Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fire Department still mum on fire escapes

Posted By on Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 12:09 PM

Fatal fire escape where a 41-year-old Fountain man died in January. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Fatal fire escape where a 41-year-old Fountain man died in January.
We got word yesterday that the widow of Pedro Carreno, killed when a fire escape collapsed downtown on Jan. 22, won't pursue a claim or lawsuit against the city of Colorado Springs.

But that apparently doesn't mean we'll learn anything new about whether the death has changed city policy on inspections of fire escapes.

Our story, "Hanging by a thread," which appeared in this week's issue, details what happened on that day, what the Occupational Health and Safety Administration had to say about it, the legal fallout since, and the apparent widespread lack of inspection of fire escapes, many of which date back to the 19th century.

The widow's notice of claim was submitted to the city in mid-June. Here's that letter:

Now, the McDivitt Law Firm, which is representing Patricia Cortez, Carreno's wife, says it considers the claim a dead issue, and issued this statement on Wednesday: 
We never filed a real claim, so there is nothing to dismiss. The Notice of Claim is a notice which the law requires be given in order to preserve the right to sue a governmental agency later. We gave the notice of claim to preserve our right to sue later, but we never filed suit against the city or any city department after further investigation.
Meantime, Cortez has filed suit against the owner and manager of the building where the fire escape collapsed.

It's worth noting that the statute of limitations is two years for a wrongful death case, meaning the deadline for filing such a case is Jan. 21, 2016. In any event, the notice of claim is apparently still on the city's mind. It refuses to allow firefighters to speak publicly about what's happened or not happened with fire escape inspections since the fatality. We shared with the city McDivitt's statement about not pursuing the claim and asked if that statement might jar loose a little information now that the city is apparently off the hook.

City spokeswoman Julie Smith, when asked if the Fire Department could now answer our questions, says via email:  "The City has not received any written notification that McDivitt has withdrawn their notice of claim. Therefore, the City and Fire Department still cannot discuss the matter."

So we can't tell you whether fire escapes are being inspected or not. Ergo, be careful out there. You might want to watch your step if you find yourself needing to use a fire escape in Colorado Springs.

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IPA drinkers: Try an IPL

Posted By on Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 11:48 AM

By month's end, AC Golden Brewing Company, i.e. MillerCoors, should finish statewide (and only Colorado) distribution of its new Colorado Native label, the Colorado Native IPL, or India Pale Lager

Yes, that is a lager, as opposed to an ale, meaning the brew is fermented at a cooler temperature with bottom-fermenting yeasts for a longer time than a top-fermenting ale. "Consequently," explains a press release, "most lager yeasts also produce lower levels of the esters and fusel alcohols commonly found in ales." Meaning: "a cleaner flavor platform that allows the complex hop character of our IPL to shine through." 

To be more precise, the 6.5-ABV, 62-IBU brew, respectably made with 100-percent Colorado ingredients, utilizes Chinook, Centennial, Cascade, Nugget and Crystal hops and San Luis Valley-grown malts.  

Though I would disagree with the claim "we have, almost single handedly, created a market for Colorado-grown hops and a new category of agriculture for Colorado farmers and their families" — consider than Alamosa-based Colorado Malting Company has been growing in popularity since 2008 — I certainly applaud the mass-market local-ingredient effort. 

And though I do agree that the subtle difference in your basic IPA and this IPL does come in a slightly heavier aftertaste, I can only laugh at this seemingly sincere line from head brewer Jeff Nickel: "You'll be amazed at how quickly your palate cleans up, unlike some IPAs, which can leave you brushing your teeth several times the next morning."

OK, I have never done that. 

No friend I know of has ever done that. 

That's probably just not done, by anyone, anywhere, ever. 

Ahem ... 

Anyway, to NIckel's credit, the IPL does taste great. So cheers and drink local if you aren't going to support your nearby microbrewery — which does likely purchase some international ingredients, meaning a much wider carbon footprint than this entirely Colorado product. Even its bottle is made in Golden. 

A beer sample was sent to our office. We have no problem with this whatsoever. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A beer sample was sent to our office. We have no problem with this whatsoever.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

More on mercury in your mouth

Posted By on Wed, Sep 24, 2014 at 4:58 PM

Earlier this month, I reported on some dentists' concerns over amalgam fillings, which contain mercury, a fact which most Americans apparently don't know, according to polls. 

In that article, I cited a local holistic dentist, Hal Huggins, who calls himself the "world's most controversial dentist," and who calls the leading advocate of "dubious" holistic claims. Huggins did not return our calls for comment at the time, but he has now reached out with a lengthy response, highlighting his opinions on why amalgam fillings are a risk to personal health. 

Here is a link to that letter in full: 

And here is just one excerpt, to provide a taste:
Does mercury come out of fillings?

