Friday, March 16, 2018

Colorado colleges to high schoolers: Activism and protests won't impact admissions

  • rob zs
In 2012, there were approximately 30,861 private schools (serving 5.3 million PK-12 students) and 98,328 public schools throughout the United States, according to the National Center For Education Statistics. But as recent events have shown, a school is no longer a safe haven. While many of these young Americans want to catalyze change in this country, particularly as it pertains to gun control, some are being threatened with disciplinary action if they engage in peaceful protest, walk-outs, or demonstrations. Fortunately, many Colorado colleges are joining other institutions across the nation to tell these students that taking part in these forms of activism will have no negative impact on their chances of being accepted during the admissions process.

More than 100 schools across the country — including Colorado State University, Metropolitan State University of Denver, University of Colorado, Regis University, and the University of Denver — have reassured students applying to their institutions that their admissions status would not be affected by disciplinary records (including suspensions) that stem from lawful, peaceful protest.

CU Boulder admissions office officials expressed that their students are active and engaged citizens, saying that those who "peacefully exercise their right to free speech do not need to be worried about consequences in the admissions process."

While the University of Colorado does require students who are suspended to inform the university, any suspensions stemming from activism would not have a negative impact on whether or not they're admitted to the school. Most other colleges and universities involved have sent out social media messages to would-be students communicating support and pride for those who participate their rights and make their voices heard.

Following the February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida, several nationwide walkouts and protests have been planned. Students from several high schools in Colorado, including Palmer High, Rampart High, West Middle School, Coronado High, Cheyenne Mountain High, Manitou Springs High and others in Colorado Springs, participated in the National School Walkout on March 14. At least three other protests are currently scheduled all around the country, including the March for Our Lives protest (organized by Stoneman Douglas High School students) and the National School Walkout rally, which is to take place on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

Some schools have not been so forgiving to students who want to participate. In Texas, one school superintendent warned students that they would receive a three-day out-of-school suspension if they took part in civil disobedience. Another school district in Milwaukee, Wisconsin originally stated that students who participated in these protests would be punished, but the school superintendent later backed down and said students could be excused if they had permission from their parents.

But where the high schools won't support their students, colleges are stepping in. Whether these students go on to be among the approximate 40,000 who graduate from law school each year or choose to attain only their bachelor's degree, it's comforting to know these Colorado schools — as well as other colleges nationwide — have their backs.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Students walked out against gun violence. Let's honor them.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 6:12 PM

Palmer High School walk-out - ASHLEY PERRY
  • Ashley Perry
  • Palmer High School walk-out

Wednesday, at 10 a.m., students across the country walked out to demand action against gun violence. They spent 17 minutes outside, one for each person killed in the Valentine's Day massacre in Parkland, Florida this year.

A lot of people have said that this isn't appropriate action for students. Of course, people said the same thing about protesters during the Civil Rights movement, or during the Vietnam War.

The Gazette editorial page, in particular, has run several opinion pieces in recent days claiming that, by supporting their students' First Amendment rights (yes, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled this is within a student's constitutional rights), school administrators were putting kids in harm's way. They said that liberals are enticing kids to protest, ignoring the fact that the students who survived the Parkland shooting have sparked this movement out of a place of deep trauma and a need for change. They've claimed that so-called "walk-ins" would be a better option for kids, or that schools wouldn't allow kids to walk out for Jesus.


Children across the country left their classrooms, often with their teachers and parents meeting them on their schools' lawn. They came out to say that they're tired of lawmakers stalling on a problem that is claiming so many young lives. They came out to say that they're scared to go to school. They came out to exercise their right to speak — a right that Americans, even young Americans, cherish. They came out to protect their fundamental right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Let's not forget that every kid gunned down in our schools is robbed of that fundamental right.

Americans are all over the place when it comes to gun control. But the students that walked out today make a fair point: This issue has been so polarizing that lawmakers have, in most cases, deadlocked, doing nothing to prevent the next school shooting. By speaking out, our country's children are telling us that isn't enough. Something must be done.

