Thursday, March 31, 2016

Pothole cone zones coming soon

Posted By on Thu, Mar 31, 2016 at 11:56 AM

VINCE MIG
  • Vince Mig
The city has chosen contractors for the first phase of work under the 2C ballot measure to fix the city's deteriorating roads. Voters approved a tax increase last November that will generate about $250 million in the next five years.

The following contractors were chosen to perform pre-overlay concrete work, according to the city communications office, which responded to the Independent's request.

AA Construction Company, Inc.
Blue Ridge Construction Inc.
CMS of Colorado Springs, Inc.
DRX Enterprises, LLC
Even-Preisser, Inc.
NORAA Concrete Construction Corporation
Trax Construction, Inc.

"The contractors for asphalt work are still in the evaluation phase, and are anticipated to be selected mid-April," city communications tells us.

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Broadmoor land swap process still drawing crowds

Posted By on Thu, Mar 31, 2016 at 11:55 AM

A land swap proposal drew a crowd to Gold Camp Elementary School on Wednesday night. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • A land swap proposal drew a crowd to Gold Camp Elementary School on Wednesday night.
At what might be the final public informational meeting regarding the city's proposed trade of land with The Broadmoor, a vocal opponent drew cheers and a standing ovation from many Wednesday night when he lashed out at city officials for a "backward" public process.

Richard Skorman, former vice mayor who helped create the city's open space tax, blasted the city and The Broadmoor for failing to provide more information about a stable and picnic pavilion project the resort plans to build on nine acres of Strawberry Fields open space — the most contentious portion of the land swap deal.

"This is the worst pubic process I've ever been involved with," he said, nearly shouting and turning red with exasperation. "It's completely backward. We have no idea what you're going to do, and you're going to take something very special and do the master plan for the [North Cheyenne Canyon Park] a year later? Do it now. Do it now. You don't give away public land until you give the public a chance to know if they're enjoying it. We all have to stop and take a time out. Let's have a public process. This is terrible, terrible politics."

Broadmoor CEO Jack Damioli called the swap "a true win win for the community." - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Broadmoor CEO Jack Damioli called the swap "a true win win for the community."
Skorman noted the city had indicated it planned to disclose details of The Broadmoor's plans for the park property, such as where the buildings would be located. But the only thing that was released was a map showing the resort, as opponents of the swap predicted, wants the most accessible and walkable portion of the open space, known as the meadow.

Roughly 200 people attended the meeting at Gold Camp Elementary School where the city announced that appraisals of the city property show a value of $1,581,000 for 189-acre Strawberry Fields and $580,000 for a half acre parking lot near the Manitou Incline. (The city stated in a flier those figures total $2,257,000 but they do not.)
This 8.5-acre property across from Bear Creek Park, the first site chosen by The Broadmoor for its stables project but later abandoned, is worth $1.4 million, according to an appraiser. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • This 8.5-acre property across from Bear Creek Park, the first site chosen by The Broadmoor for its stables project but later abandoned, is worth $1.4 million, according to an appraiser.
The property the city would receive, based on appraisals conducted by appraisers hired by The Broadmoor, tallies at $3.3 million for 208 acres around Mount Muscoco and a 9-acre tract just east of the county's Bear Creek Regional Park, which alone was valued at $1.4 million, along with various trail easements on Barr Trail, the Incline and Chamberlain Trail. It wasn't disclosed how appraisers arrived at the $1.4 million figure, but the property is zoned for 17 residential lots.

According to values of the properties listed in El Paso County Assessor's Office records, compiled by open space advocate Kent Obee, The Broadmoor's property is valued at $1.2 million, and the city's at $2.4 million.

Obee said while the appraisals might be "technically correct," they "don't pass the common sense test."

"I think this is a bad deal," he said. "I think it's been rigged. I think it's been a tragedy for the city."
Walter Lawson, too, complained of the short public process, which began on Jan. 14 with a news release issued by the city calling the land swap "an exciting opportunity." It was the same day the city says it met with all the stakeholders involved, including trail groups, the Forest Service, El Paso County Parks and others.

