Thursday, December 13, 2018

Council adopts RV parking ban

Posted By on Thu, Dec 13, 2018 at 11:10 AM

RVs like this one have proliferated on city streets, triggering an ordinance to bar them from parking on the streets of Colorado Springs. - GREG GJERDINGEN ON FLICKR
  • Greg Gjerdingen on Flickr
  • RVs like this one have proliferated on city streets, triggering an ordinance to bar them from parking on the streets of Colorado Springs.

City Council voted Dec. 11 to adopt a ban on RVs on city streets. The vote was 4 to 3, with Yolanda Avila, David Geislinger and Jill Gaebler dissenting and Merv Bennett and Bill Murray absent.

A first offense carries a fine of $75; second offense, $100, third, $125.

But the city notes that "violations of this ordinance (as currently drafted and proposed) are noncriminal civil infractions not punishable by imprisonment. A violation of 10.25.102(U) may result in the issuance of a parking citation, impoundment of the vehicle or both. This violation, in addition to having been designated as a payable offense as indicated above, has also been designated as an offense that can be heard by a Municipal Court Referee. Any person who has received a parking citation for a violation of the proposed ordinance may appear before the Municipal Court Referee. Pursuant to City Code section 11.5.105 the Referee may reduce fines or dismiss parking citations in accord with this section and the best interests of justice."

The Dec. 11 vote was first reading; it's unclear when the ordinance becomes effective, but generally, such measures must under go a second reading. That would take place in early January. The draft ordinance itself does not state the effective date.

Given the vote was so close with two councilors absent, it's possible the measure wouldn't be adopted on second reading.

———————-ORIGINAL POST 11:55 A.M. TUESDAY, NOV. 27, 2018———————

Colorado Springs has long banned parking RVs on city streets in residential neighborhoods, but soon, City Council will cast a vote on whether to expand that prohibition to all city streets.

The proposed ordinance is part of the city's efforts to address the city's homeless problem, with Police Commander Sean Mandel telling Council that many of the complaints received over the last year involve homeless people living in RVs parked all over the city.

The biggest issues are safety of drivers and pedestrians, environmental impact from RV occupants dumping human waste and other refuse on city streets or into storm sewers and quality of life of residents who observe such activity.

Mandel said during a Council work session on Nov. 26 the Colorado Springs Police Department has seen "a dramatic increase" in complaints over the last year.

"What we’re hoping for is to enable ourselves to go out and contact these owners of vehicles and inform them of the fines associated with the ordinance change," he said. "With the possibility of fines, we can get these vehicles to move and park somewhere outside the city limits."

Those fines are $75 for the first offense, $100 for the second and $125 for the third. It would be a non-jailable offense, but officers could impound the RV, although that would be a last resort.

Councilor David Geislinger, who said he opposes the ordinance as currently written, said he foresees creating a "Whack-a-mole" situation where RV dwellers would merely move the problem from place to place.

He also said he views the ordinance as criminalizing homelessness, though the city's legal advisor said the offense is a parking violation, not a criminal charge.

"I would like to see this ordinance and this problem addressed as part of the ambit of homeless diversion program in our city courts," he said. "The first approach is to bring these families, these individuals into the ambit of services. We heard that the homeless community is expressing frustration that every time they move, they’re losing all their possessions. So with this ordinance, the RV is impounded because of a violation of this statute, and all of a sudden we’ve taken that situation for that family and made it worse."

Mandel told Council the Homeless Outreach Team would likely carry out checks on RVs seen as breaking the ordinance, although all officers could issue citations.

But Geislinger was adamant that the ordinance doesn't truly hit the homeless problem head on. "This is part of the homeless issue that many people are not aware of," he said. "Now that it is out in the open, it is our job collectively to do what we can to address it."

Council is set to vote on the ordinance on Dec. 11.
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Friday, November 30, 2018

Scientist Trish Zornio mulls run against Cory Gardner

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2018 at 4:46 PM

Trish Zornio wants scientists in politics. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Trish Zornio wants scientists in politics.
Trish Zornio knows unseating Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner as a relative unknown and political first-timer is a long shot.

It's partly for that reason that the 33-year-old science lecturer says she embarked on a 64-county "exploratory tour" of Colorado to determine whether a grassroots campaign could be successful.

Zornio, who teaches behavioral neuroscience at the University of Denver, says the moment that triggered her decision to run for office came when she sat in the audience of a Senate hearing on automated technology while on a work trip to Washington, D.C., several years ago.

"I had this moment of realization where I realized there wasn't a single scientist on that panel," Zornio said at an event Nov. 28. "I set about asking the question, Can we incorporate scientists into elected offices and can we bring in different types of expertise to a place that has typically been reserved for people of different backgrounds in more of the law and more of business. So can we actually put scientists on the science committee?

Zornio has already hit 60 counties — which she points out many candidates don't even bother to do. Should she decide to run, she faces an uphill battle against Gardner, who reportedly already has $1 million on hand for his next campaign, and a pool of Democratic candidates that could include Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran, former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Gov. John Hickenlooper. (So far, just one candidate, nonprofit director Lorena Garcia, has announced plans to run.)

Zornio answers questions from audience members at Library 21c on Nov. 28. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Zornio answers questions from audience members at Library 21c on Nov. 28.

On her Nov. 28 tour stop at Colorado Springs' Library 21c, Zornio answered questions from audience members about her stances on various issues. Here's a few questions and answers (edited for brevity) so you can get to know her:

Jack Heiss: Through the passage of a recent I think ill-informed tax cut and what amounts to a drunk sailor budget that were passed, we're pushing trillion dollar ... deficits. The dollar won't take it for very long...We got to fix this now. What do you say, how do you fix this without losing an election?

This is very personal to me. Because unlike many of the people who are making the decisions in office today, I will be here for 60 years hopefully, and I'm going to have to be part of that economy that's struggling as a result… One thing in particular that I would really like to see is that we have a comprehensive understanding of where the money is actually going and that we can actually vet for the way it's being spent currently, because sometimes there are aspects of the budget that are not being monitored in that same sort of way, in military especially. That's not to suggest that I want to cut in any sort of way security or anything like that, but I do want to address how we are spending those military funds, and then I also want to address health care.