We shouldn't be ashamed of these kids. We should honor them. They're brave, they're bold, and in making their voices heard, they are 100 percent American.
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State of the Outdoors 2018, a conference on all things outside

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 3:41 PM

March 15, 3:30-6:30 p.m., Colorado Springs City Auditorium, 221 E. Kiowa St., $20, - BETHANY ALVAREZ
  • Bethany Alvarez
  • March 15, 3:30-6:30 p.m., Colorado Springs City Auditorium, 221 E. Kiowa St., $20,
While we’re all fond of Colorado’s many assets — craft breweries, legal marijuana and the like — we know that our greatest community asset is (and hopefully always will be) our natural landscapes. The Pikes Peak region is home to nationally loved landmarks, hiking trails and the kind of outdoor beauty that truly deserves the term “great outdoors,” and those resources are worth investing in. To that end, join some of Colorado’s outdoor-minded organizations, businesses and community leaders for this conference on all things outside. Start the day with an outdoor community expo, featuring businesses, nonprofits and land management entities. Network with like-minded folks and find ways to get involved in the world outside your window. Following that, check out the main event: a gubernatorial forum with candidates Stephen Barlock, Noel Ginsburg, Bill Hammons, Greg Lopez, Donna Lynne and Erik Underwood. Moderated by Colorado Springs Business Journal editor Bryan Grossman, this forum is an opportunity to get to know your candidates’ stances on important natural issues. Another plus, Thursday’s event will include the official release of The Outdoor Industry Association’s economic impact numbers for the 5th Congressional District (that’s us).
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Bookman finds new location ahead of planned closure

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 1:58 PM

Arthur and Kelly Klipple, owners of The Bookman, have found a new location.
  • Arthur and Kelly Klipple, owners of The Bookman, have found a new location.
The owners of the Bookman say they won't need to close their business due to a lease hike after all. While the current location will still close at the end of May, as we previously reported, a new location,  at 631 W. Colorado Ave., will open on June 1.

Co-owner Kelly Klipple says she was delighted to find a new home for the store. "I think just remaining calm allowed for it to happen honestly," she says, adding that the store's  "amazing customer base" helped with the search.

The Bookman, currently located at 3163 W. Colorado Ave., has been around for three decades, but the Kelly and co-owner and husband Arthur say that pressure on the industry combined with a rent hike was too much to bear.

The new three-year lease will allow the Klipples to pay the bills while keeping the community fixture open. The new location will, however, be smaller (about 2,000 square feet compared to the current 3,000), so Kelly says the store will be having out a lot of sales leading up to the move.

"I mean there's stuff we probably don't even know we have," Kelly says of the store's packed inventory.
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Air Force Academy: Two proposals for new visitors center

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 12:57 PM

When we put together our story about the City for Champions projects and their status, which appears in this week's Independent, we hadn't heard from the Air Force Academy.

But on March 13, we received answers to a couple of our questions about the Academy Visitors Center, to be built outside the north gate.

The Academy reports that it issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) in 2016 to build the new Visitors Center. Although the Academy received three responses, it later cancelled the RFQ "after determining the proposals did not meet all the project requirements."

The Academy then issued a second RFQ in July 2017. Proposals were due Dec. 8, 2017. Two responses were submitted. The Academy offered no additional information, including which proposal was chosen or a timeline of construction.

Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority Executive Director Jariah Walker says he's heard two proposals were submitted and that an office at the Pentagon will choose. "I believe we’re going to be shortly finding out what one that is," he said in an interview last week. "Last I checked, they had selected one. But I don’t have the full details."

The Urban Renewal Authority is the financial vehicle for $120.5 million in state sales tax money over 30 years that will be provided to the city for City for Champions via the Regional Tourism Act.

The other projects are a downtown sports stadium, the U.S. Olympic Museum and the William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Douglas Bruce, TABOR Ruined Colorado, says Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

Posted By on Tue, Mar 13, 2018 at 1:29 PM

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee took on the Taxpayers Bill of Rights and its famously cantankerous author Douglas Bruce in this March 7 segment:

While hilarious, it's worth noting that the show doesn't address what many consider to be the most fiscally destructive components of Colorado's famous tax-restricting law, most notably the so-called ratchet-down effect. The show segment blames Colorado's fiscal problems on TABOR's requirement that all taxes be approved by voters. But an arguably larger impact has been the way the law shrinks existing taxes (not just for the state government, but for local governments as well).

Approximately one billion years ago (OK, nine years ago), I wrote about how that ratchet-effect (which interacts with another big penny-pinching law) shrinks government coffers even in good times.

It's worth noting that despite its restrictive nature, TABOR doesn't tend to eliminate government so much as lead to the creation of lots of little, less efficient, and less accountable governmental taxing entities. It also increases the disparity between rich and poor and older and newer parts of town; underfunds schools; and leads to huge burdens of unfunded maintenance on everything from roads to government buildings to stormwater systems. (We pay more to replace this infrastructure down the road because we can't afford to maintain it.)

