Local Government

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Grand jury declines to indict CSPD officers in De'Von Bailey shooting

Posted By on Thu, Nov 14, 2019 at 10:08 AM

De'Von Bailey turns to flee police. - CSPD BODY WORN CAMERA
  • CSPD body worn camera
  • De'Von Bailey turns to flee police.
A grand jury has returned "no true bill" in the officer-involved shooting death of 19-year-old De'Von Bailey, meaning the Colorado Springs Police Department officers won't be charged with crimes.

The finding led Police Chief Vince Niski to issue a letter to the community, which said, in part:
There's is no doubt that the community of Colorado Springs has been tested over the last few months. What happened on August 3, 2019, is something neither police officers nor citizens ever want to experience. The loss of a son, a friend, a community member, is a devastating event that impacts all of us.

Please know that our officers and I do not take our responsibilities to our citizens lightly. It is our duty to serve everyone in our community with integrity, humility, and excellence.
The shooting spurred protests from the southeast Colorado Springs area where the shooting occurred, with Bailey's family and friends alleging racism played a role and demanding an independent investigation.

(An Indy analysis of nearly 20 years of officer-involved shootings in the Pikes Peak region largely discredited the institutional racism argument.)

Bailey's supporters contend the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, which investigated the incident under state law requirements, couldn't be unbiased toward the CSPD because Undersheriff Pete Carey used to be CSPD chief and other personnel have crossed over between the departments.

Even Gov. Jared Polis urged an outside look, though Mayor John Suthers accused the governor of politicking with the case and expressed support for the traditional procedure, which places the case in the district attorney's hands unless it's handed off to a grand jury.

On Oct. 4, DA Dan May referred the Bailey case to a grand jury, which meets in secret, meaning the public can't know what evidence was presented that led to the decision to clear the officers, Sgt. Alan Van’t Land and Officer Blake Evenson.

Video of the event, released 11 days after the shooting, showed officers questioning Bailey and his cousin regarding an armed robbery reported minutes before the encounter. As officers instructed both to keep their hands up, one officer moved to search them, but Bailey bolted, drawing fire from both officers. He was struck three times in the back and once in the arm. Officers found a handgun in his pocket.

To arrive at a decision to clear officers, grand jurors must find that officers reasonably believed it was necessary to defend themselves or others from what they saw as an imminent use of deadly force. Or, they believed lethal force was needed to effect an arrest or prevent the escape from custody by a person they believed had committed or had attempted to commit a felony using force or threat of force with a deadly weapon. Officers also are justified in using lethal force if a suspect is attempting to escape using a deadly weapon or is likely to endanger human life unless apprehended without delay.

Read the grand jury report:

"The family is very disappointed," Maury Newman, the lawyer for the Bailey family told KKTV Channel 11 News following the release of the grand jury's finding. "It's no surprise, it's the exact result you can expect when a tainted investigation is presented by a biased prosecutor. This is precisely the reason we have been calling for an independent investigation and an independent prosecutor from the very beginning."

Protesters also questioned why the officers were allowed to return to duty three days after the shooting, which is explained in the Indy's follow up story regarding psychological impacts on police officers.

It's not clear what comes next. The Bailey family could file a lawsuit alleging wrongful death.

We've reached out to community leader Pastor Promise Lee for his take on the grand jury's finding and will circle back when we hear from him.

Chief Niski's letter to the community:
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Inmate dies by suicide in El Paso County jail

Posted By on Tue, Nov 12, 2019 at 1:10 PM

  • Courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office
A male inmate in the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center was found attempting to kill himself by hanging on Nov. 12 and, despite efforts to resuscitate him, the inmate was pronounced dead, Sheriff Bill Elder's office said in a release.

It's the third suicide in the jail since July 2009 and the second this year.

The Sheriff's Office's account:
On Tuesday November 12, 2019, at approximately 1:42 AM, a medical emergency was declared in a male housing ward at the El Paso County Jail.

A male inmate was found in his cell attempting suicide by hanging. When additional deputies responded to the ward, the inmate was not breathing and had no pulse. The deputies initiated cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and used the automated external defibrillator (AED) with the assistance of responding El Paso County Jail medical staff and American Medical Response personnel.

After approximately 30 minutes of resuscitation efforts which incorporated CPR and defibrillation, the male's vital signs failed to return, and he was pronounced dead.
The office didn't identify the inmate, give his age, say why he was being held or reveal which ward he was housed in. The jail has a designated ward for inmates with mental issues, including those who are at risk of completing suicide.

A news release said the investigation is continuing and no further information would be released at this time.

On June 4, a female inmate was found in the jail trying to kill  herself by hanging. She was discovered without a pulse and, after deputies used CPR and a defibrillator with medical staff's help, was taken to a hospital where she died on June 9, the Sheriff's Office previously said in a release.

