Thursday, March 21, 2019

El Paso County jail finds scabies and hepatitis A cases

Posted By on Thu, Mar 21, 2019 at 12:53 PM

This is a "medically accurate rendering" of a scabie. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • This is a "medically accurate rendering" of a scabie.

Here's another reason to avoid the county jail: Disease and infestations.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office and Department of Public Health are cooperating to deal with at least one case of scabies, and one case of hepatitis A in the Criminal Justice Center, officials confirmed.

It's the latest unsavory tale involving CJC, which has been the site of several inmate deaths, attacks on deputies and a riot over jail food in recent years. CJC also has reached capacity several times over the last year.

According to WebMD.com: "Tiny mites called Sarcoptes scabiei set up shop in the outer layers of human skin ... As the mites burrow and lay eggs inside the skin, the infestation leads to relentless itching and an angry rash." They can spread to others via prolonged, skin-to-skin contact and through shared items such as bedding or towels.

Hepatitis A, the Mayo Clinic says, is "a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus," which is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation and affect the liver's functionality. The disease is contracted from contaminated food or water or from close contact with a person or object that's infected. "Mild cases of hepatitis A don't require treatment," the Mayo Clinic says. "Most people who are infected recover completely with no permanent liver damage."

A source who spoke to the Indy on condition of anonymity says multiple cases of scabies have erupted in the jail. The source, who had knowledge of the situation, also said staff are concerned about exposure and wonder if cursory steps are adequate to protect them and others.

But Sheriff's Office spokesperson Jackie Kirby called such cases of both maladies "rare."

"There has not been an outbreak of scabies," she says via email. "We have one confirmed case."

She also says only one case of hepatitis A has been confirmed, adding:
The inmates have received the appropriate treatment and are housed appropriately. The Sheriff’s Office is working closely with Public Health to investigate any close contacts who may have been exposed to this case and provide vaccination to these individuals. This includes other inmates and staff at the jail. Public Health has also been working with the jail since December to vaccinate individuals for hepatitis A during the intake process.
The Criminal Justice Center has had its share of problems. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office
  • The Criminal Justice Center has had its share of problems.
Kirby didn't elaborate on what steps have been taken, but the unnamed source tells the Indy that while one ward was cleaned with disinfectant to guard against the spread of hepatitis A, staffers continue to worry about exposure. That's in part because they have not been told which inmate or inmates are infected. "Isn’t that something we should know?" the source says.

The Department of Public Health reports it's working with the Sheriff's Office to "investigate any close contacts who may have been exposed to this case and provide vaccination to these individuals. This includes other inmates and staff at the jail."

Noting that the case is part of a "larger outbreak" of 18 cases of hepatitis A within the region since last October, El Paso County Public Health spokesperson Danielle Oller says in an email, "Public Health has also been working with the jail since December to vaccinate individuals for hepatitis A during the intake process."

While  the source of the current hepatitis A outbreak hasn't been nailed down, Oller says, "The majority of cases in El Paso County have several risk factors for hepatitis A in common including homelessness and the use of street drugs. Other high risk factors for hepatitis A infection include living with someone who has hepatitis A and traveling to countries that have higher rates of hepatitis A."

As for scabies, it's not a reportable to health officials, unless there is an outbreak. An outbreak is defined as two or more cases, Oller says. "Although scabies is a nuisance, it does not spread disease," she says. "In the event of an outbreak, Public Health would provide guidance on control measures."

Oller noted there have been no outbreaks locally of scabies in 2018 and 2019.
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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Colorado Springs Utilities to add solar panels to power 30,000 homes

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2019 at 3:59 PM

Here's an aerial view of Springs Utilities newest source of renewable energy at Clear Spring Ranch south of the city. This project features 42,000 solar panels that will produce enough energy to power 3,000 homes annually. It also moves the city closer to its Energy Vision, which requires 20 percent of total electric energy be produced through renewable sources by 2020. - COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities
  • Here's an aerial view of Springs Utilities newest source of renewable energy at Clear Spring Ranch south of the city. This project features 42,000 solar panels that will produce enough energy to power 3,000 homes annually. It also moves the city closer to its Energy Vision, which requires 20 percent of total electric energy be produced through renewable sources by 2020.

In the last few years, the buzz about energy locally has focused on when the downtown Drake Power Plant, powered by coal or natural gas, will be shut down for good.

We still don't have a definitive answer, beyond the official Utilities Board action to shutter the plant by 2035, but Colorado Springs Utilities is taking a significant step toward renewables in seeking to finalize a contract for 150 more megawatts of solar power.

This is in addition to an existing solar array at Clear Springs Ranch about 10 miles south of the city.

Here's Utilities' news release about the coming addition of solar panels:
Colorado Springs Utilities (Springs Utilities) is finalizing negotiations and in the coming months will award a contract for 150 megawatts of new solar generation plus a 25-megawatt battery storage system by the end of 2023. At this time, it is the largest energy storage facility announced in Colorado.

“Energy storage is an integral part of our ability to transition from fossil fuels to incorporating more renewables into our system,” says Springs Utilities Chief Executive Officer Aram Benyamin.

“We are changing the way we power the Pikes Peak region and are on a path to reduce our carbon emissions by 40 percent or more from 2005 to 2035.”

The battery project will provide the utility with valuable information about improving solar power integration and reducing the need for natural gas to maintain reliability. For this reason, the utility will negotiate an option to add more storage capacity to the battery system in the future.

“This project will familiarize us with utility-scale battery technology and give us the flexibility to seek better pricing as the technology improves and our load growth materializes,” Benyamin explains.

The battery will be used to store less expensive solar energy during the day so that it can be used during more expensive peak demand periods. With the ability to run for up to four hours at maximum capacity, upwards of 30,000 homes will be powered when the battery is dispatched.

The reduction of carbon emissions will be realized by decommissioning one of the utility’s coal-fired power plants and the addition of more solar power. Beyond the 150-megawatt project, the utility is planning to add another 95 megawatts of solar power by the end of the year.

Once all of these renewable energy projects are online, more than 95,000 homes annually will be powered by this carbon-free energy.
Watch a video of the solar array south of the city here.
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Former Starbucks CEO to visit Olympic Training Center as he mulls independent presidential run

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2019 at 3:58 PM

Howard Schultz oversaw a company that grew from six stores to nearly 30,000 worldwide. - GAGE SKIDMORE, FLICKR
  • Gage Skidmore, Flickr
  • Howard Schultz oversaw a company that grew from six stores to nearly 30,000 worldwide.
Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, will visit Colorado Springs on March 22 as he considers an independent run for president.

After headlining a town hall hosted by the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce and touring a startup incubator in Boulder on March 21, Schultz will tour the Olympic Training Center the following day and hold a town hall event with Olympic athletes.

The U.S. Olympic Committee confirmed the visit and says it's normal for politicians and dignitaries to tour its facilities — though the organization is not allowed to promote a political candidate. Past guests have included former President Barack Obama and one of President Donald Trump's cabinet members.

