Monday, October 29, 2018

Weed-eating goats are baaaack in Bear Creek Regional Park

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2018 at 8:06 PM

Lani Malmberg stands among her herd in 2014. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Lani Malmberg stands among her herd in 2014.

A herd of 500 goats arrived in Bear Creek Regional Park on Oct. 26, and they'll stay there through the following weekend munching on weeds and poisonous plants.

Lani Malmberg and her son, Donny Benz, co-owners of Goat Green, are leading the eco-friendly effort in its 20th year. (We ran a profile on Malmberg, a self-proclaimed "gypsy goat herder," a few years ago.)

The herd will munch through 20 acres of the park surrounding the Charmaine Nymann Community Garden, according to a statement from El Paso County. The nonprofit Bear Creek Garden Association raises about $10,000 each year to pay for the organic weed control.

“The goats prefer the dry vegetation first—leaves, weeds and brush,” Malmberg is quoted in the statement. “They're browsers, not grazers like cows, and will only eat the green grass as a last resort. They like the dry prickly things and the herd will eat two to three tons a day. What they eat, they recycle — pure organic fertilizer — back into the soil. Plus, their 2,000 hooves work the soil, aerating and mulching as they go.”

The goats eliminate the need for harmful herbicides, and digest weeds and poisonous plants without spreading their seeds. Goat Green also does fire mitigation work in areas where dry brush poses a risk.

Planning to visit the weed eaters this week? Just keep in mind that the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department and Garden Association ask visitors to keep their dogs leashed, citing a few altercations between uncontrolled canines and goats in the past.

To help bring the goats back next year, you can send tax-deductible donations for the Bear Creek Garden Association Goat Fund to P.O. Box 38326, Colorado Springs, CO 80937.
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Vigil planned to honor victims of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2018 at 12:25 PM

  • Yair Aronshtam
Following the slaughter of 11 people at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Oct. 27, the Temple Shalom and Temple Beit Torah will co-host a prayer vigil in Colorado Springs on Monday, Oct. 29, starting at 5:30 p.m.

Authorities took Robert Bowers, 46, into custody following the shooting that also injured six others, and CBS News reports that U.S. Attorney Scott Brady says federal prosecutors will seek to pursue the death penalty against Bowers. He was to make a first appearance in court Monday, Oct. 29.

According to the charging document, CBS reports, Bowers told one officer, "They're committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews."

The local prayer vigil will feature prayers of healing for those victims who survived the attack and are still being treated for their wounds and honor those who died, the Temples said in a release.

From the release:
All members of the community are welcome to attend. The vigil will begin at 5:30 p.m., and will feature prayers, music and speakers. Participants will include local clergy, elected officials, and other civic leaders. The vigil will take place at Temple Shalom, 1523 E Monument St., Colorado Springs, CO.

In a time of such tragedy, we hope that this gathering will provide a venue for the beginning of healing, the beginning of comfort, and the beginning of a pathway forward.

In addressing his congregation, Rabbi Jay Sherwood of Temple Shalom wrote, "We must never let hate and fear impede our march toward peace and righteousness. We will walk out of the darkness and continue to be a light unto the nations."

May the memories of those murdered in this horrific attack be a blessing.

Temple Shalom was founded in 1971 in Colorado Springs, Colorado and today is a vibrant congregation of more than 250 families which conducts itself according to the principles of both the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements. Its mission is to promote a spiritually centered community that inspires Jewish values, life and learning.

Temple Beit Torah is a Reform Jewish Synagogue founded in 1992 and located in beautiful Colorado Springs, Colorado. Temple Beit Torah strives to provide a warm and truly all-inclusive Reform Jewish community. We are committed to strengthening all of our members in their Jewish identity and knowledge. 
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers issued this statement:

This was a tragic weekend in our nation where we saw reprehensible hate crimes against the black and Jewish communities including an attack and an attempted attack on two places of worship. Such crimes are disgusting acts of cowardice and I want to personally express my deepest condolences to all who grieve; both here in Colorado Springs and across the nation. The Constitution of the United States expressly protects our right to religious freedom and the City of Colorado Springs is committed to upholding that precious right. Let it be known that this city will not tolerate acts of racial, religious or ethnic prejudice and those who would commit such acts will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Colorado Springs Airport lease to BLANK revealed!

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2018 at 10:08 AM

Colorado Springs Airport stands to gain nearly a half million dollars from BLANK by leasing four acres to BLANK for up to three and a half years for the purposes of BLANK.

That's according to a lease obtained by the Independent between the city and BLANK.

See? Here's how BLANK signed the contract:


Why all the secrecy? The "Modular Delivery Station Lease Agreement" contains this provision:
No Landlord Party will make any public announcements regarding this Lease or Tenant's proposed or actual occupancy of the Premises without Tenant's prior consent, which Tenant may withhold in its sole discretion.
The agreement allows for certain permitted uses, but doesn't want the public to know what those are. From the agreement:

What isn't redacted from the lease agreement is the term, which runs from Sept. 1, 2018, to March 31, 2020, with the tenant allowed to extend the term for an additional two terms of one year each.

If Amazon — er, I mean, BLANK — sticks around for the entire time covered by the lease, the airport would collect $420,000 ($10,000 a month for 42 months).

We wrote about this a couple weeks ago, as did other media. The tenant is very likely Amazon, because about that time the online giant held a job fair at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center.

We sought the agreement through the Colorado Open Records Act and were rather surprised to get anything.  But then again, all the pertinent parts are BLANKety BLANK BLANK redacted.

Here's the lease:
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Stephany Rose Spaulding gets Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2018 at 10:07 AM

When it comes to political campaign merchandise, candidates have pulled out all the stops in recent years to attract meme-happy millennials. Case in point: "I Stand with Rand" flip-flops, the "Chillary Clinton" can holder and the Ted Cruz coloring book.