So while we enjoy Bee's show, this segment plays into a myth: That the main destructive force of TABOR is also it's most popular provision. TABOR does give taxpayers the right to vote on tax increases. But that's not the only thing it does. And it's not the big problem with the law.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Colorado Springs' southwest downtown needs an expensive scrub

Posted By on Wed, Mar 7, 2018 at 4:27 PM

Looking northeast, this 5.6 acres lies southwest of the downtown area and is estimated to carry a $4.4 million cleanup cost associated with coal tar left from a coal gasification plant that operated there more than 100 years ago. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Looking northeast, this 5.6 acres lies southwest of the downtown area and is estimated to carry a $4.4 million cleanup cost associated with coal tar left from a coal gasification plant that operated there more than 100 years ago.

Will a key portion of the southwest downtown area rise again? That's the question we explore in this week's Independent in a story about city-owned contaminated land near America the Beautiful Park on Cimino Drive.

One question that arises is whether tax increment financing (TIF) could be applied toward the mitigation effort, which is estimated to cost $4.4 million.

TIF is a commonly used financing tool for public infrastructure in urban renewal areas whereby the increment in sales and property tax revenues created by development in those areas is set aside for streets, utilities and other public needs to develop a viable commercial district.

So we asked the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority's executive director Jariah Walker that question.

The short answer is, yes, TIF could be used for cleanup.

"The URA board would review any application with specific costs and needs for the expected TIF and then ultimately put it to city council for final approval," Walker says in an email. "The quick answer to your question is that TIF can be used for many different public improvements which can include abatement."

But he also says the URA board has not been presented with a plan detailing any specifics. If such a request arises, he adds, "This would be handled through an application process that would authorize a conditions study and financial analysis on the presented project(s)."

But one problem with seeking a TIF at this stage of the game is that most of the 25-year time limit for urban renewal areas has expired, after the 100-acre area was declared the Southwest Downtown Urban Renewal Area in 2001. That means if a TIF were allowed tomorrow, only 13 years would be left during which TIF money could be used to fund public facilities, or a cleanup. That may not be enough to cover the costs.

Nothing prevents the master developer, Nor'wood Development Group, from seeking a new urban renewal designation, however, Walker acknowledged.

We've contacted Nor'wood President Chris Jenkins and will circle back if and when we hear from him.

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Air Force Academy Endowment chief wears religion on his necktie

Posted By on Wed, Mar 7, 2018 at 2:31 PM

Gould in a Christian fish symbol necktie. - CHECKPOINTS
  • Checkpoints
  • Gould in a Christian fish symbol necktie.
Neckties can say a lot about a person. President Trump favors the long red variety, whatever that means, and the colorful graphic designs of Rush Limbaugh's line of neckties spoke of success and trendiness in the 1980s and 1990s.

For retired Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, a necktie proclaims his religious beliefs.

At least, that was the choice he made for a photo used in the Association of Graduates' Checkpoints publication in December in an article in which he was introduced as the new CEO of the AOG's sister organization, Air Force Academy Endowment. (He was hired in August.)

Gould, a 1976 Academy grad who served as superintendent there from 2009 to 2013, chose a red tie covered with fish symbols, which represent "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior," according to several sources, including Christianity Today.

One Academy staffer called Gould's choice of the tie as an "in-your-face" proclamation of Christian faith by a person who, presumably, will be expected to solicit funds to support Academy cadets of all faiths.

The staffer, who didn't want to be identified for fear of retribution, alerted the MRFF's CEO Mikey Weinstein to the necktie and the message it sends via email, which said, in part:
I know that the MRFF had long battles with Mike [Gould] during his tenure as Supt [sic] considering his previous history as an avowed evangelical Christian, ties to a local megachurch, and his wife’s many public statements at Academy events declaring their faith and the necessity of all in the Air Force to have similar views. Many claimed that you were on a Witch Hunt, discriminating against Christians as you (in their view) picked at the edges of AFI 1-1 [Air Force instruction requiring no show of favoritism to a specific religion] to point out inequities and religious bias throughout the military. Gould declared his innocence and dedication to treating all equally—while he was in uniform—and fought all comers that claimed that bias existed in his office or at the Academy. As it turns out, though, you were right all along.

Eventually, the truth comes out. With this carefully chosen tie—and one doesn’t make a choice like that lightly if they have the experience of the Lt Gen—he’s declared his faith and his allegiance over and well above the organization he’s now probably paid over $200K per year to lead. In so doing, he’s also not-so-subtly sent the message that he always thought USAFA was a bastion of Christendom and that he intends to extend that identity to the graduate community and the philanthropic organization he leads to support the Academy’s mission.
Reached by phone, Gould says, "I don't have anything to say to you about that. No comment."