"If a public figure requests an opportunity to tour our facility, we're happy to provide it," says Mark Jones, the Olympic Committee's vice president of communications.

Schultz has not officially declared his candidacy for president, but has toured the country promoting his recent memoir and appeared in a live town hall hosted by CNN in February. Fox News invited him to participate in another town hall in April.

While Schultz has not made public any detailed policies, he promotes himself as a "centrist independent." On his website, he outlines six priorities that "only centrist leadership could make happen":

1) Only sign major legislation into law that has the support of both parties.

2) Assemble a cabinet that represents America in every way" — "including Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

3) Only put forward Supreme Court nominees that could be confirmed by 2/3 of the Senate.

4) Limit influence of lobbyists and special interests in Washington D.C.

5) Work to end the gerrymandering that is rigging the system.

6) Get the federal budget under control and reduce the national debt.

After graduating from Northern Michigan University in 1975, Schultz worked for a company that sold housewares to Starbucks — then a small company in Seattle, Schultz' website says. He met the founders of Starbucks in 1982, and within a year was heading up marketing for the company.

Schultz left Starbucks a few years later to open his own specialty coffee company, Il Giornale, which bought Starbucks in 1987 and took the latter company's name. He stepped down as CEO in 2000 to become chief global strategist, helping Starbucks expand internationally. In 2008, he reprised his role as CEO, and later became executive chairman of the company before stepping down in June of 2018, saying that he would consider a presidential run.

During his time at Starbucks, Schultz' bio points out, he saw it grow from six stores to nearly 30,000, employing more than 3 million people over the company's history. 
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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Firefighters' Issue 1 pros and cons outlined at public forum

Posted By on Tue, Mar 19, 2019 at 11:31 AM

Union representative John Roy and Mayor John Suthers faced off on March 18 to debate the pros and cons of Issue 1 to a nearly full room at Penrose Library. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Union representative John Roy and Mayor John Suthers faced off on March 18 to debate the pros and cons of Issue 1 to a nearly full room at Penrose Library.
About 150 people showed up at Penrose Library on March 18 to hear the pros and cons of Issue 1 at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Citizens Project.

The ballot measure to be decided by voters in the April 2 city election would give firefighters collective bargaining powers, absent the ability to strike.

Speaking in favor of the issue was John Roy, deputy campaign manager with the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 5.

Mayor John Suthers spoke against the measure.

"When you call 911, you expect a fire truck will arrive there quickly," Roy said. "And that's exactly what this is about."

He said under the current system, firefighters don't have much say in allocation of resources to protect their own and the public's safety. He noted that one fire engine over 20 years old developed a leak that poisoned firefighters with exhaust fumes. All recovered.

The incident underscores that city leadership who call the shots lacks continuity. The mayor, the city's chief executive, is elected every four years, and City Council potentially changes membership every two years, he said.

"We don't know who our next mayor or City Council will be," Roy said. "The problem is, we cannot guarantee our next mayor will offer us an opportunity to sit down with him."

The people who use the equipment, Roy said, should have a say in funding that equipment, as well as staffing and training. Compensation also would come into play in collective bargaining, but Roy acknowledged that a series of recent raises has placed firefighters at parity with similar departments — $80,000 a year for most line firefighters.

Still, the Fire Department today has fewer firefighters than it did in 2008, Roy said.

As for arguments against the measure based on the need for a city election should firefighters and the city stalemate, Roy noted a fact-finder would come into play amid such an impasse and of at least 15 cities in Colorado with similar collective bargaining arrangements, none has led to a vote of the people over a contract. [Whichever side refuses to accept the fact-finder's conclusion pays for a special election.]

"If Issue 1 doesn't pass, it could be a detriment to public safety," he said, and noted the city's response time goal of arriving at a scene within 8 minutes 90 percent of the time is twice the recommended standard by the National Fire Protection Association of four minutes.
Mayor Suthers, right, has become the spokesperson for opposition to the firefighter measure.
  • Mayor Suthers, right, has become the spokesperson for opposition to the firefighter measure.
Suthers argued that if firefighters receive collective bargaining powers, other city employees will also seek such authority, throwing the city's finances into chaos.

Besides, he added, firefighters already have a seat at the table. "Our city has been good to firefighters," he said, noting pay scales have reached competitive market levels and firefighters are given a pension for life.

He also noted when he met with Local 5 officials four years ago, they told him collective bargaining "is not our thing." Since then, the city has purchased several new fire apparatus, raised salaries and funded additional positions.

"If you think this doesn't have a downside, look around the country," Suthers said, pointing to departments who face layoffs in order to fund union demands.

Firefighters could seek a multi-year contract, which would put the city in a dicey spot, he said. Since the city relies so heavily on sales tax revenue, an economic downturn can have significant impact on the city budget in short order.

"If we're locked in [on a firefighter contract] and the economy does tank, everybody else is going to pay out the wazoo on that," Suthers said, meaning money to fulfill the contract would shortchange other departments' needs.

Suthers said he also fears that collective bargaining will translate into a battle between lawyers for the city and for the union, rather than "face time" between himself and firefighters, who he said are now "very well represented" on compensation and benefit committees within the city.

Suthers defended the Fire Department's response time record, saying the insurance rating for the city, which dictates how much people pay for property insurance, indicates response times are "quite good." [The Indy recently reported that through October 2018, the most recent data available at the time of our report, the department fell short of its response time goals in eight of nine zones.]

The city election, where voters also will elect a mayor and three at-large City Council members, is being conducted entirely by mail. For information, go to this link
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Monday, March 18, 2019

Issue 1 draws nearly $1 million in campaign money

Posted By on Mon, Mar 18, 2019 at 6:35 PM

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
If you haven't noticed, there's a lot of air time on TV and radio stations devoted to convincing you to either support Issue 1 in the city's April 2 election, or defeat it.

Issue 1 would authorize firefighters to have collective bargaining rights but prohibit a strike. Firefighters argue they need a seat at the table to assure their and the public's safety via appropriate staffing and equipment.

Opponents say if it's approved, the measure will lead to other city workers organizing, which would cost taxpayers more.

All those ads flooding into your living room and mail box are coming from two well-funded campaigns.

According to the latest campaign finance filings, due March 15 for the period from Feb. 25 to March 10, committees campaigning for and against the measure have racked up nearly $1 million in contributions.

Citizens Against Public Employee Unions has raised $326,296. Of that, $85,000 has come from Colorado Springs Forward, a business activist group. This reporting period, the campaign spent $229,278.

Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs has raised a total of $537,025, most from firefighters here and elsewhere, though some donations have trickled in, such as $1,000 from the Colorado Springs Education Association. The most recent reporting period saw the committee spend $179,671.

Americans for Prosperity Colorado Springs Independent Expenditure Committee, which opposes the measure, raised $9,084 from Colorado AFP in in-kind services for mailers, digital and canvassing. No cash donations were received.

As for the candidate races, the richest campaigns are those in the mayor's competition.

Incumbent John Suthers has raised $206,486.

John Pitchford, a retired Army colonel and dentist, has raised $105,149, most of it a loan from himself, and recently sent out a notice pleading for donations, saying while he donated some $100,000 to his campaign, "it's not enough."

