Friday, June 29, 2018

DA drops "chalk gate" case stemming from incident at Ken Buck's office

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 3:44 PM

Three cheers for reasonable minds might be in order, given the news from the 18th Judicial District DA’s office.

The office announced on Twitter it would dismiss the charge against Shauna Johnson, saying it had been “determined that justice would be a dismissal.”

The decision involves a case where a woman wrote a message on the sidewalk outside Rep. Ken Buck's Castle Rock office that said, "Stop putting kids in cages."

That was a reference to the Trump administration's practice of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border and placing them in cages and shipping them to other states. The White House has since reversed the policy, but news reports say reuniting the kids with their parents has proven a disastrous undertaking.

Buck's office apparently reported the chalk incident and decided to press charges of criminal tampering.

The ACLU of Colorado took up her case.

“We are pleased with the decision of the prosecution to dismiss the 'criminal tampering' charge against Shauna Johnson, and we agree that it is a just result," ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein said in a release. "Shauna Johnson is a concerned constituent who simply wanted to communicate a message of dissent to Representative Buck against the cruel immigration policies of the Trump Administration. She did no damage and intended no harm. She should never have been charged in the first place. Dissent is patriotic, and especially now, we cannot allow government to intimidate or silence those who speak out against injustice.”

The release also quoted Johnson as saying, "While my family is elated that, with the help of our superheroes at ACLU of Colorado, I won’t be prosecuted, there are still thousands of babies, toddlers, and young children who haven’t seen their moms and dads for weeks. We must continue to show up and speak out for these kids."
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El Paso County jail deputies might get less training, Sheriff Bill Elder says

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 1:33 PM

Sheriff Bill Elder: rolling back training for jail deputies. - PHOTOS COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Photos courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office
  • Sheriff Bill Elder: rolling back training for jail deputies.
Attrition at the El Paso County Sheriff's Office has winnowed the staff at the Criminal Justice Center, so Sheriff Bill Elder has an idea.

He wants to convert jail staff from being certified by the Peace Officer Training and Standards board to not being certified.

In a June 27 memo to all personnel, Elder announced he'll research how other equally sized Colorado counties conduct their hiring, training and utilization of non-POST deputies to increase personnel levels.

He says by using non-POST trained deputies, the jail "will see an immediate benefit in several ways." Among those is all non-POST deputies would receive nearly half the training that POST deputies would receive, saving the department money. Also, pay scales would be lower for those who aren't POST certified, the memo says.
"This will allow us to put that savings directly toward hiring more deputies for the Detention Bureau, in less time, and save money in the process," Elder wrote.

(Money shouldn't be an issue, considering voters in 2012 approved a special sales tax for eight years beginning in 2013 for the sheriff to fund the additional of patrol and jail deputies, civilian staff, various equipment and supplies. The measure said the tax would raise about $17 million a year but now is expected to bring in $23 million this year. In fact, according to Elder's 2017 annual report, he underspent his budget by nearly $1.2 million last year.)

The change to non-POST deputies would require new policiies and standards of operating procedure to be created, reviewed, revised and agreed upon.

He goes on to write that "all advancement opportunities for promotion and transfer will continue" and that "no current certified deputy positions will be converted to non certified status and no one currently employed will have their pay decreased."

The Indy had a few questions — such as:
• What's the difference in training the non-POST deputies will receive?
• How long will the conversion take?
• What are the pay scales for POST and non-POST deputies?

We sent those questions in a June 28 email to the Sheriff's Office communications folks. Next thing we know, Elder scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. Monday, July 2, to discuss all that.
The Criminal Justice Center is understaffed.
  • The Criminal Justice Center is understaffed.
Elder's department has seen a turnover of 32 percent of his sworn authorized strength of 533 officers since he took office the last day of 2014. That's a higher turnover rate than seen during the several years leading up to his term in office.

