Friday, September 29, 2017

Charae McDaniel named city CFO

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 12:59 PM

  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
The City of Colorado Springs has a new chief financial officer, pending City Council's approval at their Oct. 10 meeting.

A Sept. 28 news release announced that Charae McDaniel, currently the city's budget manager, has been selected.

What does the city's CFO do? According to the release, "The chief financial officer (CFO) reports to the chief of staff/chief administrative officer, and is responsible for all accounting and treasury functions. This position directs the financial functions of the City including budget, fiscal and strategic planning, all aspects of accounting, sales tax collections, parking enterprise, grant management, and investments."

Further, the CFO "directs the development of a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), district and enterprise financial statements, annual budget, strategic plan, and all cost allocations."

McDaniel has been performing some of those duties since April, when former CFO Kara Skinner resigned. As the Indy first reported then, Skinner took a job in the City of Boulder's finance department.

In the release, McDaniel said she's "honored to serve ... our great city."

The Mayor commented on the promotion too, saying, “Charae has worked in City Finance for over a decade, most recently serving in the deputy role. Her abundance of institutional knowledge and experience in effectively managing the City’s budget has prepared her for the CFO role.  The City is very fortunate to retain and promote someone with her background and is confident that this promotion will provide for a seamless transition.” 

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Bike sharing program to be launched by Downtown Partnership

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 12:20 PM

Colorado Springs' Downtown Partnership has another project coming down the pike.

The Partnership's CEO and President, Susan Edmondson,
announced plans for a public bike sharing project, PikeCycle, during the Partnership's annual breakfast on Sept. 28, saying it was “fine time” Colorado Springs started a program. The bikes will be available for rental and return (to "ports") in and around downtown starting in spring.

Holly Kortum, executive director for Kaiser Permanente in Southern Colorado, which is sponsoring the project, highlighted how the plan aligns with the vision of Kaiser, and was hopeful that it could bring about positive outcomes.

“It improves the air quality, it reduces carbon emissions,
it supports and enhances our growing tourism, and it embraces for us our Olympic City USA brand as a fit, active community," she said.

(Disclosure: The Independent and our sister paper, the Colorado Springs Business Journal, are sponsors of the bike share program as well.)

The project, still in it’s infancy, is slated to start offering bikes in April 2018, with a plan to put over 200 bikes and 364 docks in the Legacy Loop area encompassing downtown, Colorado College and the Olympic Training Center.

Those who want to use the bikes will need to pay. PikeCycle rental membership plans will range from one-day to annual use. All bikes are equipped with GPS technology to keep track of their location, so riders don’t have to worry about returning the bikes to specific ports.

But before the program launches, there are a few kinks to work out. Additional sponsorships are being negotiated, as well as a protocol for repairs. One Downtown Partnership spokesperson says that B-Cycle, the company who will supply the bikes for PikeCycle, will help employ staff for local maintenance. B-Cycle, which also has projects in Denver and Boulder, gives a product warranty to clients, but it excludes theft, vandalism and misuse.

In order to keep cyclists safe on the road and in construction zones, more continuous bike lanes will be created as the project expands.

Projected PikeCycle regions, separated into Phase 1 and Phase 2 - COURTESY OF DOWNTOWN COLORADO SPRINGS PARTNERSHIP
  • Courtesy of Downtown Colorado Springs Partnership
  • Projected PikeCycle regions, separated into Phase 1 and Phase 2

Here's the full press release on the announcement and the Downtown Partnership's Annual Breakfast:

Dan Robertson, Steve Schleiker and Ladyfingers Letterpress recognized with awards

Colorado Springs, CO - A before-the-trend developer, the El Paso County assessor and a creative Downtown business were honored today by Downtown Partnership with Downtown Star awards at the annual Downtown Partnership Breakfast. Now in its 20th year, the annual breakfast was attended by a sold-out crowd of 700 business, community and civic leaders. Remarks by Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers were followed by Downtown Star awards presented in three categories: individual, civil servant, and business or organization, to those who have made outstanding commitments to a thriving Downtown. The event culminated with an announcement that Downtown Partnership intends to launch a bike share program next year.