This year, Ben and Jerry's Homemade founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are going a step further. They came up with unique ice cream flavors for seven progressive candidates running for Congress in partnership with Political Action, which paid for television ads that feature each candidate and their flavor.

Stephany Rose Spaulding, the candidate for House District 5 running against incumbent Doug Lamborn, is one of the chosen ones.

Her flavor: "Rocky Mountain Rose."

A video caption from describes the flavor as "Colorado’s own Palisade peaches and pecans, in a light 'care'-amel base."

Cohen and Greenfield are making 40 pints of each ice cream flavor by hand in their home, says Edward Erikson, a consultant who works with Cohen. You can enter to win a pint by texting "ICECREAM" to 668366 or by signing up online to host or attend a campaign event.

Each pint will be signed by Cohen and Greenfield, Erikson says.

It'll take a lot of ice cream to win over all of District 5's Republicans, and Spaulding is definitely the underdog in this race. FiveThirtyEight gave her a 1 in 40 chance of winning, and pollsters consider District 5, where Lamborn's already won six times, an uphill battle for any Democrat.

But Erikson says that's part of the reason she was so appealing to Cohen and Greenfield, who purposely looked for candidates running in places "where we thought we could be most helpful."

"[District 5] is not viewed as being competitive, but looking at that district and looking at the changing demographics in Colorado we think that the math could be turning there," Erikson says. "It might not turn this cycle, but we think it could turn soon. And [Spaulding] is an exceptionally dynamic candidate who we were drawn to and wanted to support."

The other candidates include Jess King of Pennsylvania, Lauren Underwood of Illinois, Aftab Pureval of Ohio, J.D. Scholten of Iowa, Ammar Campa Najjar of California and James Thompson of Kansas.
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Monday, October 22, 2018

Multi-million dollar Sand Creek stormwater project completed

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2018 at 11:21 AM

Before the stabilization project on Sand Creek. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Photos courtesy of city of Colorado Springs
  • Before the stabilization project on Sand Creek.
What a difference $6 million can make, as evidenced by a stormwater stabilization project on Sand Creek in the vicinity of Platte Avenue bridge.

The city announced completion of the project on Oct. 22, noting it's one of 71 projects the city agreed to complete under a 20-year, $460-million agreement with Pueblo County. Since that deal, inked in 2016, the city has completed six projects, says city spokesperson Vanessa Zink via email. Check out the entire list here.

The work on Sand Creek took 10 months and spanned a half mile, the city said in a release. Crews filled and reshaped the creek, installed grouted boulder drop structures to step the creek down and rebuilt the natural habitat along the creek. "The project raised the bottom of Sand Creek and regraded the banks back to a stable slope to prevent erosion and provide flood protection for up to a 100-year storm event through the half-mile improved section that will ultimately improve water quality for downstream communities," the release said.

Funding for the project broke down this way: $3.9 million from a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant; $600,000 from the state and $1.5 million from the city.

Contractor was Tezak Heavy Equipment.
After the project was completed.
  • After the project was completed.
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Friday, October 19, 2018

ReWall gets recycling grant to turn Colorado's cartons into buildings

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 4:23 PM

ReWall's products include hail-resistant roof boards made from up-cycled cartons. - COURTESY OF THE REWALL COMPANY
  • Courtesy of The Rewall Company
  • ReWall's products include hail-resistant roof boards made from up-cycled cartons.

A company that produces building materials out of used packaging received an unprecedented $1.5 million grant to roll out operations in Colorado, where it could help to close the gap between our state and the rest of the country when it comes to recycling.

"There’s a little bit of a problem with landfilling in Colorado because it’s so cheap, so people don’t feel that need [to find] an alternative to it," says Jan Rayman, CEO of The ReWall Company. "So we like to think that we’re showing people a way [to] think outside the box."

The company, which has honed its manufacturing process in Iowa for the last seven years, plans to open a facility in a yet-undetermined location, probably near Denver, by April of next year. While ReWall will only need 15 employees to start — most of the process of shredding, melting and producing building materials is automated — Rayman says ReWall will feed local economies by incentivizing waste companies to add the people and infrastructure needed to collect, sort and deliver packaging to be transformed into building materials.

The funding for ReWall's Colorado launch comes from the state's Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity Grant Program, created in 2008 to promote economic development through recycling. Funded by tipping fees from state landfills, the program has provided close to $20 million for recycling infrastructure to businesses, local governments, nonprofits, schools and universities since its start.

And ReWall is getting an unusually big share of the pie. As the program’s total yearly budget — including staff and operations — is around $3.5 million, most grants are in the ballpark of $200,000 to $225,000, says Eric Heyboer, RREO’s program administrator.

“It was definitely the biggest grant we’ve ever awarded to a single entity through our program here at the state,” Heyboer says. “But, we felt it was very much justified because [ReWall is] basically bringing an end-market solution to paper cartons.”

Normally, Heyboer says, materials such as milk jugs and orange juice containers are usually shipped out of state for processing if they’re even recycled at all. That's because these containers often consist of different materials, such as plastic caps, paper and aluminum, making them hard to recycle.

But ReWall's manufacturing process uses the entire container, Rayman says, taking advantage of the plastic coating as a binder. The process involves shredding and melting the material but doesn't require any water to separate the layers, making it more eco-friendly.

These recycled material roof boards are class 4 hail resistant, and made in custom sizes. - COURTESY OF THE REWALL COMPANY
  • Courtesy of The Rewall Company
  • These recycled material roof boards are class 4 hail resistant, and made in custom sizes.