While Elder has pledged to never convert deputy jobs in the jail to civilian jobs, he's obviously looking for a way to stem to flow of jail deputies out the door. One way is by relaxing the requirements of becoming a jail deputy.

According to past and current deputies, staff has been shorthanded to the point that instead of one deputy per 80 inmates, it's not uncommon for one deputy to be assigned to watch two wards, a total of 160 inmates.

Also, deputy injuries are on the rise, according to a report by KKTV 11 News that aired June 22. The station reported that inmate assaults on jail deputies and staff had more than doubled, from 33 in 2016 to 73 in 2017. So far this year, 31 assaults have been reported.

“A couple of those deputies, the reason they didn’t get hurt worse is because another inmate saved them,” a deputy told the station, which agreed to withhold the deputy’s identity.

Elder's plan, according to the June 27 memo, would nearly cut in half the 22 weeks of POST training deputies now undergo.

Elder's memo cites a state law regarding the difference between POST and non-POST certified deputies, which suggests the only difference is the higher trained deputy can carry firearms at all times, concealed or otherwise, while a non-POST deputy “shall have the authority to carry firearms, concealed or otherwise, only while engaged in their jobs or as otherwise authorized by the written policy of the agency employing the officer.”
Jail deputies wouldn't require 22 weeks of POST training under Elder's proposal.
  • Jail deputies wouldn't require 22 weeks of POST training under Elder's proposal.
Sheriff spokesperson Jackie Kirby told the Independent a few weeks ago recruits go through about six months of training before they’re “on their own” in the jail, where crowding has given rise to attacks and belligerent behavior that makes the jail “a challenging atmosphere.”

A man died in the jail last September, and his family has filed a notice they might file a lawsuit. The jail was put on probation last December by the professional accreditation agency National Commission on Correctional Health Care, but it gained approval in April.

The American Correctional Association is due to inspect the jail this fall for accreditation, which was last bestowed in 2015.
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City leaders break ground on Ronald McDonald House, set to open next year

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Steve Bigari, Nancy Parker-Brummett, Mayor John Suthers, Beth Alessio, Joel Yuhas and Greg Raymond get dirty. - RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE CHARITIES OF SOUTHERN COLORADO
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Colorado
  • Steve Bigari, Nancy Parker-Brummett, Mayor John Suthers, Beth Alessio, Joel Yuhas and Greg Raymond get dirty.

Officials and business leaders broke ground on the new Ronald McDonald House on June 27. The construction site on the UCHealth Memorial North campus will soon be a temporary home for families with critically ill, hospitalized children.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Colorado currently has a 6,500-square-foot facility near UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central, where it houses up to 11 families per night. The new location will be four times that size, according to a news release from Ronald McDonald House. It's expected to open in spring of next year.

An architect's rendering shows a Ronald McDonald House four times the size of the charity's current location. - RTA ARCHITECTS
  • RTA Architects
  • An architect's rendering shows a Ronald McDonald House four times the size of the charity's current location.

Ronald McDonald House has served more than 10,000 families in its central location, which opened 31 years ago. The nonprofit's mission is to keep families near their children during medical crises, providing them with access to a kitchen, dining room, living room and laundry room, along with indoor and outdoor play areas for children.

The new facility will serve children from Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and beyond, the release said.

Mayor John Suthers, UCHealth CEO Joel Yuhas, and Beth Alessio, the nonprofit's CEO, were among those who got their hands dirty at the groundbreaking ceremony.

"The new House will impact the lives, health and well-being of seriously ill children and their families well into the future," the release read. "We are thrilled for this important moment in the history of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Colorado."
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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Manitou Springs ices deal with Pikes Peak Cog Railway

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2018 at 4:24 PM

  • Courtesy Visit COS
Manitou Springs City Council approved a deal with the Pikes Peak Cog Railway on June 26 by a vote of 6 to 1, with Becky Elder voting against it citing a desire for more time to mull the agreement.