Just sitting in your mouth, 272 micrograms of mercury will be released daily.

Americans, on average, have 8 mercury amalgam fillings. According to the Journal of
Dental Research (about 1983), chewing gum will increase that amount by 15,000%.
Second: How Much Mercury is toxic?

I asked this question to my professor (in forensic toxicology), “What is the safe exposure
to mercury because the EPA has one standard, OSHA another and the dental association
has quite another stance.”

“Well Doctor,” he said with a smirk, “Nerve cells are especially susceptible to
destruction. One atom of mercury can kill one cell. You tell me the safe level.”
Dr. Craig Sommer, also cited in our recent feature on amalgam fillings, practices holistic dentistry in Colorado Springs. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Dr. Craig Sommer, also cited in our recent feature on amalgam fillings, practices holistic dentistry in Colorado Springs.

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Nobody is oppressed like a white evangelical Christian

Posted By on Wed, Sep 24, 2014 at 4:33 PM

  • Shutterstock

It's a damn shame the Gazette changed its commenting platform, thus erasing all that came before, because the bottom half of news stories about gay marriage used to be filled with the plaintive cries of the real oppressed minority in this country: white Christians. 

And since Colorado Springs is nicknamed "the Evangelical Vatican," you're probably interested to know that a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center reveals that an astounding 50 percent of white evangelical Christians say "there is a lot of discrimination against" white evangelical Christians. This is more than against blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, atheists and Jews, notes The Daily Banter.

"However, this will not come as a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention to the grumblings from evangelical circles about their phantasmagoric plight in an increasingly secular society," Michael Luciano writes. "This narrative, which has been spoon-fed to them for decades by self-serving preachers, politicians, and pundits, enables white evangelicals to interpret measures designed to stop discrimination against others as actually being discriminatory against the evangelical way of life. ...


"This is the white evangelical persecution complex quantified. Despite all the religiosity that’s so readily apparent in public life — 'In God we trust' on the money, the National Prayer Breakfast, 'God Bless America' signing off every major presidential speech, the continued use of 'So help me God' at the end of the presidential oath of office despite nothing of the sort appearing in the oath in the Constitution, the existence of a congressional chaplain, the Ten Commandments still cropping up on public property across the country, the political death sentence that would be incurred by most politicians who publicly declare their atheism, the presence of nativity scenes on public property during Christmastime, the nauseating political pandering to ignorant creationists, the treatment of gay people as second class citizens because the Bible says so — it is the white evangelical Christians who think they suffer above all others."

And, of course, we run into this aggrieved subsection every time we report anything about the Military Religious Freedom Foundation or the intrepid evangelizers at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Just read some of the 58 comments on this post.

Thankfully, there's hope, says Pew: "Nearly three-quarters of Americans (72%) now say that religion is losing influence in American life, the highest share to hold this view in Pew Research surveys going back to 2001."

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County likely to get Jones Park

Posted By on Wed, Sep 24, 2014 at 4:24 PM

He started it: the greenback cutthroat trout. - DOUG KRIEGER
  • Doug Krieger
  • He started it: the greenback cutthroat trout.

City Council is ready to give at least a little closure to the debate over what will happen to Jones Park.

The west side property, home to many of the region's favorite trails, has been the subject of a political tug of war. Currently, it is owned by Colorado Springs Utilities. But it serves no purpose for the Utilities and it's become a looming liability since it was recently found to be the last home in the wild for the the threatened greenback cutthroat trout. The discovery has meant that the federal government will now be imposing expensive changes to the property to protect the fish.

Utilities planned to offload the land onto the Forest Service through a nonprofit that already had funds in place to do the federally-required work. But then El Paso County said it too wanted the land. Then the Council appeared to suddenly be interested in trying to sell Jones Park. (Read more about that controversy here.)

Yesterday, Council appeared to at least rule out some of the possibilities. It voted 5-3 to appraise the land, but also stated that its intention was to give the land to El Paso County.

The appraisal will be completed Nov. 25 and the County Commissioners, pending board approval, plan to pay for the cost of the study.

Meanwhile the Trails and Open Space Coalition is pushing the Council to put deed restrictions in the transfer to protect the land. According to a press release, they want to make sure the owners of Jones Park keep it open to the public; comply with federal environmental guidelines to protect the greenback; never sell or transfer the land to a private owner; and comply with existing agreements (like fire mitigation agreements with the Forest Service).

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No TABOR notice on stormwater fee measure

Posted By on Wed, Sep 24, 2014 at 3:11 PM

The creek under the Platte Avenue bridge after heavy rains in 2011. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • The creek under the Platte Avenue bridge after heavy rains in 2011.

If you're expecting to receive pro and con statements of the proposed stormwater ballot measure in the mail before you vote on Nov. 4, fuhgeddaboutit.