The new PikeCycle bike share program is scheduled to launch in spring 2018. Bike sharing is the fastest growing form of transportation in the world, and PikeCycle title sponsor Kaiser Permanente was on hand to excite the crowd about the project. The first phase of PikeCycle will serve the entire Legacy Loop area, which includes 46,000 households and encircles greater Downtown Colorado Springs. Downtown Partnership CEO Susan Edmondson told the crowd that additional sponsorships are essential to ensure that PikeCycle becomes a reality. More on PikeCycle and sponsorship opportunities can be found online at

Also at the annual breakfast, the 2017 Downtown Star Awards were presented:

Individual: Nearly two decades ago Dan Robertson saw the beauty in older buildings such as the Daniels building and the Giddings building and began converting the upper floors to residential units. It was a gamble to create the first lofts Downtown. Exposing the brick walls and retaining the wood floors and wooden beams lent character and beauty to each unit and planted a seed in our urban environment for loft living. From the Daniels Lofts to the Giddings Lofts, the Carriage House Lofts and – newly opened this year – the Bijou Lofts, Robertson continues to lead the charge on mixed-use development right in the heart of Downtown.

Civil Servant: County assessor Steve Schleiker may not have the most exhilarating of roles, but his is a vital part of a well-functioning community. Schleiker and his team work to take the emotion out of numbers, focus on proactively educating citizens – clearing the fog from often complicated state laws and processes – and respond quickly with a positive, helpful approach. Schleiker and his team also were recognized for the newly revamped county assessor website that makes public data user-friendly, business-friendly and resident-friendly, providing valuable information for investors looking to do business throughout the county.

Business or Organization: Morgan Calderini and Arley-Rose Torsone, founders of Ladyfingers Letterpress, were recognized for their business, which “goes beyond simply selling a product or making a product to fully embracing and enhancing their place in the community.” Their award-winning stationery is sold across the country and beyond, but more than that, they have created a gallery space in their store, host workshops and classes and serve as a community gathering place. This year, they rallied neighboring businesses to improve the business facades – applying for a Downtown Development Authority grant and project managing the entire process – to paint, update and create new signage for three businesses on their block. In addition, they hosted a prize-giveaway trip TO Colorado Springs, offering the all-expense paid trip as a contest to their distributors, “because we want them to know how great our community is, too.”

About Downtown Partnership
Downtown Partnership is the lead nonprofit organization ensuring that Downtown Colorado Springs serves as the economic, cultural, and civic heart of the city. For more information visit, or contact Downtown Colorado Springs at 719.886.0088.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Mountain Metro Transit increases service in Academy Boulevard corridor

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 2:21 PM

Mountain Metropolitan Transit is expanding service by making buses on one of its most popular routes make stops every 15 minutes instead of 30.

The route runs from the Citadel Mall to Voyager Parkway, as shown on the map to the right.

Here's the release:

Beginning Monday October 2 riders will be able to catch a city bus every 15 minutes on North Academy Boulevard. Route 25, which runs between the Citadel Mall and Voyager Parkway, will see increased service from 30 minutes to 15 minutes Monday through Friday. This popular route is one of the top three highest ridership routes in the system. Riders can now travel from the downtown area to the northern-most part of the city using this premium bus service for their entire trip. Other route improvements include adding an additional bus to Routes 10 and 11, which serve southern portions of the city, traveling between the downtown core and Pikes Peak Community College Centennial Campus. The additional bus will improve on-time performance for these two routes.

“We are continuing with our objective of improving our hub-and-spoke system by implementing a series of high-frequency transit routes. We now offer 15 minute bus service along Boulder Street and Platte Avenue and to northern Colorado Springs along Academy Boulevard; 15 minute service to UCCS utilizing Nevada Avenue and Weber Street; and 15 minute bus service to PPCC with Routes 10 and 11 along South Nevada Avenue,” said Craig Blewitt, director, Mountain Metropolitan Transit.

Mountain Metropolitan Transit provides local fixed-route bus service and Metro Mobility ADA paratransit service for Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region. All buses are wheelchair-lift equipped. Mountain Metropolitan Transit also provides other services such as Metro Rides’ ridesharing, vanpool, and bicycling programs. For added convenience, there are bike racks on all buses for riders who want to utilize the bike-n-bus program. For additional information regarding Mountain Metropolitan Transit please visit, or call (719) 385-RIDE (7433).

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Women sought gun permits at a higher rate than men in El Paso County

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 11:09 AM

A citizen gets in a little range practice at Whistling Pines Gun Club. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • A citizen gets in a little range practice at Whistling Pines Gun Club.
In the Sept. 27 edition of the Indy, we report that those with concealed carry permits has grown by 100 percent since 2012 in El Paso County.

Worthy of note is the growth of those local permit holders who are women. From the end of 2012 to June this year, the number of females with permits in El Paso County increased by 53.9 percent, compared to the increase in men holding permits of 35.9 percent.

Back in 2012, 8,193 women had concealed carry permits in the county, while as of June, that number was 12,610, according to data provided by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

The biggest surge in total permits in the county, 41.8 percent, came in 2013 after the Aurora theater shooting and the slaughter of 20 children and six staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, both in 2012. It's worth nothing that 2013 also was the year that gun control measures became effective statewide on July 1.