But Weinstein, the bane of the Academy for more than a decade due to its perceived favoritism of fundamentalist Christianity, had plenty to say.

This is the symbol that peppered Gould's necktie. - VICTOR FITZPATRICK
  • Victor Fitzpatrick
  • This is the symbol that peppered Gould's necktie.
He reports he started to get phone calls, text messages and emails from more than two dozen clients at the Academy, including cadets and faculty who were offended by Gould's necktie choice.

"This is one of the most blatant things we’ve seen," Weinstein says. "That tie stood out like a tarantula on a wedding cake."

"On his maiden voyage to say hello as CEO of the endowment, he carefully chose that photograph to be sure he was following the great commission to go and make Christians of all nations," he says. "If Gould feels he has to proselytize like this while supporting the Academy's values about inclusion, he needs to put in an application to Focus on the Family. Wearing that tie is very much like sticking a middle finger to diversity, the First Amendment and the Academy's core values. It’s hypocrisy writ large. It’s hurtful, it’s wrong and it colors everything he did at the academy."

Weinstein reports that AOG president and CEO Marty Marcolongo, a 1988 Academy grad, told him it was a misstep that slipped through and that the magazine would carry an apology in an upcoming issue.

But that couldn't be verified. Marcolongo didn't respond to emails and a phone call from the Independent. 

Weinstein gave Gould the nickname "lord of lies" after Gould failed to make it clear that religious affiliation doesn't make or break a cadet, staffer or faculty member.

In 2010, Gould refused to release the cadet climate survey saying the religious climate had improved. But the Indy obtained a copy on its own and reported:
The survey, obtained by the Independent in August, shows that 41 percent of non-Christian cadets responding to the survey said they were subjected to unwanted religious proselytizing. For Christian cadets, it was 14 percent. Also, 42 percent of non-Christian cadets said they were drawn into unwanted religious discussions, compared to 21 percent of Christians.
Current Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria drew headlines for a speech to cadets about racism in October when he said, in part, "If you can't treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out."

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Pikes Peak Summit House environmental study completed

Posted By on Tue, Mar 6, 2018 at 10:44 AM

In a 409-page report that delves into environmental issues ranging from air quality to soils, the U.S. Forest Service concludes there will be no significant impact to the environment from building a new Summit House atop Pikes Peak.

The draft environmental assessment concluded, "After reviewing the EA, the Forest Service has determined the Proposed Action will not, individually or cumulatively, significantly affect the quality of the human, biological, or physical environment."

The Forest Service further determined, based on the "context and intensity" of the project, that a more thorough and lengthy Environmental Impact Statement isn't required.

Besides a new $50-million Summit House, the project includes two other components. Here's a description from the EA:
The city, PPAM [PIkes Peak America's Mountain], U.S. Army, and CSU [Colorado Springs Utilities] have requested approval to design and construct three facilities on two building sites on the summit of Pikes Peak as accepted by the U.S. Forest Service in a letter dated April 16, 2014.

Connected to the proposal and integral to the proposed project is decommissioning and removing the existing facilities, building new facilities designed specifically for the Pikes Peak summit use objectives and environment, restoring disturbed sites to native tundra, protecting heritage resources, and enhancing visitor experiences above the 17 14,000-foot contour.

The proposed action is to redesign and construct a new Summit Complex, consisting of PPAM’s Summit Visitors Center on one site and to consolidate the City’s Plant Building, CSU’s Communications Facility, and the U.S. Army’s High-Altitude Research Laboratory (HARL) on the second site. Although separate facilities, the City’s Plant, CSU’s communications tower, and U.S. Army’s HARL, will be designed to givethe appearance of one facility.

The EA discusses the use of shuttles during construction and after.

A public comment period is open until April 16, but the Forest Service says you can't comment unless you've already submitted a written comment earlier in the process. "Objections will only be accepted from those who have previously submitted specific written comments during a designated opportunity for public comment," the Forest Service says in an email. "Issues raised in objections must be based on previously submitted specific written comments regarding the proposed project or activity and attributed to the objector, unless the issue is based on new information that arose after the opportunities to comment."

If you qualify to provide an "objection," as termed by the Forest Service, they should be sent to:
USDA Forest Service
Region 2 Rocky Mountain Region
Attn.: Objection Reviewing Officer
1617 Cole Boulevard, Building 17
Lakewood, CO 80401

Or faxed to (303) 275-5134.

