Breaking News

Friday, February 20, 2015

NAACP bombing arrest made

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 12:40 PM

  • Colorado Department of Corrections
Various channels are reporting that Thaddeus Murphy, 44, of Colorado Springs, has been arrested in connection with the bombing of the building that houses the local branch of the NAACP.

While it caused no injuries and very little damage, the bombing became national news due to speculation that it was a hate crime. However, Murphy is apparently claiming that he was actually targeting a tax office in the same building. 

Here's the statement from the Department of Justice:

DENVER – Thaddeus Cheyenne Murphy, age 44, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was arrested late yesterday on charges of arson and being a felon in possession of firearms, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, ATF and Colorado Springs Police Department announced. Murphy is believed responsible for placing a device at 603 South El Paso Street in Colorado Springs. Murphy is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon in the Arraj Federal Courthouse, 901 19th Street, where he will be advised of his rights and the charges pending against him. A detention hearing and preliminary hearing will be scheduled for a date to be set next week.

According to an affidavit in support of a Criminal Complaint, on January 6, 2015 at 10:48 am the Colorado Springs Police department received reports of an explosion at a building located at 603 South El Paso Street in Colorado Springs. Police officers responded, as did their bomb squad. Further, soon thereafter federal agents from the FBI and the ATF jointly responded to the scene to work with the police department in conducting the investigation. The device was a road flare and pipe bomb near a container of gasoline. The device was lit, causing an explosion. The gasoline did not ignite. The building and sidewalk were charred as a result of this device.

Multiple interviews were done by law enforcement of witnesses who noticed a specific type of truck and an individual fleeing the scene. Extensive investigation done by law enforcement eventually lead to the identification of a truck that closely matched the description of the truck fleeing the scene. Also, the person driving the truck generally resembled the sketch drawn by the Colorado Springs Police Department. After determining the individual’s identity, and developing probable cause that the owner of the truck, Thaddeus Murphy, was the likely person responsible for the device, federal agents working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office obtained a search warrant of the target’s home. While executing the warrant, agents and officers found seven firearms, and devices similar to the one used at the building. Murphy has prior felony convictions, which made it illegal for him to possess the firearms. Also during the search, Murphy was interviewed by federal law enforcement where he stated that the target of his criminal actions was not the NAACP, but that he had a different motive. The investigation continues regarding the motive for the attack. The residents of Colorado Springs, and the occupants of the building in question, can rest assured that the person who allegedly placed the device is now in custody.

Murphy is charged with one count of arson of a building. If convicted on that count, he faces not less than 5 years, and up to a $250,000 fine. He also faces one count of being a felon in possession of firearms. If convicted on that count, he faces not more than 10 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine.

This case is being jointly investigated by the FBI, ATF and the Colorado Springs Police Department with support from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

The defendant is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gregory Holloway and Beth Gibson.

A Criminal Complaint is a probable cause charging document. Anyone accused of committing a felony violation of federal law has a Constitutional right to be indicted by a federal grand jury.

The charges in the Complaint are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

UPDATE: Collins recall to proceed in city's southeast

Posted By on Wed, Jan 14, 2015 at 5:29 PM

Collins has launched a website to combat the recall:


City Councilor Helen Collins might have a lot of time on her hands after April 7 if recall promoters convince voters in her district to kick her out at mid-term.

  • City of Colorado Springs
  • Collins

City Clerk Sarah Johnson issued a news release today saying petitions turned in last week contain enough signatures to force an election. That means that voters in District 4, the southeast part of the city, will be asked if they want to recall Collins. They also will be asked to vote for her replacement.

And all of that means that it's possible City Council will have five new faces after the election, because in addition to the Collins seat, voters will elect three at-large councilors and another member, from District 2 in the north sector, to finish the unexpired term of Joel Miller, who resigned in November to run for mayor.

Here's Johnson's press release:
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.— City Clerk Sarah Johnson provided official certification to City Council today that a sufficient petition has been filed for the recall of District 4 Council Member Helen Collins. The City Clerk’s Office has determined that the Petitioner’s Committee that initiated the recall effort has met the threshold of valid signatures required to place the recall question on the April 7, 2015 Municipal Election ballot.

