Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Colorado Springs City Council urged to ban puppy-mill dogs from stores

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 2:55 PM

My little friend came from a dog rescue operation, not a pet store. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • My little friend came from a dog rescue operation, not a pet store.
When we decided to get a new puppy, we didn't go to a pet store. We didn't even go to a breeder. Instead, we went to PetSmart where Dream Power, now defunct locally, had a line up of rescues available to anyone with a big heart and a good home.

Now, a group of people who care deeply for dogs and cats are urging Colorado Springs City Council to ban the sale of commercially bred dogs in local pet stores, a step already taken in at least 20 states and 200 cities and counties across the country, one advocate told Council Tuesday.

A half-dozen local residents urged Council to put an end to the misery of puppy mill dogs, who, as Bonnie Johnson said, use dogs as machines to crank out puppies with no concern for their health or well being.

One puppy mill dog she adopted spent 12 years as a puppy machine, pumping out 24 litters for a total of 96 puppies in her lifetime. She didn't receive heartworm treatment and was dumped with open mammary tumors. With veterinary care, she survived. In her lifetime, though, she made her puppy-mill owners some $250,000.

Others gave similar stories of dogs who's teeth decay due to them being forced to drink from a cage bottle. As one put it, these dogs live in cages that are six inches larger than their bodies — for their entire lives.

The idea, says one advocate, is to dry up the market for puppy mills by encouraging pet stores to work with the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region and rescue-dog groups to market homeless animals and help reduce the country's overpopulation of dogs, and cats as well.

That, in turn, will lower the cost of operating animals shelters. Colorado Springs pays the Humane Society some $1.4 million a year to provide animal control.

One advocate mentioned that a bill has been introduced to impose a ban statewide but didn't mention what kind of a chance it has.

It's unclear whether Council will start the process to adopt an ordinance or refer a measure to voters. (The city election is April 4, and it's too late for this election cycle.) But Councilor Jill Gaebler is working with the group, and Councilor Bill Murray expressed interest in joining their cause.

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Check out plans for Colorado Springs police southeast substation

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 9:35 AM

The existing Sand Creek station will be replaced.
  • The existing Sand Creek station will be replaced.
In case you haven't planned your afternoon, here's something you might want to drop in on:

An unveiling of plans for a new police substation in the southeast part of the city. From a release:
On Tuesday February 28th from 3:00pm to 7:00pm the Colorado Springs Police Department will be hosting a Community Meeting at the current Sand Creek Division Substation at 4125 Center Park Drive. This meeting will focus on sharing the architectural design concepts and renderings for the new substation with local residents and the community at large.

The new facility will be approx. 38,000 sf and is designed to be safe and welcoming; it will feature easy public access, a large, dividable community meeting room, enhanced operational efficiency and space, and a focus on officer wellness. The design inspiration was drawn from the mountainous context of Colorado Springs and features varying roof and building elevations.

Representatives from CSPD and DLR Group Architects will be on hand to answer questions and elaborate on the design concepts. This community meeting is intended to strengthen the partnership between the police department and the community it serves and to involve the community in the new substation design. Additional Community Meetings are planned and will be announced once scheduled.

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Monday, February 27, 2017

Colorado Springs Utilities buying more land for reservoir

Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2017 at 2:39 PM

The city's Southern Delivery System delivers water to Colorado Springs via pipeline from the Pueblo Reservoir. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The city's Southern Delivery System delivers water to Colorado Springs via pipeline from the Pueblo Reservoir.
Although Colorado Springs Utilities pushed the "on" button to activate the Southern Delivery System last April, the agency remains busy in planning SDS's phase 2.

The second phase is comprised chiefly of a reservoir to store water that's piped from Pueblo Reservoir.

At tomorrow's City Council meeting, Council will vote on spending nearly $1 million to buy property for the Upper Williams Creek Reservoir to be built east of the city in coming years as storage for the SDS project.

CSU already has acquired 2,120 acres for the reservoir. It paid $11.8 million to the State Land Board for 1,128 acres for the reservoir, and $7.5 million to Norris Properties and T-Cross Ranches for 791 acres, also for the reservoir.

The agency still needs seven more parcels and three more easements in addition to the three parcels that appear on Tuesday's agenda.

Those include:
• 24.792 acres at 13110 Bradley Road, owned by Ryan Roberts, $380,000 plus an undisclosed amount for relocation expenses. (Assessor data shows the property is valued at $109,572 for tax purposes.)
• 5.388 acres at 13120 Bradley Road, owned by Ruth Anderson and her son, Ryan Roberts, $348,000, plus and undisclosed amount for relocation expenses. (Assessor data shows the property is valued at $195,281 for tax purposes.)
• 35.251 unoccupied acres at 4475 Hammer Ranch Road owned by Timothy Garber and Dawn Dawson-Garber. The property isn't occupied, so no relocation expenses are requested. (Assessor data show the property is valued at $99,200 for tax purposes.)

