Friday, March 30, 2018

Flu-related hospitalizations break records this year in Colorado


The 2017-2018 flu season rocked Colorado with a record-breaking number of hospitalizations. According to the Denver Channel, the total number so far is up to 3,690 hospitalizations and counting, the most Colorado has ever seen in one flu season.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 48% of all adult ER patients sought out treatment at the ER when they weren't sick enough to be admitted to the hospital and their physicians' offices were closed. This flu season, many hospitals and emergency rooms were flooded because of the flu.

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment also reports there have been a total of 156 outbreaks of the flu in Colorado, the highest number of influenza-related outbreaks on record. People 65 years or older are being hospitalized for the flu more than any other age group throughout the state, and children under the age of six are the second highest group, with an incidence rate of 110 cases per 100,000 people.

Flu hospitalizations peaked at the end of December and have been slowing declining since then. On a national scale, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded a total of 21,279 flu-related hospitalizations since October 1, the typical start of the flu season.

There is a little bit of good news, however. Colorado researchers are now pushing closer to a universal flu vaccine. Amy Aspelund and her team at Vivaldi Biosciences, a company based at the Research Innovation Center at Colorado State University, are working on a flu vaccine called deltaFLU. This vaccine could fight more strains and get to market more quickly.

The new vaccine is a nasal spray that will allow them to react faster to the changes in the multiple different flu strains or other pandemic-like viruses.

“We’re trying to work with the global community to make a vaccine that will ultimately benefit people,” says Aspelund. “We have data in ferrets, soon to be humans, that our vaccine would be cross protective,” Carrie Wick, spokeswoman for Vivaldi Biosciences, says. That could mean that people would have to get flu shots less often, Aspelund says.
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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Olympic values as a school curriculum

Posted By on Wed, Mar 28, 2018 at 12:21 PM

A mural at the Colorado Springs Airport identifies the city's brand. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • A mural at the Colorado Springs Airport identifies the city's brand.

The Olympics brand is one of the most recognizable in the world, and the city of Colorado Springs has embraced it in labeling itself Olympic City USA. But is there a downside to that? Check out our cover story this week, "Branded," which explores that question.

As a footnote to all that, the city's Olympic City USA task force has fanned out with various efforts to embrace the brand, including reaching out to schools via the Olympic Values Education Programme.

The program teaches the Olympic ideals of excellence, friendship and respect.

Here's more information on that with a contact at the bottom for schools to obtain additional information:
Every May and June, the International Olympic Committee organizes special events around the world for Olympic Day. Last year, 35 local elementary schools joined the celebration by co-branding their annual Field Day as an Olympic Day. More than 10,000 students participated. This is your invitation to join us in 2018!
Here’s how it works:
• We provide Olympic City USA stickers to your school for distribution to students.
• We connect you with a representative from the Olympic Day program.
• We offer Field Day curriculum ideas.
• We provide you with award certificates (signed by the Mayor) for 2 of your students who demonstrate the Olympic Values of “Excellence, Friendship, and Respect.” These 2 students (with their parents and other award winners) will be invited to a VIP tour of the Olympic Training Center.
• Your school will be entered into a drawing to have an Olympic or Paralympic athlete visit your school.
Every two years we cheer our U.S. Olympic athletes, and we are often inspired by the tenacity, hard work, and dedication it takes to achieve their dreams. We hope that as Olympic City USA we can share the inspiring message which the Olympic Movement delivers to students in our community. Olympic dreams start in Colorado Springs. Please join us!
For more information and to enroll, please contact Katie Lally, Olympic City USA project manager at or call 385-5484.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Water restrictions unlikely in Colorado Springs

Posted By on Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 12:29 PM

Homestake Reservoir in Eagle County, as seen last fall, is one source of Springs Utilities water. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Homestake Reservoir in Eagle County, as seen last fall, is one source of Springs Utilities water.

Earlier this month, on March 19, we reported that Colorado Springs Utilities has the equivalent of three years worth of water stored in its reservoirs, a good thing considering how dry it's been.