As required by the City Charter, the Petitioner’s Committee needed to obtain enough valid signatures to equate to 25% of the total ballots cast in Council District 4 in the April 2, 2013 Municipal Election, or 1,485 valid signatures. The petitioners turned in 3,007 signatures and the City Clerk determined 1,715 to be valid voter signatures.

Next steps:

• If the Council Member sought to be removed from office does not resign within five (5) days of the City’s Clerk’s certification that a sufficient petition has been filed, the recall question will be placed on the April ballot along with the 200 word statement from the Petitioner’s Committee on reasons for demanding the recall, and, if desired, a 300 word statement from the Councilmember.

• If the Council Member chooses not to resign, the City Clerk will open a candidate filing period for City Council District 4 candidates to coincide with the current regular filing period for Mayor and City Council candidates, closing on February 11, 2015.

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Friday, January 9, 2015

UPDATE: Sketch released of bombing 'person of interest'

Posted By on Fri, Jan 9, 2015 at 4:44 PM

At a press conference Friday afternoon, law enforcement officials released a sketch of the "person of interest" in Tuesday's bombing:


The man apparently was witnessed exiting a pickup truck with something in his hands, going behind the NAACP's building at 603 S. El Paso Blvd., and then returning to his truck empty-handed. As mentioned below, anyone with information regarding this person, or Tuesday's incident, should call the FBI's tip line at 303/435-7787.


Here is the latest from the FBI:
On 01/06/2015 at approximately 10:45am MT, an improvised explosive device was detonated against the exterior wall of a building located at 603 South El Paso Boulevard, Colorado Springs, Colorado. The building is occupied by Mr. G’s Hair Design Studios and the NAACP. A gasoline can had been placed adjacent to the device, however, the contents of the can did not ignite upon explosion. There were no deaths or injuries resulting from the explosion, and only minimal surface charring to the exterior wall of the building. FBI Denver, in conjunction with Colorado Springs Police Department, is on scene.

A potential person of interest in this investigation is a Caucasian male, approximately 40 years of age, and balding. He may be driving a 2000 or older model dirty, white pick-up truck with paneling, a dark colored bed liner, open tailgate, and a missing or covered license plate.

If anyone has information regarding the above incident or individual, please call the FBI Denver tip line at (303) 435-7787. 

Henry Allen - FILE
  • File
  • Henry Allen
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating an explosion at the local offices of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, located at 603 S. El Paso St.

Local police have directed all questions to the FBI, who could not immediately be reached. But Henry Allen, the president of the Colorado Springs branch, says he got a call from his staff around 11:15 a.m. saying there had been an explosion.

“It knocked a few things off the wall, but no one was injured thank God,” he says.

Allen explains that three staff members were in the building at the time. It was their first day back from a holiday break that begin Dec. 23. Allen says he's not sure if there had been any threats, since staff hadn't even listened to all the voicemail yet. But he's pretty sure that the attack was aimed at the NAACP because the only other business in the building is a barber shop run by an older man.

“What I’m getting right now from law enforcement is that some unknown person placed a pipe bomb at the rear of the building,” Allen says. 

Allen says members of the FBI, the Colorado Springs Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are on the scene investigating. He says he's eagerly awaiting more information, but he won't let the scare get in the way of the NAACP's mission. 

“We live in dangerous times,” he says.  “... Whatever comes, comes. I’m not afraid.” 

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees controversial as always

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 12:20 PM

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s announcement this morning of its 2015 honorees is inspiring a predictably mixed response from music critics.

The 30th annual induction ceremony — to be held in Cleveland on April 18 — will pay homage to honorees Lou Reed, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the "5" Royales, Green Day, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Bill Withers, and Ringo Starr.

Not everyone is thrilled.

“The vote against Chic is only the latest manifestation of the Rock Hall’s tortured dealings with the legacy of disco,” complains the New York Times’ Ben Sisario, while noting that others who failed to make the cut are Kraftwerk, Nine Inch Nails, Sting, N.W.A, the Smiths, the Marvelettes, the Spinners and War.