He offered a "modest counterproposal" of trading Strawberry Fields for a comparable Broadmoor asset — that being Broadmoor Lake, which drew laughter from the crowd. The lake lies west of the resort's main building and is encircled by a walkway. "If you recall, the public had access to the lake," he said.
Mayor John Suthers' Chief of Staff Jeff Greene looked rather sour as opponents spoke against the trade. His boss supports the land swap. Greene applauded when supporters endorsed the deal. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mayor John Suthers' Chief of Staff Jeff Greene looked rather sour as opponents spoke against the trade. His boss supports the land swap. Greene applauded when supporters endorsed the deal.
(Some 25 years ago, residents could park near the hotel and walk around the lake. Now the property is walled in, preventing such public access.)

"We suspect the Broadmoor won't want to trade the lake any more than the citizens want to lose Strawberry Hill [another name for the city open space]," Lawson said. "The matter should go to a public vote."

Missye Bonds, who wrote the city's application to have North Cheyenne Canyon placed on the National Registry of Historic Places years ago, said conveyance of public land so designated requires a cultural resource survey, and that hasn't been done. "We have a right to know our history," she said.

But the land swap wasn't without supporters. Johnny Walker, whose family has preserved ranch land in Pueblo County including Black Footed Ferret habitat, said The Broadmoor would care for the land better than the city.
Kyle Hybl said he lives on what could be the property to be used to extend Chamberlain Trail on the Strawberry Fields area. He supports the trade. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Kyle Hybl said he lives on what could be the property to be used to extend Chamberlain Trail on the Strawberry Fields area. He supports the trade.
A resident who lives near the hotel called the trails on Strawberry Fields "rutty" and cheered the idea of The Broadmoor taking over the land, while former developer Steve Schuck, who lives next door to Strawberry Fields, also called for Broadmoor control.

Kyle Hybl, who lives near the open space and also serves as The Broadmoor's general counsel, spoke in support of the trade as well.

Linda Hodges reminded the crowd that preserving open space can take decades, as in the case of Section 16 outside Manitou Springs, and residents should be given a chance to form groups to help with maintenance costs, if that's the problem. (In recent years, voters approved allowing the city to use Trails Open Space and Parks tax money for maintenance, not just acquisition and development, a point that hasn't been raised in response to  the city's contention it can't afford to take care of Strawberry Fields.)

People lined up to speak, causing the meeting, planned for two hours, to run more than an hour longer than planned. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • People lined up to speak, causing the meeting, planned for two hours, to run more than an hour longer than planned.
"Don't trade our park land to a corporation," she said.

City Council will be briefed on April 11, but will take no public comment. The Parks Advisory Board will vote on a recommendation on April 14. That meeting begins at 7:30 a.m. at 1401 Recreation Way. Council will vote either in late April or May.

For more information, check the city's website.

As of today, 3,415 people had signed an on-line petition sponsored by Broadmoor Neighbors & Wildlife.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Which presidential candidate is raising the most money in Colorado?

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2016 at 3:56 PM

This just in from DashLocal, a data gathering outfit that did an assessment of campaign finance in the presidential race.
We crunched the data for political donations made in the state of Colorado for the remaining 5 Presidential Candidates and Hilary Clinton has by far the most donations within the State. Of the total $4,418,456 contributed so far to the remaining candidates within Colorado, Hilary Clinton received 58% of that, while Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Donald Trump received 24%, 15%, 2% and 1% respectively. We have broken out the data by cities as well for each candidate and made it interactive. For example, Hillary's top cities with the most donations in CO are:
hillary-clinton-colorado-donations-jsb6p.jpg

Seems like that would make Colorado rather blue, not red. But then, there's many more months to go in this race.