All three properties were appraised by an independent appraisal, Utilities officials say in documents given to Council.

Utilities officials have said previously that the second phase of SDS would be built between 2020 and 2024.

How much the total relocation expenses will amount to isn't know, because, as Utilities spokeswoman Kim Mutchler explains, "Since we don't own the properties, yet, and the sellers have yet to move, we do not know what the relocation costs are."

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Shake-up at Pikes Peak United Way

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 5:33 PM

So it's been about 24 hours since the community was made aware of the departure of President and CEO Jason Wood from Pikes Peak United Way.

Yet, he's still listed on PPUW's website as the CEO, and there's no notification of the change on its Facebook page.

Apparently, the only notification went out to certain United Way community supporters via an emailed message from Cindy Aubrey, who had been the chief operations officer and now has stepped into the CEO in an "intirum" role. (That's how she spelled her title at the end of her message to donors, after spelling it correctly as "interim" in the actual communique. See her message below.)

Aubrey worked for years as news director of KOAA-TV until plucked from there to become then-Mayor Steve Bach's communications manager. She left that role in early 2015 as Bach wound down his one and only four-year term.

Wood had been at PPUW for about four years, and his departure creates more than a few questions, given that he left immediately and the Gazette reports he has no other job lined up.

Here's Aubrey's message that, as far as we know, remains the only official word on the shake-up.
Dear Friends,
I am writing to let you know that Jason Wood has resigned his position as President and CEO of Pikes Peak United Way. The Board of Trustees has asked that I serve as Interim CEO until his replacement is hired. Honored to fill that role, I wanted to reach out to you immediately to let you know that all of our strategic plans are moving along nicely and that the PPUW team is working hard to reach our goals around education, income stability and health.
We are so very grateful to you for your loyalty and support over the years and want to assure you that we will do our very best to continue our work in our wonderful community. Our staff and partners are committed to serving the most vulnerable in our region.
We all wish Jason the very best and are grateful for the work he did here in Colorado Springs.
Thank you for your support and friendship.
Cindy Aubrey

Cindy Aubrey, Intirum CEO, Pikes Peak United Way
518 N. Nevada Ave. Colorado Springs, CO 80903 / 719-457-1319 / cindy@ppunitedway.org

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Stoned reflections from the opposition party

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 4:00 PM

A view of Donald Trump from behind "the emeny" lines. - J.M. GIORDANO
  • J.M. Giordano
  • A view of Donald Trump from behind "the emeny" lines.
I am stoned at CPAC. I am in hell.

Here’s how it happened:

Shortly after Steve Bannon laid out his vision of nationalism and the deconstruction of government on the first day of CPAC, I was writing a story over a beer at the National Press Club.

On the television was Sean Spicer who said the regime would likely start enforcing federal anti-pot laws in states that had voted for recreational marijuana. Nevermind that he had just invoked “state’s rights” as a rationale for refusing to protect trans students. Nevermind, that world-class racist Jeff Sessions would be the one to enforce this. Or the fact that we all need medical marijuana to deal with the insanity of having an incipient authoritarian in the oval office. But Spicer cited the opioid crisis to justify a crackdown.

At about the same time, Jeff Sessions reversed another Obama administration policy, announcing in a memo that the federal government would actually not cut back on private prisons because, he thinks, our “prison needs” will require them. Private prison stocks soared. But the rest of us thought, “fuck, they want to have even more mass incarceration.”

This will, as always, disproportionately affect African Americans and Latinos, while increasing actual crime.

“Trump seems insistent on throwing the marijuana market back into the hands of criminals, wiping out tax-paying jobs and eliminating billions of dollars in taxes,” executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance Ethan Nadelmann wrote over email.

But I had my own response. I ate a cannabis cough drop while we were in Washington. D.C. where recreational weed is legal, as long as you neither buy nor sell it to get ready for Trump’s speech.

I wanted to personally protest this disastrous decision but I also wanted to make sure I feel the real horror of CPAC here. The best thing about weed is it makes you question your own ethical decisions, often in a devastating fashion.

The result was as horrifying as you might imagine. I tried to tweet some funny shit. But it was not funny. There is nothing funny about it. It is going to be a fucking nightmare. At best, we are ruined by their incompetence, at worst, they actually succeed.

I am a white male and I am horrified by what is happening here. I can’t imagine how it must feel for women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community to know that this is our new reality. I am sorry.

I was sitting in the back as press, which was one of Trump’s main targets because we are still able to question him, even if he refuses to answer. It is clear here: they think we sow discord.

The crowd, of course, loved it when the president attacked us.

“A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people and they are, the enemy of the people," Trump said.

The press, he said “doesn't represent the people, it never will represent the people and we are going to do something about it."

He didn’t say what they planned to do, but he gave some hints.

During Trump’s speech, he said “No one loves the first amendment more than me.” The crowd laughed. It was not intended to be taken seriously, just as, when he said he wanted to protect the environment, he was not booed because that, too, was not a serious statement.