Send electronic objections to and enter Pikes Peak Summit Complex in the subject line.

Here's a little history contained in the Forest Service's report:
1820- First recorded ascent by Dr. Edwin James
1873- First structure built atop Pikes Peak
1889- Completion of the Pikes Peak Carriage Toll Road
1891- The Cog railway completed
1963- Current Summit House built
1969- U.S. Army research building constructed
1970s- CSU Communication Facility built
1992- Pikes Peak Highway Master Plan completed- recommend implementing erosion and sediment control plan and replacement of the Summit House
2002- City of Colorado Springs implements the Drainage, Erosion and Sediment Control Plan
2011- Pikes Peak Toll Road is completely paved.
April 16, 2014 Decision to prepare an EA

Here's the Environmental Assessment:

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Monday, March 5, 2018

PRISM Awards' 2018 winners announced

Posted By on Mon, Mar 5, 2018 at 5:33 PM

Celebrating at the 2017 PRISM Awards, from left: Mariah Erickson, quality assurance supervisor, BBB of Southern Colorado; Lisanne McNew, president & coo, McNew & Associates; Jeff Zearfoss, owner, Local Relic/Common Cause Catering; Stanton Kensinger, owner, Professional Transition Strategies; Melissa Howard, owner, Local Relic/Common Cause Catering; and Michael Garner, manager of business relations, BBB of Southern Colorado. - COURTESY OF THE COLORADO INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL IMPACT
  • Courtesy of the Colorado Institute for Social Impact
  • Celebrating at the 2017 PRISM Awards, from left: Mariah Erickson, quality assurance supervisor, BBB of Southern Colorado; Lisanne McNew, president & coo, McNew & Associates; Jeff Zearfoss, owner, Local Relic/Common Cause Catering; Stanton Kensinger, owner, Professional Transition Strategies; Melissa Howard, owner, Local Relic/Common Cause Catering; and Michael Garner, manager of business relations, BBB of Southern Colorado.

On Friday, March 2, the Colorado Institute for Social Impact hosted its 2018 PRISM Awards ceremony (which we took a closer look at in the Feb. 28 issue of the Independent), and announced its much-anticipated winners. Focused on creating an ecosystem for businesses that also work toward the betterment of the community, the Colorado Institute for Social Impact founded the PRISM Awards in 2017 in order to recognize the community contribution of local businesses and entrepreneurs.

Jonathan Liebert, executive director and CEO of CI4SI said in a press release: "CI4SI is proud to work with so many innovative Social Impact business models. They are companies that have given consumers an outlet to buy quality products and services while also making a direct, positive impact on the community. We thank the community for its support and congratulate all PRISM Award nominees and award recipients. Their innovation and dedication to business with a higher purpose is an inspiration to all of us.”

In the three categories, the 2018 winners were as follows:

2018 Social Entrepreneur of the Year
Lindsey Litton of MilHousing Network, which helps military families find housing around the country.

2018 Social Impact Startup of the Year
Pedal Station, a community bike center that sells refurbished bikes to benefit Kids on Bikes and its various programs.

2018 Social Impact Business of the Year
Pikes Peak Habitat ReSTORE, which offers new and used building and home improvement supplies, benefitting Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity.

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Defense Department targets Air Force Academy's use of mental diagnoses to oust cadets who report sexual assault

Posted By on Thu, Mar 1, 2018 at 12:05 PM

The Inspector General's Office at the Pentagon will delve into allegations the Academy labeled cadets who report sexual assault with mental diagnosis to oust them from the Air Force Academy. - COURTESY USAFA
  • Courtesy USAFA
  • The Inspector General's Office at the Pentagon will delve into allegations the Academy labeled cadets who report sexual assault with mental diagnosis to oust them from the Air Force Academy.

The Department of Defense Inspector General's Office will look into the Air Force Academy's use of mental health diagnoses to oust cadets who report they've been sexually assaulted from the military school, as reported in detail by the Independent last summer (Cover, "The blame game," July 19, 2017).  A companion piece explored how the Academy tracks, or doesn't track, sexual assault reports.

From that story:
... current and former cadets who say they were victims of sexual assault claim the Academy uses mental health counselors — the very people assigned to help them — to add diagnoses to their record in a way that could damage their prospects permanently. Once victims are labeled with a serious mental illness, they can be expelled and even forced to reimburse the Academy for their education.
The inquiry stems from requests by Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii, and Tom Udall of New Mexico.

