Thursday, January 31, 2019

UPDATE: Air Force Academy sees drop in sexual assault reports

Posted By on Thu, Jan 31, 2019 at 5:04 PM

COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
UPDATE:
Just in from Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria:
We are fully engaged in the fight against sexual harassment and sexual assault at the Academy. Harm to any one of us is unacceptable, and we will not rest until every cadet at the Academy is in an environment where they can focus solely on their professional and personal development as exceptional leaders of character in the U.S. Air Force.

As leaders, we remain committed to tackling this issue head-on. We've already taken numerous steps in the past year including changes to our alcohol policy, implementation of a 'Safe to Report' policy encouraging cadets to come forward without fear of punishment for minor misconduct, and progress on implementation of an anonymous reporting option to eliminate perceived reporting barriers. We have worked diligently to create new programs and adjust existing ones in order to better serve our cadets.

With support of the Secretary of the Air Force, we will aggressively work to further the national dialogue on sexual assault and harassment prevention. In April she, other service secretaries, civilian college and university leaders, DoD and academy leadership, subject matter experts and members of Congress will hold a summit to discuss the scourge of sexual harassment and assault facing colleges and universities. We are excited to attend this summit as we focus on best practices and continue to work toward a culture that will not tolerate harm to one another, where survivors are empowered to come forward, and where anyone violating our values is held accountable.

————————ORIGINAL POST 5:04 P.M. THURSDAY, JAN. 31——————————-

The Air Force Academy's number of sexual assault reports received in academic year 2017-18 declined, while reports at the other two service academies climbed.

That's one finding of the Department of Defense's Annual Report on Sexual Violence and Harassment at the Military Service Academies, released on Jan. 31.

According to the report:
• The Military Academy saw an increase in reports of sexual assault, receiving 56 reports, up from 50 reports last year.
• The Naval Academy received 32 reports, up from 29 the previous year.
• The Air Force Academy received 29 reports, a decline from 33 last year.

But the estimated rate of sexual harassment at the Air Force Academy remained statistically unchanged at 46 percent for female cadets (47 percent in 2016), and 13 percent of male cadets (11 percent in 2016), DoD reported.

However, the Defense Department report says fewer cadets and midshipmen made harassment complaints this year than last year. In total, only seven informal complaints and no formal complaints were made at all three academies, down from 16 informal complaints the prior year. The Air Force Academy received one.

Those aren't numbers the military should boast about, says Protect Our Defenders, a human rights organization focused on ending sexual assault in the military. In a news release, the organization said:
The Pentagon report shows a continued failure to address the crisis of sexual assault and harassment. Sexual assault reports skyrocketed 47% since the last report was last released in 2017. During the 2015-2016 academic year, 12.2% of women, or 507 victims, reported sexual assault, and from 2017-2018, that number rose to 15.8%, or 747 victims. The rate of sexual assault has doubled since over the last four years. This year’s report also shows that over 50% of the women attending the academies were sexual harassed in the academic year.
Excessive drinking has long been associated with sexual assault, so the survey delved into that topic and found:

• Military Academy: 17 percent of female cadets and 35 percent of male cadets reported alcohol use consistent with heavy drinking (5 or more drinks). Also, 31 percent of men and 25 percent of women acknowledged at least one occasion in the past year of being unable to remember what happened the night before due to drinking.

• Naval Academy: 18 percent of women and 38 percent of men indicated use consistent with heavy drinking, and 28 percent women and 30 percent men acknowledged at least one occasion in the past year of being unable to remember what happened the night before due to drinking.

• Air Force Academy: About 10 percent of female cadets and 22 percent of male cadets reported use consistent with heavy drinking, while 21 percent of female cadets and 23 percent male cadets acknowledged at least one occasion in the past year of being unable to remember the prior night’s events due to drinking.

We've asked for a comment from the Air Force Academy, which has had its share of sexual assault problems, and will update when we hear back.

Read the entire report at the link provided above at the start of this blog.
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White supremacist posters found on Indy distribution boxes downtown

Posted By on Thu, Jan 31, 2019 at 10:12 AM

Identity Evropa, a white supremacist hate group, has been active in Colorado Springs for at least seven months. - NICO WILKINSON
  • Nico Wilkinson
  • Identity Evropa, a white supremacist hate group, has been active in Colorado Springs for at least seven months.
UPDATE: We asked Lieutenant Howard Black, public information officer for CSPD, whether the department has documented any other white supremacist activity in downtown Colorado Springs, including Identity Evropa stickers and posters. He said via email:

"Generally, when these stickers are located, we may or may not be advised – mostly not. We are aware of these stickers at other locations throughout the city. There has NOT been any other white supremacist activity of note in downtown or other parts of the city for quite some time (last summer – graffiti on synagogue). The stickers have been popping up all over the city over the past year, this is true of most of the country as well."


——-ORIGINAL POST: Jan. 31, 10:12 A.M.——-

In August of 2018, we reported that a swastika had been found spray-painted on a trail in Briargate — an area of town that has seen previous white supremacist activity. The group Identity Evropa, identified as a white supremacist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has been placing stickers on light poles in the 80920 area code for months, at least since July of 2018. Now, they’ve extended their reach downtown.

Two of the Independent’s condo boxes — the sidewalk-adjacent boxes with clear windows where we display and distribute our weekly paper — were pasted over by Identity Evropa posters. The vandal used wheatpaste which, according to Tim Archer, public space manager of the Colorado Springs Downtown Partnership, is nearly impossible to remove entirely.

As we reported in August, The Southern Poverty Law Center says that Identity Evropa, formed in 2016 by Iraq war veteran Nathan Damigo, typically targets young people on college campuses with their “self-aware and eminently meme-able aesthetics.” It’s especially worrying, then, that these posters have shown up so close to Colorado College.

The posters were discovered in Acacia Park and on Kiowa Street by Independent distribution driver and occasional contributor Nico Wilkinson, who immediately notified our distribution manager, Tim Kranz. Kranz says something like this may have happened before his time with the Indy, as traces of wheatpaste have been found on plenty of the Indy’s condo boxes, but this is the first he has heard of white supremacist propaganda specifically obscuring the boxes.