As with both Bolsheviks and Nazis, a speech means one thing to members of a movement and something else to those outside of it.

He talked about protecting the flag more than once. I’d guess he’s laying the groundwork to come back to the idea he tweeted in December, threatening to imprison and strip the citizenship from anyone who burns a flag.

As I was tweeting about Trump’s speech, I saw a story on the 17 states passing laws that would prevent protest since Trump’s election.

An hour or so later, Wayne LaPierre said that “violence in the name of politics” is the definition of terrorism. “And those who incite it and engage in it need to be prosecuted and punished, period,” he said speaking specifically of protests on the left.

There’s a thing on the right that protesters are paid $1500 a week. I’ve covered a lot of protests. The protesters are not paid. Hell, I don’t even make $1500 a week as a reporter. But most of these CPACtivists seem pretty well-heeled, so maybe that's where they get the idea.

But, LaPierre's call for prosecution seemed to extend to “the leftist media" which, he said, "is responsible for blowing the winds of violence as well.”

He spoke of the “media’s deliberate lies aimed at destroying our freedom.”

This shit is a constant fucking refrain here. Bannon calling us “the opposition party.” Cracking down on the press is only the first step to cracking down on all opposition.

Trump railed against anonymous sources — notice how he is always citing “a friend,” a “very reliable source” or “everyone” himself — saying we shouldn’t be able to use them. I don’t like anonymous sources either, but with proper vetting, they are essential. Remember Watergate? Pretty good reason to want to stop anonymous sources if you are a secretive and paranoid president.

For that matter, I don’t like most cable news. The “anchors” are assholes because, like Trump, they are essentially reality TV stars.

But it’s not cable Trump hates. He seems obsessed with it. He gave the nod to Fox and Breitbart, without mentioning them, stressing that he did not hate the entire press, only the “dishonest media” or “fake news.” So the stage was set for silencing reports that the president doesn’t like as a way to silence all opposition.

It only took a couple hours. Only hours after Trump's speech, as I was still writing this, the White House banned the New York Times, CNN, and Politico from a scheduled briefing, while allowing Brietbart, Fox, and other conservative outlets to attend. The AP and Time boycotted the briefing in protest.

All of this matters not because we are heroes — me least of all — but because, if we do it right, we can “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”

The president and his cronies are pretty comfortable about now. We have a lot of work to do.

These are stoned observations written from inside of CPAC. But I assure you, Mr. President, they are honest. And I am proud to be part of the opposition party.
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Utilities workers pick Colorado Springs City Council candidates

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 12:04 PM

In news about the April 4 Colorado Springs city election, here's a round of endorsements, and the results of a non-scientific online poll.

First, the endorsement: Colorado Springs Utilities Employee Advocacy Group has endorsed candidates in the City Council election.

They are:

Don Knight

No Endorsement
Candidate did not interview

Richard Skorman

Yolanda L.Avila

Jill Gaebler

Andres G Pico

The group explained how its process of endorsement works:
All candidates were emailed questionnaires and asked to complete the questionnaire to schedule and interview with EAG members and Colorado Springs Utility retirees.

One candidate did not return the questionnaire. Four other candidates returned questionnaires but did not interview for various reasons.

9 of the 14 candidates were interviewed. All interviews were interesting and very informative. Completed questionnaires and interviews were the criteria used to endorse each candidate. We believe these candidates most closely align with EAG's values and vision.
The announcement didn't mention what, if any, campaign contributions will accompany the endorsements.

As for the poll, conducted by Springs Unigroup, go here for the results.
The short version is that the poll predicted landslide wins for Knight, Skorman, Councilor Helen Collins and Pico, with a closer race picking Gaebler, by a 54-46 margin.

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Strawberry Fields master plan public meeting announced

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 12:02 PM

Strawberry Fields: The master planning process begins. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Strawberry Fields: The master planning process begins.
Having finalized acquisition of Strawberry Fields late last year, The Broadmoor has begun the master planning process for the property, and announced a public meeting about it:

Time: 5 to 7 p.m.
Date: Wednesday, March 8
Location: Cheyenne Mountain Jr. High School, 1200 W. Cheyenne Rd.

You can read the entire announcement here.

An excerpt:
Public input during last year's land exchange was extremely valuable in shaping numerous terms and conditions that ensure public access to The Broadmoor's property. A Conservation Easement, South Canyon Trail Easement, Chamberlain Trail Easement, Hully Gully Easement, Old Stage Road Access Easement, an 8.5-acre Building Envelope, several utility easements, and other deed restrictions were recorded on the property by the City of Colorado Springs to ensure the public's interests were legally protected and the terms of the land exchange would be upheld.

Within the context of these conditions, The Broadmoor is conducting a Master Plan process. The public has an opportunity to provide input that will help inform the plan. Citizens are invited to attend the first in a series of public meetings to learn more about the Strawberry Hill Master Plan being prepared on behalf of The Broadmoor...

