Friday, June 30, 2017

Air Force Academy conducts internal investigation

Posted By on Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 3:48 PM

The Air Force Academy chapel. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The Air Force Academy chapel.
The Air Force Academy has reportedly placed all personnel in its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office on paid leave pending an investigation.

Here's a statement released by the Academy's Public Affairs office:
When USAFA leadership learned that there were issues in the USAFA SAPR [Sexual Assault Prevention and Response] office, a command-directed investigation was initiated. That investigation lasted over a month and involved dozens of interviews. At this time, due to the fact that review of the investigation and related processes are still ongoing, as well as privacy concerns of those involved, we cannot discuss details or findings of the investigation. We can say that attorneys and leadership at USAFA have reviewed the report of investigation and are taking appropriate actions.

In addition, as a result of the investigation, some members of the SAPR staff are no longer performing SAPR duties. Taking care of victims is our top priority and we are ensuring we have the right personnel and protocols in place to provide the best care possible. We are confident that there has been no degradation in victim care and support.

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office is just one part of the Academy's multi-pronged approach to taking care of victims and combating sexual assault. Sexual assault prevention and victim care are too important to have a single point of failure. We have a comprehensive safety net of helping agencies for victim care that includes medical care, counseling, chaplains, peer support, law enforcement and a special victims' counsel - a legal expert who is with them every step of the way. Leaders up and down the chain of command emphasize prevention through education and a healthy culture and climate.
The Academy has long struggled with dealing with sexual assaults, notably in the 2003 time frame when dozens of victims accused the Academy of punishing them for reporting while letting their attackers graduate.

A slew of changes were put in places at that time, including campus rules and a stepped up training program for sexual assault.

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City says "no" to firefighters' pursuit of ballot measure

Posted By on Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 12:47 PM

This photo was taken as Mountain Shadows burned during the Waldo Canyon Fire in June 2012. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • This photo was taken as Mountain Shadows burned during the Waldo Canyon Fire in June 2012.
So much for a state law enabling Colorado Springs firefighters to seek voters' permission to collectively bargain for pay and benefits.

City Clerk Sarah Johnson wrote to Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Association Local 5 president David Noblitt in a letter dated Friday, June 30, saying go pound sand.

Actually, the letter was more formal than that, making the point that as a home-rule city, Colorado Springs considers Senate Bill 25, enacted to allow firefighters to seek voter approval of collective bargaining, not applicable to the city.

"Home rule municipalities have exclusive authority over municipal elections....," Johnson wrote.

Read the letter here:

Noblitt tells the Independent via email:
I am still just a bit flabbergasted on what they find so destructive about SB-25. Is it that they just don't like being told what to do by the state? Maybe if we didn't have to wait 7 weeks for a 30 minute meeting with the Mayor, we could have agreed to a different course. I'm not saying we wouldn't pursue collective bargaining, its just that we could have pursued things a bit differently. So far all we have heard in response to any submitted request has been "no".

I don't know if that answers your question. I guess I would directly say that it would be good to be included within the discussion. That simply shutting down an effort to allow public safety employees to have a say with their employer on their ability to perform their jobs is being hampered, without discussion, feels a bit disheartening. State law or not!
We broke the story this week about Local 5's desire to mount a ballot measure. ("Fired up," News, June 28, 2017)

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Colorado Springs featured in Politico story about "Libertarian Paradise"

Posted By on Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 11:04 AM

Bach: Did he help or hurt the city? - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Bach: Did he help or hurt the city?
Politico.com has a new story out about Colorado Springs that recaps the city's progress, or lack thereof, going back about a decade, titled, "The Short, Unhappy Life of a Libertarian Paradise."

It recounts the darkened street light era, follows Steve Bach through his one term as the city's first strong mayor and ends with the Mayor John Suthers years.

Here's one take from it:
By 2015, the final year of his term, Bach was no longer talking to any member of City Council, save for Bennett. Both sides were fighting proxy battles in the middle of council meetings, quibbling over the sorts of things—moving money from one government account to another to pay bills—that would normally be routine. People outside the council chambers were paying attention, and they didn’t care for what they were seeing—the city that was supposed to run like a business was actually scaring companies. The business leaders who had once supported him had even started their own, newer version of the City Committee—called Colorado Springs Forward—and were looking for a different candidate to back.