The second biggest surge in the county, 15.9 percent, came in 2015 after two shooting incidents here in Colorado Springs — the Halloween shooting by Noah Harpham and Robert Dear's rampage at the Planned Parenthood clinic.

This data comes from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and shows concealed carry permits issued in 2013.
  • This data comes from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and shows concealed carry permits issued in 2013.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

City grants Nor'Wood ability to impose $325 million in special taxes

Posted By on Tue, Sep 26, 2017 at 5:48 PM

A rendering of the southwest downtown plan looking east into America the Beautiful Park. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy city of Colorado Springs
  • A rendering of the southwest downtown plan looking east into America the Beautiful Park.
In a historic move, Colorado Springs City Council approved taxing authority for three special districts that will fund development of the southwest downtown to the tune of $325 million — the costliest single move ever in the city's history — despite cautionary comments from some Council members and several citizens.

The developer, Nor'wood Development Group, is the largest in the region and plans multi-story office and residential development in the area immediately surrounding the Olympic Museum at Sierra Madre Street and Vermijo Avenue that's now under construction.

The boundaries for the districts are generally described as Interstate 25 on the west, Colorado Avenue on the north, Cascade Avenue on the east and Cimarron Street on the south.

The idea is to issue bonds and use revenue from taxes imposed by the special districts to repay the debt. Today, the area is home to vacant lots and unused buildings, a lack of infrastructure and very little, if any, commerce and residences.

Chief critics on Council are Bill Murray and Don Knight. Murray questioned approving the debt authority without more details and called it "a blank check," while Knight questioned the size of the authorization but said he was enthusiastic about the plan in general.

The vote was 6 to 1, Murray dissenting, with Councilors Andy Pico and Merv Bennett absent.

One citizen critic was Tim Hoiles, who's family used to own the daily newspaper, which operated under the Hoiles family with the Libertarian philosophy of limited government intrusion and participation in public business.

"I didn’t even hear about this until last week," he said. "Is this the largest ever asked for? Yes, it is. I have three words: accountable, which includes the mayor, Council and staff; piecemeal — roads, utilities, hospital pension account, and precedent. You keep setting it; it’s a bad thing.

"It’s not the Council’s job to give away taxing authority. I disagree with the developers.
I disagree with anyone who says, 'Give us government money to do our jobs.' It’s Nor'wood. This is not the only thing you’re negotiating with them on. They own Banning Lewis Ranch. Are those negotiations complete? You got a stormwater suit. There’s a development cited on Page 22 [of the lawsuit]: First and Main [a Nor'wood development accused of violating the city's drainage requirements]. You’ve got three things going on and you’re trying to piecemeal. Please stop piecemealing."

Banning Lewis Ranch is an 18,000-acre largely undeveloped tract on the city's east side for which Nor'wood is negotiating a new annexation agreement, first approved in 1988, to ease the burden on developer investment. The lawsuit Hoiles mentioned is the EPA lawsuit against the city alleging stormwater/water quality violations.

Another citizen, Don Hargrove, expressed concern that southwest downtown development would add to an ambience of downtown that focuses on bars, restaurants and banks to the exclusion of shops and other attractions; and another citizen asked what's driving demand for such a huge project. "It worries me we're spending much more money than we should."

Go here for more details of the proposal.

But others applauded the project. Susan Edmondson, chief of the Downtown Partnership, says just because Colorado Springs hasn't seen "vertical" special districts, meaning district boundaries will apply to various floors of the high-rise buildings, doesn't mean they don't work.

"This layering helps make this project work," she said. "This is a structure that makes a lot of sense. This is what great cities do to make great cities happen."

Nor'wood will now proceed to an election of board members for the special districts on Nov. 7. The project is considered a 20-year undertaking that also was championed by city planning staff.

"The intent of the redevelopment area is to create a unique vibrant place for resident and visitors and stimulate development and redevelopment throughout the entire city," planning director Peter Wysocki said. "I think it’s important to paint the image and stress the importance of this project."

Council President Richard Skorman argued stridently in favor of the proposal.

"It’s the people who become the business owners or apartment owners who decide to join in, that’s when they’re voting," he says. "If they don’t want to be a part of that business district, they don’t have to be. I joined the downtown business district because it benefits my business.
It’s really growth paying for itself. We don’t want to hurt the flexibility of this because the opportunity for this is just so great."

He noted a project such as this one could lead to passenger rail, more greenway development and jobs. "Why can’t we get an Amazon to come to Colorado Springs? This is an opportunity, and it’s what every other city has done. We’re lagging behind."