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Cherokee Metro district chief resigns, due severance pay

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2016 at 11:54 AM

The district's headquarters at 6250 Palmer Park Blvd. - CHEROKEE METRO DISTRICT
  • Cherokee Metro District
  • The district's headquarters at 6250 Palmer Park Blvd.
Sean Chambers, executive director of the Cherokee Metropolitan District located northeast of Highway 24 and Powers Boulevard on the city's east side, has submitted his resignation, effective June 30.

Paid $100,000 a year, Chambers expects to receive a year's severance pay under an employment agreement, he says when reached by phone.

Chambers was hired in 2010 amid continuing turmoil over a source of water after the district became embroiled in legal action regarding its use of water from a neighboring groundwater district. He succeeded Kip Peterson, long time manager of the district, who was given severance pay of 13 months pay and a vehicle, according to media reports at the time.
Sean Chambers will be leaving the district in June. - CHEROKEE METRO DISTRICT
  • Cherokee Metro District
  • Sean Chambers will be leaving the district in June.

Former board member Steve Hasbrouk says the district was under investigation for various questionable business practices, but Chambers says the Sheriff's Office concluded there was no wrong-doing last fall. The Sheriff's Office confirms that.

Hasbrouk, who says he believes the investigation is continuing, left the board in 2012 after serving just over one term. He stopped going to meetings shortly after he was elected to a second term, because he says he got tired of being demonized for pushing questions about how the district was being run.

Since years ago when the legal action erupted over use of water from the neighboring groundwater district, including when the district had to buy water from Colorado Springs and the departure of Peterson, the district has been an unceasing source of drama. 

But Chambers says he's leaving simply to spend more time with his family.

"I’ve got two young kids, and I’m just in a position to spend a little bit more time focusing on their needs, and I value being a good father, and the demands of this position are such that someone doesn’t get the attention from me they deserve," he says. Chambers says he has no job lined up after he leaves the district.

He also claims he's left the district in better financial condition than he found it. Reserves, according to Hasbrouk, totaled $12 million when Chambers was hired. Chambers says reserve funds now sit at about $7 million, but notes a $10 million bond issue is now paid off. He also says the district is in a better position to add to its base of 8,300 customers.

"We do have an adequate water supply for the first time since 2004," he says. "The district can write a commitment to serve a new housing project or new commercial development. It took more than 11 years to acquire water rights, build the connecting infrastructure and get to where the state agreed with our accounting."

He notes that tap fees to be charged to new customers means existing customers won't bear the cost of attracting growth.


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How much does the AFA spend on spin? We don't know.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2016 at 11:09 AM

Air Force Academy slogan over the terrazzo. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Air Force Academy slogan over the terrazzo.
As the Independent went to press this week with a story about the Air Force Academy's hiring of a crisis communications expert, we heard from the academy about how many public affairs personnel work there. We raised the question in light of our story in Wednesday's edition about Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson hiring a consultant to promote the academy's image.

The consultant is Larry Holdren, owner of Holdren Strategic Communications LLC. Another firm with which Holdren was affiliated, Pure Brand Communications, conducted some kind of audit of the academy's communications department in 2014. We asked for that audit, but haven't received it yet.

We also asked how many people work in the academy's Public Affairs office, which which the academy replied in an email with this:
The United States Air Force Academy has 10 Public Affairs specialists currently assigned (active duty officers, active duty enlisted, and DOD civilians). The Public Affairs operating budget is approximately $30 thousand annually. 
We asked the academy to clarify the dollar figure, because "$30 thousand" is only $30,000, and we seriously doubt you could hire 10 people with that measly amount.

Upon questioning, the academy responded with this: "Of course, that doesn't include salaries, which are paid out of other funds."

So we're left not knowing how much the academy actually pays for its public affairs staff, nor what Larry Holdren is being paid for filling in the gaps or whatever it is he does.

Like nailing Jello to the wall, eh?


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Monday, March 28, 2016

Check it out: Colorado is getting new driver licenses

Posted By on Mon, Mar 28, 2016 at 5:47 PM

Colorado driver licenses are ugly as sin. Of course, I may just think that because my own card is home to seriously the worst photo anyone has taken of me in my life

Ahem.