The Albany Times Union’s Chuck Miller, however, was relatively pleased. “This time, the Class of 2015 may have gotten it right — or at least more ‘right’ than they have in the past, when they inducted Madonna and ABBA and ... well ... ABBA? Really? ABBA is to rock and roll what beige is to a rainbow."

Miller says that, all and all, he’s okay with this year’s choices, although he did append a list of artists that he feels voters should be considering next year. Among them were prog-rockers Yes and King Crimson, ‘80s synth-pop bands Depeche Mode and Duran Duran, and behind-the-scenes innovators Robert Moog and the Muscle Shoals Studio musicians.

Meanwhile, Justin Bieber, Jason Derulo and Lana del Ray fans can take heart: They’ll all be eligible for induction come 2035. 

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Same-sex marriage bans upheld by federal appeals court

Posted By on Thu, Nov 6, 2014 at 3:38 PM

Not long ago, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the decisions of lower courts that had found same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

That set the stage for marriage equality to become the law of the land in most states, including Colorado.  What it didn't do was prevent a federal appeals court from ruling to uphold same-sex marriage bans. And that's exactly what just happened.

The New York Times reports: "By a two-to-one vote, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati upheld the right of states to ban same-sex marriage, overturning lower-court decisions in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee that had found such restrictions to be unconstitutional."

The ruling contradicts those made by four other federal appeals courts, and it means that the U.S. Supreme Court will likely need to make the final call on same-sex marriage for the country. The Supreme Court usually decides on cases when federal appeals courts disagree.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election results: No love for stormwater, Halter; Manitou to keep RMJ

Posted By on Tue, Nov 4, 2014 at 7:45 PM

Another 5,000 tallied votes have changed virtually nothing in El Paso County. And with estimates suggesting that there are fewer than 25,000 votes still outstanding, we're calling it a night. Check back Wednesday for additional coverage. And enjoy the lack of political ads on TV.

——— ORIGINAL POST, 7:45 P.M. ———

With about 206,000 votes counted out of an expected 235,000, El Paso County appears to be nixing a proposed stormwater solution.

Dark humor: County Question 1B supporter Carol Baker brought her ark to the Ritz Grill. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Dark humor: County Question 1B supporter Carol Baker brought her ark to the Ritz Grill.

On County Question 1B, about 54 percent of voters are saying "no." That's about 96,000 voters, as compared to about 82,000 in favor of the regional plan to deal with backlogs in stormwater infrastructure and maintenance.

With fellow 1B supporters at the Ritz Grill, Jan Martin sounded ready to look ahead to the city election in April.

"I think it will be a big issue in the mayor's race, of how to solve our stormwater problem," she said. "We all agree it needs to be taken care of. We need to find a plan the public supports."

Added Dave Munger, who chaired the stormwater effort: "It still has to be fixed. We don't have the option of not doing anything."

The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office released its large first wave of results just after 7 p.m., and has already updated them; you'll be able to follow future updates to them here. In other major headlines so far:

• Controversial U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn is sailing through his latest Democratic challenge. Lamborn has nearly 60 percent of the El Paso County vote, good for a 40,000-vote advantage over Democrat Irv Halter, who faced an uphill battle in a Republican district but had hoped his military record and fiscal conservatism would give him a boost. In an interview after results were posted, Halter said, "It's a tough road for Democrats." He added, “I just hope that people start to look beyond party. If people don’t, I believe it’s an existential threat to democracy.”

Manitou Springs will be keeping recreational marijuana sales. Almost 63 percent of voters so far have said "no" on 2G. Ramah, however, will not be joining Manitou: 41 voters said "no" to marijuana legalization, as compared to 11 saying "yes." And Palmer Lake apparently is voting down RMJ sales as well, by about 90 votes.

• In Senate District 11, the site of last year's bitter recall of John Morse, Michael Merrifield seems in position to reclaim the seat for the Democrats. Merrifield is up 51 percent to 43 percent over incumbent Republican Bernie Herpin, with Libertarian Norman Dawson pulling the other 6 percent. While Herpin declined to forecast the final vote, he said, "It's been an honor to serve. I'm proud of my accomplishments in office."