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Pam Shockley-Zalabak: A legend in the making

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 9:26 AM

Shockley-Zalabak: Made her mark.
  • Shockley-Zalabak: Made her mark.
The career of Pam Shockley-Zalabak isn't going unheralded as she retires as chancellor of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

First, Mayor Suthers presented the Spirit of the Springs Lifetime Achievement Award to her "for her incredible vision, leadership and stewardship, unparalleled efforts to promote economic growth and higher education in our region and truly remarkable contributions to the city of Colorado Springs," the city said in a news release.

More from the release:
Dr. Zalabak has had a tremendous influence on our city’s economy, job creation and education. Under her leadership, University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) has transformed from a tiny little college to a vibrant, major university and an economic force in Colorado Springs. UCCS is responsible for 6,200 jobs and forecasted to contribute $1 billion a year in economic impact by the year 2020.

The campus growth has not only transformed the university, it continues to transform Colorado Springs with ongoing projects like the national cybersecurity center, a sports medicine and performance center and a world-class visual and performing arts center. Dr. Zalabak’s vision, inspiration and leadership will continue to shape our city and Southern Colorado for generations to come.
In addition, the university announced a fund-raising drive to name a theater in her honor:
Faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs launched a $1.5 million effort Feb. 22 to name a theater in honor of Chancellor Emerita Pam Shockley-Zalabak.
Led by Kyle and Sally Hybl, Colorado Springs, the initiative seeks to raise $1.5 million to name an approximately 750- seat main stage theater in the under-construction UCCS Ent Center for the Arts in Shockley-Zalabak’s honor. Following a community event, faculty, staff, students and alumni received emails inviting them to participate in the campaign.

“Pam Shockley-Zalabak’s impact on this community, and this campus, is highly visible,” Martin Wood, senior vice chancellor, University Advancement, said. “During her 15 years as chancellor and more than 40 as a member of the UCCS community, she moved the campus forward as the intellectual, social and cultural hub of Colorado Springs. We are so pleased the Hybls are leading this effort to honor her.”

Kyle Hybl serves as a member of the CU Board of Regents and as the chief operating officer of the Colorado Springs-based El Pomar Foundation. He and his wife, Sally, led the fundraising campaign for the UCCS Ent Center for the Arts and are ardent supporters of the arts and UCCS.

Shockley-Zalabak retired from UCCS Feb. 15 and was named chancellor emerita by the CU Board of Regents Feb. 17. She began her UCCS career in 1976 as an honorarium instructor and progressed through faculty and administrative ranks until she was named interim chancellor in 2001 and chancellor in 2002. While leading UCCS, Shockley-Zalabak was also active in the Colorado Springs community. She earned awards including the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce ATHENA Women in Business Award, the 2008 Colorado Springs Business Journal Women of Influence Award, the 2013 Pikes Peak Range Riders Silver Spur Award, the S. Jerrard Smith award for contributions to the community, the American Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year Award and the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance Business Citizen of the Year award.

Online contributions can be made at www.uccs.edu/thankyouchancellor or mailed to the UCCS Office of Development, 1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway, Colorado Springs, CO. 80919.

The $70 million UCCS Ent Center for the Art at 5225 N. Nevada Ave. is about the size of a city block and is located near the Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences on the western edge of the UCCS campus. The 92,000-square-foot arts center is scheduled to open January 2018 and boasts five venues, rehearsal studios, classrooms, practice rooms, balconies and gardens. UCCS joined with local community arts organizations and school districts to envision the project. The building is named in honor of Ent Credit Union following a 15-year marketing and operating agreement valued at $12.6 million.

Design of the UCCS Ent Center for the Arts is led by H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, New York, with Semple Brown Design, Denver, serving as the architect of record. JE Dunn Construction, Colorado Springs, is general contractor for the building. Bryan Construction, Colorado Springs, was general contractor overseeing the design/build of the infrastructure improvements.

The University of Colorado Colorado Springs, located on Austin Bluffs Parkway in Colorado Springs, is one of the fastest-growing universities in Colorado. The university offers 45 bachelor’s, 22 master’s and five doctoral degree programs. UCCS enrolls about 12,000 students on campus annually and another 3,300 in online programs. For more information, visit www.uccs.edu.

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ex-El Paso County commissioner finds new government job, for now

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2017 at 3:39 PM

Hisey: From one government job to another. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Hisey: From one government job to another.
What happens to former county commissioners? They find jobs for themselves with government, often.

That's the case with Dennis Hisey, who left his El Paso County commissioner seat in January after three terms, the third term acquired following a voter-approved measure to extend term limits that some voters felt was deceptively worded. After the approval, voters later rolled back the maximum number of terms to two.

Hisey now steps into the shoes of Charlie Whelan, who retired as director of the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, an agency for which Hisey sat on the board as a commissioner.

Hisey will be paid $9,426 a month for up to three months while a new director is recruited and hired. That means he'll make $28,278 in a quarter of a year, compared to his old pay of about $7,280 a month.