City Economic Development Officer Bob Cope said the project will generate millions in tax revenue, add 5,000 jobs and add billions to the city's gross metropolitan product.

Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler noted the authorized debt will fund infrastructure, not another high-rise to be owned by the developer.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Veterans cemetery contract awarded

Posted By on Mon, Sep 25, 2017 at 5:10 PM

Arlington National Cemetery.
  • Arlington National Cemetery.
After many years of trying to get something going in the way of a veterans cemetery here, it looks like things are taking shape.

As we reported in 2013, the land has been purchased for some time. It lies southeast of the city, near Marksheffel and Drennan roads — a 10-minute drive from the Colorado Springs Airport.

Now we find out that a construction contract has been awarded to a Flemington, N.J., company — G&C Fab-Con, LLC.

The $31.8 million contract calls for the cemetery to be completed in 2019, according to a news release from Sen. Michael Bennet, which follows:

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet issued the following statement in response to the announcement that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has awarded a construction contract for the new Pikes Peak National Cemetery in Colorado Springs.

"Starting construction is a welcome step in the long wait that veterans and their families have endured to lay their loved ones to rest closer to home,” Bennet said. “We are grateful that this cemetery will serve an area with one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the nation.”

The $31,843,000 construction contract was awarded to G&C Fab-Con, LLC, a service disabled veteran-owned small business. The cemetery is scheduled for full completion in 2019 and will develop approximately 13,500 internment sites.

Bennet has worked for eight years to establish the 374-acre cemetery, which will serve roughly 95,000 veterans. Currently, the nearest cemetery for veterans and their families is more than 70 miles away. Bennet secured the funding necessary for the project in Fiscal Year 2017.

Bennet worked with former Senator Mark Udall and Congressman Doug Lamborn to bring a national cemetery to southern Colorado. In 2009, Bennet sponsored legislation with Udall to create the cemetery, and in 2010, the President's budget request included language that reduced the population threshold used to determine where new national veterans cemeteries could be built from 170,000 to 80,000 veterans living within 75 miles of a potential site. This language, which followed a meeting Bennet held with then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, allowed the VA to build a cemetery in southern Colorado. In October 2013, following a rigorous review process that included public meetings and a public comment period, the VA announced it had agreed to purchase land for this preferred site in Colorado Springs.

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Colorado Springs Utilities call for honoring former water chief, Gary Bostrom

Posted By on Mon, Sep 25, 2017 at 3:14 PM

Gary Bostrom, pictured in front of the Pueblo Dam, was instrumental in seeing that the Southern Delivery System pipeline project became reality. - COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities
  • Gary Bostrom, pictured in front of the Pueblo Dam, was instrumental in seeing that the Southern Delivery System pipeline project became reality.
The name of the former chief water officer for Colorado Springs Utilities is likely to be affixed to the future reservoir to be built in phase 2 of the Southern Delivery System.

Gary Bostrom, who spent his entire career with Utilities, died unexpectedly on Aug. 28.

The news release about plans to name a reservoir for Bostrom didn't specify which reservoir. The SDS system will have two: the Upper Williams Creek Reservoir at Bradley and Meridian roads, and the Williams Creek Reservoir to the south of that. We'll update when we learn which one has been selected to bear Bostrom's name. The Upper Williams Creek Reservoir is the one proposed to be named for Bostrom.

Here's the release:
Colorado Springs City Council will consider a resolution tomorrow to name a future reservoir for Colorado Springs Utilities’ former water services officer, Gary M. Bostrom, P.E.

Bostrom passed away suddenly Aug. 28, 2017 at age 60. He was a key contributor to water management in Colorado for nearly four decades, retiring from Springs Utilities in 2015.

The water storage reservoir is part of the second phase of the Southern Delivery System, a project that Bostrom helped lead to bring Arkansas River water to Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West.

Construction of the reservoir is planned within the next five to 10 years approximately 8 miles east and 5 miles south of Colorado Springs, in El Paso County.

SDS began commercial operation in 2016.

“I’m honored to recommend the naming of this reservoir for my friend Gary. His contribution to our community – his hometown —through his passion and expertise for providing safe, reliable, quality water, is unmatched. We owe him much gratitude for sharing his knowledge with us and playing an integral role in planning for the future of water in Colorado Springs and the region,” Springs Utilities’ CEO Jerry Forte said.

Bostrom was highly regarded among community members and his colleagues in water organizations in the Arkansas and Colorado River Basins. He was instrumental in the development of the Arkansas River Exchange Program and the implementation of Springs Utilities’ 1996 Water Resource Plan—a plan that minimized impact on the Arkansas River and balanced various interests in the basin.

