Friday, March 29, 2019

Red-flag bill passes Senate, heads back to House with amendments

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2019 at 5:21 PM

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A bill that's divided Coloradans on either side of the gun debate is now just a vote away from heading to Gov. Jared Polis' desk.

House Bill 1177, titled Extreme Risk Protection Orders — better known as the "red-flag bill" — passed the Colorado Senate on March 28 on a vote of 18-17, with Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo the lone Democrat opposed. It now heads back to the House, which must approve the Senate's amendments. The House voted 38-25 in an initial vote March 4.

The bill would give judges the power to remove firearms from a person who "poses a significant risk to self or others," within two days of a household member or law enforcement officer petitioning the court.

The Senate's amendments, which don't substantially change the bill, include adding the requirement that a law enforcement officer serving such a protection order provide a notice with "referrals to appropriate resources, including domestic violence, behavioral health, and counseling resources."

“We at Ceasefire have worked for three years to bring this concept into law, and feel gratified that the Colorado General Assembly has embraced this life-saving measure,” Eileen McCarron, president of Colorado Ceasefire Legislative Action, said in a March 28 statement. “This is a significant step for a state that has suffered numerous horrific firearm tragedies."

The bill's House passage has already led to an uproar in Republican-majority counties across the state. The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners voted March 12 to become a "Second Amendment Preservation County," vowing not to "appropriate funds, resources, employees or agencies to initiate unconstitutional seizures in unincorporated El Paso County." Around two dozen other counties have issued similar resolutions.

At a press conference March 26, Gov. Polis said counties had the right to exercise discretion over how to enforce the law, the Colorado Sun reported. He dodged questions over whether he agreed with Attorney General Phil Weiser's earlier statement that any sheriff who would disregard a court order to remove someone's firearms should resign.

The bill has been championed by nonprofit Mental Health Colorado, which has not taken a position on how counties should enforce it.

"We haven’t taken a position on the counties’ position or the enforcement of the law," interim CEO Nancy VanDeMark told the Independent. "Our position is really based on the suicide rate in Colorado and the association between suicide, deaths by suicide, and firearms, and the need to intervene in our suicide rate in the state."

Colorado has the 10th highest suicide rate in the U.S., with 20.3 suicides per 100,000 people in 2017. El Paso County's rate is slightly higher, at 22.8 per 100,000.

Republicans opposed to the bill argue that risk protection orders don't provide due process and jeopardize Second Amendment rights.

The state senators from El Paso County split along party lines, in accordance with most of the rest of the Assembly. Republican Sens. Dennis Hisey, Paul Lundeen, Owen Hill and Bob Gardner all opposed the bill. Democratic Sen. Pete Lee voted in favor.

Republican House Reps. Shane Sandridge, Dave Williams, Larry Liston, Tim Geitner, Terri Carver and Lois Landgraf were opposed. Democratic Reps. Tony Exum and Marc Snyder were in favor.

Here's a draft of the bill as it currently stands:
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Final campaign finance reports filed before April 2 city election

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2019 at 5:21 PM

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
UPDATE:

Money has poured into the Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs coffers to fund support of Issue 1, which would give local firefighters collective bargaining authority, though not authority to strike.

The election is Tuesday, April 2, and ballots must be returned to the City Clerk's Office by 7 p.m.

The firefighter committee has raised $639,123, according to its March 29 campaign finance report, more than twice as much as the vote "no" effort, Citizens Against Public Employee Unions, which reported raising $303,967.

That makes the issue campaign valued at $1 million in contributions to the two committees.

The firefighter group received donations from firefighter groups in Sacramento, San Francisco, San Bernardino and Cal Fire in California; from Miami and Jacksonville, Fla.; Portland, Oregon; Buffalo, New York; Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pa.; Fairfax, Virginia; Chicago; West Metro in the Denver area; New York state firefighters, and the International Fire Fighters Association.

To update other candidates' filings:

Council candidates and the amounts raised — Randy Tuck, $11,570; Regina English, $600; Tom incumbent Strand, $39,351; Tony Gioia, $27,457; and Val Snider, $12,787. Dennis Spiker hasn't filed a report in the last cycle.

Mayoral candidate Juliette Parker has raised $17,250, of which $8,000 came from loans from herself to the campaign.

Mayor John Suthers has raised a total of $228,211, and spent all but $87,081. In the latest reporting period, the largest donor was The Broadmoor with $5,000.

————-ORIGINAL POST 5:21 P.M. FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 2019—————————————

Not all candidates had filed their campaign finance reports on time for this round of filings for the April 2 city election where voters will elect a mayor, three at-large City Council members and decide Issue 1, which would give firefighters the right to collectively bargain but not to strike. Reports were due March 29.