Colorado lags behind the rest of the nation when it comes to recycling. Though its residents are known for spending time outdoors, a 2017 report by Eco-Cycle and the Colorado Public Interest Research Group found that the state only recycles 12 percent of its waste. The national average is 34 percent.

ReWall might help Colorado narrow that gap. The company's goal is to drive the "local circle economy," where waste remains in a community and serves a new purpose.

"I’m a firm believer that construction is actually one of the very few, if not the only other industry that has the capacity to absorb the volumes that we’re producing as waste," Rayman says.

ReWall's products, because they're made from FDA-approved food packaging, are also more healthy and environmentally friendly than traditional building products that use toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, Rayman adds.
"We provide a healthy alternative," he says. "We stopped calling our product green because there’s a lot of greenwashing out there. People can call green, everything that saves them a little bit of energy or a little bit of money, but no. This is a healthy product that actually a lot of people seek out — a lot of people with environmental sensitivities would seek ReWall out to build their homes from because they’re allergic to the traditional products."
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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Election Day jitters? It's OK if you don't have your ballot yet

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2018 at 4:49 PM

We made a cool Instagram post recently to remind people to vote in the midterm election, and got a couple of comments from some proactive voters. They were wondering why only half of their household's ballots had arrived in the mail.

It sounded worrisome, because the only thing worse than not being able to vote, is not being able to vote while watching a family member vote for the people you don't like. Right?

Turns out, it's too early to worry. Kristi Ridlen, spokesperson for the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office, calls this "a very common issue."

"That happens to a lot of households and to a lot of people, where you’ll get some ballots one day, you’ll get some the next day and then you could get the remaining two days later," Ridlen says. "It’s a mass mailing, pretty much, is what it is, so depending on if it gets shuffled around when they’re processing that mail at the U.S. Postal Service, that tends to happen."

If you don't have your ballot by the end of the day Friday, Oct. 19, and have ensured that your current address is on file by visiting, Ridlen says to give her office a call at 719/575-VOTE (8683).
Ballots aren't forward-able, Ridlen notes, so it's important to make sure that your address is updated. The deadline for doing so is Oct. 29.

All ballots must be returned to the Clerk’s Office by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 6, to be counted. (Postmarked ballots received after that won't be counted.)

You can vote in one of three ways:

1) Mail your ballot back with extra postage. Don't just slap a stamp on it — that won't be enough to mail your ballot. Total postage of $0.71 is needed because the ballot is two sheets.

2) Drop it off. A complete list of ballot drop boxes, open 24/7 and under video surveillance, is located here.

3) Vote in person. Voter Service and Polling Centers in El Paso County are listed here. (You can also visit these centers to register to vote, update your address, drop off a ballot or replace a soiled ballot.)

Visit for more information on the upcoming election.

And if you need a ride, Lyft and Uber are both offering free and discount transportation to polling places on Election Day.

Lyft is distributing promo codes for 50 percent off rides to voting locations, through nonprofits including, Nonprofit Vote and TurboVote. The company will offer free rides to underserved communities in partnership with Voto Latino, local Urban League affiliates, the National Federation of the Blind and more. The app will also include a tool to help passengers find a polling location.

Uber will add a "Get to the Polls" button to its app Nov. 6 to help voters find their nearest polling places and quickly book a ride. The company is also working with nonprofits #VoteTogether and Democracy Works to provide free rides to the polls. Those nonprofits will select certain areas, probably those that have a high need from a transportation perspective, and distribute codes that way, Elite Daily reports.
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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

UPDATE: Tom Clements' life was in danger but authorities did nothing, lawsuit says

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 2:05 PM

San Agustin: A victim of malicious prosecution, lawsuit says. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office
  • San Agustin: A victim of malicious prosecution, lawsuit says.

So far, we've heard from three defendants named in the lawsuit.

A spokesperson for Sheriff Bill Elder says via email, "The Tom Clements Homicide is still an active investigation. The Sheriff’s Office will not be commenting on pending litigation."

The El Paso County Attorney’s Office said in an email it's reviewing the lawsuit and "may have comments in the future.”

The other comment came from 18th Judicial District DA George Brauchler. He, too, issued a statement via email, saying:
It’s a sad fact of life that prosecutors are often sued for doing their jobs by persons who don’t like the fact that they were prosecuted. Such lawsuits are almost always legally frivolous and quickly dismissed by the courts. Anyone can file a lawsuit alleging anything they want. This lawsuit has no basis in fact or law. Once we are served with it, we will file a motion to dismiss, which we anticipate will be granted quickly by the court.

I think that the public should be skeptical of a lawsuit when it was obviously sent to the media before the plaintiff's lawyer saw fit to give us a copy. The first we heard of this was from a reporter.
To be clear, the Independent did not receive the lawsuit from the plaintiff or anyone associated with him.

—————ORIGINAL POST 2:05 P.M. WEDNESDAY, OCT. 17, 2018—————————

A new lawsuit contains explosive allegations that 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May, El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder and others improperly abandoned the investigation of the March 19, 2013, murder of Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements on his doorstep in Monument.

The lawsuit, filed Oct. 16 in federal court, also claims a collection of government officials, ranging from prosecutors to sheriff's deputies, including Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, who's the Republican candidate for Colorado Attorney General, conspired to lie to a grand jury and manipulate evidence in order to persuade jurors to indict Juan San Agustin, Jr. in May 2016.

San Agustin seeks $10 million in damages and other compensation stemming from his alleged "malicious prosecution" on charges arising out of a woman's alleged 2013 false arrest under former Sheriff Terry Maketa, former Undersheriff Paula Presley and San Agustin, although none of those people were present at the arrest, the lawsuit says. (Maketa, Presley and San Agustin submitted notices of claim in November 2016 alleging malicious prosecution.)