Candidate Juliette Parker has raised $13,250. Lawrence Martinez hasn't filed campaign finance reports.

Former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams leads in the money category among the 11 candidates seeking three at-large City Council seats. He's raised $43,152.

Others, in the order of their fundraising totals:
Incumbent Tom Strand, $29,996
Terry Martinez, $28,270 (His campaign notes that he's received most of his money, $23,270, from 183 individual donors)
Tony Gioia, $25,402
Former State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, $11,597
Former Councilor Val Snider, $11,637
Randy Tuck, $9,300
Incumbent Bill Murray, $3,100
Athena Roe, $700
Regina English, $600
Dennis Spiker, $450

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Terry Martinez has won the sole endorsement issued by the Sierra Club.

Terry Martinez captured the Sierra Club's endorsement. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Terry Martinez captured the Sierra Club's endorsement.
It said in a news release:
The Sierra Club solicited questionnaires from each of the candidates on a variety of issues important to its 1200-plus members in Colorado Springs, including the candidates’ positions on closing the Martin Drake Power Plant, transitioning to renewable energy, homelessness, support of parks and open spaces, and what steps are needed to ensure our water future.

“Terry Martinez is the only candidate who aligns with the Sierra Club’s positions on water, energy, park funding, and other issues vital to our members,” said Jim Lockhart, Conservation Committee Chair for the local Pikes Peak Group. “Terry is not only committed to closing Drake and replacing it with clean energy, he understands that conserving our water resources is an important component of ensuring our water future.”

Added Dave Bryan, Political Committee Chair for the Pikes Peak Group, “Terry’s support of increased parks funding and a ballot measure that would require voter approval before our parks could be traded or exchanged with private entities were key factors in earning the Sierra Club’s support.”
It's worth noting the Sierra Club Local Independent Expenditure Committee raised $30,000 in the last reporting period ending March 10. So far, it's made no expenditures.

—————————————

The El Paso County Democrats have endorsed Issue 1. In a statement, Electra Johnson, party  chair, wrote:
PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
Colorado Springs is a city that you and your family know as being safe. Though the risks of wildfires, traffic accidents and medical emergencies loom, you know your family is safe because you trust the Colorado Springs Firefighters to keep you safe. You trust us that when critical, life and death decisions must be made, that firefighters will make the right call…every time. Now firefighters are calling on you to let us be your voice at City Hall. Your vote YES for Issue 1 shows firefighters that you trust them, over the politics of the day, to fight for public safety.
——————————————

State Sen. Kent Lambert made robo calls on behalf of Gordon Klingenschmitt, urging voters to support his bid for a Council seat and noting his devotion to the conservative cause.

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So far, 10,400 ballots have been returned to the City Clerk's Office. The city mailed out more than 262,000 on March 8.

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If you have an item of interest about the city election, send it to zubeck@csindy.com
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Friday, March 15, 2019

ADU ordinance: What to know

Posted By on Fri, Mar 15, 2019 at 6:00 PM

City Council will vote on whether to allow accessory dwelling units in single-family zones. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • City of Colorado Springs
  • City Council will vote on whether to allow accessory dwelling units in single-family zones.

Colorado Springs city staff is pushing an ordinance that would expand the use of accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, across the city.  The city held a series of open houses on the proposed ordinance in February, and City Council first formally discussed it at its March 11 work session.

ADUs, also known as in-law units, are secondary apartments on a residential lot or within the main home. They might be above a detached garage, in a converted attic or basement, or in a separate unit, and must include a sleeping area, bathroom and kitchen. Currently, city code allows the units within two-family zones, multi-family zones and some commercial areas, but the ordinance would expand their use to single-family zones — thus increasing the number of parcels eligible for ADUs from 9,400 to 68,000.
Such units could theoretically provide affordable housing for aging parents, disabled or dependent adult children, or low-income renters.

But at Council's last work session, Councilors Don Knight and Andy Pico voiced concerns about pushing through the ordinance, worrying that it would essentially eliminate single-family housing zone districts by allowing homeowners to build additional units. They said neighborhoods are worried about preserving their architectural integrity.

Councilors Jill Gaebler and Richard Skorman argued the ordinance was necessary for adding affordable and attainable housing across the city.

One compromise floated by Councilor David Geislinger would be to allow only attached ADUs in single-family zone districts.

Here's a rundown of what the ordinance currently includes:
  • Allow both detached ADUs and "integral" (attached) ADUs in all residential zones. Integral ADUs would require an interior connection in single-family zones. (Individual homeowners associations could choose to prohibit ADUs altogether.)
  • The current parking requirement for ADUs (one off-street space per ADU) would remain the same across all zone districts.
  • Depending on the zone district, roof pitch and whether the property is adjacent to an alley, maximum height could be 20, 25 or 28 feet. (The current maximum is 25 feet for all ADUs.)
  • Increase the maximum ADU size from 750 square feet to 1,250 square feet, or up to 50 percent of the main home's finished floor area.
  • The 20 feet of required separation from a primary home would no longer be required, and distance would depend on Regional Building Department requirements. Principal Planner Mike Schultz says most ADUs would require about 10 feet of separation.
  • In single-family zones, the property owner would be required to occupy either the principal home or the ADU as their primary residence.
If you're interested in knowing where the ordinance stands and when you can comment, here's some dates to know:

March 21, 8:30 a.m.:

The planning commission will vote on whether to recommend the ordinance to City Council at its regular meeting. It could also recommend that city staff make changes to the ordinance. (No opportunity for public comment)
Location: City Council Chambers, 107 N. Nevada Ave.

6 to 7:30 p.m.: District 1 Councilor Don Knight will hold a town hall for constituents to ask questions about the proposed ordinance and provide feedback.
Location: Chipeta Elementary Gymnasium, 2340 Ramsgate Terrace

March 26, 1 p.m.:

First City Council reading. (Public comment allowed)
Location: City Council Chambers, 107 N. Nevada Ave.

April 9, 1 p.m.:

Second City Council reading. (Public comment allowed)
Location, City Council Chambers, 107 N. Nevada Ave.

Here's a draft of the full ordinance:

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

What's true and what's false about claims on firefighters' Issue 1?

Posted By on Wed, Mar 13, 2019 at 10:17 AM

The only issue on the April 2 city ballot asks voters to decide whether to give firefighters collective bargaining rights. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The only issue on the April 2 city ballot asks voters to decide whether to give firefighters collective bargaining rights.
What's true? What's false? And what lies somewhere in between?

When it comes to political ads, it's hard to discern fact from fiction, so we'll try to help voters by dissecting campaign literature from time to time.

Today, we'll look at the claims made by the Citizens Against Public Employee Unions (CAPEU), a political committee formed by Mayor John Suthers and the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC, to oppose Issue 1 on the April 2 city election ballot. The measure would provide firefighters with collective bargaining rights.

