Wednesday, May 31, 2017

UPDATE: Colorado Springs turns to reserve fund for $3.4 million bailout of forecast error

Posted By on Wed, May 31, 2017 at 5:42 PM

Councilor Don Knight: Citizens won't notice a $3.4 million shortfall. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Councilor Don Knight: Citizens won't notice a $3.4 million shortfall.
This blog has been updated to correct a reference made by City Councilor Don Knight to population growth, when he should have said net new construction.

Population growth is not a component in the city's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights formula.

—ORIGINAL POST 5:42 P.M. WED., MAY 31, 2017—-

One percent doesn't sound like much, but it represents a 50 percent forecast error the city made in predicting population growth net new construciton in 2016. And that meant that the city had to pull $3.4 million from its reserve fund.

Population growth and inflation new construction are the two components of computing the city's revenue cap as dictated by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights.

TABOR determines how much new revenue the city can keep without asking voters' permission.

So what happened in 2016 is that forecasts, made in the summer of 2015, of 3 percent population growth net new constrction in Colorado Springs turned out to be only 2 percent. That meant the revenue prediction was off by $3.4 million, says City Councilor Don Knight, a member of Council's Budget Committee.

The committee, which also includes Councilors Tom Strand, Bill Murray and Andy Pico, met on Tuesday where the bad news got aired.

"When the mayor [John Suthers] recognized this back in the fall [of 2016], he told the department heads to cut spending and save money," Knight reports. But the biggest chunk will be coming out of reserves, he says.

"We were overly optimistic of what TABOR would allow us to keep to the tune of $3.4 million," he says. "It caught us unexpected. If we don't start looking at 2017 now and we let the same thing happen, then it's shame on us."

Citizens won't notice any difference, however, because the shortfall will be made up with reserves. Knight says even after that money is taken from the reserve fund, reserves will total $40 million, or about 17 to 18 percent of the total budget. Experts recommend having 25 percent on hand.

"Nobody's going to notice," he says, "but it not a smart practice" to spend more than the city ends up taking in.

Meantime, the $6 million that voters allowed the city to keep in the April city election to fund stormwater projects isn't affected. Neither is the $2.8 million that will be refunded on citizens utility bills, he says.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Transgender Air Force Academy cadet in holding pattern after graduation

Posted By on Tue, May 30, 2017 at 5:27 PM

  • File photo
A transgender Air Force Academy cadet who graduated on May 24 is being denied a commission because the military's policy on transgender service members doesn't address accessions.

Here's the New York Times' story about that cadet and also one who graduated this spring from the Military Academy at West Point:
WASHINGTON — Not long after the Pentagon lifted its ban on transgender troops last year, a West Point cadet named Riley Dosh came out as a transgender woman. She figured she would transition while serving in the Army, as other transgender soldiers have done.

“As cadets we’re told not to hide,” Ms. Dosh said. “So I felt it would be dishonest to continue hiding.”

But coming out of hiding has carried a price. Ms. Dosh, 22, is one of two transgender cadets — the other is at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs — caught in a kind of military limbo. After four years of training to become officers, they are being denied their commissions because of a loophole in Pentagon policy that its chief author says he did not foresee.

At issue are rules governing “accessions” — the military’s term for accepting new recruits or officer candidates.
So we checked in with the Academy to find out its stance on the issue. Turns out, as Lt. Col. Timothy Herritage explains via email, the Academy is "strongly recommending" the cadet pursue Air Force civil service as an option.

But the ship hasn't yet sailed on what might happen, because the Pentagon's policy on transgender people's accessions is under review. Here's the entire response from Herritage:
On June 30, 2016, Department of Defense policy changed to allow currently serving Airmen who have identified as transgender individuals to serve; this only covers Airmen currently in service, and not new accessions. Currently, there is an Air Force Academy cadet who has identified as a transgender individual. The cadet has graduated. But, per the current DoD transgender policy, the cadet cannot commission into the Air Force. However, we are strongly recommending this individual for Air Force civil service as an option for continued service after the Academy. The more than 140,000 Air Force civilians who serve along aside our uniformed Airmen everyday are essential to our mission to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace.