Tom Clements - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Tom Clements
Maketa and Presley were indicted on charges from that incident and others. Maketa was tried twice — in 2017 and 2018 — without a conviction, leading Brauchler's office to abandon the case earlier this year. Brauchler had taken over the case when Dan May recused himself. Charges against Presley and San Agustin were dropped in October 2017.

The indictment was built on a lie, the 45-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver says, noting that electronic card-reader information conclusively disproves that San Agustin was even in the sheriff's building when the woman was interviewed and later arrested.
Named as defendants in San Agustin's case are: El Paso County, District Attorney May, Deputy District Attorney Shannon Gerhart, Sheriff Elder, Undersheriff Joe Breister, County legal advisor Lisa Kirkman, former El Paso County Deputy Robert Jaworski, the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, CBI agent Ralph Gagliardi, Arapahoe County, Arapahoe County DA Brauchler, Arapahoe County Assistant DA Mark Hurlbert, Arapahoe County Deputy DA Grant Fevurly, and 11 "officers John Doe."
But perhaps most fascinating are the allegations regarding the Clements case. Evan Ebel, a member of white supremacist group 211 Crew, shot Clements and was killed days later in a shootout with law enforcement officers in Texas. When San Agustin and others who were investigating the case pressed forward with the Clements' murder investigation, May and Elder closed the case, the lawsuit says.

"In the Summer of 2016, Defendant Elder contacted all agencies that had been involved
with the investigation of the Tom Clements murder and informed them that the investigation was closed," the lawsuit says. "When Governor [John] Hickenlooper found out about this, he called Defendant Elder in for a meeting and ordered the investigation re-opened. Although Defendant Elder complied with Governor Hickenlooper’s demand, the investigation is open in name only, virtually no El Paso County Sheriff’s Office resources are being put towards the investigation."

Former Sheriff Terry Maketa and his wife, Vicki, in the El Paso County courthouse for trial in February 2018. The charges were later dropped. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Former Sheriff Terry Maketa and his wife, Vicki, in the El Paso County courthouse for trial in February 2018. The charges were later dropped.
May and Elder's decision — despite San Agustin's insistence before leaving the Sheriff's Office in 2014 after Elder was elected that there were co-conspirators involved — stemmed from a mistaken assassination, the lawsuit says.

When May served as a deputy DA in the 18th Judicial District from 2004 to 2008 before being elected as the 4th Judicial District DA in El Paso County, he prosecuted cases against members of the Sureños gang that resulted in lengthening their sentences, the lawsuit says.

Because of that, the Sureños gang put out an assassination request or "hit" on Dan May, the lawsuit claims. The 211 Crew carried out the hit, but got the wrong man. Sean May was shot in an alley in Denver on Aug. 27, 2008, the lawsuit says. The case remains unsolved.
Then there's this shocking revelation, "In or about 2013, law enforcement received a letter from a Department of Corrections inmate, who had heard of the 211 Crew’s plot. The letter warned that Tom Clements’ life was in danger. Law enforcement did not act on the letter at the time it was received."
District Attorney Dan May, at a briefing in August on the shooting of Deputy Micah Flick. He's accused of  refusing to allow charges to be brought against suspected conspirators in the Tom Clements murder in 2013 after learning he could be targeted by gang members behind the murder. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • District Attorney Dan May, at a briefing in August on the shooting of Deputy Micah Flick. He's accused of refusing to allow charges to be brought against suspected conspirators in the Tom Clements murder in 2013 after learning he could be targeted by gang members behind the murder.
The lawsuit doesn't identify which law enforcement agency received the warning, nor is there a clear accusation, but the insinuation appears to be that law enforcement, including May, fearful for their own lives, declined to prosecute Ebel's co-conspirators.

Regarding the grand jury issue, the lawsuit alleges the defendants "presented false evidence to the Grand Jury, purposely withheld exculpatory evidence, and purposely failed to present complete evidence to the Grand Jury to usurp the independence of the Grand Jury."

From the lawsuit:
Defendants together reached an understanding, engaged in a course of conduct and otherwise conspired among and between themselves to deprive Plaintiff of his due process rights by maliciously prosecuting him, fabricating evidence, manipulating witness testimony,
suppressing exculpatory evidence, and falsify[ing] charges in order to indict, arrest, and prosecute Plaintiff on without probable cause. Defendants’ misconduct was malicious, willful, and committed with reckless indifference to the rights of others. 
Moreover, Hurlbert, the lawsuit says, "negligently or maliciously published false, defamatory statements" about San Agustin by stating that despite the dismissal of the charges, San Agustin was guilty. "This statement was false," the suit says.

After leaving the Sheriff's Office, San Agustin taught at local universities and worked as a private investigator at $100 per hour and as a digital forensics expert at up to $250 per hour.

The indictment "tainted" the former sheriff's commander's reputation, the lawsuit says, and "affected his business and personal relationships, and has caused him embarrassment and humiliation." Besides that, several of the defendants conspired to place San Agustin's name on the Brady list, a list of officers disclosed to defense attorneys due to instances of departing from the truth or being accused of other wrongdoing.

This further dried up his career prospects, the lawsuit says, further defaming his reputation.

"Defendants’ intentionally and willfully interfered with Plaintiff’s economic relationships
in order to cause damage to Plaintiff’s lawful business," the lawsuit says. "Defendants’ interference was perpetuated with actual malice and ill will toward Plaintiff, and with intentional and improper purpose of causing damages. There was no justifiable cause for Defendants’ actions."

