Monday, July 31, 2017

Courthouse in Colorado Springs tosses out old furniture

Posted By on Mon, Jul 31, 2017 at 1:44 PM

Office furniture from the local courthouse destined for the dump. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Office furniture from the local courthouse destined for the dump.
While making a visit to the courthouse last week, we couldn't help but notice the roll-off disposal container parked next to the building filled with office furniture.

Some chairs look usable, but according to Scott Sosebee, the 4th Judicial District's administrator, it's all junk.

Here's his explanation, received via email:
The furniture that was disposed of was damaged, non-operational, or unfit for use in the courthouse. A majority of the furniture thrown away was seating. The most common problems with seating is damage to the armrests, stains or tears to the upholstery, and broken hydraulics. Furniture that could be reused was repurposed throughout the courthouse and offered to others. We also actively work with our vendors to repair and replace broken furniture.

In the past, we have solicited for non-profits to take our surplus equipment and furniture. However, many organizations will only accept furniture in good working condition and they often are unable to haul-away the equipment. Unfortunately, if an organization is unable to haul-away the equipment, it is more economical to dispose of the equipment through a waste disposal company.

It would be difficult to provide you with a meaningful estimate regarding the replacement costs associated with the furniture in the photograph. Unusable furniture is collected in our storage room over a period of years and items are replaced as needed. The furniture disposed of in your photograph was not the result of a large recent acquisition of replacement furniture.
It's worth noting that El Paso County had nothing to do with the disposal. County spokesman Dave Rose says in an email, "The County maintains a small warehouse space where surplus county office equipment and supplies in good condition can be accessed by department supervisors an repurposed. County Procurement and contracts is responsible to negotiate for the sale of obsolete and surplus supplies and equipment...."


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Friday, July 28, 2017

Springs Utilities' reliance on coal drops by 26 percent

Posted By on Fri, Jul 28, 2017 at 1:51 PM

Drake Power Plant: Not producing as much power from coal as it used to. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Drake Power Plant: Not producing as much power from coal as it used to.
In the latest Colorado Springs Utilities newsletter, "Connection," that's enclosed with ratepayers' bills, the city-owned enterprise notes its moving away from coal to natural gas.

"We're exploring new ways to power our future with renewable electric generation," it says. "We're depending more on clean-burning natural gas to support the energy and economic needs of our city."

Since Utilities has shutdown one unit at its downtown Drake Power Plant, it sounded plausible that more power is being generated with natural gas, which burns cleaner than goal from an air quality standpoint. But we wanted to know to what degree Utilities was making that shift. So we asked.

In 2010, Utilities generated nearly 3.2 million megawatt hours using coal, compared to 973,328 using natural gas.

By 2015, that split had changed dramatically, with the amount of energy generated with coal dropping by 17 percent and the amount of power generated with natural gas increasing by 64 percent.

Utilities provided data through the first half of 2016 only, but if we assume the usage rate continued apace that year, coal-generated power declined by 26 percent, to 2,366,728 megawatt hours, compared to 2010.

Natural gas, in the meantime, increased to 2.5 million megawatt hours in 2016, or an increase by a factor of 2.5.

For tips on how to save water and electricity, go to Utilities new site, changethecurrent.com

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Parks, trails and open space advocate awarded with Spirit of the Springs

Posted By on Thu, Jul 27, 2017 at 10:32 AM

Mayor John Suthers, left, awards longtime trails and open space supporter Lee Milner an award to recognize his volunteer service. - COURTESY LEE MILNER
  • Courtesy Lee Milner
  • Mayor John Suthers, left, awards longtime trails and open space supporter Lee Milner an award to recognize his volunteer service.
During a gathering to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Trails, Open Space and Parks tax initiative on Wednesday, July 26, Mayor John Suthers recognized people who were key to the success of the measure.

Between 300 and 400 people showed up to the Penrose House pavilion for the event.

Suthers noted that TOPS has funded the construction of 46.8 miles of trails, acquisition of 4,723 acres of open space and development of 37 park projects.

It was used, for example, to purchase Stratton Open Space in the city's southwest, and, most recently, helped fund construction of the John Venezia Community Park in the north part of town.

TOPS generates about $8 million a year.

Suthers recognized Lee Milner for a Spirit of the Springs award for his dedication to parks, trails and open space.

"He has perhaps done more than anyone else to keep open space and trail issues at the forefront of our community consciousness," he said, according to a transcript of his remarks.

Besides campaigning for the successful ballot measure in 1997, Milner also worked for passage of the extension in 2003. He's served multiple terms on the TOPS Working Committee.

"He has been effective over so many years because he recognizes the larger context — the connection between open space and quality of life, trails and economic vitality, parks and property values, storm water and greenways," Suthers said.

Suthers also recognized the Trails and Open Space Coalition with a Spirit award, noting, "They truly care about our trails and open spaces and are great partners with the city."

Suthers didn't mention that TOSC's board of directors supported Suthers' trade of the 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor last year in exchange for trails acreage as well as about 200 wildland acres near Mount Muscoco.

