Friday, March 31, 2017

Colorado Springs city election draws big wad of dark money

Posted By on Fri, Mar 31, 2017 at 5:30 PM

A dark money organization, which has targeted certain candidates in the April 4 Colorado Springs City Council election, has spent more than $240,000 this election cycle.

According to campaign finance reports filed Friday, Colorado Citizens Protecting Our Constitution, based in Denver, with ties to Republican operatives, spent $241,813.

The candidates supported by CCPOC include Chuck Fowler, who's running against Richard Skorman in District 3; Lynette Crow-Iverson, who's challenging incumbent Jill Gaebler in District 5, and incumbent Andy Pico in District 6.

There may be other candidates CCPOC is helping, but we haven't received mailers that show that.

Recently, CCPOC inaccurately wrote in a campaign door hanger that Crow-Iverson was endorsed by the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance. It also twisted information used to slur Skorman.

For information on its activities in the council races you can check out this link, and this link, and this link.

CCPOC doesn't disclose the source of its money; hence the term dark money. It's raised $259,000 this election cycle and spent $241,813 on consultants, opposition researchers, advertising, canvassing and the like. Its campaign effort is being managed by Dede Laugesen, wife of Wayne Laugesen, editorial page editor for the Gazette, which has endorsed the candidates for which CCPOC is campaigning.

When the dust settles, the total raised in this election could approach $700,000. All for jobs that pay $6,250 a year.

Other campaign finance reports filed March 31 show:

• The Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, which already had spent upwards of $40,000, pushed out another $10,000 for Fowler and $5,000 for Greg Basham, who's challenging incumbent Don Knight in District 1.

• Together for Colorado Springs, a newly formed progressive group, spent more than it raised. It brought in $2,400 and spent $6,290. After figuring in cash on hand, it showed a deficit of $3,890. Independent chair John Weiss, who sits on the T4CS board, gave $2,000.
Likewise, the Sierra Club, Glastonbury, Conn., spent $21,369 on mailers for Skorman and Gaebler. This amount is reported as a deficit, with no money raised to cover the expense.
Via email, City Clerk Sarah Johnson says deficit spending is not legal and that she's notified T4CS and the Sierra Club of the need to fix the problem. She adds that reports will be amended to correct the issues.

• Firefighters spent about $4,590 campaigning online for Gaebler, Skorman and Knight.

• Crow-Iverson got $15,250 more money, from the police PAC, developers and business folk. She's raised about $70,000. Gaebler had raised nearly $40,000 but her March 31 report hadn't been posted on the city's website by 5 p.m.

• Skorman has brought in about $77,300 compared to Fowler's $66,400.

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Colorado Springs city election: turnout, voter reminders, "an honest error"

Posted By on Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 5:12 PM

Turnout this year doesn't appear to be headed for a record high. - SPRINGSUNIGROUP
  • SpringsUnigroup
  • Turnout this year doesn't appear to be headed for a record high.

With just days to go before balloting concludes in the April 4 Colorado Springs city election, it's not looking like there will be any voter turnout records set.

The election will seat six of nine City Council members and decide three ballot measures. Go to this site for more information.

As shown in the chart below, the biggest turnout (60 percent) came in 2011 when voters elected the city's first strong mayor under the mayor-council form of government approved by voters in 2010.

That first mayor was Steve Bach, who did not seek re-election. In 2015, John Suthers was elected mayor.

Only about 20 percent of ballots had been returned as of Wednesday, March 29, so a lot of votes will have to flow in between now and Tuesday in order to hit the average turnout of over 33 percent.


Here's a reminder about the election from the City Clerk's Office:
Release of Unofficial Election Results

Media please arrive by 7 p.m. for set-up. The city clerk anticipates having preliminary election results at approximately 7:15 p.m. on election night, Tuesday April 4 and will read those results in the lobby of the City Administration Building (30 S. Nevada). Preliminary results will also be posted (in PDF format) online under “Election Results” at Updated results will be provided periodically throughout the event at the City Administration Building and updated online until the final ballot is counted.

Results will also be posted on Facebook, and twitter #COSVotes


• April 4, 2017 Election Day

• April 12, 2017 Deadline for return of military and overseas citizens ballots.

• April 12, 2017 Deadline to correct issues related to self-affirmation signatures and missing ID for ballots returned by 7 p.m. on election day

• April 14, 2017 Canvass/Certification of the Election Results

Voter Reminders

• Ballot must be received at a drop off location or the City Clerk’s Office no later than 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 4.

• Voter registration is still available in person at the City Clerk’s Office weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• If voters have any questions about their ballots, they can call the City Clerk’s Office at (719) 385-5901, press option 4.

In other campaign news, a door hanger that's making the rounds in District 5 contains misleading information.

Incumbent Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler called our attention to the piece, which was funded by the dark money group Colorado Citizens Protecting Our Constitution. The advertisement for Gaebler's opponent, Lynette Crow-Iverson, claims the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance supports her.