The proposed creation of the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority and revenue to be generated to the tune of $39 million annually has been deemed outside the scope of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights notice that's required for all proposed tax increases.

The reason is that the stormwater measure is a "question" while a measure that would raise taxes is an "issue" under the law, according to El Paso County Clerk and Recorder spokesman Ryan Parsell, who explains further via email by saying:
The Stormwater question is a referred measure, and as such is a "ballot question" pursuant to C.R.S. 1-1-104(2.7). A "ballot question" is defined as a "state or local government matter involving a citizen petition or referred measure, other than a ballot issue." "Ballot issue" is defined as a state or local matter arising under TABOR or the statutes that allow a TABOR question in coordinated elections. See, C.R.S 1-1-104 (2.3). Consistent with this definition, TABOR defines the term "ballot issue" as it is to be used "[w]ithin this section."
TABOR requires pro and con statements for any ballot measure proposing to raise taxes, or keep tax money that's collected above the limits imposed by TABOR.

All that said, we're happy to bring you pro and con statements that were submitted by the Friday deadline for inclusion in the TABOR notice, which now will NOT be included.

Pro statement, as submitted by Dave Munger, head of the Council of Neighbors and Organizations:

Con statement, as submitted by Douglas Bruce:

As for another county measure, 1A, which asks permission to retain tax money collected in excess of TABOR caps, here's the pro statement, as written by Susan Davies, who works for the Trails and Open Space Coalition:

Here's Bruce's statement opposing 1A:

The statements for and against 1A will be included in the TABOR notice.

We've asked for a comment from Bruce. If and when we hear back from him, we'll update.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

UPDATE: City agrees to pay PERA $190 million

Posted By on Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 1:57 PM

City city will pay $190 million for retirement accounts of Memorial workers under a settlement announced today. The lawsuit stemmed from the lease of Memorial Hospital to UCH. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • City city will pay $190 million for retirement accounts of Memorial workers under a settlement announced today. The lawsuit stemmed from the lease of Memorial Hospital to UCH.

This just in from PERA:
DENVER–Today, the Colorado PERA Board of Trustees announced an agreement with the City of Colorado Springs to resolve the lawsuit between the City and PERA over the amount due to PERA to ensure that Memorial Health System’s departure from PERA does not negatively impact the 146 employers and 11,954 members in PERA’s Local Government Division Trust Fund. The agreement provides for the City of Colorado Springs to pay PERA $190 million for the liabilities associated with the retirement and health care benefits already earned by 7,380 Memorial employees for the work that they performed before Memorial ceased to the a PERA employer. The employees of Memorial were covered by PERA until Memorial was leased to the University of Colorado Hospital Authority on October 1, 2012.

“This agreement ensures that Memorial’s decision to exit PERA will not negatively impact the other employers and members of the Local Government Division,” said Gregory W. Smith, PERA’s Executive Director. “We are happy to reach closure on this issue and believe this is an appropriate result for PERA members, beneficiaries and employers,” he concluded.

This agreement restores the funded status of the Local Government Division trust fund which will return the trust to fully funded status approximately eight years sooner than is currently estimated. This payment enhances the long term sustainability and retirement security for the 30,000 local government employees, retirees and their employers who participate in Colorado PERA.

Colorado PERA’s General Counsel Adam L. Franklin added, “This agreement adheres to the law that no PERA employer can leave the financial obligations they owe to their employees and retirees for other PERA employers and members to cover. It helps maintain the integrity of one of Colorado’s best investments.”
—————————————ORIGINAL POST, TUESDAY, SEPT. 23, 2014, 1:57 P.M.——————————————————

After nearly two years of litigation and more nearly $2 million in lawyer fees, Colorado Springs City Council today unanimously approved a settlement that will pay the Public Employees Retirement Association $190 million.

That sum is $5 million more than the University of Colorado Health gave the city to pay off PERA when the 40-year lease deal of city-owned Memorial Health System was inked on Oct. 1, 2012. 

Former City Attorney Chris Melcher oversaw negotiations of the lease, which yielded the $185 million commitment to PERA. Melcher later advised Council to sue PERA and argue the city owed nothing for the roughly 4,000 Memorial employees covered by the plan who would be moved into a different retirement system. Melcher left the city in January, although he was paid through July in a severance pay arrangement in which he collected more than $100,000.

Since the city sued, it has suffered two critical decisions in court that, if the case went to trial, could have cost the city $30 million more in interest accruals.

Hogan Lovells law firm, which represented the city, has been paid well over $1.5 million during the saga.

Here's the Council's news release, which tends to put a happy face on the whole affair:

The City Council of Colorado Springs today approved a Settlement Agreement with the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA), regarding pension claims arising from the lease of Memorial Health System (Memorial) to University of Colorado Health (UCH) in October 2012.