• Despite the backing of some local heavyweights, including the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors, developer Chuck Murphy and Suzi Bach, Democrat Jariah Walker is far behind incumbent Republican Peggy Littleton in El Paso County Commission District 5. Littleton has pulled about 64 percent of the vote so far, and is up a full 10,000 votes. Said Walker: "I think the main message is that unfortunately, partisan politics aren't dead in Colorado Springs."

• While incumbent Pete Lee leads in House District 18, 54 percent to 46 percent over Republican Michael Schlierf, his fellow Democrat in fickle District 17 is in trouble. Incumbent Tony Exum is down 49 percent to 44 percent to Republican Kit Roupe. About 7 percent of votes are going to Libertarian candidate Susan Quilleash.

• Races in heavily Republican House Districts 14, 15 and 16 offer no surprises — unless you consider it a surprise that Gordon Klingenschmitt's getting a full 70 percent of the vote in HD 15. This, despite Klingenschmitt offending even some within his own party by comparing Democratic legislator Jared Polis to ISIS operatives, among other incendiary remarks. Klingenschmitt's opponent, Democrat Lois Fornander, said she figured from the beginning that it would be "a big cliff to climb." She added, "And I think now, it was a sheer wall."

Reporting from J. Adrian Stanley, Griffin Swartzell and Pam Zubeck contributed to this story.
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Monday, October 6, 2014

Supreme Court move will likely make gay marriage legal in Colorado

Posted By on Mon, Oct 6, 2014 at 9:54 AM

  • File Photo
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to review the findings for the 4th Circuit of several circuits of the U.S. Court of Appeals on same-sex marriage.

The refusal means the lower court ruling stands in the states in question, making same-sex marriage legal in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. But it also indicates that the Supreme Court doesn't intend to intervene in any lower court rulings on same-sex marriage at this point. So that also probably means that Appeals Court rulings in other districts that have made same-sex marriage legal will become final. That includes rulings in the 10th Circuit, which includes Colorado.

In all, the Supreme Court's move will likely mean that same-sex marriage will soon be legal in 30 states. The Washington Post has a good explanation of the situation here.

The move by the Supreme Court isn't exactly what either side was looking for. Same-sex marriage proponents had hoped the courts would make such marriages legal across the country. Opponents, of course, had hoped for the opposite. The move likely means that the justices do not want to weigh in on the debate until more states have legalized the practice.

All the same, proponents are celebrating today. Check out this release from the Freedom to Marry campaign:
Supreme Court Lets Marriage Wins Stand
Decision not to review lower-court victories means number of states with freedom to marry to skyrocket, but still falls short of national resolution

New York – Today the Supreme Court denied review of five cases seeking the freedom to marry, leaving standing marriage victories in several federal circuits and opening the door to the freedom to marry in many more states, while deferring for another day the national resolution that Freedom to Marry, businesses, elected officials, and families across the country had urged now. The Court’s decision not to review the rulings means that soon as many as 60% of the American people will be living in freedom to marry states, with a majority of the states (30) having the freedom to marry for all.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, released the following statement:

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court leaves in force five favorable marriage rulings reached in three federal appellate courts, ensuring the freedom to marry for millions more Americans around the country. The Court’s letting stand these victories means that gay couples will soon share in the freedom to marry in 30 states, representing 60% of the American people. But we are one country, with one Constitution, and the Court’s delay in affirming the freedom to marry nationwide prolongs the patchwork of state-to-state discrimination and the harms and indignity that the denial of marriage still inflicts on too many couples in too many places. As waves of freedom to marry litigation continue to surge, we will continue to press the urgency and make the case that America – all of America — is ready for the freedom to marry, and the Supreme Court should finish the job.”

With the Supreme Court’s decision not to review the cases, favorable marriage rulings in the 10th Circuit, the 7th Circuit, and the 4th Circuit will soon go into effect. Marriage bans in every state within those circuits will be invalidated, adding Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, and Wisconsin to the list of freedom to marry states. As a result of the Court’s decision, an additional 51 million Americans will live in a freedom to marry state.

In total, 41 federal and state courts in the past year have ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples with only one federal and one state ruling going the other way. Five of these marriage wins were before the Supreme Court for possible review.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

City for Champions gets final state approval

Posted By on Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 4:35 PM

An artist's rendering of the museum and stadium projects. - COURTESY CITY FOR CHAMPIONS
  • Courtesy City for Champions
  • An artist's rendering of the museum and stadium projects.

