Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Colorado Springs locals advocate for clean cars

Posted By on Tue, Apr 30, 2019 at 3:17 PM

From left: Retired Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, energy consultant John Duprey, medical and public health student Jake Fox, and City Councilor Tom Strand speak in support of clean car standards. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • From left: Retired Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, energy consultant John Duprey, medical and public health student Jake Fox, and City Councilor Tom Strand speak in support of clean car standards.

City Councilor Tom Strand was among a group of locals who spoke out against the Donald Trump administration's rollback of clean car standards at a press conference April 24.

Strand, along with retired Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, energy consultant John Duprey, and medical and public health student Jake Fox, urged action to oppose the move.

"I'm just asking everyone, in particular our two United States senators, Sen. Bennet and Sen. Gardner, to do what they can to ensure that these rollbacks are reconsidered," Strand said. "I think that if we continue on with the clean-car standards into the second phase that we'll in fact have more jobs in our state, we'll in fact create a much healthier environment."

The clean car standards Strand referred to were implemented under the Barack Obama administration in 2012. They were aimed at cutting down on harmful pollution from vehicle emissions, and came in two phases: 2012-2016 and 2017-2025.

But the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have moved to roll back the initiative, freezing emission standards at 2020 levels.

Fox emphasized the public health risks of the rollback.

"In El Paso County it's estimated we have about 13,000 children, and 60,000 adults with asthma and chronic lung disease," Fox said. "When they breathe polluted air, they are much more likely to land in our emergency departments and intensive care units. It's imperative that we keep our air clean to protect these vulnerable populations in our communities."

In response to the proposed rollback last year, Colorado — along with 13 other states and the District of Columbia — will adopt its own Low Emission Vehicle Program standards for cars and trucks, modeled after California's. Gov. John Hickenlooper began that state rule-making process with a June executive order, which was finalized by a unanimous vote of approval from the state Air Quality Control Commission in November.

The Colorado Automobile Dealers Association sued the state government over the new standards in February, alleging that they would hurt working families by increasing automobile prices. Colorado Senate Republicans released a statement supporting the lawsuit.

Duprey, a local energy consultant and the owner of The e-bike Company, called such state and local environmental policies "the last line of defense for the health and the economies of our communities."
"Colorado, D.C. and 13 other states have exercised their rights under the Clean Air Act to establishing strong pollution standards to protect our citizens and our environment," Duprey added. "Having clean air to breathe is a basic human right. It does not belong only to those who are wealthy enough to live in environments where they're not affected by that."

Retired Lt. Col. Bidlack emphasized that rolling back emission standards could increase the harmful effects of global warming.

"Back in 1998, I was asked to write the first draft of the Department of Defense's statement on  the effect of climate change on the U.S. national security, and then I had two major conclusions," he said. "The first is that it will cause new conflict and the second is it will act as a force multiplier and will make other situations worse in traditional combat."

On Jan. 17, Gov. Jared Polis ordered the Department of Public Health and Environment to also develop a proposal for a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program, which would require manufacturers to supply dealers with a certain number of electric vehicles. The state's Air Quality Control Commission will decide in May whether to approve CDPHE's proposed ZEV program.

After the event, Strand expressed more caution when asked about his support for a ZEV program.

"I think that technology needs to be worked on very carefully," Strand said. "In terms of zero emissions, that's a great goal, but I don't think we ought to jump into that too quick."

Strand called himself "kind of a moderate," saying that was why he didn't mention climate change in his remarks, "because I know that there are different sides to that argument."

"But I do think that the clean car standards just make eminent good sense, that we continue along that path," he said. "And I think since we're, as a city and a state, we're kind of a right-to-rule kind of a community ... to have these things pushed down on us by either the federal EPA or the National Transportation Agency is something that I think we ought to take a hard look at."

A video of the event was live-streamed on the Facebook page of Defend Our Future Colorado, a project of the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund. However, Ashley Lynch, a senior account executive with Resolute Consulting who publicized the event, said it was not organized by Defend Our Future or any one organization but was the product of concerned citizens coming together.

Defend Our Future, which has team members on college campuses in Colorado, Arizona and Pennsylvania, is focused on "building a diverse coalition of partners that share the goal of finding actionable and common sense solutions to solving climate change," according to its Facebook page.
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El Paso County launches two-year master planning effort

Posted By on Tue, Apr 30, 2019 at 3:08 PM

What do you like and not like about living in El Paso County? Take the survey. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY
  • Courtesy El Paso County
  • What do you like and not like about living in El Paso County? Take the survey.
El Paso County has launched a two-year project to develop a county Master Plan, the county said in a news release.

Part of that effort involves an online survey, that you can access here. The survey, which includes a version for residents and one for businesses, asks what you like and don't like about the way things are going in the county. Do you want more apartments? Would you like to see more retail, office space, industry?

The idea behind the survey is to help officials map out a future plan, says Planning and Community Development Executive Director Craig Dossey in a release.

The website link above also will take you to information about public meetings and other material.

From the release:

The Master Plan development process will take about two years to complete and will include dozens of opportunities for citizens to voice their views. However, the online survey is a fast, effective, and convenient way for citizens to participate in the planning process.