Sheriff Bill Elder: Named in a lawsuit alleging malicious prosecution. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Sheriff Bill Elder: Named in a lawsuit alleging malicious prosecution.
San Agustin seeks $10 million in damages, along with economic losses, special damages for "mental anguish" and attorney fees and costs.

It's worth noting that San Agustin's lawyers include the firm of Fisher & Byrialsen, which filed a malicious prosecution case against New York City on behalf of one of the five young men erroneously accused in the infamous 1989 Central Park jogger case who were later exonerated. The firm's client was paid in a $12.25-million settlement.

The day the indictment against San Agustin and others was issued, Elder issued a statement, saying, "No one is above the law, including me. For this reason I thank the CBI, the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the Grand Jury for their diligent work regarding this matter."

We've asked the named defendants to respond to the lawsuit but so far haven't heard back. If and when we hear something, we'll update this blog.

Here's the lawsuit:
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FDA smokes out 1,000 pages of documents from Juul in e-cig crackdown


E-cigarette maker, Juul, might be in hot water. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seized thousands of pages in documentation from the company during a surprise inspection.

The FDA has been investigating the company for the past year as a growing number of teens have begun to use the e-cigarette. Claims that Juul and other e-cigarettes are marketing to children might make the industry blow up in smoke.

Currently, Juul controls around 70% of the e-cigarette market, making them a priority among retailers. In the recent surprise inspection, the FDA took thousands of pages regarding their marketing strategy.

This comes after the FDA ordered e-cig manufacturers to make plans that steer away from youth marketing.

The commissioner for the FDA, Scott Gottlieb, is calling e-cig use among teens an "epidemic."

"I think people should interpret the fact that I and others have made such a dramatic shift from our prior position with respect to these products as representing the fact that we have seen information that is deeply disturbing and startling in terms of the rapid rise of youth use over a short period of time," claimed Gottlieb in an interview back in September.

Many believe that the growing use among teens and adolescents is due to the appealing flavors offered by e-cigs.

Google receives an average of 100 billion searches each month, and many of those search results feature prominent advertisements. Currently, Google will not allow any cigarette or tobacco companies, including JUUL, to advertise on its powerful search engine. On top of that, the FDA is considering banning the online sale of popular e-cigarettes as use among children grows.

The sales of Juul grew by around 14 million between 2016 and 2017 alone. In 2016, Juul sold 2.2 million devices. In 2017? 16.2 million.

"The new and highly disturbing data we have on youth use demonstrates plainly that e-cigarettes are creating an epidemic of regular nicotine use among teens. It is vital that we take action to understand and address the particular appeal of, and ease of access to, these products among kids," claimed the FDA.

E-cigarettes have become a popular smoking alternative for adults, and it's plainly grown in popularity among teens. The carcinogens in tobacco and cigarette filters can cause cancer for smokers and those around them. It's also known to contribute to heart disease, lung damage, yellow teeth, and respiratory problems, and it can worsen asthma and allergy symptoms. An estimated 6.1 children and 20 million adults suffer from seasonal allergies in the U.S. alone, and even second-hand smoke can increase the risk of these health problems.

E-cigarettes became attractive for smokers who wanted to avoid the hazards associated with smoking. In addition to the widely known health hazards, 32% of people have concern for the appearance of their teeth, and smoking only exacerbates the issue.

E-cigarettes are popular in part because they are seen as less deadly and harmful than traditional tobacco products. However, e-cigarettes and vapes pose health risks as well.

Nicotine is known to hinder brain development in adolescents and cause addiction. One Juul pod can contain as much nicotine as twenty cigarettes.

Additionally, the flavored liquids used to deliver the nicotine use propylene glycol, an ingredient that can cause irritation when inhaled. Additionally, the long-term effects of vaping are unknown since the product is so new.

The problem is that these vapes and e-cigs aren't federally regulated, meaning any number of ingredients can be used in the final product. Recent studies show vaping is also a gateway drug for teens to try cigarettes as well.

The number of teens who vape has grown tenfold between 2011 and 2017, and those are just the ones who have reported vaping use to researchers.

The FDA will search Juul's documents to ensure the company is in compliance.

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Tony Wolusky wants to be on University of Colorado's Board of Regents

Posted By on Mon, Oct 15, 2018 at 8:17 AM

Dr. Tony Wolusky - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Dr. Tony Wolusky
After the Indy endorsements were released this week, we received a lot of email and phone calls.
There were a few thank yous in there, along with some complaints, and a few candidates disappointed that we hadn't made an endorsement in their race.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: It was a very long ballot this year, and we just couldn't  examine every race.

Still, one call stood out. Dr. Tony Wolusky, the Democrat running for University of Colorado Board of Regents in District 5 (that's us) said he had been frustrated by the lack of attention on the race — especially since it was such a key role when it comes to controlling student debt.

OK, you got us Wolusky. We're pretty sympathetic to that issue. It's hard not to be considering how the heavy burden of debt steers a young person's life and opportunities. Plus the nine-member regent board, long dominated by Republicans, does a lot of important things like pick the next president of the CU system, for instance, and approve the budget, set policies, determine degree programs and (important to Wolusky's point) decide whether to raise, lower or freeze tuition.

While we still aren't endorsing in the race, we agreed to meet and talk with Wolusky about his race against Republican Chance Hill, and we encourage you to learn more about your regent candidates.