This is not true. The Business Alliance, which changed its name last year to Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC, didn't endorse any City Council candidates this election cycle, a Chamber spokesperson says.

We asked Dede Laugesen, who's working for CCPOC this cycle, for an explanation. Via email, she says, "It was an honest error, the literature was removed from the field and corrected within hours."

This door hanger wrongly says the candidate was endorsed by an agency that, first, no longer exists, and second, didn't endorse candidates in this election.
  • This door hanger wrongly says the candidate was endorsed by an agency that, first, no longer exists, and second, didn't endorse candidates in this election.

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Trump, Putin and propaganda

Posted By on Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 2:34 PM


The Senate Intelligence Committee questioned three experts on Russian active measures, or propaganda, campaigns the morning of March 30. One of them, Clint Watts, of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and George Washington University's Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, made it clear that the propaganda campaign was successful because of Trump’s use of similar tactics.

When asked why these cyber propaganda techniques work, Watts said “Because Trump embraces them.”

"Part of the reason active measures works is because they [Trump team] parrot the same line," he said again.

Talking with reporters after the hearing, Watts was more specific, saying that a vast majority of Russian propaganda supported Trump — but because of his embrace of conspiracies, it is sometimes difficult to determine whether a particular line came from Trump or from the Russians.

“He actually repeats propaganda put out by RT or Russian sources and vice versa, they parrot him. ‘The election is rigged’ is a primary campaign put out by Russian propaganda up to the election,” Watts said. “‘The White House was tapped.’ Pick almost any of these stories where we have no proof for them and they show up back in Russian propaganda. It’s hard to distinguish sometimes did the Russians put it out first or did Trump say it and the Russians amplify it. That’s where you get into some trickery about it. That’s why you heard Vladimir Putin, he put out a statement today, he is right, he can say he didn’t influence the election because he’s not saying these things, our president is.”

Earlier in the morning, Putin called claims of such active measures “fictional, illusory and provocations, lies.”

Trump, Watts said, likely didn’t know when he was parroting a Russian line.

“I don’t think the president actually realizes what he is citing. You saw that with the wiretapping accusation over the last two to three weeks. He picks up on a conspiracy and he repeats it and then we have the entire United States government pivoting to try and determine whether it’s fact or fiction. Whether he realizes it or not, he’s parroting Russian propaganda lines on a routine basis,” Watts said. “Somewhere in his circle of whoever is advising him in terms of media messages at times they’re looking at Russian sources.”

Watts, who said he was certain he would be targeted by Russian hackers when he left the hearing, said the Intelligence committee should follow the money, but they should also "follow the trail of dead Russians.”

"There have been more dead Russians in the past three months that are tied to this investigation," he said. "They are dropping dead, even in Western countries."
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Space Foundation names Thomas Zelibor as new leader

Posted By on Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 2:25 PM

Ret. Rear Adm. Thomas Zelibor - COURTESY SPACE FOUNDATION
  • Courtesy Space Foundation
  • Ret. Rear Adm. Thomas Zelibor
The Space Foundation hasn't waited long to find a replacement for long-time CEO Elliot Pulham, who left the agency abruptly on Oct. 24.

SpaceNews reported at the time that Pulham was "facing criticism after the website NASA Watch published in early October a number of Facebook posts from him." In those, SpaceNews reported, Pulham bragged about travel expenses charged to the foundation and made a crude remark about then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

But that's the old news. The new announcement ushers into a new CEO, Thomas Zelibor, who, unfortunately, wasn't chosen in time for the Space Symposium, the foundation's premier event which opens at The Broadmoor on Monday, April 3. Zelibor won't start until April 30.

Here's the news release:
The Space Foundation announced today that Thomas E. “Tom” Zelibor, retired Rear Admiral, USN, has been selected as its Chief Executive Officer, effective April 30, 2017.

Space Foundation Board of Directors Chairman James O. Ellis, Jr. said, "The Space Foundation team is very pleased to have Tom join the Space Foundation as the Chief Executive Officer. His impressive list of accomplishments in government, industry and operational space, along with his broad leadership and educational experience, will ensure that the Space Foundation continues to grow and evolve to serve our members and the global space industry.”

The Space Foundation Board of Directors worked with a national search firm to conduct a five-month search for a CEO.

"I am honored and humbled to have been selected for this position. I really look forward to joining and working with the superb Space Foundation team,” said Zelibor. “Starting on day one, I am committed to listening, learning and collectively exploring how we can build on the great successes this world-renowned organization has achieved over many years.”

Zelibor most recently served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Lightwave Logic Inc., a Colorado-based publicly traded corporation conducting R&D and production of advanced electro-optic materials for use in optical devices for the telecommunications, data communications and data center markets.