Under the arrangement, a lump sum payment of $190 million will be made to PERA. The settlement payment will be made from the nearly $259 million that the City and UCH set aside during the lease transaction. The settlement does not constitute any admission of liability by Memorial or the City, but avoids the risks and cost of continued litigation and will ensure that the community receives the major benefits of the Memorial lease.

“City Council believes that it is in the best interest of the Colorado Springs Health Foundation, the City and former Memorial employees to settle,” stated City Council President Pro-tem Merv Bennett.

This agreement provides closure of disputed contingent claims, and will free approximately $70 million of additional funds held in escrow for the Colorado Springs Health Foundation, a nonprofit corporation. In total, by October 2017, the Foundation should have, not including interest on investments, a total of approximately $86 million. This includes approximately $16 million currently held by the Memorial Hospital Enterprise.

“One of the important elements from the lease with UCH was the creation of the Colorado Springs Health Foundation. The Foundation was established with the intent of improving the health and quality of life of the community. This agreement will allow the Foundation to begin the important job it was designed to do — fund grants to provide quality healthcare to those who would otherwise not have access, and to encourage healthy living,” said City Councilwoman Jan Martin.
Instead of having $259 million to do its good works, the Colorado Springs Health Foundation will have about $85 million. It currently has $16 million from annual payments made by UCH, and would presumably add the remainder of the initial payment, or $69 million, to that total.

We've asked both PERA and Mayor Steve Bach for a comment on the settlement. Bach in the past has said the lawsuit was the Council's issue, not his.

We'll update if and when we hear from them.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Ranch Foods Direct to anchor Public Market

Posted By on Mon, Sep 22, 2014 at 5:20 PM

This past Friday, we reported on the big news that the Colorado Springs Public Market has selected its location (all these years later)  — the former Gazette building at 30 S. Prospect St. 

This morning, we spoke with board chair Dave Anderson to follow up and glean whatever info is available at this time, regarding potential member businesses and tenants to the space, which has already started seeing renovations. 

Anderson immediately wished to draw attention to Ranch Foods Direct, which plans to relocate its facility from 2901 N. El Paso St. to anchor CSPM. 

"Ranch Foods Direct is going to have a major presence," says owner Mike Callicrate, reached this afternoon. "We haven't made any final decisions on design and layout and exactly what's going to be there, but one of the things we want to be able to do on site is cook, smoke and add value — it's a whole level of business we're missing at this point." 
CSPM board members and supporters at a May 2013 community meeting. Dave Anderson showing the sense of humor. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • CSPM board members and supporters at a May 2013 community meeting. Dave Anderson showing the sense of humor.

Most importantly, though, RFD will create a stronger market presence for area-produced food items, in part tying into its existing mobile slaughter units

"That's an integral part of how to get local food into an urban area," says Anderson, noting a lesser fossil-fuel footprint and the ability for RFD distribution trucks to "do a milk run" on the way to and from growers. 

"We were saying that 'it's not about a building,' before," he says. "Now we're saying 'It's more than a building,' since we got one ... this is a community project."  

Anderson cites a 2012 Transition Colorado-sponsored study called the Shuman Report, which examined “The Benefits of Food Localization for Boulder County."

You can read it in full here: 

He says a similar effort here will likely amount to a 10-year project for CSPM. 

He also notes an early CSPM feasibility study that shows a "model for success" that includes one-third of CSPM as being composed of fresh products for sale (i.e. dairy, meat and produce), another third existing as food outlets with possible production on site (i.e. a brewery) and a final third being composed of "artisanal" items that aren't food-related but build on community gathering. 

He says the public will be invited to weigh in on what they'd like to see as the project continues to come to fruition, also citing plans to tie directly into downtown's heart via transit and pedestrian options, plus a tie into bike trails. 

When pressed for more on financial aspects of the project and a clearer vision for Nor'Wood Development Group's role and terms with CSPM, Anderson deferred, saying "we have an agreement in concept — we're trying to create an institution. We aren't worried about the lease rate. We have a great deal of confidence in the concept and what will make this thing an economic success and a real success for our community ... We need to do something to change people's understanding of what economic development is all about."

In a follow-up email, he added: "The increase in local wages and tax revenue, and the number of good jobs, is dramatic — for a very low level of investment.”

That said, he did note a figure of $7 million from the feasibility study, to create the hub, citing 30,000 square-feet with which to work — not all of which will be initially developed, leaving opportunities to "graft something onto it and expand in a constructive way."

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SunShare keeps on burning

Posted By on Mon, Sep 22, 2014 at 2:09 PM

David Amster-Olszewski, SunShare founder, is gaining steam. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • David Amster-Olszewski, SunShare founder, is gaining steam.
The solar company formed three years ago by a Colorado College grad, David Amster-Olszewski, keeps sending out press releases about new "firsts" as solar power gains momentum.