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Sen. Cory Gardner's staff may have tried to "heat out" protesters

Posted By on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 12:45 PM

UPDATE: Looks like activists in Denver are trying to one-up activists here in badassery. A group of nine people, many with disabilities, have staked out Sen. Cory Gardner's office in Denver, refusing to leave until he commits to voting "no" on the unpopular bill, according to the Denver Post and other outlets. (Remember, the militant side of the disability rights movement originated in Denver.) The action was organized by ADAPT — a national disability rights group based in Denver  — with a specific focus on preserving now-threatened home and community based programs that help people live independently.

The protesters broadcast the action on social media, drawing attention, support and even supplies and food that onlookers sent in. A core group stayed the night last night, using blankets and pillows they brought for just this purpose. Gardner's office staff reportedly denied the protesters access to the restroom, prompting this memorable lede by Westword's Kyle Harris: "A sit-in almost turned into a shit-in..." Follow his reporting for the latest.

And, lastly, here's a dispatch from activist musician Kalyn Heffernan, best known as the MC in Wheelchair Sports Camp, which won "Best Hip-Hop Group" at the 2017 Westword Music Awards the same night Heffernan was sleeping on the floor of her Senator's office. She's on the left, wrapped in the yellow blanket — not an unfamiliar position for a touring musician, but still not a comfortable one.

The group says they'll stay until Gardner votes "no," no matter how long that takes. Damn.

—— ORIGINAL POST 6/28 10:59 a.m. ———

COS CAN
  • COS CAN

As you can read more about in this week's issue of the Independent,
people aren't happy with the U.S. Senate's tax-cut-paid-for-by-slashing-poor-people's-health-insurance bill that for some reason everyone's agreed to call "health care reform." Not happy at all!

Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who sat on the secretive 13-member drafting committee, hasn't taken a position yet. (He's under less political pressure to do so now that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has delayed a vote on the legislation, which would leave an estimated 22 million Americans without health insurance by 2026, acknowledging that he doesn't have the needed votes to pass it at this time.) But his constituents are ramping up pressure of their own.

COS CAN
  • COS CAN
A group of 10 or so people went to Gardner's Tejon Street office on Tuesday to host a "filibuster," in which they kept on talking for hours and refused to leave. Organizer Sherrie Smith says they gave forewarning to his staffers that they'd be coming in for a chat at 11 a.m., but didn't mention that they had no intention of leaving. They ended up spending upwards of seven hours in the office lobby, trading turns holding the floor.

One by one, they told Gardner's staff how they'd be affected should Trumpcare become law. One talked about how her daughter's abortion at Planned Parenthood allowed her to go to college and pursue her ambitions. Another talked about how insurance obtained on the individual market saved her kids' lives. Another talked about veterans, and why it's unacceptable to revoke their access to tax credits. And so on. 

After an hour or so, protesters noticed it was getting pretty toasty in the office. Air conditioning had been turned off, Smith says, but they could feel cold air blowing on the staff's side of the partitioned office. They weren't allowed to open a door to the hallway or open windows. At least one protester was so overheated she was too dizzy to read her prepared statement. Protesters with children had to leave when the kids began complaining and crying.

"It's obvious they want us to leave," Smith told  the Indy by phone. "And trust me, I'd love to be somewhere else, but when it's so abundantly clear they want us to leave, I have to do the opposite."

Protesters reportedly got no verbal requests to leave. But they interpreted the hot, stuffy environment as a signal to that effect. A phone call to the office went unreturned. We'll update this if we hear back.

COS CAN
  • COS CAN


Protesters say now that a vote has been delayed until after the July 4 recess, they'd like a public town hall to share their concerns directly with Gardner.

"He has time to meet with the Koch brothers, but not with us?" Smith asked. "Oh, we will not let up."

Organizers are planning a rally outside the downtown office on Thursday.

A note about these photos of the protesters: Their red costumes are meant to invoke The Handmaid's Tale — a dystopian novel about a totalitarian theocracy written by feminist author Margaret Atwood, recently popularized through a Hulu adaptation. The point there is that the costume wearers don't want to be subjugated by their male representatives who have made clear their opposition to women's access to reproductive health care, right to choose an abortion and paid maternity leave.
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Jared Polis, local Dems to host town hall at Library

Posted By on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 12:34 PM

Still reeling from the surprising results of the general election in November, then the municipal election in April? Well, wrap it up already. There's more coming down the pike.