The jail has come under fire for a range of issues from bad food, which spurred a riot, to its inability to deal with an inmate's medical condition which led to his death. The jail also has seen violence against deputies more than a few times.

It's unclear what, if any, consequence the office will suffer from accrediting agencies. The facility faced accreditation issues in the past regarding its medical contractor. The contractor has given notice it won't continue providing services at the jail beyond the end of this year.
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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Manitou Springs arts and cultural tax edges to victory by three votes

Posted By on Thu, Nov 7, 2019 at 4:36 PM

  • Bryce Crawford/file photo
Natalie Johnson, Manitou Art Center executive director, found out what a difference a couple of days can make, especially with election results.

The day after the election, Nov. 6, early unofficial results showed the Manitou Springs Arts, Culture and Heritage (MACH) sales tax measure had been defeated.

But on Thursday, Nov. 7, El Paso County released the final unofficial results showing the tax, which would raise $400,000 a year, passed by a mere three votes.

"We're feeling very hopeful," Johnson says, noting the county will canvass the vote later this month.

If the vote spread remains tight, within a half a percentage point, an automatic recount will be triggered.

When the results came in on election night, Johnson felt saddened, she says. "You can't help but feel it was a loss for the community. Then there's my personal feelings just knowing I've spent 60 to 80 hours a week working toward these things, and feeling the community didn't think it was important, that all my work didn't matter."

But now, when it looks like the measure was adopted after all, she's eager to show the community why it's a smart move to invest in the Carnegie Building, Miramont Castle, Manitou Art Center, Manitou Springs Heritage Center and Hiawatha Gardens property.

"We're going to have to do our best to make everyone proud and feel it was worth it," she says.

In another reversal, Fran Carrick appeared to have won a Fountain City Council seat on election night by a mere two votes, but the final unofficial results show her losing by 89 votes to Detra Duncan.

Still outstanding, however, are military and overseas ballots that needed to be postmarked by Nov. 5 and received by Nov. 13. So stay tuned.
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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

UPDATE: City proposes incentive for company it will not name

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2019 at 3:32 PM

  • By Pam Zubeck
UPDATE: City Council voted unanimously on Nov. 12 in favor of the code-named Project Beach tax incentive but refused to disclose the name. It's unclear when its identity will be officially revealed.

—————————-ORIGINAL POST WED, NOV 6, 2019 AT 3:32 PM—————————-

Welcome to the stealthy world of economic development incentives where deals are made without the public knowing who's getting the city's money.

For a mere $14,310 in sales and use tax breaks, the city of Colorado Springs hopes to reap a tax benefit of $1.25 million over four years from a company whose identity it's keeping secret.

Given the code name Project Beach, the company is described in agenda materials for City Council's Nov. 7 meeting as "a rapidly growing communications technology company that makes it easy for businesses to build relationships with customers through videos in email, text, and social media."

The city goes on to say Project Beach operates in 40 countries and sends more than 126 million minutes of video through its products annually.

When asked for more information, city spokesperson Kim Melchor told us by email, "Project Beach is confidential at this time. We will be glad to obtain and provide additional information once this is no longer a confidential project. Currently all of the information is included with the City Council Agenda Item."

Even Council is being kept in the dark. We asked Councilor Andy Pico about Project Beach, and he says via email, "... code names are used for potential projects that are in consideration and not firm. So in order to protect confidentiality of potential companies before they make decision and public disclosure, they are code named. And no, I do not know who it is."

Regardless, Mayor John Suthers wants Council to approve rebates on sales tax and use tax related to expanding the company's headquarters from 18,700 to 28,700 square feet, which the city says would total $14,310.

That expansion will bring new employees, but how many isn't clear. The agenda backup says Project Beach employs 121 people company-wide and plans to hire an additional 186 in the next four years. Of those 40 would be relocated here.

"With creation of these new full-time jobs, Project Beach desires to invest in business personal property, including communications equipment, and construction materials for its facilities expansion," the agenda materials say.

According to the Dec. 20, 2018, meeting minutes of the Colorado Economic Development Commission, the state granted an incentive of $293,660 to "Project Beach," or $1,372 for each of 214 new full-time equivalent jobs the employer plans to create over a five-year period.

That presentation stated that Project Beach needed to "nearly triple" its workforce by adding 250 jobs by the end of 2024.

"This incentive is contingent upon the creation of up to 214 net new full-time jobs at a minimum average annual wage of $48,100, 100% of El Paso County’s AAW [average annual wage], in support of this project," the minutes say.

Pico didn't know whether the state incentive was directed at the same company, but the city's economic development official Bob Cope attended that meeting.

The city's agenda materials assert that Project Beach's 186 new hires will be paid an average of  $82,642 a year.