The latest announces a contract with Hyland Hills Park and Recreation District for 1.4 megawatts of solar power.

For background on SunShare, check out this story from last year. And for the latest from the company, here's the news release:

Denver, CO – Denver-based SunShare announced today it has contracted with Hyland Hills Park and Recreation District to provide Water World, the largest community owned water park in the country, and its other district properties with 1.4 megawatts of clean, reliable energy from its Adams County Community Solar Garden. This is among the largest Community Solar deals to be signed between a Community Solar developer and a consumer. SunShare is one of the nation’s first Community Solar providers.

“We are proud to be part of this Solar Garden with SunShare,” said Harlan Bryant, District Engineer for Hyland Hills Park & Recreation District. “It is a win, win, win situation. We’re helping Xcel Energy meet its renewable energy requirements; we’re helping SunShare, a Colorado company, create jobs here in Colorado; and the District is saving money on our electricity bills.” Water World just celebrated its 35th summer in Denver.

Not only an environmental decision, but also an economic one, Hyland Hills will fix part of the District’s energy costs at today’s levels, protecting it from volatile fossil fuel prices. SunShare will be providing 1.4 megawatts to help power the recreation district and Water World, the equivalent of powering over 300 homes for 20 years.

“We are really excited to partner with such a high profile customer like Water World,” said Jonathan Postal, Senior Vice President of SunShare. “They are now our largest subscriber in Colorado, and we believe them to be the biggest customer of any Community Solar Garden in the nation,” said Postal.

“I’ve been looking for more than four years for a way to incorporate solar energy here at Water World and throughout the District. The Solar Garden business model is the first one that has worked for our Agency,” said Bryant. “I hope this program is very successful, so the District can convert more of our electric consumption to solar production.”

Community Solar allows customers who either can’t or don’t want to put solar panels on their homes to buy solar energy from a solar array located elsewhere in the community.

Electricity generated by SunShare’s Solar Gardens is fed into the main power grid. SunShare’s customers buy a specific amount of energy from the solar garden and receive a credit on their Xcel Energy bill for that amount.
SunShare has over 11 megawatts of Community Solar Gardens built or under development in Colorado’s Front Range. SunShare has projects underway with Colorado Springs Utilities and Xcel Energy with the capacity to serve over 2,200 homes.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Attack of the 'strodes'

Posted By on Sun, Sep 21, 2014 at 8:30 AM

  • John Olson

There are some words used in daily conversations that set people off in different ways. I happen to fixate on how the words “road” and “street” are used.

It shouldn’t set me off, but it tends to make me twitch like the hitchhiker in There’s Something About Mary, when Ben Stiller’s character questions the idea of "6-Minute Abs" as a replacement to "7-Minute Abs."

Let me explain:

You may have heard me say this before, but roads are for cars; streets are for people.

One main difference between a street and a road is the speed of travel. Roads have faster speeds and are the means of vehicular travel between long distances. County, state and federal highways are examples. Roads are not conducive to other modes of travel: walking, biking, etc. 

On the other hand, streets are for traveling shorter distances, and often have on-street parking, bike lanes and functional sidewalks.

One of my college professors used to classify roads by how the drainage works. He would say that if it has curbs, it’s a street; if it has parallel ditches, it is a road. Very clear ... or is it?

What do we call the "streets" by that definition that are in the city but are not meant for people, bikes or other modes of transportation? Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns refers to them as "stroads".

“Noun. Portmanteau of “street” and “road”: it describes a street, er, road, built for high speed, but with multiple access points. Excessive width is a common feature. A common feature in suburbia, especially along commercial strips. Unsafe at any speed, their extreme width and straightness paradoxically induces speeding. Somewhat more neutral than synonymous traffic sewer.”

Bottom line, let's build both roads and streets in the future and understand why each is built. If it's a street, make it for people. If it’s a road, please don't pretend that it's a street.

John Olson is a licensed landscape architect, residing in Colorado Springs. He serves as the Director of Plannning and Landscape Architecture for EVstudio Planning & Civil Engineering. He is also a co-founder of Colorado Springs Urban Intervention, which implemented Better Block Pikes Peak in 2012, the recent Walkability Signage found in Downtown Colorado Springs, and perhaps most notably, Curbside Cuisine.
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Scotland the Brave!

Posted By on Sun, Sep 21, 2014 at 7:26 AM

  • Shutterstock
As I’m sure you’re aware, Scotland voted earlier this week on its independence. Scotland has been part of Great Britain (along with England and Wales) and, more broadly, the United Kingdom (which includes Northern Ireland), for over 300 years. However, there has apparently been a growing sense of disquiet north of the border primarily centered on the perception that the English Parliament doesn’t understand or even care about the needs of Scotland.

Having lived in the States now for nearly 15 years, it’s hard for me to venture an intelligent opinion on the validity of these complaints. Scotland clearly believed their complaints to be real, though, and was brave enough to do something pretty radical to, at the very least, draw attention to their frustrations.