Thankfully, by the time Kranz notified the Downtown Partnership the morning of Jan. 31, Tim Archer was already in the process of removing the offending posters.

Laurel Prud’Homme, the Downtown Partnership’s Vice President of Communications, says it is policy to remove any posters. “The posting of any kind of flyers,” she says, “regardless of subject matter, is not allowed in the downtown core on light posts, condo boxes, trash cans, green corner bins, utility poles, etc. So our policy is that when any kind of a flyer is posted, we remove it.”

She adds that she has not heard of white supremacist activity in the area, but that such reports would likely not reach them as they would be directed toward the Colorado Springs Police Department.

We reached out to CSPD to see if they have documented any other white supremacist activity downtown, and we will update this space if and when we hear more.
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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Democrats introduce bill to protect 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2019 at 5:52 PM

Two Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill in Congress they say would safeguard 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado.

The 82-page Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, or CORE Act, would create about 73,000 acres of new wilderness areas, preserve nearly 80,000 acres for outdoor recreation, expand access to existing protected lands and prohibit new oil and gas development in some areas. Sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet and freshman Rep. Joe Neguse, the legislation "unites and improves" four bills spearheaded by Bennet and other Colorado legislators — including now-Gov. Jared Polis and former Rep. John Salazar — in previous years.

"This bill is the result of years of hard work from local leaders, businessmen, sportsmen and conservationists across Colorado," Bennet said in a Jan. 25 conference call announcing the legislation.

Not since 1993, when Congress passed the Colorado Wilderness Act, has this much Colorado land been preserved at once, Bennet told the Denver Post.

Should Congress pass the CORE Act this year, Bennet's likely to leverage it if he runs for president — which he told MSNBC he was "thinking about" just a day before announcing the new legislation, after an uncharacteristically emotional speech on the Senate floor had catapulted him into the national spotlight.

(Does Bennet's verbal takedown of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., pass fact-checking muster? Check out this analysis from PolitiFact.)

Proposed Porcupine Gulch Wildlife Conservation Area. - MASON CUMMINGS, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society
  • Proposed Porcupine Gulch Wildlife Conservation Area.

Anyhow, here's a quick summary of each section of the CORE Act (formerly separate bills):

Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act

Last year, Bennet introduced this bill in the Senate, and Polis sponsored its counterpart in the House. Neither got a vote.

This section of the CORE Act would create three new wilderness areas totaling 21,000 acres in the Tenmile Range west of Breckenridge, Hoosier Ridge south of Breckenridge, and Williams Fork Mountains north of Silverthorne. In the Tenmile Range, a new 17,000-acre recreation area would protect access to hiking, hunting and mountain biking. The bill would also expand three existing areas — Eagles Nest, Ptarmigan Peak and Holy Cross — by a total of 20,000 acres. Two new wildlife conservation areas, Porcupine Gulch and Williams Fork, would comprise a total of 12,000 acres.

Under this bill, the 29,000-acre area surrounding Camp Hale, where Army troops trained in skiing and mountaineering during World War II, would become the first ever National Historic Landscape. This section creates a $10 million fund for "activities relating to historic interpretation, preservation and restoration" in the Camp Hale area.

The bill would also adjust boundaries around the Trail River Ranch in Rocky Mountain National Park to ensure continued public access, protect water rights for Minturn, a town southwest of Vail, and grant several parcels of land in Grand County to the U.S. Forest Service.

Proposed Sheep Mountain Special Management Area. - MASON CUMMINGS, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society
  • Proposed Sheep Mountain Special Management Area.

San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act

Bennet introduced this bill last spring. Subcommittee hearings were held in the fall, but it never reached the Senate floor.

The CORE Act's version of the bill designates new wilderness areas and expands others — including Lizard Head and Mount Sneffels — near Telluride, Norwood, Ouray and Ridgway in southwest Colorado. It also creates two special management areas where roads and most motor vehicles would be prohibited: the 22,000-acre Sheep Mountain area between the towns of Ophir and Silverton, and 790-acre Liberty Bell East area near Telluride.

This bill also prohibits future oil and gas development on 6,600 acres in Naturita Canyon.

In total, this section of the CORE Act protects about 61,000 acres of land in the San Juan Mountains through new wilderness areas, expansions, and oil and gas restrictions.

Stakeholders in San Miguel, Ouray and San Juan counties "came together over a decade ago to plan for the future," San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper said on Bennet's Jan. 25 conference call. "All sides compromised again and again, and then again, and the result is the designations and boundaries of the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Bill we have today."

Thompson Divide. - JON MULLEN, COURTESY OF THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • Jon Mullen, courtesy of The Wilderness Society
  • Thompson Divide.

Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act

Bennet introduced this bill in 2017, after which it languished in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The CORE Act version protects around 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide near Carbondale and Glenwood Springs from future oil and gas development, while preserving existing property rights.

"There's just some areas where the costs to the community outweigh any potential benefit of drilling, and Thompson Divide is surely one of those places," said Bill Fales, a local rancher on Bennet's conference call. "What is on top of this land is much more valuable to us than any petroleum that might lie below it."

This section of the CORE Act also creates a leasing program to generate energy from excess methane produced by abandoned and existing coal plants in the North Fork Valley, a region on Colorado's Western Slope.

Curecanti National Recreation Area. - NPS/VICTORIA STAUFFENBERG
  • NPS/Victoria Stauffenberg
  • Curecanti National Recreation Area.
Curecanti National Recreation Area Boundary Establishment Act

Last introduced by Sen. John Salazar in 2010, this bill formally establishes the boundaries of the Curecanti National Recreation Area, which includes three reservoirs on the Gunnison River. Though the National Park Service has co-managed the area since 1965, it has never been legislatively established by Congress. The bill makes some administrative changes to the way the land is managed, gives the Bureau of Reclamation jurisdiction over Curecanti's three reservoirs, and ensures that the public will have greater access to fishing.

Gunnison County Commissioner Jonathan Houck spoke in support of the bill on Bennet's conference call.

"The need to declare that boundary designation and have management plans...has been the desire of this community for decades," Houck said, pointing out that Curecanti's Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest body of water in Colorado.

"You can count on the support from the greater Gunnison community to provide a voice to match our values around this legislation to protect these amazing and cherished places for now and into the future," he added.