Jacob Foreman: Would you in Congress support ... talk of a policy called the "Green New Deal" ... [to] enact a New Deal kind of economic policy to put Americans to work in clean energy jobs and help to transform our economy?

Absolutely we need to vigorously address infrastructure needs… So we talk a lot about the need to move to say electric vehicles or to move to renewable energies like solar and wind and such. What we don't often remember to talk about is right now our national grid structure is not actually set up to be able to go fully renewable, and we need to invest in the research to have battery storage and transmission lines that will actually be able to accommodate that kind of renewable energy and the output — being able, so like when it is not sunny in an area that you have battery storage such that people can still use active power at the rates that they are accustomed to... We also have to take it a step further. It's not just transportation and energy sectors. It's everything from single-use plastics [to] textile productions.

Pam Lively: Are you prepared to fight an ugly campaign? Because your potential opponent is not a nice person and is backed by dirty money.

I've actually met Sen. Gardner... I have to say, we differ immensely on policy stances and the way that we would probably do things in office, but actually he is a nice person. We had a great chat and his family is wonderful... A lot of people have asked me, actually, “Do you have thick skin?”... And truthfully, I don't. I'm human, just like every other one of you here. And quite frankly, I'm very happy about that. If I don't, if I have skin that is so thick that I'm immune to what anyone says, I don't think I would be a very good representative... I also have spent three years preparing and having conversations on what this would look like. I am definitely aware of the things that happen on campaigns. And that's not the fun part, but I think it's the necessary thing to have to deal with, and I plan to surround myself with people who would help me get past that sort of stuff if we go this route.

Danette Tritch: What do you see as what our health care system's ready for, and what would you be advocating for in terms of health care?

You have a health care system that needs to service over 325 million people. That's a very complex, advanced system and change is not going to happen immediately, and it's one of the things that if we want to actually achieve this, we need to be systematic in approach but still swift in approach… Comprehensive medical programs actually at large have to start with one thing. And it cannot be for-profit on basic medical procedures. It cannot. I've worked in hospitals, you do not have the luxury, if you're having a heart attack, [to say], “Please give me the list of providers for the free-market approach to my health care.” You don't get to do that. So the base and the core value is everyone needs to have access, because we've made that decision already… The emergency department is open for anyone regardless of your ability to pay. Let's do it the economically and more preventative way, right? So let's make sure that everyone has access, and let's make sure that we do it in a way that is thoughtful. And what I mean by that is that it's probably a combination of some of these systems... There's probably an element of single-payer, but with a capitalistic overlay…There's probably an ability to expand Medicare… We want to expand it to things like really strong mental health services, preventative care, eyes… We have a whole team of people ... and we're analyzing some of this information right now, and we're going to roll out a two-, a five-, and a 10-year plan on what this would look like.

Stephany Rose Spaulding (former Democratic House candidate): In the last two years or so our Supreme Court has been hijacked from us. As a member of Congress, do you support the expansion of the Supreme Court, or what alternatives might you propose to level out the Supreme Court? And even other federal courts, because we see it happening still across the board. The decks are stacked.

We're two years out, hypothetically, and there's some things underway that could potentially change what happens between now and then, so it does make that a little more challenging to address what is the best option, say, in 2020. One of the things that I was interested in though is that the [American Bar Association] and a number of lawyers have actually come out against the recent nomination, wondering if that was actually out of character... So I'm curious to see if one of the things that shakes out is whether or not we can actually challenge that particular nomination.

Jillian Freeland: Related to Justice Kavanaugh, can you speak to the MeToo movement, holding our politicians who have been accused of sexual assault accountable?

A lot of people have asked me, what was the thing that ultimately is getting me here… So before MeToo … about a year, year and a half, or something, I actually filed my first harassment and retaliation claim with HR of the place where I was working, and I'd never done that before, and it was terrifying. And the first thing that they told me at HR was, “Are you sure you want to do that? He's a pretty notable person here. He brings in a lot of money.” And I said, “Excuse me?” And then I was actively encouraged not to report. I was actively encouraged to find another job that better suited me... It's actually one of the things that I'm waiting for MeToo to hit, is the academic and medical scene... When I made this file with HR the retaliation actually worsened, and it got to the point where this person had repeatedly told me so many times that I needed to learn my place... About the sixth time he told me to learn my place, and I had this moment when I realized, “Oh my goodness, he's right.” And it clicked. And I went, “It's not working for men like you.” ... That was literally the thing that made me [start] this, because I realized right away, he's right, I shouldn't be working with men like that. Absolutely. Yes to investigations, yes to clearing house, absolutely.
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Fountain settles two discrimination claims, deputy police chief retires

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2018 at 4:45 PM

City of Fountain has settled more legal actions alleging discrimination. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • City of Fountain has settled more legal actions alleging discrimination.
The city of Fountain has made deals to pay two former police officers money after both submitted notices saying they planning to sue for constructive discharge based on gender and racial discrimination, according to the agreements obtained through a records request.

In addition, Deputy Chief Tommy Coates, who claimants said took part in forcing out several police officers who are members of protected classes due to race or gender, will retire Dec. 7, according to a letter also obtained through a records request.

The actions come after the Independent published a story on Oct. 17, which included this sidebar, outlining the legal problems the city faces regarding a sort of house-cleaning carried out by Fountain's Police Chief and Public Safety Director Chris Heberer.

From the Oct. 17 report:
So far, four cops and a firefighter have filed claims against the city of Fountain, a precursor to a lawsuit, according to records obtained by the Independent through open records requests and sources. The firefighter remains on the job, and one police officer is on administrative leave. The others are gone and have yet to be replaced.

The casualty list also includes a black officer who served more than a decade and a 17-year officer of Asian heritage. The other officer, the only Mexican-American on the force, his attorney notes, remains on the payroll but hasn't returned to work after he was pressured by Heberer to report sexual harassment misconduct by others and did so, saying command staff members were "preying on new female recruits." He says he was later pressured by the deputy chief to resign.