The County Master Plan is broad and will examine County land use, infrastructure, water capacity, transportation networks, government services, and other important topics. The aim of the Master Plan is to better serve and accommodate the needs of residents, businesses, and visitors to the County. The Master Plan will integrate and expand on concepts from the current Countywide Policy Plan and several recent plans and studies. Examples include the Major Transportation Corridors Plan (2016) and the Parks Master Plan (2013), as well as other ongoing County initiatives, like the Water Master Plan (2018) and broadband strategic plan efforts. 
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Pikes Peak Avenue opens one lane in each direction

Posted By on Tue, Apr 30, 2019 at 3:06 PM

Remember when Pikes Peak Avenue looked like this? On Feb. 27, it was barely recognizable as a road. But now, the avenue will reopen on April 29 to one lane of traffic each way. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Remember when Pikes Peak Avenue looked like this? On Feb. 27, it was barely recognizable as a road. But now, the avenue will reopen on April 29 to one lane of traffic each way.

At 7 p.m. on April 29, the city opened Pikes Peak Avenue from Wahsatch Avenue to Printers Parkway, although the normally four-lane street was reduced to a single lane of traffic in each direction.

No closures of Pikes Peak Avenue, which has been under construction since September 2017, are scheduled for the remainder of the project, the city says in a release. Be aware, however, that as construction continues, traffic signals at the intersection of Pikes Peak Avenue and Hancock Avenue, and at Pikes Peak Avenue and Institute Street, won't be operational, the release said. Rather, the city will rely on four-way stops to control traffic.

Also, some side streets remain closed to turning and through traffic.

From the release:
The Pikes Peak Avenue Reconstruction project is funded by the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority Fund. Through this project, the roadway and aging utilities are being replaced or reconstructed. Construction of the two yearlong project began in September 2017 and is scheduled to be complete summer 2019.

For more information, contact the project hotline at 719-593-9239 or email at PikesPeakAvenue@gmail.com. Information and traffic impacts are also available on the project website at www.coloradosprings.gov/PikesPeakReconstruct.
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Friday, April 26, 2019

Springs firefighters had to overcome big obstacles at lumberyard fire

Posted By on Fri, Apr 26, 2019 at 4:28 PM

Firefighters at the scene of the April 13 blaze. - COURTESY CSFD
  • Courtesy CSFD
  • Firefighters at the scene of the April 13 blaze.
When Colorado Springs firefighters rolled up to Foxworth-Galbraith Lumber Company, 4005 Interpark Drive, on April 13, they faced several obstacles before they could battle the fire.

First, the security gate was locked; then they encountered several unusable hydrants, including privately owned hydrants, meaning Colorado Springs Utilities, which maintains the city's hydrants, isn't responsible.

But in the end, firefighters made lemonade out of lemons by relying on some backup methods designed to handle difficult circumstances, Colorado Springs Fire Department public information officer Brian Vaughan says via email.

They've also since talked with officials at Foxworth-Galbraith, who are cooperating to fix the problems. As Foxworth-Galbraith manager Hugo Montez tells the Indy, "All their concerns have been addressed already."

Here's an account of what happened, as provided by Vaughan.

About 3:25 a.m., firefighters responded to an alarm at the lumberyard with an engine company. When they arrived, they found a padlock of the security gate and no Knox box (which contains keys) or other way to enter without damaging the chain and lock.

Firefighters forcibly entered by using tools to break the lock, shortly after which the engine company declared a working structure fire. That signals a need for more equipment, including engines, trucks, hazmat and rescue vehicles.

Firefighters then found signs of fire in several places inside and outside the 12,000-square-foot metal building.

"The fire extended vertically in the wall until it hit the floor of the second level (platform framing) and began to move laterally across the room when the activation of two sprinklers halted the fire's advance on the interior," Vaughan reports. That, in turn, activated an exterior sprinkler.

When fire crews tried to find usable fire hydrants on site, which were private, the Engine 9 crew found threads of the five-inch connector were either damaged or filled with debris, "making the connection laborious and time-consuming," Vaughan says. They then tried a three-inch connection, which was achieved, but water delivery was diminished due to the smaller lines.
A city hydrant near the front gate was found "dead," as Vaughan calls it, meaning firefighters couldn't access water.

In another case, manufactured trusses blocked access to another private hydrant, "making its use impossible with large diameter hose unless chainsaws were used to cut away the stacks of trusses."

Meantime, firefighters entered the building with the smaller lines and hand tools and put out the fire.

Vaughan explains the CSFD always prepares for the worst case, leading them to connect to multiple hydrants on every active fire scene. Had the lumber company fire exploded into a large blaze, firefighters would have been stymied by having to move the trusses to access the hydrant.

"Command called for a second alarm during the incident while the search for working fire hydrants was becoming increasingly difficult and due to the size and type of structure," he says. "However, due to the sprinkler activation and the small amount of active fire left to fight, the second alarm companies remained in staging."

Vaughan called the sprinkler system "a success story," noting that the building could have been a total loss without it.

No injuries resulted to civilians or the 48 firefighters on scene.

Colorado Springs Utilities spokesperson Steve Berry tells the Indy eight private hydrants and six Utilities-owned and -maintained hydrants dot the vicinity of the lumber company. Utilities inspected the city hydrants at intervals according to Utilities policy. But when Utilities workers inspected the malfunctioning hydrant after the fire, they found a blockage at the valve and removed it.