Here's what we know.

• Citizens Against Public Employee Unions, which opposes Issue 1, has raised a total of $345,516. It's spent $303,967.

• Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs did not file a report, but previously reported raising $537,025.

Other organizations' reports:

• Community Leaders of America pumped $5,000 into Mayor John Suthers' reelection campaign and $1,000 in the coffers of Wayne Williams, who's seeking an at-large City Council seat. The organization is the national caucus of Republican mayors and city council members and was formed, according to the group, "in response to the lack of a national strategy to elect and support Republicans to the offices of mayor and city council." City elections here are nonpartisan.

• Sierra Club has raised $66,000 and spent $12,500 on canvassing and $44,233 on "voter mail education" but did not disclose which candidates it supports.

• The same is true of Americans for Prosperity, which reported it raised no funds but provided values of $24,042 each for mailers and door hangers and canvassing for unidentified candidates.

• Together for Colorado Springs raised $4,140 from John Weiss, owner of the Independent and other newspapers, for ads that appeared in the Indy. The report doesn't say who the ads supported, but T4CS ads endorsed Bill Murray and Terry Martinez.

Mayoral candidates:

• John Pitchford has raised $105,424 and has $82,624 on hand.

• Suthers, Juliette Parker and Lawrence Martinez did not file reports by 5 p.m. on March 29.

Council candidates:

• Incumbent Bill Murray has raised $3,100.

• Wayne Williams, former Colorado Secretary of State, has raised $55,652.

• Gordon Klingenschmitt, former state representative, has raised $12,387.

• Terry Martinez has raised $33,947.

• Athena Roe has raised $825.

Candidates who had not filed a report include Regina English, Randy Tuck, incumbent Tom Strand, Dennis Spiker, Val Snider and Tony Gioia.

The election is four days away. It's being handled by mail. You must return you ballot by 7 p.m. on April 2. For information, go here.
 
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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Oprah to deliver Colorado College commencement speech

Posted By on Thu, Mar 28, 2019 at 2:51 PM

Shout it from the rooftops: Oprah Winfrey is coming to Colorado Springs.

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On May 19, the world-famous philanthropist and media mogul will deliver a commencement speech to Colorado College students on Tava Quad, the college announced March 28.

While ticketed seats are limited to the graduating seniors and their guests, the speech will be live-streamed on the college's website.

COURTESY OF COLORADO COLLEGE
  • Courtesy of Colorado College
"Winfrey has created an unparalleled connection with people around the world, making her one of the most respected and admired figures today," Colorado College's statement notes. "She also is a dedicated philanthropist. During a December 2002 visit with Nelson Mandela, she pledged to build a school in South Africa; today, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls provides an excellent education for 8th- to 12th-grade girls in South Africa. Winfrey has contributed more than $200 million toward providing education for academically gifted girls from disadvantaged backgrounds."

Winfrey is also an Academy-nominated actress, a founding donor of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, and a 2013 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, the statement adds.

Winfrey will receive an honorary degree from Colorado College President Jill Tiefenthaler, along with Jairo Valverde Bermudez, a 1992 Colorado College graduate and the Costa Rican ambassador to Brazil; Martile Rowland, the founder and artistic director of Opera Theatre of the Rockies; and France Winddance Twine, an enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma and professor of sociology and documentary filmmaker at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
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Police internal affairs transparency bill headed for governor's desk

Posted By on Thu, Mar 28, 2019 at 12:58 PM

Alexis Acker after being thrown to the floor face first. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Alexis Acker after being thrown to the floor face first.
In 2015, the Independent asked for the internal affairs file for Tyler Walker, a police officer accused of smashing 18-year-old Alexis Acker, handcuffed behind her back, to the floor in Memorial Hospital's emergency room.

The city paid $100,000 to settle a lawsuit with Acker.

But the Colorado Springs Police Department refused to release the IA file for Walker, who later left the department, saying disclosure would be contrary to the public interest.

Likewise, with one exception, the CSPD has denied the Indy's requests for IA files using that same reason.

Soon, that argument won't wash, if Gov. Jared Polis signs House Bill 1119, which will require law enforcement agencies to disclosure internal affairs files after the investigation is complete.

According to The Denver Post, the bill cleared its final legislative hurdle on March 27 and is on its way to Polis' desk. It's unclear whether Polis will sign the bill.

As reported by the Post, current law allows police agencies to disclose IA files only if the release would be in the public interest. If the requester disagrees, he or she must file a lawsuit.