(Note to our readers: We also looked at statements made by the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 5 and Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs in their campaign ads, but found that their campaign literature is less specific and, therefore, trickier to fact check. For example, one flier says, "It's time to give our trusted public safety professionals a stronger voice to keep our families, businesses and community safe." Another says, "How many firefighters should respond when you call 911? ... Is our equipment up to date and will it protect firefighters and save lives?" And then the flier states, "...vote #YESon1 to make Colorado Springs Firefighters your voice on public safety.")

Here's a look at the vote "no" literature:

• Claim: If the firefighters' bargaining agent and city leadership can't agree on labor terms, a special election would be required, at a cost of $500,000 to Colorado Springs taxpayers. (It's worth noting that some fliers have a little blue arrow next to the $500,000 figure, indicating "up to" $500,000.)

Actually: A dispute over any number of issues wouldn't automatically trigger an election. Rather, if a stand-off emerges, "the issues are to be submitted to a fact-finder," the ballot measure states. That fact-finder would be mutually agreed to by the parties.

The ballot measure goes on to say, if the city or Local 5 refuses to accept the fact-finder's decision, the issue in dispute "shall be presented to and decided by the voters" at a special election "with the cost of the special election to be paid by the party not accepting the fact-finder's decision."  (Emphasis added.) If both parties reject the fact-finder's finding, then the cost of the election is shared by the city and Local 5.

As for the election's cost, City Clerk Sarah Johnson reports that the April 2 election will cost the city $350,000, though "postage increases, labor costs for election judges, and so on might make the final cost higher."

Incidentally, Local 5 tells the Indy that voters in Colorado have never had to foot the bill for a special election to decide terms of a firefighters' contract.

* CAPEU response via email: Almost all impasse special elections around the country result from the city contesting the arbitration result. According to [El Paso County Clerk and Recorder] Chuck Broerman, the cost of postage alone for a special election is $450,000, plus the labor costs for clerk and recorder staff and election judges. [The county does not conduct city elections; the city conducts its own elections.]

• Claim: More than 50 percent of the city budget is devoted to public safety, which is more than most cities our size.


Actually: There are some cities in Colorado that spend less than half their general fund budgets on public safety. See the CAPEU statement below. But there also are many cities who, like Colorado Springs, spend more than half the general fund budget on public safety. Those include Kansas City, Mo., 76 percent; Dallas, 60 percent; Austin, 67 percent; Phoenix, 76 percent; Fresno, California, 58 percent, and Omaha, Nebraska, about 69 percent.

* CAPEU: Some examples in Colorado: Aurora, Boulder, Ft. Collins.
[CAPEU didn't provide the percentages, but the
Indy looked them up: Aurora, 47.6 percent; Boulder, 37 percent, and Fort Collins, 44 percent. Fort Collins doesn't have its own fire department but rather provides at least 70 percent of the funding for Poudre Fire Authority.]

• Claim: From 2016-2021, the city is adding another 52 people in the fire department, including 44 line firefighters.

Actually: While this statement is true, it suggests the staffing needs for the Fire Department have been dealt with. Local 5 notes, "At the end of 2019, we will have 451 assigned firefighters, 2 less positions than in 2008. We will add 12 more to that total bringing us to 463, but that is due to the addition of the Cimarron Hills fire protection district and their 12 spots. We [are] fundamentally still short of where we were 12 years ago."

* CAPEU: Asked to comment on Local 5's comment, the "vote no" committee provided this:
12 firefighters (1 Captain, 2 Lieutenants, 3 Driver Engineers, 3 Paramedics, and 3 Firefighters) were added in 2017 to permanently staff Fire Station #22
1 Wildfire Mitigation Maintenance Technician added in 2017
3 Fire Inspectors, one in each year, 2016, 2017, and 2018
8 Firefighters added in 2018
1 Full time Recruiter added in 2018
1 Senior Office Specialist added in 2018
8 Firefighters will be added in 2019, 2020 and 2021
• Claim: Line firefighter pay has increased 16% in the last four years, from $68,000 to $80,000, plus overtime, far exceeding the average salary in Colorado Springs of $47,000.

Actually: These numbers are accurate, Local 5 says, but states the collective bargaining measure is not about pay but rather having a say in various funding and safety issues.

Want to learn more about Issue 1?

The League of Women Voters will host a forum on Issue 1 at 6 p.m. Monday, March 18, at Penrose Library's Columbine Room, 20 N. Cascade Ave.

John Roy, deputy campaign manager for the Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters will speak for the measure. Suthers will speak against the measure. Both also will answer questions from the audience.
If you have an item of interest about the April 2 city election, let us know at zubeck@csindy.com
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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Bill would give "Dreamers" a path to citizenship

Posted By on Tue, Mar 12, 2019 at 5:50 PM

"Dreamer" Oscar Guerrero-Olivares (right) was arrested by ICE agents in January. - COURTESY OF THE GUERRERO-OLIVARES FAMILY
  • Courtesy of the Guerrero-Olivares family
  • "Dreamer" Oscar Guerrero-Olivares (right) was arrested by ICE agents in January.
Colorado has more than 17,000 "Dreamers" — people who entered the country illegally as children — who've received temporary protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program since it was implemented in 2012 through an executive order by President Barack Obama.

They account for about 1.9 percent of the country's Dreamers with DACA status, all of whom have been left in limbo since then.

While several court injunctions remain in place to require the federal government to keep processing DACA renewals — necessary every two years — the administration of President Donald Trump halted new applications in September of 2017, and sought to terminate the program altogether.

A piece of legislation championed by House Democrats would provide Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship, though it has almost zero possibility of passing in the Republican-controlled Senate or of being signed into law by Trump.


The Dream and Promise Act of 2019, introduced March 12, would provide up to 10 years of conditional permanent residence status for Dreamers who met certain criteria. It would also grant lawful permanent residence to people with Temporary Protected Status (2,900 in Colorado alone, according to the Immigration Hub) and Deferred Enforced Departure designations, meaning they cannot return to their countries due to unsafe conditions.


Among the bill's other objectives, according to a fact sheet from the Immigration Hub, an advocacy organization:

• Cancel deportation proceedings for Dreamers who meet certain requirements and background checks.
• Grant lawful permanent residence to Dreamers who pursue higher education, join the military or meet employment requirements.
• Allow Dreamers to receive federal financial aid, as well as professional, commercial and business licenses.
• Allow certain Dreamers deported under the Trump administration to apply for relief from abroad.
• Cancel deportation proceedings for people with TPS and DED status who have been in the U.S. at least three years, for people who had TPS or were eligible on Sept. 25, 2016, and for people who had DED status on Sept. 28, 2016.

If this bill has no chance of becoming law, why is it important? Vox argues "it’s a statement of the Democratic consensus on immigration" that will be important if Republicans try to pass their own immigration bill, and as presidential candidates set their priorities for 2020.
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Order to remove hijab at Fort Carson spurs controversy, but versions of story differ

Posted By on Tue, Mar 12, 2019 at 12:14 PM

Sgt. Cesilia Valdovinos believes that she was discriminated against when a superior officer at Fort Carson ordered her to remove her hijab. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Sgt. Cesilia Valdovinos believes that she was discriminated against when a superior officer at Fort Carson ordered her to remove her hijab.
It was about 3 p.m. on March 6, and Sgt. Cesilia Valdovinos’ unit was receiving training in suicide prevention at the chapel on Fort Carson.