That abundance has led Utilities to predict its customers are unlikely to be placed under mandatory water restrictions this summer.

While something of a relief for all you horticulturists out there, the prospect of unlimited sales could mean the biggest year ever in water sales for Utilities. Since 2013, the department has seen water revenues increase by nearly a third. Here's a chart showing how much revenue Utilities collected in each year from water sales:


So feel free to flood your pansies, trees and lawns. But if you want to keep your water bill in check, look into low-water landscaping and methods to have a beautiful yard without guzzling water. Here's a schedule of free classes offered by Utilities. (Some meetings have already taken place.) For more information about each class, check out this link.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

March for Our Lives draws huge crowds

Posted By on Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 3:56 PM

Colorado Springs marchers - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Colorado Springs marchers

The March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., may be the largest single-day protest in the history of the nation’s capital, drawing some 800,000 people on March 24. The march also included one of the most memorable moments in recent activism: Parkland, Florida student Emma González’ marking of the 6 minutes and 20 seconds it took for 17 people to be killed in her high school on Valentine’s Day.

A large crowd in the Springs. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • A large crowd in the Springs.

Closer to home, tens of thousands protested at the state capitol in Denver, while the Gazette estimated that 2,000 showed up for the Colorado Springs protest. (The city police no longer offer crowd estimates, but the march wrapped a city block.)

The Colorado Springs marchers chanted “not one more!” as they marched out of Acacia Park and through downtown.
Kids joined parents at the march in the Springs. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Kids joined parents at the march in the Springs.

The 2017 Women’s March is the only action in recent Colorado Springs history to rival its size.
Multiple recent polls have shown a surge in support for stronger gun control laws, with a solid majority of Americans supporting them.

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Colorado Springs Utilities CEO announces retirement

Posted By on Thu, Mar 22, 2018 at 9:48 AM

Utilities CEO Jerry Forte will retire in May. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Utilities CEO Jerry Forte will retire in May.
After leading the city's largest enterprise for more than a decade, Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Jerry Forte will retire in May, he told the Utilities Board on March 21.

Forte, 63, has overseen some of the biggest achievements and controversies during his 16.5 years with Utilities — first as chief operating officer for four years followed by more than 12 years as CEO.

The Independent first reported that Forte could be on his way out on January 3.

Board member Andy Pico said via text message, "I thank him for his many years of service and outstanding leadership and wish him all the best for the future."

Among the biggest accomplishments by the multi-billion-dollar Utilities during Forte's tenure was the 50-mile water pipeline project that brings water from Pueblo Reservoir to the Bailey Water Treatment Plant in east Colorado Springs, known as the Southern Delivery System (SDS). The $825 million project went online in April 2016 after 20 years of complicated permitting with more than a dozen agencies and tangles with Pueblo County over permission to construct the pipeline. The later skirmish led to a $460-million, 20-year deal with the city of Colorado Springs to improve the city's stormwater drainage system to prevent flooding and contamination of Fountain Creek.

"Obviously, SDS is huge for the community," he tells the Indy in an interview after giving notice on Wednesday night.

Forte also oversaw the installation of the controversial Neumann Systems Group pollution control equipment at Drake Power Plant. The system, invented by local physicist Dave Neumann, cost roughly $170 million and reportedly achieves the goal of removing sulfur dioxide as required by government regulations, but it's the only system Neumann produced.

Drake itself has drawn headlines as a movement to close the coal-fire plant has forced the Utilities Board to consider an earlier closing date than a previous target of 2035.

Forte also noted that safety programs for workers improved during his tenure, as did customer service and planning for power supply. Perhaps one of the enterprise's biggest challenges came in 2012 during the Waldo Canyon Fire when 347 homes were destroyed, and Utilities faced dealing with restoring utilities services to evacuated area.

Forte also weathered a campaign by local business people and developers several years ago to change the Utilities Board from Council members to either a separately elected board or a combination of elected and appointed members. Their goal was to assure board members possessed expertise in utilities issues, but after study, the Utilities Board kept the status quo.

