Law Firm.

From the hours of 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. over the night of Monday, Oct. 31 Yellow Cab of Colorado Springs (777-7777) will give anyone a free ride home (not to another bar, mind you) if you tell them the ride is on the law firm. Rides aren't guaranteed for everyone, but they'll try.

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Saving the elephants

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 7:21 AM

Young elephants playing in Amboseli National Park

Recently, we wrote about Barbara von Hoffmann, a local photographer who was one of 16 winners in an international photo contest, the prize for which is wall space at the Smithsonian Institution.

In our interview and in a follow-up e-mail, Von Hoffmann made it clear that she's passionate not only about her photography, but also elephants in Africa. (She’s in Botswana photographing them now.) But she’s deeply concerned that the ivory trade, long the cause of elephant slaughter there, is getting worse.

Things are escalating for a number of reasons, but the main push comes from basic market forces. China is a large consumer of ivory products, and with more Chinese able to purchase ivory, the demand has grown.

The result is a disastrous uptick in poaching. According to Von Hoffmann’s research, as many as 30,000 elephants from one region were poached in three years, and there are several countries in Africa where there may be no elephants left.

Von Hoffmann points out that there are efforts to educate Chinese people about the source of the ivory. (Many don’t realize elephants are killed to harvest it.) However, that doesn't combat problems dealing with ivory traded for weapons and drugs; for that, armed guards are installed in airports and national parks.

But what about those of us here? Von Hoffmann admits it's a helpless feeling to be thousands of miles (and jurisdictions) away. She says petitions (like this and this) help, and donations to organizations like Save the Elephants.

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