Anyway, no word on whether the state plans to hire competent photographers, but it will be changing up the design of our state IDs. You won't have to replace your old ID any time soon, but the next time you need a new one, it will probably look like this (only with a worse photo):

screen_shot_2016-03-28_at_4.58.50_pm.png

Read on for the details:

Colorado DMV to begin statewide rollout of new design for driver licenses, instruction permits and identification cards

March 28, 2016 – DENVER – The Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will start a two-week statewide rollout of the newly designed driver licenses, instruction permits and identification cards beginning April 6, 2016.

Offices will be closed one day prior to issuing the new design to allow for the installation of new equipment and for training. Please refer to the DMV website for up-to-date closure information for specific offices. In addition, closure information will also be posted at each office.

Colorado residents can continue to use their current valid driver licenses, instruction permits and identification cards through their expiration date. The current design will continue to be issued at offices until they have converted to the new equipment and software associated with the new design.

The DMV encourages customers to attempt to renew their driver license or identification cards online at www.colorado.gov/vroom. The new design will be available through online renewal beginning in mid-April.

Customers obtaining a newly-designed card in an office will receive an updated temporary paper document that will contain a removable section with an image that resembles the card. The temporary document will be valid for 30 days to allow for the physical card to be produced and mailed.

The new design features a more colorful background showcasing Mount Sneffels located between Ouray and Telluride. The State Capital is pictured on the reverse. The card also includes laser engraving of the customer’s information and primary photograph in grayscale to enhance the security and safety of the document.

The Littleton, Aurora and Frisco state driver license offices have been piloting the new design since the beginning of March.

For more information on the new card design, please visit www.colorado.gov/dmv/newlook.  

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Springs makes poor showing in restaurant rankings

Posted By on Mon, Mar 28, 2016 at 5:29 PM

screen_shot_2016-03-28_at_5.01.27_pm.png
I guess the Pikes Peak Summit House's reputation for churning out donuts wasn't enough, because Colorado Springs has been ranked dead last for donuts in a survey by Estately Real Estate Search.

We also did poorly in the category of buffets, which might not be such a bad thing, as the Estately website says:
Colorado Springs had the fewest buffets, and the state of Colorado does have the lowest obesity rate in the country, so maybe there is some causation there.

It should come as no surprise that Colorado Springs, and four others, scored zero in the halal category, food and drink prepared in accordance with Islamic law. The others were Tulsa, Okla., Virginia Beach, Va., Albuquerque, N.M., and El Paso, Texas.

Denver scored in the top rankings for Mexican food and gluten-free restaurants. 

Estately's explanation of how it did the analysis: 
Estately Real Estate Search set out to map the restaurant preferences of the 50 largest U.S. cities. Using data from Yelp, we scored each city from 0-300 on the abundance of 18 different restaurant types. The restaurant score for each type of restaurant takes three variables and weights them equally — restaurants per capita, restaurants per square mile and the percentage of all area restaurants that each type makes up.




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Cruz will attend state assembly in Colorado Springs

Posted By on Mon, Mar 28, 2016 at 12:30 PM

screen_shot_2016-03-28_at_12.01.48_pm.png
The Denver Channel is reporting that Sen. Ted Cruz plans to attend the Colorado GOP state assembly on April 9 and that Ohio Gov. John Kasich and businessman Donald Trump are considering it.

The convention will be held at the Broadmoor World Arena, and will test state and local security efforts.

After reported violence and protests at Trump rallies, it's a good thing the El Paso County Sheriff's office recently supplied their deputies with riot gear, eh?

But Trump might back out, because El Paso County delegates voted overwhelmingly (71 percent) for Cruz in a straw poll on Saturday, and the county holds more than 10 percent of the state's delegates.

So he might want to rethink coming here and just "write off" Colorado, as one political insider said.