Go to the next page for maps of each area.




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Local firm had high levels of chromium in discharge water

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2019 at 2:35 PM

The city's Las Vegas Street Water Resource Recovery Facility was the recipient of discharge that exceeded the limit for chromium, Utilities says. - COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities
  • The city's Las Vegas Street Water Resource Recovery Facility was the recipient of discharge that exceeded the limit for chromium, Utilities says.

Qualtek Manufacturing
has been hit by a finding that it exceeded limits on chromium discharged from the plant at 4230 N. Nevada Ave. into Colorado Springs Utilities wastewater stream.

While chromium is naturally occurring, ingesting high levels can lead to sickness.

Asked for a comment on the discharge, someone who answered the phone at Qualtek said, "No. I'm sorry."

Qualtek engages in tool and die, stamping and other metal works.

Utilities spokesman Steve Berry says via email no fine will be levied, because of three factors: 1) It was quickly remedied with no reoccurrence; 2) the monitoring plan was adjusted accordingly, and 3) the discharge containing the higher-than-allowed level was limited. In addition, he notes, "There were no operational impacts for our treatment plant."

The Qualtek detection came in November 2017 and registered at 1.24 milligrams per liter, or nearly twice the daily limit for chromium of 0.733 mg/L, according to Utilities.

The discharge went into Utilities' wastewater system, not a creek, Berry notes.

"Their wastewater is treated at the Las Vegas Street Water Resource Recovery Facility," he says. "This violation did not cause any treatment interference at the facility, and we did not have any permit violations or experience atypical chromium loadings. As this wastewater was in the Springs Utilities wastewater collection system, it did not impact any other users."

Berry says the period for which Qualtek was in "significant noncompliance" (SNC) was from Oct. 1, 2017, through March 31, 2018.

Says Berry:
The violation was discovered during a Springs Utilities monitoring event in November 2017, which put Qualtek into significant non-compliance for the SNC evaluation period of October 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018. Qualtek was required to begin completing monthly monitoring of chromium as a result of this violation (where they previously performed quarterly monitoring). All re-sampling completed by Qualtek and Springs Utilities since this event has demonstrated compliance. Additionally, Qualtek has evaluated their manufacturing processes as well as their preventative maintenance to determine the cause of the violation and has made appropriate modifications to prevent future occurrences.

The publication of such findings don't happen until the calendar year following a significant noncompliance event, he says.

The noncompliance "will be reported to the EPA in the 2018 Pretreatment Annual Report, which is due on March 28, 2019," Berry says.
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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Sen. Bennet is mad as hell and you should watch the video

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2019 at 3:15 PM


U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, is a reserved guy most of the time. And that is why we think you need to watch this video of him getting absolutely furious with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, over the shutdown, floods, the wall, Donald Trump, infrastructure and whatever else. The remarks come after Cruz tried to pin the shutdown on the Democrats.

"These crocodile tears the senator from Texas is crying for first responders are too hard for me to take," Bennet said, his voice rising. "They're too hard for me to take, because when the senator from Texas shut this government down in 2013, my state was flooded! It was underwater! People were killed! People's houses were destroyed! They're small businesses were destroyed! Forever!"

It doesn't end there. Nope. Apparently, Bennet was ready to let the Senate know what he really thinks.

Enjoy.
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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Colorado Springs businesses supporting unpaid federal workers

Posted By on Wed, Jan 23, 2019 at 1:34 PM

Poor Richard's Restaurant is offering free meals to federal employees and their families. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Poor Richard's Restaurant is offering free meals to federal employees and their families.

As of Jan. 23, the longest-ever federal government shutdown was in its 33rd day — and though Senate Republicans and Democrats scheduled votes for Jan. 24 on two competing bills to refund the government, there was no clear resolution in sight for hundreds of thousands of federal employees who've been furloughed or are working without pay.


Several local businesses have stepped up to offer deals and giveaways for those affected by the shutdown. Here's a list (and if there's a business you don't see here, feel free to email faith@csindy.com with additional suggestions):

• Poor Richard's Restaurant, located at 324.5 N. Tejon St., has been offering free meals to ID-holding federal employees and their families since Jan. 3 — and has no plans to stop anytime soon.
Pizza Baked Spaghetti. - COURTESY OF FAZOLI'S
  • Courtesy of Fazoli's
  • Pizza Baked Spaghetti.

• Fazoli's is offering free meals of Pizza Baked Spaghetti with regular drink purchase throughout the shutdown. Limit one meal per ID-holding guest per day. Colorado Springs locations:

Cheyenne Mountain
1790 E. Cheyenne Mt. Blvd
Colorado Springs, CO 80906

Austin Bluffs
3607 Austin Bluffs Pkwy
Colorado Springs, CO 80918

• McDivitt Law Firm is giving away $40 King Soopers gift cards through 5 p.m. Jan. 23. Present a valid federal ID card at one of the following locations:

Downtown Colorado Springs
19 E. Cimarron Street
Colorado Springs, 80903

Aurora
14261 E. 4th Avenue, Suite 300
Aurora, 80011

Pueblo
409 North Grand Avenue, Suite D
Pueblo, 81003

• YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region is suspending monthly dues for member families and offering free day passes to nonmember families affected by the shutdown. Just present a federal ID at one of the YMCA's 18 local facilities.

• PB&T Bank is offering $3,000 unsecured loans at 6 percent APR with approved credit for families affected by the shutdown. Customers don't have to have a PB&T bank account, and there are no extra fees. Contact Mary Mangino at 719-585-2302 or mmangino@pbant.bank to apply.

• Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center is offering free tickets to the short film, How Did Those Red Rocks Get There, to federal employees and their immediate family members through February. The show runs every 20 minutes at the center's Geo-Trekker theater, located at 1805 N. 30th St.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Colorado youth are drinking less but don't seem to know what they're vaping

Posted By on Tue, Jan 22, 2019 at 4:00 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
Colorado youth are drinking less alcohol, and aren't using marijuana any more than they used to before recreational weed was legalized, according to a new survey on substance use by Rise Above Colorado.

Good news? Sure. But the world of youth substance use is quite a bit more complicated, as researchers found when they analyzed more than 600 survey responses from kids ages 12 to 17.