Forte praised the current board, saying it had led Utilities "very well" and has remained on top of an array of complicated issues.

Through all of that, Forte has been at the helm but now is ready to call it quits.

"We have been working for about a year with the board in creating a transition plan," Forte tells the Indy in an interview after giving notice on March 21. In fact, Forte has had to replace Utilities' chief financial officer Bill Cherrier and chief water officer Dan Higgins in recent months as those officers left to take another job and retire early, respectively.

Forte says he will be available to help with "onboarding" the new CEO, who will be chosen in a national search. Forte's successor on an interim basis will be named in coming days.
Forte, center, speaks to guests on Colorado Springs Utilities' annual water tour of transmountain systems in September 2017. To his left is Utilities Board Vice Chair Andy Pico. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Forte, center, speaks to guests on Colorado Springs Utilities' annual water tour of transmountain systems in September 2017. To his left is Utilities Board Vice Chair Andy Pico.
Forte admitted he doesn't have a plan for retirement as yet, other than enjoying time with his family, but he says he'd like to coach leaders and isn't planning to move elsewhere. Forte lives in Black Forest, so he's not a Utilities customer, a sore point with various Utilities board members over the years. So that might be a requisite for any new hire — to live within Utilities service area.

Though Forte's contract called for him to receive severance pay under certain circumstances, he will not receive any such pay, because he's retiring.

Forte is paid an annual salary of $447,175, and is the highest paid city employee.

In a news release, Utilities Board Chair Tom Strand said of the Palmer High School graduate, "Jerry carried on the terrific legacy of utilities leaders in our community. Under his leadership we have formalized long-term resource plans for electric, natural gas and water services that will serve our great city for generations. His contributions will last for decades and he will be sorely missed.”

Before joining Utilities, Forte served as utilities manager for Johnson Controls at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Forte succeeded Phil Tollefson in 2005.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Opioid crisis: Drug distributors sound off

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2018 at 3:45 PM

  • Lightspring/
In this week's issue of the Independent, we report that counties, states and others across the nation are filing lawsuits against Big Pharma, accusing various companies of promoting opioid drugs they knew were highly addictive, among other allegations.

Huerfano County already has joined the lawsuit, which has been consolidated in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio. El Paso County reportedly will consider filing a case.

After deadline, we heard from Healthcare Distribution Alliance, the national trade association representing distributors, including AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, all of whom are named in the lawsuits.

Via email, the company reached out to "provide insight from our side of the issue."

Here's a statement from John Parker, HDA's senior vice president:
The misuse and abuse of prescription opioids is a complex public health challenge that requires a collaborative and systemic response that engages all stakeholders. Given our role, the idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated. Those bringing lawsuits would be better served addressing the root causes, rather than trying to redirect blame through litigation.
The company also provided these points to help people understand what role distributors play:
• Distributors are logistics experts, tasked with the primary responsibility of delivering all medicines to licensed pharmacies and healthcare providers.
• Distributors do not manufacture, prescribe, dispense or in any way, drive demand. Further, distributors cannot make medical determinations about patient care or provider prescribing.
• The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is responsible for setting the annual production of controlled substances in the market, approving and regulating the entities allowed to prescribe and handle opioids, and sharing data with entities in the supply chain regarding potential cases of diversion.
• Distributors report EVERY single opioid order to the DEA – whether it is suspicious or not. Greater communication and coordination with the DEA will help support real-time response against abuse and diversion where it occurs.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

ACLU of Colorado wins ICE-related suit against El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, county appealing

Posted By on Tue, Mar 20, 2018 at 3:45 PM

El Paso County has announced that it will appeal the district court decision in favor of the ACLU of Colorado. Notably, the county release states that Elder has "has stood steadfastly with ICE to assist in fulfilling ICE’s requests to detain individuals deemed removable from the country under federal law," a claim that seems odd given Elder's past statements.