He was a Director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and served more than a decade on boards for the Fountain Valley Authority and the Aurora-Colorado Springs Joint Water Authority. He also had many years of service to the Homestake Steering Committee, Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Company, the Lake Meredith Reservoir Company and the Lake Henry Reservoir Company.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Racoon takes a wild ride on a CSPD cruiser

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 5:38 PM

A racoon took a ride he wasn't expecting last night, Sept. 21, and the Facebook post about it is reportedly going viral.


Fortunately, the Colorado Springs Police officer took time to disembark the critter safely.
A racoon hitched a ride on a police cruiser on Sept. 21. - COURTESY CSPD
  • Courtesy CSPD
  • A racoon hitched a ride on a police cruiser on Sept. 21.

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Suthers says city is its reaching potential in State of the City speech

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 3:29 PM

It was a full house at The Broadmoor today when Mayor John Suthers gave his State of the City address to about 700 people. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • It was a full house at The Broadmoor today when Mayor John Suthers gave his State of the City address to about 700 people.

Things are looking up in Colorado Springs, according to Mayor John Suthers who spoke to 700 people at a luncheon at The Broadmoor today, Sept. 22, hosted by the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and EDC.

Suthers opened by recalling that in 2015, he reported the city was in good shape with potential to be in great shape.

Last year, he reported the city had made significant progress from good to great.

But today, he expressed enthusiasm, with one caveat — it's essential for voters to approve the city's proposed stormwater fee on the Nov. 7 ballot.

"As to the state of our city today," he said, "I do not believe I am being overly optimistic, nor am I exaggerating, when I suggest that Colorado Springs, as a result of the public and private investment of its citizens, is beginning to achieve its potential and secure its place among the great cities of America."

Here are a few of the many gains Suthers reported:

• The city's 2C ballot measure approved by voters in 2015 has paved 471 lane miles of roadway.

• Due to local, state and federal investment, the intersection of Interstate 25 and Cimarron Street will be completed in October.

• The city's median age is 34.4 years, almost 10 years younger than the average age of all Coloradans.

• 8,000 jobs have been added per year in the last two years.

• After seeing unemployment soar to 10 percent in 2010, the latest figure is 2.5 percent as of June.

• There are 13,260 job postings with median pay of $69,600.

• The city's real estate market is among the hottest in the nation, with the average price of a home increasing by 17 percent since July 2015, to $323,200.

• Colorado Springs Airport has seen a 30 percent increase in passengers over the last year.

• Tourism is booming, with the lodger's tax revenues up by double digits the last two years.
Suthers later held court with the media following the luncheon.
  • Suthers later held court with the media following the luncheon.
Looking to the future, Suthers noted, "The most immediate issue before the City Council in terms of continued economic expansion is the approval of an amended annexation agreement for Banning Lewis Ranch."

Annexed in 1988, the 20,000-acre ranch has sat mostly idle since that time due to economic factors and onerous requirements of the developer to build infrastructure.

"Over the last 22 years, the city has lost more than 2,700 jobs and $4.5 billion in economic benefit as the inability to develop Banning Lewis has caused development to leap frog the area into the county. Banning Lewis Ranch should be developed in a manner that delivers a great quality of life for its residents and more than pays for itself in terms of city services and public infrastructure."

Read his entire speech here:
Suthers also honored former City Councilor Mary Ellen McNally with the lifetime achievement Spirit of the Springs award. Here's the release:

Mayor John Suthers presented the Spirit of the Springs Lifetime Achievement Award to Mary Ellen McNally after the State of the City address today. A long-time resident of Colorado Springs, Olympic City USA, McNally has impacted the city through her professional and volunteer contributions.

“If you’ve lived here for more than a couple of years and been involved in our community, you’ve undoubtedly heard that name, and been impacted by her many contributions," said Suthers to the crowd of nearly 700 at the State of the City Address.

McNally has volunteered on numerous boards, and has raised funds for multiple local non-profit organizations including School District 11, Cheyenne Village, Citizens Project, the Southern Colorado AIDS Project and many more.

The Spirit of the Springs awards program was created to celebrate the positive achievements of citizens in our great community. The lifetime achievement award has only been presented on three prior occasions to Nancy Lewis, Mayor Harry Hoth and George Fellows. Click here to find out about the Spirit of the Springs program.

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AspenPointe accepting nominations for annual 'Hero of Mental Health'

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 10:52 AM

Last year’s Hero of Mental Health Award is presented to School Teacher Brittni Darras by Dr. Mick Pattinson, President and CEO of AspenPointe - COURTESY ASPENPOINTE
  • Courtesy AspenPointe
  • Last year’s Hero of Mental Health Award is presented to School Teacher Brittni Darras by Dr. Mick Pattinson, President and CEO of AspenPointe

AspenPointe, the region’s behavioral health and substance abuse center, is currently accepting nominations for its annual Hero of Mental Health award.