This just in: The state Economic Development Commission voted unanimously today to approve a resolution for City for Champions.

That's the $250 million tourism venture that includes a downtown sports stadium, Olympic museum, sports medicine center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and a new visitors center outside the Air Force Academy.

The release, issued by Mayor Steve Bach's communications department:
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – City for Champions reached an important milestone today when the final resolution was unanimously approved by the Colorado State Economic Development Commission.

Adoption of this final resolution means that the EDC’s approval of the City for Champions Regional Tourism Act application on December 16, 2013, in the unprecedented amount of $120.5M has been formalized.

After much collaboration between the City, County and State officials and a good deal of work by hundreds of citizens, business and community leaders working to ensure the success of the initiative, this agreement gives a triumphant green light to the four City for Champions project components to move forward in the development process.

In addition, this allows the RTA Advisory Board, a stellar and diverse group of local citizens, to begin its important work in crafting specific requirements for the extraordinary City for Champions initiative.

“We are grateful to the State Economic Development Commission, the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and the State Attorney General’s office for granting the City of Colorado Springs this historic opportunity and for their efforts in completing this resolution and their partnership on these exciting projects,” said Bob Cope, Senior Business Climate Specialist for the City of Colorado Springs.

The adoption of the resolution was heralded with great enthusiasm by the leader of the citizen-led grassroots proponents of City for Champions, Laura Neumann, as she noted that “Now action can really begin to allow the four projects to be the catalyst for economic and job growth, business creation, start-up companies, recreational and outdoor initiatives, retaining young professionals and more. Hundreds of thousands of people will benefit from this bold and legacy-making decision the Commissioners made today.”
Neumann, by the way, is Bach's former chief of staff who quit earlier this year.

The next pep rally for the project will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Southeast and Armed Services YMCA, 2190 Jet Wing Drive.

The last such meeting in August drew a large crowd and yielded an unofficial announcement that the Jenkins family, owners of Nor'Wood Development Group, will donate the downtown land on which the Olympic museum and Hall of Fame will be located downtown near Vermijo Avenue and Sierra Madre Street.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Court orders Boulder to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples

Posted By on Wed, Jul 30, 2014 at 10:56 AM

Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall - BOULDERCOUNTY.ORG
  • Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall
While a full resolution to the larger issue is likely still months off, Attorney General John Suthers scored a victory in the fight over same-sex marriage yesterday.

Suthers, who is defending Colorado's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage against myriad state and federal lawsuits challenging its constitutionality, asked the Colorado Supreme Court to stop Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. At one point, Denver, Pueblo and Boulder were issuing the licenses, but a judge stopped Denver, and Pueblo stopped voluntarily. That left Boulder as the last county in the state issuing the licenses.

The court ordered Hall to stop issuing licenses, and she has complied. (Those actions came after the Independent's deadline, and thus today's story on the issue is now outdated.) Thus, Colorado same-sex couples who want to wed will likely have to wait until a judicial resolution is reached on the ban.

That resolution could either come from the Colorado Supreme Court, which is expected to reach a decision early next year, or from a federal court. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to hear the case soon, though a final federal resolution on the issue of same-sex marriage may come from the U.S. Supreme Court.

So far, lower courts have ruled consistently that Colorado's ban is unconstitutional, though they've stayed their rulings pending appeals.
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Friday, February 14, 2014

Philharmonic announces 2014-15 season

Posted By on Fri, Feb 14, 2014 at 8:00 PM


Those who appreciate the classical music world’s most widely celebrated composers will be pleased by the Colorado Springs Philharmonic’s 2014-15 season, which was announced at Friday evening’s Pikes Peak Center performance.

Although the works being performed are, in many cases, less well-known than their composers, there’s no arguing with the popular appeal of a repertoire that includes Ravel’s Bolero, Puccini’s Tosca and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, alongside works by Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, and Copland.

The local orchestra will also be reprising its multi-media “Vanguard Series,” which consists of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, Mozart’s Requiem and Bartok’s The Miraculous Mandolin.