Utilities oversees 16,000 hydrants across the city. Of those, officials consider about 2,200 to be "critical" due to their locations, mandating inspection every two years. Inspectors check on the non-critical hydrants every five years. Officials base the designation of critical on population density, access, spacing and pressure requirements, among other things.

Utilities notes that individuals and contractors use hydrants. "If someone uses the wrong tools to activate a hydrant, the risk for damage is high," Berry says. "With so many hydrants and so many potential sources for damage, a hydrant can be inspected one week and fail the next. We cannot offer the community a 100% guarantee that all 16,000 hydrants will work as expected every single time."
Hydrants are rated throughout the city as critical or not so critical, based on factors such as population density. This is one of three hydrants within a block of the Independent's downtown office. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Hydrants are rated throughout the city as critical or not so critical, based on factors such as population density. This is one of three hydrants within a block of the Independent's downtown office.
Vaughan says investigators later determined the fire ignited from "careless disposal of cigarettes."

The Fire Department is working with the Foxworth-Galbraith to assure hydrants aren't blocked by materials, he says. The company also will update the keys within their Knox Box to allow firefighters unrestricted access.

Asked about the situation that confronted firefighters, David Noblitt, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 5, says in an email, "This would not be the first time that we found an issue with a public hydrant. We have been concerned with the hydrant situation for a long time and that CSU [Springs Utilities] seems to not be keeping pace with the service work necessary to maintain dependable water supplies."

He added the Fire Department employs "redundant strategies" precisely for that reason, and said the fire marshal tries to assure private hydrants get checked every five years but "sometimes it just doesn't happen."

Here are some redundancies used by the Fire Department, according to Vaughan:
• Each fire engine carries 1500 feet of 3 inch supply line specifically to overcome such obstacles where the fire company has to access the next nearest hydrant in-line to supply a fire engine at the scene of a fire.
• CSFD fire engines carry 500 gallons of water on board. Five hundred gallons buys time for life safety when there is a delay in obtaining a fixed water supply.
• The CSFD has 22 fire engines in service each day.
• In the most extreme cases, the CSFD apparatus known as the “Hose Wagon” carries 5,000 feet of large diameter hose (LDH) and may be summoned to create water delivery conduit.
• The experienced fire officer on the scene was able to “read” the smoke and knew (by the color, speed, and pressure) that the sprinkler had extinguished the overwhelming majority of the fire prior to arrival. He initiated preparation for “Plan B” in case there were to be a failure of the sprinkler system and firefighters had been faced with fighting a lumber fire inside the structure.
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Thursday, April 25, 2019

President Trump to speak at AFA graduation

Posted By on Thu, Apr 25, 2019 at 10:44 AM

President Trump will make his first graduation speech at the Air Force Academy in May. - COURTESY WHITE HOUSE
  • Courtesy White House
  • President Trump will make his first graduation speech at the Air Force Academy in May.
President Donald Trump will speak during the 2019 graduation at the Air Force Academy on May 30, KOAA News is reporting.

It will be Trump's first appearance at the Academy's graduation,  which normally rotates speakers among the president, vice president, Air Force secretary and Defense Department secretary.

The last time a president spoke was in 2016 when President Barack Obama was the speaker.

Trump's visit could be seen as a friendly place for the president, who's pushed for a Space Force, which Colorado Springs hopes to land the headquarters for. El Paso County also is known for its Republican dominance in politics.

The Academy confirmed in a news release that Trump will give the graduation address.
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Measles cases at 25-year peak; Colorado avoids outbreak so far

Posted By on Thu, Apr 25, 2019 at 10:12 AM

The number of measles cases in the United States is at its highest since 2000 — the year measles was "eliminated from this country," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced April 24.

So far this year, the CDC has recorded 695 cases of measles in 22 states. That includes just one adult case in Colorado.

"The high number of cases in 2019 is primarily the result of a few large outbreaks — one in Washington State and two large outbreaks in New York that started in late 2018," the statement reads. "The outbreaks in New York City and New York State are among the largest and longest lasting since measles elimination in 2000. The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States."

As reported in the Independent on April 24, Colorado's immunization rates are among the lowest in the country. Some researchers say the state is vulnerable to a measles outbreak, because 90 to 95 percent immunization rates are needed to maintain “herd immunity” — protecting citizens from an outbreak — but the state’s kindergarten MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) fully immunized rate for the 2017-18 school year was 88.76 percent. El Paso County’s was 83.22 percent.

In schools (not kindergartens) MMR fully immunized rates were slightly higher. Across Colorado, 94.46 percent of students are fully immunized. In El Paso County, that number shrinks to 92.14 percent.

State lawmakers recently introduced House Bill 1312, as an effort to boost the state's immunization rates by essentially making it less convenient for parents to get non-medical vaccine exemptions. The bill was set for a vote of the full House on April 25.
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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Dems abandon paid leave program, Denver Post reports

Posted By on Wed, Apr 24, 2019 at 5:47 PM

click image SB188 would have allowed moms to stay home, with pay, to care for newborns. - ROBERT R GIGLIOTTI
  • Robert R Gigliotti
  • SB188 would have allowed moms to stay home, with pay, to care for newborns.

A contentious bill to create a paid family and medical leave program has been abandoned by state Democrats, the Denver Post reported April 24.