The county's release is also critical of ICE. Here it is in full:

Commissioners Direct County Attorney to Appeal Ruling in ACLU Complaint Against Sheriff
Unsettled Area of Law Requires Further Judicial Review

El Paso County, CO, March 20, 2018 – The Board of El Paso County Commissioners (BoCC) has directed The El Paso County Attorney’s Office to appeal Judge Bentley’s Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction issued today in connection with 18CV30549 Cisneros vs. Sheriff Bill Elder.

This Order granted a preliminary injunction enjoining Sheriff Elder from relying on ICE immigration detainers or ICE administrative warrants as grounds for not releasing Plaintiffs from custody.

The issues considered by the Court are complex; the practice being enjoined requires additional judicial analysis by the Supreme Court of Colorado. Until that process is completed, the County Attorney has counseled Sheriff Elder not to comment on the pending lawsuit. As El Paso County’s chief law enforcement officer, Sheriff Elder respects the rule of law, and will comply accordingly. Sheriff Elder, believes, however, that the issues in this litigation have a tremendous impact pertaining to the safety of El Paso County citizens.

It is important to note that since taking Office, Sheriff Elder has stood steadfastly with ICE to assist in fulfilling ICE’s requests to detain individuals deemed removable from the country under federal law. Notwithstanding his unwavering cooperation with ICE, the federal agency has proven to be a less than reliable partner regarding pursuing its own mission. Indeed, despite the Sheriff entering into a formal written agreement with ICE to house federal detainees, ICE has chosen not to honor its obligations to defend or stand in the place of the Sheriff in the current litigation. This is troubling but not entirely surprising, based on a consistent pattern by ICE to act in this manner.

Additionally, this is an unsettled area of law. As noted by Judge Bentley himself, “…the courts universally acknowledge that it is legitimate for state and local officials to communicate and cooperate with immigration authorities but courts have disagreed about the scope of such permissible cooperation.” His ruling further notes, “that El Paso County is one of only two counties in Colorado that currently honor ICE detainer requests. (The other is apparently Adams County.) The fact that El Paso County is willing to take this stand means that ultimately all counties in Colorado will reap the benefit of having the Colorado courts address this issue.”

With that in mind, Sheriff Elder, through the County Attorney’s Office will immediately appeal Judge Bentley’s Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction to the Colorado Supreme Court.
——- ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 20, 2:36 P.M. ——-
The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado won its suit in district court against El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, and the judge ordered Elder to refrain from using ICE immigration detainers or ICE administrative warrants as grounds for keeping the ACLU's plaintiffs in jail after they post bind, complete their sentence or otherwise resolve their cases. The ACLU had filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of dozens of plaintiffs who said they were held at the county's jail solely based on suspicion they were in the country illegally.

El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder - FILE PHOTO
  • File Photo
  • El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder
The ruling comes after a confusing series of decisions from Elder in regards to the immigration status of inmates at the county's jail. In 2015, Elder claimed that his department had exited a federal program that allowed the jail to hold inmates for ICE. (That was around the time that the ACLU of Colorado had warned counties not to hold inmates only on federal immigration charges, as that was illegal and would invite a lawsuit from the organization. El Paso County was one of a list of Colorado counties that changed its practices in light of the warning.)

Once again, in 2017, Elder told the Indy he didn't have room to house such inmates. But in February, when asked to comment on the ACLU's lawsuit, the Indy was emailed a response from Elder that read, in part:

The Sheriff’s Office will not speak about pending litigation. What I can say is that since 2007, we have not changed any of our practices as it relates to the arrest and housing of inmates to include foreign born nationals. We arrest and house criminals where probable cause exists for a state crime. If the criminal is unlawfully present, EPSO honors the detainer filed by ICE and requires ICE to pick up the inmate within a reasonable period of time.
For the full background, go here.

The Indy has asked the Sheriff's Office to respond to the ruling, and to indicate whether an appeal is planned. We will update this blog when and if we hear back.

This is what the ACLU had to say about the ruling:

Judge Rules El Paso County Sheriff Must Stop Illegally Holding Prisoners for ICE

DENVER – State District Court Judge Eric Bentley has ordered El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder to immediately stop relying on ICE immigration detainers or ICE administrative warrants as grounds for refusing to release ACLU of Colorado plaintiffs from custody when they post bond, complete their sentences, or otherwise resolve their criminal cases.