The DoD transgender accessions policy is currently under review and the Air Force Academy is actively involved in providing input. A significant contributing factor to this effort has been the Academy's multidisciplinary Transgender Working Group, which has been working with Headquarters Air Force to assist in policy determination specific to the Air Force Academy. The Academy is currently conducting the USAF directed training on the current policy and stands ready to execute higher headquarters instructions.

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One Colorado hosts healthcare advocacy workshop for Springs residents

Posted By on Tue, May 30, 2017 at 1:50 PM

  • Shutterstock
Given the current political climate, a certain amount of anxiety surrounding the state of healthcare is expected. Moreover, LGBTQ Americans in particular face unique challenges and needs that seem to consistently fall to the lowest rung of the priority ladder when it comes to healthcare policy.

One Colorado, the state’s largest LGBTQ rights organization, wants to make sure that LGBTQ Coloradans, at least, know what healthcare options they have, what policies and laws are in place, and the ins and outs of access and advocacy. That’s why the organization will host a “Know Your Health, Know Your Rights” workshop on June 8, 5-6:30 p.m. at Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church.

This free event is meant to help LGBTQ Coloradans really understand the healthcare landscape of our state, and provide tools to make accessing healthcare easier. It feeds into One Colorado’s 2017 needs assessment, which identified equal access to healthcare as one of the LGBTQ community’s priorities.

Registration is required, and can be done online. Contact policy manager Cara Cheevers at for more information.

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Oklahoma foundation bestows grants in Colorado Springs

Posted By on Tue, May 30, 2017 at 1:48 PM

Lucinda, a 3-month-old labrador retriever and border collie, hopes the money from the Inasmuch Foundation means she'll get a chance to find her forever family. - COURTESY HSPPR
  • Courtesy HSPPR
  • Lucinda, a 3-month-old labrador retriever and border collie, hopes the money from the Inasmuch Foundation means she'll get a chance to find her forever family.
Thanks to an Oklahoma philanthropist with ties to Colorado Springs, several local nonprofits got cash gifts recently from Inasmuch Foundation.

The nonprofit was founded by the late Edith Kinney Gaylord, who attended Colorado College and was the daughter of E.K. Gaylord, editor and publisher of The Oklahoman. Edith Gaylord had a distinguished journalism career, which included working for the Associated Press and serving as Eleanor Roosevelt’s press liaison. It's worth clicking on the link above to read about her career.

She was the sister of Edward L. Gaylord, former owner of The Broadmoor.

Recipients and their grant awards are:
• $200,000 to Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Society;
• $150,000 to Innovations in Aging Collaborative;
• $25,000 to Westside CARES;
• $10,000 each to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and
• $5,000 to Court Care for the Pikes Peak Region.

Inasmuch Foundation, founded in 1982, supports education, health and human services and community enhancement initiatives that enrich the quality of life for Oklahomans, the news release says. The foundation carries on its late founder’s interests in Colorado Springs by giving to nonprofits that are located in and directly serve the residents of the city.

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo giraffes are guinea pigs

Posted By on Fri, May 26, 2017 at 2:31 PM

Twiga gets a new pair of "shoes" to help with her arthritis. - COURTESY CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN ZOO
  • Courtesy Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
  • Twiga gets a new pair of "shoes" to help with her arthritis.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has long been known for its giraffe breeding program, but now it's making a name for itself in medical research involving stem cells and giraffes.

Here's the explanation via a news release from the zoo:
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is proud to announce two medical breakthroughs in giraffe veterinary care.
The Zoo’s veterinary and animal care teams have utilized both stem cell transfusion therapy and custom-made urethane “sneakers” to treat giraffe here at the Zoo. The efforts are led by Dr. Liza Dadone, vice president of mission and programs and head veterinarian for Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Dr. Dadone and staff of the Colorado State University James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital were able to grow stem cells from giraffe blood to then inject back into the giraffe – a treatment for giraffe that is believed to be the first of its kind in the world.