It's doubtful Council will approve the incentive on Nov. 7, because the briefing takes place during a work session, which traditionally does not include official votes.
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State measure CC fails, Colorado Springs tax measures get thumbs up

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2019 at 12:32 PM

Pete Lee: Back to the drawing board on state funding. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Pete Lee: Back to the drawing board on state funding.
The results of the Nov. 5 election in Colorado mean the state won't "start fixing things" any time soon, it appears.

That was the tagline used by backers of Proposition CC, which went down in flames — 55 percent to 45 percent — unlike two local spending measures, which were approved by Colorado Springs voters. More on that later. (El Paso County voters defeated CC by a margin of 62-38.)

CC would have allowed the state to keep money collected in excess of caps imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR). That excess, which could reach billions of dollars over years to come, will continue to be refunded to taxpayers, unless the state seeks voter approval again to retain it.

The CC money, if retained, would have been spent on infrastructure such as transportation, education and higher education.

Sen. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, tells the Indy that so far there's not a fallback plan beyond Gov. Jared Polis' proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which was issued recently and does not include money from the CC retention measure.

"There was optimism [Proposition CC] might pass," he says. "We have not developed an alternative plan. The budget was submitted last week, and it was premised on the idea of existing revenues..., so we are proceeding with a budget that does not include the $300 million that CC would have provided."
Colorado's roads won't get an infusion of cash after voters defeated Proposition CC. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Colorado's roads won't get an infusion of cash after voters defeated Proposition CC.
Given the dire condition of the state's transportation system and the rising $9 billion to $10 billion backlog of projects, Lee says an infusion of cash is needed to fix roads.

"The gas tax hasn't gone up since, what, 1992, which is the primary funding mechanism," he says. "We also are constrained by TABOR and other spending limitations."

The failure of CC, he says, sets up a competition among the state's top priorities: health care, transportation and education. Another demand comes from the criminal justice system, on which the state expects to spend $1 billion next year, he says.

"There's only a limited amount of resources," he says, adding that Democrats will be willing to work with Republicans to find ways to fund those priorities, including discussing a massive bond issue. "I think all options are on the table. I don't think we should preclude anything."

The other state measure, Proposition DD, which directed taxes on sports betting to the state's water plan, edged out a win by the slimmest of margins, 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent, according to unofficial results on the Colorado Secretary of State's website. (El Paso County voters defeated it by a 54-46 margin.)

While supporters contended DD would generate about $27 million toward the state's water plan, Coloradans for Climate Justice said that amount is "tiny" and gives citizens a sense of false security that the state's water needs will be met.

The group said in a statement:
The supporters of Prop DD spent about $2.5 million in this election. We spent zero dollars opposing DD. We opposed DD out of the principle that the public taxpayer should not pay for climate damage to our rivers and water supply caused by fossil fuel corporations. The damage caused to our water supply and economy by climate change will likely be in the billions of dollars. Further, the amount of money DD would raise for the Colorado Water Plan is tiny, and it will likely only replace money that was already allotted for the Colorado Water Plan, not add to it. So let the betting begin, but betting against climate change is a bad bet that only a lousy gambler would make.
The Colorado Sun reports only 36 percent of registered voters in the state cast ballots.

El Paso County voter turnout was the same, but unlike statewide, voters were in a generous mood when it came to Colorado Springs. They handed Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers two victories to continue his undefeated record for several tax and fee measures he's proposed since taking office in 2015.
Mayor Suthers: "Thanks, citizens!" - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mayor Suthers: "Thanks, citizens!"

Measure 2C, approved 65-35, continues the special tax to fund street improvements, but lowers the tax to .57 percent from .62 percent enacted by voters in 2015 for five years. The new tax takes effect Jan. 2, 2021.

Measure 2B, which allows the city to keep $7 million in TABOR excess money to spend on parks, passed by a lesser margin — 57-43. City officials have previously said the money would be spent on various projects, including overhauls of three downtown parks: Alamo Park, Antlers Park and Acacia Park.

Suthers issued this statement:
On behalf of the Council and myself I want to express our gratitude for the confidence and trust the citizens of Colorado Springs have placed in our efforts to improve critical public infrastructure. In 2015 we had an infrastructure deficit of $1.5B – primarily, our roads and stormwater system. We could not have solved the problem without the cooperation of our citizens, but we have secured the citizens’ support and we are solving the problems. And as we predicted, the public investment in our city is being matched by massive private investment.

Other local balloting results, all of which can be found here:

Manitou Springs
• Only 24 votes kept a sales tax increase measure from passing in Manitou Springs. The new money would have funded improvements to Manitou Art Center, Manitou Springs Heritage Center and Miramont Castle, among other projects.
• But voters overwhelming approved, by a 76-24 margin, allowing the city to spend $182,000 from the public facilities fund on downtown projects.
• John Graham defeated Alan Delwiche in the mayor's race by a 52-48 margin.