ACLU of Colorado filed a class action lawsuit on February 27 alleging that Sheriff Elder had unlawfully imprisoned dozens of individuals for days, weeks, and even months without legal authority, solely on the ground that ICE suspected that they were subject to deportation for civil immigration violations.

At a hearing held yesterday morning, ACLU attorneys requested a preliminary injunction to stop the practice, arguing that the Sheriff’s policy violated Colorado law and that the prisoners held by Sheriff Elder would suffer irreparable harm by continuing to forfeit their liberty while the case proceeded. In a ruling issued late last night, Judge Bentley granted the injunction.

ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein issued the following statement:

“Judge Bentley’s ruling confirmed that Colorado sheriffs have no legal authority to enforce federal immigration law and that when individuals have posted bond or resolved their criminal case, Colorado law requires that they be released.

“Colorado law authorizes sheriffs to deprive someone of their liberty only when there is probable cause of a crime, not for suspected civil violations of federal immigration law. As the Judge’s ruling confirms, when sheriffs hold an individual for ICE for any amount of time past their release date, they make a new arrest for which they have no legal authority under Colorado law.

“Federal immigration authorities are attempting to co-opt sheriffs’ limited resources for their aggressive deportation agenda, but they cannot do so at the expense of individual liberties or Colorado law. When they do, the ACLU will fight them at every turn.

“Colorado sheriffs swear an oath to the Constitution, not to ICE.” 

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Colorado Springs has three years worth of water, Utilities says

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2018 at 4:22 PM

North Catamount Reservoir as of March 16, 2018. - COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities
  • North Catamount Reservoir as of March 16, 2018.
Colorado Springs Utilities says that despite the dry weather of late, its water storage system is at 80 percent capacity, which translates to three years worth of water.

That's pretty amazing, considering the city doesn't sit anywhere near a major river, but rather relies on snowpack on Pikes Peak and transmountain water sources.

Here's a report from Water Resources Manager Abby Ortega, sent to the Independent in an email:

• In June 2015 our storage was at 95 percent of capacity and last year our storage peaked at 93 percent of capacity. It is fairly typical for storage to fluctuate between 15 and 20 percent.

• Our water system storage is above average capacity despite dry conditions locally.

We are always planning for the future to meet our customers' demand.
We currently have three years of demand in storage.

We are monitoring streamflow, demand and storage to maximize the available water supply.

While an average or better snowpack is always ideal, our system will withstand the current projected drier conditions without any impact to our customers this year.

Our system-wide storage is currently at about 80 percent of capacity.

The Drought Monitor shows areas with dry conditions have continued to increase across Colorado; however, due to our thoughtful planning, we do not anticipate mandatory water restrictions this year.

This year the biggest threat to our water supply is wildland fire. Springs Utilities’ has a volunteer wildland fire team representing all four services, to protect utilities property (pipes, equipment, watershed/reservoirs, etc.).

Please use water wisely. (Officially, the Water Shortage Ordinance is set at Stage 1 Voluntary Restrictions).

March and April are the most critical months for winter watering as this is when new roots are forming in your landscape. Water a couple of times this month and next on days 40 degrees or warmer.

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Carson Midway Fire out, County, Manitou announce fire bans

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2018 at 12:43 PM

The Orchard Canyon Fire, also on Fort Carson, ignited earlier this month. - J. ADRIAN STANELY
  • J. Adrian Stanely
  • The Orchard Canyon Fire, also on Fort Carson, ignited earlier this month.

A fire on Fort Carson Army Base merged with a second fire over the weekend of March 17-18, burning around 3,300 acres; destroying three homes and several outbuildings; and leading to the evacuation of around 250 homes. The Carson Midway Fire was out, with the exception some burning trash and tire fires, on March 19.

The fire should not be confused with the Orchard Canyon Fire, which started on Fort Carson on March 8 and burned some 1,800 acres before being fully contained days later.