Here are a few things Wolusky wanted to point out:
• Big student debt loads (the average in Colorado in 2017 was estimated to be $26,095 by the Congress & Student Debt report) take young people years to pay off and create a lot of emotional pressure in their lives. Wolusky, who teaches at several colleges, has had students at Pikes Peak Community College who couldn't afford textbooks and says about half his students at Metropolitan State University of Denver are single moms. Food insecurity is incredibly common among his students. The CU system, he says, doesn't need to cost students so much. Perhaps it could cut back on salaries, some of which are near $1 million (and that isn't including the multimillion dollar contract given to CU's head coach).
He adds that the system spends too much on "prestige projects," such as huge figures expended on marketing, when it could use that money to help students. CU ranks 48th nationally in state funding for higher education. "They do a lot of things," he says, "that I think are a way to pat yourself on the back."
If the system could cut back on such expenses, he says, perhaps it could at least freeze tuition for a year instead of raising it. The system might also be able to offer students with heavy course loads some free classes each semester.

• Wolusky is a big proponent of diversity in the system. He notes that many young minority students are priced out of the system. That's a particular shame, he says, because one of the most enriching part of college should be learning about, and befriending people, who are different than you.

• Stopping sex assault on campus has to be a major priority, Wolusky says. He thinks we should educate students within the first month, focusing particularly on men. Wolusky says that in his time as an attorney he saw how deeply scarred victims of sexual assault are and wants to do whatever he can to prevent it.

• Wolusky says the current regents spend too much time on political issues, saying he's witnessed them discussing the need to classify conservative students as "minorities" and offer them the same support as, say, students of color. Another time, he says, the regents spent a long time talking about how to take the word " liberal" out of liberal arts.
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs - THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT COLORADO SPRINGS
  • The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
  • The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Here are a few things you should know about Wolusky's background:
• He went to the Air Force Academy and served in the Air Force for 28 years, even teaching at the AFA as an Associate Professor of Law and serving as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for the Superintendent before retiring from active duty in Colorado Springs in 2004.

• He has five degrees: A bachelor's in public administration and international relations, a master's in education, a master's in international relations, a juris doctorate and a Ph.D. in education. (In contrast, Sue Sharkey, the current chair of the Board of Regents, which oversees the entire CU system, doesn't have any degree.)

• He teaches and has taught at many colleges including current stints at Pikes Peak Community College and Metropolitan State University of Denver.

• He's an attorney with 30 years experience who has served both as a deputy district attorney and a public defender.

• He has four daughters and a grandson.
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Friday, October 12, 2018

Amazon building at Springs' airport has "end date" of Feb. 1, 2019

Posted By on Fri, Oct 12, 2018 at 5:01 PM

A bit of a tizzy erupted last week when, on Oct. 4, it was learned that online giant Amazon was hiring about 300 part-timers locally via a job fair at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, and building some sort of facility near Colorado Springs Airport.

The issue became more intriguing when Mayor John Suthers wouldn't comment on the hirings or whether the city has an agreement and details about that agreement.

Nor would City Councilor Andy Pico, who also serves as the Council representative on the Airport Advisory Commission. He wouldn't even confirm to the Independent the company is Amazon.

But it might be time to say, "Whoa, Nellie. Don't get too excited."

A close look at plans, filed with the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, for a $2.8 million building that appears to be associated with the Amazon hiring push states, "THE SITE IS TO BE USED TEMPORARILY WITH AN END DATE OF FEBRUARY 1ST 2019."

Those plans — for a "frame supported fabric structure" to be used as a "distribution warehouse (postal)" by a "confidential corporate client" — can be found on the website of the Regional Building.

The plans also note, "This application is for a temporary use to be used for a distribution center." The layout, according to the plans, includes a tent facility, support office building, support restroom building and support breakroom building.

The construction is taking place on land owned by the city, according to the El Paso County Assessor's Office.

According to RBD's website, the site had been graded by Sept. 11 but no materials for construction yet delivered. Since then, several inspections have been conducted.

Pico says he can't speak to the project in any way, but generally, the Commercial Aeronautical Zone at the airport enables the city to provide tax breaks to companies locating there.

Otherwise, the city also can offer new businesses sales tax rebates based on specified criteria, such as jobs created and the like, he says, adding, "And to be completely honest, I do not know if it’s Amazon. I know we are talking with companies."

He says City Council has not been briefed on the project, but an announcement about it could come at any time.
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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Springs announces Homelessness Action Plan

Posted By on Wed, Oct 10, 2018 at 10:23 AM

Mayor John Suthers announces the city's plan to fight homelessness. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Mayor John Suthers announces the city's plan to fight homelessness.

An assortment of cold city officials and nonprofit workers lined up underneath a highway-side billboard Oct. 9 to announce Colorado Springs' new Homelessness Action Plan. On the barely-above-freezing Tuesday, the timing couldn't have been better.

"The change in the weather highlights the ongoing need in our community for low-barrier shelter beds," Suthers said.

The city's action plan outlines eight steps to keep people experiencing homelessness out of the cold:

1. Continue "educating the public" via the HelpCOS campaign.

Advertising for the HelpCOS fundraising campaign, which the city launched May 31 in partnership with Pikes Peak United Way, has until now consisted mainly of signs posted near locations frequented by panhandlers. The signs tell commuters that "Handouts Don't Help" and encourage them to instead donate spare change to for the benefit of local nonprofits fighting homelessness. One hundred percent of donations will now benefit the expansion of low-barrier shelter facilities at Springs Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army, Mayor John Suthers said.

Lamar Advertising has donated four billboards to promote the campaign, the first of which was unveiled at the Oct. 9 event.

The city does not have an update on donations through HelpCOS, says Andrew Phelps, the city's homelessness prevention and response coordinator.

"We do expect that donations will increase as publicity increases, because we live in a very giving community," he says. (You can donate by texting "HelpCOS" to 667873.)

2. Add an additional 370 low-barrier shelter beds.

Hours after the Homelessness Action Plan was released to the public, City Council voted to approve $500,000 to help fund 370 low-barrier shelter beds at Springs Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army, both religious nonprofits. The rest of the funding for the beds will come from grants and donations.