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Saturday, March 26, 2016

GOP assembly fills the primary ballot

Posted By on Sat, Mar 26, 2016 at 2:33 PM

More than 1,100 delegates braved a snowy day to attend the El Paso County Republican assembly; several hundred alternate delegates also showed up. - PHOTOS BY PAM ZUBECK
  • Photos by Pam Zubeck
  • More than 1,100 delegates braved a snowy day to attend the El Paso County Republican assembly; several hundred alternate delegates also showed up.
Republican voters in El Paso County will have a choice in three soon-to-be-vacated county commissioner districts in the June 28 primary election, after delegates at the GOP county assembly Saturday placed two candidates each in Districts 2 and 4, while District 3 already has a candidate who has qualified via petition who will face the assembly nominee.

All three positions are seats now held by Amy Lathen, District 2; Sallie Clark, District 3, and Dennis Hisey in District 4. All are barred from seeking a fourth term due to term limits. 
Hisey and Clark were barred from seeking a fourth term. Lathen could have sought a third term under a previous voter-approved measure to allow her a third term but chose not to.

Rodney Gehrett chose purple as his campaign color.
  • Rodney Gehrett chose purple as his campaign color.
District 3, the western district, was the most hotly contested with four candidates at the assembly. Candidates have to get 30 percent to be on the ballot. The assembly outcome: Sheriff's Commander Rodney Gehrett, 18 percent; congressional aide Jarred Rego, 24 percent; Javier Mazzetti, 20 percent, and the winner Stan VanderWerf, 38 percent.

VanderWerf will face Karen Cullen, who petitioned onto the ballot, and possibly former Green Mountain Falls mayor Tyler Stevens, who plans to petition on.

District 4, south: Joan Lucia-Treese, 6 percent; Scott Turner, 37 percent and Longinos Gonzalez, 57 percent.
Rep. Lamborn spoke in support of Jarred Rego.
  • Rep. Lamborn spoke in support of Jarred Rego.

District 2, east: Sherri Gibson, 23 percent; Mark Waller, 32 percent, and Tim Geitner, 45 percent.

Clark, who was on hand at the assembly, later said the dueling candidate rosters show the system works.

"Thanks to the process, Republican voters are going to have the opportunity to get to know the candidates before the June primary," Clark said in a text message. "We have some great choices."

In State House District 15 (being vacated by Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, Dave Williams kept Joshua Hosler off the ballot, winning 72 percent, and in House District 16, incumbent Rep. Janak Joshi was nominated by acclamation, although Larry Liston has petitioned onto the primary ballot.

Senate District 12 also could have a primary, with Klingenschmitt going through the assembly while former state Rep. Bob Gardner has submitted sufficient signatures to make the ballot by petition.

Nearly 1,200 delegates crowded into the Gallogly Event Center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to hear a parade of U.S. Senate candidates preach on why they should be chosen to face off with Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat.

Drawing the biggest applause was El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn when, during a revival-type rousing speech, he said, "Hillary Clinton needs to be removed from her pant suit and put into a jump suit."

The results in commissioner District 3 proved it's not who you know, because despite Sheriff  Bill Elder nominating Gehrett and U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn calling for Rego's nomination, neither got enough votes to appear on  the primary ballot.

VanderWerf told the crowd that experience counts and pointed to his long tenure in the military. He vowed not to raise taxes, reduce the homeless population, increase county efficiency and work with other officials to get a federal courthouse in Colorado Springs. He also promised transparency in government and to support the region's military bases.




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Friday, March 25, 2016

Making a statement on Broadmoor land swap

Posted By on Fri, Mar 25, 2016 at 4:01 PM

Someone has left their commentary on the city's park sign in North Cheyenne Canon Park. - ANONYMOUS
  • Anonymous
  • Someone has left their commentary on the city's park sign in North Cheyenne Canon Park.

With the sudden appearance of this "for sale" sign in North Cheyenne Cañon Park, we suppose it's as good a time as any to remind everyone that the next public meeting about the city's proposed swap of land with The Broadmoor will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Gold Camp Elementary School, 1805 Preserve Dr.