You can read the full study below, or check out these highlights.

1. Most 12- to 17-year-olds who vape say they don't vape nicotine.

While Rise Above Colorado, a drug abuse prevention organization, has conducted similar surveys in the past, this was the first year it asked youth about their tobacco use. Colorado has a higher rate of teen vaping than any other state, according to a 2018 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Youth who responded to Rise Above Colorado's survey reported lower rates of tobacco use than the CDC report showed, but that could be due to the slightly younger age demographic. Seven percent said they used a vape pen or e-cigarette, while 2 percent smoked cigarettes (the CDC report showed that 26.2 percent of Colorado high schoolers vaped, while 7 percent smoked cigarettes).

RISE ABOVE COLORADO
  • Rise Above Colorado
But interestingly, the survey results suggest that some youth don't understand vape pens contain nicotine. Most (78 percent) said they vaped with nicotine-free flavoring, but almost all vape products sold in convenience stores contain nicotine, and Juul — which has the largest share of the e-cigarette market — does not sell any nicotine-free products.

Youth who smoked cigarettes or vaped were 10 times as likely to misuse prescription drugs, five times as likely to use marijuana and more than twice as likely to drink alcohol.

2. While marijuana use has remained steady and alcohol use has decreased, attitudes about these substances are changing.


In 2018, 37 percent of youth surveyed by Rise Above Colorado said they had drunk alcohol. That's a statistically significant decrease from 2016 levels (46 percent), bringing alcohol use to about the same level as in 2013, when 33 percent of youth responded affirmatively.

Marijuana use has remained stable since 2013. This year, 17 percent of young people said they'd tried it, compared with 15 percent in 2016 and 16 percent in 2013 — before the passage of Amendment 64.

However, Rise Above Colorado warns that changing perceptions about weed and alcohol could make some youth more vulnerable. This year, only about half of 12- to 17-year-olds said drinking once or twice posed a "moderate" risk or "great" risk, compared with 66 percent in 2016. For marijuana, the decrease in risk perception was even greater: 61 percent of youth felt trying weed once or twice was risky, a drop from 73 percent two years earlier. And while 86 percent of youth said they thought using marijuana regularly was risky in 2016, just 79 percent said that last year.

"A lower perception of risk is of concern because it can make youth more likely to use substances while a higher perception of risk can deter future use," reads a statement from Rise Above Colorado about the survey.

3. Youth are more likely to think misusing prescription drugs is dangerous.

RISE ABOVE COLORADO
  • Rise Above Colorado
Just 4 percent of youth used prescription painkillers and/or stimulants to get high in 2018. While that's an increase from 2 percent in 2013, by one measure — risk perception — the outlook looks promising. Ten percent more young people (88 percent versus 78 percent in 2016) said they thought limited misuse of prescription drugs posed a "great" or "moderate" risk. Almost all youth (94 percent) thought regular use was risky, compared with 89 percent two years earlier.

Risk perception may be linked to family discussions about stimulants and painkillers. Slightly more than half of teens said they'd talked with their parents about the drugs, up from 36 percent in 2016.

4. Substance use continues to correlate with attitudes about school, mental health and safety.

Survey gatherers also asked youth to rate their levels of agreement with a set of "risk factor" statements — such as "I am confident that if I experimented with drugs, I could stop whenever I wanted" — and "protective factor" statements, like "Getting good grades is important to me."

For alcohol, the risk factor that had the strongest correlation with alcohol use was "My parents would be fine with me drinking beer once in a while." For weed and other drugs, it was "Experimenting with drugs is just part of being a teenager — it's not that big a deal."

For alcohol and marijuana, the protective factor "The schoolwork I am assigned is often meaningful and important to me" was linked most strongly to less substance use. Worryingly, statistically fewer youth (69 percent, compared with 75 percent in 2016) responded affirmatively to this statement.

When asked how many mentally difficult days they'd experienced in the past month (including "anxiety, stress, depression and problems with emotions") youth responded about the same as they did in 2016, with about 22 percent saying they had one or two hard days, 19 percent with three to five hard days, and 25 percent with six or more. Those in the latter category were more likely to have tried marijuana, alcohol and prescription painkillers.

RISE ABOVE COLORADO
  • Rise Above Colorado

Many students also overestimated classmates' substance use, which Rise Above Colorado warns can be dangerous.

"The overestimation of prevalence among peers can lead to increased use, while closing the gap between perceived and reported use has been proven to decrease substance use over time," its statement reads.

Read the full study:

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Parks advocates gain clout on special panel to form ballot measure

Posted By on Tue, Jan 22, 2019 at 1:21 PM

Citizens crowded into public meetings in 2016 about the city's trade of Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor. Most who attended the meetings opposed the trade and now want a ballot measure requiring voter approval of future such deals. (Kent Obee is third from left in the front row.) - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Citizens crowded into public meetings in 2016 about the city's trade of Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor. Most who attended the meetings opposed the trade and now want a ballot measure requiring voter approval of future such deals. (Kent Obee is third from left in the front row.)
After nearly two years of urging City Council to protect the taxpayers' parks and open space from land swaps like the one involving Strawberry Fields, a citizen group has been granted a seat on a special committee that will study a possible ballot measure.

Save Cheyenne, a nonprofit that formed amid debate surrounding trading Strawberry Fields to The Broadmoor in 2016, wants voters to weigh in on whether other city parks and open spaces should or should not be protected from a similar measure in the future.

Called Protect our Parks, the measure hasn't gotten traction, despite Council President Richard Skorman having at one time been the leader of Save Cheyenne. (He stepped down after being elected to Council in 2017.)

The city's swap of Strawberry Fields, 189 acres of open space near North Cheyenne Cañon, to The Broadmoor for forested acreages and trail rights-of-way in May 2016, created a huge controversy that triggered a lawsuit and court fight that ended last year when the Colorado Court of Appeal turned away Save Cheyenne's entreaties to undo the deal and allow voters to have a say in the swap.

At Council's Jan. 22 informal meeting, Save Cheyenne president Kent Obee told Council the city has three types of property:

1. Historic park land dedicated to the city by deed restriction by city founder Gen. William Palmer and other philanthropic donors, such as the Perkins family's gift of Garden of the Gods.