All those who have left allege they resigned under duress (known as "constructive discharge" in legal lingo) based on racial and gender discrimination and sexual harassment. And attorney Andrew Swan, who represents four of the five claimants, says people don't "get forced out without the chief's approval." The claims seek a combined total of $3.5 million in damages, or in some cases, reinstatement.
An ex-officer who is female wasn't named by the Indy, because she fears retaliation and inability to get another job based on her claims. The woman agreed to drop legal action in exchange for a $55,000 payment and the city's agreement not to oppose a filing for unemployment. She signed the settlement agreement on Oct. 11.

Former Sgt. Tim Johnson agreed to drop his legal actions upon payment of $30,000, and the same condition for unemployment benefits, in an agreement dated Nov. 14.

"Settlement payments have been made by the City’s insurance provider," City Attorney Troy Johnson says in an email.

Andrew Swan, a Colorado Springs attorney who represents both former officers, declined to comment, citing legal constraints.

Meantime, Coates, 50, submitted an "intent to retire" memo to Heberer on Nov. 7, noting, "It has been an absolute privilege and honor to work for the City of Fountain and serve alongside the great men and women of the Fountain Police Department."

He noted he'd worked for nearly 20 years in law enforcement and is "excited to pursue other opportunities and future endeavors while beginning a new chapter in life."
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Thursday, November 29, 2018

UPDATE: Police Chief Pete Carey to retire Feb. 1

Posted By on Thu, Nov 29, 2018 at 4:09 PM

Carey: Calling it quits at the city. Does he have a future with the county? - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Carey: Calling it quits at the city. Does he have a future with the county?
UPDATE: Jackie Kirby, Sheriff's Office spokesperson, tells us via email, "There is nothing to comment on. Joe Breister is still the Undersheriff and has not submitted a retirement notice."

-ORIGINAL POST 4:09 P.M. THURS., NOV. 29, 2018—

Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey will retire Feb. 1, the city announced, ending a 35-year run in the Colorado Springs Police Department, eight spent as chief.

While rumors have circulated for months that Carey will be appointed as undersheriff by Sheriff Bill Elder, replacing the soon-to-retire Undersheriff Joe Breister, the Sheriff's Office didn't respond to questions about that. If we hear back, we'll update.

Carey actually served as chief longer than he normally would have after Mayor John Suthers asked him to stay on and special arrangements were made through the retirement plan.

Suthers issued this statement about Carey in a news release:
Chief Pete Carey has provided exceptional leadership and service to the Colorado Springs Police Department, and we are grateful for his tenure. There’s no question that he leaves CSPD in strong standing, and its ongoing CALEA accreditation is tribute to his time at the helm. CSPD has gained a positive local and national reputation, and as such, the City will conduct a national search to ascertain interest in this very important position. That said, we are also mindful of a wealth of talent that exists in the department and we hope there will be several internal candidates for the role of chief. 
Not mentioned,  though certainly worth noting, are the numerous problems that arose under Carey's leadership, including:
• the home addresses and names of officers turning up in the hands of drug dealers,
• the $2.5 million settlement the city paid because of Carey's physical abilities test being deemed discriminatory against women over 40, 
• the department losing track of an M16 rifle,
• and numerous officers being accused of excessive use of force, including an incident several years ago in which an officer slammed a handcuffed woman face-first into the floor at Memorial Hospital's emergency room.

Whether or not he was directly to blame, it's also true that during Carey's time as chief, so many officers retired or left the department that there weren't enough cops to cover beats and crime went up, leading Carey to stand down special units, including the gang unit. And then there was the officer charged with racketeering who was allowed to stay on the force so he could qualify for retirement.

In the city's release, though, Carey looks back on his time with fondness. “I have served the community of Colorado Springs with the support of this amazing police force for 34 years as both an officer and as chief, and every day, it has been my honor to do so,” Carey said in the release. “I am proud of every civilian employee, every CAPS volunteer and every officer, for showing up for each shift with commitment and courage, all while keeping professionalism and excellent customer service top of mind. It has been a pleasure to work with each of these dedicated men and women and I am grateful for the time here and the honor of serving this great city.”
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Firefighters turn in signatures for April 2 Colorado Springs city election

Posted By on Thu, Nov 29, 2018 at 1:51 PM

Fire Station 22, the city's newest, opened in March 2016. - COURTESY CSFD
  • Courtesy CSFD
  • Fire Station 22, the city's newest, opened in March 2016.
Local firefighters turned in more than 29,000 signatures on Nov. 28 to force a ballot measure to change the city's Charter to allow firefighters collective bargaining powers. The measure would ban a labor strike, however.

The Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Association needs only 15,907 valid signatures of city registered voters to secure a spot on the April 2 city election ballot. Voters also will elect a mayor and three at-large city councilors at that election.

"This is the first step in securing the protections fire fighters in Colorado Springs need to ensure public safety is always a priority in Colorado Springs," firefighters said in a release.

The campaign will be called Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs, which will emphasize the goal is to "keep service delivery high, to ensure that the city remains safe, and to ensure that the City of Colorado Springs attracts and retains high quality firefighters."

The International Association of Fire Fighters Local 5 President Dave Noblitt tells the Indy the campaign will kick off next month.
Local 5 has previously said Colorado Springs firefighters have the lowest salaries of any metro department in the state and the fewest firefighters per capita. Those firefighters must respond to incidents with engines that are 15 years old. Although voters approved the Public Safety Sales Tax dedicated to police and fire in 2001, revenues haven't been sufficient to satisfy all needs, Local 5 has said.

City Clerk Sarah Johnson has up to 30 days to determine if the petition is valid.

After the city previously asserted its home-rule powers insulate it from compliance with Senate Bill 25, approved by the 2013 Colorado General Assembly to allow firefighters to seek collective bargaining status, local firefighters decided to seek a change in the city Charter instead.

Every other major metro fire department (Denver, Fort Collins, Aurora and Pueblo) has obtained collective bargaining status.

Mayor John Suthers opposes firefighter collective bargaining, as do some Council members, including Jill Gaebler, who was endorsed by firefighters for her second term in 2017.

Gaebler tells the Indy she's concerned the measure would give firefighters a right that no other department has. "Firefighters will say, 'We totally respect everyone having it,'" she says.