Breaking away from England is about as radical an act as Scotland could take, and about as risky, too. Scotland, as a fully independent nation, would have had to develop new currency, establish a military, reapply for U.N. membership, negotiate with many major businesses that had threatened to leave Scotland should their independence vote pass, and deal with many other challenging issues.

The independence vote did not pass, and so Scotland remains an important — nay, a vital — part of the United Kingdom. The ‘no’ vote didn’t win by much; clearly Scotland’s voters were more than just posturing. They were truly prepared to stand alone, to weather the storm, and to do what they felt was necessary for the long-term health of the nation and its people.

It might surprise you to hear an Englishman say this, but anyone who knows Scotland and Scottish people should not be the least bit surprised. Cards on the table; I’m glad that Scotland took this stand, but so very happy that ultimately they remain a part of our great British family, and not only because it ensures that the most iconic flag in the world (sorry, Old Glory) remains intact. I’m delighted because the nation of Scotland and its proud people bring something utterly unique to our union.

In the past the Scots had battled at Bannockburn, and the like, in efforts to secure their freedom. But Scotland never had many of the advantages that, say, America so smartly maximized during its break to independence. As a new nation, America was a territory of uneven cartography, providing the locals with a significant advantage over the "tourists." Knowing the lay of the land far more intimately often enabled its inhabitants to leverage the landscape for major militaristic benefit, and it was a vast country, with vast and varied natural resources, which the savviest American generals used to great effect. America had an ocean on its side, and enjoyed the comfort of a 3,500-mile buffer between itself and its enemy. All Scotland had separating it from its ancient adversary was a holey 75-mile wall in various states of disrepair since it’s completion in 128 AD. Hadrian’s attempt at a fortification could barely deter sheep, let alone hold King Edward’s — or any number of his successors’ — armies at bay.

Yet, Scotland has continued to fight the fight, this week exchanging claymores for pencils — which I’m sure their polling officers appreciated.

Whether you fully understand Scotland’s reasons for voting for independence this week or not, and whether you agree with them or not, you can’t fail to be inspired by their advocacy. The Scots have never been apathetic about their beloved country. Despite whatever else we might think about Scotland, we should respect and, quite frankly, be inspired by, its people remaining true to their nation’s moniker: Scotland the Brave.

Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for the past 15 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer, hiking and biking when the weather's good, and when the weather's rotten writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett.
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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Grocer X: Reusable baggage

Posted By on Sat, Sep 20, 2014 at 8:42 AM

  • Shutterstock
Remember the grocery-bag glory days? That simpler time when it was just, "Paper or plastic?"

That’s not the case anymore, now that reusable bags hit the scene. Times have changed at the bagging station and, though you may think otherwise, not for the better.

Those reusable bags you tote along with eco-friendly pride, emblazoned with messages of sustainability from corporate retailers of all shapes and sizes, and making “tree huggers” green with envy from checkout counter to checkout counter, have become the bane of any bagger's existence.

Before, back in those glory days, it was simple:

"Plastic? Sure thing. Thanks for coming in today.”

“Paper?” (A little more work.) “No problem, have a good one.”

And there were only a handful of the infuriating “Paper inside of plastic” requests. (Really, if you’re one of those people, you’re the worst.) 

Now, you and your reusable bags come into my line all, “Yeah, I need this, that, this and the other thing in this bag, and pack ’em full, but not too heavy. And, don’t worry, I’ll freak out to let you know you’re doing it wrong anyway.”

Don’t get me wrong; reusable bags are great. Who needs an expanding collection of haggard, empty plastic shopping bags lying around the house? And yeah, they’re helpful for the environment.

But the fact is they are a pain to work with, all of them, and they always will be. I’ve seen so many different sizes, shapes, colors, materials and any other bag variable you can think of, and they are all a nightmare to pack.

All we want is to get you out of our checkout line a quickly as possible, but after figuring out how to unfold your handy bags from their “convenience pocket,” or just trying to keep the damn things open long enough to put an item into it, it doesn’t work out. The result: You’re in a bad mood, I’m in a worse mood, and chances are you’ll find your items in a state of disarray when unpacking at home.

You can see the loathing right in front of you — at least I can, when I’m using my reusable bags at the store. You neatly unload your cart and place your bags in plain view on the belt, only to hear a not so subtle sigh of “OMG, I hate this person” coming from the bagger at the end of the line. Or maybe he even tries to throw your items into plastic bags, pretending he didn't see your reusables.

So what are you supposed to do? I don’t know. Maybe there is no easing the pain for the new-aged bagger, or maybe they’ll get more used to it. Then there’s always the option of — gasp! — bagging your order all by yourself.

Thanks for shopping with us.