Without warning, Valdovinos tells the Independent, Command Sergeant Major Kerstin Montoya grabbed her arm and said, “You come with me.”

Valdovinos followed her to the back of the chapel, where she says Montoya told her to remove “that.” The object at issue was Valdovinos’ hijab, a head scarf worn by Muslim women, for which she had obtained an accommodation letter last year.

Valdovinos did as she was told, but later contacted a member of the Pentagon’s chaplaincy, a colonel who’s Muslim. He told her she shouldn’t have obliged by removing the hijab, and referred her to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

With MRFF involved, run by the high-profile and vociferous Mikey Weinstein, the issue might not die soon, despite Fort Carson officials disputing Valdovinos’ account of what happened that day.

In a statement, the Mountain Post said Army leaders respect soldiers’ right to practice their faith without fear of prejudice or repercussion, but even obtaining an accommodation doesn’t mean they’re not subject to inspection for compliance with Army regulations that specify how a hijab should be worn. Fort Carson officials say that Valdovinos was clearly out of compliance on the day in question; that she wasn’t grabbed, but simply taken aside; and that she was in the presence of two female superiors when she removed the head covering.

Valdovinos denies she violated any regulation.

It wasn’t the first time Valdovinos felt uncomfortable in the Army due to her religion. After being raised in the Catholic Church, and four years after joining the Army out of high school, she converted to Islam.

In August 2017, she was promoted to sergeant and has served two tours in Afghanistan, returning most recently in fall 2018.

In April 2018, she applied for a religious accommodation, which required her to be interviewed extensively by two different chaplains, she says. On June 24, 2018, Col. David Zinn issued a letter that stated, “I approve the wear of a hijab in observance of her faith in the Muslim tradition ... a copy of this approved religious accommodation will be filed in the Army Military Human Resource Record system (AMHRR) and will remain in effect throughout SGT Valdovinos’ career.”

While in Afghanistan, however, a fellow soldier called her “a terrorist.”

“We were supposed to be a team, and it was hostile,” she says. “I was angry, but the girls around me [in my unit] helped me calm down.” Though she says she reported it, nothing came of her report and she felt it was ignored.

About a month ago, Valdovinos says, she objected to handling pork at her job in the dining facility, due to her religious requirements. Initially, her supervisor suggested she wear gloves to handle pork, but later transferred Valdovinos to a supply unit. Valdovinos didn’t file a complaint. Nor did she formally protest after she says others on post referred to her as “the girl with the hood.”

But she did file a complaint with the post’s equal opportunity office on March 7 following the hijab incident, she says. The incident startled Valdovinos. She says when she asked Montoya if she had authority to impose such an order, Montoya said, “I can,” and told her she wanted it removed so she could “see my hair.”

Valdovinos, who stands 4 feet, 11 inches, says she removed the garment partway, but Montoya told her to remove it completely, and she complied. Montoya then told her to “get out of here,” she says.

“I felt naked without it,” she tells the Indy. “It’s like asking you to take off your blouse. It felt like I was getting raped, in a sense.”

Fort Carson officials, however, tell a different version of the story via email. They say soldiers with special accommodations still must meet standards of appearance. The hijab must be worn close to the hair and jaw lines, not covering any part of the face, and the hair cannot be worn down.

“According to sources who were present,” Carson said, “Sgt. Valdovinos’ hair was visibly out of regulation. Her senior non-commissioned officer (NCO) [Montoya] and a battalion staff officer, both female, stepped outside with Sgt. Valdovinos so they could speak to her privately. At no time did the senior non-commissioned officer touch Sgt. Valdovinos.”

Another soldier who witnessed Valdovinos being summoned by Montoya tells the Indy that Valdovinos was grabbed by the upper arm. The soldier spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal from superiors.

Asked about that, Carson provided a written statement from Cpt. Brooke Smith, who observed the entire incident. She said Montoya tapped Valdovinos on the shoulder, but didn’t grab her.
Smith’s story correlates with Carson officials’ written statement, which states that Montoya asked Valdovinos to remove the hijab “in order to verify whether or not her hair was within regulation” and “discovered that Sgt. Valdovinos’ hair was completely down, which is not allowed while in uniform.”

Montoya then told her to “put her hair back in regulation and to not let it happen again,” Carson’s statement said.

Carson also offered a statement by Zinn, who said, in part, “I will ensure our unit continues our tradition of placing a high value on the rights of our Soldiers to observe the tenets of their respective religions or to observe no religion at all.”

He also noted there is an inquiry into Valdovinos’ claim.

Valdovinos says that she is upset because for Muslim women, removing the hijab in public isn’t allowed — the Quran dictates that certain parts of a woman’s body, including her hair, are to be seen by her husband only.

MRFF founder Weinstein argues that since Valdovinos had secured a letter of accommodation from her commander, demanding she remove the hijab is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Army regulations. (Carson didn’t respond to this allegation when asked by the Indy.)

“This woman has been spiritually raped,” he says. “This rips asunder good order, morale, discipline and unit cohesion.” It also serves up a “public relations bonanza for our Islamic extremist enemies” who wish to paint the war on terror as a war on Islam or a clash of world religions, he claims.

Weinstein commended Valdovinos for coming forward, noting she’s a woman of color — her father is Mexican and her mother, Navajo — and is Muslim. “It took a tremendous amount of courage for her to stand up for herself,” Weinstein says.

Valdovinos says she’s willing to take a lie-detector test in regards to the incident. And she claims that her hair was not out of compliance. “Of course when she made me take off my hijab my hair fell out of the bun it was in,” she says.

She also notes that her accommodation letter doesn’t contain specifications on how her hair is to be pinned.

Weinstein vows to file a complaint with the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, as well as seek “just punishment of the Army perpetrators.”

Meanwhile, Valdovinos says she hopes those at her post will come to accept her more fully. “I just want them to understand, just because I’m Muslim, I’m not different. I’m still myself, and I’m still going to fulfill my duty.”
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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Former Fountain resident testifies on PFASs in D.C.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 6, 2019 at 5:43 PM

Mark Favors, second from left, submitted written testimony to the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Environment. He spoke with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-New York, center, about the effects of PFAS contamination on his family. Also pictured, from left: Chet Whye, Hope Grosse and Loreen Hackett. - COURTESY OF MARK FAVORS
  • Courtesy of Mark Favors
  • Mark Favors, second from left, submitted written testimony to the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Environment. He spoke with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-New York, center, about the effects of PFAS contamination on his family. Also pictured, from left: Chet Whye, Hope Grosse and Loreen Hackett.
An Army veteran who grew up near Peterson Air Force Base was among those in attendance at a House subcommittee hearing March 6 on Capitol Hill. The subject: PFASs, a toxic group of chemicals found in household products and military firefighting foam, and their effects on health and the environment.