2. Property purchased through the Trails Open Space and Parks tax approved by voters that automatically is protected from sale or trade via the TOPS ordinance.

3. All other park land and open space not protected by either a deed restriction or the TOPS ordinance.

As Obee noted, "They belong to all of us. We think all of us should have a say when something is decided about giving away or trading park land."

Obee also noted that at least 40 cities and towns in Colorado have protections from sale or trade of park land built in to their city charters, including home rule cities like Colorado Springs. Others rely on a state statute that provides for elections to dispose of park land in local jurisdictions.

"We do want to go ahead with this," Obee told Council about the ballot measure. "We’re willing to work with you. We’re willing to be part of any committee or process you can outline. We think it’s important for the community, and we’re not giving up."

The city attorney has issued an opinion saying the POPs ballot language is confusing, causing Council to shy from referring it to the April 2 city election ballot.

But on Jan. 22, Council agreed to study a ballot measure further, and Mayor John Suthers' Chief of Staff Jeff Greene also consented to such a committee, which will arrive at an appropriately-worded ballot measure to submit to voters at the November election. That's the same election at which Suthers plans to seek voter approval of a five-year extension of his .62 percent roads tax.

The exact composition of this committee wasn't articulated, other than designating members of Obee's group and two City Council members to serve.

Said Skorman, "I hope we don’t have any of these types of transactions [like Strawberry Fields] coming forward that would be affected if we had acted sooner. I want to make sure that we’re not doing something that’s preemptive to voters. I wouldn’t want another trade to come forward in the next month that may be susceptible to a vote of the people."

Greene said city officials "aren’t entertaining any park land swaps," and "We are not anticipating any kind of transaction involving a large land exchange such as Strawberry Fields."
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Friday, January 18, 2019

"Small house" community coming to Woodland Park

Posted By on Fri, Jan 18, 2019 at 4:10 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
Woodland Park developers think a planned “small house” community called the Village at Tamarac provides the answer to many people’s tiny-home dreams. But think “dreams” in terms of lifestyle, not cost — affordable housing experts say developments like these aren’t for those looking for a deal.

The Village at Tamarac will offer 53 models, says Pete LaBarre, one of the developers behind the project. The homes are a little too big to be considered “tiny homes,” which normally top out at 400 square feet.

Manufactured by Champion Home Builders, each small house — 500 square feet with a 500-square-foot crawl space — will cost about $115,000. While that may seem like a bargain, homebuyers won’t own the lots their homes sit on, and each site will cost an additional $600 to $700 a month to lease. In other words, it’s a similar setup to buying a mobile home, except the home can’t be moved elsewhere.


That could be a problem for some. Residents with fixed or low incomes who own homes in mobile home parks can struggle with lot rent increases. If rents become unaffordable, that can lead to foreclosure.

But LaBarre says his tenants are better protected than many mobile home owners. He’s offering all buyers a 99-year lease, and while there will be rent escalation provisions, LaBarre says they’re being included to “protect ourselves in the event of really high inflation.” It’s also worth noting that the developers won’t have an interest in the mortgages because they are not lending to homeowners, which sometimes happens in mobile home parks.

“Our passion is to try to bring more affordable, more obtainable housing, in this kind of price range where there just isn’t any,” LaBarre says.


But Jamie Pemberton, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Teller County, says developments like these won’t solve the area’s affordable housing problem. (A 2016 assessment identified the need for at least 741 affordable rental, workforce, senior and other housing units in Woodland Park.)

Let’s assume that you can make a 20-percent down payment of $23,000 on one of LaBarre’s small houses. If you have good credit, you could get a 30-year fixed loan and pay about $522 a month. But when you add the $600 monthly lot fee to that, you’re paying $1,122 a month to live in your small house for 30 years.

And theoretically, you’d have to keep paying $600 a month to lease the lot (though LaBarre says developers hope to sell the Village at Tamarac back to the community in five to seven years). If you purchased a $230,000 conventional home, on the other hand, and made the same down payment of $23,000, you could get a 30-year fixed loan of about $1,079 a month. (To be fair, it’s difficult to find a home in Woodland Park for $230,000 or less.)

“For homebuyers, [leasing land] is not what we recommend,” Pemberton says. “... We actually counsel our families that they can get caught up in this thinking.”

Susan Cummings, Habitat for Humanity’s homebuyer services coordinator, adds that tiny houses aren’t very family-friendly: “Where do you change the diapers? When somebody gets sick, how do you handle that?”
But LaBarre says the choice to purchase a tiny home “typically isn’t about affordability. It’s about lifestyle.” He expects many residents to pay cash for the homes, as he’s seen in longstanding Peak View Park, a Woodland Park RV and tiny house location that he co-owns.

“They like living in a smaller space,” LaBarre says. “... There’s less time spent cleaning the house, less time spent maintaining the house. So that translates to, in their view, and in my view, a better quality of life.”

LaBarre says overwhelming demand for spaces in Peak View Park led him and a few other developers, as the group M3XP2 LLC, to propose the new small house development.

They couldn’t expand the tiny house community at Peak View Park, LaBarre says, because Teller County’s building code no longer allows long-term residence in towable homes. Because the Village at Tamarac’s small houses will be secured by foundations, the development can follow the same building code as typical subdivisions.

The developers received preliminary approval from Woodland Park, LaBarre says, and plan to close on the property in February or March in time to have homes available in August.
Interest continues to grow — as of Jan. 17, there were already 34 people on the wait list. LaBarre says their demographics mirror those of residents of Peak View Park, which is most popular with single women, with and without children.

Wendy Hartshorn, vice president of marketing for the Village at Tamarac, says she’s moving to Peak View Park to start “a new chapter.”

“I’m able to simplify and cut costs. And I’m really excited.”
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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Parks protection ballot measure has lots of problems says city attorney

Posted By on Thu, Jan 17, 2019 at 5:39 PM

Kent Obee and dozens of other citizens opposed the Strawberry Fields land swap and now propose a ballot measure to stave off a similar action. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Kent Obee and dozens of other citizens opposed the Strawberry Fields land swap and now propose a ballot measure to stave off a similar action.

City Attorney Wynetta Massey has a lot of reasons why City Council shouldn't refer a measure to the April 2 ballot that would propose requiring a vote of the people before the city disposes of park land and open space.