On Saturday, July 1, head over to Library 21c (1175 Chapel Hills Drive) for a panel discussion featuring U.S. Representative Jared Polis (candidate for Governor), professor and pastor Stephany Spaulding (possible candidate for Congress in District 5) and small business owner Liz Rosenbaum (candidate for General Assembly in House District 21).

That's right, all Dems, but you'll only have to wait three days for fireworks.

Liz Rosenbaum for HD21 (left) and Stephany Spaulding for CD5 (right) - COURTESY LIZ ROSENBAUM
  • Courtesy Liz Rosenbaum
  • Liz Rosenbaum for HD21 (left) and Stephany Spaulding for CD5 (right)

According to event organizer, Ryan Barry with the progressive group, Unite Colorado Springs, the format will work like this:
It will be run as a town hall, which [sic] each speaker introducing themselves and their platform, followed by a long period of audience Q&A. ... Representative Polis will have to leave after an hour, however the rest of the panel will stay longer to answer questions. Come prepared to discuss healthcare, inequality, LGBTQ rights, environmental issues, or any number of other concerns. All questions will be initially presented to the Congressman, however each panelist will have a chance to respond briefly if they feel the questions are applicable. 
The discussion will be moderated by Matthew Barad, founder of Keep Colorado Green, a statewide youth organization working to stop climate change. It'll begin at 1:30 p.m. sharp, we're told.

Barry also said via email to the Indy that Polis's team reached out about hosting the event, then he himself reached out to the others. Spaulding's primary opponent, Betty Fields, was invited too but can't make it. Her Republican opponent, Rep. Doug Lamborn, incumbent in C D5, was invited but never responded. Lamborn's Republican primary opponent, State Senator Owen Hill from District 10 was not invited. Rosenbaum's opponent, Rep. Lois Landgraf, incumbent in HD 21, was not invited. No other gubernatorial candidates were invited.

COURTESY LIZ ROSENBAUM
  • Courtesy Liz Rosenbaum
The setting at Library 21c will feel extra familiar to Liz Rosenbaum whose business, Her Story Cafe, used to operate there, before recently relocating to 6050 N. Carefree. Perhaps competing with the downtown Poor Richard's (owned by liberal city councilor Richard Skorman)
COURTESY LIZ ROSENBAUM
  • Courtesy Liz Rosenbaum
, Her Story Cafe is the place to go to talk progressive politics over a plate of classic diner food surrounded by the iconography of female activists throughout history. ("Her Story" Cafe — get it?)

Rosenbaum, whose bid for county commission fell short last year, encourages that atmosphere of civic pride and engagement at this new location. "We've got candidates in here all the time to meet with constituents, and activists do meetings here too," she tells the Indy.
CD5 candidate Betty Field listens. - COURTESY LIZ ROSENBAUM
  • Courtesy Liz Rosenbaum
  • CD5 candidate Betty Field listens.
Notably, Her Story Cafe is on the north side — not in HD 21. "There's just not a lot of options for small businesses in the area, otherwise I'd totally be there," she says, adding that'd be a focus of hers as state representative. "I want to help set up an environment where there's enough community support for small businesses there."

Anyhoo, have a happy weekend of town halls, BLTs and whatever else one does in the summertime!

Editor's note: The original version of this article stated that Stephany Spaulding is a candidate for Congress. She is, in fact, considering a run, but has not yet declared.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Colorado Springs firefighters: Let's negotiate a contract.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 1:52 PM

Battalion chiefs oversee scores of firefighters and are in charge of major fires. There's a lot of responsibility riding on their should
Downtown Fire Station 1, which recently got a new addition. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Downtown Fire Station 1, which recently got a new addition.
ers.

But a battalion chief in the Colorado Springs Fire Department is paid more than $13,000 less, on average, than those in other major fire departments in the state. In some cases, the differential is $20,000.

That's the outcome of a survey of CSFD pay compared to other departments, which found firefighters at all levels are paid from 4 to 12.6 percent less than their counterparts elsewhere.

Even when the city's Human Resources Department applied a "geographic adjustment" to take into account a lower cost of living here, the gap still ranged from 3 to 6 percent.

While police have gotten the ear of Mayor John Suthers about their pay issues, and he's working to find ways to increase their pay, firefighters' compensation hasn't reached priority status.

It's one reason Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Association Local 5 wants to achieve collective bargaining status and filed signatures with the City Clerk's Office recently to begin that process.