The swap is in the courts after a nonprofit, Save Cheyenne, formed amid the controversial deal.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Springs fleet contractor, Serco, sues the city — again

Posted By on Wed, Jul 26, 2017 at 3:37 PM

Police cruisers like these are maintained by Serco, a United Kingdom-based company. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Police cruisers like these are maintained by Serco, a United Kingdom-based company.
The city's fleet maintenance contractor has filed suit after losing its case before a city review panel over how contract payments are to be computed for the fourth and fifth years of its five-year agreement with the city.

Serco Inc., which maintains most city and Colorado Springs Utilities vehicles, was heralded as a way to save the city millions of dollars over the five years of the agreement. But as we reported not long ago, ("Colorado Springs faces lawsuit over out-sourced fleet maintenance contract," News, April 5, 2017):
The United Kingdom-based firm is demanding a 22 percent price increase for 2017, the fourth year of a five-year deal, saying it's lost money in the first three years. If granted, the hike would drive the price to nearly $8.2 million by adding $1.4 million over the city's 2016 cost — a move that would squeeze the city's already tight budget.
It was the city's first major attempt at outsourcing, and cost roughly 60 city workers their jobs.

After Serco claimed it was losing money on the contract, which didn't specify a contract price for the final two years of the agreement, and wanted a big rate hike, the city said the contract doesn't allow that and offered a modest bump. That led Serco to court.

Meantime, the dispute over how contract disagreements would be resolved was heard on March 7 by the internal review panel, which ruled on behalf of the city. That ruling, obtained by the Independent via an open-records request, says:
The Panel finds that if the Parties had intended for the Contract to be void after Year 3 because Exhibit C did not explicitly include price terms for Year 4 and beyond, then the Parties would also have intended for the Contract to have a term of three years. There would have been no reason for the term of the Contract to have been specified as five
years, and no reason for the Contract to specify that it may be extended for up to five additional one-year terms.

The Panel concludes that the Parties intended for the Contract to have a term of not less than five years.

It is not likely that omission of the price terms for Years 4 and beyond was an oversight. For the omission to have been an oversight, each Party would have had to miss the fact that Exhibit C listed price terms only for Years 1 through 3. It is not reasonable to assume that neither Party detected an error that is so blatant and is of such great magnitude in light of the specified intent that the Contract was to be for a term of five years, subject to five additional one year extensions.
In truth, records show that Serco personnel told the city they didn't want the contract to contain a contract price for the last two years because they expected the price to drop, not increase. But, of course, now Serco says the company needs more money.

Here are the detailed findings of the review panel:
(1) The Panel was properly constituted under Section 6(b) and that the Panel may make the determinations specified in Section 6(b) notwithstanding the bias Serco believes is inherent in the composition of the Panel.

(2) The Panel resolved the dispute by interpreting terms of the Contract for which there was disagreement between the Parties.

(3) The Contract on its face provides sufficient information for the Panel to determine that the price terms for Years 4 and beyond are specified or determinable from the Contract.

(4) The Contract is not void for failure of a material term.

(5) The Parties did not intend to, and did not attempt to, confer jurisdiction in the District Court under C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4).

(6) The Parties intended that matters addressed by the Panel be binding on the District Court unless that Court determines that the Panel abused its discretion or exceeded its authority.

(7) The Parties intended for the District Court to apply the principles of C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4) in an action brought to consider matters addressed by the Panel.

(8) The Parties intended to, and did, apply the principles of C.R.C.P. 1 06(a)(4) to limit the time during which a Judicial action could brought to consider matters determined by the Panel to 28 days after the date of the Panel’s Determination and for the District Court to dismiss an
action brought more than 28 days after the date of the Panel’s Determination.
On July 13, exactly 28 days after the panel's finding, Serco filed a lawsuit. The panel, the lawsuit says, "exceeded its jurisdiction and abused its discretion."

Serco is seeking to have the review panel's decision set aside. If that happens, the initial lawsuit litigation would proceed.

Here's the entire review panel's findings:

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UPDATED: Transgender service in the military — what's happening now?

Posted By on Wed, Jul 26, 2017 at 12:11 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock

UPDATE: As the news spreads, everyone from LGBTQ organizations and organizations that deal with Military affairs (not affiliated with the Military itself) to affected transgender service members and religious organizations have begun releasing statements — whether positive or negative — in reaction to the news of Trump's announcement to ban transgender people from service. See below for full statements.

One Colorado
One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Coloradans and their families released the following statement from Daniel Ramos, Executive Director, on President Trump’s announcement that transgender people can no longer serve in the U.S. Military.

“President Trump just attacked thousands of patriotic transgender Americans who already serve in our military and who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe and free. The U.S. military is the largest employer of transgender people in the world, employing an estimated 15,000 transgender people today.

“This is yet another example of the Trump Administration attacking the most vulnerable among us instead of bringing Americans together to fix the problems that face all of us. Transgender people — like all Americans — should be judged for their qualifications, nothing more, nothing less. As we learned in repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, allowing service members to serve with integrity strengthens our armed forces.