One of the cadets featured in the Indy's report, Adam DeRito, was ousted just hours before he graduated. From the Indy story:
Adam DeRito was a mere three hours from graduation in 2010 when the Academy yanked him from the Cadet Wing while his family was present, he says. After a month in limbo, then-Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould told DeRito he was being disenrolled. "They tried to say I was a bad cadet," DeRito says.

It wasn't until years later that he accidentally discovered that the Academy, a year after he was disenrolled, had labeled him as mentally ill. He's since earned two degrees, served with the Colorado Army National Guard, and landed a lucrative job in the oil and gas industry.

On June 20, 2011, [DeRito's Academy] record shows a "records review" led to the mental diagnosis entries, which labeled him with "impulse control disorder" and "personality disorder NOS [not otherwise specified]"...

Both diagnoses are attributed as being entered by Kristin Henley Price at Evans Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson. DeRito says he's never met that person and has never seen a care provider at Carson. Carson spokesperson Daneta Johnson says via email that Henley Price "is not an Evans employee but an active duty Air Force doctor who at the time was stationed at the Academy clinic. We are not sure why it listed Evans as the clinic. Since she is not Army or an Evans employee, you will need to go to Air Force for your information."

DeRito tells the Indy via email he's been working with Gillibrand about his case. He's also been in touch with the office of Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat. His office refused to confirm that to the Indy, saying constituent matters are confidential.

In its March 1 edition, the Gazette and author Tom Roeder seem to take credit for the pending investigation, writing: "The latest investigation comes after congressional scrutiny hit the school following revelations about the sexual assault office first reported in The Gazette last fall."

However, the daily newspaper hasn't reported about the Academy's alleged use of mental diagnoses, following sexual assaults, to provide the foundation for expulsion of cadets. The Indy broke that story in July. 

A person familiar with Academy issues who asked not to be named for fear of retribution confirmed the DOD IG investigation "is directly tied to what the Independent published."

Here's the announcement made by the DOD IG's office on Feb. 27:
The evaluation objective is to determine whether the USAFA, USAFA SAPR [Sexual Assault Prevention and Response] Office, and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) respond to, support, and provide victim care to cadet victims of sexual assault as required by DoD, Air Force, USAFA, and AFOSI policies and procedures. Aspects of the evaluation will include:

• the USAFA SAPR Office’s support of USAFA cadet victims of sexual assault;
• the AFOSI’s responses to and investigations of sexual assaults of USAFA cadets;
• USAFA mental health support and services (to include mental health separations) provided to USAFA cadet victims of sexual assault and,
• USAFA leadership’s support of USAFA cadet victims of sexual assault. 

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Pikes Peak Womxn for Liberation seek input for upcoming Womxn's Liberation Convention

Posted By on Thu, Mar 1, 2018 at 10:15 AM

Pikes Peak Womxn for Liberation, a relatively new, regional group with a focus on intersectional activism, has announced that they will soon host a resource fair and convention for Colorado Springs womxn (an alternative spelling to “women,” if you are curious). They are currently seeking input regarding what resources would be most beneficial.

They encourage womxn in the area to take a quick online survey, which will ask about the most prominent issues facing our community's womxn, and what resources or groups they should make available. The survey takes about two minutes, and can be found here.

So, why the “x?” Many groups and individuals have been using the term “womxn” since the '70s (though it is seeing a recent resurgence), partly in order to do away with the “–men” suffix in the traditional spelling —liberating the word from patriarchal language structures — and partly to illustrate inclusion of transgender and nonbinary womxn-identifying people.

Local organizations also made use of the term in 2018's local Womxn's March, in order to make the event more inclusive, as the 2017 Women's March was widely criticized for focusing on cisgender (identifying as the gender they were assigned at birth) womxn.
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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

USOC CEO resigns; Suthers extols his leadership

Posted By on Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 4:12 PM

As news broke of the resignation of U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers called him "a principled and ethical leader."

Blackmun had come under fire in recent weeks for his apparent reluctance to, as the Washington Post reported, "intervene in a series of sex abuse scandals, most recently the Larry Nassar case that has engulfed USA Gymnastics and prompted three Congressional inquiries."
Mayor Suthers: Sorry to see Blackmun resign. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Mayor Suthers: Sorry to see Blackmun resign.

The news comes in the wake of calls by two senators for Blackmun to resign over the Nassar case, the Post reported, but USOC board chair Larry Probst said his departure stems from health concerns. Blackmun, 60, recently had surgery for prostate cancer and needs additional treatment, Probst told the Post.