Other noteworthy season offerings include a February 26 performance by violinist Joshua Bell. In addition to widespread critical acclaim and a Grammy Award, Bell is known for a viral video in which he performed in the guise of a street musician and went unrecognized by all but one passerby, earning $32.17 for his 45 minute-performance.

Rounding out the season are holiday concerts as well as a Philharmonic Pops series that features the music of The Who, Disney’s Fantasia, and an American Songbook performance by, as the season’s brochure puts it, “stage, film and TV heartthrob” Cheyenne Jackson.

View the Philharmonic's full season schedule at
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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Low Power FM application window extended

Posted By on Thu, Oct 17, 2013 at 12:33 PM


One of the very few benefits from the government shutdown is that those of us who want to start our own radio stations now have additional time to apply for licenses.

As detailed in our October 9 cover story (Tower of Low Power: Is Pirate Radio Finally Ready to Go Legit?), the Federal Communications Commission is opening up the airwaves to community members who want to start their own low power FM stations

This morning, the back-in-business agency told us that the window for license applications will be extended. The revised dates will be announced in the next few days and will be posted on the FCC’s media bureau page at

In the meantime, interested parties can get a head start by going to low-power advocacy group Prometheus Radio’s application support page. There, you’ll find a wealth of essential information and worksheets to make the application process easier.

Good luck, and we’ll be listening for you!

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Pictures from the latest Manitou flood

Posted By on Fri, Aug 9, 2013 at 9:42 PM

Having seen an ambulance tear off with an injured woman, multiple cars flipped near the Cliff House, and refrigerators mixed in with logs and debris near the Briarhurst Manor Estate, Indy reporter J. Adrian Stanley affirms that Friday's flood off the Waldo Canyon burn scar is "much worse" than any to date this summer.

As of about 9:30 p.m., reports are that at least three people have been injured. KOAA is reporting that Canon Avenue evacuees won't be allowed to return home until tomorrow; there is a shelter set up at the Historic Manitou Congregational Church, 103 Pawnee Ave. 

Below are some photos Adrian took while walking through town both during and after the storm. One thing not pictured, but that she reports, is that some properties damaged in the July 1 flood were further harmed today. In fact, in some cases, the Dumpsters that were on-site as part of their cleanup efforts were toppled and sent into the homes themselves.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sen. Udall seeks info on firefighting

Posted By on Tue, Jul 23, 2013 at 11:04 AM

Udall: Staying on top of wildland firefighting
  • Udall: Staying on top of wildland firefighting

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., has been an ardent supporter of forest health and wildland firefighting, and he continues to probe for more information to enhance how fires are managed.

A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Udall wrote a letter Monday to Northern Command leader Gen. Charles Jacoby and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell asking for a retrospective for the Black Forest Fire.

Udall, along with Colorado's other Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, instigated a major study following the Waldo Canyon Fire that investigates the ecological, social and operational issues involved in fighting that blaze, which claimed 347 homes in Colorado Springs last year.

In his latest effort, Udall thanks Jacoby and Tidwell for their participation in the Black Forest Fire and what further lessons might be learned. He also asked them to explain procedural changes that made the rapid response possible.

From a news release:

Udall has been a leading voice for ensuring that Colorado and the West have adequate resources to prepare for the threat of wildfire, including pressing the U.S. Air Force to quickly transfer and repurpose excess aircraft to the U.S. Forest Service to fight wildfires. He also led the fight to ensure the U.S. Forest Service was able to cut through red tape and secure seven next-generation air tankers. One of the next-generation air tankers Udall fought to acquire helped fight the Black Forest Fire.

Udall also pushed to pass a bipartisan amendment to the U.S. Senate's 2014 budget to allocate $100 million more for wildland firefighting and he successfully secured federal funds to repair drinking-water supplies damaged by 2012's Waldo Canyon and High Park fires.

Here's his letter to Jacoby and Tidwell:

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Herpin defeats Bubis, will represent GOP in recall

Posted By on Tue, Jul 9, 2013 at 7:59 PM

The votes are in among state Senate District 11's Republican heavyweights, and former Colorado Springs City Councilor Bernie Herpin is their choice to fight Senate President John Morse in a recall election.