Noting firefighters' complaints that they're not given the same consideration as police officers, she says, "They have had a seat at the table like every other employee group, and they don’t ever seem to think they have enough voice, and I’m not sure this is going to make a difference. I think it’s really hard for the mayor and Council to balance the budget and all different needs of the city, and this puts everything out of line with one group. At the same time, I do worry about how public safety will be impacted as the city develops out east."

She was referring to the mayor's and Council's approval last spring of an amended annexation agreement for the 18,500-acre Banning Lewis Ranch where developers will be required to pay police and fire development fees that the city auditor has said will fall short of fully funding public safety requirements.

Council President Richard Skorman says in an interview he hopes firefighters are willing to allow Council to refer the measure to the ballot, so that a key provision can be changed. That provision would allow Council to be the arbiter in the case of an impasse between the mayor's office and firefighters over bargaining for pay, benefits and working conditions. The measure as proposed would allow voters to decide, which Skorman says could be costly and confusing.

"Are the voters really going to understand we need these many people on a hazmat truck, we need these fire engines added?" he asks.

Noblitt, with Local 5, says firefighters just want to ensure they get equal representation. "We hope to gain equal footing," he says.

Noblitt says signatures were gathered through paid solicitors as well as firefighters working on their own time. The campaign plans to spent about $250,000 trying to win passage of the measure.

Meanwhile, Suthers is the only mayoral candidate so far, and he's raised $107,729 as of Oct. 27 for his re-election campaign, according to campaign finance reports. Many of the larger donations to Suthers came from business people, contractors and developers.
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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

UCHealth pays COS health foundation $675,475 in revenue sharing

Posted By on Wed, Nov 28, 2018 at 10:27 AM

Memorial's stroke center includes an emergency vehicle to respond to stroke patients throughout the community. - PHOTOS COURTESY UCHEALTH MEMORIAL
  • Photos Courtesy UCHealth Memorial
  • Memorial's stroke center includes an emergency vehicle to respond to stroke patients throughout the community.
The city's lease of city-owned Memorial Hospital to UCHealth is again paying off, with a $675,475 revenue-sharing check issued to the Colorado Springs Health Foundation, UCHealth said in a release.

It's the fourth consecutive year UCHealth has issued such a payment since the lease began on Oct. 1, 2012. Revenue sharing totals $4.45 million over the four years. The money is used by the foundation to improve the health of the community.

This year's payment is lower than previous checks due to UCHealth's investment in the local system, including achieving the first Level 1 Trauma Center designation for a facility outside the Denver metro area at Memorial Central and obtaining certification as a comprehensive stroke center. (Despite Memorial having the only such stroke center label in Southern Colorado, the city has instructed emergency crews not to give preference to Memorial for stroke patients, but to also transport them to Penrose Hospital.)
UCHealth Memorial is operated under a 40-year lease that includes participation in providing training to medical students.
  • UCHealth Memorial is operated under a 40-year lease that includes participation in providing training to medical students.
In addition, UCHealth invested in Grandview Hospital to expand the innovative orthopedic care the hospital can provide, UCHealth said in a release.

“Grandview now offers advanced orthopedic specialties from a host of talented surgeons using state-of-the-art equipment," Joel Yuhas, president and CEO of UCHealth Memorial, said in the release. "While such investments in physician growth, new services and new facilities in fiscal year 2018 resulted in a decrease this year in our revenue-sharing payment, we are confident these investments will benefit the health of residents in southern Colorado for years to come.”

Revenue-sharing payments stem from earnings in excess of baseline percentages outlined in the 40-year lease, under which UCHealth also pays the foundation roughly $5.6 million a year, among other provisions.

From the release:
Growth this past year included:
• A 19 percent increase in hospitalized patients at Memorial Central and North
• A 39 percent increase in Emergency Department visits at both campuses
• A 25 percent increase in outpatient visits
• The addition of 70 physicians to the UCHealth Medical Group, improving access to primary and specialty care

Among the many advancements made in the past year:
• In April, the State of Colorado designated UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central as a Level I Trauma Center, making it the only hospital in southern Colorado to achieve the highest classification for trauma care.
• The expansion of Memorial Hospital North continues, with eight additional exam rooms, including two new trauma suites, recently added to the emergency department. Two new operating rooms were also opened, and a new 47-bed tower is scheduled to open to patients in February. The new tower adds additional bed capacity for maternity and medical/surgical services, as well as an expansion of the cancer center.
• In January, Memorial Central became the first hospital in southern Colorado designated as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, a classification given to programs that offer the highest and most advanced level of stroke care.
• A new state-of-the-art air ambulance helicopter was added to UCHealth LifeLine’s transport fleet to ensure patients throughout southern Colorado and northern New Mexico receive rapid and safe transport to needed medical services.
• Pikes Peak Regional Hospital in Woodland Park joined UCHealth.
• Grandview Hospital became fully owned and operated by UCHealth.

“UCHealth has advanced the level of care in Colorado Springs, and those are dividends that play out in multiple ways – in the health of our families that receive care there and via the Colorado Springs Health Foundation, which will use the funds to address crucial needs in our region and support organizations that encourage healthy living,” City Councilor Merv Bennett said said in the release. “This is not only a tribute to the entire team at UCHealth Memorial, but also a reminder to the citizens of Colorado Springs that they made an important decision in 2012 in choosing UCHealth to lead the hospital.”
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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A little Giving Tuesday inspiration from Give! nonprofits

Posted By on Tue, Nov 27, 2018 at 12:31 PM

Now that you're done splurging on Black Friday doorbusters, small business steals and cyber deals, you may have a hankering to give back this Giving Tuesday.

The annual Give! campaign — featuring a whopping 93 local nonprofits — is a good place to start. The campaign, now in its 10th year, is the civic arm of Colorado Publishing House, which owns the Colorado Springs Independent, Colorado Springs Business Journal and the Pikes Peak Bulletin.

Give! has helped 180 local nonprofits raise more than $9.6 million from over 74,000 donations since its start in 2009. The campaign also helps nonprofits access matching grants, media exposure and capacity-building training.