Colorado Springs School District 11 voters elected incumbent Mary Coleman, Darleen Daniels, Jason Jorgenson and Parth Melpakam to the school board.

• Voters defeated a 10-year road tax by a 58-42 margin.
• Only two votes separate third and fourth place finishers in the race for two at-large City Council seats. Richard Applegate won a seat handily, but neighborhood activist Fran Carrick edged out Detra Duncan by only two votes for the other seat. 

Teller County
In Crippler Creek, 54.3 percent of voters elected to recall Timothy Braun, the Cripple Creek-Victor School District president. Mary Bielz, the founder of a Cripple Creek nonprofit, will replace him.

The recall followed efforts by a group called Hear Us: For Better Schools to unseat three school board members who it claimed had violated state statutes and district policies. The other two targeted school board members, Treasurer Dennis Jones and Secretary Tonya Martin, resigned in June.

Schools and fire
While three school districts — Lewis-Palmer 38, Miami Yoder JT60 and Calhan RJ1 — saw debt measures defeated, Tri-lakes Monument and Stratmoor Hills fire protection districts won approval of their tax measures. Two other fire districts, serving Peyton and Hanover, saw tax measures defeated.

As for various marijuana issues across the state, the Colorado Municipal League reports:
  • Baynard Woods
• Mead voters said no to medical marijuana businesses and retail marijuana establishments. Center and Loveland’s questions allowing cultivation, manufacturing and testing in addition to sales were also defeated. Loveland voters also turned down a tax on marijuana sales.

• Craig voters approved three marijuana questions: to allow retail sales; to allow cultivation, manufacturing, testing and storage; and a tax on marijuana sales.

• An initiated ordinance passed in Alamosa banning the outdoor growing of personal marijuana and overturning outdoor growing regulations previously adopted by the city council.

• Louisville voters opted to permit retail marijuana cultivation facilities within the city’s industrial zones, as well as the corresponding retail marijuana cultivation facility excise tax.

• A retail marijuana sales tax also passed in Las Animas.
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Monday, November 4, 2019

Vote now! Election Day is Nov. 5

Posted By on Mon, Nov 4, 2019 at 9:33 AM

  • Courtesy El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office via Google
  • Fine a ballot box near you and vote.
Tomorrow, Nov. 5, is Election Day, so hurry your ballot to the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office.

Voters in the Pikes Peak region will decide issues that include taxes for roads, parks funding and two state issues, while also electing a mayor of Manitou Springs and members to various school boards.

From the election office:

All ballots must be returned to the Clerk and Recorder’s Office by 7:00 p.m., Election Day, Tuesday, November 5, to be counted. Postmarked ballots that arrive after the deadline cannot be counted. Please urge citizens to return their voted ballot early in advance of Election Day.

§ There will be 7 Voter Service and Polling Centers open in the county. Voters can use any VSPC in the county. Click here for a list and map of VSPCs and hours of operation.

§ We have added 10 additional secure 24-hour ballot drop boxes totaling 26 throughout the county. All boxes are open until 7:00 p.m. Election Day.

§ Click here for a list and map of all ballot drop box locations.
Results will be released from the Citizens Service Center, located at 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road, starting at 7:15 p.m. for ballots counted through 5 p.m. on Election Day. Updated results will follow at 8 p.m., 8:45 p.m., 9:45 p.m. and 10:45 p.m., although that could change depending on election operations.

Final unofficial results will be released eight days after the election.

To check in on results, click here.

More from the Clerk and Recorder's Office:
Results and the Possibility of a Recount:
• Unofficial election results may change slightly after the final post on election night. Some reasons for that include the fact that military and overseas ballots are afforded extra time for delivery after Election Day, and voters with signature or identification issues have time to resolve their issue. Voters in those categories have eight days after the election to resolve their issue or return their ballot.

• The Clerk’s Office will not “call” a race for a candidate or issue. Certainly some results will not be in doubt, but the Clerk’s Office does not consider results to be official until after the bipartisan canvass board validates the results.

• There is always the possibility of an automatic or requested recount. Under Colorado law, an automatic recount is only triggered when the vote margin between two candidates or an issue is 0.5% of the next closest candidate or issue result. This is not the same as there being a 0.5% margin between two candidates.

• Should an automatic recount seem possible, the Clerk and Recorder’s Office will release additional information about the process, cost, and recount timeframe. 
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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Westside block proposed for facelift

Posted By on Thu, Oct 31, 2019 at 4:23 PM

If you have something to say about the redevelopment of this Westside block, do so before Nov. 8.