Check out our story in this week's Indy about that. ("Fired up," News, June 28, 2017)

Parity for police pay is important, but, as Local 5 argues, competitive pay is no less important for firefighters in order to avoid becoming a training ground for young firefighters, only to see them move on to higher paying departments.

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CSPD Citizens Academy accepting applications for fall 2017

Posted By on Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 1:51 PM

Take a ride in a police cruiser as part of the Citizens Academy. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Take a ride in a police cruiser as part of the Citizens Academy.
Things aren't always as they seem, goes the old adage. And that probably applies to police work. To get an up close and personal view of the Colorado Springs Police Department, consider stepping into an officer's shoes for 11 weeks this fall via the CSPD Citizens Academy.

Lt. Howard Black reports that last fall, 24 citizens completed the academy, and the spring class contained 49.

"We try to accept as many of the applicants that apply baring any disqualifying information obtained in a background, but the max we are able affectively educate is approximately 50," Black says via email.

Here's some additional information from the CSPD to help you decide whether to apply:
What is the CSPD Citizens’ Academy?

The Colorado Springs Police Department Citizens’ Academy educates citizens about the duties and responsibilities of its police officers, policies and procedures of the department, and the citizen’s role in the interaction of citizens and police through a series of classes. In addition to helping the citizens better understand the police department, it in turn helps the police department better understand the citizens and their concerns.
What Topics Are Covered in the Academy?

The Citizens' Academy covers many topics related to law enforcement in our community including: training, the patrol division (basic police equipment, special response team, narcotics, DUI, laws), the communications division (call taking and dispatching), the criminal investigations division (crime scene investigation, major crimes, and financial crimes), gangs, sexual assault, K-9, SWAT, Internal Affairs, and many more. Participation in a "ride-along" program is also available, where citizens can actually ride along with patrol officers to see the world through their eyes. Members of the Colorado Springs Police Department will teach the classes; citizens that complete all the classes receive a Certificate of Completion at the final session.
Where does the Academy meet?

The Citizens' Academy is an 11-week course which meets once a week on Thursdays from 6:00PM to 9:00PM. The Academy is held at the various police facilities throughout the city depending on the type of training being conducted. Although there is no cost to the citizen, a substantial time commitment is required. Citizens are expected to attend all of the sessions.

Who may attend?

Anyone who lives or works in the city of Colorado Springs, is at least 18 years of age, and passes a background investigation may apply for the Citizens' Academy.

How do I apply?

Applications are currently being accepted for the fall 2017 session which begins on Thursday, August 24, 2017. Deadline for applications is August 3, 2017, by 5:00PM. The application form can be found online: https://cspd.coloradosprings.gov/content/citizens-academy.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bike to work day is tomorrow

Posted By on Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 4:49 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
Colorado Springs' Bike to Work Day is tomorrow.

If you're a last minute person, there's still time to register, though the free breakfast is on a first come first serve basis. Breakfast is being served at 24 locations this year rather than just a few, to make it more convenient for folks to stop by on their way to their jobs. Lots of businesses have lent a hand on the breakfast, and there are different breakfasts offered at different locations, from bagels to breakfast burritos.

Those riding home can also enjoy a beer at one of 12 breweries. Click here to learn more and register.

From the city:

Bike to Work Day
Wed. June 28th, 2017 -
06:00am to 09:00am

Registration for the 24th annual Bike to Work Day, sponsored by KOAA News 5 and the Colorado Springs Independent, is open. Bicyclists can sign up to ride to any one of several breakfast locations across Colorado Springs. Bike to Work Day encourages bicycling for personal and community health, alternative transportation, recreation and sustainability.

BREAKFAST LOCATIONS
There will be lots of breakfast stations with free food and drink along our trail network and at local businesses. Pick a breakfast stop along your commute and grab a friend, co-worker or your boss for a great time. Details about the offerings at each stop are included in the map below.

AFTER WORK SPECIALS
As you bike home from work, stop by any of the brewery locations marked on the map with a "b." Click on a location to see the specials. You don't have to register to go to a brewery, just bike to the location that day! 

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Springs pedestrian fatalities double from last year

Posted By on Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 10:09 AM

KRISTIN NADOR
  • Kristin Nador
Have you noticed that a lot more pedestrians than usual have gotten run down by drivers this year?

Well, a Colorado Springs Police Department analysis, released Tuesday, shows that's just not the case.

In truth, there have been 73 "auto/pedestrian" accidents so far this year, from January 1 to June 15, which is just one more than for the same period last year.