The Army has been criticized for holding training, that may or may not include live fire, on days with extreme fire danger due to dryness and high winds. (Some are even collecting signatures to encourage the base to stop the practice.) Both recent fires ignited on dry, windy days.

Meanwhile, on March 16, El Paso County announced Stage I fire restrictions, meaning those in the unincorporated county must abide by restrictions on open fires and outdoor smoking. The use or sale of fireworks is forbidden under the ban.

El Paso County is under Stage I Fire Restrictions for all unincorporated areas of El Paso County

Due to the continued dry conditions and the National Weather Service forecast for continued dry and warmer than normal conditions, resulting in very high to extreme fire danger ratings, Deputy Fire Warden John Padgett has ordered Stage I Fire Restrictions for all of the unincorporated areas of El Paso County. The Stage I Fire Restrictions shall go into effect immediately and the following are prohibited:

1. Open burning, excepting fires and campfires within permanently constructed fire grates in developed
campgrounds and picnic grounds; charcoal grills and wood burning stoves at private residences in areas
cleared of all flammable materials.
2. The sale or use of fireworks.
3. Outdoor smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped
in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.

The Stage I Restrictions shall remain in effect until such time the restrictions are modified pursuant to El Paso County Ordinance #15-001.

Manitou Springs also instituted fire restrictions which include limitations on outdoor fires and an outdoor smoking ban:

Mr. Mayor and Members of City Council,

Effective immediately, and in an effort to remain consistent with regional partners, I am ordering the following Fire Restrictions for the City of Manitou Springs:

1. Open Burning Ban, defined as the prohibited use of any outside fire, including camp fires and warming fires.

This current ban excludes fires in permanently constructed fire rings within the city’s RV and Camping Parks; and charcoal grills, and wood burning fire places, (chiminia) or fire pits with proper fitting screen covers and with a minimum of 15’ separation from structures or other combustible material at private residences. None of these exclusions permit a total fuel area greater than 3 feet in diameter, and all must have a flame height of less than 2 feet.

2. Outdoor Smoking Ban, defined as the prohibited use of any tobacco product or similar material in cigarettes, cigars, or pipes outdoors. This excludes smoking in enclosed buildings or structures, and along Manitou Avenue. Discarding of a lighted cigarette, cigar or pipe tobacco products is strictly prohibited.

These restrictions do not apply to gas-fueled grills used out-of-doors, or to fires within liquid-fueled or gas-fueled stoves. Additionally, compliant fireplaces and wood-burning stoves within private residences are not included in the ban.

If weather patterns change the local outlook significantly one way or the other, Fire Restrictions will be adjusted accordingly.

Respectfully Submitted,

John K. Forsett, Fire Chief, City of Manitou Springs

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Colorado colleges to high schoolers: Activism and protests won't impact admissions

  • rob zs
In 2012, there were approximately 30,861 private schools (serving 5.3 million PK-12 students) and 98,328 public schools throughout the United States, according to the National Center For Education Statistics. But as recent events have shown, a school is no longer a safe haven. While many of these young Americans want to catalyze change in this country, particularly as it pertains to gun control, some are being threatened with disciplinary action if they engage in peaceful protest, walk-outs, or demonstrations. Fortunately, many Colorado colleges are joining other institutions across the nation to tell these students that taking part in these forms of activism will have no negative impact on their chances of being accepted during the admissions process.

More than 100 schools across the country — including Colorado State University, Metropolitan State University of Denver, University of Colorado, Regis University, and the University of Denver — have reassured students applying to their institutions that their admissions status would not be affected by disciplinary records (including suspensions) that stem from lawful, peaceful protest.

CU Boulder admissions office officials expressed that their students are active and engaged citizens, saying that those who "peacefully exercise their right to free speech do not need to be worried about consequences in the admissions process."

While the University of Colorado does require students who are suspended to inform the university, any suspensions stemming from activism would not have a negative impact on whether or not they're admitted to the school. Most other colleges and universities involved have sent out social media messages to would-be students communicating support and pride for those who participate their rights and make their voices heard.