The measure, Protect Our Parks, or POPs, is slated to be discussed by Council at its Jan. 22 work session.

But Massey clearly outlines why the measure is a bad idea from the mayor's and Council's perspective of wanting to maintain control over the ability to trade, sell or otherwise get rid of parks property. "The transfer of parkland is an administrative function of the Mayor, Parks Department, and City Council," she writes.

The POPs measure grew from Mayor John Suthers' and Council's controversial decision to trade the 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor in 2016. Most of the property, adjacent to North Cheyenne Cañon, has been placed in a conservation easement, which is designed to allow public access to all of the land except an 8-acre riding stable and picnic pavilion area reserved for Broadmoor guests.

Opponents of the swap, who formed the nonprofit Save Cheyenne, took the measure all the way to the Colorado Court of Appeals and lost. The state Supreme Court refused their plea to hear the case. They also raised questions about how the property was appraised.

(Notably, now-City Council President Richard Skorman was an original leader of Save Cheyenne, before being elected to Council in 2017.)

Now, POPs advocates want to be sure another Strawberry Fields swap or give-away doesn't recur, and want voters to approve a Charter change to prevent it.

But Massey's five-page legal opinion obtained by the Indy outlines myriad reasons why Council should not refer such a measure. She takes issue with the word "transferred," saying its an "undefined term." She notes the ballot language would ask for protection of "city parks" but isn't clear what that includes. (Read her entire opinion on the next page.)

It is perhaps notable that while some Councilors (Skorman included) favor the legal change, the mayor, who opposes it, has the power to hire and fire Massey. Past City Councilors have unsuccessfully sought to change city law to allow them to hire a separate attorney in cases where the mayor and Council have opposing viewpoints.

Kent Obee, who led the Strawberry Fields swap opponents, says he interprets Massey's opinion as a roadblock.
"They're just trying to throw every legal roadblock they can at what is basically a pretty simple issue," he says. "It is just nitpicking to try to block us or slow us down."

He notes that over 30 cities in Colorado, including Denver, Boulder and Aurora, have such protection for city parks.

Obee says if the measure isn't referred, proponents likely will try to petition the measure onto the November ballot, which also is likely to contain a five-year extension of Suthers' 2C road improvement tax.

For more detail, see the next page.



Here's the research upon which POPs is based:
Massey's opinion:
The ballot language:
Section 1: City owned parks and open space may not be sold, traded, exchanged, transferred, disposed, abandoned, conveyed, or otherwise alienated unless said transaction is approved by the voters in a City regular or special election.
Section 2: City parks shall be defined as: Any city owned land intended for use as public parkland or open space.
Examples of parks and open space include, but are not limited to: (a) city owned land that is in operation as a park or that is in a condition or state of readiness and availability for use as a park or open space; (b) land that is zoned or platted for the intended use as a park; (c) parks or open spaces identified in the Colorado Springs Parks System Master Plan dated September 23, 2014, Appendix A, and identified as parks classified as: regional, community, neighborhood, open space including special resource areas, sports, and special purpose parks; (d) future approved additions to the inventory of parks and open space as identified in future Colorado Springs Parks System Master Plans or similar documents; or (e) any part or portion of an existing park or open space.
Section 3: Exclusions: no vote is required for certain “specific transfers”, or “proposed parks”:
(a) Easements for utilities, right of ways or emergency services;
(b) Any court ordered transfers of title, possession or similar matters;
(c) Creation of a conservation easement or other similar actions intended for park protection;
(d) Survey, boundary or encroachment adjustments;
(e) Short term leasing or permitting in a manner consistent with parks use;
(f) Any land deemed unsuitable for park use due to safety or environmental issues;
(g) Proposed parks, in the planning and development process, under the Park Land Dedication Ordinance (PLDO) or similar ordinances;
(h) Transfers of trails, rather than parks or open spaces, for the purpose of development of trails, access to parks, improvement of a park or realignment of a trail;
Section 4: Nothing in this amendment shall lessen any existing park or open space protections.
Examples of existing protections that will not be lessened include, but are not limited to: (a) deed restrictions; (b) conservation easements; (c) protections under the Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) Ordinance; or (d) parks with historical designations.
Section 5: The purpose and intent of this amendment is to protect parks by recognizing the value that parks add to the community, users and property holders. Sale or transfer of parkland affects individuals that relied on representations of continuing park usage.
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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Crossroads detox facility to shut down temporarily

Posted By on Tue, Jan 15, 2019 at 9:21 PM

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Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional reporting

The county's detox program, which monitors intoxicated people, allowing them to safely sober up, has had a wild ride over the past decade. Now, it's about to go offline (again), which will lead to overflowing emergency rooms.

Problems with detox date to 2009, when local mental health care provider AspenPointe abruptly shut down their detox program, slamming hospital ERs. Then-El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa swooped in to help, replacing detox (often referred to informally as "the drunk tank") with a county program.

Maketa built a $1.76 million facility next to the county jail to house about 40 people who needed to sober up. The program — which was subsequently managed by various branches of county government — was funded money from local hospitals and the state. Then, in late 2017 detox management was handed over to Crossroads' Turning Points, Inc., a Pueblo-based nonprofit. The county said the move would allow for more extensive detox services.

Another benefit: Crossroads planned to move to a new location, freeing up the county facility to potentially help alleviate overcrowding at the jail. Sheriff spokesperson Jackie Kirby says the old detox facility could be used for “lower-classification inmates who aren’t a high risk.” But as of Jan. 15, officials hadn’t finalized plans.

The facility was supposed to be available to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office at the end of June, when Crossroads was expected to have finished renovating its new building at Interstate 25 and B Street. When Crossroads repeatedly ran into construction issues and administrative delays, the Board of County Commissioners voted to extend the deadline to Sept. 30, then Dec. 31, and finally Jan. 15.

Now, according to Leroy Lucero, Crossroads’ president and CEO, the organization has encountered additional issues that won’t allow it to begin operating in the new facility until early February. But the county didn’t offer another extension — so detox patients will have to go elsewhere for now.

“There will be a gap in services,” Lucero told the Independent Jan. 9.