The most controversial component of the plan is the transfer of 189-acre Strawberry Fields to the resort, which plans to use it for a horse stable and pavilion for weddings of up to 100 people. (That's a pretty small affair, actually.) Although there's been no specific plans made public for that usage, The Broadmoor indicates it will use only seven to nine acres and place the remaining acreage into a conservation easement. Which likely will result in, as Donald Trump would say, a "YUGE" tax benefit for The Broadmoor.

Wednesday's meeting is important, because it's the setting for the city's release of its formal appraisals of all the property involved in the swap, including swaths at Manitou Incline and Barr Trail the city wants, as well as about 200 acres around Mount Muscoco to the west of Strawberry Fields. The Broadmoor has said it's not a willing seller of the incline and Barr Trail property, but is willing trade if it can have the Strawberry Fields open space.

Go here for an explanation of the plan.

The city has called it an "exciting" opportunity, and Mayor John Suthers wholeheartedly endorses it.

Not that it means anything, but Broadmoor Chairman Steve Bartolin and CEO and President Jack Damioli each gave Suthers $500 in campaign donations in his 2015 mayoral bid, and The Broadmoor itself picked up a $4,391.36 tab for his campaign.

It's possible more money from Broadmoor interests flowed into Suthers' coffers through Colorado Springs Forward, a group of well-connected local movers and shakers. But we can't know, because the Colorado Springs Forward Political Action Committee reported only that Colorado Springs Forward gave it tens of thousands of dollars, but CSF itself didn't report sources for that money. So the CFS PAC gave Suthers $7,500. All together, however, Suthers raised about $400,000, so the Broadmoor's donations came to only about 1.4 percent of his total.

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Take a fly over tour of the Pikes Peak Summit Complex

Posted By on Fri, Mar 25, 2016 at 9:45 AM

The concept for a new summit house on Pikes Peak. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • City of Colorado Springs
  • The concept for a new summit house on Pikes Peak.

If feeling like your head is in a vise and ready to explode is your idea of a good time, you'll be interested in a fly-through video of a mock-up of the Pikes Peak Summit Complex.

G.E. Johnson of Colorado Springs has won the contract for the project, pending approval of an Environmental Assessment. But the EA seems to be a technicality, because the U.S. Forest Service said this in disseminating the video: "The Forest Service anticipates the release of the EA and Draft Finding of No Significant Impact in late summer of 2016."

Take a stroll through the concept for the summit house and a fly over here. 

Pikes Peak Summit House Fly-Through Animations from City of Colorado Springs on Vimeo.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Planned Parenthood case drags on

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 2:29 PM

Robert Dear: Still quoting Scripture. - JAIL PHOTO
  • Jail photo
  • Robert Dear: Still quoting Scripture.
The prosecution of Robert L. Dear, 57, on 179 criminal counts in the Nov. 27 Planned Parenthood shooting took another baby step Thursday when District Judge Gilbert Martinez scheduled a hearing on Dear's mental evaluation.

Dear told several media outlets in recent weeks the mental review found him incompetent to stand trial. Thursday, the District Attorney's Office asked for a hearing on the evaluation's conclusion and sought all supporting documents that led evaluators to that conclusion. The hearing will be April 28.

Martinez also heard arguments about unsealing the arrest and search warrant affidavits in the case, which he had placed off limits to the public without announcing in court the reasoning behind his decision.

A bevy of media organizations, including the Independent and the Gazette, have been petitioning for release of the documents ever since. After the Colorado Supreme Court, in response to the media pleas, ordered Martinez to reconsider his ruling in light of recent developments, the judge asked for positions of the the public defender (still opposes release) and DA Dan May. May said he still wants certain personal information and names of some victims not yet identified to remain redacted, along with any medical information, but otherwise said it's OK with him if they're released.

Media attorney Steve Zansberg of Denver, at the hearing Thursday, argued that some of those redactions are superfluous, considering the information has already come to light in media reports. 