“Our veterans and military deserve better and we will fight against this vicious attack on dignity and equality. Transgender people are our friends, neighbors, and coworkers. They are veterans who have served with honor, and active duty service members who have sacrificed to protect our freedoms. When it comes to being able to serve their country, earn a living, having a place to live, or being served by a business, transgender people should be treated like anyone else and not be discriminated against.” 

Military Religious Freedom Foundation
“The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) condemns in the most effusive and strongest manner possible the base, evil, vile, idiotic, bigoted and counterintuitive decision by Trump, the current 5-time draft dodging, “bone spur alleging" occupant of the White House, to ban all transgender human beings from being allowed to honorably serve their country in the United States armed forces. MRFF presently represents over 51,300 sailors, soldiers, marines and airmen in their brutal civil rights fight against fundamentalist Christian religious extremism and oppression in America’s military. Nearly 1,000 of MRFF’s clients are LGBTQ of whom 12 are transgender armed forces members who are either on active duty or in the reserves.
OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
In his latest example of pseudo-policy-by-twitter, Donald Trump has shown blatant disregard for transgender service members who have been serving openly since October 2016. The disruptive burden to the military comes from indecision in a White House which itself is not focused on victory if it’s targeting service members. The readiness, effectiveness, and lethality of the Armed Services comes from the commitment of our troops – not the vagaries and bigotry of exclusionary policies.

We are committed to transgender service members. We are going to fight for them as hard as they are fighting for the country. And we’re going to start by taking the fight to Donald Trump in the Federal Court.
Not everyone has come out in opposition to the policy. The Liberty Counsel, which calls itself "an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family," said the following:

"I applaud President Trump for making America safe again," said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. "The military is a lethal weapon designed to protect America and our allies. It is not a social club, a social experimentation petri dish, or ClubMed. The focus should be military readiness and unit cohesion. The President has kept his promise to return to military priorities by not continuing the 'transgender' policy that undermines unit cohesion, preparedness, and morale. The duty of military officers is to appropriately lead and prepare their personnel to serve and protect, and they cannot do that when there is confusion, dysfunction, and safety issues within the barracks," said Staver.

———————UPDATED POST 9:58 A.M. WEDNESDAY, JULY 26, 2017———————

UPDATE: Once again, President Trump has updated the nation on national policy via a series of tweets. In this case, regarding the controversial issue of transgender people serving in the U.S. Military.



Which means all the deliberation of past months means little — at least until Jan. 1, 2018, by which time: "The services will review their accession plans and provide input on the impact to the readiness and lethality of our forces," according to Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Dana White, as reported by NPR.

It is not yet clear what will happen to the estimated 3,960 transgender service members (active component and Selected Reserve), but the words "in any capacity" offer little hope to those currently serving.

LGBTQ rights groups such as the Human Rights Campaign have already spoken out against the decision, which was announced on the 69th anniversary of the racial desegregation of the Military. HRC President Chad Griffin said: “This heinous and disgusting action endangers the lives of American service members, undermines military readiness and makes our country less safe. It is also the latest effort by Trump and Mike Pence to undo our progress and drag LGBTQ people back into the closet by using our lives as political pawns.”

Trump has referred to himself as a “real friend” of the LGBTQ community, but this is not the first time he has proven otherwise. One might expect the hits will keep on coming.

Editor's note: the above entry was edited to include the anniversary of racial desegregation.

———————UPDATED POST 5:36 P.M. THURSDAY, JULY 13, 2017———————

UPDATE: It was a close call, but the House voted 209 to 214 to deny Rep. Vicky Hartzler's amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which would have prevented Transgender service members from accessing transition-related healthcare with military money.

The Human Rights Campaign said in a press release: "Today's vote sends a resounding message of support for our military families and transgender military personnel serving around the globe."

However, given the narrow margin of the vote, it is clear there is still much work to be done.


———————ORIGINAL POST 4:20 P.M. WEDNESDAY, JULY 12, 2017———————

Once again, the rights of transgender people have entered the public conversation. Rather than focusing on bathrooms — at the moment — this particular controversy stems from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ six-month stay on the induction of openly transgender recruits. As it stands, transgender people who are already in the military may serve, but openly transgender recruits are barred from enlisting. This was supposed to change on July 1, but military service chiefs from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps reportedly requested more time.

In May, graduating transgender Air Force Academy and West Point cadets were denied their commissions due to this policy. Now that the stay has gone into effect, certain lawmakers are questioning the inclusion of any transgender service members, some going as far as to advocate for rolling back the 2016 policy that allowed trans people to serve openly in the first place. Objections cite everything from affecting morale (i.e. upsetting straight, cisgender members of the military), affecting readiness and costing a pretty military penny.

Indy columnist Heidi Beedle addressed the first two points in this week’s Queer & There, but on the financial side: An extensive study from the RAND Corporation explains that the cost of providing transition-related medical care to the small number of trans members of the military who seek such health care is “relatively low." Active-component health care costs would increase only between 2.4 million and 8.4 million per year. Given that the military budget for fiscal year 2018 (Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018) is more than 824 billion, that means that trans-related health care would likely cost the military a fraction of a percent of their total assets.