Each week through December, we're profiling two nonprofits in the Independent to help you get to know them. Check out the stories we've published so far, for your Giving Tuesday inspiration:

Peak Military Care Network
"When members of the military need expanded assistance, it can be difficult for them to find exactly what they need. Since 2004, Peak Military Care Network has endeavored to change that, creating a centralized hub of support that guides those seeking answers to the proper services and information."
Angels of America's Fallen provides kids with opportunities for growth through activities like making art, playing music or sports, baking and dance. - COURTESY ANGELS OF AMERICA'S FALLEN
  • Courtesy Angels of America's Fallen
  • Angels of America's Fallen provides kids with opportunities for growth through activities like making art, playing music or sports, baking and dance.
Angels of America's Fallen
"Angels of America's Fallen devotes itself to mentoring children of those who have given their lives to protect others, by providing positive outlets for them to develop while missing one of their most important mentors."

Wild Blue Cats
"Envision 1,750 cats at large across the county, with no homes, having kittens, starving. Thanks to Wild Blue Cats, that same number of felines found shelter and food at the nonprofit's Black Forest-area refuge, which also neuters or spays and provides veterinary care."

Paws N Hooves
"Thousands of animals ... annually pass through the rescue, also known as Black Forest Animal Sanctuary, a no-kill shelter. Located on 35 acres, the nonprofit began as a wildlife rescue, but now handles domesticated animals that include cats, parrots, lizards, horses, miniature donkeys, goats, sheep, ducks, llamas and a Holstein steer named Homer."

High Plains Helping Hands
"On the grounds of Mountain Springs Church, Helping Hands boasts a clean and comfortable waiting room for those who use its food pantry, a fully stocked storeroom with everything from packaged pies to fresh vegetables, an outdoor garden area and an aquaponics greenhouse — all geared toward giving individuals in its service area (20 ZIP codes) a fresh start."

Finding Our Voices
"[Joyce] Aubrey established Finding Our Voices in 2009, hoping to provide a platform for survivors of sexual assault to share their healing journeys through artwork. It began as an annual art show, still held every April at Cottonwood Center for the Arts."

You can browse the full list nonprofits and make donations on, which includes information about each organization's mission, matching grants, leaderboards and more.

If good karma isn't enough, Give! partners offer exciting rewards for those who donate as little as $25. Young donors are eligible for their own unique prizes.
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Lorena Garcia announces challenge to Cory Gardner in 2020

Posted By on Tue, Nov 27, 2018 at 11:56 AM

Lorena Garcia: Hoping to unseat Cory Gardner. - COURTESY LORENA GARCIA
  • Courtesy Lorena Garcia
  • Lorena Garcia: Hoping to unseat Cory Gardner.
Three weeks after the midterm election, Colorado's U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner has his first opponent in Lorena Garcia, the head of the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition.

Garcia, a Democrat, said in a news release she will challenge the Yuma Republican for his Senate seat in the 2020 election and becomes the first challenger to Gardner, who some see as vulnerable, especially in light of the blue wave that washed over the state on Nov. 6, leading Democrats to capture all constitutional statewide races, as well as majorities in the state House and Senate.

Garcia, who has been active in the nonprofit world and on women's and Latina rights, is also married to a woman — notable because the midterm proved pivotal for LGBTQ Colorado candidates, with the election of the state's first gay governor and other major wins for LGBTQ people.

From Garcia's news release:
Garcia is running on a platform with a core focus on economic equity for all, the cornerstone of which includes access to healthcare and education. As a veteran organizer, Garcia supports women’s rights, funding for public transportation and civil rights protections for women’s reproductive independence.

“It’s time for a new voice in the U.S. Senate,” said Garcia. “We are at a crossroads in our history where we can no longer accept the status quo and must take action to fix our broken government systems. I’m running because we need innovative leaders who will work on behalf of the interests of every Coloradan, not for political self-interest.”

Dedicated to serving nonprofit organizations over her entire career, Garcia has acted as Executive Director of Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition since March of this year. Garcia has also served as Executive Director for Namlo International since 2017. Namlo is an international nonprofit organization that works in Nepal and Nicaragua, supporting local communities to achieve economic self-sufficiency through grassroots development projects.

Tirelessly working toward uplifting the dignity of marginalized communities, Garcia served as the Executive Director of the Colorado Organization For Latina Opportunity and reproductive Rights and prior to that as the Colorado State Director of 9to5, National Association for Working Women.

As a 7th generation Coloradan on her father’s side and first generation on her mother’s side, Garcia’s family background mirrors the diversity families represent in Colorado and across the country. She is the youngest of six siblings and aunt to 16 nieces and nephews and has been married to her wife for seven years. 
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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Senate bill could help Colorado's wildlife hit hard by brain disease

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2018 at 4:44 PM

At least 37 percent of Colorado's elk herds are affected by chronic wasting disease. - COLORADO PARKS AND WILDLIFE / DAVID HANNIGAN
  • Colorado Parks and Wildlife / David Hannigan
  • At least 37 percent of Colorado's elk herds are affected by chronic wasting disease.

A fatal neurological disease that affects more than half of Colorado's deer herds is getting renewed attention on Capitol Hill.

Colorado's Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet joined Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) in introducing a bill Nov. 15 that would authorize a national study on how to prevent chronic wasting disease from spreading. (A similar bill was introduced in June in the House, where it currently sits in committee.)

The disease is caused by a protein that "attacks the brains of infected deer, elk and moose, causing the animals to display abnormal behavior, become uncoordinated and emaciated, and eventually die," according to information on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) website. It's been cited by city councilors as one reason Colorado Springs should authorize urban hunting or hire professional shooters to control the deer population.

The bill, of which Barrasso is the lead sponsor, would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to review data and best management practices from state agencies. The goal is to "give state wildlife agencies and wildlife experts information to conduct targeted research on how the disease is transmitted, determine which areas are most at risk, and develop consistent advice for hunters to prevent further spread," according to a statement from Bennet's office.

CPW calls chronic wasting disease — which affects at least 57 percent of the state's deer herds, 37 percent of its elk herds and 22 percent of its moose herds — a "significant threat to the future health and vitality" of deer, elk and moose.