Martinez took the arguments under advisement and didn't announce his decision.

Meantime, Dear, dressed in a lime green jail suit which denotes "precautions," shuffled into court in wrist and leg shackles and once again blurted out Bible quotes as he was led into the courtroom. But it was his only outburst, unlike in previous hearings where he repeatedly proclaimed his guilt, insisted he be allowed to represent himself or said he wanted to save the babies.

Thursday, he said, "I saw lightning fall from heaven." That's a verse from Chapter 10 of Luke in the New Testament that recounts when Jesus sent 72 disciples into the countryside to evangelize ahead of his visits. Here's more of the passage at issue:
16Then he said to the disciples, “Anyone who accepts your message is also accepting me. And anyone who rejects you is rejecting me. And anyone who rejects me is rejecting God, who sent me.”

17When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”

18“Yes,” he told them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning! 19Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. 20But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”




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Warka Water wins World Design Impact Prize

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 1:32 PM

In January, we spoke to Italian architect Arturo Vittori, creator of Warka sculptures, as part of our coverage of Hydro-Logic: Artists and Designers as Change Agents for Water at Colorado College's I.D.E.A. Space.

In that article, we mentioned that Vittori would be venturing to Taiwan in mid March as one of three finalists for the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design's World Design Impact Prize.

As it turns out, Vittori won the award, which "seeks to increase awareness of industrial design driven projects that are making a positive impact on our social, economic, cultural and/or environmental quality of life."

A big congrats to Vittori and his team. 
Vittori receives the prestigious World Design Impact Prize. - COURTESY ICSID
  • Courtesy ICSID
  • Vittori receives the prestigious World Design Impact Prize.
Villagers in Ethiopia gather fresh water captured from a Warka tower. - COURTESY ARCHITECTURE AND VISION
  • Courtesy Architecture and Vision
  • Villagers in Ethiopia gather fresh water captured from a Warka tower.

Arturo Vittori inside of CC's I.D.E.A. Space gallery in early January. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Arturo Vittori inside of CC's I.D.E.A. Space gallery in early January.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Council bans cannabis clubs knowing full well lawsuit is coming

Posted By on Wed, Mar 23, 2016 at 2:54 PM

NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
A marathon session at City Hall on Tuesday featured council dissenters of all stripes: those who pushed back on Councilor Andy Pico’s proposed resolution opposing refugee resettlement; those who delivered a petition demanding repeal of the recently enacted Pedestrian Access Act; those who bemoaned the proposed land-swap deal with The Broadmoor; and finally, those pleading, once again, for council to keep cannabis clubs unshuttered. None of that was resolved except for the club issue (but not in the way most had urged.)

The clubs — which are membership-based social clubs that allow for adult marijuana use — have caused consternation for city officials for several years now. They first started springing up after a voter-approved Amendment 64. In 2014, Studio A64 won a zoning violation appeal in which the city granted the downtown club a similar use determination — in essence saying that cannabis clubs are like social clubs, so are zoned as such (permitted in multifamily residential, commercial and industrial zone districts.) More clubs opened up all over town, even after the six-month moratorium on new marijuana business licenses began in September. (The city couldn’t stop issuing a license that didn’t exist.)

Then, earlier this month, the planning commission recommended banning the clubs outright. Councilor Don Knight took the ordinance to council, proposing the group prohibit the opening of any new clubs, mandate licensure for all clubs that operated prior to the moratorium (subject to all sorts of new rules) and force those clubs to close doors after eight years. This is the ordinance council gave a final reading on Tuesday.

Councilor Bill Murray moved to table the ordinance for six months so council could work with the industry to develop more moderate regulations. In the end, council voted 6-3 in favor of adopting Knight’s original proposal. Councilors Jill Gaebler and Helen Collins joined Murray in voting “no.”

“We talk about limited government all the time, but limited government is not about number of employees, it’s about limited laws,” Murray said. “We’re turning democracy into a morality play.”