This study seems to have had no effect on the opinions of Rep. Vicky Hartzler and the other members of the Republican party who oppose transgender service. Hartzler recently offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to once again ban transgender people from serving in the military and, moreover, to honorably discharge any transgender troops currently serving.

Though Hartzler withdrew that amendment, she came back with a vengeance, and a new amendment, on Friday — this one to bar any military funding from going toward medical care related to gender transition. That would include life-changing (and many would argue, life-saving) hormone therapy and gender reassignment treatment.

All proposed amendments to the NDAA must go through the rules committee before reaching the House for a vote. We will update this blog when we hear more.
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Colorado Springs adds to Corral Bluffs Open Space

Posted By on Wed, Jul 26, 2017 at 11:29 AM

Corral Bluffs Open Space includes rock formations that hold archeological values. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy city of Colorado Springs
  • Corral Bluffs Open Space includes rock formations that hold archeological values.
City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday, July 25, to acquire more acreage for the Corral Bluffs Open Space, spending $580,000 to buy 85.61 acres that abut the open space's west side. The city is partnering with the Trust for Public Lands to preserve the property.

The property is labeled as having paleontological values, due to prime exposure of the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary in the Denver basin. Corral Bluffs is located on the northeast side.

Here's some background on the acquisition from the city:
Background
The Property, currently owned by Monty and Latroy Kyle, more specifically known as Tax Schedule Number 44000-00-017, consists of approximately 85.61 acres. The Property lies along the western boundary of the Corral Bluffs Open Space, north of Highway 94.

The 2014 Park System Master Plan identified this area as an open space candidate area meriting conservation. The 1997 Open Space Master Plan identified this area as containing significant natural resource values of National importance. The Property exhibits unique and extensive Paleontology and Archeology values. Dr. Kirk Johnson, Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, states that the Corral Bluffs area (including the Property) contains one of the three best exposures of the Cretaceous -Tertiary (K-T) boundary in the Denver Basin and one of the top 25 in the world. A dozen mammal species have been found at Corral Bluffs, as well as fish, turtles, champsosaur and crocodiles. These fossils have been placed in the Smithsonian, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. Archeological studies conducted by El Paso County found evidence of early human activity at Corral Bluffs. Bison bones and stone tools found within the area suggest a bison kill and butchering site.
This map shows the location of the open space in relation to Jimmy Camp Creek. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy city of Colorado Springs
  • This map shows the location of the open space in relation to Jimmy Camp Creek.
The Property has been identified as an important parcel for acquisition to preserve the open space values at the Corral Bluffs / Jimmy Camp Creek Area. The TOPS Program has received open space applications requesting acquisition of the Property from the Trails and Open Space Coalition (TOSC) and the Corral Bluffs Alliance (CoBA). The TOPS Working Committee has toured the Property on several occasions.

TPL desires to partner with the TOPS Program in fulfilling the City’s Open Space Master Plan to acquire the Property for open space. To facilitate the City’s acquisition of the Property, TPL has obtained a letter of intent from the Sellers to sell the 85.61-acre Property to TPL in September, 2017. Title work, a survey, and a Phase 1 environmental report are currently being completed and must be approved by both the City and TPL prior to any land transaction. TPL has agreed to sell the Property to the City for $570,000, through the Open Space Category.

This item supports the City’s strategic goal relating to investing in infrastructure by increasing its green infrastructure along the community’s eastern edge.

Financial Implications
Acquisition: Acquisition of the Property will require funding of $570,000 from the TOPS Open Space Committee available fund balance, with an additional $10,000 to cover the costs associated with closing costs and due diligence expenses.

Until a master plan process is completed, the Property will remain closed to the public. Guided hikes through CoBA will continue to take place until such time the Property is open to the public.

Operations: The City’s current average cost to maintain open space is $44 per acre. However, since this open space will not be open to the public, except through guided hikes, the annual cost to maintain the Property will be significantly less than our other open space properties. There will be minimal costs associated with the Property, such as fencing, signage, and minimal maintenance.

Capital Improvements: The Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department will conduct a public master plan and management plan process in the future to determine appropriate uses and management techniques for the Property. Through this public process, capital improvements will be identified such as preservation areas, trails, signage, roadway access improvements, parking improvements, etc. Funding for capital improvements will require future appropriation from the TOPS Open Space Fund as part of the annual budget process. 

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Colorado senators split on GOP health care bill

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 2:29 PM

Republicans voted to open debate on an unknown health care bill Tuesday, with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado opposing it and Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado voting with his party.

Bennet issued this statement:
Bennet: The American people deserve better. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Bennet: The American people deserve better.
It is shameful that Senate Republicans just voted to take up legislation that will affect one-sixth of our economy and harm millions of Americans. Whether Republicans choose to vote for repeal-and-replace or repeal-and-delay, we know both outcomes would be devastating for Colorado families, hospitals, and rural communities. The American people deserve better than this.
Gardner posted this on his website:
Gardner: Status quo is unacceptable. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Gardner: Status quo is unacceptable.
Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) today released the below statement after voting for the motion to proceed to open debate on the Senate floor to find a way to fix our broken healthcare system. Today’s vote was not on a final measure to repeal Obamacare, but to continue to debate and make changes to legislation to repeal Obamacare.