Herpin took 62.5 percent of the vote, leaving political newcomer Jaxine Bubis with just 37.5 percent.

Here's the release from El Paso County GOP director of operations Daniel Cole:

Bernie Herpin

Today, Senate District 11 officers and precinct leaders selected Bernie Herpin as the El Paso County Republican Party’s nominee in the Senate District 11 recall election.

By the terms of the agreement both candidates signed on June 28, Jaxine Bubis is expected to withdraw from the race.

51 individuals were eligible to vote in this process. 30 voted for Bernie Herpin and 18 for Jaxine Bubis, for a total of 48 votes cast. The process was administered by the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder at the expense of the El Paso County Republican Party. Electors voted in person at El Paso County Republican Party Headquarters between the hours of 7 AM and 7 PM today, July 9.

Chairman Jeff Hays stated, “Bernie Herpin and Jaxine Bubis ran against each other for the Republican nomination, but each agreed the other would be a huge improvement over Sen. John Morse. They were both willing to put their campaigns on the line in order to maximize our opportunity to make the recall effort successful.

“Congratulations to Bernie Herpin for winning the Republican nomination. The El Paso County Republican Party looks forward to supporting his campaign.

“We owe Jaxine Bubis respect and a debt of gratitude. She was willing to subordinate ­­her personal goals to the imperative of removing John Morse from office and replacing him with a senator more attentive to his constituents. You’re taking one for the team, Jaxine. Thank you.

“As we move forward, I urge El Paso County Republicans to band together and focus on recalling John Morse. We’re talking about a legislator so extreme, so out-of-touch, that Rep. Ed Vigil, a Democrat from Fort Garland, called one of Morse’s bills this session ‘crazy’ and ‘absolutely nuts.’ Recalling John Morse is not a question of Democrat vs. Republican. It’s a question of sanity vs. insanity.”

For more on both Herpin and Bubis, see Wednesday's Independent.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fire damage estimate revised downward

Posted By on Thu, Jun 20, 2013 at 9:50 AM

Black Forest Fire
  • Pool photo by Christian Murdock

The estimate for structure damage caused by the Black Forest Fire has been revised to $90 million from a higher figure provided earlier this week by El Paso County Assessor Mark Lowderman.

"The problem isn't necessarily with the data gathered by the deputies during the fire," Lowderman says. "The problem was on an IT level. When they tried to update the data, they had multiple people doing it, and when they merged the data, they duplicated some of the data."

But Lowderman called the $90 million figure "very, very preliminary," because his crew has physically inspected only 500 of 2,400 lots so far.

"To really get an accurate number, it's gonna take us a while," he says, noting 15 of his full-time employees are inspecting and reappraising the burn area. He says he expects the $90 million figure to grow.

Just like last year for owners of Mountain Shadows homes that burned in the Waldo Canyon Fire, tax bills on damaged or destroyed homes will be adjusted. "Everything will be on [tax rolls] at 100 percent from January 1 to June 10," Lowderman says. "Then from June 11 to Dec. 31, it will be a land value for six months of the year."

Although the removal of so many homes from the tax rolls might not pose a large hit on revenue for the county, Lowderman says it might be a different story for the Black Forest Fire Department, which relies heavily on residential property instead of commercial property.

The structure-damage total for losses in the Waldo Canyon Fire was $121.5 million, Lowderman says.

Meantime, late yesterday, El Paso County set up a Long Range Recovery Planning Committee to oversee recovery, restoration and rebuilding efforts within the Black Forest Burn area. The panel will be co-chaired by Commissioners Darryl Glenn and Amy Lathen.

“Information from this group will be disseminated via our normal communications channels and through the recently established HOA/neighborhood communication network,” Glenn said in a release.

These elected officials will be represented on the panel:

• US Senators Udall/Bennett's Office
• Congressman Doug Lamborn's Office
• State Senator Kent Lambert
• State House Representative Amy Stephens
• State House Representative Dan Norburg
• El Paso County Sheriff's Office

Here's a list of residents who have been named to the committee:
• Edward Bracken
• Donna Arkowski
• Carolyn Brown
• Judy von Ahlefeldt
• Leif Garrison
• Laura Carno
• Sean Perkins

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