Lawmakers questioned representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Defense while holding up the stories of those — including former Fountain resident Mark Favors — who have been personally affected by the military's decades-long use of the chemicals. PFASs, which researchers have linked to low birth weights, liver and kidney cancer, and thyroid problems, leached into the drinking water supply in areas surrounding hundreds of military installations around the world.
"Mark Favors is a U.S. Army veteran who had 16 family members, 16 family members, diagnosed with cancer, all of whom lived next to the Peterson Air Force Base in Fountain, Colorado," Rep. Harley Rouda, D-California, chair of the Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Environment, said in his opening remarks. "Several of those family members are also veterans."
The Department of Defense has taken some actions to address PFASs, including implementing a new type of firefighting foam that it says is safer for public health and the environment. And on Feb. 14, the Environmental Protection Agency revealed its long-awaited PFAS action plan, announcing it would start the process for setting a maximum contaminant level (MCL) under the Safe Drinking Water Act for two chemicals in the PFAS group, PFOA and PFOS.
But for many lawmakers and advocates, the steps outlined in the plan weren't enough to address the problem, and to hold the Department of Defense accountable for contamination of communities. (Read more on the plan here.)

And Congress is bringing on the pressure.

The same day as the subcommittee hearing, a group of senators signed a letter demanding copies of communications between the EPA, Department of Defense, Office of Management and Budget, and Department of Health and Human Services regarding the PFAS Action Plan and groundwater cleanup guidelines.

And Colorado Sens. Cory Gardner (R) and Michael Bennet (D) were among a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce a bill on March 1 that would require the EPA to designate PFASs as hazardous substances, making polluters responsible for funding cleanup. (An identical bill was introduced in the House in January.)


At the subcommittee hearing, Rep. Katie Hill, D-California, began her question for Dave Ross, the EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Water, by saying she had been born on an Air Force base where high concentrations of PFAS chemicals had been detected. She asked Ross whether he, like embattled former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, would call PFAS contamination a "national emergency."

"We do believe it is a major national issue for EPA and our federal partners to address," Ross said, citing the agency's successful effort to get manufacturers to voluntarily pull products containing PFOA and PFOS off the market.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, told the story of a woman who grew up in Warminster, Pennsylvania near the Naval Air Warfare Center.

"[Hope] Grosse was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer at the age of 25 years old," Ocasio-Cortez said. "Ms. Grosse's father died of cancer at 52 years of age, and her sister suffered from ovarian cysts, lupus, fibromyalgia and abdominal aneurysms. She worries that she has unwittingly exposed her own children to [PFAS] chemicals as well... Mr. Ross, do you believe that the EPA should further regulate these chemicals?"

"Yes, and that’s what we’ve stated in our action plan," Ross replied. "We have a robust plan to regulate these chemicals across a wide variety of our programs."

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, asked whether the Department of Defense knew how many active service members, veterans and their families had had been exposed to the chemicals.

"Our health affairs staff is going to be conducting a health study and creating an inventory of those service members that have been exposed through drinking water or occupational exposure and work in coordination with the Veterans Administration to share that information," replied Maureen Sullivan, deputy assistant secretary of defense for environment.

The hearing was held the same day that Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy organization, released an updated map with information on 106 military sites where drinking water or groundwater is contaminated with PFASs. (The Department of the Defense has said that there are 401 sites in the U.S. alone with known or suspected contamination.)

The group also released a report with several recommendations for Congress and President Donald Trump's administration.

While the problem of PFAS contamination has persisted for decades without major enforcement actions by the federal government, Congress's renewed interest could move the needle on the issue, says Melanie Benesh, Environmental Working Group's legislative attorney.
"I think Congress will continue to push the [EPA] and do everything that they’re doing now —introducing bills, holding oversight hearings — and I think the states have an important role to play," Benesh says. "State policy tends to move federal policy and tends to move marketplace actions... And then there’s a whole grassroots network of people who have been affected by these chemicals, particularly veterans and military families, and those voices really matter."

Peterson Air Force Base replaced the old firefighting foam in all of its emergency response vehicles in 2016, a spokesperson said. The new, supposedly safer formula is only used in emergencies, and not during training.

Water districts surrounding the base have changed water sources or filtration systems since evidence of contamination began to emerge in 2015.

But the spread of PFASs in drinking water left lasting effects that should have been addressed by the state, Favors argues.

"Despite having a budget surplus in 2018 of over $1.1 billion, the state of Colorado still has not
conducted a formal investigation on the scope of the PFAS contamination, conducted PFAS
blood level tests of our affected children, nor passed legally enforceable MCLs of PFAS in
drinking water," Favors, now a New York resident, wrote in his testimony to Congress.

Favors goes on to list the 10 blood relatives and in-laws he has lost to cancer, all of whom lived for years near Peterson Air Force Base.
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Panorama Park in the Southeast set for makeover

Posted By on Wed, Mar 6, 2019 at 4:13 PM

Panorama Park will get a facelift next year. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • Panorama Park will get a facelift next year.

UPDATE:
City Councilor Yolanda Avila tells us this via voice mail:
I’m excited about the Panorama Park. So many of the parks in southeast don’t even have shade or trees, and that park has zero. So we got feedback from little kids to seniors walking with canes. People are really excited about having the park there. I think that’s a great place to start. It’s going to be a large community park."

—————-ORIGINAL POST4:13 P.M. WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6, 2019—————————

The long-neglected southeast part of the city will get an infusion of cash to spruce up 13.5-acre Panorama Park, thanks to a $350,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado, the city said in a news release.

The release called the project "the largest neighborhood park renovation in city history."

The Parks Department will seek more community feedback about the park's renovation this spring and summer, with construction beginning in 2020. So far, the city reports, concepts for Panorama Park, located southeast of Fountain Boulevard and Jet Wing Drive, include a new playground, walking paths, lighting and a community gathering space.

Parks Director Karen Palus said in the release:
We have heard from residents about how much they value Panorama Park and look forward to the final stage of planning for new amenities. The upgrades will not only improve safety at the park, but make it a wonderful destination for our community to gather, play and enjoy the outdoors.
Additional support for the renovations comes from the Trust for Public Land and the Southeast RISE Coalition. Colorado Health Foundation will award a $935,000 grant over three years to The Trust for Public Land for work on the park. Go here for more about the project.

Panorama Park is adjacent to Panorama Middle School. More than 3,000 people live within a 10-minute walk to the park. More information about the park renovation can be found at www.coloradoSprings.gov/panoramapark.

Great Outdoors Colorado has given $54.7 million for projects in El Paso County, including the Legacy Loop and John Venezia Community Park. It is funded by the Colorado Lottery.

We've asked City Councilor Yolanda Avila, who represents southeast District 4, and will update when we hear from her. Avila, elected in 2017, has lobbied for more park projects in her district.
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City campaign roundup: What do the candidates say about recreational pot?

Posted By on Wed, Mar 6, 2019 at 7:01 AM

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What do the candidates seeking a City Council seat or the mayor's post in the April 2 Colorado Springs election have to say about recreational marijuana?