As we reported in this week's edition, the deal means Manitou will receive $500,000 this year and next year from the cog, which will take the place of the roughly $500,000 in excise tax per year paid by the cog. The cog will also contribute $500,000 toward parking solutions for the crowded town. The city agreed to cap excise tax revenues for the next 50 years, which could be worth $16 million or more to the cog, which is owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz, who also owns the Broadmoor.

The city also will waive use taxes for reconstruction of the cog — about $1.1 million worth — which closed last October and didn't reopen this season and likely won't until at least 2020.

Manitou Mayor Ken Jaray says efforts begin immediately to meet with stakeholders to determine how to reduce congestion on Ruxton Avenue which leads to the cog parking lot and other attractions.

The city also has hired Kimley-Horn and Associates "to look at the functionality of Ruxton," Jaray says.

Another meeting is in the offing to begin plans to redevelop Hiawatha Gardens to serve as a parking spot, he says. Further, city officials will be meeting with Colorado Springs officials to find additional outlying surface parking for a shuttle service being contemplated as a way to convey people to the cog.

The first $500,000 payment from the cog is due Oct. 1, Jaray says, in a deal that he says is good for all concerned.

"First, it ensures the long term viability of the cog over 50 years," Jaray says. "It solidifies our relationship and partnership with them to address traffic issues over the long term."
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People's Tiny Home Festival brings the movement back to the Springs

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2018 at 10:29 AM

  • Tumbleweed Tiny Homes

Imagine a 400-square-foot home that you could pick up and move on demand. It comes equipped with a simpler lifestyle, more freedom in location, a smaller environmental footprint and less expensive than a traditional mortgage. These are the selling points presented by tiny house advocates, and a bunch of said houses will be on full display outside Falcon Stadium during the People’s Tiny House Festival, August 3-5.

Locals' fascination with tiny houses dates back at least to the 2014 Parade of Homes, when EcoCabins won the People's Choice Award. Soon after came a TEDx talk by tiny home YouTube sensation Andrew Morrison, who the Indy spoke with.

The Air Force Academy's stadium used to be home to Tiny House Jamboree, which launched in 2015 and drew crowds of 60,000 people. The Jamboree moved to Arlington, Texas, in 2017.

There's been important legislation passed in response to the movement's growing popularity, like Portland Oregon's 1997 regulation to allow homeowners to build accessible dwelling units (ADUs) on their property. In 2014, Spur, Texas, became the first self-proclaimed “tiny house-friendly town,” and in 2015, Florida-based nonprofit American Tiny House Association began with the mission to promote tiny houses as viable dwelling options by "helping legalize tiny living."And in 2016, Fresno, California passed the first zoning laws that allow for mobile homes to be treated as permanent backyard cottages.

While numbers of tiny home occupants are difficult to measure, a 2015 survey of tiny house enthusiasts, conducted by the American Tiny House Association, showed 20 percent of respondents currently living in tiny homes. Of that 20 percent, only 42 percent were considered to be legal. Half of those living in tiny homes live on wheels in an RV park, someone else's backyard or a community setting; 13 percent live on wheels on their own property; and 37 percent live on a foundation. The majority of those surveyed who are not currently living a tiny home say finances and zoning are the main reasons they aren't. The study estimates Colorado is home to 6 percent of tiny homes.

The main obstacle for tiny home building is zoning and coding regulations. Tiny homes are classified as recreational vehicles, which are illegal to use as a permanent residence in most of Colorado and El Paso County. But that is changing.

For example, in May 2017, El Paso County Commissioners approved a zoning variance to make an existing tiny home legal. Then in June of the same year, the Colorado Springs Planning Commission agreed to a zoning adjustment that allowed two tiny homes on a 400-acre ranch. Later, in December, county commissioners agreed unanimously to Resolution 17-372 to amend the land development code to include definitions for tiny homes and changed definitions for recreational vehicle parks. Now, tiny homes are allowed in unincorporated areas as long as they meet Recreational Vehicle Industry Association standards, or, in the case of DIY projects, are certified by a structural engineer.