Following the February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida, several nationwide walkouts and protests have been planned. Students from several high schools in Colorado, including Palmer High, Rampart High, West Middle School, Coronado High, Cheyenne Mountain High, Manitou Springs High and others in Colorado Springs, participated in the National School Walkout on March 14. At least three other protests are currently scheduled all around the country, including the March for Our Lives protest (organized by Stoneman Douglas High School students) and the National School Walkout rally, which is to take place on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

Some schools have not been so forgiving to students who want to participate. In Texas, one school superintendent warned students that they would receive a three-day out-of-school suspension if they took part in civil disobedience. Another school district in Milwaukee, Wisconsin originally stated that students who participated in these protests would be punished, but the school superintendent later backed down and said students could be excused if they had permission from their parents.

But where the high schools won't support their students, colleges are stepping in. Whether these students go on to be among the approximate 40,000 who graduate from law school each year or choose to attain only their bachelor's degree, it's comforting to know these Colorado schools — as well as other colleges nationwide — have their backs.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Students walked out against gun violence. Let's honor them.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 6:12 PM

Palmer High School walk-out - ASHLEY PERRY
  • Ashley Perry
  • Palmer High School walk-out

Wednesday, at 10 a.m., students across the country walked out to demand action against gun violence. They spent 17 minutes outside, one for each person killed in the Valentine's Day massacre in Parkland, Florida this year.

A lot of people have said that this isn't appropriate action for students. Of course, people said the same thing about protesters during the Civil Rights movement, or during the Vietnam War.

The Gazette editorial page, in particular, has run several opinion pieces in recent days claiming that, by supporting their students' First Amendment rights (yes, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled this is within a student's constitutional rights), school administrators were putting kids in harm's way. They said that liberals are enticing kids to protest, ignoring the fact that the students who survived the Parkland shooting have sparked this movement out of a place of deep trauma and a need for change. They've claimed that so-called "walk-ins" would be a better option for kids, or that schools wouldn't allow kids to walk out for Jesus.


Children across the country left their classrooms, often with their teachers and parents meeting them on their schools' lawn. They came out to say that they're tired of lawmakers stalling on a problem that is claiming so many young lives. They came out to say that they're scared to go to school. They came out to exercise their right to speak — a right that Americans, even young Americans, cherish. They came out to protect their fundamental right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Let's not forget that every kid gunned down in our schools is robbed of that fundamental right.

Americans are all over the place when it comes to gun control. But the students that walked out today make a fair point: This issue has been so polarizing that lawmakers have, in most cases, deadlocked, doing nothing to prevent the next school shooting. By speaking out, our country's children are telling us that isn't enough. Something must be done.

We shouldn't be ashamed of these kids. We should honor them. They're brave, they're bold, and in making their voices heard, they are 100 percent American.
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State of the Outdoors 2018, a conference on all things outside

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 3:41 PM

March 15, 3:30-6:30 p.m., Colorado Springs City Auditorium, 221 E. Kiowa St., $20, - BETHANY ALVAREZ
  • Bethany Alvarez
  • March 15, 3:30-6:30 p.m., Colorado Springs City Auditorium, 221 E. Kiowa St., $20,
While we’re all fond of Colorado’s many assets — craft breweries, legal marijuana and the like — we know that our greatest community asset is (and hopefully always will be) our natural landscapes. The Pikes Peak region is home to nationally loved landmarks, hiking trails and the kind of outdoor beauty that truly deserves the term “great outdoors,” and those resources are worth investing in. To that end, join some of Colorado’s outdoor-minded organizations, businesses and community leaders for this conference on all things outside. Start the day with an outdoor community expo, featuring businesses, nonprofits and land management entities. Network with like-minded folks and find ways to get involved in the world outside your window. Following that, check out the main event: a gubernatorial forum with candidates Stephen Barlock, Noel Ginsburg, Bill Hammons, Greg Lopez, Donna Lynne and Erik Underwood. Moderated by Colorado Springs Business Journal editor Bryan Grossman, this forum is an opportunity to get to know your candidates’ stances on important natural issues. Another plus, Thursday’s event will include the official release of The Outdoor Industry Association’s economic impact numbers for the 5th Congressional District (that’s us).
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Bookman finds new location ahead of planned closure

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 1:58 PM

The Bookman will be moving. - STACIE GONZALEZ
  • Stacie Gonzalez
  • The Bookman will be moving.