City Councilors Andy Pico, Don Knight and Merv Bennett had hoped the city would be able to hire professional hunters to cull a few dozen does within city limits in January. Though allowing urban bowhunting was one option councilors had originally discussed, they concluded at an August meeting with city and state officials that it was too close to the end of the season to implement such a policy.

The city issued a request for proposals on Aug. 20 for deer management, which called for a plan to be submitted by Sept. 30. "The deer management program is intended to maintain deer as an asset to the community; prevent disease due to overpopulation of deer; reduce the public safety risks of deer-vehicle conflicts; and preserve and protect the land of private and public property owners," the RFP said.

From there, the councilors had hoped the city could issue a new RFP for a culling company to carry out the management plan.

When asked whether that timeline was still in place, Pico said in a Nov. 21 email that one firm submitted a response to the RFP for a management plan, but it recommended the city not proceed "based on several factors."

"Also, the state has to approve such a plan and none have been approved in the state that I’m aware of," he wrote. "So culling in January isn’t going to happen."

In the meantime, Pico points out that City Council will consider a "don't feed the wildlife" ordinance for final approval Nov. 27. The ordinance would implement a $500 fine, on top of the state's $50 fine, for providing food to bears, skunks, raccoons, wolves, coyotes, foxes, deer, elk, moose, antelopes and other urban wildlife. The city contends that feeding wildlife "endangers the health and safety of both residents and animals" via vehicle crashes and wildlife's reliance on food from humans.

"And in the near term," Pico writes, "we will continue to cull using Fords, Chevys and Toyotas."

The city reports that a CPW survey counted about 2,700 deer in an area west of Interstate 25, or about 70 deer per square mile. From January to November 2017, Public Works removed 306 dead deer from roads and elsewhere, and police report about 50 traffic crashes involving deer each year.

CPW estimates about 200 does per year need to be eliminated to have an impact on herds within the city limits, the city says.

Read the full text of the Senate bill here:

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Canada lacks resources to fully cover NORAD obligations, auditor finds

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2018 at 2:52 PM

A CF-18 flying over Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada. - DOD PHOTO BY MASTER SGT. JOHN GORDINIER
  • DoD Photo by Master Sgt. John Gordinier
  • A CF-18 flying over Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada.

Canada doesn't have enough pilots or aircraft to cover obligations under NATO and North American Aerospace Defense Command, the bi-national command located at Peterson Air Force Base, according to a report by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, and other news agencies report.

The problem stems from an aging fleet of aircraft, pilots leaving the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) at a swifter clip than they can be replaced and a shortage of aircraft technicians. RCAF Capt. Cameron Hillier, spokesperson at NORAD, tells the Independent that while aware of the report, the command is confident there is no gap in coverage of the North American continent.

"We can pull assets from both countries," Hiller says. "NORAD is in a position to pull assets from both countries to address the threat. It's a matter of where the assets are and timely response. The RCAF and U.S. Air Force are meeting those needs."

According to the auditor's report, the RCAF has only 64 percent of the trained CF-18 pilots it needs to meet its commitments and that pilots are leaving faster than new ones can be trained, reports.

“According to National Defence, between April 2016 and March 2018, the Royal Canadian Air Force lost 40 trained fighter pilots and produced only 30 new ones. Since then, an additional 17 fighter pilots left or stated their intention to leave,” says the Auditor General.

Also from the Auditor General's report:
Since 2014, departures of experienced CF-18 technicians have reduced the overall expertise of the fighter force, which has negatively affected fleet maintenance. Because of these departures, from 2014 until 2018, the average maintenance hours needed for every hour that a CF-18 flew increased from 21 to 24. In addition, as the fleet ages, it will become more difficult and take longer for technicians to maintain the CF-18s.
The report also notes in the 2017-18 fiscal year, 28 percent of pilots flew fewer than the required 140 hours, partly due to the shortage of personnel to maintain the aircraft.
Royal Canadian Air Force’s Snowbirds aerial demonstration team perform a flyover during the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s 60th Anniversary Ceremony on Peterson Air Force Base on May 12. The ceremony and static display of various NORAD aircraft was the culmination of a three-day event, which included a media tour of Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, the dedication of a cairn outside the commands’ headquarters building memorializing the Canadians who have passed away while serving NORAD, and a fly over in missing-man formation performed by the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Snowbirds aerial demonstration team. - DEFENSE DEPARTMENT PHOTO BY JHOMIL BANSIL
  • Defense Department Photo By Jhomil Bansil
  • Royal Canadian Air Force’s Snowbirds aerial demonstration team perform a flyover during the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s 60th Anniversary Ceremony on Peterson Air Force Base on May 12. The ceremony and static display of various NORAD aircraft was the culmination of a three-day event, which included a media tour of Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, the dedication of a cairn outside the commands’ headquarters building memorializing the Canadians who have passed away while serving NORAD, and a fly over in missing-man formation performed by the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Snowbirds aerial demonstration team.
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Manitou Springs City Council OKs new agreement with Cog Railway

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2018 at 2:46 PM

The Cog has remained idle since October 2017 awaiting an upgrade that could cost $100 million. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The Cog has remained idle since October 2017 awaiting an upgrade that could cost $100 million.
Manitou Springs City Council approved a revised agreement with the Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway on Nov. 20, setting the stage for a 50-year pact that will enable the Cog to be refurbished for a 2021 opening, the Colorado Springs Business Journal reported.

From that report:
The cog’s owners, The Oklahoma Publishing Co., must now decide whether to spend nearly $100 million to rebuild, renovate and upgrade the railway, which has been closed since fall 2017. And under the terms of the new agreement, both parties must sign it by Nov. 30.

The agreement replaces one that the council approved June 26. That agreement was first publicly proposed two weeks earlier, drawing criticism from citizens that the process was rushed and lacked public input. Citizens also objected to the 50-year term of the agreement and said it placed too great a burden on Manitou Springs’ taxpayers.

Since then, negotiations have continued between the cog’s owners, who also own The Broadmoor, and Manitou’s team.