“Under Obamacare, Coloradans have had to pay for double digit premium increases year after year and the 27 percent average increase for premiums on the individual market next year is only more of the same. While 500,000 Coloradans have had their plans cancelled, 145,000 Coloradans were forced to pay a penalty under Obamacare instead of purchasing insurance because their options have become so limited and unaffordable. In every healthcare meeting with Coloradans, we discuss the problems of Obamacare and how the status quo is simply unacceptable.

“I voted to allow debate today because we can no longer subject Coloradans to a failing healthcare system without working toward solutions, and today’s vote will allow that debate to continue. We can now offer amendments in an open setting to fix our nation’s healthcare system and bring relief to the American people.”
It's worth noting that Gardner with join with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for a fundraiser at the home of billionaire Philip Anschutz in Denver next month, so his vote to hang with the GOP isn't at all surprising.

Progress Now Colorado issued this statement on the Senate's action:
After the U.S. Senate advanced the latest attempt to repeal the landmark 2010 Affordable Care Act, which has reduced the rate of uninsured people in Colorado to historic lows and provided essential health benefits to millions of Americans, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, called on Gardner to apologize to the people of Colorado for once again putting politics over our best interests.

“Today, Republicans in Washington have taken the first step to hurt millions of their fellow Americans in the name of tax breaks for the wealthy,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Ian Silverii. “The bill Sen. Cory Gardner voted for today will undo the gains our state has made in covering the uninsured, and endanger health services in rural communities like the small town Gardner hails from. Cory Gardner promised to protect Medicaid patients, but today he broke that promise. Gardner promised to deliver a replacement for Obamacare that was better, but what he voted for today would hurt millions of Americans and thousands of Coloradans—the very same people the Affordable Care Act has helped.”

“The voters of Colorado do not support the repeal of Obamacare,” said Silverii. “Poll after poll shows that the Affordable Care Act is more popular than ever, even as Republicans continue attempting to destroy it. Gardner’s own approval rating has plunged below 30%, driven by dissatisfaction on both sides with his inability to make good on his promises. Gardner’s false claims against the Affordable Care Act have given way to the reality of what repeal would mean for his constituents. No matter what happens next, Gardner has done irreparable damage to his political career. The voters of Colorado will not forget Cory Gardner’s betrayal today.”
Heritage Action for America, a conservative group, said this:
This afternoon, the Senate voted to begin debate on the House-passed American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628). That successful procedural vote allows Senate Republicans to begin debate on their seven-year promise to repeal and ultimately replace Obamacare. Heritage Action released the following statement from chief executive officer Michael A. Needham:

“Obamacare’s failures are on full display as premiums skyrocket, networks narrow and insurers disappear. Today’s vote gives Senate Republicans the opportunity to debate a bill that will begin the process of dismantling Obamacare and restoring some semblance of federalism and freedom into our nation’s health insurance system.

“Throughout the amendment process, Republicans must unite to protect some of the most significant conservative reforms from hostile liberal amendments. Those reforms include the newly revised 1332 waiver process, generational reform of Medicaid and the rollback of the Medicaid expansion enhanced match, and additional consumer freedom provisions.”

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Monday, July 24, 2017

8th and Cimarron streets Intersection due to open Monday

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 4:16 PM

The new reconfigured intersection of 8th and Cimarron streets opened today. - COURTESY CDOT
  • Courtesy CDOT
  • The new reconfigured intersection of 8th and Cimarron streets opened today.
When you're talking about 60,000 vehicles a day, things can get hairy, so state transportation officials needed to get things right the first time.

That's why a planned opening of the 8th and Cimarron streets intersection was postponed.

Instead of opening Tuesday, July 18, the opening of the redesigned intersection was moved to Friday due to "an equipment breakdown," the Colorado Department of Transportation's website said.

Now, the intersection is said to have opened Monday.

See the traffic flows here.



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Dave Munger to retire from Council of Neighbors and Organizations

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 4:14 PM

Dave Munger will soon retire after leading the Council of Neighbors and Organizations (CONO) since 2007. CONO works to advise and connect around 900 neighborhoods in El Paso and Teller Counties on issues relating to local government, development and elections.


Under Munger’s leadership, the organization has really matured: CONO became a federally-recognized 501(c)3 nonprofit; grew its budget to six figures; hired four staff members; got a downtown office building at 309 S. Cascade Ave; completed two strategic plans; and launched the popular education series “Coffee and Civics” and “Civics on Tap.”