He has a wide-ranging leadership and entrepreneurial background, having served as President and CEO of Flatiron's Solutions, and as a Vice President for Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), among other commercial affiliations.

Highlights of his extensive career in space-related positions include Director, eSpace Incubator at the Center for Space Entrepreneurship; Director of Global Operations, U.S. Strategic Command, Deputy for C4 Integration and Policy/Department of the Navy Deputy CIO; Director, Space Information Warfare, Command and Control Division, and as Commander, Naval Space Command.

He also held the position of Dean, College of Operational and Strategic Leadership at the Naval War College in Newport, RI.

He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Oceanography from the United States Naval Academy in 1976. He was a Naval Aviator early in his Navy career before branching out into space and information technology assignments. The highlight of his military career was as Commander, Task Force Fifty, where he led three U.S. carrier battle groups, two NATO carriers, nearly 60 other U.S. and coalition ships, 300 aircraft and thousands of personnel in the North Arabian Sea conducting combat operations in Afghanistan after the attacks of 9/11.

Zelibor will be based at Space Foundation headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo. The organization employs 53 team members at various locations, including a Washington, D.C. office, and field representatives in Houston, Los Angeles, Princeton, N.J., and the Florida Space Coast.

About the Space Foundation
Founded in 1983, the Space Foundation is the foremost advocate for all sectors of space, and is a global, nonprofit leader in space awareness activities, educational programs and major industry events, including the annual Space Symposium, in support of its mission "to advance space-related endeavors to inspire, enable and propel humanity."

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

DA declines to file charges after City Council mailer complaint

Posted By on Tue, Mar 28, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Fourth Judicial District Attorney Dan May has determined that although Colorado Springs City Council candidate Lynette Crow-Iverson's campaign used false information against incumbent Jill Gaebler in a campaign mailer, it didn't meet requirements of the criminal statute that bars using falsehoods in a political campaign.

Same goes for State Rep. Dave Williams, of House District 15, who sent out email blasts containing the same false information against Gaebler.

In response to the DA's ruling, Gaebler issued this statement:
It’s unfortunate that the level of misrepresentations of my record - spread by my opponent - have become so extreme to become the focus of an investigation by District Attorney Dan May. The biggest loser in these negative attacks and lies continues to be the voters of District 5 who deserve an honest choice in who will represent them and our

Gaebler: thankful DA ruled the mailer false. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Gaebler: thankful DA ruled the mailer false.
While these specific allegations apparently did not rise to a criminal level, I appreciate the District Attorney’s finding that literature from Lynette Crow-Iverson’s campaign was false and a complete fabrication.

Simply put, I do not and have not supported sanctuary cities in our state.

I want to thank District Attorney May for his thoughtful investigation into these falsehoods. In the final days of this campaign, I look forward to continuing a conversation with my community about the things that matter most to them - roads and infrastructure, responsible growth, and ensuring that our families and children live in safe neighborhoods.
Here's the DA's Office's release of the findings:
On Friday, March 24, 2017, Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Jill Gaebler filed a formal complaint with the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office based on a political mailer that had been sent out by her political opponent Lynette Crow-Iverson. The mailer incorrectly states that:

City Councilwoman and Colorado Municipal League Executive Board Member Jill Gaebler voted unanimously to oppose House Bill 17-1134, which would “Hold Colorado Government Accountable for Creating Sanctuary Jurisdiction Policies.

From The Colorado Municipal League’s Website: “The Colorado Municipal League is the voice of Colorado's cities and towns, counting more than 97 percent of the state's municipalities as our members. Founded in 1923, the Colorado Municipal League is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization providing services and resources to assist municipal officials in managing their governments and serving the cities and towns of Colorado.”

Colorado Municipal League (CML) members met on February 17 to vote to unanimously oppose HB 17-1134. City Councilwoman Jill Gaebler, who has consistently voiced her opposition to sanctuary cities, was not present for that vote.

Representative Dave Williams contacted CML regarding the organization’s vote on HB17-1134 and asked specifically how Councilwoman Gaebler had voted. A CML employee, who did not check the record, informed Rep. Williams that the vote to oppose the bill was unanimous and that they believed Councilwoman Gaebler had opposed the bill. This information was clearly wrong.

It is against Colorado law to knowingly or recklessly circulate false information about your opponent. Because the erroneous information used in Lynette Crow-Iverson’s mailer was provided by the CML employee, the District Attorney’s Office is unable to prove that anyone involved in producing the mailer knowingly or recklessly circulated false information. No charges will be filed.
We've asked the Crow-Iverson campaign for a comment and will update if and when we hear something.

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Bennet and others urge Trump to heed climate change

Posted By on Tue, Mar 28, 2017 at 1:22 PM

Bennet: President needs to get a clue on climate change. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Bennet: President needs to get a clue on climate change.
Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator from Colorado, is among 10 senators who are urging President Donald Trump to reverse his ill-thought-out executive order on climate change.