Of those beds, 120 will come online at the Salvation Army and 100 at Springs Rescue Mission in November, Phelps says. The remaining beds will be available at the turn of the year.

Springs Rescue Mission CEO Larry Yonkers said his shelter had its first full-capacity night of the year on Oct. 8.

"This can't happen fast enough," Yonkers said, adding that Springs Rescue Mission also hoped to expand its kitchen and welcome center to accommodate more clients.

3. Implement a Homeless Outreach Court.

People experiencing homelessness often can't pay fines for crimes and misdemeanors often committed as a result of their circumstances — trapping many in the criminal justice system. The idea of a Homeless Outreach Court, according to the city's action plan, is to connect people with "case managers who can help guide them to the services they need" instead of charging them money that won't be paid. "By doing so, our Homeless Outreach Court will address the root causes of the offending behavior and empower individuals to take concrete steps to move out of homelessness," the plan says.

4. Establish a veteran housing incentive fund.

"This is the least that we can do for those who have served our nation," Phelps said.

The fund will encourage more landlords to rent to veterans who get vouchers through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, a joint program between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. HUD recently announced $782,000 in additional funding for Colorado veterans.

"What often happens in our community is a homeless veteran receives a HUD-VASH voucher for an amount that is below a market-rate rent for a one-bedroom apartment," Phelps said. "So this fund will make up the difference and hopefully incentivize landlords to rent to homeless veterans with these HUD-VASH vouchers."

5. Develop a Comprehensive Affordable Housing plan.

In his State of the City speech last month, Suthers suggested Colorado Springs "make it a community goal to build, preserve and create opportunities to purchase an average of 1,000 affordable units per year over the next five years." That ambitious goal will be met in part by incentivizing private developers, he said.

The city's Homelessness Action Plan asserts that the city will begin developing a plan to address the affordable housing shortage next year. Nonprofit workers frequently cite the shortage as a contributing factor to homelessness: A 2014 Affordable Housing Needs Assessment by the city of Colorado Springs and El Paso County predicted a deficit of 26,000 available affordable units by 2019 for households making up to 120 percent of the area median income.

6. Support funding for a homeless work program with area nonprofit(s).

Programs like Albuquerque's "There's a Better Way" employ people experiencing homelessness on a day-to-day basis, doing jobs like picking up trash. The city's new plan says Colorado Springs will "investigate the feasibility" of such a program "via a competitive RFP process." Ideally, the plan says, the program would be within an existing local nonprofit and would involve the cleanup of parks, trails and illegal campsites. Funding is yet to be determined.

7. Add Neighborhood Services staff to aid in cleaning up illegal camps.

The mayor's proposed budget calls for hiring three full-time Neighborhood Services employees to work with the Colorado Springs Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team and handle camp cleanup. Two will be maintenance technicians solely responsible for cleaning up vacated homeless camps, and one will be a senior technician who can assist with larger cleanups or facilitate other needs identified by the HOT team. The proposed budget calls for $171,000 to fund salaries, benefits and overhead, city spokesperson Jamie Fabos says.

8. Develop "HelpCOS Ambassador Team" for downtown and Old Colorado City areas.

Such a team would consist of people who greet visitors in public spaces, providing maps and answering questions. The "ambassadors" would also help connect people experiencing homelessness with shelters and services.

The Homelessness Action Plan points to the San Antonio Centro Ambassadors as an example. According to the plan, San Antonio, Texas, has 85 ambassadors who "work every day to keep the vibe alive and make San Antonio 'The Friendliest City in America.'" Phelps says Colorado Springs probably won't need that many ambassadors.

The program could be volunteer-based, contract-based or a mix of both, Phelps says, adding that the city is getting quotes from Block by Block, a company that provides ambassador services for downtown districts around the country.

The City of Colorado Springs and Council President Richard Skorman will host three town halls to gather public input on the plan. They are:

• Oct. 17 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Westside Community Center, 1628 W Bijou St.
• Oct. 25 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at City Council Chambers, 107 N. Nevada Ave.
• A third November event to be scheduled later
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Friday, October 5, 2018

Sheriff Bill Elder will be "more than done" after his next term

Posted By on Fri, Oct 5, 2018 at 4:29 PM

Elder: Not looking for a third term. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Elder: Not looking for a third term.
It's apparently been a rough four years for El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, who's seeking a second term in the Nov. 6 election.

Elder, a Republican, is a shoo-in for another four years, because the county is dominated by Republican voters. But a recent email exchange with a subordinate (obtained by the Indy through an open records request) makes it sound like he's not crazy about the job he's in.

On Aug. 29, Lt. Charles Kull sent an email to Elder saying he's thinking about running for sheriff after Elder's term is over. "That is of course unless you go back to a three term limit and you decide to run again," Kull says, adding that he would support him.

(Former Sheriff Terry Maketa served three terms after voters allowed a third term. But later, voters rescinded a third term for the sheriff, so Elder is eligible for only two, four-year terms unless voters again reverse the two-term limit.)

Elder's response, sent 40 minutes after Kull's message: "Dude, I will be more than done at the end of this 4 years and am not even considering an extension. We should talk."

Although Kull followed up by asking for a meeting, Sheriff's Office spokesperson Jackie Kirby says no such meeting took place.

Asked about the messages being sent on official government email, Kirby says via email, "The sending of an email expressing a desire to run for political office is not against policy. It is actually quite appropriate for someone within the Sheriff’s Office who is considering running for the position to inform the Sheriff."

Kull had a memory lapse last year while testifying at Maketa's trial, which didn't result in a conviction.