Gaebler said she was skeptical of the public process behind the measure — or lack thereof. Collins, on her part, said she didn’t think a ban would be constitutional.

Knight and Councilor Keith King both argued that council had already exercised its right, under Amendment 64, to opt out of the retail side of marijuana. Knight cited articles from the Gazette and Fox news as proof. (Those articles highlight the clubs’ practice of offering marijuana to patrons who didn’t bring their own, sometimes in exchange for a donation or reimbursement. “Assisting” another adult in the use of marijuana is permissible under Amendment 64.)

Club owners and goers took their opportunity during public comment to try and correct some misconceptions.

Ambur Racek, owner of Studio A64, insisted that cannabis clubs are benign relative to bars that serve alcohol.

“I get off at 1 a.m. in the morning and every time I drive downtown I see people outside the bars, stumbling around, causing problems, getting into fights. We are peaceful people,” she said. “All we want is a place to be accepted as human beings. Smoking weed is how we choose to relax, and it isn’t hurting anyone. It’s our right.”

Presence Mercier, patron and cousin of a local club owner, took a different tack. “Even if you hate pot, that’s fine,” she said. “But we all love money, right? Think of what you’d gain from these clubs.”

Jason Warf, lobbyist who represents nearly all of the local clubs, pointed out that the council sought no industry input in developing regulations. “You’ll never be able to achieve sensible policy unless you include us,” he said. “The way it stands as of today, a bill at the state level will be out next week. I’ve gone back to the drafters to make sure what you’re doing here will conflict with what we’re doing at the state level.”

Joking that being from Denver shouldn’t be held against him, activist attorney Robert Corry reminded council that Amendment 64, which he had a hand in drafting, protects the activities in question. “In Colorado, adults have the right to associate with each other, consume marijuana, cultivate it, distribute it and help others with all those things,” he said. “That’s the supreme law of the land. The voters have spoken.” And just like other constitutional rights which council members swore to uphold, the rights afforded by Amendment 20 and Amendment 64 are “non-negotiable,” Corry said. “That may be difficult for you, but that’s the reality.”

Jill Gaebler asked Corry how other municipalities in the state are dealing with cannabis clubs.

"Not a single one has banned them, because they can’t,” he answered. Plus, a city devoid of venues for social consumption creates other problems, he explained. “Marijuana will be smoked by adults in groups no matter what you do. You can’t prevent me from inviting 50 of my closest friends over to smoke pot together. So where are they going to go? … Coming soon to a neighborhood near you.”

At the end of his testimony, Corry made a show of delivering the city attorney a draft lawsuit he intends to file as soon as the mayor signs the club ban ordinance. On behalf of nine clubs and 14 individuals who own or operate those clubs, the complaint asks for the ordinance to be struck down for violating plaintiffs’ right of association, freedom of speech and due process under the U.S. Constitution as well as their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, religious freedom and right to medical and personal use of marijuana under the Colorado Constitution.

Councilor Knight took exception to the claim that council has no right to ban cannabis clubs.    

“We will talk about that in district court,” Corry said.  
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Springs taxpayers paid for these four to move here

Posted By on Wed, Mar 23, 2016 at 11:06 AM

Here's how the fire chief's Ford Interceptor is labeled. - CSFD
  • CSFD
  • Here's how the fire chief's Ford Interceptor is labeled.
As reported in Wednesday's Independent, four mayoral appointees got their move across the country paid for by local taxpayers, and the costs of those moves vary widely. All were appointed by former Mayor Steve Bach.

• Parks Director Karen Palus: Tampa, Florida, in June 2012, $27,274.

• City Clerk Sarah Johnson: Springfield, Kentucky, in June 2012, $12,449.

• Planning Director Peter Wysocki: Round Rock, Texas, in December 2012, $18,095.

• Fire Chief Chris Riley: Pueblo in September 2013, $5,000.

Some city workers either get a car allowance or use of a city vehicle.
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