Here's the news release:
El Paso County Administrator Henry Yankowski today announced the appointment of Dennis Hisey to serve on a temporary basis as the director of the Pikes Peak Workforce Center (PPWFC). “I reached out to Dennis Hisey because it may take two or three months to recruit and hire a permanent Workforce Center Director and Dennis has the knowledge, experience and community service background to help us through this transition period.” Yankowski continued, “Colorado is one of only a few states that use a local control model for Workforce Center operations and Dennis was very much instrumental in establishing that model which has been very helpful in tailoring training programs to meet local employment needs.” Yankowski stressed that Hisey is expected to serve only on a temporary basis until a permanent director is in place.

“I’m honored to be asked to serve PPWFC through this transition period,” Hisey said. “During my twelve years on the Workforce Consortium and Executive Boards I have had the opportunity to work closely with Charlie Whelan and the excellent team he has put in place. I have also worked closely with the private business, industry and education and trade leaders in developing community partnerships that form the foundation of effective workforce training efforts and I’ve had the opportunity to learn the best practices of successful workforce training programs all over the country.” Hisey concluded, “This is only a temporary interim assignment and I will not be seeking the permanent position but I want everyone at PPWFC and our community partners to know that we will be working hard to ensure that PPWFC continues to be a highly effective resource to employers and job seekers throughout the region.”

Hisey will receive $9,426 per month as Interim Director, the same rate of pay as the retiring director.

The Pikes Peak Workforce Center serves employers and job seekers in El Paso and Teller Counties. It is funded through the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). During the last program year, the PPWFC served more than 43,000 clients including 10,000 veterans and more than 1,000 young adults. The PPWFC team hosted 260 custom hiring events for employers and eight regional job fairs for job seekers. PPWFC has satellite offices throughout the region with its main office on the first floor of the El Paso County Citizens Service Center at 1575 Garden of the Gods Road in Colorado Springs. For more information logon to: www.ppwfc.org

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Dispute arises over TABOR notice in Colorado Springs city election

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2017 at 11:36 AM

A duel is shaping up between the Colorado Springs city government and its arch-nemesis, Taxpayer's Bill of Rights author Douglas Bruce.

This time, the battle will be over whether the city should use favorable comments in its TABOR notice about Issue 2, which asks voter permission for the city to keep $6 million from excess revenue collected in 2016 above TABOR caps and $6 million that is projected to be collected in 2017 above TABOR caps.

Mayor John Suthers, with a majority of City Council, wants to spent the excess revenue on stormwater projects.

Voters will decide in the April 4 city election, which is being conducted by mail.

The favorable comments at issue were submitted without a signature. Oddly, City Clerk Sarah Johnson says she's determined that John O'Donnell turned in those comments.

Regardless, Johnson says it would be appropriate to use them in the city's written pro-con TABOR notice, to be mailed to voters on March 3, even if the comments were not signed by a city voter.

That's a position Bruce can't abide. And he says he'll file a lawsuit over it.

Here's the lawsuit, which asks for the court to expedite a hearing, in light of the pending election.

Here is what Johnson has to say about it:
A pro comment and a con comment were received in the Office of the City Clerk on 2/17, which was the deadline to file them. Summaries of both the pro and the con comments will be included in the TABOR Notice. Copies of the comments are attached.

The pro comment was not filed anonymously. It was hand delivered to my office during regular business hours. I can confirm that John O'Donnell provided the content for the pro comment. Mr. Bruce is mistaken in his belief that the pro comment must be filed by an elector, however I have confirmed that Mr. O'Donnell is an elector of the City of Colorado Springs.

With regard to Mr. Bruce's legal assertions, the City believes that summarizing the pro comments on Issue 2 is proper. First, Charter section 7-90 (c)(2)(v) contains no limitation on who may file pro or con comments for City TABOR questions. Second, the statutory section Mr. Bruce quoted, C.R.S. section 1-7-901, applies only to state elections and not to municipal elections. Finally, even if section 1-7-901 were applicable, it simply confers upon the election official the discretion whether to summarize all comments received.

Pursuant to our City Charter, the TABOR Notice will be mailed by 3/3.
Here are the pro and con statements for and against Issue 2:

You'll notice the opposition statement wasn't filed by Bruce. That's because Bruce isn't a registered voter after he was convicted of a felony (tax evasion), which is on appeal.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

UPDATE: CSPD cop's letter says department is a mess

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 4:45 PM

Chief Carey is serving beyond his mandatory retirement date, and the problems keep piling up. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Chief Carey is serving beyond his mandatory retirement date, and the problems keep piling up.

The Colorado Springs Police Protective Association issued this comment regarding the anonymous letter:
The Colorado Springs Police Protective Association is aware of an anonymous letter that has reportedly been distributed to numerous officers within the Colorado Springs Police Department. While the CSPPA does not respond to anonymous or anecdotal grievances, we did conduct a membership survey in July 2016 to better assist us in representing the interests of our nearly 900 members. These results were presented to Chief Carey, and were distributed to Mayor Suthers as well as members of City Council.