Though doors are opening, for the time being, tiny homes remain illegal permanent residences in incorporated areas of the county.

Despite the obstacles that come with trying to actually live in one, the Springs has become somewhat of a hotspot for tiny home manufacturing. Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, the oldest and largest seller/manufacturer in the country relocated from Sonoma, California to Colorado Springs, and EcoCabins, purchased by Sprout Tiny Homes earlier this year, calls Pueblo home.

Now, with the People’s International Tiny House Festival replacing the Tiny House Jamboree, Colorado Springs has a chance to be in the spotlight of the movement itself once again.

Marcus Alvarado, formerly the Tiny Home Jamboree director of operations and now founder of the People's Tiny House Fest says, "I'm more focused on people who are part of the movement itself. Not just the tiny house movement, but the sustainability movement."

Accordingly, festival goers will find informational booths on simple living along with tiny home viewings, beer and wine tastings, live music and guest speakers.

Kathleen Morton, creator of the blog Tiny House, Tiny Footprint, will present on reducing environmental impacts through living in a van.

Matt “The Office Hobo" Devine, known for living in his office for two years and starting the nonprofit Our Backyard Homes, will give an address titled, Downsizing in the City: Mobile and Tiny Living without Leaving Town.

And Bryce Langston, known for his Living Big In a Tiny House website and Youtube channel, will speak on drawing more people into the tiny house movement.

See for more.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

North Cheyenne Cañon master plan appeal denied

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2018 at 4:46 PM

  • File photo
Colorado Springs City Council turned away an appeal of the North Cheyenne Cañon master plan on June 26, allowing the plan to go forward as written. The plan currently allows for shuttle studies in certain circumstances and lays out other controversial steps.

Here's a link to the plan.

Jim Bensberg and the Cheyenne Cañon Conservationists appealed the Park Advisory Board's approval on May 10 of the master plan, which didn't require Council approval. But the appeal did require Council action.

Council Voted 6-3 to deny the appeal, with Council President Richard Skorman and Councilors Bill Murray and Yolanda Avila voting in the minority.

After the vote, the city sent out this notice:
In a six-to-three vote in favor of denying the appeal, City Council also included in the motion the removal from the Plan of the word “minor” in reference to any future amendments to the Plan.

You Will See Changes in the Park this Year

The Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department will begin implementation of the Plan this year. Park improvements will include:
Design and engineering of Powell Trailhead improvements;
Continued coordination on night closure gates at both entrances to the Park;
Installation of traffic counters in the Park; and
Trail improvements in the Helen Hunt Falls Interpretive Area, including the Silver Cascade and Buffalo Canyon Trails, a new trail connecting Columbine Trail and the Powell Trailhead, and trail connection improvements to the Bruin Inn picnic area.

In addition, the City will work collaboratively with the Friends of Cheyenne Cañon on:
Construction of an accessible trail loop connected to the Starsmore Center; and
Initiation of development of the Interpretive Plan as called for in the Master and Management Plan.
According to Director Karen Palus, “The Department greatly appreciates all of the work area residents put into developing the Plan. Our staff is excited to begin implementation and to continue to partner with the community to protect, restore, and enjoy this wonderful Park.”
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City Council approves creekside camping ban in initial vote

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2018 at 3:59 PM

Trash piles like this one, near the confluence of Shooks Run and Fountain Creek, aren’t uncommon along the Springs’ waterways. That waste can end up polluting water. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Trash piles like this one, near the confluence of Shooks Run and Fountain Creek, aren’t uncommon along the Springs’ waterways. That waste can end up polluting water.

In a first vote, City Council members approved by 7-2 an ordinance that bans camping within 100 feet of creeks. Councilors Yolanda Avila and Bill Murray were opposed.