Trump's order will spell the end of U.S. initiatives for combatting climate change in an attempt to help resurrect the fossil fuel industry and create jobs, but the senators say that's simply wishful thinking.

Here's the news release, followed by the actual letter to the White House, which is worth the time to read.
The Senators wrote that the Order “fails to bring clean energy jobs to our rural communities, ignores the impacts that extreme weather will have on our economy and our national security, and does not decrease our reliance on foreign oil.”

“We stand ready to work with you and your Administration in reaching a balance between achieving energy independence, promoting innovation, and growing our rural economies,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “Unfortunately, your Executive Order takes the nation in the wrong direction. In order to account for the unique needs of our Western states, we respectfully request you rescind the Energy Independence Executive Order.”

The Senators outlined several reasons the President should rescind the Order, including that it fails to:

· Address the issue of creating jobs, or account in any way for a real and effective solution to support coal communities to revitalize their local economies and create 21st century job opportunities.

· Support the clean energy industry, one of the fastest-growing sources of new jobs in the country. (Collectively, the wind and solar industry accounts for nearly 144,000 jobs and more than $83 billion in existing capital investment in Western states.)

· Consider the economic impacts of extreme weather events on rural communities, such as increasing crop premiums for farmers and loss of snowpack for the ski industry.

· Make our country more secure and less reliant on foreign oil.

U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) signed the letter.
Here's the actual letter that went to Trump, who some have nicknamed "the denier-in-chief" for his stance on climate change:

Wonder where Colorado's other senator, Cory Gardner, is on this? Let's just say that he's not breaking from other Republicans to stand up for science.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Skorman leads in mid-March poll of Council District 3 voters

Posted By on Sat, Mar 25, 2017 at 12:19 PM

A poll conducted March 14, 15 and 16 shows Richard Skorman leading in the Colorado Springs City Council District 3 race, but a third of voters polled said they were as yet undecided.

Skorman says the poll, conducted by Luce Research of 300 likely voters, found 41 percent favor him, 25 percent favor Chuck Fowler and 33 percent were undecided.

Skorman says he participated in the poll and funded his portion of it to find out the impact of negative ads issued by dark-money group Colorado Citizens Protecting Our Constitution and scathing editorials in the Gazette against him. Since the poll was conducted, the Gazette has published at least one additional editorial bashing him.

"It seems like I have a solid lead, even after the negative mailers and negative Gazette editorials," he said.

Skorman also noted the Gazette has agreed to allow him to respond to the editorial that blamed him for the city's stormwater problem, and his letter to the editor will appear in Sunday's issue.

The poll, Skorman said, contained other questions, but he declined to reveal which other candidates participated. The poll had a  margin of error of 5.5 percent and reached voters by land line and cell phone.
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Friday, March 24, 2017

Paul Ryan’s No Good Very Bad Day

Posted By on Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 5:07 PM


Friday afternoon, after a dramatic capitulation, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan walked out before the press and conceded defeat on what had been his party’s primary concern for the last seven years.

“Obamacare is the law of the land,” Ryan said. “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the immediate future.”

It was stunning. Even though the president insisted on Thursday that there would be a vote Friday, he called the Washington Post one minute after the floor debate was scheduled to end and said: “We couldn’t get one Democratic vote, and we were a little bit shy, very little, but it was still a little bit shy, so we pulled it.”

For someone as vain as Trump, who has prided himself on The Art of the Deal, that must have been a blow. But that was nothing compared to what was coming to the Republicans in congress when Speaker Ryan had to tell them that they were moving on from healthcare.

“Now we're going to move on with our agenda because we have big ambitious plans" Ryan told the press.

Hole. Lee. Fuck.

They’ve been talking about this forever. They control the entire government and they back off of repealing Obamacare barely two months in.

“Moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with growing pains,” Ryan confessed, looking even more like a recently spanked Eddie Munster than normal. But neither he nor the president would publicly cast blame on the other—although neither have achieved anything of legislative significance yet.

“The president gave his all,” Ryan said.

“I don’t blame Paul. He worked very hard on this,” Trump told the Post.

Ryan also said he did not want to blame the Freedom Caucus, but made it clear that they had problems with the bill. The Breitbart, or alt-right wing of the party that supports the president, hates Paul Ryan and called the bill Obamacare 2.0.

But Trump wanted to blame the Democrats.

“We couldn’t get one Democrat vote, not one. So that means they own Obamacare and when that explodes, they will come to us wanting to save whatever is left, and we’ll make a real deal,” Trump said.

The Democratic leadership of the House, who gave a press conference immediately after Ryan’s, were happy to own it.

"We owned it yesterday and the day before and in November," said Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.

“Today’s a great day for our country,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said. “It’s a victory.”