Mahali, the 14-year-old male giraffe treated, suffered from chronic lameness and had not been moving well, despite a number of medications and additional treatments the animal care and veterinary teams gave him. Dr. Dadone decided on a ground-breaking stem cell injection treatment plan. In scientific studies, stem cell therapy has proven to repair damaged tissue at the cellular level.

It’s been nearly a month since the procedure, when Dr. Dadone and the Zoo team, along with the partnership of the CSU veterinary medicine program, injected Mahali with around 100 million stem cells. The success of the procedure was determined by Dr. Dadone when she reviewed and compared thermographic images taken of Mahali’s front legs before and after the procedure. The photos show a considerable decline in inflammation in Mahali’s front left leg, which is the one he had been having issues with for some time.

“This is meaningful to us not only because it is the first time a giraffe has been treated with stem cells, but especially because it is bringing Mahali some arthritis relief and could help other giraffe in the near future,” Dr. Dadone said.

Dr. Dadone said she is not sure if Mahali’s positive results are simply due to the stem cell therapy or are a combination of different treatments, but she’s pleased and assured his quality of life has dramatically improved.

“Prior to the procedure, he was favoring his left front leg and would lift that foot off the ground almost once per minute,” Dr. Dadone said. “During the immobilization, we did multiple treatments that included hoof trims, stem cell therapy and other medications. Since then, Mahali is no longer constantly lifting his left front leg off the ground and has resumed cooperating for hoof care. A few weeks ago, he returned to life with his herd, including yard access. On the thermogram, the marked inflammation up the leg has mostly resolved.”

Another Zoo giraffe, 14-year-old female Twiga, has advanced arthritis and osteoporosis in her feet. Dr. Dadone and the veterinary team have been monitoring and treating her condition for some time, but were hopeful when they heard of a farrier specialist who had an idea to make custom shoes for her.

“We’ve had Twiga on medicine to help reverse her osteoporosis, but we wanted to do more to protect her feet. So with the help of the farriers, we gave her ‘giraffe sneakers’ to help give her some extra cushion,” said Dr. Dadone.

To get the “sneakers” onto Twiga’s feet, the keepers cued Twiga to place her hoof on a specially-designed hoof block, then farriers Steve Foxworth and Chris Niclas of the Equine Lameness Prevention Organization (ELPO) did a routine hoof trim to the foot, a procedure Foxworth performs monthly. Once her foot was clean and ready, the shoe was placed on her sole by Niclas with quick-drying glue. The “sneakers” are divided on the undersides and were designed by Niclas to adjust to Twiga’s individual digits.

Dr. Dadone said the change in Twiga’s behavior was immediate. Twiga instantly shifted her weight off of her right foot, indicating she was comfortable and her pain had considerably lessened. The shoes help to stabilize Twiga and will likely stay on for around six weeks. Dr. Dadone says they will reassess Twiga’s progress at that time.

She is eager to share information regarding this treatment option so that other veterinary teams at fellow zoos can use this technique to help benefit their animals as well.

Large animals like giraffe are susceptible to issues like arthritis and osteoporosis, mainly stemming from their sheer size. Like all animals, these issues are exacerbated as they age.

“So much of it just relates to the pure mechanics of weighing a ton,” Dr. Dadone said.

Other regular veterinary treatments include X-ray imaging, laser therapy, hoof care and more.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is not only a leader in the training and health of giraffe in human care, but they are also making a huge difference in conservation of giraffe in the wild. The status of giraffe was recently changed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) from “least concern” to “vulnerable,” acknowledging the fact that their population in the wild has plummeted by 40 percent in the last 30 years.

Last year, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s guests and members used their Quarters for Conservation (Q4C) admission contributions to send $26,000 to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) and its efforts to help the Rothschild’s giraffe in Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is home to the world’s most prolific captive reticulated giraffe herd, with 199 births at the Zoo since 1954. Guests can get up close and hand-feed them on special indoor and outdoor elevated platforms anytime during the day, 365 days a year.