Lucero says Crossroads notified UCHealth Memorial Hospital and Penrose-St. Francis Health Services that it couldn’t accept detox patients after Jan. 15. He expects most patients to end up at those hospitals’ emergency rooms or other community facilities, and El Paso County patients may be transported to Crossroads’ Pueblo facility on an “emergency, case-by-case basis.”
Sharon Cerrone, clinical nurse manager of emergency departments at Penrose Hospital and St. Francis Medical Center, says she was informed of the development on Jan. 9, and was preparing to call in extra nurses to deal with an expected influx of detox patients.

Crossroads did not tell Cerrone when it planned to resume operations in the new building, she says, just “that they’re having some complications with the renovation and they’ll let us know.”

“Once we increase our nursing staff, I think we’ll be fine,” Cerrone says.

UCHealth, on the other hand, expressed displeasure with the delay.

“Many of these patients do not require the high level of medical care provided in our Emergency Departments, but will be brought to us as the only other place to turn, placing additional strain on critical resources,” Mark Mayes, associate chief nursing officer for UCHealth Memorial Hospital, said in an emailed statement.

Local hospitals formerly shouldered more of the detox program’s costs (about a third of the $2 million budget in 2015), but Lucero says they now provide only a small fraction of funding. The program currently costs about $1 million, Lucero says. Most of that is covered by $792,000 in state detox funds.

Penrose-St. Francis told the Indy that it made monthly payments to the detox program, but could not disclose the current amount. UCHealth says it no longer provides funding for detox at all.

“We haven’t gotten enough financial support from the hospitals,” Lucero says. “... We’re hoping that by being able to have our own permanent location along with more beds, that maybe the hospitals will step up their financial support of these kind of services, because we take a lot of patients from the hospitals.”
Detox offered a place — other than the ER — for people to sober up. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Detox offered a place — other than the ER — for people to sober up.
The new facility will have 20 beds initially, Lucero says — the same number Crossroads operated before Jan. 15 — and will add another 15 beds soon after. The goal, he says, is to eventually get back to 40 beds, the county’s former total.

Julie Krow, the executive director of El Paso County’s Department of Human Services, which ran detox for a while, called Crossroads “a very good partner” despite the delays.

Transferring management of the detox facility to Crossroads was beneficial in part, she says, because it can bill Medicaid for services, which the county could not. Crossroads also has an outpatient facility in Colorado Springs and several residential treatment programs in Pueblo, allowing it to refer patients elsewhere after a short-term stay at the detox facility.

“As a longer-term strategy, having detox with a private provider that has that full continuum of care is much better for the citizens of El Paso County,” Krow says.
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Monday, January 14, 2019

41 percent of Suthers campaign fundraising comes from Broadmoor zip code

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2019 at 5:00 PM

Suthers: Wealthy people always give more to causes. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Suthers: Wealthy people always give more to causes.

Mayor John Suthers is off to a smashing good start in fundraising for his re-election campaign in the April 2 city election.

According to four reports filed since October, the most recent submitted on Jan. 2, Suthers has raised $95,797 from 247 donations. He had $45,160 on hand to begin with and has spent $18,639, which means he has $122,318 in the bank.

(So far, no candidates have qualified for the ballot, though the City Clerk's Office is in the process of verifying petition signatures.)

Of Suthers' total raised in this race, 41.5 percent — $39,730 — came from donors in the 80906 zip code. Of his 247 donors, 101 gave 80906 as their address.

The zip code is known for including wealthier residents, as it encompasses The Broadmoor, and it's also Suthers' home zip code, though he doesn't live in the Broadmoor area itself.  According to this website, the 80906 zip code has an average household income of $97,557 a year, compared to $77,814 for the city as a whole and $81,528 for El Paso County.

The site also shows that 10.1 percent of households in the 80906 zip code make more than $200,000 a year, compared to 4.7 percent in Colorado Springs and 5.2 percent of the county.

Those figures for 80906 would be higher, except that it also includes an area to the east, including Stratmoor Hills where incomes are more modest.
We asked Suthers, who's also served as district attorney and Colorado Attorney General, to comment on such a large portion of his campaign contributions coming from the southwest segment of the city. He responded via email, saying:
To clarify, while I have lived in the 80906 zip code all my life, I do not live in the Broadmoor and never have. I have lived in the Cheyenne Canyon [sic] area and in Skyway. But I spent most of my summers as a kid mowing lawns in the Broadmoor. Some of my customers have been lifelong political supporters.

My experience is that people with higher amounts of discretionary income are more likely to contribute to charitable and political causes and that as a result a disproportionate amount of our community's philanthropic and political giving comes from the 80906 zip code. You might check statewide and national political campaign giving from Colorado Springs and citywide charitable giving to analyze this.

The bottom line is that throughout my career my political support in Colorado Springs has been wide and deep and I believe it still is.
Two candidates have expressed interested in trying to unseat Suthers. They are Lawrence Martinez, a home care specialist, and Juliette Parker, who runs a nonprofit.

Voters will also elect three at-large City Council members on April 2 and decide whether to give firefighters collective bargaining powers.
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El Paso County needs SNAP paperwork early due to shutdown

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2019 at 12:15 PM

Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado will hold a food distribution event Jan. 18. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado will hold a food distribution event Jan. 18.

Due to a federal government directive, state and local agencies around the country are sounding an urgent message to those in need of food benefits: Get your paperwork in before funding runs out.

Those in El Paso County whose food assistance cases are due for redetermination must submit documents by 3 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, in order to be eligible for February benefits, according to a Jan. 11 statement from the county's Department of Human Services titled "Urgent Update to Food Assistance Program in Government Shutdown."

Normally that paperwork wouldn't be due until February, says El Paso County DHS spokesperson Kristina Iodice. But the federal government shutdown has left agencies around the country scrambling to let SNAP recipients know about deadline changes.

This shutdown, which has left nine federal departments and dozens of agencies without funding, and hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed or working without pay (including thousands in Colorado), is the longest in history. It began Dec. 21 when a stopgap funding measure expired, and President Donald Trump refused to sign new legislation to fund the government that did not include $5 billion for a border wall — a demand that Democrats have firmly opposed.