Senate Bill 188 was due for a vote of the full Senate this week, but never got that far. Instead, the Post reports, state Sens. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, and Angela Williams, D-Denver, will introduce a new proposal to establish a series of studies into how the state should develop an insurance fund for paid leave.

The latest version of the bill would have required employers and employees to pay a total of 0.64 percent of an employee’s annual wages into a state-run insurance program, which would provide partial wages for employees who take up to 12 weeks of family-related or medical leave. Employers would pay 40 percent of that premium, while employees would pay 60 percent.

The premium amount could change year-to-year, but would not exceed 0.99 percent of annual wages.

Republicans and business groups largely opposed the bill, labeling it as a tax increase that should be subject to the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which requires that any tax increase be put to a vote of the people.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC were both among the bill's vocal opponents.

This was Winter's fifth attempt to pass a bill creating a paid family and medical leave program. Despite the trifecta of Democratic control in the House, Senate and governor's office, the Colorado Sun reports she feared the bill would not draw enough support without major amendments. However, it represents the closest the state ever got to implementing mandatory paid leave.
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NRA files suit against PR firm after 38-year relationship

Posted By on Wed, Apr 24, 2019 at 11:15 AM

Ackerman McQueen's office is located in this building on South Cascade Avenue. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Ackerman McQueen's office is located in this building on South Cascade Avenue.
The National Rifle Association filed suit on April 12 against its long-standing marketing/public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen.

Based in Oklahoma City, Ackerman McQueen also has offices in Washington, D.C., Dallas and at 517 South Cascade Ave. in Colorado Springs. The firm's website describes the local office like this: "Situated at the base of the Rocky Mountains, this office is a creative center for all of our publishing efforts."

A lengthy analysis of the NRA's relationship with Ackerman McQueen was published in The New Yorker on April 17.

From the story:
The suit alleges that Ackerman has denied the N.R.A. access to basic business records, including the terms of Oliver North’s contract, and blames the firm for throwing it into an existential crisis. Ackerman’s general lack of transparency, the complaint says, “threatens to imminently and irreparably harm” the N.R.A.’s status as a nonprofit organization. (In response, the marketing firm issued a statement saying it “has served the NRA and its members with great pride and dedication for the last 38 years. The NRA’s action is frivolous, inaccurate and intended to cause harm to the reputation of our company and the future of that 38-year relationship.”)
The magazine reports delves into the long-standing association of the NRA and Ackerman, noting they're so close "that it is difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins."

The NRA has poured lavish amounts of money into Ackerman. From 2014 to 2016, it paid the firm $52 million, according to IRS filings available on Guidestar. The New Yorker also reported it paid another $40 million to Ackerman in 2017.

A dash of local flavor from the article:
In 2014, [Ackerman CEO] Angus McQueen’s son, Revan, got married, in Colorado Springs, in an opulent affair that brought together the most prominent beneficiaries of Ackerman’s work with the N.R.A. Revan had graduated from New York University only five years earlier, but he was being trained to work as the co-C.E.O. of Ackerman McQueen. During the wedding weekend, Revan and his guests, who included Colion Noir and several college classmates, went to a shooting range to practice tactical movements and fire semi-automatic rifles. The ceremony was held at a resort called the Broadmoor, a cluster of Italian Renaissance buildings set on five thousand acres at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain.... The groomsmen, in black tie, toasted one another with twenty-three-year-old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, which can sell for three thousand dollars a bottle. During the ceremony, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic played on the terrace.
Given the apparent falling out between the NRA and Ackerman, we wondered what that means for its Colorado Springs operation. We telephoned the firm and were told to submit questions in writing, which we did.

We'll update when we hear something.

As a footnote, Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that works toward "commonsense gun policies," issued a news release on April 23, saying, "In light of the revelations from the New Yorker investigative piece, Everytown has filed a complaint about the NRA's tax-exempt status with the IRS, and is calling for federal and state investigations into the NRA's operation as a tax-exempt organization."
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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Suthers comes out against paid family and medical leave bill

Posted By on Tue, Apr 23, 2019 at 5:05 PM

  • File photo
Mayor John Suthers came out in opposition to a state bill that would create a paid family and medical leave program, ahead of the Senate vote scheduled for April 23.

In a statement, the mayor said, “I’ve spoken with businesses of all sizes and they’ve made it loud and clear that State Bill 19-188 will be an imposing detriment on the vitality of their operations. Though well-intentioned, the FAMLI [Family Medical Leave Insurance] proposal is the largest and most expensive program of its kind in the nation. The cost imposed upon every employee and employer in the state, as well as state government, will significantly harm our economy.”

The latest version of the bill would require employers and employees to pay a total of 0.64 percent of an employee’s annual wages into a state-run insurance program, which would provide partial wages for employees who take up to 12 weeks of family-related or medical leave. Employers would pay 40 percent of that premium, while employees would pay 60 percent.

The premium amount could change year-to-year, but would not exceed 0.99 percent of annual wages.

Other states that have already implemented similar programs include California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York. None of those programs require employers to contribute.

Supporters of Senate Bill 188 accuse the "corporate lobby" of confusing the public about the bill.