From the Post:
Most agencies in the state deny the release of those records — other than the Denver Police Department, which has been releasing most internal affairs records for about 12 years — often citing their release as being “contrary to the public interest.”

According to the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, the bill, if passed into law, will bring Colorado in line with 14 other states.

The CFOIC, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, the Colorado Press Association, the Colorado Broadcasters Association, Common Cause of Colorado and the Independence Institute support the bill.

CFOIC reports that opponents of the bill include the Fraternal Order of Police of Colorado and the county sheriffs’ association, but taking a neutral position were the police chiefs’ association, district attorneys’ council and the Colorado Municipal League.

In an interview in February, Mayor John Suthers told the Indy, "Whatever the law is, I assure you, as long as I'm mayor of Colorado Springs, we will comply with it."

Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, sponsored the bill with Rep. James Coleman, D-Denver. Foote, a former prosecutor, noted that "transparency should be the default position," the CFOIC reported, and said the bill would help build trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.

The only internal affairs report released by the CSPD in recent memory dealt with Ryan and Jeremy Brown, brothers stopped by officers for no apparent reason. Ryan Brown made a video of the stop and, with the ACLU of Colorado, alleged he was stopped and held at gunpoint because he's black. The city later settled a lawsuit with Brown by paying $212,000

But the bill doesn't require agencies to release files of incidents that occurred before the effective date of the bill. So the Tyler Walker file and others that predate the bill will remain under wraps forever.
 
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Gov. Polis signs hospital transparency bill

Posted By on Thu, Mar 28, 2019 at 12:21 PM

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Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill March 28 requiring greater financial transparency from hospitals, which the bill's sponsors say will increase competition to keep health care costs down.

Titled "Hospital Transparency Measures To Analyze Efficacy," and sponsored by Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, along with Sens. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, and Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, House Bill 1001 will require hospitals to disclose costs and expenditures to the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF), which will create an annual hospital expenditure report to be posted online. The report must include uncompensated care costs by payer group and a breakdown of different categories of expenses.

Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, sponsored House Bill 1001. - COLORADO HOUSE DEMOCRATS
  • Colorado House Democrats
  • Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, sponsored House Bill 1001.
The new responsibilities for HCPF outlined in the bill entail a minimal workload increase for the department, but won't require any additional funding, legislative staff found.

Hospitals will have to provide the following information to HCPF:

• the cost report submitted to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,
• an annual audited financial statement,
• the total number of available and licensed beds,
• inpatient and outpatient statistics,
• charges by payer group,
• contractual allowances (the difference between what hospitals bill carriers and what they are paid),
• bad debt write-offs,
• charity write-offs,
• a breakdown of operating expenses,
• a balance sheet,
• staffing information,
• and information on acquisitions and sales.

The bill passed the House on January 31 with a vote of 39-22, and the Senate (with several amendments) on March 14 with a vote of 34-1. The House voted to approve the Senate's amendments on March 18. The governor signed it on March 28.

“The high cost of health care is harming both Colorado consumers and businesses. Hardworking people are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of health care, particularly in rural Colorado where we’re seeing some of the highest premiums in the country,” Rep. Kennedy said in a March 18 statement. “By requiring hospitals to be transparent about their spending, we can increase competition in a way that will reduce costs for all.”

Rep. Tony Exum, the Democrat who represents House District 17 in Colorado Springs, is among the bill's cosponsors.

All state senators from El Paso County, including Republican Sens. Dennis Hisey, Paul Lundeen, Owen Hill, and Bob Gardner, as well as Democratic Sen. Pete Lee, voted in favor of the bill.

Republican House Reps. Shane Sandridge, Dave Williams, Larry Liston, Tim Geitner, Terri Carver and Lois Landgraf were opposed in the final House vote. Democratic Reps. Exum and Marc Snyder were in favor.
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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Historic downtown church hosts benefit concert to pay for repairs

Posted By on Wed, Mar 27, 2019 at 3:31 PM

Chadbourn Historic Mission Church survived the razing of a neighborhood. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Chadbourn Historic Mission Church survived the razing of a neighborhood.

Chadbourn Historic Mission Church, which survived the razing of a neighborhood to make way for America the Beautiful Park, has suffered vandalism and flood damage in recent years. It’s hosting a benefit concert and bake sale on March 31 from 2 to 6 p.m. to raise money for unbreakable Lexan window covers to protect its stained glass, as well as for flooding-related repairs.

The total cost of America the Beautiful Park — previously "Confluence Park" — amounted to more than $11 million by the time it was completed in 2005, an amount approved by Colorado Springs voters. That included more than $3 million spent on acquiring around 30 properties before construction began.