The ordinance, pushed by City Councilors Tom Strand and Merv Bennett, would specifically ban all municipal camping within 100 feet of a public stream. Violations would be punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and/or up to 189 days in jail.

The ordinance targets homeless camps along creeks, which proponents say pose risks to health and public safety. It cites the above-standard presence of E. coli in the Fountain Creek watershed, indicated by a September study by the U.S. Geological Survey (though scientists haven't determined whether human waste was a significant factor in the contamination).

Colorado Springs has had a camping ban on public property for years, but police currently have to give camp occupants 24-hour notice (under department policy, not city code) and ensure there’s shelter space available before dismantling camps. The new ordinance, Strand says, would make the ban easier to enforce by doing away with those requirements.

Councilor Andy Pico spoke out at the June 26 City Council meeting in support of the ban. In response to concerns of other councilors that the ban ignored the broader issues of pollution and homelessness, Pico said the ban was a necessary first step on the path to solving them.

"A journey of a thousand miles starts with a broken fan belt," Pico said. "And [creekside camping] is our broken fan belt and we need to fix this right off the step."

Councilor Murray questioned whether the ordinance would survive a legal challenge. (The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado has voiced concern about the ban, and in the past, courts have found that cities cannot outlaw homeless people’s basic survival — which could be at issue if law enforcement doesn't ensure there's shelter space available before forcing campers to move.)

Murray pointed out two reasons the ordinance might not pass legal muster: It wouldn't keep campers from walking down to the creek to dump waste, and the city doesn't have solid data to prove that campers caused contamination.

"How do we sustain a court challenge that says we actually targeted these people instead of attempting the resolution, which we understand is [shelter] beds?"

Councilor Bennett responded by saying the ordinance could save people living in creekside camps from flash floods and would protect the general public from the risk of contaminated needles left by campers, as possible reasons a ban would be defensible.

Dee Cunningham, executive director of Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful, works with the police department’s Homeless Outreach Team to clean up camps after officers have told their occupants to move on. For years, she's seen campers dump waste into the creek, she said, and her reaction to the ban's initial approval was positive.

"I’m really pleased with some forward momentum," she said.

Shawna Kemppainen, the executive director of Urban Peak, a nonprofit that serves youth experiencing homelessness, said her agency will remain focused on helping people get out of homelessness regardless of whether the ordinance becomes law.

"Anything that's going to make it more difficult for people to find a place where they can be when they don't have a place inside to be is just going to make their walk out of homelessness more challenging," Kemppainen said. "It's not to say that [issues such as creekside camping] are not important issues, but we have to put our focus and attention on the places where we can really make some headway that helps clear the path for people."

A final vote is expected for July 10.
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Poor People's Campaign comes to Colorado

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2018 at 11:23 AM

Colorado activists brought the nationwide Poor People's Campaign to Denver on Monday, June 18. - JAKE ALTINGER
  • Jake Altinger
  • Colorado activists brought the nationwide Poor People's Campaign to Denver on Monday, June 18.
Dozens of activists, spectators and public figures rallied on state Capitol steps in Denver on the evening of June 18 to raise awareness of plight of the poor in America, officially bringing the Poor People's Campaign to Colorado. The PPC is nationwide protest movement seeking to unite poor and working people across the country in demanding an end to systemic racism, poverty and militarism.

The Poor People's Campaign traces its roots to the original campaign launched by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, several months before he was assassinated. The rally opened and closed with folk songs from the original '68 campaign and featured various guest speakers addressing social, environmental and economic justice; militarism; immigration; homelessness and poverty; and "America's distorted moral narrative." (Disclosure: the author also spoke at the event.)

"I believe this can be a unifying movement," Steve Mendoza, one of the rally's organizers, says in an interview. "I believe the Poor People's Campaign can help us begin the transition [to a system] that will put the needs of the many over the profits of the few."