Residents gather for a discussion over beer at CONO's "Civic on Tap" - COURTESY OF CONO
  • Courtesy of CONO
  • Residents gather for a discussion over beer at CONO's "Civic on Tap"

COURTESY OF CONO
  • Courtesy of CONO

His retirement caps off a storied career. Munger spend 37 years in the professional world working in military intelligence, higher education, marketing and consulting before pivoting to community service. Then, for the past 13 years, in addition to serving as board president and executive director of CONO, Munger has also served on the board of Penrose Hospital, Ecumenical Social Ministries and the Board of Review and Advisory Board for the Regional Building Department.

He was active in planning for the redevelopment of South Academy Boulevard and North Nevada Avenue, as well as revising trucking routes throughout the city, extending funding for the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority and placing a ballot measure to establish a regional stormwater management authority (which didn't pass).

Currently, Munger serves on the search committee for the executive director of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (which is likely to conclude this fall), and the board of the Police Foundation of Colorado Springs and the board of the Fire Foundation of Colorado Springs (where he intends to stay until he’s no longer needed.)


Whew!


CONO’s board has already put together a search committee to find Munger’s replacement. He says there’s been some discussion about who they’d like to apply, but the process is just getting started. Munger plans to stay on through the end of the year to aid a smooth transition for the incoming executive director.


With retirement now coming into focus, Munger tells the Indy he’s eager to spend time with his family, travel and write. Up first is a cruise trip in the Baltic sea, then an extended visit to Australia with his wife. “I feel like I’m retiring at the top of my game,” he says.


But Munger won’t disappear from civic life in Colorado Springs. He is, after all, a neighborhood man.


“I deeply believe neighborhoods are the building blocks of cities and counties and the basic units of democracy,” Munger wrote in his retirement announcement. “When neighborhoods operate well, they are where we learn to work together to accomplish mutual aspirations through consensus, cooperation, and compromise.”


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USAFA story about sexual assault hits news wires

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 1:37 PM

COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
Vice.com is one of several high traffic websites that has picked up the Independent's cover story, "The Blame Game," published on July 19, which chronicled complaints from Air Force Academy cadets that they were assigned a mental disorder after reporting being sexually assaulted. Then, they say, the Academy cited their mental health records in efforts to remove them from the school.

John Q. Public's website featured the story in its top slot on Monday, July 24, and RT America also ran the story on July 20.

As we reported last week, some members of Congress are interested in seeing additional investigation about the use of mental diagnoses regarding those who report sexual assault at the Academy.

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A new vision for downtown Springs in Olympic Museum area

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 10:52 AM

Now that the Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame is under construction at Vermijo and Sierra Madre streets, the chief landowner in that area has king-sized ideas for that area. The concept includes a 19-story hotel, 17-story residential building, 15-story office structure and retail space — all sitting atop an underground parking garage for which a financing plan hasn't yet been devised by the city.

Nor'wood Development Group donated 1.7 acres of land for the Olympic Museum, and the complex will anchor an explosion of growth, according to a presentation on southwest downtown development to be presented to City Council Monday, July 24.

Here's a few illustrations from the 83-page report:

An artist's rendering of the new buildings envisioned that would lie east of the Olympic Museum. - ALL ILLUSTRATIONS COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS SOUTHWEST DOWNTOWN UPDATE.
  • All illustrations courtesy city of Colorado Springs southwest downtown update.
  • An artist's rendering of the new buildings envisioned that would lie east of the Olympic Museum.
Here's how the buildings would fit together.
  • Here's how the buildings would fit together.
To fund much of the public improvements, City Council will consider creating a new urban renewal area (URA), for which boundaries are shown here. That would allow the increase in tax money due to new development to be funneled to improvements for a finite period, such as 25 to 30 years. The remainder of an URA created in 2001 that's not included in the new URA would stay on its 25-year time line.
  • To fund much of the public improvements, City Council will consider creating a new urban renewal area (URA), for which boundaries are shown here. That would allow the increase in tax money due to new development to be funneled to improvements for a finite period, such as 25 to 30 years. The remainder of an URA created in 2001 that's not included in the new URA would stay on its 25-year time line.
Other funding options include a business improvement district and a metropolitan district, which could levy taxes to help fund development.
  • Other funding options include a business improvement district and a metropolitan district, which could levy taxes to help fund development.
After all of that, downtown advocates hope the area would resemble this artist's rendering.
  • After all of that, downtown advocates hope the area would resemble this artist's rendering.
The full report can be found here:

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Urban Peak's annual "Off the Street" breakfast a success

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 12:51 PM

Urban Peak, a local nonprofit serving homeless youth, got over 800 people to congregate under the Colorado Avenue bridge early Thursday morning. Sounds like a bizarre feat if it weren't tradition.
Spotted: Indy publisher Carrie Simison (bottom right) - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Spotted: Indy publisher Carrie Simison (bottom right)
During the breakfast fundraiser, the organization's leaders and supporters spoke about why it's important, as a community, to create the conditions for homeless youth to thrive. Urban Peak does this by providing a safe place to stay at their 20-bed shelter facility downtown, meeting youth where they're at through street outreach, and offering case management in matters of health, education, employment and housing.

"At Urban Peak I don't get lost in the shuffle," Colton, a formerly homeless youth who now works the shelter's front desk, told the audience.