Rev. Christie Emery, a minister at the church, says she's heard one of the former ministers "literally put himself between a bulldozer and the church" to save it from demolition.

While the details of that incident are hard to verify, the national record shines some light on the building's history.

The benefit concert will raise money for window covers to protect its stained glass. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • The benefit concert will raise money for window covers to protect its stained glass.
The property was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, as the last remaining link to the Conejos barrio, a low-income, predominantly Latino neighborhood that was otherwise completely demolished to make way for the park. The church itself was built in 1910 or 1911, according to the Register, and originally used as a grocery store until it was rented and eventually purchased by missionary Ruth Chadbourn, along with two other trustees, in 1934 for $425.

The non-denominational church became an anchor for the neighborhood and offered services in both Spanish and English. It hosted Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts meetings, community events, and adult education classes.

In 1939, a few years after Chadbourn's death, its trustees remodeled the building to resemble a Spanish mission church. The stained glass windows were donated by the First United Methodist Church, just one of many collaborations between the church and other congregations.

Rezoning by the city resulted in many of the neighborhood's homes being replaced by commercial buildings, and by the 1990s, when the city began acquiring properties for the park, only the church and a few houses were left in the Conejos barrio.

"In October 1998, the City of Colorado Springs offered the Mission Trustees $125,000 for their property and up to $10,000 for the cost of relocating their operations," according to the building's entry in the National Register of Historic Places. "The city intended to demolish the Mission and incorporate the property in the development of the park. The Trustees rejected the City’s offer but eventually agreed to allow the city to move the Mission to a new location."

In 1999, however, the city made changes to the original park plans that allowed the church to stay.

"All of the roads and the property to the north of the Mission were torn up during construction of the park, making it difficult to drive to the building," the entry reads. "The congregation persevered and Sunday services were held throughout the project."

But the challenges continue: Emery says the terrain changes made for the park have led to flooding in the basement, and the stained glass windows — "although they're not Tiffany glass, they are Tiffany-era" — have been repeatedly vandalized.

The necessary repairs and window covers are too expensive for the small, aging congregation to shoulder alone, Emery says.

So she and her husband, local musician Bill Emery, came up with the idea for a benefit concert. It's scheduled for March 31 from 2 to 6 p.m.

Along with a bake sale and silent auction, the event will feature performances by Bare Bones Trombone Choir, Bill Emery and The Stardust Jazz Orchestra and violinist Cynthia Robinson.

A suggested donation is $10, and you can RSVP on Facebook here.

"It's a little piece of history over there, that's just, when it's gone, there will be nothing left of that actual neighborhood anymore," Emery says. "...That little area has a lot of heart and I would hate for it to just be forgotten."
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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Nicola Sapp leaves El Paso County with $150,628 settlement

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2019 at 3:54 PM

Nicola Sapp: Served more than 17 years with El Paso County. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY
  • Courtesy El Paso County
  • Nicola Sapp: Served more than 17 years with El Paso County.
Longtime budget director for El Paso County Nicola Sapp was paid $150,628 upon her  departure on March 19, according to a "waiver and release" agreement obtained by the Indy through an open records request.

Sapp was promoted in February 2018 to deputy county administrator, the second chair to Henry Yankowski who recently retired. But when the Board of County Commissioners chose Yankowski's replacement, they passed over Sapp and chose County Attorney Amy Folsom earlier this month.

The agreement doesn't say why the county saw fit to pay Sapp, but notes, "Any factual allegations and claims made by RELEASOR [Sapp] regarding the employment separation were and continue to be denied and disputed by RELEASEES [El Paso County]."

Sapp has been a pivotal figure during her tenure with the county, which began in August 2001. She guided the budget through the stormy 2008 recession, oversaw the "strategic moves" initiative that saw the county acquire the massive Citizens Service Center at 1675 Garden of the Gods Road and renovate various other county buildings, assisted the county in responding to the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire and 2013 Black Forest Fire, and handled budgeting for the addition of the sheriff's sales tax approved by voters in 2012 and renewed by voters in 2018. She also served on the El Paso County Retirement Plan board.

The county agreed to pay Sapp as follows:

• $95,456 in severance pay, six months of her salary of $190,912.
• $10,899 in health insurance premiums for six months.
• $9,358 for 101.96 hours of unused sick time.
• $31,557 for 343.82 hours of unused vacation time.
• $3,358 for 36 hours of unused personal time.

Total: $150,628.

The county refused to release Sapp's resignation letter, saying it's protected by the Colorado Open Records Act.