But there is one difference that's worth noting. Through June 15 of last year, three people died in auto/pedestrian crashes. This year, that number doubled to six.

A couple more observations provided by the CSPD:
• There were a total of 4,703 accidents for this time in 2016 and a total of 4,746 accidents for this time in 2017 (0.9% increase).

• There were no repeat auto/ped accident locations in 2016. In 2017 there were two repeat locations for auto/ped accidents. These addresses were: North Academy Boulevard and North Carefree Circle (3 accidents) and East Pikes Peak Avenue and North Nevada Avenue (2 accidents).
screen_shot_2017-06-27_at_9.19.00_am.png

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Monday, June 26, 2017

U.S. Supreme Court to hear appeal of Colorado baker who denied service to gay couple

Posted By on Mon, Jun 26, 2017 at 4:58 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
Many Coloradans in particular remember the turbulent beginnings of the 2012 court case of Craig and Mullins v. Masterpiece Cakeshop. It caused a big stir, locally and nationally, as it fed into the hotly debated topic of same-sex marriage.

A refresher: In 2012 a Lakewood-based baker, Jack Phillips, refused to bake a cake for a gay couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig. The couple planned to marry in Massachusetts — one of only a handful of states at the time with full and legal marriage equality — and wanted Phillips to provide the cake for the reception.

Phillips cited the First Amendment, claiming that his right to religious freedom and freedom of expression trumped Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws, though he initially lost the battle in a Colorado court and before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Well now the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Phillips’ appeal: Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and we can likely expect a ruling sometime next year.

Another piece of LGBTQ-related news to come out of the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday: A ruling in favor of same-sex couples was handed down in the case of Pavan v. Smith, which concluded that states cannot legally treat same-sex couples different from their heterosexual counterparts when it comes to issuing birth certificates to their children.

All this, of course, has happened at the tail-end of Pride Month, and on the two-year anniversary of marriage equality — a nice, hefty reminder that the struggles for equality fought by the LGBTQ community are far from over. However, we can celebrate two victories Monday, and hope for another in case of the baker.
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Coordinated evacuation amid Waldo fire? Not hardly

Posted By on Mon, Jun 26, 2017 at 11:09 AM

This is the image many residents saw in their rearview mirrors as they raced to safety from Mountain Shadows on June 26, 2012. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • This is the image many residents saw in their rearview mirrors as they raced to safety from Mountain Shadows on June 26, 2012.

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Waldo Canyon Fire killing two people and destroying 347 homes in Colorado Springs.

On Sunday, a column by Mayor John Suthers appeared in the Gazette, noting the anniversary and the city's resiliency in recovering from the fire.

Mayor Suthers was Colorado's attorney general at the time of the Waldo Canyon Fire. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Mayor Suthers was Colorado's attorney general at the time of the Waldo Canyon Fire.
One remark in his column, though, was blatantly inaccurate. Here's the paragraph, with the statement in question in bold type:
It was a catastrophic event that took a costly toll, but thanks to the brave and professional actions of our first responders, thousands of lives and properties were spared. A coordinated, multijurisdictional response evacuated 26,000 people in a matter of hours, while protecting homes in the fire's path and establishing fire lines that stopped it from expanding further into the city.
Coordinated?

Then-Mayor Steve Bach failed to issue an evacuation order until flames were pouring into Mountain Shadows and thousands of people were fleeing for their lives.

Even Bach himself later called the impromptu evacuation a miracle, considering only two people were killed instead of dozens or hundreds. One might argue that if it was a coordinated evacuation, perhaps William and Barbara Everett wouldn't have lost their lives.

In case Suthers missed it, the Independent reported on Dec. 12, 2012 ("Misfire," Cover story), the following findings, based on reports written by firefighters themselves as well as other documentation:
• When the fire swept into Mountain Shadows, the city had a mere four firefighting vehicles, or apparatus, assigned to that subdivision and all other land north to the Air Force Academy.

• The evacuation plan had been drafted only that morning, and was enacted minutes before the first homes burned.

• Local firefighters found themselves outgunned, and much of the help from other fire departments was nowhere close, because leaders sought those resources only after flames came into the city. Their chief staging area wasn't set up and equipped until houses were ablaze, and they didn't have a mobile command post until eight hours into Tuesday's firefight.

• When firefighters tried to reach command or each other, sometimes no one answered. Many weren't told exactly what to do and, at times, didn't know who was in charge.