An Austin, Texas, firm, Hickory Pass LP, plans to overhaul buildings at 2306 to 2318 W. Colorado Ave. from an "eyesore" into shops, a rooftop restaurant and a "self-improvement center." (One of the buildings used to be home to Junior Achievement, which now is located at 611 N. Weber St., Suite 201.)

There's no plan to enlarge the buildings. Rather, developers plan to create new facades and awnings to "break up the flat facade and give the visual effect of several small storefronts instead of a monolithic brick wall," as it says in the application.

Here's an artist's rendering included with the submittal to the city for a "minor amendment to  non-existent development plan."


As compared to what the buildings look like now:

  • Photos by Pam Zubeck

The developer plans to upgrade the parking lot in back of the building with new fencing to replace the chain link in use today. Here's what it looks like:


A sign posted in a window says comments are being received through Nov. 8 and should be directed to Tasha.Brackin@coloradosprings.gov, 719-385-5369.

She says that under city code, decision rests with staff.

We've reached out to the developer with a few questions and will circle back if and when we hear something.

Here's the proposal as submitted to the city:
Meantime, Front Range Barbeque in that same block plans to begin renovations on the restaurant sometime in the next year, as the Indy reported recently. Owner Brian Fortinberry says he will connect the current restaurant to the house next door, add a new kitchen, enclose their patio and more.
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Monday, October 21, 2019

Construction of pedestrian bridge from Olympic Museum appears at hand

Posted By on Mon, Oct 21, 2019 at 4:00 PM

An aerial view in an artist's rendering of the bridge linking to America the Beautiful Park. - COURTESY DILLER SCOFIDIO + RENFRO
  • Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro
  • An aerial view in an artist's rendering of the bridge linking to America the Beautiful Park.
It's hard not to miss the progress made on the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum and Hall of Fame at Vermijo and Sierra Madre streets. Officials have previously said it will open in early 2020.

Now, the pedestrian bridge that will link the museum with America the Beautiful Park is about to get underway, according to a resolution due to City Council for consideration on Oct. 22.

The resolution, if approved, would hand over the property beneath the bridge's landing spot to an entity controlled by Nor'wood Development Group, which is helping to fund the bridge and has major designs on that entire area of lower downtown.

The $11 million contract to build the bridge was awarded earlier this year, and now the city must transfer the property to enable the work to begin.

Or, as the city put it in backup materials for the Council's Oct. 22 action, "The construction of the bridge is imminent, thus the conveyance of 125 Cimino [Drive] is urgent."

In those materials, the city says Nor'wood will build the bridge's landing, staircase and elevator at a cost of approximately $2.6 million while also donating cash for the bridge.
Looking east from America the Beautiful Park where the pedestrian bridge will connect with the museum. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Looking east from America the Beautiful Park where the pedestrian bridge will connect with the museum.
The resolution, which can be read below, doesn't change the commitment Nor'wood made in early 2017 to clean up remnants of a coal gasification plant located at 25 and 125 Cimino that left carcinogenic coal tar beneath it, says city spokesperson Kim Melchor.

After signing off on the deal to clean it up and take possession of the property, Nor'wood and the city have failed to close the land transaction. As of today, Oct. 21, the property remains in the city's hands.

From an earlier Indy story:
Records show the city and Nor’wood have postponed the land transaction a dozen times, and that Nor’wood might have second thoughts about assuming responsibility for the Cimino property cleanup, which a city contractor, LT Environmental Inc. of Arvada, estimates will cost $4.5 million.

In a Nov. 1, 2018, email to Nor’wood’s attorney, a senior city attorney wrote, “The City’s position is that Council wanted Nor-wood to assume the costs of cleaning the property, no matter what they were. So, at this point, we won’t be agreeable to a change in the agreement that would allow Nor’wood the option to decline assuming responsibility for any required cleanup.”
The resolution:
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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

District attorney candidates bring in the cash

Posted By on Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 5:32 PM

Commissioner Waller leads the fund-raising race. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Commissioner Waller leads the fund-raising race.
The battle for the Republican nomination for top prosecutor in the 4th Judicial District is shaping up to be a well-funded race on both sides, according to campaign finance reports filed Oct. 15.

El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller has brought in $35,895, of which $10,000 was a loan by the candidate and has $33,583 on hand.

Waller's backers include a number of developers, including Vince Colarelli, Gary Erickson, Mark Long, several employees of Classic Homes and Danny Mientka. So it's not surprising that he's also won support from the Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Michael Allen - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Senior Deputy District Attorney Michael Allen

Waller also drew contributions from former State Sen. Bernie Herpin and his wife and fellow Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez Jr.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Michael Allen, who's not held elective office before, has raised $21,750 and has $14,928 on hand.