The USOC is based in Colorado Springs, which adopted the moniker "Olympic City U.S.A." In an interview on KRCC on Feb. 28, Suthers called the brand unique and among the most valuable in the world.

The sports agency has headquartered in Colorado Springs since it moved here from New York City in 1978. In 2009, the city spent roughly $50 million to revamp a downtown building into a new headquarters for the USOC and upgrade the Olympic Training Center. Following the controversial deal, the developer was indicted on fraud charges at least partially linked to the deal, and ill will grew between citizens and City Council over what some called an unnecessary give-away.

But Suthers believes the label Olympic City is a sturdy one and gives the city an incomparable distinction.

In a statement issued on Feb. 28 shortly after news broke of Blackmun's resignation, Suthers said:
Scott Blackmun has done an outstanding job as the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee and I am sad to learn of his resignation. I have found Scott to be a principled and ethical leader of the USOC and it has been a pleasure to work with him. The relationship between the City of Colorado Springs and the USOC has never been better and much of the credit for that belongs to Scott.

My staff and I wish Scott the very best as he deals with his health issue and we are genuinely grateful for all he has done for the Olympic movement and for Olympic City USA.
The USOC made Blackmun the secondary topic in a lengthy news release about reforms and initiatives aimed at protecting athletes from abuse. Allegations of various types of ill treatment have hit not only gymnastics but also swimming, taekwondo, speedskating and judo.

The USOC's release:
Today, the United States Olympic Committee announced additional reforms and new initiatives designed to protect athletes from abuse and respond quickly and effectively when issues surface. The USOC also announced that CEO Scott Blackmun is resigning due to ongoing health issues resulting from prostate cancer. Susanne Lyons, a current board member, will serve as acting CEO, overseeing the USOC’s day-to-day operations while the search for a permanent successor is underway.

“Given Scott’s current health situation, we have mutually agreed it is in the best interest of both Scott and the USOC that we identify new leadership so that we can immediately address the urgent initiatives ahead of us,” said USOC Chairman Larry Probst. “The USOC is at a critical point in its history. The important work that Scott started needs to continue and will require especially vigorous attention in light of Larry Nassar’s decades-long abuse of athletes affiliated with USA Gymnastics. We will be working with key stakeholders to help identify a permanent successor to Scott. In the meantime, I am confident that Susanne is the right person to help us navigate this critical transition period.”

Blackmun has served as CEO of the USOC since 2010. He was the driving force behind many of the improvements the USOC has made to help protect athletes – notably the establishment of the U.S. Center for SafeSport and the development of the SafeSport initiative. Blackmun also led the effort to bring the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games back to the United States, ensured record financial support for Team USA athletes, renegotiated the USOC’s revenue sharing agreement with the International Olympic Committee, and substantially enhanced the USOC’s presence and influence in the global Olympic Movement.

“Serving the USOC and its many stakeholders and working with our board, our professional staff and many others who support the Olympic and Paralympic movements has not only been immensely rewarding, it has been an honor and the highlight of my professional life,” said Blackmun. “I am proud of what we have achieved as a team and am confident that Susanne will help the USOC continue to embody the Olympic spirit and champion Team USA athletes during this transition.”

In January, Lyons was selected as chair of the USOC board’s working group addressing issues the Nassar case has brought to light. Since then, she has been leading the USOC’s efforts to ensure a process that is independent, transparent, sensitive and accessible. Lyons has been serving as an independent director to the USOC board of directors since December 2010. She has extensive global and Olympic experience, including 40 years of expertise in general management, marketing, sponsorship, business strategy and revenue generation. Lyons served as the executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Visa USA – a member of the IOC’s The Olympic Partner Program – from 2004-07. Prior to this, Lyons held leadership roles for Charles Schwab & Co. and Fidelity Investments.

“While we are eager to review the findings of the independent investigation, the USOC is taking important actions now based on what we already know,” said Lyons. “We are evaluating the USOC’s role and oversight of all the National Governing Bodies, considering potential changes to the Olympic structure and aggressively exploring new ways to enhance athlete safety and help prevent and respond to abuse.”

The reforms and new actions the USOC is announcing today include:

Providing new funding and resources for support and counseling for gymnasts impacted by Nassar’s crimes and launching a new resource for athletes from other Olympic and Paralympic sports recovering from similar abuse.