The modern campaign launched six weeks of nonviolent action in Washington, D.C., on Monday, May 14, when thousands of activists joined campaign co-chairs Rev. William Barber II and Rev. Liz Theoharis to march on the U.S. Capitol and make the campaign's demands heard. Sister protests were also held in over 30 states, according to Barber. Both Barber and Theoharis were arrested that day for blocking the street, along with over 200 activists in D.C. and seven other state capitols.

Denver activist Jim Norland and Jon Stout from FreeSpeechTV were among those arrested that day in D.C., and went on to organize the Denver rally with the help of Mendoza and Beth Leyba  in just four short days. Mendoza, also an organizer for the Movement for A People's Party, a coalition of progressives and independents working to create a nationally viable third party, and Leyba have been organizing a rally with One Billion Rising, a campaign to end violence against women, for several years now.

"I realized that we, the people, have the power, and that we continually give it away. We need to take it back, and we do that by standing up, engaging in nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience, and raising a ruckus," Norland says. "If every worker that made under $15 dollars an hour in this country called in sick for one day, all on the same day, they'd realize we have the power. We might see things begin to change."

Check out FreeSpeechTV's coverage of the event below. See for more information.
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How to take a PikeRide

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2018 at 1:00 AM

  • Courtesy Downtown Partnership
1) If you don’t know where to find a bike, download the BCycle app, which will show you where your nearest ride is located.

2) You’ll need to pay. You can check out one of the 208 PikeRide bikes on the BCycle app, the website or at one of six kiosks within the service area (or by simply approaching a bike and touching the screen).

3) Still confused about how this works? Check out details on
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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Polis and Stapleton lead in governor's race in early polling in El Paso County

Posted By on Tue, Jun 26, 2018 at 8:00 PM

Rep. Jared Poils leads the race for governor.
  • Rep. Jared Poils leads the race for governor.
Rep. Doug Lamborn was cruising to his seventh general election from a crowded primary in which his next closest GOP competitor had only 19 percent in early polling. Lamborn's 54 percent undoubtedly will hold through the night.

El Paso County voters were going for Rep. Jared Polis in the Democratic race for governor, while Republicans were heavily favoring State Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

In a closely watched local race, incumbent Sheriff Bill Elder was making a decisive showing over his challenger Mike Angley, 57 to 43 percent.

The first vote drop, at 7:10 p.m., reported results of 92,587 ballots cast.

If their leads hold, Lamborn will face Democrat Stephany Rose Spaulding in the Nov. 6 general election.

Here's the line-up for the November election, based on apparent winners in the first vote of the June 26 primary election drop:

Republican Elder vs. Democrat Grace A. Sweeney-Maurer for sheriff.
Rep. Doug Lamborn should win again.
  • Rep. Doug Lamborn should win again.

Democrat Elizabeth “Lisa” Wilkes vs. County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman, Republican.

Republican Holly Williams vs. Democrat Frank J. DeLalla in County Commission District 1.

Republican Cami Bremer vs. Democrat Kari Frederick in County Commission District 5.

County Assessor Steve Schleiker, Republican, vs. Sue McKnight, Democrat.

County Treasurer Mark Lowderman, Republican, vs. Democrat Julie Torres.

Coroner Republican Leon Kelly vs Democrat Chauncey Frederick.

Keep track of results here.

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Monday, June 25, 2018

El Paso County sheriff candidates spent $228K in primary race

Posted By on Mon, Jun 25, 2018 at 4:46 PM

Among the local major party nominations that will be decided in the June 26 primary election are several El Paso County races, and some are spending lots of money to get past the primary hurdle. Primary races often decide who the new officer holder will be, because the county is heavily dominated by the GOP.

Republican sheriff challenger Mike Angley has spent more than twice as much as incumbent Bill Elder, who's seeking his second term, according to campaign finance reports, the most recent of which were filed on June 22.

Angley had spent $167,715 through June 17, the end of the 17-day filing period, compared to Elder's $60,923. That left Angley with about $15,600 on hand, and Elder with $9,100. (Angley and his wife, Evelyn, have contributed $160,000 to his campaign; Angley has said he refused to accept contributions from currently serving sheriff's staff.)