Notables in Allen's camp include downtown developers Sam and Kathleen Guadagnoli, former CEO of the El Pomar Foundation Bill Hybl and El Pomar board member Thayer Tutt Jr., downtown entrepreneur Perry Sanders, Mayor John Suthers, City Councilor Jill Gaebler and the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association.

So far, the two Republicans are the only ones seeking to succeed DA Dan May, who's held the seat for three four-year terms and is term-limited from seeking a fourth.
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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Roads tax "vote yes" effort draws thousands of dollars in support from contractors

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 3:12 PM

All the usual suspects — road contractors, local developers and construction companies — have poured money into a political action committee formed to urge voters to approve the city's 2C road tax measure.

The tax, known on the ballot as 2C (an initiative the Indy has endorsed), proposes to extend by five years the city's tax for road improvements that was adopted by voters in 2015, but would lower the rate from .62 percent to .57 percent. The tax would raise more than $50 million a year.

Dubbed "Building COS," the committee has raised $135,090 and spent $90,815, most on radio ads and mailers.

The biggest donation came from Colorado Springs Forward, a business activist group that's donated to several campaigns supporting tax and fee increases in recent years.

But given that it's unknown if the nonprofit even has an executive director — the most recent post on its Facebook page is dated over a year ago and its website is inaccessible — someone might wonder, Is this still a thing? Google shows it's shut down, or "permanently closed," as illustrated to the right.

But CSF apparently it is very much still a thing, because it ponied up $50,000 toward the road tax "vote yes" effort.

The "vote yes" committee has drawn many small donations, including $250 each from Mayor John Suthers, who proposed the measure, and his Chief of Staff Jeff Greene.

But the big money came from those involved in the construction industry, as follows:

  • $1,000: Trax Construction, Kathy Loo of High Valley Group, Ray Nunn of Nunn Construction, Developer Danny Mientka, and Vivid Engineering Group, all of Colorado Springs.
  • $2,000: Businessman Phil Lane and Nunn Construction, both of Colorado Springs.
  • $2,500: Jim and Laura Johnson (owners of GE Johnson) and Phil Long Dealerships, Inc., both of Colorado Springs.
  • $5,000: Gaylord Smith of AA Construction, GE Johnson Construction, Church Community Builder, Nor'wood Development Group, and the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, all of Colorado Springs; Colorado Asphalt Pavement Association, Centennial; Western Milling LLC, Grand Junction; A-1 Chipseal, Denver, and Even-Preisser, Inc., Monument.
  • $20,000: Work Zone Traffic Control, Inc., Pueblo.
Against the 2C measure is SpringsTaxpayers.com, which has announced it launched a radio ad this week.

Run by political operative Laura Carno, the organization is "committed to holding local government accountable," she says.

Says Carno in a news release:
We oppose the passage of 2C, the renewal of the pothole tax. Even outside of the annual income from the current pothole tax, and from the Stormwater Fee, the City of Colorado Springs has record revenue, and record spending. City government can prioritize roads, bridges, and public safety today. It doesn’t need to renew a sales tax to prioritize these important expenditures.
She also notes in the release that voters should keep in mind those projects on which the city spends money that might not be considered a high priority by voters, such as bike lanes, neighborhood traffic-calming projects, legal bills for a City Council member, and the $16 million subsidy for retailer Scheels.

SpringsTaxpayers.com has also published a report on how the original 2C money was spent, reporting that only 53% went to paving and potholes.

As for the other city measure on the ballot, 2B, a group called "Vote Yes for Parks" hasn't raised or spent any money. The measure asks voters to allow the city to keep $7 million in money in excess of limits imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights and spend it on parks.
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Help the city, plant a tree. City kicks off Tree Challenge.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 12:13 PM

Mayor John Suthers, second from left, joined others, including Parks Director Karen Palus, right, and Councilor Yolanda Avila, second from right, in planting a tree on Oct. 15 to kick off the city's Tree Challenge that will span the next two years. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mayor John Suthers, second from left, joined others, including Parks Director Karen Palus, right, and Councilor Yolanda Avila, second from right, in planting a tree on Oct. 15 to kick off the city's Tree Challenge that will span the next two years.
In a 25-minute ceremony on Oct. 15, Mayor John Suthers and other city officials kicked off a program that could have results that span several lifetimes.

They gathered at Alamo Square outside the Pioneers Museum to launch the city's Tree Challenge. The goal is to plant 18,071 trees (the number chosen to represent the city's founding year of 1871) by the end of 2021 to mark the city's sesquicentennial celebration.

As a stout breeze chilled onlookers, Suthers reminded those on hand of the city's founder Gen. William J. Palmer's dedication to creating a tree canopy by planting 600 cottonwood trees. He also saw to it that Monument Valley Park hosts at least one of every tree native to Colorado, many of which survive today.