Urban Peak, like many youth and homeless programs, is currently under threat from the Trump administration and its allies in Congress, who have proposed significant cuts to the federal block grants that support anti-poverty efforts. Forty percent of Urban Peak's budget comes from federal sources. For that reason, Urban Peak executive director Shawna Kempainnen, who also serves on the Pikes Peak Continuum of Care board, emphasized that service providers will have to rely on support from local elected officials, businesses and community members more than ever.

"We can end youth homelessness if we are relentless," she said.
Shawna Kempainnen - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Shawna Kempainnen

Her plea relied as much on logos as it did on pathos. Kempainnen cited an estimate that the city spends about $57,000 a year per chronically homeless person. Compare that to the $17,000 a year Urban Peak's supportive housing program spends to get one youth into his or her own apartment, where they're able to stabilize enough to start paying rent themselves. Over time, especially, the difference there is a stark reminder why it pays to invest in youth before their lives spiral any further.

To further that mission, Kempainnen announced a partnership with the Pikes Peak Library District to launch a "National Safe Place Network" by November. The idea is that teens in crisis who go to the library seeking help would activate a response from Urban Peak's team of staff and volunteers to get them linked up with the resources and services they need right away. Urban Peak is looking for new volunteers to support the effort.

All told, the breakfast brought in $114,500 for the organization — about $44,000 shy of their goal, albeit with 120 fewer attendees than last year.

"But we know the people in the space are always exactly the right people at the right time, and we are overwhelmed with the community’s generosity," Kempainnen wrote in an email thanking table captains. "We will continue engaging people who could not attend to get involved and invested," she added.
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Colorado Springs' 2C road measure takes some heat

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 10:09 AM

When the CO Springs Mayor account posted an item on Facebook on Monday, July 17, about the city's road paving program, it opened the floodgates for comments. And some weren't too kind.

The post has gotten 6,600 views since then and drew more than 120 comments.

First, the post:


2C was a tax increase ballot measure approved by voters in November 2015 that will generate some $50 million a year for five years. Suthers has already said it will need to be renewed at the end of the five years, because the city is so far behind on maintenance.

But the city is requiring only a two-year warranty on the work, leading City Councilor Bill Murray to call for a longer warranty period. Otherwise, he says, the city will never get ahead of the problem.

In any event, here's a sampling of comments from the public in response to the Facebook post:

"Long overdue."

"Am new to this city and can't believe the awful conditions if the streets."

"Best roads in Colorado Springs are Fort Carson, Colorado"

"You are way behind on this!"

"How does everyone feel about the size of the city contributing to our issues; roads, police and fire coverage, water, etc? There are efficiencies of scale that apply to business. Are there efficiencies of scale for cities?"

Some got specific, naming certain roads they hope are on the list, like this one:

"Cresta needs paved between Cheyenne Road and Cheyenne Mountain High School bad potholes cracks not good on any cars alignment."

Another one complained about an entire region of the city, like this one:
Well, it looks, by the scheduling, that the north east part of the city will wait yet again, another year and be force to drive on goat roads. To be serious however, it would be nice if the city would fill a pot hole in the NE section of town. Union, Rangewood...big ol' pot holes behind the Walgreen's at Rangewood and Austin Bluffs. The drainage pan is almost impassible. Research is a pathetic, rutted, pot holed mess. The city took all that time to begrudgingly remove the bike lane, placed some curb and gutter, patched the road at the gutters, but left 2' long, 6" deep potholes to drive through as punishment for crossing the city developers. The list is endless. My biggest problem is how the crews will fill a pothole then leave 5 others untouched mere feet away. Vickers at Rangewood is a prime example....west on Vickers and you will find at least 5 holes and others that have opened up again in less than a year. It is a waste, plus they do not know how to fix a pothole...does the city ever ask, what creates a pothole? Just tossing a bunch of hot patch into the hole does nothing to fix the problem of the subgrade which caused the problem in the first place.
But not all the comments were negative. One said, "Ok folks it has been bad, but let's stop the b......... and let our tax dollars and road crews get to work. I'm just grateful to see the work in progress. And slow down and keep the road crews safe."

And this one:

"Oh good. They should be done by the time we come out to visit next year. :) :) I absolutely love Colorado Springs."

The city's Jamie Fabos says that as of 4 p.m. on July 20, the post had generated the following responses:

Likes: 118
Loves: 3
Wow: 1
Angry: 1


She emailed the following response from the mayor:

The Mayor’s office considers social media to be a valuable way to get citizen input and to respond with additional information when appropriate. While we have always noted that people are more apt to post negative sentiments, this post has generated significantly more positive than negative responses, and we take that as a good sign that people are noticing the progress. Some people took to Facebook to ask for specific streets to be paved or repair crews to come out, and that’s valuable input, too.

Social media provides my office a direct avenue to engage and inform a much wider group than those who attend council meetings or visit our website. It’s apparent that the residents of Colorado Springs are very engaged and invested in our efforts around 2C.  