Under the original agreement, the city would have rebated a portion of the city’s 5 percent excise tax on ticket sales and all of the 3.8 percent use tax on the improvements. The cog offered to pay Manitou Springs $500,000 this year and a similar amount in 2019 to compensate for loss of revenue during construction....

The new agreement retains a cap on excise tax payments during the first 25 years of the agreement. After that, the cog would pay at least 3.8 percent on ticket sales and would remit the full 5 percent excise tax in any year in which ticket sales exceeded 375,000 — provisions intended to offset the effects of inflation and ridership growth. The cog also agreed to pay an additional $250,000 to the city in 2020, since the owners estimate the railway wouldn’t be able to reopen until spring 2021.
The Cog closed in October 2017 citing the need to revamp and replace the railway to Pikes Peak.

Oklahoma Publishing is owned by multi-billionaire Philip Anschutz, who also owns The Broadmoor resort.
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USA Gymnastics refuses to relinquish governing body status, triggering hearing process

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2018 at 2:43 PM

Who will manage the USOC gymnastics stars of tomorrow? - DONALD JUDGE/FLICKR
  • Donald Judge/Flickr
  • Who will manage the USOC gymnastics stars of tomorrow?
USA Gymnastics has refused to relinquish control of the national governing body to the Colorado Springs-based U.S. Olympic Committee, triggering a hearing process that USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland says could take weeks or months to complete.

USOC's complaint, filed on Nov. 5, stems from USAG's failure to act to protect gymnasts from sexual assault by doctor Larry Nassar, who was sentenced earlier this year to essentially life in prison for his molestation of dozens of gymnasts.

In a statement, Hirshland wrote:
As we’ve said before, this is a situation in which there are no perfect solutions. Seeking to revoke recognition is not a decision that the USOC came to easily, but we continue [to] believe it is the right action. While there are important questions to answer as we move forward with this process, we are eager for the hearing panel to begin its work and for our board to come to a final determination.
In a letter to gymnasts and the gymnastic community dated Nov. 21, Hirshland notes that the USOC's complaint filed on Nov. 5 seeks to revoke USA Gymnastics' recognition as the governing body in the United States, which allowed USAG to surrender its recognition.

But on Nov. 19, the USAG refused to relinquish control and instead asked questions about the hearing process. A series of questions and answers about the process are below.

She says in her Nov. 21 statement the next step requires her to choose an independent, three-person hearing panel with representatives from the USOC board of directors, the NGB Council and the Athletes’ Advisory Council. The panel will review her complaint and USAG’s response, hold a hearing, create a report and make a recommendation for the full USOC board, which will then take action.

"A formal timeframe is not described in our bylaws, so I don’t know exactly how long this process may take," Hirshland says. "At minimum, we expect it will take several weeks, perhaps a few months."

If the process concludes by USAG losing recognition, the USOC, on an interim basis, would assume control of USAG’s program. From Hirshland's letter:
The USOC would remain in that role until a new or existing organization has been identified to assume the responsibility of serving as the recognized NGB for gymnastics. It will be the critically important responsibility of that organization to lead gymnastics in the United States and rebuild a supportive community of athletes and clubs that can carry the sport forward for decades to come. The USOC is prepared to identify and help build such a culture for current and future generations of American gymnasts.
Read the Nov. 21 letter here:
The Q&A issued by the USOC:
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Monday, November 19, 2018

'Manny the beaver' lives: Video captures evidence

Posted By on Mon, Nov 19, 2018 at 7:00 PM

  • Illustration by Dustin Glatz with assets from

Our Nov. 14 cover story (Beavers drive a wedge between Manitou Springs environmentalists, business owners) drew responses from readers empathetic to both the plight of Manitou's euthanized beavers, and to the decision of a motel owner to protect her property.

Two readers' letters are printed below. But perhaps the most intriguing development since we published the story is this video from Roy Chaney, director of aquatics and fitness at the Manitou Pool and Fitness Center.

A camera donated by Defenders of Wildlife proves Manny the beaver is still living in Schryver Park. We can't say exactly what he's doing, but it looks like he's moving with a purpose! Share with all your coworkers who need a little midday motivation to do the same.

Below, Heidi Perryman, founder of California nonprofit Worth a Dam, shares her thoughts:
I was sorry to read about the difficulties with beavers in Manitou Springs this morning, beaver challenges have become more common and many cities struggle to find resolution. Unfortunately, trapping is a short-term solution since population recovery means beavers will return to adequate habitat often within the year. In my city of Martinez California we faced a similar issue when beavers moved into our city creek in 2007. There were concerns from local business and residents about the potential for flooding and damage to trees. While the initial plan was to trap the beavers, residents protested this plan and recommended an alternative solution. We weren’t lucky to have an experienced woman like Sherri Tippie near by – so we had to bring in expert Skip Lisle (Sherri’s colleague) 3000 miles from Vermont to solve the problem.

That was a long time ago, the Castor Master Skip installed controlled flooding in our city for a decade which allowed the beavers to safely remain, bringing birds, wildlife, steelhead and tourism to the creek. We wrapped established trees and planted new ones. We even celebrate with a yearly beaver festival, and were featured in National Geographic and Ranger Rick Magazine this year.

Luckily for you, it is MUCH easier to solve beaver problems than it was a decade ago. There are now books, websites and even videos to teach you how. There are plenty of reasons even businesses should appreciate beaver, including drought and fire protection. I am hopeful that you can work together to make a plan on how to solve this issue next time. We would be happy to consult along the way.

Our motto is, any city smarter than a beaver, can keep a beaver – and knows why they should.

Heidi Perryman, Ph.D.
President & Founder
Worth A Dam

And here's Stacey Kaye, an educator in Lake George:

As a current educator and former landscape business owner, I was both sickened and exhilarated after reading "Leave It To Beavers."

In September, my students studied beavers with vigor, and enjoyed a field trip to view a beautiful beaver lodge and scout out beaver "signs." They are still talking about beavers to this day. The children embraced a beaver's place in our ecosystem, and after viewing the PBS Nature  film Leave It to Beavers, they realized that awareness and education allows for all of us to coexist peacefully.