Forming an advisory group to bring together survivors, advocates, child psychologists and other medical professionals to guide the USOC on stronger safeguards against abuse throughout the Olympic community, and effective support for victims. This may lead to additional changes to the USOC policies and methods for addressing cultural issues and conflicts of interest that may exist in sports, hampering prevention of abuse.

Launching a review of the USOC and NGB governance structure as defined by the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act, including seeking input from safe sport advocacy groups, the NGB Council, the Athletes’ Advisory Council, current athletes and policymakers to consider clarifications and changes to this structure. As the leader of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic community, the USOC must ensure that its governance structure unequivocally provides the ability to oversee and act when necessary to protect athletes.

Revisiting USOC SafeSport procedures to determine what measures are necessary to ensure allegations of abuse are reported to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, in addition to law enforcement, and that necessary follow-ups occur. This also would enable NGBs and the USOC to be more aware of problems as they arise, spot trends, and know where more oversight and engagement are necessary.

Effectively doubling USOC’s funding of the Center for SafeSport to enable it to hire more investigators and staff, improve the speedy resolution of cases, enhance ongoing communication for victims and their families, provide age-appropriate training on recognizing and helping to prevent abuse, and offer better and more accessible resources online.

Ensuring that athletes have a stronger voice within the USOC. In addition to the AAC already in place, the USOC will seek input on its decision making from currently competing athletes and athletes who have competed in the past.

Working with USAG to address its governance issues, implement a culture change, and act on the results of the independent investigation once it is complete.

“The goal of our organization is to protect and support each and every athlete,” said Whitney Ping, an athlete representative on the USOC board. “We are absolutely committed to our ongoing and increased efforts to ensure current and future athletes can train and perform in an environment where they feel safe and supported. As the independent investigation continues, we will continue to look for ways to strengthen them even further.”

A factsheet about these initiatives can be found at

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Independence Center, Mission Medical unveil exam table for disabled patients

Posted By on Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 10:40 AM

  • Courtesy the Independence Center
  • The new exam table.
Sometimes, it's the little things that make the biggest difference. Like a doctor's exam table.

That's why the disability nonprofit, the Independence Center, and the free Mission Medical Clinic were so excited to unveil a new accessible exam table at the clinic Feb. 27. The two organizations partnered to buy the table.

"People with disabilities have reported waiting years or even decades to have preventative screenings such as pap smears or something as simple as getting a body weight to base medication dosage upon," a press release from the Independence Center notes.

The problem is that without specialized equipment, people with limited muscle control, or who use wheelchairs, must be transferred to an exam table and risk being dropped during the awkward move. It's also extremely difficult to measure height and weight for patients that cannot stand to use traditional equipment.

According to the release:

The UpScale exam table, built by Medical Accessibility, LLC, features a built in scale and measuring tape for taking important measurements, the ability to raise and lower to necessary transfer height, heavy duty grab bars, high weight capacity, and foot stirrups for pelvic exams, among other features. As part of the collaborative effort between The IC and Mission Medical, Medical Accessibility, LLC has agreed to offer their UpScale exam tables to other health providers in Colorado for a discounted price. 

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Boy who survived botched birth at Memorial "doing well"

Posted By on Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 10:38 AM

Alexander Rudnicki is in 6th grade. - PHOTOS COURTESY PAMELA RUDNICKI
  • Photos courtesy Pamela Rudnicki
  • Alexander Rudnicki is in 6th grade.
Alex Rudnicki holds a photo of himself at 2 days old.
  • Alex Rudnicki holds a photo of himself at 2 days old.

In the course of writing our story, which appears in this week's Independent, (Feb. 28, 2018) about Alexander Rudnicki's court case, we heard from his mother, Pamela, who gave us an update on how the boy, who suffered brain damage during a botched birth at Memorial Hospital, is doing.

The 12-year-old attends school on Fort Carson, where he is in the 6th grade, she says.

"Alex is doing well," she says in an email. "Still receiving Occupational, Physical and Speech therapies from the amazing people at The Shandy Clinic. He spends most of the school day in special education, and we are blessed with an amazing teacher and supportive staff. While he will have a lifetime of struggles we are grateful how lucky we are to have him and how blessed we truly are."

She also expressed gratitude to the jury in her son's case, who held the doctor, Peter Bianco, responsible and "helped to make sure Alex will be taken care of in the future."

We first wrote about the case in August 2017 after the jury awarded the child $4 million. That verdict has been altered downward, but pre-judgment interest of $1.1 million has been added. Read the rest of the story of how Alex's case could set precedent at the Colorado Supreme Court here.
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