“Despite misinformation spread by lobbyists seeking to sow doubt and confusion, economic experts have proven the program will be fiscally sound and completely solvent," said Judith Marquez, the co-director of 9-to-5 Colorado, an advocacy organization backing the bill. "We all agree that working families need to be able to care for newborns and seriously ill parents, children and spouses without risking their homes and financial security, and passing FAMLI now is the way to do it."

The Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC also released a statement opposing the bill, on April 17.

"Senate Bill 188 is a $1 billion or more tax increase that sets one-size-fits-all rules for paid time off of work, by law, and imposes them on all employers and employees regardless of an employer’s size, location, industry or the specific needs of a given workplace," the statement reads.

A recent amendment does allow local governments to opt out of the program, but Suthers pointed out in his statement that "local government employees could opt in, leaving private sector and nonprofit employees and employers to subsidize their coverage."

You could be eligible for partial wage benefits under the bill if you: have a serious health condition; are caring for a new child during the first year after birth, adoption or foster care placement; are caring for a family member with a serious health condition; have a need arising from a family member's active duty service or notice of an impending call to active duty; or if you or a family member has a serious health condition related to domestic abuse, sexual assault or abuse, or stalking.

Under the bill, an individual would be eligible to receive 90 percent of their wages below the average weekly wage (currently $1,295) and 50 percent of wages equal or above AWW. So, a person making $1,000 a week would receive $758.90 a week while on paid leave, and someone making $1,500 a week would get $1,000 a week on paid leave.

The person making $1,000 would pay about $200 a year into the paid leave program. Their employer would pay $133 a year.

The person making $1,500 would pay about $300 a year. Their employer would pay $200.
Opponents of the bill argue that the bill amounts to a tax increase, and therefore is subject to the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which requires that tax increases be approved by a vote of the people. However, the paid leave program would be created as a state enterprise, not as a payroll tax — which would mean, according to a legislative analysis, that it wouldn't be subject to TABOR.

Sen. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, who sponsored the bill, has argued in the past that the premium amounts to about the same cost as a cup of coffee a week, and is a needed protection for Coloradans.

“Many workers simply can’t afford to choose between a paycheck and caring for a recovering spouse without the risk of being evicted or getting behind on utility bills,” she said in an October statement.
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Friday, April 19, 2019

Airman at local Air Force Base is accused of ties to white nationalist groups

Posted By on Fri, Apr 19, 2019 at 12:22 PM

Schriever Air Force Base is investigating allegations that a master sergeant serving there is part of a white supremacist group, as first reported by The Denver Post.

Master Sgt. Cory Reeves is accused of being affiliated with Identity Evropa, which has rebranded as the American Identity Movement. The former pasted its symbols around Colorado Springs and on the Independent's newspaper boxes in January.

The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies Identity Evropa as a hate group and outlines the rebranding to the new name here.

The Indy unsuccessfully tried to reach Reeves for comment, both through Schriever and by knocking on the door of a home listed under his name by the El Paso County Assessor's Office. The Post was able to reach Reeves and he declined to comment. He then hung up when asked if he was a member of Identity Evropa.
Unicorn Riot notes on DiscordLeaks that it does not endorse any material in the chats and that its publication "is part of an effort to document violent far-right political movements." The material and photos were compiled by "A team of anonymous developers ...  with help from Unicorn Riot collective members." "Discord" and the "Discord app" are trademarks of Discord, Inc. - FROM THE DISCORDLEAKS WEBSITE
  • From the DiscordLeaks website
  • Unicorn Riot notes on DiscordLeaks that it does not endorse any material in the chats and that its publication "is part of an effort to document violent far-right political movements." The material and photos were compiled by "A team of anonymous developers ... with help from Unicorn Riot collective members." "Discord" and the "Discord app" are trademarks of Discord, Inc.
Evidence of Reeves' involvement is found on a website created by the Colorado Springs Anti-fascists group.

Asked about the accusations, Cheri Dragos-Pritchard, chief of Media Operations and Community Engagement for the 50th Space Wing Public Affairs Office at Schriever, issued this statement:
The Air Force is aware of this allegation and Air Force officials are looking into this information at this time. No further information or details of this allegation can be released until the facts involving this allegation are fully reviewed. Racism, bigotry, hatred, and discrimination have no place in the Air Force. We are committed to maintaining a culture where all Airmen feel welcome and can thrive.
Dragos-Pritchard referred the media to the Pentagon for more information. The Indy was unable to reach anyone to address the Reeves case.

The goal of the Antifa group is to identify white supremacists and extremists and expose them, a process called "doxxing," one member of the group tells the Independent. Exposing extremists, the member says, can destroy careers and ruin friendships and family relationships, which is the point.

"If you let Identity Evropa control the narrative," the source says, "they're going to organize, recruit and hold big rallies. They're going to eventually gain office and use their power in office to target minorities, the LGBT community, the Jewish community."

The Antifa member isn't being identified due to that person's fear that their family members could be physically harmed. (See our anonymity policy below.)
From the Antifa website:
As a Master Sergeant, Cory Reeves is a bit far into his military career. As a senior non-commissioned officer, he should know better than to organize with these extremist groups. He bet his retirement, his GI Bill benefits, his security clearance (and with it, post-military employment) on the hope that he would never be identified. He was incredibly careful, but in the end he was caught. Antifascists will continue to disrupt racist and fascist organizing.
The military bars its members from extremist activities. Specifically, an Air Force instruction states, "Military personnel must reject participation in organizations that advocate or espouse supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes, including those that advance, encourage, or advocate illegal causes; attempt to create illegal discrimination based on race, color, gender, religion, national origin, or ethnic group; advocate the use of force or violence; or otherwise engage in the effort to deprive individuals of their civil rights."