The CSPPA continues to have a very collaborative relationship with the Office of the Chief. We, as well as Chief Carey, are committed to addressing the needs of our membership via appropriate channels and within the construct of City government. Our survey revealed that the top employment issue for members is pay/benefits, followed by staffing. CSPPA representatives, with the active support of Chief Carey, continue to engage with Mayor Suthers to develop strategies to bring our department up to market average, while also addressing staffing as it relates to officer safety.

Further discussing the contents of an anonymous letter via the media serves the needs of the author only, who to the best of our knowledge, has not come forward to the CSPPA with any grievances. As such, we have no further comment at this time.

———————ORIGINAL POST 4:45 P.M. TUESDAY, FEB. 21, 2017————————

Things are so bad at the Colorado Springs Police Department that one officer has written an unsigned letter that's causing a stir among the ranks, calling out the chief and his minions about everything from pay to internal affairs investigations that span more than a year.

The letter also made it to our in-box, and probably lots of other media as well.

We've asked the CSPD for a comment, as well as City Council, and will update if and when we hear something.

For now, the only Council member we've heard from is Bill Murray, who said this via email:
I've been asking for a dashboard from the Police Chief's office on their status for a number of months.... We went from 18 percent of dropped [911] calls to 15 percent, so 15 out of 100 go unanswered. And the waiting time dropped from 30 seconds to 22. Think about that the next time you have an emergency. That is why I wanted the "TABOR excess" to go to "911/police and fire". Not stormwater! 
(Murray was referring to a ballot measure to be decided in the April 4 city election to allow the city to keep $6 million in excess revenue from 2016 to spend on flood control projects.)

Mayor John Suthers tells the Indy through a spokeswoman, "I have no comment other than to say I have a great deal of confidence in Chief [Pete] Carey and his Command staff."

Here's the unsigned letter:

The letter notes special status that Police Chief Carey enjoys because Mayor John Suthers supported a change in pension rules that allows Carey to continue working for the city, although he's long past his retirement date. We wrote about this in May 2016.

The letter's author talks about a lack of support from the chief for officers who are trying their best to do a hard and sometimes tricky job. The reference to the four officers accused of using excessive force involves a young African American man, Matthew Talley, who was pulled to the ground and held at gunpoint on May 6, 2015, outside the downtown courthouse after a passerby reported he was trying to jimmy a car's ignition. It was his own car, and he'd apparently forgotten the keys.

The chief didn't defend the officers, but rather on July 14, 2015, issued this statement:
The Colorado Springs Police Department received a letter from the ACLU which requested we start an internal investigation into a call for service from May 6, 2015. Prior to receiving this letter the Colorado Springs Police Department had not received a complaint regarding this call for service. CSPD has opened an internal investigation regarding this call for service.
The officers were cleared of wrongdoing, according to one person familiar with the case, but one officer quit because he felt unsupported.

In this week's Independent, we report on the latest problem to darken Carey's door — a disconnect in the CSPD's records system that prevented thousands of police reports to remain unknown to the District Attorney's Office and criminal defendants over a four-year period. Be sure to check in on that story at csindy.com as well as the print edition.

Meantime, here's a running tally of problems that have surfaced just in the last year alone under Carey's watch:
• The department temporarily lost its Colorado Police Officer Standards Training certification due to some officers failing to meet training standards. (“CSPD loses stamp of approval,” News, May 11, 2016);
• It was suspended from the military surplus program because the department lost track on paper of an M-16 rifle. (“Under the gun,” News, June 8, 2016)
• The department’s take-home vehicle list, which contained officers’ names, home addresses and license plate numbers, fell into the hands of drug dealers. (“Inside job?” News, May 11, 2016)
• Crime has climbed to its highest rate in several years, even as the numbers of officers has fallen and response times to top priority calls eroded to an average of 11 minutes. (“Are we less safe?” News, Aug. 24, 2016) Three weeks after the Indy’s report, Carey announced he would shut down some special units and reassign those officers to patrol.
• Carey allowed a long-time officer to remain on paid leave for at least five months, and qualify for a retirement pension, after Carey became aware he was under investigation in the Denver area for racketeering. (“Taking leave,” News, Sept. 21, 2016)

We asked the CSPD for a comment on the officer's letter, and received this from spokesman Lt. Howard Black:
The Chief has no comment to this or any anonymous letter. There are appropriate forums within the Colorado Springs Police Department that allows department members the opportunity to express both their positive and negative concerns. We have an active and robust Officers Advisory Committee, the Police Protective Association; and as always, an open door policy to the Chief's Office.
We've also asked the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association for a comment. If and when we hear a response, we'll update.

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UPDATE: Colorado Springs still waiting to be paid by Slide the City

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 2:31 PM

Slide the City has drawn thousands in Colorado Springs. - CARMERON MOIX
  • Carmeron Moix
  • Slide the City has drawn thousands in Colorado Springs.
UpaDowna executive Steve Hitchcock reports that the organization was paid Wednesday night via credit card by Slide the City, which is owned by Sack Lunch Productions.