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New Pikes Peak Workforce Center director announced

Posted By on Fri, May 26, 2017 at 2:19 PM

Lisa Rice begins work in June. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY
  • Courtesy El Paso County
  • Lisa Rice begins work in June.
Former County Commissioner Dennis Hisey will be stepping aside to allow a woman from Florida to take over as executive director of the Pikes Peak Workforce Center. Hisey has filed to seek the Republican nomination in state Senate District 2.

Hisey, who left office in January under term limits, had filled in until a new director was named to replace Charlie Whelan who retired.

The appointment of Lisa Rice was made by El Paso County Administrator Henry Yankowski. She starts work June 5 at an annual salary of $100,500, which isn't as much as Hisey was being paid. His salary of $9,426 a month equates to $113,112.

From a news release:
Rice is a Colorado Springs native who previously served 15 years as President of CareerSource Brevard, which provides all federally mandated workforce programs in Brevard County, Florida. She holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Central Florida.

“Now, maybe more than ever before, the strength of our local economy depends on how well our workforce matches up with the needs of private employers looking to relocate or expand their operations in El Paso County,” said County Administrator Henry Yankowski. “Lisa Rice has both the credentials and the hands-on experience to make sure that our Workforce Center continues to be highly effective in ensuring that employers can hire the skilled workers they need to grow and prosper.”

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:

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

City to spray for moths in North Cheyenne Cañon area

Posted By on Thu, May 25, 2017 at 5:00 PM

A western spruce budworm larvae. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • A western spruce budworm larvae.

On the morning of May 24, City Forester Dennis Will drove through North Cheyenne Cañon Park, stopping to collect small branches from Douglas fir and white fir trees at various elevations.

Later in the day, when he was showing the branches to reporters, a tiny millipede-like creature broke free from its silken tent, called a “hibernaculum,” and crawled along a branch.

It was the larva of a western spruce budworm, a type of moth endemic to the area. The little larvae feed on the new growth on Douglas fir and white fir, which make up 60 percent of the forest in relatively shady, wet North Cheyenne Cañon, and while Will says they haven’t reached epidemic levels, they’re edging close. A survey of host trees in the area found 78 percent had budworms.

That’s a problem, because those larvae will feast on the trees, leaving them weak and vulnerable to bark beetles, which can go on to kill them. From 2014-16, moths defoliated 100 percent of certain patches of the area’s forest, Will says, leaving the trees brown. Dead trees threaten water quality from the watershed, which provides about 15 percent of the city’s water, and put the area at higher risk for wildfires.

Last year in June, the city sprayed the area with bacteria commonly found in soil, foliage, wildlife, water and air. Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies kurstaki (Btk) kills moths and butterflies if they feed on impacted plants while in their larval stage. The city had hoped to wipe out most of the budworm larvae, along with another species that had reached epidemic levels and does similar damage, the tussock moth. Will says the spraying — which also took place on nearby private lands whose owners covered their share of the cost — was very successful in killing off tussock moths. But tussocks and budworms reach their larval stage at slightly different times, and the budworms survived.

“Our process is about three weeks earlier now than it was last year,” Will says.

Now, the city is planning to spray again, using the same bacteria, beginning around June 5. Will says the weather conditions have to be right, so it’s impossible to say the exact day spraying will begin. But there’s a brief window in which the spray will be most effective, since larvae emerge from hibernation in their hibernacula earlier at lower elevations and feed for about 30 days before reaching maturity. To have the maximum impact, Will wants to make sure that the larvae at higher elevations have come out to feed, and that the lower-elevation larvae are still feeding.

The city plans to close affected parks while spraying from a contracted helicopter. The spray will cover about 812 acres of city land in North Cheyenne Cañon and Blodgett Open Space, as well as 1,344 acres of land owned by The Broadmoor, 275 acres of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and other stretches of private and county land. All entities will pay their own costs, at $79.50 per acre. The city cost is about $67,000.

Will says that last year, residents had concerns about the spraying, but the city did not receive any complaints following the treatment. Eric Howell, forest program manager for Colorado Springs Utilities, says that during spraying, Utilities diverts area water from the drinking supply, then tests it before allowing it to feed back into the system. The spraying caused no problems, he says.