Violation of that instruction could lead to disciplinary action or charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Reeves, the website says, allegedly used the username “Argument of Perigee” — a term used to describe the angle within a satellite's orbit plane — on the Identity Evropa Discord server, recently leaked by a nonprofit called Unicorn Riot.

The use of the name can be found here.

The website says Reeves used his real name in a podcast with Patrick Casey, the Evropa leader who later rebranded the group as American Identity Movement. Reeves, the website claims, appeared in Evropa activities in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Florida, New York, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Groups that seek to preserve "white rights" have gained traction in recent years and grabbed headlines, such as the August 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Va., where white supremacists held a rally and clashed with counter-protesters, triggering violence that left one dead and 30 injured. Identity Evropa participated in that rally.

One expert, Carter Smith, told the Post the military can be a place of recruitment for white supremacists and far-right nationalist groups, due to training in communications and firearms and the fact that many soldiers and airmen are young and still forming opinions and beliefs. Smith is a former Army criminal investigator who's a professor at Middle Tennessee State University who studies gangs and criminal activity in the military.

Earlier this year, a Coast Guard lieutenant who's a self-described white nationalist was arrested  in connection with a plot to kill journalists and Democratic politicians. He's pleaded not guilty, according to news reports.

Former Gazette reporter Dave Philipps, who now works for The New York Times, wrote about extremists in the military in February. The story notes that the Pentagon's "posture has generally been that the number of troops involved in extremist activity is tiny, that there are strict regulations against discrimination and extremist activity, and that military commanders are empowered to discipline and discharge troops who break them."

The Indy's policy on granting anonymity is as follows:

The Independent may choose to grant anonymity:
• to protect sources or their families' safety, freedom, livelihood or major assets (such as a lease);
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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Air Force Academy hosts talk of Shroud of Turin's alleged authenticity

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 at 3:52 PM

A poster advertising the talk at the Air Force Academy.
  • A poster advertising the talk at the Air Force Academy.
We received this statement from the Air Force Academy via email:
As an institution of higher learning, the United States Air Force Academy engages with a diverse set of topics and viewpoints. This talk was advertised and held under the same conditions as all other talks — without any endorsement or requirement of attendance. We are always vigilant of religious respect and freedom, and will continue to review our processes to ensure that all talks and events comply with these tenets.

————-ORIGINAL POST 3:52 P.M. THURSDAY, APRIL 18, 2019————————-

The Air Force Academy allowed former physics professor Rolf Enger to present a talk espousing the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, the discredited "burial cloth" of Jesus Christ. The lecture happened this week, during the school day, in an academic classroom during a "special Easter presentation."

Some say the talk, which took place four days before Easter, violated the military's prohibition against favoring one religion over another. That's especially bothersome, they say, given the history of allegations that the Academy promotes fundamental Christianity as a ticket to promotions and favored treatment.

Barry Fagin, a computer science professor nearing his 25th year at the Academy, argues the school's seeming endorsement of the talk, sponsored by the Christian Faculty Fellowship, is embarrassing in light of scientific evidence that the shroud is merely a 14th century forgery that's been proven time and again through carbon dating not to date to the crucifixion.

Academy officials did not immediately respond to our request for comment. But, in the past, the Academy has denied that it favors one religion over another, but rather has asserted it must, in accord with Air Force Instruction 1-1, balance free exercise of religion with the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. That instruction also states that military leaders "must ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of, or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief."

Military Religious Freedom Foundation founder Mikey Weinstein says that 23 people — cadets, faculty and staff — complained to him about the lecture. A vocal critic of what he views as the Academy's religious bias, Weinstein, a 1977 Academy grad, started his foundation in 2004.

Mikey Weinstein - COURTESY MRFF
  • Courtesy MRFF
  • Mikey Weinstein
Weinstein says he was told by the complainants that they were disappointed, and that many noted that this incident came on the heels of "that Chick-fil-A fiasco." (The Academy hosted an executive from the fast-food company, which supports anti-LGBTQ efforts, to speak at the Character and Leadership Development Symposium earlier this term.)

"The command climate is so toxic there, they have to come to us," Weinstein says. "It’s the utter hypocrisy from a school that prides itself on honor code, character and leadership, honesty, integrity — all of these great things, but viciously violating the Constitution, its case law and directions and instructions."

Retired Brig Gen. Marty France, a former permanent professor and department head of the astronautics department who now serves on MRFF's advisory board, wrote to Vice Superintendent Houston Cantwell and Superintendent Jay Silveria expressing concern over the lecture.

"My colleagues were shocked that this sort of briefing, not even hiding its relationship to a specific religious belief (but proclaiming it) would be held during the duty day," France wrote in the letter, obtained by the Indy.