The owners of the Bookman say they won't need to close their business due to a lease hike after all. While the current location will still close at the end of May, as we previously reported, a new location,  at 631 W. Colorado Ave., will open on June 1.

Co-owner Kelly Klipple says she was delighted to find a new home for the store. "I think just remaining calm allowed for it to happen honestly," she says, adding that the store's  "amazing customer base" helped with the search.

The Bookman, currently located at 3163 W. Colorado Ave., has been around for three decades, but the Kelly and co-owner and husband Arthur say that pressure on the industry combined with a rent hike was too much to bear.

The new three-year lease will allow the Klipples to pay the bills while keeping the community fixture open. The new location will, however, be smaller (about 2,000 square feet compared to the current 3,000), so Kelly says the store will be having out a lot of sales leading up to the move.

"I mean there's stuff we probably don't even know we have," Kelly says of the store's packed inventory.

The original version of this blog mistakenly featured a photo from a different local book shop. We regret the error.
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Air Force Academy: Two proposals for new visitors center

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 12:57 PM

When we put together our story about the City for Champions projects and their status, which appears in this week's Independent, we hadn't heard from the Air Force Academy.

But on March 13, we received answers to a couple of our questions about the Academy Visitors Center, to be built outside the north gate.

The Academy reports that it issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) in 2016 to build the new Visitors Center. Although the Academy received three responses, it later cancelled the RFQ "after determining the proposals did not meet all the project requirements."

The Academy then issued a second RFQ in July 2017. Proposals were due Dec. 8, 2017. Two responses were submitted. The Academy offered no additional information, including which proposal was chosen or a timeline of construction.

Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority Executive Director Jariah Walker says he's heard two proposals were submitted and that an office at the Pentagon will choose. "I believe we’re going to be shortly finding out what one that is," he said in an interview last week. "Last I checked, they had selected one. But I don’t have the full details."

The Urban Renewal Authority is the financial vehicle for $120.5 million in state sales tax money over 30 years that will be provided to the city for City for Champions via the Regional Tourism Act.

The other projects are a downtown sports stadium, the U.S. Olympic Museum and the William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Douglas Bruce, TABOR Ruined Colorado, says Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

Posted By on Tue, Mar 13, 2018 at 1:29 PM

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee took on the Taxpayers Bill of Rights and its famously cantankerous author Douglas Bruce in this March 7 segment:

While hilarious, it's worth noting that the show doesn't address what many consider to be the most fiscally destructive components of Colorado's famous tax-restricting law, most notably the so-called ratchet-down effect. The show segment blames Colorado's fiscal problems on TABOR's requirement that all taxes be approved by voters. But an arguably larger impact has been the way the law shrinks existing taxes (not just for the state government, but for local governments as well).

Approximately one billion years ago (OK, nine years ago), I wrote about how that ratchet-effect (which interacts with another big penny-pinching law) shrinks government coffers even in good times.

It's worth noting that despite its restrictive nature, TABOR doesn't tend to eliminate government so much as lead to the creation of lots of little, less efficient, and less accountable governmental taxing entities. It also increases the disparity between rich and poor and older and newer parts of town; underfunds schools; and leads to huge burdens of unfunded maintenance on everything from roads to government buildings to stormwater systems. (We pay more to replace this infrastructure down the road because we can't afford to maintain it.)

So while we enjoy Bee's show, this segment plays into a myth: That the main destructive force of TABOR is also it's most popular provision. TABOR does give taxpayers the right to vote on tax increases. But that's not the only thing it does. And it's not the big problem with the law.

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