This year, Will notes that the city has sent notices to nearby residents, who can also opt to sign up to receive updates at Pesticide-sensitive residents can also register with the Colorado Department of Agriculture to be notified prior to treatment. A meeting to take public comments will be held at 6 p.m. on May 31 at the Ivywild School, 1604 S. Cascade Ave.
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Monument woman accuses Springs Utilities of defamation

Posted By on Thu, May 25, 2017 at 9:34 AM

Drake Power Plant - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Drake Power Plant
Leslie Weise has filed a notice of claim with city-owned Colorado Springs Utilities, alleging defamation of character.

The action stems from Weise's pursuit of an air quality study she contends shows the downtown Drake Power Plant in violation of government standards.

In an email statement, she says:
You are likely aware that sulfur dioxide pollution, caused mostly from coal combustion from power plants such as the Drake Plant in downtown Colorado Springs where over 300,000 people live within a five-mile radius of the plant, is responsible for triggering asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses when people are exposed to levels in the air (in parts per million) that exceed federal NAAQS air quality standards for even a very short duration. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind who has studied this matter, that if the Air Quality Study commissioned by Colorado Springs Utilities showed air quality in compliance with state and federal regulations for safe levels of SO2 pollution, it would already be made public in its entirety. Instead, the City has chosen to attack my credibility and now continues that attack on my professional livelihood, to desperately cover up its misdeeds of its knowledge and concealment of information showing unsafe air quality from the community.
Utilities has denied any violation.

From the notice of claim letter:
Ms. Weise will allege in her federal complaint that the defendants have retaliated against her for having engaged in speech protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. These statements are violative of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and are actionable torts for libel, slander, and libel per se under Colorado law as well. The defendants have knowingly and recklessly made false, retaliatory and defamatory statements about Ms. Weise, a private person, including those constituting defamation per se, with malice and/or reckless disregard for the truth of the statements, by officials and employees of the City of Colorado Springs. City officials; and who have also knowingly made false statements concerning certain statements Ms. Weise made regarding air quality and public safety. The false and defamatory statements done in retaliation for her protected speech have caused harm to Ms. Weise’s professional reputation, and have also caused damages in the forms of emotional distress. The City’s retaliatory and illegal treatment of Ms. Weise is in violation of her First Amendment Constitutional Rights to free speech, intended to prevent her from speaking out about harmful levels of air pollution in Colorado Springs, and to block the public from learning the truth of important air quality information that is in the City’s possession.

As a result, Ms. Weise has suffered emotional, physical and economic damages from the retaliatory, defamatory and other willful and wanton illegal conduct by the City, and she continues to suffer harm knowing that the City’s malicious conduct toward her continues.
Read the letter here:

We've asked Utilities for a comment and will circle back if we hear anything. The city rarely comments on pending litigation, or threatened litigation.
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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Drones are coming to Fort Carson

Posted By on Wed, May 24, 2017 at 4:34 PM

  • Shutterstock
In this week's edition of the Independent, we reported that Fort Carson will soon be home to a Gray Eagle drone unit.

We'd asked the post to comment on the new addition, but didn't hear back prior to our press time. But Wednesday, the public affairs office sent this comment confirming the drones are on their way:
The Chief of Staff of the Army signed an executive order in 2013, directing each Army Division be fielded a Gray Eagle company. The 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, will activate a Gray Eagle company in mid-June at Fort Carson in compliance with the executive order. The company will provide the division commanding general with dedicated Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA) assets. 

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"Quackfest" lands in Colorado Springs

Posted By on Wed, May 24, 2017 at 12:02 PM

Learn about the evils of childhood inoculations and other myths at a conference underway in Colorado Springs. - ZALDYLMG ON FLICKR
  • Zaldylmg on Flickr
  • Learn about the evils of childhood inoculations and other myths at a conference underway in Colorado Springs.
It's true that El Paso County has drawn some people who live on the fringe. (See Gordon Klingenschmitt and Andrew Wommack.)