Here's the agreement:

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Commander Vasquez named Colorado Springs deputy police chief

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2019 at 3:25 PM

Deputy Chief Adrian Vasquez - COURTESY CSPD
  • Courtesy CSPD
  • Deputy Chief Adrian Vasquez
Commander Adrian Vasquez has been named deputy police chief.

Vasquez, with the Colorado Springs Police Department since 1995, fills a vacancy created by the promotion of Vince Niski to police chief upon the retirement in February of Chief Pete Carey, who now serves as undersheriff for El Paso County.

Vasquez has served in patrol; Metro, Vice, Narcotics, and Intelligence (Metro VNI) Division; as a detective, a K-9 handler and a task force officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration. He also worked in major crimes and with the victim advocacy units.

One of his more high profile roles was as lead investigator of the 2012 Waldon Canyon Fire, which burned more than 18,000 acres and destroyed about 350 homes in the city. The investigative task force determined the fire was human-caused but hasn't concluded whether it was intentional or accidental.
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City hires new traffic engineer to replace Krager, but controversy isn't over

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2019 at 1:29 PM

Kathleen Krager, right, speaks during a neighborhood meeting in 2017. - STEPHANIE MASON
  • Stephanie Mason
  • Kathleen Krager, right, speaks during a neighborhood meeting in 2017.

A replacement for the city's former traffic engineer was named on March 25. Todd Frisbie, who will be paid $130,000 a year, has been named engineering manager for traffic operations. He will start work on April 1, the city announced.

Kathleen Krager, traffic engineer, left the city in January after 10 years. She became a controversial figure by carrying out the city's program to create bike lanes on city streets.

Though her departure was characterized as retirement by city officials, Krager was paid three months salary, along with six months worth of premiums for health insurance, the Indy has discovered. Normally, people who retire are not paid separation pay — Krager's package came to $32,247, based on her annual salary of $128,987.

Here's her "transition and separation agreement."
Frisbie isn't an uncontroversial figure either. He helped draft the initial parking plan for Colorado College's new hockey arena that drew the wrath of neighbors in that area because it didn't add any new spaces. Some neighbors complained the school already lacks the needed parking spaces to accommodate its students and visitors, which leads motorists to park in surrounding neighborhoods.

CC recently announced it would build a parking garage to accommodate some of those who attend games at the proposed 3,000-seat hockey arena at Cache La Poudre Street and Nevada Avenue.

Monica Hobbs, president of the Near North End Neighborhood Association (bounded by Cache La Poude Street, Bijou Street, Monument Valley Park and Wahsatch Street) says she questions whether Frisbie can be impartial.
"It's nothing against him personally," she tells the Indy by phone. "What my question is, is that Todd has been a consultant with CC for years on all their traffic planning. Saturday [March 23] he was there [at a public meeting about CC parking] presenting on behalf of CC — its new traffic plan. Starting in April, he'll be working for the city. It just seems like the neighborhood is floating on its own. Why can't the city be putting in someone who's background isn't consulting for CC?"

In a news release, the city said Frisbie has more than 22 years of experience in transportation planning and engineering and most recently worked for the firm of Felsburg Holt & Ullevig of Colorado Springs, a transportation planning and civil engineering firm.

The city noted in the release that Frisbie has "worked on many public infrastructure projects and has developed good working relationships with the City of Colorado Springs and adjacent municipalities and jurisdictions." He also has served on the city’s Transportation Advisory Board since 2017.

He'll report to Public Works Director Travis Easton. When asked about Frisbie's work for Colorado College, Easton said via email through a city spokesperson:
Todd Frisbie has worked with the City, private organizations and other stakeholders on several major transportation projects in recent years. It’s exactly these relationships that make him well qualified to make informed decisions taking into consideration different points of view and to ultimately oversee well thought-out traffic decisions. There’s simply no evidence or logic to suggesting that the fact that he’s worked with different organizations around the city somehow disqualifies him from the ability to pursue the best interests of our Colorado Springs community. 
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Access to unredacted Amazon lease cost taxpayers $16,500

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2019 at 12:46 PM

This is one type of structure that could be built on the airport property by Amazon, according to city documents. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy city of Colorado Springs
  • This is one type of structure that could be built on the airport property by Amazon, according to city documents.
The city's refusal to release the name of Amazon in lease/purchase documents regarding property at the Colorado Springs Airport cost taxpayers $16,500 in attorney fees incurred by Fourth Estate News LLC.

Fourth Estate sought the records in a November 2018 request via the Colorado Open Records Act. The city refused to release the document, citing trade secret information.

In late December, Fourth Estate filed suit seeking to force the document's disclosure.