Ryan denied that the defeat would hurt the Republican’s other legislative efforts, but the Democrats, who, only days ago, seemed demoralized and defeated, are certainly feeling the momentum and may be encouraged to actually fight against bills that may have previously seemed inevitable.

When asked if she would have imagined on November 9 that Republicans would have abandoned healthcare by March, Pelosi said: "Quite frankly I thought they might have accomplished something in the first few months. They have absolutely no record of accomplishment."
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A look at Colorado Springs City Council candidates where they live

Posted By on Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 4:16 PM

As we head into the final week before the April 4 city election, let's take a look at how many millionaires are running for the six district seats up for grabs on the nine-member City Council.

Answer: Not many, according to disclosure forms candidates must file with the City Clerk's Office.

But it's always interesting to review the financial holdings of political candidates. For most, their biggest asset is the roof over their heads.

Here's a rundown of what candidates reported on those forms. An asterisk denotes incumbents.

*Don Knight, retired from the military, reports owning his home with his wife, which is valued at $343,836, according to El Paso County assessor records. He's owned the home since 1990.

Greg Basham owns a home with his wife valued at $200,847 that he purchased in February 2015.

David Geislinger owns a home with his wife valued at $264,205. He's owned it since September 2002.

Here's where Skorman hangs his hat.
  • Here's where Skorman hangs his hat.
Richard Skorman owns a home in the Broadmoor area valued at $494,912. He bought it in 1998 and added his wife as an owner in 2003.
Skorman values his downtown businesses — Richard Skorman Inc., doing business as Poor Richard’s/Little Richard’s/Rico’s, which he owns with his wife — at $850,000. He also owns SoBoProperties LLC with wife, which owns the building that house their businesses, valued at $1.1 million.

Chuck Fowler owns no property in the district or anywhere in the city, according to assessor records. The residential address he gives on his disclosure form is owned by Bon Vivant LLC, which was created on Oct. 15, 2015, by Jennifer Doell. The Bon Vivant home is valued at $249,264.

  • Photos from El Paso County Assessor's Office
  • Deborah Hendrix's house.
*Helen Collins has owned a residential property at 632 Lakewood Circle, valued at $132,983, since December 2007.

Yolanda Avila reports owning a home with her mother valued at $126,102. She's owned it since 1997. She also reported owning an investment valued at less than $5,000.

Deborah Hendrix and her husband have owned a home valued $162,455 since Aug. 16, 2016.

Gaebler's home.
  • Gaebler's home.
*Jill Gaebler and her husband own a property in the northeast part of the city valued at $481,924. They also own the home in which they reside in District 5, which is valued at $411,000. They purchased the property in August 2010.

Here's where Crow-Iverson calls it a day.
  • Here's where Crow-Iverson calls it a day.
Lynette Crow-Iverson owns a home in the Old North End with her husband valued at $469,233. She also reports owning 51 percent of H & L Drug Compliance Inc., d/b/a Conspire!, which is valued at $1.5 million. She also owns 100 percent of Conspire Franchising LLC, valued at $2 million.

Pico is at home here.
  • Pico is at home here.
*Andy Pico, who's retired from the military, owns a home in the Homestead subdivision with his wife that has a value of $210,653. They've owned it since June 1997.

Melanie Bernhardt does not own property anywhere in the city. The place she lives is valued at $166,882. She also reports owning a retirement account valued at about $5,000.

Robert Burns owns a home with his wife valued at $214,668, which they bought in August 2014.

Janak Joshi owns no property, but his wife owns the home in which they live, valued at $316,700, which he deeded to her in March 1997. His wife also owns a realty company and a management company he lists as being valued at $3,000, and commercial and residential property the assessor values at  $1,171,571.

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Southeast Colorado Springs seeing tiny turnout in city election

Posted By on Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 10:32 AM


Colorado Springs City Council races in the northwest District 1, southwest District 3 and central District 5 are getting the most interest from voters so for.

Of those three, only District 3, which includes the Broadmoor hotel, has an open seat, because Councilor Keith King chose not to seek re-election.

Marketing consultant and HOA manager Chuck Fowler and businessman and open space advocate Richard Skorman are squaring off for the seat.

District 1 pits incumbent Don Knight, a retired Air Force officer, against businessman Greg Basham.

In District 5, incumbent Jill Gaebler, a former nonprofit worker and Air Force member, is being challenged by businesswoman Lynette Crow-Iverson.

The lowest voter turnout is seen in District 4 in the city's southeast where incumbent Helen Collins has two challengers — Yolanda Avila and Deborah Hendrix.

David Geislinger, who's running unopposed in northern District 2, has drawn more votes that all of those cast in the District 6 race, which covers the city's eastern side. Incumbent Andy Pico has three challengers: Melanie Bernhardt, Robert Burns and Janak Joshi.

The election ends on April 4 and will seat a majority on the nine-member council.