We asked them this question in our candidate questionnaire: What’s your stance on allowing recreational marijuana shops within the city limits, or referring a measure to the ballot to allow voters to decide?

Here's what each said:

Council contenders
Athena Roe: "I have spoken with emergency room physicians at our local hospitals and it is clear that the potent strains have caused overdoses, and more patients in the ER’s.... I am against allowing recreational marijuana shops in our community."

Bill Murray (incumbent): "Four years ago, I ran on referring a measure to the ballot to allow voters to decide! My position has not changed."

Gordon Klingenschmitt: "Addiction and substance abuse cause a slavery-dependency relationship between pusher and abuser, who trade their money and even bodies for their next fix. Government’s role is not to profit from enablement of slavery or trafficking, but to free the slaves through treatment."

Regina English: "My stance on this is to keep our city dollars within our city and if the shops are within the city limits, then this will be accomplished which will enable the city to use the dollars for the up keep of the city. (parks, infrastructures, amenities, etc.)"

Regina English says recreational pot could help fund city needs. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Regina English says recreational pot could help fund city needs.
Dennis Spiker: "I believe that this issue is one that city residents must have the ability to vote on themselves and should have been done years ago. Manitou Springs has started to bring in an estimated $3 million per year with their marijuana tax. We could use this money to fix our parks, create sports leagues, or even offer grants to local small businesses, and nonprofits. Though I would like to see this passed it must be voted upon by the city’s residents."

Terry Martinez: "I would support referring a measure to the ballot to allow voters to decide whether to allow recreational marijuana shops within the city limits, as long as the vote coincided with the regular election cycle. The people of Colorado Springs deserve to vote on the issue."

Tom Strand (incumbent): "I agree with this decision [by previous council's to not refer a measure to voters] because of the adverse impact more marijuana facilities will have on our children, middle school and high school students... Currently, Colorado Springs has over 120 medical marijuana facilities within our 200 square mile city. I support the marijuana industry obtaining the necessary citizen signatures on a petition to place this important and sensitive issue on the ballot for voters to assess and determine."

Tony Gioia wouldn't oppose a citizen petition fo place a measure on the ballot. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Tony Gioia wouldn't oppose a citizen petition fo place a measure on the ballot.
Tony Gioia: "If a citizen-led initiative came forward to put such a question on the ballot, I would not oppose it. Currently, a large segment of our economy comes from industries that cannot have employees who use marijuana, and these businesses are having a harder and harder time finding employees who can pass a drug screening. For this reason, I would not proactively support bringing such shops to the city at this time."

Val Snider: "I am currently against allowing recreational marijuana sales within the city limits... With my military police background I saw the effects of marijuana on my troops and how it affected their performance... Until there is more science on how the higher THC level affects the minds of youth, I am against increasing accessibility of recreational marijuana within city limits."

Wayne Williams: I support the citizens’ right to petition on this issue... Absent a citizen petition, I would not support referral to change the present mix of medicinal marijuana in the city limits and recreational nearby."

Randy Tuck: "I believe this should have been done 4 years ago. I am for recreational marijuana being approved for Colorado Springs. I believe that it should be referred as a measure to be put on the ballot and let the voters decide. However, we are [wasting] valuable time and revenue's [sic] and this is such an important issue, it should be put to a vote of the council members and get it done! We can no longer watch as we see the profits of our small business people going to 3 other cities as well as the revenue’s attached to the profits."

Mayoral candidates
Juliette Parker says recreational pot should be decided by the people. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Juliette Parker says recreational pot should be decided by the people.

Juliette Parker: "I personally feel that as mayor it will be my duty to put the matter of legalization on the ballot so that the residents can decide for themselves what happens in their city. Giving you the opportunity to vote on it puts the power in your hands, where it should be." [It should be noted that while the mayor can advocate for a ballot issue, City Council, not the mayor, is empowered to refer measures to the ballot.]

Lawrence Martinez: "The City next door collected 1 Million in taxes do you really think they smoked it all? .... So if it is here lets [sic] get whats [sic] due our tax money from the sales to our community."

John Suthers (incumbent): "I personally oppose recreational marijuana sales within the city. Also, reliable polling shows the vast majority of Colorado Springs residents do as well. That's why the marijuana industry did not pursue a ballot initiative in November of 2018."

John Pitchford: "In discussing this issue with people who are rigidly opposed to recreational/retail marijuana, I asked them what we will do about our ALREADY existing recreational marijuana industry. As a result of how we legalized medical marijuana in 2010, we created a homegrown cottage industry of micro marijuana farming... Retail marijuana is for sale throughout Colorado Springs, it is on every street corner, in every apartment complex and in every neighborhood. It is unregulated, untaxed and is controlled by criminals. We currently have 6 members of the city council who favor allowing the people to vote on this issue. I favor allowing the people to vote on this issue."
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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

City campaign roundup: Political ads hit TV airwaves

Posted By on Tue, Mar 5, 2019 at 5:55 PM

Terry Martinez, seeking a City Council seat, wants to reach voters through their televisions. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Terry Martinez, seeking a City Council seat, wants to reach voters through their televisions.
Don't you just love campaign season, when political ads flood your TV during your favorite programs? 

Me neither.

But according to filings by two local TV stations, voters can expect to be blasted with ads in the weeks ahead as we approach the April 2 city election.

City Council candidate Terry Martinez made an agreement March 4 for an undetermined number of 15- and 30-second spots for five weeks on KOAA Channel 5. He's the only candidate so far to buy time on that station. He also has a contract with KKTV for $1,865 worth of ads to run the week of March 4 to 10.

Citizens Against Public Safety Unions, a committee formed by the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC which opposes Issue 1, the firefighters' collective bargaining measure, has agreed to pay thousands of dollars.

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While its contract with KOAA doesn't give details, the committee has agreed to pay KKTV $91,930 for 30-second spots from March 5 through April 1. The ads will air during news programs in the morning, during The Price is Right game show in the late morning, during Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy in the evenings, and amid both the evening newscast and late night news report.

Those ads will duel with half-minute spots placed by Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs, a committee that supports Issue 1. But the "vote yes" group is spending only $24,060 with KKTV to run ads during similar time slots as the "vote no" group, and only from March 4 to 24.

Both committees also have placed ads with KOAA, but the agreements aren't detailed as to how much will be spent and how many ads will run.

So far, no candidates or issue committees have bought air time with KRDO TV and Fox21News.
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Fisher's Peak in Trinidad will open to the public, thanks to land purchase

Posted By on Tue, Mar 5, 2019 at 5:52 PM

Crazy French Ranch, which contains Fisher's Peak, is a 30-square-mile area south of Trinidad. - COURTESY OF THE NATURE CONSERVANCY/LAURYN WACHS
  • Courtesy of The Nature Conservancy/Lauryn Wachs
  • Crazy French Ranch, which contains Fisher's Peak, is a 30-square-mile area south of Trinidad.

Just east of Interstate 25, a few miles north of the New Mexico border, 9,600-foot-tall Fisher's Peak is a hidden gem in plain sight.

The Trinidad landmark has long been closed to the public. But thanks to a land purchase completed Feb. 28, the peak and the ranch it sits on will open for as-yet-undefined public use within a few years.