As of the morning of Jan. 14, there were about 2,000 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipient households in El Paso County that needed to submit redetermination paperwork, Iodice says. The documents may be submitted online at http://colorado.gov/PEAK, by fax at 719-444-5139 or 719-444-8353, or in person at El Paso County DHS locations.

El Paso County DHS' main location at 1675 Garden of the Gods Road will stay open until 8.p.m. — three hours later than usual — on Jan. 14 to accommodate an increased demand for services.

SNAP funds for February will be distributed by Jan. 20, weeks earlier than normal, to those who have complete files. However, the statement notes that the county "cannot guarantee assistance" even if documents are received by the appropriate deadlines.

"At this time, there is no information available about March food assistance," the statement continues.

The directive to distribute funds early came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which announced Jan. 8 that it would utilize a provision in the last stopgap funding measure allowing certain payments within 30 days of the measure's Dec. 21 expiration date. It expects February SNAP benefits to cost around $4.8 billion.

The USDA also announced it will continue funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) through February, using some unspent funding from prior years.

Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado hoped to address another need created by the government shutdown — food for federal workers who haven't received pay since December. The food bank will host a free food distribution Jan. 18 from 3 to 6 p.m. at its Colorado Springs facility, located near the intersection of Powers Boulevard and Constitution Avenue, at 2506 Preamble Point.

"Please help us spread the word to families and individuals affected by the government shutdown, or anyone who is in need," Care and Share posted on Facebook. "It is drive-thru style. Volunteers and staff will load fresh produce, frozen and staple food items into vehicles. Everyone is welcome and will receive food!"

Lynne Telford, the southern Colorado food bank’s president and CEO, says Care and Share is looking at options to address an anticipated need from federal workers and SNAP recipients who didn’t turn in paperwork on time.

That could include using reserve funds to buy food, she says, “but it’s important that we maintain enough reserves for our ongoing operations.”

“We really are hoping that the community will once again rise when we have a community emergency, much like they did for Waldo Canyon Fire or Black Forest Fire,” Telford adds. “The community made sure we were able to take care of the people who were impacted.”

Care and Share is asking the community for financial donations in particular, says Joanna Wise, the food bank’s marketing and communications director.

“We’re always in need of food donations year-round, but when it comes to something that we have to react to quickly, monetary donations are more effective for us,” Wise says. “It saves us a lot of time, because with food donations we have to inspect it and sort it and repack it. When we purchase it, we’re able to eliminate that step so we can get it to our partners a lot faster.”
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Friday, January 11, 2019

Independence Center to host watch party for Disability Integration Act

Posted By on Fri, Jan 11, 2019 at 12:33 PM

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People with disabilities who need longterm services are often forced to leave their homes for assisted living facilities because Medicaid won't pay for at-home care. Disability rights activists say that legislators in Congress can change that by passing the Disability Integration Act, set to be introduced in both the House and Senate on Jan. 15.

Disability rights supporters will be watching across the country — including at the Independence Center, a local nonprofit for people with disabilities.

The bill, introduced last spring in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and in the House by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, would require states, local governments and insurance providers to provide community-based services for people with disabilities as an alternative to institutionalization.

States and local governments would be required to work with housing authorities to ensure sufficient quantities of affordable, accessible, integrated housing where people can receive services while remaining in the community.

The list of Senate cosponsors includes Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner. Gardner, the latest cosponsor to sign on, was the only Republican to do so as of Jan. 8.

It's possible that pressure from disability rights organization ADAPT, the legislation's main backer, led to his decision. ADAPT supporters were arrested multiple times in Gardner's offices where they were pressuring him to cosponsor the legislation, according to a statement from the organization. And in November, the statement says, ADAPT had an airplane bearing the message “GARDNER SUPPORT S910 DIA FREE OUR PEOPLE!” fly around Gardner's Washington, D.C., office building. That evening, ADAPT projected the same message "shining like a bat-signal" on the front of the building. Gardner added his name a month later.

Last legislative session, all of Colorado's House representatives also signed on as cosponsors.

Neither the House nor Senate bill made it out of committee last session, but advocates are hopeful that this year, things will be different.

“The Disability Integration Act (DIA) is the next step in building a fulfilling and sustainable world for persons with disabilities," Becca Michael, advocacy manager at the Independence Center, said in an emailed statement. "...The Independence Center is excited about this legislation, as our mission is to work with people with disabilities, their families, and the community, to create independence so all may thrive."

The Independence Center, located at 729 S. Tejon St. will host a watch party Jan. 15 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. to livestream the bill's introduction and discussion. The event is open to the public, and snacks will be provided.

"The Independence Center is hosting this watch party, not only because it is important for our consumers and employees, but because it is gaining momentum, and we want to make sure it makes it over the finish line," Michael said. "For now, we want to raise awareness of the legislation, and celebrate the effort!”

disability_integration_act_watch_party.jpg
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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

El Paso County adds two new dog parks

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2019 at 3:08 PM

ELBUD / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • elbud / Shutterstock.com

Pups will have 13 new acres on which to frolic on opposite ends of El Paso County, thanks to the addition of dog parks in Falcon Regional Park and Fountain Creek Regional Park.

Falcon Regional Park, about 20 miles northeast of Colorado Springs, will open an 8-acre park for large dogs and a 2-acre park for small dogs along Eastonville Road in March, the Trails and Open Space Coalition announced. The parks will include more than half a mile of trail, with benches and parking for 40 cars.

And 30 miles southwest, Fountain Creek Regional Park is constructing a 3-acre dog park, to include a new 1,600-foot trail and 22 parking spaces.

There's currently no dog park in the Falcon area, says Aaron Rogers, program and event coordinator for the Trails and Open Space Coalition.

"The closest one would be in Fox Run Regional Park," Rogers says. "So allowing people to have a place in Falcon will open up the eastern plains to those families and also give northeast Colorado Springs a spot, too, to take their dogs."

And Fountain Creek Regional park's new addition will be the southernmost in the region, Rogers adds, enhancing outdoor opportunities for families in Fountain, Widefield and Security.

Visitors should "be considerate and respectful of all the people who are using the parks and to pick up after their pets," Rogers says. "Dog waste is a big issue in all the parks across Colorado, and we need to all do our part to make sure we leave our parks cleaner."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional reporting and to reflect a change in the parks' opening month.
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