After haggling in court for several months and having a judge reject its motion to dismiss the case, the city agreed to release the documents and pay a portion of Fourth Estate's legal fees of $16,500. (Actual fees incurred by Fourth Estate totaled $26,910, due to various legal maneuvers the city made to which the news organization had to respond, according to Fourth Estate's attorney Michael Francisco. When negotiating to end the case, the amount was reduced.)

The city argued in its motion to dismiss that Fourth Estate's attorney, Francisco, submitted the CORA request, not Fourth Estate, and, therefore, Fourth Estate lacked standing to bring a lawsuit.

But the judge noted simply: "The Court finds that the Plaintiff has standing to bring the case and that a request by an attorney for Open Records is sufficient."

The city's position to withhold the document is especially curious considering the lease itself contains this wording: "Tenant [Amazon] acknowledges that, upon execution, this Lease may be subject to disclosure to third parties, upon request, under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA)...."

The Indy sought the lease/purchase agreement last fall and got the same stiff-arm treatment as Fourth Estate News.

Once the city reached a settlement on March 18, the city provided the document to the Gazette on March 20, and the Gazette reported on March 23 that, yes, the lessee and buyer of the 88 acres is, indeed, Amazon, as local media had already reported months ago.

We asked the city about why it decided to fight the lawsuit, which ended up costing taxpayers $16,500 for attorney fees for Fourth Estate's lawsuit and received this response from the City Attorney's Office:

The Settlement Agreement speaks for itself. Had the plaintiff litigated the disclosure under the Colorado Open Records Act and prevailed, the court would have awarded attorneys fees pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-72-204(5)(b). As this matter was settled by providing a document to the plaintiffs, attorneys fees were an appropriate consideration.
Timothy Hoiles: "Shocking" the city forced the issue to a lawsuit and then settled. - COURTESY FOURTH ESTATE NEWS LLC
  • Courtesy Fourth Estate News LLC
  • Timothy Hoiles: "Shocking" the city forced the issue to a lawsuit and then settled.
Fourth Estate News, which is run by Timothy Hoiles, who used to be an owner of the Gazette before it went through a couple of owners en route to ownership by billionaire Philip Anschutz, issued this news release:

Fourth Estate News has obtained confirmation that Amazon is the purchaser of land at the airport the City of Colorado Springs’ unprecedented, secret land sale. This information was obtained after Fourth Estate News filed a lawsuit challenging the wrongful denial of Colorado Open Records Requests for records showing the identity of the purchaser.

“The public has the right to know who the City is doing business with, especially for the sale of public land.” Said Timothy C. Hoiles, Manager of Fourth Estate News Bureau. “It’s shocking that the City took four months, forced an unnecessary lawsuit, to fight a losing battle to keep the public in the dark. I’m pleased with the result of the lawsuit.”

After losing a motion to dismiss, the City and Fourth Estate News reached a settlement revealing the requested information in exchange for the City reimbursing $16,500 of attorneys fees used to litigate the case.

Last November City Council authorized the sale of 88 acres airport land for “project jungle” and “project rodeo.” The City denied a CORA request seeking documents reflecting the ultimate purchaser of the airport land, claiming the information was trade secret. Fourth Estate News rigorously challenged the City’s claimed basis for denying the public the information needed to know who is purchasing public land, ultimately resulting in a settlement that fully vindicates the public’s right to transparent governance. 
Here's the lease agreement that cost taxpayers so much to get a look at:
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Gov. Polis unveils new state logo

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2019 at 11:44 AM

Gov. Jared Polis unveiled a new state logo to replace the one implemented by his predecessor, John Hickenlooper, at a press conference March 26.

The new logo features a green pine tree to the left of a blue and red letter "C" with blue mountains and a yellow background in the center.


The former state logo, which features the white letters "CO" overlaying a green, snow-capped mountain, was implemented in 2013 following a campaign by Hickenlooper's office. A team of designers created three possible logos, which were displayed on a public website.

The redesign ultimately cost $1.1 million in private donations and $1.5 million in pro-bono work, the Associated Press reported at the time.

The winning logo proved to be a tough sell.

Critics complained that it looked like the warning sign for carbon monoxide, and mourned the loss of the former accepted logo — the ubiquitous red and yellow "C" on Colorado's state flag. Republicans even lodged an effort in the state Assembly to refer the logo to voters, but a Democrat-led committee defeated it.

Despite protests, the logo soon adorned the state government's department websites and official messaging.

Will Polis' new logo pass muster? That remains to be seen.