"While this tree will make our city a little bit better," Suthers said, referencing the Ohio Buckeye he and others helped plant, "together we can accomplish a whole lot more."

He said the city and Colorado Springs Utilities will partner to offer credits to those who plant trees, details of which will be announced at a later date.

City forester Dennis Will noted that a recent assessment of the city's tree canopy set the value of the trees at $900 million. Those trees gobble 2.7 million tons of pollution per year, an added value of $100 million.

If the city were to simply buy 18,071 trees, the bill would come to $5.4 million, he said. Thus, it's important to make sure the trees that are planted during the city's Tree Challenge are given the best opportunity to thrive. that means planting at the right time — spring or early fall — and making sure trees are place in the right locations, outside the domain of power lines and not too close to sidewalks, for example.

Read all the points for planting and growing trees, including rules for planting in city rights of way by going here. You can track the tree you plant or donate to the effort if your living space isn't conducive to adding trees.
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Friday, October 11, 2019

City ends talks with Danish company, invites AMR to the table

Posted By on Fri, Oct 11, 2019 at 4:55 PM

  • Shutterstock.com
The city of Colorado Springs announced on Oct. 11 that negotiations with Falck Ambulance had ended and new talks with American Medical Response had begun for the city's emergency ambulance service.

City spokesperson Jamie Fabos provided this statement:

The City of Colorado Springs / CSFD and ambulance provider Falck Rocky Mountain have mutually agreed to end negotiations without a finalized contract. CSFD and the City found Falck to be a professional and well-managed company and regret that negotiations were not successful. Falck entered into the RFP and negotiated in good faith, and the City thanks Falck for the time and effort in this process.

In compliance with City procurement rules, the City/CSFD will now engage in negotiations with the next highest ranked offeror, American Medical Response. The City/CSFD team will begin negotiating a contract with AMR as soon as possible.

This RFP process was entered into with a single goal in mind; to improve the EMS transport system in Colorado Springs for the benefit of its residents. This goal has not changed and the City/CSFD team will continue to pursue overall system improvement moving forward. To protect the integrity of ongoing negotiations, the City's procurement rules dictate that there will be no further comment on the process or negotiations until the conclusion of the negotiation period.
Scott Lenn, AMR's vice president of operations, says in an email, "We appreciate the opportunity and look forward to sitting down to discuss the EMS system in Colorado Springs."

David Patterson, Falck Rocky Mountain CEO, had this to say:
Falck is honored to have been selected as the successful bidder in the 9-1-1 emergency ambulance request for proposals (RFP) process for the city of Colorado Springs. We are proud of our remarkable 113-year history of quality global service, including our successful partnership with the City of Aurora. We believe that our track record and a very competitive proposal for the stakeholders of Colorado Springs’ EMS system is what earned us this opportunity.

In response to the City’s RFP, Falck provided two proposals that both met or exceeded RFP requirements. According to the City, Falck was selected “based on the evaluation criteria and interviews”. During final negotiations, the City indicated it wanted a contract with Falck that was considerably different than either of our proposals; one that would require Falck to make service delivery commitments that we believe are significantly at risk of not being sustainable. Falck entered these negotiations in good faith, offering alternatives that would measurably improve service delivery. However, we are not willing to make unsustainable commitments, and we believe the City would agree that it would be irresponsible to do so. Unfortunately, after ten days of negotiation, both parties have been unable to reach an agreement based on the RFP and our proposals.

Falck greatly appreciates the warm welcome extended to us by the City of Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Fire Department officials involved in this process, and we commend their desire to improve emergency ambulance service delivery to the community. We offer our thanks to the stakeholders, officials, and employees of the current system who contacted us with optimism regarding an anticipated change in providers. We remain strongly committed to the proposals we submitted, and are hopeful that we can work together with the City to find a mutually agreeable solution to serve the needs of Colorado Springs, its residents and visitors.
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Friday, October 4, 2019

DA Dan May refers De'Von Bailey police shooting case to a grand jury

Posted By on Fri, Oct 4, 2019 at 3:50 PM

DA Dan May has referred the De'Von Bailey shooting by police to a grand jury. - COURTESY 4TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT
  • Courtesy 4th Judicial District
  • DA Dan May has referred the De'Von Bailey shooting by police to a grand jury.
For only the second time in more than 19 years, the District Attorney's Office has referred an officer-involved shooting to a grand jury.

The announcement that the case of De'Von Bailey, shot and killed on Aug. 3 by two Colorado Springs Police Department officers, has been placed in a grand jury's hands was made on social media on Oct. 4. DA Dan May's office said there would be no further comment.

Bailey was shot several times by Sgt. Alan Van't Land and Officer Blake Evenson as he fled on foot after being stopped for questioning in connection with an armed robbery. Officers found a handgun in his shorts pocket after he fell.