• When additional resources did arrive, some were idled even as personnel amid the firestorm begged for help.
Despite fire observed in Queen's Canyon earlier in the afternoon of June 26, Bach and other city officials refused to issue an evacuation order.

From our report: "Sixty on-duty police officers raced to carry out a plan that their supervisors had devised just hours before, according to the city's aforementioned outline of evacuation trigger points."

Observers said police cruisers sped north out of downtown to get to Mountain Shadows to help with the evacuation, driving over curbs to go around other traffic.

Here's another segment of our report that speaks to the Fire Department's readiness when the fire blew into town:
CSFD Capt. Michael Wittry had already moved his logistics base, the department's only source for supplies, twice before setting up at Coronado High School at 6 a.m. Tuesday. When the fire blew up that afternoon, things got confusing again.

"'Staging is at Station 9.' was announced by unknown party," Wittry writes. "Captain Wittry tried multiple times to get permission or orders to move to that location. Getting no answer, he made the decision to move himself to Station 9. He did not have resources to move the entire staging operation that was already set up at Coronodo [sic], which included power, Internet access, food and water supplies."

Station 9 is at 622 W. Garden of the Gods Road. Wittry reports that he met up with Fire Marshal Brett Lacey and was told "there had been a call back of all personnel and they would begin to arrive shortly." Although the city had days to plan for a major campaign, Wittry writes that "Plans were quickly sketched out for how to manage the arrival of 150 firefighters. Supplies for staging at this point consisted of a [sic] pens and pads of paper. Fire Marshal Lacey was then directed to another assignment."
By sheer will and bravery, firefighters contained the damage, with help from police officers who in some cases worked next to firefighters without any protective clothing.

The point of all this is, you can't rewrite history with the stroke of a pen. When 26,000 people fled the northeastern segment of the city that day, there was no coordination of any kind. They just fled.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

One Colorado releases scorecard of LGBTQ issues from 2017 legislative session

Posted By on Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 11:27 AM

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For those who haven’t been keeping up with state LGBTQ politics, or those who tried to keep up and found themselves distracted by the massive political upheavals happening on a national level, One Colorado has your back.

Colorado’s largest LGBTQ rights organization has just released its 2017 scorecard to let you, the informed voter, know how state lawmakers voted on issues related to the LGBTQ community.

The bills taken into account: HB-1013, a religious exemption bill that would allow businesses and individuals to refuse service to someone based on religious bias; SB-283, another such bill to allow business and individuals to claim exemption from non-discrimination laws (yes, really); HB-1122, which would have made it easier for transgender Coloradans to change their gender on their birth certificates; HB-1156, a statewide ban on conversion therapy; HB-1188, which added disability and sexual orientation to protected categories of current harassment statues; the amendment to the budget that would defund the Healthy Kids Colorado survey; and the confirmation of Heidi Hess to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Whew.

To see how all state legislators voted on these issues, and to learn more about the issues themselves, take a look at One Colorado’s scorecard. And remember the names of those who failed to score 100 percent. The 2018 election isn’t very far away.

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Mike Pence plans spin through military bases in El Paso County

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 12:53 PM

Vice President Mike Pence plans a tour of the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs on Friday, June 23. - GINO SANTA MARIA/ SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Gino Santa Maria/ Shutterstock
  • Vice President Mike Pence plans a tour of the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs on Friday, June 23.
In tandem with his visit to Focus on the Family on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence will avail himself of several military base visits as well.

According to a news advisory from Peterson Air Force Base, after Pence's appearance at Focus, to mark its 40th anniversary, the nation's second in command will drop in at Schriever Air Force Base, located east of Colorado Springs.

Schriever is home to the 50th Space Wing, among other units, described by the Air Force as being responsible "for the operation and support of 175 Department of Defense satellites and installation support to 16 major tenant units with a workforce of more than 7,700 personnel."
The 50 SW provides integrated combat effects from space, ensures command and control of satellite weapons systems, and conducts expeditionary operations to enable sovereign options for the defense of the United States of America and its global interests.

The wing operates and supports satellite programs including the Global Positioning System, Defense Satellite Communications System, Wideband Global SATCOM, Milstar, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, Space Based Space Surveillance, Operationally Responsive Space-1, Advanced Extremely High Frequency and the worldwide Air Force Satellite Control Network supporting 175 satellites.