"Sure, it's voluntary, but when many of the attendees are in uniform, wearing rank, and in supervisory roles, we know that judgments are made," the letter said. "Moreover, just posting these flyers requires DF [dean of faculty] approval, so it's fair to assume that this is the endorsed position of the Dean... Dr Enger is free to present his 'research' based on some legend that the Academy has endorsed since the Frank J Seiler Research Lab misused taxpayer money back in the 70s and 80s in an attempt to prove the authenticity of this found piece of cloth (spoiler alert—it didn't really come from the presumed era or region of Jesus). I'm old enough to have been subjected to some of these briefings as a cadet and junior officer. It was wrong for the government to do it then, and it's wrong to provide a platform during the duty day to present it now."

France suggested such presentations should be held in the Cadet Chapel or Community Center Chapel, not in an academic building during the academic day.

As Weinstein tells the Indy, "It would be one thing to do it from a religious perspective, but it’s an embarrassing lack of science at a technically science school."

Which is the beef coming from Fagin, who attended the talk and observed 40 to 50 people there.
The Academy's football team kneeling in prayer before a football game several years ago. - COURTESY MRFF
  • Courtesy MRFF
  • The Academy's football team kneeling in prayer before a football game several years ago.
"I found this to be very embarrassing," Fagin tells the Indy by phone. "The best evidence we have, the overwhelming evidence is that the shroud was a 14th century forgery."

Fagin clicked through that evidence, which includes three independent carbon dating tests, all of which concluded it dates to the 14th century.

Believers, he says, argue that a fire in the cathedral where the shroud was kept skewed the carbon dating results. "The amount of carbon needed to throw it off would be more than the entire weight of the shroud itself," Fagin says, adding that the substance of the talk comprised "recycled arguments that have been refuted a long, long time ago."

Fagin cited numerous studies of the fabric's weave, stains that believers purport to be blood  and other features of the shroud that have found it to be a hoax.
"These claims are no better than UFOs or Big Foot or astrology," he says. "The science has shown that all those things are not true. The same process that tells us all those things aren’t real tells us the Shroud of Turin is a painting."

He adds, "My views are my own and do not reflect those of the Air Force Academy, the Air Force or the Department of Defense. I only wish they did."

The The Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) was housed at the Academy, due to efforts promoted by a former Academy physics professor, John Jackson.
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University of Colorado faces backlash over presumed pick for president

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 at 2:16 PM

For nearly three years, Mark Kennedy has served as president of the University of North Dakota, but he made a name for himself as a Congressman in Minnesota. - PUBLIC DOMAIN
  • Public domain
  • For nearly three years, Mark Kennedy has served as president of the University of North Dakota, but he made a name for himself as a Congressman in Minnesota.

Since the University of Colorado Board of Regents named Mark Kennedy as the only finalist for the position of president of CU’s four-campus system (which includes local UCCS), blowback has been monumental. On April 14, a group of CU stakeholders including professors, students, community members and more — more than 4,500 people total — released an open letter to the Board of Regents condemning their choice.

Why? Because Mark Kennedy, former Republican member of Congress, has a voting record that seemingly goes against values CU ostensibly supports. This open letter reads, in part:

Colorado’s reputation as an open and inclusive place to live, work, and study would be damaged by the choice of Mr. Kennedy as President of the University of Colorado. As a member of Congress, Mr. Kennedy voted against stem cell research and against grants for colleges serving Black and Latinx students, and he voted twice against marriage equality. This record runs contrary to the Regents’ commitment to cutting-edge research and to “building a community of students, faculty, and staff in which diversity is a fundamental value.”

A protest was held on the CU-Boulder campus on April 15, and demonstrations will likely continue as Kennedy plans visits to CU campuses throughout the week of April 22. United Mexican American Students y Movimiento Estudiantil Chincanx de Azlán and CU Young Democratic Socialists of America have begun planning a major demonstration on April 26, when Kennedy is slated to appear at CU-Boulder. A comprehensive Facebook page has even been created: CU Against Kennedy, encouraging use of the hashtags #studentsagainstkennedy and #CUagainstkennedy.

Kennedy’s seemingly imminent appointment has even gotten the attention of a major nonprofit organization. On April 18, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains released a statement from its CEO Vicki Cowart, in opposition to Kennedy. “I am alarmed by a litany of his congressional votes on civil rights,” Cowart’s statement says. “Congressman Kennedy voted yes on increasing federal funding for health care providers that refuse to provide or even refer patients for abortion care, voted yes on banning family planning funding for providers abroad who counsel patients on abortion options, and has been a full-throated supporter of the extremist anti-choice movement.”

The statement also mentions his record on same-sex marriage, pointing out that he cosponsored a “Marriage Protection Amendment” during his time in office.

"His background does not rise to the level of president of Colorado’s flagship university that values diversity, human rights, academic research, science, and educational freedom of thought,” Cowart says. “The regents should vote no."
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Regional Building looks to spread its wings to the north

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 at 11:13 AM

Cash from the sale of this building at 101 W. Costilla St. will be used for expansion of the Regional Building Department into north Colorado Springs. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Cash from the sale of this building at 101 W. Costilla St. will be used for expansion of the Regional Building Department into north Colorado Springs.
The cash-rich Pikes Peak Regional Building Department has found a use for some of the millions of dollars it's amassed over the last several years: It plans to build a new facility amid the super-heated area of development in northern Colorado Springs.

In a news release issued April 16, RBD announced it's negotiating to buy 12.7 acres of land but didn't say where.