I sympathize with Evelyn Waggoner when the beavers felled trees and shrubs on her property.  That is devastating! For 25 years, I attempted to manage voles, deer, and bunnies in residential gardens. The damage caused was monumental, frustrating and costly. However, the very best control I found was barrier methods. Live and let live! If they can't get to the plants, they will move on.

I believe that education and awareness will help protect these amazing creatures!

Stacey Kaye
Lake George, CO
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Rocky Mountain Vibes replaces Sky Sox

Posted By on Mon, Nov 19, 2018 at 4:57 PM

  • Images courtesy Vibes Baseball
In case you've been on the edge of your seat for the last several months waiting for it, here it is: The Rocky Mountain Vibes.

Back in July, the Elmore Sports Group went looking for a new name and supposedly narrowed a field of thousands to just a few:

Colorado Springs Happy Campers
Colorado Springs Lamb Chops
Colorado Springs Punchy Pikas
Colorado Springs Throttle Jockeys
Rocky Mountain Oysters

But then, they took a turn in a whole new direction (or was it planned all along?) and chose the Vibes as the mascot of the Colorado Springs professional baseball team, which in the 2019 season will be downgraded from Triple A to a low level team with a dramatically shortened season. The new team will be several steps from the majors, not just one as under the Triple A sanction.

The official lingo calls the Vibes a "Rookie-Advanced affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers in the Pioneer League."

In a news release, Elmore Sports Group president and general manager Chris Phillips said, "We were truly inspired by all of the submissions that we received, and we're thrilled to bring the Rocky Mountain Vibes brand to life. We are looking forward to the 2019 season and beyond and making Vibes Baseball an integral part of the Colorado Springs community."

You'll have to wait awhile for the season to open, however. While the Sky Sox, the Triple A team, opened in April like the majors, the Pioneer League squad won't kick off its 76-game season (38 home games) until June 14 against the Orem Owlz in Utah, and on June 21 at home at Security Service Field.

While most teams have one color or two colors, the Vibes will have five: rubine red, navy, gold, sky blue and tan. The primary logo features the team name in a "fiery font" resting on a marshmallow roasting stick.
There's also a little character as well, that appears to be a s'more. (More tasteful than a testicle — we think so.)

As the team noted in the news release, "freshly unveiled Vibes merchandise featuring these logos is now available for purchase online and at the team store." To buy online, go to

The store at the stadium, out at Powers Boulevard and Barnes Road, is open Tuesday, Nov. 20, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Wednesday, Nov. 21, from 1-4 p.m. You know, for all those hard-to-buy-for types on your Christmas list.

To stay up to date with all the latest Vibes news, check out, visit the team on Facebook or follow on Twitter at @VibesBaseball.
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Friday, November 16, 2018

Recycling report: Colorado still lags behind U.S.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 16, 2018 at 7:05 PM

Last year, the first-ever statewide survey of recycling rates showed Colorado recycled only 12 percent of its waste. Compared with the national average of 34 percent, it wasn't pretty.

This year's survey results — released Nov. 14, the day before America Recycles Day — aren't better. Colorado's rate stayed exactly the same.

The report, written by Eco-Cycle and the Colorado Public Interest Research Group and titled "The State of Recycling in Colorado: 2018," shows that in 2017, Coloradans created more than 9 million tons of waste. That's an average of 1.45 tons per resident.

“Colorado’s low recycling rate comes as a shock to most people who think of us as a ‘green’ state,” Kate Bailey, Eco-Cycle’s director of research and policy, is quoted in a statement. “The truth is, 95 percent of what we throw away could have been recycled or composted. With strong state leadership, Colorado is well-positioned to move forward quickly to realize the environmental and economic benefits of increased recycling."

On a county-by-county basis, Boulder County had the highest recycling rate: 40 percent, with Pitkin County coming in second at 30 percent. Denver County recycles 22 percent of its waste. But many counties, including El Paso County, don't track recycling rates.

Out of cities that collect data (most, like Colorado Springs, don't), Fort Collins came in first with a 55 percent overall rate. Boulder was a close second at 51 percent.

The report cites 2011 data from a one-time study that showed El Paso and Teller counties recycled just 11 percent of their waste.

The May closure of GOALZERO, a recycling program that provided a free drop-off point for recyclable materials in Colorado Springs, probably didn't help. There's currently just one place left in the city where residents can simply drop off recyclables: the Household Hazardous Waste Facility for El Paso County at 3255 Akers Drive.

The report did indicate some bright spots elsewhere in Colorado. Longmont increased its recycling rate by 5 percent, which researchers credit to a new curbside composting program. The city of Boulder bumped up its overall rate to 51 percent, attributed to a new ordinance that requires all businesses, apartments and homes to recycle and compost. And Pueblo opened its first public drop-off recycling center, possibly a first step to boosting the area's dismal 5 percent rate.

In Colorado Springs, waste disposal has long been a private service and the city doesn't have immediate plans to change that, says Skyler Leonard, city digital communications specialist. (El Paso County does have a recycling directory with information on how and where to recycle.)

Colorado's Solid and Hazardous Waste Commission adopted statewide and regional recycling goals last year that aim to increase the statewide rate to 28 percent by 2021 (32 percent for "Front Range" counties, which include El Paso County). Reaching that target would decrease carbon emissions at a level that is the equivalent of taking 485,000 cars off the road each year, the report says.

The ReWall Company, an Iowa-based business that recycles paper and plastic cartons into building materials, could help Colorado reach that goal thanks to a $1.5 million grant it received through the state's Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity Grant Program. The company plans to launch operations next year.

The report outlines several steps Governor-elect Jared Polis could take to improve recycling programs in Colorado:

1) Appoint a statewide recycling coordinator to coordinate with other state agencies and local governments to "create a comprehensive approach to building our new recycling economy."

2) Launch a "recycling market development initiative" to attract more remanufacturers (like ReWall) that keep recycled materials in local communities.

3) Create a statewide waste diversion funding task force to find ways to increase funding for recycling and other waste reduction programs.

4) Expand recycling and composting at state agencies, purchase compost for state projects, and set recycling goals for state construction projects.
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