The honor, previously awarded to Brittni Darras, Guy and Jane Bennett, Alan Pocock, Jeannie Ritter, and Mark and Carol Graham, recognizes contributions to the community in the realm of mental health and substance abuse “through either awareness efforts, investment of personal time, financial contributions, or all the above.”

Though the recipient will be announced on Oct. 16, a formal celebration will be held Nov. 2 at the Heroes of Mental Health Luncheon, featuring SNL comedian Darrel Hammond as keynote speaker.

In order to nominate a local hero of mental health, you can fill out the online form or email with a 100-500 word explanation of the nominee’s qualifications. Nomination ends on Oct. 1.

See the full press release below for more information on the award and the luncheon.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Everyday heroes, who accomplish great feats on behalf of others or sometimes entire communities, live among us. We want to know about them and their great deeds. AspenPointe is seeking nominations for its annual Heroes of Mental Health Award, which will be presented during the Heroes of Mental Health Luncheon on Nov. 2 at the Broadmoor.

AspenPointe’s annual Heroes of Mental Health Luncheon recognizes individuals in the Pikes Peak Region who champion mental health and wellness. They can be a driving force in efforts to reduce stigma or a key player in the growth of community programs that treat and fund mental illness and/or substance misuse.

Nominees for the Heroes of Mental Health Award should be residents of, or work in, the Pikes Peak Region and have made significant contributions toward advancing mental health treatment and substance abuse care and/or other forms of wellness through either awareness efforts, investment of personal time, financial contributions, or all the above.

To nominate, please complete our online nomination form at, or email Explain in 100-500 words the nominee’s contributions to mental health and substance abuse. The nomination process ends close Oct. 1. This year’s hero will be announced Oct. 16.

Last year’s recipient, Brittni Darras, is a school teacher at Rampart High School. Darras helped a student who had a plan to complete suicide by writing a personal note to the student. Later, she wrote 139 other notes to her other students. The notes quickly spread awareness of kindness and received national and international media attention. She also received the Colorado Springs Mayor’s Young Leader Award as well as a Denver TedTALK public speaking invite.

Previous award winners include Guy and Jane Bennett, suicide prevention advocates, Alan Pocock, the special education chair and Learning and Educating About Disabilities (LEAD) program coordinator at Cheyenne Mountain High School, Former Colorado First Lady Jeannie Ritter, and former Fort Carson Commander Retired Maj. Gen. Mark Graham and his wife, Carol.

Tickets are now available for the luncheon which will feature SNL Darrell Hammond as keynote speaker. Hammond is famous for his impressions of Bill Clinton, Sean Connery and Donald Trump, but his personal story of overcoming child abuse and substance misuse is less known. Hammond will share his difficult journey of drug abuse, self-harm and other life challenges.

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Yolanda Avila's lawsuit against the city has been "resolved"

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 10:20 AM

Avila with her service dog, Puma. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Avila with her service dog, Puma.
The lawsuit filed against the city and Qwest Corp. by Yolanda Avila last year, before Avila was elected to a seat on Colorado Springs City Council, has been "resolved," Avila reports.

According to city records, the city and Avila agreed on a stipulation for dismissal, and Avila tells the Independent in a phone interview she was not paid any money by the city. She says the agreement that ended the case contained a "confidentiality clause" that bars her from discussing the matter.

Avila, who is legally blind, was injured when she stepped into an open vault on the sidewalk on Nov. 24, 2014, on the southeast corner of Pikes Peak Avenue and Chelton Road. She suffered a permanent ankle injury, and her medical bills alone totaled $69,670, according to the lawsuit.

The court file doesn't specify whether she settled her case with Qwest.

Avila was elected to a seat on City Council in April to represent District 4, which covers the southeast portion of the city.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Utilities Board agrees to add more solar after colorful public comment

Posted By on Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 2:58 PM

  • Amy Gray
On September 20, the Colorado Springs Utilities Board, which has the same members as City Council, heard a proposal to build enough solar panels to produce 70 megawatts of electricity. By the end of the meeting, they decided to go with 100 megawatts instead — enough to power about 28,000 homes for a year.

The new infrastructure will cost $3 million, according to the Gazette, paid for by a rate hike starting in 2019 that'll add an average of 70 cents to monthly residential electric bills. When it's up and running, the percentage of CSU's energy portfolio that comes from renewable sources will have nearly doubled.