Here's some thoughts from Twitter so far:




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Monday, March 25, 2019

Affordable housing bill gains momentum in State Assembly

Posted By on Mon, Mar 25, 2019 at 10:39 AM

The Commons, a permanent supportive housing development proposed by Homeward Pikes Peak, will need tax credit funding. - COURTESY OF EBERSOLDT AND ASSOCIATES
  • Courtesy of Ebersoldt and Associates
  • The Commons, a permanent supportive housing development proposed by Homeward Pikes Peak, will need tax credit funding.
A Democrat-led bill that would double the amount of state funding for affordable housing is gaining momentum in the state Assembly.

House Bill 1228, sponsored by Reps. Shannon Bird, D-Westminster, and Brianna Titone, D-Arvada, was approved by the House Finance Committee on March 22 and now heads to the Appropriations Committee. It would increase the amount of available Affordable Housing Tax Credits from $5 million to $10 million annually for the next five years.

“We need to help ease the housing crunch. This bill will help seniors and hardworking people across our state,” Titone said in a March 22 statement. “Access to affordable housing can help grow the middle class and our economy.”

Colorado's Affordable Housing Tax Credit program was originally established in 2001. It's modeled after the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, created in 1986 under President Ronald Reagan's administration. In return for providing capital for affordable housing developments, investors who purchase the credits receive a dollar-for-dollar break on their taxes.

The state's program was later renewed in 2014 and 2016, and most recently 2018, with legislation that extends it through 2024.

Since 2015, the state Affordable Housing Tax Credit program has created more than 4,700 affordable units and generated $1.9 billion in economic impact, according to the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA), which supports the bill.

CHFA awards both state and federal tax credits to affordable housing developers that meet stringent application requirements and respond to a demonstrated need.

Combining state tax credits with 4-percent federal tax credits in the same application cycle has made the state credits about as competitive as the 9-percent federal tax credits, which are allocated in a separate application cycle, says Steve Johnson, CHFA's community development director. Traditionally, the 9-percent federal credits have been more competitive because they provide a deeper subsidy.

Currently, only about one in three projects that apply for tax credits through CHFA end up getting them, Johnson told the Indy in early March.

The investment necessary just to apply can be staggering for developers, especially nonprofits. Beth Roalstad, the executive director of housing nonprofit Homeward Pikes Peak, said pre-development costs for the nonprofit's permanent supportive housing project had already amounted to about $50,000 before the application was submitted to CHFA. She learned in March that the project would not be awarded tax credits due to a technical error in the application.

Roalstad plans to reapply in June, this time for the 9-percent federal tax credits.
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Friday, March 22, 2019

Broadmoor expansion upheld by city Planning Commission

Posted By on Fri, Mar 22, 2019 at 3:38 PM

Sprocket the robot has been one of the featured attendees at the Space Symposium's exhibition space in past years. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Sprocket the robot has been one of the featured attendees at the Space Symposium's exhibition space in past years.
Appeals of the city's administrative decision to allow The Broadmoor to expand Broadmoor Hall were rejected on March 21 when the city's Planning Commission voted unanimously against them.

The appeals were filed by Cyndy Kulp (who has written for the Indy), Walter Lawson and Karen Raymond.

They argued the expansion of 169,988 square feet exceeds the 146,943-square-foot size of the original hall, crowding into a neighborhood that never envisioned the resort's growing size.

"We're going down the wrong road," Lawson said.

They also opposed the plan to use shuttles to ferry guests to the conference center from the World Arena and Norris-Penrose Events Center parking lots.

Kulp noted the city's comprehensive plan, PlanCOS, calls for "walkability" in neighborhoods, but the onslaught of so many shuttles undermines that goal.

She said if The Broadmoor uses 55-passenger buses, which it has indicated, "That’s 200 bus trips one way to get the 11,000 people that need to be transported. It also would take 16 hours if they're leaving every 5 minutes. It’s not a practical solution to this problem to have remote parking."

Those numbers are based on major events, such as the Space Symposium, which draws 9,000 attendees and this year opens April 8. (It's unclear why Kulp used the 11,000 figure.) The reason for the expansion, in fact, stems from temporary exhibition space used at The Broadmoor for the symposium, which last year was damaged in high winds and was shut down for a day during the week-long symposium.

The symposium is a major event that draws space and cyber experts and government officials from around the globe. More than a dozen people spoke in favor of the expansion, including Convention and Tourism Bureau chief Doug Price, Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC CEO Dirk Draper and Larry Yonker, with the Springs Rescue Mission.

Draper said the symposium brings $30 million to Colorado Springs' hotels, restaurants and tourist venues.

Proponents also included neighbors, such as Bill Nelson, who said, "Having lived there 10 years, it [Broadmoor] has been a really, really good neighbor. Everybody knows about The Broadmoor. It's such a driver to our local economy."