The bar chart above was produced using city election data by SpringsUnigroup, comprised of business people and financial experts.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Update: Writers in Gazette have history of political consulting

Posted By on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 6:10 PM

Update: This blog was revised at 8:35 p.m. Tuesday night to remove some material.

There's been some buzz lately about Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen's wife being involved with the city election, so let's take a look.

Laugesen's wife, Dede, owns Windhover Creative Partners LLC, which she formed with Wayne and another person, Scott Weiser, in 2003. Windhover is working on behalf of Colorado Citizens Protecting our Constitution, a 527 organization that doesn't have to disclose donor names. CCPOC is backing many of the same candidates that developers and business people have endorsed for the Colorado Springs City Council.

But Wayne Laugesen tells us he left Windhover in 2008 just before taking the Gazette job and is no longer associated with it. Weiser also left.

Wayne Laugesen didn't participate in voting for the Gazette's endorsements, according to a disclaimer that appeared recently in the daily newspaper. But some are under the impression that Laugesen is exerting influence in other ways, such as turning away letters to the editor on behalf of candidates not endorsed by the Gazette.

Here's his emailed explanation: "The Gazette publishes most letters that meet basic guidelines. I seldom involve myself in daily selection or editing of letters. Another member of the editorial board typically removes comments in letters that sound like candidate endorsements or negative campaigning."

Except that, it's worth noting that after the Gazette blasted incumbent District 5 Councilor Jill Gaebler for voting to fund pickleball courts with Lodgers and Automobile Rentals Tax money, but against using LART funds for the Olympic Museum, the pickleball group countered with a letter to the editor. (The Gazette has endorsed Gaebler's opponent.)

Pikes Peak Pickleball Association president Jeff Norton wrote the letter to the editor, but part of it was left out. Here's the section that contains the deletion (which we have put in bold) prior to publication:

From 2012 to 2015, the City spent on average $32,000 yearly to repair the 93 year old “pot holed” asphalt courts at MVP to make them safe for public use. In partnership, PPPA and Parks & Rec developed a more cost-effective approach. Parks & Rec put $100,000 in the 2016 City Budget for the concrete upgrade of the asphalt courts. In parallel, PPPA competed for and was awarded $25,000 in LART funding for the court upgrade. This $125,000 in “local tax funding” referred to in the Editorial was matched by PPPA who raised an additional $81,000 from donations and tournament proceeds and $115,000 in grants. Our public-private partnership pooled these funds to build a public-use world-class “50-year” low-maintenance Pickleball facility at MVP.
In summary, the LART Committee, Don Knight, Jill Gaebler and the rest of City Council who supported the 2016 City Budget for this needed upgrade were not serving some “special interest” but rather supporting a smart, cost-effective, long-term fix of the near Century old high-maintenance asphalt courts at MVP. They should all be commended, not impugned, for such excellent foresight and effective shepherding of taxpayer funds.
PPPA is part of a large and ever-growing Sport that is providing significant health and economic benefits to our City. Our nonprofit organization proudly fits the very definition of LART funding quoted in your article: “to attract visitors to the City and the Pikes Peak Region, provide economic and cultural benefit, enhance the quality of life in the City, engage the community and encourage tourist activity.
Norton then wrote to Council noting this:
In case you did not see how the Gazette "selectively edited" our Pikes Peak Pickleball Association's response to the previous Sunday's Gazette Editorial Board fact-limited opinion piece, here's the original PPPA submission to the Editor including what was cut out of this morning's "Your Viewpoint" op/ed section of the Gazette.

It appears our Association's complete "viewpoint" does not count when it comes to giving City Council, Parks & Rec, and the LART Committee appropriate credit for doing the right thing with taxpayer funding.
Nevertheless, we certainly appreciate your support of our nonprofit's mission to serve and benefit our local community.

So that's that.

Then we learn that another writer whose work appears in the Gazette, Dan Njegomir, has earned his bread and butter via his political firm, NewsSpeak Media LLC.

This outfit has worked for various political causes, including opposing oil and gas regulations in 2014. (Note: this article originally incorrectly stated the group was involved in a cigarette tax issue.) NewsSpeak was paid $20,000 for that. More recently, NewsSpeak was paid more than $20,000 by Colorado Pioneer Action, a politically active organization run by former gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, according to Matt Arnold, who runs Campaign Integrity Watchdog website.

Arnold, who combs through campaign finance reports and files complaints when he finds even the tiniest of infractions, isn't liked much in certain political quarters, you might say. Detested might be a more appropriate word.

Here's a column Njegomir posted Tuesday about Arnold and his complaint against Colorado Pioneer Action for acting like a political committee but not filing any campaign finance reports. That case goes to trial March 29-30.

An earlier version of this blog contained more allegations from Arnold, but the Indy decided to retract them.

We asked Njegomir whether he's disclosed his former involvement in NewsSpeak after his work started to appear in the Gazette last year (he previously was an editorial writer there some years ago) and, if so, under what circumstances does he find it appropriate to disclose.