Many who showed for public comment urged the board to move more aggressively on renewables and shutter the coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant sooner than 2035. Some referenced Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, which recently ravaged Florida and Texas, respectively, as examples of a dangerously changing climate caused by fossil fuel emissions. Board member Andy Pico denied that those storms were out of the ordinary and insisted that global warming isn't happening. He and Don Knight opposed the investment in solar. The rest of them were open to continuing discussions about a more sustainable energy future for Colorado Springs, provided it's not too expensive.

The board may have been moved by this, shall we say, unusual, use of the public comment period. Watch below as members of and COS CAN act out the existential battle between coal and solar. The theatrics start a little more than four minutes into this video.

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Is the Colorado River a person? A green group is asking for that designation.

Posted By on Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 2:46 PM

Homestake Reservoir in Eagle County, which lies within the Colorado River Watershed, supplies much of Colorado Springs Utilities' water. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Homestake Reservoir in Eagle County, which lies within the Colorado River Watershed, supplies much of Colorado Springs Utilities' water.
The Colorado River, which originates in Colorado, provides water to seven states and Mexico, and it should have rights of its own, according to a soon-to-be-filed federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks status for the river as a person.

Colorado Springs has a huge stake in the Colorado River, as its Homestake Reservoir is located in the Colorado River Basin and supplies a significant amount of water to the city.

Here's a release about the lawsuit:
In a first-in-the-nation lawsuit filed in federal court, the Colorado River is asking for judicial recognition of itself as a “person,” with rights of its own to exist and flourish. The lawsuit, filed against the Governor of Colorado, seeks a recognition that the State of Colorado can be held liable for violating those rights held by the River.

The Plaintiff in the lawsuit is the Colorado River itself, with the organization Deep Green Resistance - a national organization committed to protecting the planet through direction action - filing as a “next friend” on behalf of the River. The River and the organization are represented in the lawsuit by Jason Flores Williams, a noted civil rights lawyer and lead attorney in a recent class-action case filed on behalf of Denver’s homeless population.

While this is the first action brought in the United States which seeks such recognition for an ecosystem, such actions and laws are becoming more common in other countries. In 2008, the country of Ecuador adopted the world’s first national constitution which recognized rights for ecosystems and nature; over three dozen U.S. municipalities, including the City of Pittsburgh, have adopted similar laws; and courts in India and Colombia have recently recognized that rivers, glaciers, and other ecosystems may be treated as “persons” under those legal systems.

Serving as an advisor to the lawsuit is the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), a nonprofit public interest law firm which has previously assisted U.S. municipalities and the Ecuadorian government to codify legally enforceable rights for ecosystems and nature into law.

Attorney Flores-Williams explained that “current environmental law is simply incapable of stopping the widescale environmental destruction that we’re experiencing. We’re bringing this lawsuit to even the odds – corporations today claim rights and powers that routinely overwhelm the efforts of people to protect the environment. Our judicial system recognizes corporations as “persons,” so why shouldn’t it recognize the natural systems upon which we all depend as having rights as well? I believe that future generations will look back at this lawsuit as the first wave of a series of efforts to free nature and our communities from a system of law which currently guarantees their destruction.”

Deanna Meyer, a member of Deep Green Resistance and one of the “next friends” in the lawsuit, affirmed Flores-Williams’ sentiments, declaring that “without the recognition that the Colorado River possesses certain rights of its own, it will always be subject to widescale exploitation without any real consequences. I’m proud to stand with the other “next friends” in this lawsuit to enforce and defend the rights of the Colorado, and we’re calling on groups across the country to do the same to protect the last remaining wild places in this country and beyond.”

The lawsuit seeks recognition by the Court that the Colorado River Ecosystem possesses the rights to exist, flourish, regenerate, and restoration, and to recognize that the State of Colorado may be held liable for violating those rights in a future action. The complaint will be filed in the US District Court of Colorado on Tuesday.  

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Protected bike lanes take time to adjust to, as early grievances attest

Posted By on Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 8:53 AM

Cyclists are singing the praises of a new striping scheme on Weber Street — some Indy employees are among those already enjoying the protected lanes — but some motorists are bamboozled and pretty upset.

We're getting phone calls here at the Indy from people who call it wacky and the dumbest thing they've ever seen.

Weber, formerly a four-lane street, has been striped to be only two lanes. The other two lanes are now occupied with parking, roughly eight feet from the curb, with bike lanes bordering the curb line. City officials say this design is to protect cyclists and promote the use of bicycles.