A woman who lives near The Broadmoor along Cresta Road said shuttle traffic to and from the resort is so extreme: "Often we're even challenged to turn out of our driveway."

Kulp countered that her complaint doesn't challenge The Broadmoor's status as a business in the community.

"This is not about The Broadmoor as an organization," she said. "It’s not about the Space Symposium. We realize these are extremely valuable organizations that do a lot for the community. But these are legitimate concerns in the neighborhood. It just gets back to, 'Is this the right location for a project of this size?'"

The citizens could appeal the Planning Commission decision to City Council by paying a fee, but must act by April 1. Kulp said she was unsure whether an appeal would be filed. 
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PAC tied to Republicans enters Colorado Springs' city election

Posted By on Fri, Mar 22, 2019 at 2:45 PM

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
There are a couple new players in the April 2 city election:

Community Leaders of America, a political action committee, filed with the Colorado Springs City Clerk's Office March 21, listing a Republican operative as its representative.
Staci Goede has served as CFO at Republican State Leadership Committee, Washington, D.C., for 17 years, according to LinkedIn.
Goede declined to speak to the Indy, saying she would have another person get in touch to answer questions about the purpose of the committee. It's worth noting Community Leaders of America registered as a political committee, and not an issue committee.
We'll update if and when we hear back from the PAC.

Together for Colorado Springs Political Action Committee also registered with the City Clerk's Office. The organization was active in the city's 2017 election supporting candidates. The PAC placed an ad in the March 20-26 Indy supporting Bill Murray and Terry Martinez for Council.

The last campaign finance filing prior to the election is due March 29, four days before the election.

The April 2 ballot has one question: Issue 1, which would give firefighters authority to collective bargain but not to strike. Voters also will elected three at-large City Council members and a mayor.

In other election news:

• The NAACP Colorado Springs Branch will host a candidates forum at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 24, at Sand Creek Library, 1821 S. Academy Blvd. The forum will entertain candidates for mayor and at-large Council seats.

• As of March 19, voters had returned about 18,000 ballots and ballot counting has begun.

If you have an item of interest for our campaign roundup blogs, contact zubeck@csindy.com
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Muslim soldier at Fort Carson overruled on complaint regarding hijab

Posted By on Fri, Mar 22, 2019 at 1:27 PM

Sgt. Cesilia Valdovinos was overruled in her allegation of discrimination regarding an order to remove her hijab. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Sgt. Cesilia Valdovinos was overruled in her allegation of discrimination regarding an order to remove her hijab.
An investigation about allegations a command sergeant major ordered a Muslim soldier to remove her hijab has concluded with a finding of "unsubstantiated" regarding discrimination, Fort Carson announced March 22.

The finding, released by Col. Dave Zinn, commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, found that Command Sergeant Major Kerstin Montoya "acted appropriately by enforcing the proper wear of the hijab, in compliance with Army Regulations."

Zinn said in a statement:
Our leaders are committed to supporting Soldiers' freedom of religious expression. I have, and will continue to, take all reports of Soldiers disrespecting religious beliefs, observances, or traditions very seriously. I will ensure our unit continues to place a high value on the rights of our Soldiers to observe the tenets of their respective religions or to observe no religion at all.

We value diversity within our ranks and will continue to embrace our differences, which make us a stronger more well-rounded team of cohesive, highly-trained Soldiers prepared to answer our Nation's call anytime, anywhere.
Sgt. Cesilia Valdovinos said in a statement that Zinn told her on March 21 that Montoya was within regulations and that she felt the back of the chapel, where she ordered Valdovinos to remove the hijab, was a private setting. Zinn also told her he would take future matters seriously and has ordered a chaplain conduct training with the command teams on various religions. He also told her, she says, that the dining staff had tried to accommodate her desire not to come into contact with pork as prescribed by her religion, but that she wouldn't cooperate.

"I explained to him I was never given that option," she says, adding Zinn said he would look into that issue.

Valdovinos also relayed to Zinn that Montoya had again asked her whether her hair beneath the hijab was within regulations, her statement says. Valdovinos has asked Zinn for an inter-post transfer, "because I feel I am being targeted." No word yet on that request.

Zinn's finding set off Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who issued this statement:
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has found that the Army’s conduct in this EO investigation along with the conduct of its senior leaders constitute only the worst type of a pervasive and pernicious pattern and practice of anti-Muslim bigotry prejudice and harassment. As our client has now exhausted her administrate remedies, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is hard at work determining whether or not we can file a federal lawsuit in either Denver or Washington against the Army based upon this shameful scandalous outrage of anti-Muslim hostility.
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