Angley drew contributions during the filing period from 102 people, ranging from $1 to $700, while Elder had 41 contributions ranging from $20 to $2,500.

In the county commissioner races, in the northern District 1, Holly Williams raised $26,293 and loaned her campaign another $2,454, while spending $22,401; Calandra Vargas raised $22,529 and spent $20,179.

In the city District 5, Cami Bremer raised $52,115 and spent $37,159, while Vicki Tonkins raised $18,310 and spent $16,211.

Those seats are open due to the current office holders — Darryl Glenn in District 1 and Peggy Littleton in District 5 — being term limited.

The Republican winners will face off against Democrat contenders in the Nov. 6 election.

If you haven't cast your ballot, please take time to drop it in one of the ballot boxes across the county. DO NOT mail it. It's too late for that.
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Friday, June 22, 2018

Fannie Mae Duncan statue to stand outside Pikes Peak Center

Posted By on Fri, Jun 22, 2018 at 2:40 PM

  • File photo
On Wednesday, June 20, sculptor Lori Kiplinger Pandy signed a contract to create a life-sized sculpture of Fannie Mae Duncan to stand outside the Pikes Peak Center, a long-awaited development in the effort to recognize one of the Pikes Peak region's most famous black women.

Fannie Mae Duncan, the proprietor of The Cotton Club (which was demolished in 1975), passed away in 2005, marking the end of an era. Duncan was famous for the phrase, “everybody welcome,” a philosophy that made the Cotton Club an influential gathering space for music lovers of all races, but especially the local African-American community.

Kathleen Esmiol, who helped Duncan write her memoir, has long advocated for a statue of Duncan to appear in front of the Pikes Peak Center, which is near the former location of the Cotton Club. According to a recent press release from the Fannie Mae Duncan Statue Steering Committee, $56,000 has been raised toward this $100,000 project.

Last October, when we reported on Esmiol’s efforts and her friendship with Duncan, Esmiol said she’d empty her own bank account to get this statue built, if she had to.

With the contract now signed by Lori Kiplinger Pandy and the project set in stone, fundraising efforts continue to pick up steam.

Those who wish to donate to the project, which still requires some funding, may mail donations to The Pioneers Musem, 215 S. Tejon St., Colorado Springs, CO, 80903, with “Fannie Mae Duncan statue” in the memo line.
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Immigration rally draws crowd to City Hall

Posted By on Fri, Jun 22, 2018 at 1:13 PM

About 100 people gathered on the steps of City Hall to protest the separation of kids from their families at the border by immigration agents. - PHOTOS BY PAM ZUBECK
  • Photos by Pam Zubeck
  • About 100 people gathered on the steps of City Hall to protest the separation of kids from their families at the border by immigration agents.
On Friday, June 22, about 100 to 150 people showed up at City Hall for a rally to oppose President Donald Trump's recently rescinded policy to separate children from their parents at the border. The policy effected families trying to enter the country illegally or flee persecution or gang violence in their home countries.

That's not a terrible showing in a county that prides itself on being the reddest in the nation and whole-heartedly in support of Trump, who rescinded his policy on Thursday. Now questions have arisen about how his administration will reunite thousands of kids with their families, and how those families will be housed as the parents' await prosecution for misdemeanor immigration charges.

One demonstrator brought a cardboard figure of Rep. Doug Lamborn with wording that stems from First Lady Melania Trump's coat worn to Texas to visit detention center workers that said, "I really don't care. Do U?"
  • One demonstrator brought a cardboard figure of Rep. Doug Lamborn with wording that stems from First Lady Melania Trump's coat worn to Texas to visit detention center workers that said, "I really don't care. Do U?"
A few minutes into the speeches, rain started falling from angry looking skies hovering over City Hall near downtown Colorado Springs.