Now, Colorado Springs welcomes attendees to the AutismOne conference at the Hotel Elegante, where the entrance is graced with a granite stone bearing the Ten Commandments. The conference begins Wednesday and lasts through Sunday.

Here's one account of what this conference, usually held in Chicago, is all about, according to The article is headlined "AutismOne: As quacky as ever," and includes this description of the conference in 2015:
Once again, the yearly autism quackfest known as Autism One is fast approaching. In fact, it will begin in Chicago tomorrow: five days of “autism biomed” quackery and antivaccine pseudoscience.
While registration reportedly has closed, if you're prone to this way of thinking, and there probably are plenty of people in wacky El Paso County who are, check out the schedule here.

But if you're planning on taking in some of the speeches, be aware that AutismOne isn't responsible if something goes haywire should you embrace some of these "teachings." Its website contains this warning:
No information at this conference is presented by AutismOne or AutismOne staff members or volunteers as medical advice. Patients/caregivers should research all information given. Every person’s physiology is unique. All information should be discussed with the patient’s personal physician and/or other specialist appropriate to the symptoms or body systems involved in their individual situation, who provides the patient with regular medical oversight, monitoring, and lab testing, and who keeps up-to-date on the most recent research and interventions. Beginning any significant biomedical or other interventions that may impact physiology or making changes to an established regimen should be discussed with the patient’s physician in advance.
We checked in with El Paso County Public Health on its policy on vaccination and got this response: "We follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended Immunization schedule."

For kids from birth to age 6, here are those recommendations.

For youth ages 7 to 18, find recommendations here.

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Stratton Open Space isn't like it used to be

Posted By on Wed, May 24, 2017 at 12:01 PM

This ponderosa pine monoculture spaces trees so you can see several hundred yards into the distance. Critics say it ruins the "alone in the woods" sense you get from hiking in the forest. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • This ponderosa pine monoculture spaces trees so you can see several hundred yards into the distance. Critics say it ruins the "alone in the woods" sense you get from hiking in the forest.
Stratton Open Space provides a different experience these days after the city spent several months mitigating for fire danger, which involved removing the "understory" from the forest floor as well as many trees.

The city stands by its strategy to clear out brush and thin tree stands, which some open space advocates argue goes too far.

City foresters point to a white paper on mitigation, from which this portion is taken:
Restoration of spatial, temporal and landscape heterogeneity of mixed conifer forests in the southern Front Range and mitigation of hazardous fuels can be accomplished (often simultaneously) with careful design, implementation, and sequencing of treatments, even where our scientific understanding is less than complete. Several initial guidelines seem reasonable, derived from the scientific knowledge available for the local treatment areas and the broader Front Range. More concrete and detailed plans can be completed as more knowledge and treatment experience are accumulated. It must be recognized that no one treatment or combination of treatments is likely to suffice. Patch uniformity across the landscape is to be avoided; rather, historical forests teach us that diversity of patches across the landscape is more the ecological norm and assures more resilience in the face of change.
Furthermore, sustaining landscape diversity is a long‐term process and may involve multiple management steps in the decades ahead.
Read the entire document here:

Take a tour of the Stratton Open Space via this slide show.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Visit Wag N' Wash, help a veteran

Posted By on Tue, May 23, 2017 at 2:36 PM

Dan Remus, left, and Jef Strauss, right, with Wag N' Wash are helping Victory Service Dogs raise money for its mission in helping military members and veterans. - COURTESY VICTORY SERVICE DOGS
  • Courtesy Victory Service Dogs
  • Dan Remus, left, and Jef Strauss, right, with Wag N' Wash are helping Victory Service Dogs raise money for its mission in helping military members and veterans.
If you like dogs and want to help military members who suffer with psychological problems due to their service, here's an offer you might want to think about.

Wag N’ Wash and Victory Service Dogs are teaming up to raise money for service members.