Courtesy a Bike Colorado Springs representative, the following graphics show the intent of the new striping plan:
  • Courtesy Bike Colorado Springs

  • Courtesy Bike Colorado Springs

But despite those best of intentions, some early feedback has been bumpy, to say the least. Consider this post from Facebook Thursday morning:
Anyone see the new street layout on the recently resurfaced Weber Street in downtown Colorado Springs? This is the stupidest thing I think I've ever seen!!
The bike lane is now closest to the curb, then the parallel parking spaces - which are about 8' from the curb (where the right lane used to be), then the single drive lane. If there is only one car parked it looks as if it's in the middle of the right lane - only there is no right lane!
How long until someone who's not paying attention (or drunk) runs into a car in the "right lane" that they don't realize is actually parked there? Or until a cyclist t-bones a car turning into a driveway because they didn't see it from the bike lane?
And this:
I also commented on this road, yesterday. I thought I was behind two cars waiting on a light for a few seconds, but turned out they were parked. Crazy indeed.
Another said, "Someone's going to get hit."

Well, no sooner did I read those posts than I saw evidence of just such a mishap:

This car was trying to turn into a private parking lot and nearly struck a cyclist, exactly what naysayers about Weber Street's new striping plan predicted. The cyclist appeared to be knocked to the ground just prior to this photo being shot. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • This car was trying to turn into a private parking lot and nearly struck a cyclist, exactly what naysayers about Weber Street's new striping plan predicted. The cyclist appeared to be knocked to the ground just prior to this photo being shot.

Hunter Greeno was the cyclist involved in the accident this morning, and he tells the Indy he's not a fan of the new striping on Weber. A regular bicycle commuter, Greeno suffered a cut on his arm and a bruise on his leg from the "near miss," as he calls it, that put him down. He was able to make it to work on time despite the collision, he reports, though he had to walk the rest of the way.

Greeno also says he wants to lodge his opposition to the striping.

Here's a KKTV report on the confusion caused by the new striping.

For those wondering if this is just some wacky experiment, it might help to know that protected bike lanes are growing in number around the country, with 292 protected lanes (up from 78 in 2011) in use in the U.S. as of the summer of 2016, according to People for Bikes. View their Protected Bike Lanes 101 page for more.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Pete Lee has plenty of support for Senate run

Posted By on Wed, Sep 20, 2017 at 1:55 PM

  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Rep. Pete Lee
Term-limited state Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, recently announced that he will run for the state Senate District 11 seat being vacated by Sen. Michael Merrifield in 2018.

Lee is a popular Democratic legislator, who has focused on business and criminal justice issues. I wrote about his latter passion here.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lee is already piling up the endorsements, as he details in the following release:

Rep. Pete Lee Announces Broad
Bi-Partisan Support for Senate Run

Colorado Springs — Representative Pete Lee, a former small business owner, corporate executive and justice reform advocate is running for the State Senate in Colorado Springs. He has seen an outpouring of bipartisan support in just his first week campaigning. Elected officials from both parties, as well as unaffiliated voters are supporting Lee. City Council President Richard Skorman, City Councilors Jill Gaebler and Yolanda Avila, as well as HD 17 State Representative Tony Exum all endorse Representative Lee.

Senate District 11 incumbent, Michael Merrifield said, “I wholeheartedly support Pete Lee’s candidacy for Senate District 11. Having worked with Pete for over 10 years, I know he is a hardworking and effective legislator who will passionately and conscientiously represent the people of our community. I am most proud of our joint sponsorship of the Justice Reinvestment Crime Prevention bill, HB17-1326, which will significantly impact SD-11. I urge all of my constituents to support Pete as my successor in Senate District 11.”

City Councilor Jill Gaebler, in endorsing Lee’s candidacy, said, “ I am supporting Pete Lee for State Senate because he understands local issues and consistently works across party lines for the benefit of the entire community.”

Representative Lee, a forty two year resident of Colorado Springs, has spent his career finding common-sense bipartisan solutions that improve the lives of his constituents, and that’s why folks from across the political spectrum have enthusiastically announced their support for his campaign.

Pete has successfully sponsored scores of bills during his time in the State House, but knows there is a lot more work to be done and thus is looking forward to continuing that work on behalf of his constituents as a State Senator.

Many other community and business leaders have announced their proud support of Rep. Lee’s grassroots campaign for State Senate, including former Colorado Springs Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace, former City Councilor Jan Martin, D-11 School Board members Nora Brown, LuAnn Long and Jim Mason, former D-11 School Board members Bob Null and Jan Tanner, former Manitou Springs Mayor, State Representative, and County Commissioner Marcy Morrison, as well as community leaders Mary Ellen McNally, Rosemary Harris Lytle, Mike McDivitt, Jody Alyn, Dave Anderson, Alan and Jane Higbie, Mike and Amanda Bristol, Henry Allen, Mike Callicrate, and Chuck Murphy.

Visit to learn more.

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