The rally drew some novice demonstrators, including Crystal Karr, who has shown up at rallies only a few times in her life. "I'm here because I care about these families and children being traumatized by our current administration," Karr told the Indy.

Many demonstrators, most of whom were white, older and female, carried signs. A sampling:

• "Let our homes be opened to exiles — let us assist and refresh them." Martin Luther.

• "America's open arms saved my Jewish family during WW2."

• "Immigrants are what makes us great."

• "2,342. Find them all."

The rally was organized by Colorado Springs Council for Justice and was billed as "a rally to end persecution of immigrant families."
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El Paso county ballot dropbox and polling locations for the primary elections

Posted By on Fri, Jun 22, 2018 at 1:00 AM

It's too late to mail your ballot. Good news is you'll get a sticker when you visit a dropbox in person. - SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • It's too late to mail your ballot. Good news is you'll get a sticker when you visit a dropbox in person.
June 20 was the last day for voters to mail in their 2018 Colorado primary ballots, so don't even try. Any voters that missed the mail-in deadline will need to submit their ballots in person at a polling location or at one of various drop-boxes (ballots received after 7 p.m. on June 26 will not be counted).

The Google Map below shows all the polling locations and drop-boxes in El Paso county. Locations marked with a person icon offer in-person voting and registration, and vehicle icons mark drive-up dropbox locations. Green markers indicate dropbox-only locations, and locations marked red are only open on Monday, June 25, and Tuesday, June 26 (Election Day).

All the drop-boxes are accessible 24/7 with the exceptions of The Independence Center on S. Tejon St. and the County Clerk's Office on Fort Carson. Click on a location to see hours of operation and directions.

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Colorado Springs pays $160,000 to settle excessive force lawsuit

Posted By on Thu, Jun 21, 2018 at 10:02 AM

The robot police used to breach Brown's condominium. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The robot police used to breach Brown's condominium.
Back in May 2012, Colorado Springs police surrounded the condominium of Ronald Brown who had fired a gunshot into the ground two days before.

Brown's case and others were the subject of the Independent's extensive report on July 15, 2015, and said this about the Colorado Springs Police Department operation:

... two dozen officers, two armored vehicles and the police mobile command center descended upon the neighborhood to "contain and call out" Brown, according to police reports.

The retired Army sergeant refused to budge. Or even come to the door.

Seven hours, 28 tear-gas canisters and many flash-bangs later, police set off an explosion inside Brown's front door, shattering every window in his home and leaving a hole in the floor.

Brown suffered a broken leg and other injuries in the blast, and was charged with five felonies and a misdemeanor.

The police department was slapped with a lawsuit.
Police even considered putting a fire hose into a basement window and flooding the place to try to literally flush Brown out. The Fire Department put a kabosh on that idea.

The city has now settled that lawsuit by paying $160,000 to Brown after losing its bid to have the case dismissed in 2016. At that time, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch wrote:
The reasonableness of the use of the explosive device must be considered in the full context of the case. This stand-off went for eight hours – through the night and into the early morning of the next day. The police officers knew of the vulnerability of the plaintiff and yet they were creating a war zone scene which would be expected to trigger a reaction by a veteran with PTSD. They did not wait for a person qualified to negotiate with Mr. Brown although it is questionable whether it would be reasonable to expect him to respond. What is more significant is the failure to wait for the Army robot which ultimately did what was required to enter the basement without exposing the officers. The explosive device would not have been needed. There has been no explanation for that failure.
The settlement, agreed to by Brown on June 9, includes a nondisparagement agreement, meaning Brown can't say bad things about the city or he'll have to pay the city $5,000.

Brown's attorney, Shimon Kohn, declined to comment on the settlement.

Here's the six-page agreement:
Another case featured in the Indy's July 15, 2015, cover story involved Alexis Acker, who was thrown face first into the floor at Memorial Hospital by an officer. She was paid $100,000.
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