The wing operates satellite operation centers at Schriever AFB and remote tracking stations and other command and control facilities around the world. Through these facilities, wing personnel monitor satellites during launch, put satellites in their proper orbits following launch, operate the satellites while they are in orbit, ensure effective and efficient satellites operations and properly dispose of the satellites at their end of life.
At Schriever, Pence will be briefed on the highly classified facility, have lunch with service members and give remarks.

After that, Pence will head for the Cheyenne Mountain Complex located at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. The mountain contains a backup station for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and Northern Command.

Pence will end his visit with a "Gardner Victory Event," details of which were not provided.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Motion seeks dismissal of charges against former Sheriff Terry Maketa

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 3:13 PM

Maketa during his sheriff years. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Maketa during his sheriff years.
The Denver Post is reporting that a prosecutor has filed a motion to dismiss charges of kidnapping and false imprisonment against former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.

Maketa is charged with other crimes as well from his 12 years in office, which ended with his resignation in late 2014, two weeks shy of serving out his third term.

Then-Undersheriff Paula Presley and then-Commander Juan "John" San Agustin also are charged in the case, but apparently motions to dismiss have not been filed on their behalf.

From the Post:
The motion was filed by District Attorney George Brauchler’s office on Tuesday, according to sources familiar with the case who spoke on condition of anonymity. Judge Larry Schwartz has imposed a gag order in the case. It was not immediately clear whether the judge has formally dismissed the charges.
We've previously reported on the case and on Maketa's tenure. The Independent also was first to report the threesome have filed a notice of claim indicating they plan a lawsuit against numerous government agencies in connection with the criminal case.

Observers speculate that the dismissal signals the prosecution, being handled by the 18th Judicial District (after 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May recused due to his past work with Maketa), might see its case as weak.

In recent weeks, prosecutors sought a six month delay of Maketa's trial, due to begin this month, but Schwartz delayed it by only a month. It's now set to begin next week. Presley's and San Agustin's trials are set for later this year.
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What the new El Paso County districts could look like soon

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 10:43 AM

El Paso County's legislative body is the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) — five elected officials who represent different parts of the county in all sorts of decisions that affect your life. The exact boundaries of their districts change every few years, according to population growth and, to a lesser degree, voter turnout. For more on the politics around an upcoming redistricting (very soon!), see here. But, if you came here to understand how the districts have changed over time and how they could change in the future, you're in the right place.

Bear with us, please — the following blog post won't be sexy but it will be informative!

First, a history lesson. This is what the county districts looked like in 2002. (Sorry the quality sucks. The internet was young then, ok.)
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Then, the districts were redrawn in 2011 to look like this. Apparently the pastel color assigned to each district changed then too.
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In 2015, districts were redrawn again. This is our current map, overlaid with population to show the needed changes (districts one and two have to shrink, districts three, four and five have to grow.)
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Per state law, the districts need to contain roughly equal numbers of constituents. Here, because the county's population is just under 680,000, the magic number per district is about 136,000. Well, it's 136,138, to be exact. The County Clerk and Recorder, Chuck Broerman, and his staff came up with three redistricting options to reach those magic numbers, while maintaining compactness, communities of interest, and logical landmarks. Here's the PowerPoint presentation explaining each option in more detail, shown at the BOCC's May 25 meeting. Find the maps below. And if it's hard to discern what's different between them, know that's on purpose — the clerk's office tried to disrupt current districts as little as possible.

Option 1:
option1d.jpg

Option 2:
option2d_060917.jpg

Option 3:
option3d.jpg

Not everyone is pleased with these options, as you can read more about here. Grievances focus more on process, particularly that the clerk didn't incorporate citizen and nonpartisan input before drawing the maps. Some Democrats aren't pleased with the substance, particularly that the districts may become less competitive and even more secure for Republicans. To that end, El Paso County Democratic Party chair, Electra Johnson, who lost the race for commissioner in district 3 by an unusually narrow margin in November, tried her hand at redrawing the lines herself. She didn't have access to quite the same data as the clerk's office, but found some clever workarounds, like using satellite imagery of housing developments over time. Here's what she came up with.
 
redistricting_alternative_community_plan_2.jpg

If you have a preference, critique or suggestion you want the commissioners to consider before amending and adopting one of these maps, send them to mattiealbert@elpasocountyco.com or call them in to 520-6226. Public comment ends June 24 and the meeting where decisions get made is June 29.
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