He responded Tuesday by writing:

Since joining Colorado Politics (it's distinct from The Gazette), I haven't written on any former client until today. So, there has been nothing to disclose. In fact, I only learned of Matt Arnold's complaint against Pioneer — and then decided to write about it — after he made a vague reference to it in response to my request for a comment for a previous blog post on him and his tactics.

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Klingenschmitt lawsuit dismissed

Posted By on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 5:36 PM

Weinstein and MRFF have won dismissal of a lawsuit against them. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Weinstein and MRFF have won dismissal of a lawsuit against them.
We've reported in the past about the face-off between Gordon Klingenschmitt, a former Colorado House member and ex-Navy chaplain who goes by "Mr. Chaps," and Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

At one point, Klingenschmitt — about whom we've written this and this — sued Weinstein for defamation.

Today, we learn the case has been dismissed. Here's the letter to MRFF announcing the judge's decision.

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Dispute in Council District 5 race over false campaign claims

Posted By on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 3:16 PM

Colorado Springs City Councilor Jill Gaebler has reported her opponent's false statements in campaign materials to the District Attorney's Office, though she hasn't taken the next step in filing a complaint.

The mailer in question says that Gaebler, who represents the city's central District 5, voted as a member of the Colorado Municipal League board to oppose a State House bill that would have made local officials liable for harm caused to a citizen by an undocumented person if those officials had acted to declare a city or county as a sanctuary for illegal immigrants.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, failed.

But Lynette Crow-Iverson's campaign issued a mailer trying to link Gaebler to the CML vote, saying she voted to oppose the bill.
Crow-Iverson: Might have been mistaken. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Crow-Iverson: Might have been mistaken.
In fact, Gaebler wasn't at the CML meeting where a vote took place.

A state law prohibits campaigns from making false or reckless statements against political candidates or about ballot measures. It's a Class 1 misdemeanor to do so. It's a Class 2 misdemeanor to do so unintentionally.

We asked Crow-Iverson's campaign manager Sarah Jack about this last week. She responded via email, saying, "If you read the email ... from CML to Rep. Williams she said that yes the Vote was unanimous in opposition. Since she [Gaebler] is a member of that committee and the vote was unanimous she would have had to cast a vote right? or the vote would have been recorded and included her absence."

Turns out, well, no, that's not right.

So we asked Jack about it again today. Her email response:
Your continued threat of a Blog is so tiresome ...

We relied on a report from the CML ... from Megan Dollar at CML to be exact that this was a unanimous vote by the Executive Board. They also testified in Committee on this Bill that the Board had voted unanimously. In no documentation that was available to us or Rep. Williams was it indicated that there was one absence. We have the email trail between Rep. Williams and CML's Ms. Dollar. The fact that they came out later and said it was an unfortunate mistake is a little too little ... too late.
Gaebler: "I wasn't even at the meeting." - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Gaebler: "I wasn't even at the meeting."

Nevertheless, Jack accuses Gaebler of intending to join the CML board majority, although she adds, "I do acknowledge this is second hand information."

Gaebler says she's talked to the DA's office about the incorrect mailer but hasn't decided whether to file a complaint. Meantime, she calls the mailer a "desperate" move by her opponent.

The mailer was labeled as being from Crow-Iverson's campaign, not a separate campaign committee. (The return logo for the mailer piece, at right, means the candidate is responsible, as compared to a 527 group, which operates without coordinating with a candidate's campaign.)

In related news, Colorado Citizens Protecting Our Constitution, a dark money organization we wrote about in this blog, sent out a release calling for Gaebler to renounce an endorsement by the Sierra Club, which CCPOC says "costs taxpayers money and threatens jobs" by demanding immediate closure of the downtown Drake Power Plant, entangling the city in lawsuits, insisting Pikes Peak Highway harmed the environment (actually, the contention was the dirt and gravel that constantly sloughed off into woodlands and streams harmed fish and wildlife) and that the group wants local residents to pay "for expensive new solar, wind" and other renewable energy.

Gaebler's comeback: "Interesting how she only mentions me and not the other candidates who have received the Sierra Club’s endorsement. This is the epitome of fake news."

Crow-Iverson is the chosen candidate of a prominent group of developers and business people, including the business political activism group Colorado Springs Forward, the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, the Gazette, El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller, and CCPOC donors who remain unnamed.

Gaebler has gained backing from the firefighters, Together for Colorado Springs (a progressive activism group in which Independent Chairman of the Board John Weiss is involved), the Independent, former Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace, former Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin, and former El Paso County Commissioner Jim Bensberg, among others.

If you have an item of interest about the city election, please send it my way to

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Springs Equality starts search for board members

Posted By on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 1:18 PM

On May 21, Springs Equality, our local LGBTQ resource hub, will elect a new board of trustees, and they’re looking for members of the community to fill open positions.