From a release:
Bracelets for sale to help vets with PTSD.
  • Bracelets for sale to help vets with PTSD.
Starting Saturday, May 27 and running through Wednesday, July 5, customers at all five of Wag N’ Wash’s Colorado Springs area stores can purchase a bracelet to support to Victory Service Dogs’ ongoing efforts to help those U.S. service members and veterans who struggle with the effects of PTSD and other physical or psychological challenges. The bracelets can be purchased for $22 (each day 22 veterans take their own life), with 100% of the proceeds being donated to Victory Service Dogs.

Wag N' Wash locations that are taking part are located at:
• 5830 Stetson Hills Boulevard, Colorado Springs, CO 80923
• 1625 West Uintah Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80904
• 1234 E. Woodmen Road, Colorado Springs, CO 80920
• 5066 S. Wadsworth Boulevard, Littleton, CO 80123
• 323 Metzler Drive, Castle Rock, CO 80108

Also, Wag N' Wash is offering free dog washes for service members and vets with canine pets during the Memorial Day weekend. Military ID is required.

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Newsweek: Religious preference undermines national security

Posted By on Tue, May 23, 2017 at 2:32 PM

Weinstein: featured in Newsweek. - COURTESY MRFF
  • Courtesy MRFF
  • Weinstein: featured in Newsweek.
The issue of fundamentalist Christianity infiltrating the U.S. military is examined in this week, featuring the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

From the report:
Donald Trump’s election has led to such a steep rise in fundamentalist Christian evangelizing and religious bigotry in the U.S. armed forces that the matter is reaching the level of a “national security threat,” according to information shared exclusively with Newsweek by an organization that represents and advocates for secular and minority religious views in the military.

The number of complaints from servicemen and -women in the Army, Air Force, Marines and other service branches to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has doubled in number since November 2016, according to lawyer Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, a former Air Force officer who founded the organization.
We've written many stories about Weinstein's battle against Christianity as the preferred religion in the military, such as this one and this one and this one.

More recently, the Independent has reported on steps President Trump is taking that some say reflect his preference for Christianity and his efforts to impose Christianity as the national religion, which would violate the U.S. Constitution.

In the Newsweek article, Weinstein is quoted as saying these measures are undermining the nation's security. A position paper by James Parco, former Air Force Academy professor who also taught at Colorado College, explores that premise.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Concerns remain over new Penrose-St. Francis hospital project

Posted By on Mon, May 22, 2017 at 4:50 PM

The eastern portion of the hospital property is shown to be in a landslide-susceptible zone. - COLORADO GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
  • Colorado Geological Survey
  • The eastern portion of the hospital property is shown to be in a landslide-susceptible zone.

A plan to again change plans for the Penrose-St. Francis hospital project at Centennial Boulevard and Fillmore Street has received pushback from neighbors.

According to the agenda item for the May 23 City Council meeting, Penrose-St. Francis wants to cut the height of the proposed hospital from 200 feet to 165 feet, add 28 acres to the 51-acre site and expand the facility from about 1 million square feet to 1.8 million square feet.

See the proposal here.

Penrose-St. Francis is seeking modifications of its earlier plan, including rezoning.

After one public meeting on the proposed hospital last fall, a group of residents formed and worked with Penrose officials, but concerns remain.

In a nutshell, those concerns are, according to the city:
• The proposed maximum building height of 200 feet (which had already been approved with the prior zoning);
• The impacts of the building height to the character of the Mesa area;
• Geologic issues associated with the property and placement of the building;
• Traffic concerns along both Fillmore Street and Centennial Boulevard;
• Light and noise pollution;
• Drainage from the site and impacts to properties to the east.

Anthony and Sandra Wells wrote a letter to the city expressing concerns about the "black eye" the hospital will create on the skyline and how the hospital's size "is not in harmony with the other nearby properties developed."

The Wellses also raise the question of traffic volumes to be generated by the hospital, notably "the accessibility in the winter due to Fillmore Hill could be an issue."

Also, the Fillmore Heights Owners Association, members of which live directly east and downslope from the proposed hospital, have hired attorney Bruce Wright. Wright wrote to the city in August and again in March expressing "concerns over the geologic stability of that slope [being] heightened if additional overburden (from either fill or, even more significantly, from the proposed hospital building) are placed on top of what appears to be a currently unstable slope."