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Southeast PlanCOS event, now logically located, is tonight

Posted By on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 2:44 PM

ALLEN BEAUCHAMP
  • Allen Beauchamp
Word is the PlanCOS event at the Lincoln Center Wednesday night was a hoot.

And you know millennials were in the house by the looks of this bike rack out front. (Now, what does that tell us about how to build infrastructure that meets the younger generation's transportation needs?)
ALLEN BEAUCHAMP
  • Allen Beauchamp
If you've got nothing but time on your hands, here's a video of the entire event, including the audience brainstorming some pretty neat ideas for our fair city.


If you're bummed you missed it, or you simply cannot get enough of civic engagement, there's another opportunity to tell city planners about all of your dreams and desires tonight. Head over to the YMCA at 2190 Jet Wing Dr for "PlanCOS: Heading Southeast" — an event that earned some cringes in its early stages, but that's now got a venue in the right part of town.

Nice!

Here are the details, courtesy the PlanCOS team.

Heading Southeast:
Understanding the City's Comprehensive Plan and its Connection to Southeast Colorado Springs

Join El Pomar, the PlanCOS team, and our featured guests to discuss the future of Colorado Springs and how the update to the comprehensive plan affects SouthEast Colorado Springs. Bring your biggest and wonderful ideas to share with us! We want to hear from you! RSVP for FREE today at Elpomar.org/plancos. We look forward to hearing what you have to say!

Thursday, July 20, 2017
5:30-7:30 pm
Dinner and Reception to Follow

Southeast & Armed Services YMCA
2190 Jet Wing Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80916

Childcare will be provided, space is limited. Please note number and ages of children when you RSVP.
Please use the East Entrance. Accessible Parking is available.

Featuring:
Mayor John Suthers, City of Colorado Springs

Eric Phillips, ELD member, Chair of Colorado Springs Planning Commission and Comprehensive Plan Executive Steering Committee member

Taj Stokes, Comprehensive Plan Executive Steering Committee member representing SE Colorado Springs , Passion City Church

Felicia Barbera, Pikes Peak Workforce Center, and SE Colorado Springs

Elizabeth Gardner, Southeast area resident and business owner

Robert Shonkwiler, Comprehensive Plan Executive Steering Committee, SW Colorado

Peter Wysocki, AICP, Colorado Springs Planning and Community Development Director

Bruce Meighen, Principal, Logan Simpson Inc., Plan consultants

Yolanda Avila, Colorado Springs City Council, District 4


For more information on PlanCOS, please visit: coloradosprings.gov/plancos

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UPDATE: Air Force Academy sexual assault report draws little interest from Congress members

Posted By on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 12:56 PM

The Academy's Honor Code appears over the terrazzo. - COURTESY USAFA
  • Courtesy USAFA
  • The Academy's Honor Code appears over the terrazzo.
UPDATE:
Rep. Jared Polis has weighed in on the issues at the Air Force Academy described in stories published July 19 by the Independent.

He didn't reach us sooner, because he was on his way home to Colorado and was out of contact.

But here's what he says: “The accusations described by the Colorado Independent are disturbing. We can all agree that victims need and deserve a safe way to report their assault, free from penalty. I urge the Academy to fully investigate these accusations.”

Polis also notes he regularly sends a staffer to the Board of Visitors meetings when he's unable to attend himself.

———ORIGINAL POST 12:56 P.M. THURSDAY, JULY 20, 2017————————

On Wednesday, July 19, the Independent published several stories about the Air Force Academy's treatment of cadets who report they've been sexually assaulted. ("The blame game," Cover story.)

Several cadets told us they were assigned a mental diagnosis of which they initially weren't aware that could have far reaching impact on their lives and futures.

From the story:
Now, current and former cadets who say they were victims of sexual assault claim the Academy uses mental health counselors — the very people assigned to help them — to add diagnoses to their record in a way that could damage their prospects permanently. Once victims are labeled with a serious mental illness, they can be expelled and even forced to reimburse the Academy for their education....

How far-reaching such tactics are is unclear, but an Academy sexual assault response coordinator, speaking publicly about the inner workings of the Academy's methods for the first time, says it's common practice for alleged victims to be unfairly tagged with mental disorders and pushed out.
We asked Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and Reps. Jared Polis and Doug Lamborn to comment on the stories, but some didn't even acknowledge our phone calls and emails on the subject.

The only one who responded, Bennet, isn't even a current member of the Academy's Board of Visitors, while the others are currently serving.

Through a spokesperson, Bennet said simply, "We urge the leadership at the USAFA to complete their investigation and take steps to ensure that cadets and academy personnel feel confident in reporting instances of sexual assault.”

Lamborn's spokesman said: "The Congressman will not be weighing-in at this time."

The other two said nothing.

It's worth noting that Lamborn has been the most faithful attendee at BOV meetings. According to minutes of nine meetings held between January 2014 and April 2017 made available by the Academy, Lamborn missed only two. Polis, who's running for the Democratic nomination in the Colorado governor's race, missed five of those meetings, and Gardner has attended two of four meetings since joining the board in 2016.

If we hear from any of the others, we'll circle back with an update.

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