The man behind the apron is Craig Lemley, digital content coordinator here at the Indy. The Colorado Springs native spent nearly a decade working in grocery stores across the Pikes Peak region before retiring his produce knife for a surprisingly less-stressful media career. Follow him on twitter (@_CraigLemley) or send questions/comments to
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Friday, September 19, 2014

UPDATE: CS Public Market to occupy old Gazette building, board member says

Posted By on Fri, Sep 19, 2014 at 5:16 PM

A release from the Nor'wood Development Group confirms that the Public Market will occupy part of the hulking space left vacant by the Gazette at 30 S. Prospect St.

Nor'wood, which is led by David and Chris Jenkins, sees the market as "part of a larger vision to transform the former Gazette and St. Francis properties into a thriving, adaptively reused mixed-use development by Nor’wood Development Group and other community partners." That second property is the former site of St. Francis Hospital, which was shut down in 2010 and purchased by a Nor'Wood-owned company for just $50,000 earlier this year, according to the daily. (Apologies if you can't get through the paywall to see the story at that link.)

Anyway, here's the full release:

September 19, 2014

Nor’wood Development Group and the Colorado Springs Public Market Project are proud to announce a new partnership initiative to deliver the much-anticipated Public Market to the community and region.

Nor’wood continues to focus on transforming downtown by supporting opportunities to develop local business and improve the economic infrastructure of the City and region. We believe that a thriving downtown will elevate our community’s vitality and resilience, creating a new magnet for business, jobs, events, activities and more.

In partnership with the Colorado Springs Public Market, we are launching a community institution: a year-round market, gathering and event destination that connects local growers, producers and related businesses with residents and visitors. This new business ecosystem is an essential piece of urban infrastructure that builds intrinsic and long-term value for downtown and the entire community.

“Public Markets are at the heart of many of our nation’s healthiest and most economically robust cities. They are destinations in and of themselves, and embody the soul of a community,” said Chris Jenkins, President of Nor’wood Development Group. “All of the ingredients are present to create something extraordinary, including a great team, shared ideas, and the will to establish a meaningful public-private partnership positioned to building a true public institution for downtown and our community.”

The Colorado Springs Public Market will be located in a portion of the former Gazette Building, at 30 South Prospect Street on the east side of downtown Colorado Springs. As site-specific planning gets underway, Nor’wood is eager to support the tremendous momentum the Colorado Springs Public Market has achieved. This is a community asset and evolving public institution that will provide critical and necessary service to our community for generations to come.

“The Public Market is about commerce, connection, culture and community. Thanks to the commitment of many these past two years, we are taking this first important step to re-localize our economy and create a dynamic destination that will create jobs and retain income here,” said Dave Anderson, board chair for the Colorado Springs Public Market. “It all starts with food, and will grow out from there to offer ongoing utility and relevance to people across the community”

The Colorado Springs Public Market is a part of a larger vision to transform the former Gazette and St. Francis properties into a thriving, adaptively reused mixed-use development by Nor’wood Development Group and other community partners. We consider it a privilege to steward these venerable community assets to renewed life in the heart of the City, and continue to work diligently to bring additional local offerings to live, work, shop and play throughout downtown Colorado Springs. Additionally, we are excited about the public dialogue that this announcement will evoke and look forward to providing more information on plans for redevelopment in the near future.

For information regarding the Colorado Springs Public Market please contact Mr. Dave Anderson, board chair for the Colorado Springs Public Market at (719) 322-5945.

——— ORIGINAL POST, THURSDAY, SEPT. 18, 5:40 P.M. ——-

According to a tweet from board member Andrew Hershberger, the Colorado Springs Public Market has finally found a home:


Dave Anderson is the president of the public market board, which also counts Ranch Foods Direct head Mike Callicrate among its members. The group describes its vision this way on the CSPM website:
What if … we had a downtown public market in Colorado Springs, open all year, in a landmark indoor-outdoor facility, to serve the entire community with locally grown and produced food and related goods? And why not build in flexible space for arts, entertainment, education, wellness, even business incubation? The big concept: a focal point and gathering place defined and enriched by the community it serves … to express the best of what we do right here, while meeting genuine demand for local food commerce, connections and culture.
Assuming the building at issue is the large one at 30 S. Prospect St., that would mean the Public Market folks were successful in finding a site in or near downtown. (At one time, they had been looking at the Crissy Fowler Lumber building near America the Beautiful Park, which is now likely to host City for Champions development.)

Check back on the IndyBlog for more details in coming days.