The city also reports it got paid as well on Wednesday.

No word from Colorado Springs Utilities so far. Utilities, too, reports having been paid what was owed from last year.

City spokeswoman Kim Melchor advises in an email, "I do want to add that the City continually works to collect outstanding balances from events and any organizer will have to pay past due balances and 50% est. police costs if they want to return."

And Colorado Springs Utilities says in an email, "Like the City, they would have to fulfill their financial obligations to us for 2016 before we would grant them a 2017 permit."

————-ORIGINAL POST 2:31 P.M., TUESDAY, FEB. 21, 2017—————————-

Wednesday, we will report that UpaDowna, a nonprofit that hosts outdoor events and advocates for a respect for the environment, got stiffed by Slide the City last year.

Remember that water slide down 21st Street?

Well, UpaDowna provided some 60 volunteers to run the event, as well as doing other jobs before and after the August event, and were to receive a $3,600 donation. but six months later, it's still waiting to be paid.

Now we learn that's not the half of it.

Slide the City, which is owned and operated by Sack Lunch Productions, also owes:

• $1,400 to Colorado Springs Utilities for water (approximately 149,500 gallons) and commodity charges and other fees, Utilities reports. Spokesman Steve Berry says Utilities can't charge in advance because it doesn't know how much water will be used.

•  $6,350 to the city of Colorado Springs for police coverage of the event and $50 for the application fee. "Because police costs are invoiced for the actual hours worked, we are not able to invoice events for police services in advance of the event," says city employee Carly Kobasiar via email.

But Kobasiar said that if Slide the City returns with an event this year, "they must remit the full balance-due before a permit will be issued. We would also require that 50% of the estimated police costs be paid in advance."

She adds, "At this point, we have not received a Special Event Application from Slide the City for 2017, nor have they contacted us regarding dates/availability."

Slide the City has every intention of returning, says Sack Lunch Productions CEO Richard Surber, who returned the Independent's call Tuesday afternoon from last week.

Surber says UpaDowna and everyone else will be paid, "probably today."

"We just got a little bit behind," he adds. "We weren't able to open some anticipated events, and we're catching up now. We'll pay whatever is owed. We're a little bit late, but we never had any intention of not handling our obligation. We'd like to come back. Colorado Springs has been good to us."

Surber says he's been in touch with all those he owes by phone and is "working it all out, at this point."

"This is one of the pitfalls with this business," he says, "it's seasonal. A number of events didn't work out as we'd hoped. Colorado Springs did."

In Wednesday's edition of the Independent, we include a report on Sack Lunch Productions' latest quarterly financial report that shows its raked in millions.

El Paso County reports that it did, in fact, receive money for use of Bear Creek pavilions and a donation for dog park maintenance.
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Rally planned against Trump's new deportation order

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 11:48 AM

Go here, 415 E. Pikes Peak Ave., for a rally on Wednesday. - PHOTOS BY PAM ZUBECK
  • Photos by Pam Zubeck
  • Go here, 415 E. Pikes Peak Ave., for a rally on Wednesday.
If you're a legal resident of the United States and need a job, President Trump's administration will begin hiring 10,000 immigration and customs agents immediately to help deport millions of undocumented people, mostly Mexicans, according to the New York Times.

Also according to the Times:
The directives would also instruct I.C.E. [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], as well as Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, to begin reviving a program that recruits local police officers and sheriff’s deputies to help with deportation, effectively making them de facto immigration agents. 
We wrote about what role local law enforcement play this earlier this month.

The ICE office is located on the second floor of the bank building.
  • The ICE office is located on the second floor of the bank building.
If all of this deportation-mania strikes you as beyond the pale, you can attend a rally slated for noon Wednesday, Feb. 22, at the local ICE office, 415 E. Pikes Peak Ave.

Yes, I, too, was surprised that ICE is located in this building.

In an email message, anti-war activist Bill Sulzman says, "The enhanced deportation plans will be executed locally from this address. People power can still make a difference. We need to stand up for our friends and neighbors facing eviction from their homes and our country."

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Colorado Springs has had 67 robberies so far this year

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2017 at 5:32 PM

  • Geoffrey Fairchild
If you're like me, you've noticed there seem to be a lot of robberies lately.

And if you think so, you'd be right.

There have been 11 in the past five days alone, according to an advisory shared with the media by the Colorado Springs Police Department.

Here's the chart provided based on data from the CSPD's Law Enforcement Records Management System through Feb. 15:

But since then, the total for active robbery cases so far this year has grown to 67, the CSPD reports.

Ten of those have been cleared by arrest.

The CSPD reports that last year five detectives and one sergeant were assigned to the robbery unit, while this year another officer has been added to that. "In addition, other specialized and patrol units are assigned as appropriate," the department reports.