There's concern over drainage as well. If you'll recall, the veterans clinic was built with faulty drainage, as noted by the EPA in a report to the city a couple of years ago.

We'll try to circle back after Council acts on the changes to the hospital plan.

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Colorado GOP announces new flack

Posted By on Mon, May 22, 2017 at 3:50 PM

Cole: State GOP's communications director - COURTESY OF DANIEL COLE
  • Courtesy of Daniel Cole
  • Cole: State GOP's communications director
It seems that El Paso County is sort of taking over the state Republican Party, which probably is fitting considering the county is ruled by Republicans.

The latest announcement comes via email from Daniel Cole, a campaign consultant, who's just been hired to handle the state party's communications via a contract.

Cole handled the City Council campaign of Keith King, for example, and served as the county party's executive director for a time before branching out on his own.

The state party chair is Jeff Hays, former El Paso County GOP chair, and its vice chair is El Paso County resident Sherrie Gibson.

Now Cole joins the team.

"It's true we're the largest Republican county in the state, so you would expect a larger percentage of the state party's representation to come from here than from any other one county," he says.

Cole moved from the Washington, D.C., area as a child and later attended Kansas University on a full-ride scholarship. That's a fact he notes in his mini-bio provided below in his letter to Colorado media outlets.

But he omits his short-lived pursuit of a law degree at Columbia University, because, he says he didn't consider it one of the most interesting facts about himself. "And still don't," he says.

"I went through the first year [of law school], and I performed pretty well," he says. "I was in the top third of my class. But I decided I didn't want to be a lawyer, and that growing realization combined with how tight the legal market was at that time convinced me to get out while my head was still above water."

Here's his missive to media:
I’m writing this introductory letter instead of a press release in the traditional format because a letter (personal, efficient, informal) better reflects the spirit in which I’ll approach my new position as communications director of the Colorado Republican Committee.

I’m hugely excited for this opportunity to work, once again, with Jeff Hays, the chairman of the Colorado Republican Committee elected April 1. Jeff is a brilliant guy, personable and expansive yet analytical and acute. If you’re like everyone else, you’ll enjoy getting to know him.

Jeff was the chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party from February 2013 – February 2017. I served as the county party’s executive director during the first three years of Jeff’s tenure, then, in June 2016, left as an employee to start my own company, Cole Communications. I have been running communications systems for various clients since then, and I will continue to service other contracts alongside my 1099 contract with the state party.

Before I started working for the El Paso County Republican Party in 2013, my gigs included a weekly op-ed for The Gazette in Colorado Springs, a couple of years teaching high school English and journalism at Colorado Springs Early Colleges, and work as a translator: I reviewed French books for Zaccheus Press and translated from Italian the biography of a woman since declared venerable by the Vatican, The Spiritual Experience of Itala Mela. I also managed local issue and candidate campaigns.

In 2006, I graduated with a degree in English from the University of Kansas, which I attended as a National Merit Scholar.

The field of communications is constantly in flux. (Under Russia’s last tsar Nicholas II, the minister of communications was responsible for the supervision of railroads.) But my approach to media relations won't change. Especially because I want the state party to play a larger part in the public discourse, I will always be happy to receive your calls. Be in touch when you’d like a comment from the party, an interview with the chairman, a recommendation as to whom you should approach on a given topic, or anything else I could conceivably provide.

It will be my honor to work alongside Adam Johnson, the state party's new political director. Adam is a fourth-generation Coloradan and currently lives in Centennial. He has been assisting Republican candidates in Colorado for 15 years, having first worked on Governor Bill Owens's re-election campaign in 2002. Since then, Adam has helped with nearly a dozen candidate and issue campaigns. Adam agreed to serve as political director in order to ensure the Colorado GOP has a robust ground game headed into the 2018 election cycle.

Adam and I started with the state party on May 15. I will write with information about other staff appointments before long. 

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