RBD spokesperson Greg Dingrando tells the Indy via email the Regional Building Commission has authorized staff to negotiate a purchase on the "north side" of the city and that, "As the purchase is subject to negotiations, the exact location cannot be released."

Nor would Dingrando give a rough estimate of what the project will cost, also citing ongoing negotiations.

"The Pikes Peak region has experienced significant growth on the north side, which is expected to continue," RBD's release said. "The addition of a satellite office will help meet community needs while ensuring Regional Building remains sustainable."

Regional Building Official Roger Lovell noted in the release the satellite office will be located "in the middle of the action."

It's expected to provide core services, including issuing permits, plan review, inspections and, possibly, contractor licensing for its members, which include Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Fountain, Manitou Springs, Green Mountain Falls, Monument and Palmer Lake. Details have not yet been finalized. The public can comment on the new site during the April 25 RBD meeting at 2 p.m. at RBD headquarters, 2880 International Circle.

The project will not lead to higher fees, Lovell said in the release.
That's probably because RBD has amassed more than $13 million in its reserve funds since mid-2016 from the thousands of building permits issued due to damage caused by hail storms, as well as the 2017 sale of land RBD owned in the downtown area.

Dingrando says the source of the money for the new project comes from the land sale.

RBD sold the properties — at 101 W. Costilla St., RBD's former headquarters building which also has been used as a sheriff's office, and its neighboring parking lot, and a vacant lot at 435 Sahwatch St. — to Nor'wood Development Group, master developer of the Southwest Downtown Urban Renewal Area. (In August 2016, RBD struck a deal with Nor'wood to partner in developing the two properties, but later backed away after the Indy reported state statutes specify what types of investments are allowed for a public agency, and private land speculation and development aren't permitted.) Nor'wood paid RBD $3,069,100, or 6 percent less than the appraised value, but significantly more than the $2.1 million the Assessor's Office said the land was worth.

Both parcels are a short distance from the Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame, which is under construction at Vermijo Avenue and Sierra Madre Street and forms the anchor for an ambitious overhaul of the lower downtown area by Nor'wood.

RBD gave away nearly $1 million in 2016 and 2017 to charitable causes or community projects, despite having no formal policy for such giving. Those activities were suspended, however, until a donation policy was adopted in December 2018.

RBD's headquarters on International Circle is a two-story, 74,202-square-foot building on 18.6 acres owned by the El Paso County Facilities Corp., which the Assessor's Office values at $16.4 million.

The Regional Building Commission is comprised of Green Mountain Falls Treasurer Tyler Stevens, Colorado Springs City Councilor Tom Strand and El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller.
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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Cripple Creek-Victor School District board recall effort will move forward

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 3:35 PM

  • Stacie Gonzalez
An effort to recall three members of the Cripple Creek-Victor School District RE-1 board has turned in enough valid signatures for a special election, Teller County Chief Deputy Clerk Stephanie Kees confirmed April 17.

The recall effort, led by the group Hear Us (See Cover, Feb. 27), faced a hurdle when the Teller County Clerk and Recorder's office identified a shortfall of more than 200 valid petition signatures. The recall petitions required at least 400 signatures per school board member, but many of those originally submitted in March were rejected for various reasons. The clerk's office gave Hear Us until April 10 to gather the remaining signatures.

The three targeted school board members — Board President Tim Braun, Treasurer Dennis Jones and Secretary Tonya Martin — have until May 2 to protest the election, Kees says. But they can only protest on the grounds that Hear Us does not have enough valid signatures or that the ballot summary language is more than 200 words. (Kees says the clerk's office has confirmed that the signatures are valid and the summary adheres to word limits. However, a hearing would be held in the case that the board members choose to protest anyway.)

Barring a successful protest, the recall election must be held within 60 days after the protest period has passed, Kees says. 
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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Gov. Polis signs major oil and gas bill

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 5:51 PM

  • Shutterstock.com
Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 181 into law on April 16, setting into motion major changes to the way the oil and gas industry is regulated in Colorado.

The new law grants local governments broad powers to regulate oil and gas operations, including to “zone land use for mineral resource development, to site, monitor, and inspect oil and gas facilities, and to impose fees and fines,” according the bill’s fiscal note.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will move from “fostering” the oil and gas industry to “regulating” it, and will add new rules aimed at protecting health and the environment. The law makes that a full-time, seven-member board appointed by the governor with the Senate’s approval. Only one board member can hail from the oil and gas industry.

The bill first passed the Senate on March 13 with a vote of 19-15, and passed the House on March 29 with several amendments, one of which requires that local regulations are “reasonable” in scope. The Senate approved House amendments on April 3, sending the bill to the governor's desk.

The law's opponents — who argue that it could hurt state and local economies supported by the oil and gas industry — are already seeking to recall certain elected officials that supported the bill and to overturn the new law.

Weld County Commission Chair Barbara Kirkmeyer, along with John Brackney, a former Arapahoe County commissioner, have filed ballot initiative language with the Colorado Secretary of State. Once that's approved, they'll need to gather nearly 125,000 petition signatures to refer an initiative to voters.

Their ballot initiative would remake the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission into a board selected by retired judges from a list of nominees. (Senate Bill 181 lets the governor appoint the board with the Senate's approval.)

Under the ballot initiative, the Commission would also have to adopt the rules that were in place on Dec. 31, 2018. SB181 changed those rules to protect public health and the environment.
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