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Voters denied chance to vote on downtown stadium funding

Posted By on Fri, Sep 19, 2014 at 1:37 PM

The Title Board (L to R) of City Clerk Sarah Johnson, Presiding Municipal Court Judge Hayden Kane and City Attorney Wynetta Massey, face off Friday with Anita Miller, wife of City Councilor Joel Miller, and the petition committee's attorney, C. Adam Foster of Denver. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The Title Board (L to R) of City Clerk Sarah Johnson, Presiding Municipal Court Judge Hayden Kane and City Attorney Wynetta Massey, face off Friday with Anita Miller, wife of City Councilor Joel Miller, and the petition committee's attorney, C. Adam Foster of Denver.

A Title Board comprised of three mayoral appointees turned away a proposed ballot title Friday that would have required voter approval of a downtown stadium — even though it was a mirror image of a 2005 ballot title related to a convention center, which voters approved 2 to 1.

The measure, which grew from discontent over plans for the City for Champions tourism venture, would have prohibited the city from planning, building, funding or financing any stadium and events center without voter approval.

Two of the three Title Board members — City Attorney Wynetta Massey and City Clerk Sarah Johnson — rejected the proposed measure. The third, Presiding Municipal Court Judge Hayden Kane, ruled the measure met both Title Board tests: It's a legislative, rather than an administrative, matter over which the city has authority, and it deals with a single subject.

But Massey, appointed earlier this year by Mayor Steve Bach, said the measure doesn't meet the legislative test. She noted the measure, which is included below, includes mandates against use of money by the Urban Renewal Authority and a public facilities corporation, as well as "funds provided by any other government."

"The city can't mandate what other governments and entities do," she said.

The Urban Renewal Authority, which is organized under state law, and public facilities corporations are autonomous from the city, she said.

Public facilities corporations are usually mere dummy organizations created for the express purpose of dodging state laws, such as the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which requires a vote of the people for indebtedness and tax increases. Such a vehicle was used to finance the U.S. Olympic Committee project, which is pumping some $53 million in tax money into new USOC facilities. The same is true of funding for county facilities, most notably the courthouse.

In any event, Massey argued that because those groups aren't under city authority, voters can't direct them how to spend money.

As for the Urban Renewal Authority, it is the entity that will handle all the money for City for Champions that comes from the state's tax increment financing of sales tax money, as well as any similar arrangement using local tax money.

Massey said if she had held the office back in 2005, she would have opposed the convention center ballot measure on the same grounds. (The city attorney at that time was Massey's boss, Patricia Kelly, who left the city a couple of months after Bach was elected.)

The petition committee numbers half a dozen residents, including activist Kanda Calef, Anita Miller (wife of City Councilman Joel Miller) and Mark Braunlich, who sat in on the Title Board session. Braunlich noted that in order to arrive at the meeting room, petitioners had to come through the City Administration Building's front door, which bears a sticker declaring support for City for Champions.

"We just want to give voters a voice," said attorney C. Adam Foster of Denver. "The purpose of the initiative is to empower voters on how they will spend their money."

Foster said the petition committee can drop the measure, bring back an amended measure, or appeal the ruling to district court.

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Sky Sox: The view from Milwaukee

Posted By on Fri, Sep 19, 2014 at 10:11 AM


There are basically three local reactions to the news that the Colorado Springs Sky Sox would no longer be the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies: The Rockies suck, so good riddance; the Sky Sox suck, so welcome new partners the Milwaukee Brewers; and, from Rockies fans, I love the Rockies, so boo the whole deal.

But how's it looking to the folks in the heartland? Here's some excerpts from a piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that gives you a view of what some people really think outside of the canned "looking forward to partnering" statements:

• Former Nashville Sounds (the former Brewers Triple-A affiliate) manager Rick Sweet: "Colorado Springs is a good city. Their fans are pretty good. They really get decent fan support."

• Catcher Matt Pagnozzi on Security Service Field: "The facilities are OK. I'd say they're in the middle of the road. Good batting cages. The clubhouse is old but it's not cramped. The field, it's not bad.

"You can kind of read into it what you want, but I think it says something when the Rockies, you're an hour and a half to the big-league field, and they jump ship."

• Sweet again: "There, you fight elements. ... Travel is bad; you've got to fly out of Denver, so you've got to bus for 6 a.m. flights. It's going to be tough.

"We played eight days there, and seven of the eight days the wind was blowing in. And you've got to crush the ball to get it out of there."

The last comment mirrors complaints the Rockies apparently made about Security Service Field, repeated in June 2013 by Mayor Steve Bach: 
The Rockies have told me directly, and I think they are out there publicly saying, that they are concerned about the physical situation out at Security Service Field for two reasons. One, the wind, particularly the east wind, causes torque on the ball. Second, they lose a lot of games in the early season, because the field is frozen. The stadium is antiquated. It doesn't have enough bathrooms; doesn't have enough concessions; doesn't have cover for bad weather. So, are we at risk of losing the Sky Sox? I think we are.
Clearly we're not at risk of losing the Sky Sox, but at risk of jeopardizing that entire business relationship? Well, looks like Bach was right to worry.

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