The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land, two nonprofit organizations focused on conservation and land access, bought Crazy French Ranch and will spend the next two years or so working with the city of Trinidad, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado, and Trinidad State Junior College to develop a management plan for the peak-containing property. That could include opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and education, says Matthew Moorhead, director of business development and strategic partnerships for The Nature Conservancy.

"We can make sure that this is a well-managed, a properly-managed natural area that protects everything living there that makes it special," Moorhead says. "At the very same time ... we’re able to provide for the kind of public recreational access that’s going to bring a cultural and economic and educational value to the citizens of Trinidad, Las Animas County and Colorado."

Great Outdoors Colorado — which invests a portion of state lottery proceeds into state parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces — has awarded a $7.5 million grant for the Fisher's Peak Project, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife has pledged an additional $7 million.

After the management plan and financing is in place, the two nonprofits will turn over the property to a local or state entity, such as Colorado Parks and Wildlife or the city of Trinidad, Moorhead says.

The project could have widespread appeal to Coloradans who might not otherwise visit Trinidad. Colorado College's 2019 State of the Rockies poll showed 90 percent of Coloradans believe the outdoor recreation economy is important to the future of their state and the Western U.S. And the town doesn't have other recreation opportunities nearby that compare with what Fisher's Peak offers, Moorhead says.

In fact, he adds, the only way the public can currently access the state land adjacent to Fisher's Peak is by first crossing into New Mexico and undertaking a difficult hike.

“The ranch embodies the amazing history of this area, we look forward to conserving that for future generations,” Trinidad Mayor Phil Rico was quoted in a statement from The Nature Conservancy. “We are also excited about the economic opportunities that public lands and recreation can bring to our community.”
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Monday, March 4, 2019

Firefighters endorse challenger John Pitchford in mayor's race

Posted By on Mon, Mar 4, 2019 at 12:09 PM

John Pitchford wins firefighters' endorsement in mayor's race. - JONATHAN BETZ PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Jonathan Betz Photography
  • John Pitchford wins firefighters' endorsement in mayor's race.
The Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters has endorsed challenger John Pitchford for mayor, a dramatic move in an election in which Mayor John Suthers signed a fundraising letter on behalf of a political action committee that opposes the firefighters' collective bargaining measure, which also is on the ballot.

The April 2 election will decide the bargaining question, known as Issue 1, which bars firefighters from striking, and seat a mayor and three at-large City Council members.

Seeking his second term, Suthers is campaigning against Issue 1, which was submitted to voters after firefighters collected thousands of signatures to force it onto the ballot.

The "vote no" committee, called Citizens Against Public Employee Unions, was co-founded by Suthers and the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC. The PAC has raised $219,215, including $30,500 from the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, and spent $39,699, according to the most recent finance report filed Feb. 27.

Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs has raised $316,025, mostly from firefighters via the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), and spent $234,772, including petitioning costs.

Firefighters have said they want a seat at the table to secure funding for equipment and staffing, which hasn't caught up since the 2008 recession. There are fewer front line firefighters in Colorado Springs today than before the recession. As the Independent has reported, firefighters have seen response times suffer and its fleet of fire apparatus age, including an incident in which firefighters were gassed with exhaust, although Suthers has added several new engines and trucks in the last year and plans to add more.

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Pitchford, a retired dentist and career Army officer, said he is "proud" to received the firefighters' endorsement. In a statement, he said:
I have visited with many of our city employees and heard the same story over and over. Mayor Suthers “will not listen to our concerns,” “our voices are not heard” and “Mayor Suthers will not negotiate in good faith.” When it comes to public safety it is absolutely vital that this city be led by a mayor who will listen to the public safety concerns of our firefighters, police officers and be available to work in good faith with all of our employees.

With the strong mayor form of government, the mayor is the CEO of a large business and no business can long endure with a poisonous relationship between management and its employees.
Pitchford also notes that firefighters' concerns don't focus on compensation but rather staffing, equipment and workload.

"Try to imagine your home on fire and the fire truck breaks down on the way to save your home and your life," Pitchford says. "Our firefighters have suffered carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of using firefighting apparatus that is well beyond its replacement age."

Asked about the endorsement, Suthers says via email, "The reality is I’ve worked very hard in the interests of all city employees and that’s reflected in increased compensation. Police and fire in particular have benefited by being brought to market level compensation. But I am steadfastly opposed to unionization of the fire department and that puts me at odds with Local 5."

In a statement, the IAFF Local 5 said:
John Pitchford understands the top priority for government, from federal to local, is guaranteeing the safety of its citizens. His commitment to work with the professionals who provide that safety is non-wavering. He believes that the protection of our community should be immune from political influences. Public safety is not a partisan issue, and impacts each and every one of us equally. Mr. Pitchford supports true collaboration and a team based approach to improving the lives of our citizens. For that reason, the Colorado Springs Professional Fire Fighters proudly endorse the candidacy of John Pitchford for Mayor of Colorado Springs. 
The endorsement, announced March 4, comes without a campaign contribution.

Dave Noblitt, Local 5 spokesman, says via email: "If both sides stand along side each other without exchanging funds, we have not provided anyone any point to make an accusation of donating to expect favors. We both believe that is part of the current problem."

On Feb. 20, Pitchford's campaign gave $2,500 to the Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs campaign, records show, but the PAC refused it, Noblitt says.

Suthers has raised $180,236 for his mayoral run, while Pitchford has brought in $104,314, most of it in a loan from the candidate.

Local 5 also endorsed Terry Martinez and incumbent Bill Murray in the Council race. Those endorsements come with $500 each in campaign money.

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Tony Gioia speaks during a reception March 1. - GIOIA CAMPAIGN
  • Gioia campaign
  • Tony Gioia speaks during a reception March 1.
Tony Gioia was the man of the hour on March 1 at a reception hosted by Walker Schooler District Managers, Steve Schuck, Sen. Bob Gardner, Rep. Larry Liston, political consultants William Mutch and Sarah Jack, and City Councilor Merv Bennett.

Gioia has been endorsed by the HBA and Pikes Peak Association of Realtors. Disclosure: Gioia worked at the Indy for a short time several years ago.

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Forum reminder:

March 7: Council hopefuls discuss environmental issues, hosted by the Independent, Colorado Springs Business Journal, Trails and Open Space Coalition, Colorado College Collaborative for Community Engagement, 6:30 p.m., Packard Hall, Colorado College, 5 W. Cache La Poudre St.

March 9: Candidates forum, hosted by El Pomar Foundation Forum for Civic Advancement, 5:30-7 p.m. followed by a reception, Penrose House Pavilion, 1661 Mesa Ave.

March 21: Council candidates forum, hosted by voters in Precinct 729 (Broadmoor Bluffs), 7-9 p.m., Cheyenne Mountain Elementary School, 5250 Farthing Drive.

March 14: Council Candidate Forum, hosted by the Southeast Express and Citizens Project, 6-7:30 p.m., Sierra High School, 2250 Jet Wing Drive.
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