These positions include president, vice president, CEO, secretary, treasurer, chamber director and another six to 10 board of trustee members.

“We are looking for dedicated, passionate, self-starters who want to be more active in their community and affect change at the local level,” Springs Equality says.

For those unfamiliar, Springs Equality is a virtual resource center, which includes a LGBT Chamber of Commerce, monthly volunteer/service projects (in conjunction with nonprofits such as Care and Share, National Mill Dog Rescue and more), and regular social events to connect folks to the rest of the LGBTQ community.

“Springs Equality's mission statement is to Connect, Enrich, and Inspire the lives of the LGBT and Allied community," Springs Equality says. "What does that mean? We are a virtual resource center for all things LGBT-related in Colorado Springs. Our unique position as the "first pit stop" allows us to be that one umbrella organization people need when first moving to a new town.”

Interested applicants should fill out the trustee application and send it to by May 9, at the latest.
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Monday, March 20, 2017

New female AFA commandant moving here soon, with her wife

Posted By on Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 9:43 PM

  • Courtesy MRFF
Brig. Gen. Select Kristin Goodwin will be moving to Colorado Springs soon to be installed as the commandant of cadets at the Air Force Academy. And she'll be moving here with her wife and two children.

The Academy announced Goodwin's assignment to staff last Thursday, but there has yet to be an announcement of the move to the public.

Read more about Goodwin and her stellar record, including commanding a storied bomb wing, in this piece.

Here's AFA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson's message to staff, provided to the Independent by Mikey Weinstein. Weinstein is founder and CEO of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which represents 16 LGBT cadets at the Academy.

From: USAFA/DSEA (Taskers)
Sent: Thursday, March 16, 2017 02:17 PM
Cc: 10 ABW (Taskers)
Subject: USAFA's New Commandant / Brig Gen (S) Kristin Goodwin


I am proud to announce that our Secretary of the Air Force has nominated Brig Gen (S) Kristin Goodwin (USAFA class of '93) as our next USAFA  Commandant!

Brig Gen (S) Goodwin will be joining us from Washington DC where she is currently serving as the Senior Military Advisor to the Secretary of the Air Force. Brig Gen (S) Goodwin will bring a wealth of experience from her time as the Vice-Commander of the 59th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Wing Commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, and most recently, the Senior Military Advisor to the Secretary of the Air Force, Washington DC. A highly accomplished aviator, Brig Gen (S) Goodwin has flown the B-2, EC-130, C-130,T-38, T-1 & T-37.

As USAFA continues on a strong upward trajectory, we are looking forward to Brig Gen (S) Goodwin's arrival and Assumption of Command. I am confident that Brig Gen (S) Goodwin will strengthen our drive for excellence!

I'm proud of the hard work being done by all of our Team. We are, without a doubt, an Academy on the move!

Lt Gen Johnson

Superintendent, U.S. Air Force Academy

Weinstein is asking why the Academy hasn't shouted this news from the rooftops.
Via email, he says:
MRFF has a burning question for USAFA and the USAF leadership; why are they not publicly acknowledging this groundbreaking selection of a gay, female new Commandant? This question HAS to be asked. There’s just total silence out thereabout this? Why? (I wonder what USAFA’s Michael Rosebush, the gay 'reparative therapy enthusiast', is thinking about this new selection as well?) Should not USAFA and Senior Air Force leadership be touting this action as an historic milestone of jovian magnitude as well?
Those concerns aside, he heralded the news in a statement:
“After more than 13 years of entrenched civil rights, church-state separation warfare against my [alma] mater, the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA), it is extremely difficult to find words of praise for ANYthing it does, but I guess that hell hath frozen over as something truly AMAZING has now just happened.

MRFF received confirmation earlier today from one of our 16 LGBT clients at USAFA that the next Commandant of Cadets will be Brigadier General Select Kristin Goodwin who is a 1993 academy graduate who is gay and married to her wife, Kelly. Together, they have 2 children as well.

MRFF is thrilled at this marvelous selection and on behalf of our 414 USAFA faculty, cadet and staff clients, we offer our most profound congratulations to those who selected Goodwin and to Goodwin herself, of course. Just 4 years ago this month, MRFF engaged in the very first gay rights public protest, near the Academy’s South Gate entrance, in support of over 20 LGB faculty, cadets and staff at USAFA who were MRFF clients. And now, some 4 years later, the Air Force has chosen a gay female officer to be its next USAFA Commandant!

Goodwin had NO “choice” in embracing her sexual orientation because THAT is NOT a matter of choice. In direct contrast, the Air Force choosing her [as] the Academy’s next Commandant WAS such a “choice" and the right one indeed! MRFF could not be more pleased!"
It appears this story is appearing first here, reported by the Independent. Given the importance of Goodwin's appointment, we wanted to break the story as soon as possible.
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