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Media oppose mediation proposal for public records

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2017 at 4:42 PM

Public records can play a key role in finding out what your government is up to.
  • Public records can play a key role in finding out what your government is up to.
A bill that would allow those who request public records and the records custodian to mediate a solution is opposed by several agencies who serve as watchdogs for the public interest.

Here's a comprehensive rundown of the proposed law and why media outlets oppose it, written by the director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, of which the Independent is a member.
By Jeffrey A. Roberts
CFOIC Executive Director

Groups representing Colorado journalists and citizen requesters of public records are voicing concerns about a legislative proposal to resolve records disputes through mediation.

Although generally in favor of some kind of alternative to litigation for challenging denials of public records, they’ve concluded that HB 17-1177, without substantial revisions, would create additional impediments for people seeking government information under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA).

Both the Colorado Press Association and the Colorado Broadcasters Association oppose the bill as introduced by Reps. Cole Wist, R-Centennial, and Alec Garnett, D-Denver, as do Colorado Ethics Watch and Colorado Common Cause. All four organizations participated in the CORA Working Group, a stakeholders’ committee that discussed litigation alternatives last year but did not recommend a specific proposal.

Wist also participated in the CORA Working Group, which came up with a separate bill on digitized public records. In an interview earlier this month, Wist told the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition the goal of HB 17-1177 is to encourage both requesters and government entities to resolve CORA disputes outside of the court system. Litigation currently is the only remedy in the open-records law.

“I’m trying to create incentives for parties to resolve cases without suing,” Wist said. “I hope that people never have to sue to gain access to public records, period.”

But Peg Perl, senior counsel for Colorado Ethics Watch, said the bill seems to presume that CORA disputes often wind up in court when, in fact, there aren’t a lot of open-records lawsuits in Colorado. What frequently happens, she said, is that records requesters just give up when they think a denial is improper because suing can be expensive and intimidating.

“The number one goal of citizens making requests is to get the actual documents and to get them in a timely manner,” she said. “To the extent that we favor some sort of mediation or ombudsman, it’s to facilitate disputes so that citizens or organizations get access to records. It’s not about getting fines or punishing the government or getting huge attorney-fee awards.”

Requesters worry that HB 17-1177 will let government entities drag out the CORA process, if they want, because the bill doesn’t specify a timeline for bringing mediation. It also doesn’t set any limits on the cost of participating in mediation, only stating that requesters and custodians would split the cost evenly.

Although the bill would penalize both sides for not participating in mediation, Perl said the measure ignores the reality that records requesters and records custodians are not on equal footing when a dispute arises. Unlike the government, she said, “the citizen has no access to the records, no access to the attorney general or another government attorney, no power to negotiate … The custodian is holding all the cards.”

If a requester doesn’t participate in mediation but prevails in a lawsuit, HB 17-1177 would limit the amount of court costs and attorney fees that he or she can be awarded. It also establishes a penalty for records custodians who refuse to mediate and end up losing in court.

If the parties mediate but can’t resolve a dispute without court action, the bill would entitle a prevailing requester to mediation costs, court costs and attorney fees. But if, after a failed mediation, a court finds that a denial of records was proper, the records custodian could be awarded court costs and reasonable attorney fees.

The proposal also bars the awarding of court costs and attorney fees to records requesters in any action initiated by a custodian who claims that disclosure would “cause substantial injury to the public interest.”

Wist said both parties “should have some skin in the game.” But Steve Zansberg, an attorney who represents the press and broadcasters associations, said the bill “imposes significant penalties on records requesters who do end up in court, whether after mediating or not, that effectively deny citizens their right to challenge records denials without having to mortgage their homes.”

Russell Weisfield, an open-government advocate who sued Arvada in 2014 over the city council’s use of secret ballots, said he never would have brought that Sunshine Law case if he risked being held liable for the government’s legal costs. (Under both the Sunshine Law and CORA, as currently written, governments can recover court costs and attorney fees only if a lawsuit is found to be “frivolous, vexatious or groundless.”)

“The potential costs would have been more than overwhelming!” Weisfield wrote in an email to Wist and the CFOIC. “… Faced with such a possible fate, I would have instead not challenged the government and sued.

“In other words, this bill would have the effect of making government more opaque, not transparent.”

Zansberg, who also serves as CFOIC president, said both media associations appreciate the bill sponsors’ commitment to creating “another path for resolving CORA disputes and we are continuing to discuss possible alternatives with them.”

Although the associations can’t support HB 17-117 as introduced, he said they “fully support efforts to facilitate alternative means to quickly and cheaply resolve public records disputes so ordinary citizens need not hire a lawyer to go up against the Colorado attorney general or a county attorney in court.”

Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause, said her organization also would like to see ways to resolve CORA disputes without litigation. But HB 17-1177, she said, “will make it more difficult to access public records, the opposite of what we should be trying to achieve.”

A hearing on the bill is scheduled for Thursday in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, but it likely will be delayed to give the sponsors more time to work on possible amendments.

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