We asked Deputy County Attorney Diana May if it was appropriate for Kull to include a Bible verse on his official county email. She says via email: "Thank you for bringing this to our attention. The quote on the bottom of Lieutenant Kull’s email has been addressed and rectified."

Elder's Democratic opponent in the Nov. 6 election is Grace Sweeney-Maurer.

Here's the email exchange:
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Thursday, October 4, 2018

Crowdfunding for small businesses just got a little easier

Posted By on Thu, Oct 4, 2018 at 11:12 AM

Think GoFundMe, but for amateur investors: Colorado's small businesses could get a leg up thanks to new rules governing crowdfunding.

In 2015, Colorado lawmakers approved a bill to help startups use crowdfunding for investment, essentially by selling stocks through an online marketplace. At the time, says Rep. Pete Lee, a Democrat from Colorado Springs who sponsored the bill, "the biggest complaint we were hearing from businesses was the difficulty of raising capital."

The intent behind the Colorado Crowdfunding Act was to help small businesses get investors without having to go through the complex state securities registration process. However, the state Division of Securities' first rules on crowdfunding, issued a few months after the legislation was passed, were cumbersome, says securities lawyer Herrick Lidstone.

"Everything that the securities division did in its rulemaking was afforded by the legislation, but the difficulties that were created bore no relationship to economic reality for small businesses seeking to raise capital," Lidstone says.

Those difficulties included a requirement that businesses use a broker or online intermediary, that the minimum offering be no less than half of the maximum offering, and that the minimum offering be held in an escrow account.

"Anything where you’re raising capital is subject to possible abuse, and that’s something that the legislature and the securities division are properly concerned about," Lidstone says. "But my experience with many regulators is that they assume abuse. I would like them to assume that people are really intending to be honest, which is my experience as a lawyer."
Pete Lee: "I think this could be a real shot in the arm for small businesses." - FILE PHOTO
  • file photo
  • Pete Lee: "I think this could be a real shot in the arm for small businesses."

Lidstone and other experts on securities law recommended changes to the Division of Securities, and on July 31 — more than three years after the original legislation was passed — new rules were put in place that Lidstone, as well as Securities Commissioner Gerald Rome, feel will make crowdfunding a more appetizing solution for small businesses looking to raise capital.

"It’s important that we enable small companies to access capital through the capital markets, and it’s difficult for them to do that simply because usually they don’t have a track record," Rome says. "It’s just a difficult stage in the growth of their company to go out and get institutional investors to invest in their company. So [crowdfunding] is a means of allowing a large number of people to invest in a local, small business here."

Now, businesses looking to raise less than $500,000 in a year don't have to go through an online intermediary, which Lidstone says can be expensive. They also don't have to comply with the minimum-offering requirement.

Also, the new rules allow a person helping a small company to have an ownership — something that was previously prohibited. "As you may know in the equity world, one of the things that might reduce the cost to the small business issuer is to say, you help me with these things, and I’ll give you a piece of my pie," Lidstone says.

There are still disclosure requirements in place for businesses looking to start crowdfunding, and the rules require the investor and issuer to reside in Colorado. While there are federal rules that accommodate crowdfunding, Lidstone says they aren't particularly friendly to small businesses.

Rome says he doesn't believe anyone has taken advantage of the changes yet, and advises interested businesses to contact the Division of Securities. (You can reach them at

The businesses best suited to crowdfunding are those that already have community backing in place, Rome says: "If you’re running, say, a small brewery and you want to expand, or maybe a small restaurant you want to expand, then the people that are going to invest in your company through crowdfunding are the people that go and show up at your brewery or show up at your restaurant."

"I think this could be a real shot in the arm for small businesses," Lee says. "And as we know, small businesses drive the economy."
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Teller County candidate Betty Clark-Wine cleared of campaign finance violation

Posted By on Thu, Oct 4, 2018 at 11:04 AM

A complaint filed by the Teller County Republican Party Chair Erik Stone on Sept. 11 against unaffiliated county treasurer candidate Betty Clark-Wine has been dismissed.

Stone alleged she solicited donations to an unregistered political committee on her campaign website. But Clark-Wine called the donation tab an error and removed it hours after the complaint was filed. She says she's financing the entirety of her campaign, which will be decided in the Nov. 6 election.

On Oct. 2, the Secretary of State's Office issued a three-page decision in which it ruled, "The Elections Division finds that the Respondent has sufficiently cured the violations alleged in the complaint, and at this time, is not required to register a candidate committee under Colorado law."

Clark-Wine issued this news release about the finding:
Cripple Creek — The Secretary of State has dismissed the campaign finance complaint filed against Teller County Treasurer candidate Betty Clark-Wine by Erik Stone, Chair of the Teller County Republicans.
“I am very pleased that the Secretary of State acted promptly to dismiss the campaign finance complaint. I have not accepted contributions or donations and, I have financed my own campaign.”

Clark-Wine, who is the Teller County Assessor, is term-limited and is on the ballot in November as an unaffiliated candidate for County Treasurer.

“Since Mr. Stone also expressed concern about my having filed one campaign report one day late, I reviewed report filings on the Secretary of State website. Much to my surprise, I found that several elected officials have filed late campaign finance reports, including Commissioners Dave Paul, Norm Steen, and Mark Dettenreider, Sheriff Jason Mikesell and former Sheriff Mike Ensminger. In fact, I was shocked to find that the Teller County Republican Central Committee filed late reports more than once, paying penalties totaling $350.”

Clark-Wine is putting this behind her and moving forward with her door-to-door campaign and meeting fellow citizens. “I am excited about answering their questions about taxes, tax exemptions, assessments, and property values. I want to focus on the issues that are important to the people and, since experience matters, my eight years as the Assessor will be of significant benefit to our county.”
Here's the Secretary of State's Office's decision:
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