The only other time the DA's Office has referred an officer-involved shooting case to a grand jury, the jury returned a "no true bill" in the 2011 shooting death of James Guy, 22, who was shot in the back by Officer Nathan Jorstad. No true bill means the officer wasn't charged with a crime and, thus, the shooting was deemed justified.

Bailey, too, was shot in the back, just as 10 others have been over the years, as the Independent reported this week in its cover story, "Line of Fire."

Attorneys for the Bailey family expressed disappointment with the decision to refer the case to a grand jury, calling the case "infected" with conflicts of interest in the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, which conducted the shooting investigation. They also expressed doubt the grand jury would be impartial.

Here's the statement in full issued by Darold Kilmer and Mari Newman, partners at Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, which represents, along with attorney Daniel Kay, the Bailey family in the officer-involved shooting death of Bailey:
Unfortunately, the decision to have the local DA’s office present the case to the grand jury at this point is too little too late. The grand jury‘s ability to make a decision is only as good as the information provided to it. The investigation by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department is already infected by many conflicts of interest within that office, and within DA Dan May’s office. I fully anticipate that the case presentation by a conflicted local district attorney will be biased in favor of the local police.

Our concern is that the local prosecutors are too reliant on local police to make an independent presentation to the Grand Jury. They will likely present the matter in a way to cause charges to not be filed. The Grand Jury should be led by an INDEPENDENT Prosecutor. We’ve always believed it should be presented to the Grand Jury by the Colorado Attorney General’s office or even a prosecutor from another jurisdiction that has no relation or ties to the 4th Judicial District or Colorado Springs DA Dan May, who has deep conflicts of interest in the matter. The local police are simply too close to the local prosecutors to give confidence that the presentation to the Grand Jury will be truly impartial. 
The Rev. Promise Lee spoke to City Council on Sept. 10, urging an independent investigation of the shooting of De'Von Bailey. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS WEBSITE
  • City of Colorado Springs website
  • The Rev. Promise Lee spoke to City Council on Sept. 10, urging an independent investigation of the shooting of De'Von Bailey.
The Rev. Promise Lee, a leader in the southeast part of the city where the shooting occurred, echoed those concerns.

He said that he and Bailey's father met with Gov. Jared Polis on Oct. 3 and asked that he issue an executive order for an independent investigation.

"I think he was genuinely sympathetic," Lee said. "He said he wouldn't exercise that at this time, so I asked him if he could be more vocal and make a call to [Colorado Springs Mayor] John
Suthers and the district attorney, and he said he would. My sense is he was trying to allow this jurisdiction to do the right thing here."

Lee says the family, which has been meeting with the DA's Office twice a month since the shooting, was told on Oct. 4 about the decision to refer the case to a grand jury.

"We're just hoping the prosecuting attorney will handle this ethically and do the right thing," he said. "We don't even know when it will convene."

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Falck Ambulance settles unfair competitive practices claims

Posted By on Fri, Oct 4, 2019 at 12:40 PM

  • Courtesy Falck Ambulance
This blog has been updated to report that Falck has also sued SG Collaborative.

Falck Rocky Mountain is negotiating with the city of Colorado Springs for a five-year emergency ambulance contract, and adverse news keeps creeping out about the Denmark-based company.

The latest revelation outlines claims by the Danish Competition Council against Falck alleging unfair competitive practices, which led to a settlement this year in which Falck acknowledged its actions, agreed to pay the equivalent of $22.4 million to a competitor as compensation after it went bankrupt, and vowed not to repeat the actions it took that led to the council's action.

Locally, after Falck was chosen by the city, American Medical Response (AMR) protested the selection on Aug. 23. AMR, of Greenwood Village, and its predecessor company has provided emergency ambulance service locally for some 40 years and was the first to contract directly with the city starting in 2014. (AMR also protested the city's choice last year of Priority Ambulance. The city eventually broke off talks and extended AMR's contract temporarily until a new round of proposals could be considered, which resulted in the selection of Falck.)

The city rejected AMR's protest and reportedly is hammering out a deal with Falck. But speed bumps keep arising. First, Falck said it planned to hire AMR personnel to work under the Colorado Springs contract, but AMR countered by saying the company expected to keep most of its workers employed on other contracts. If that plays out as AMR predicts, Falck could have a hard time hiring, because there's a national shortage of emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

Other issues:

• Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, San Leandro, California, wrote a letter Sept. 23 to Falck saying the company is failing to meet performance standards. (An agency official told the Independent in early September there had been "a successful transition" to Falck from Paramedics Plus and that "all partners worked well together during the transition.") However, the Sept. 23 letter advised Falck of a $372,500 penalty the agency would impose after Falck failed to meet the 90 percent performance expectations in July and August, meaning the responses were too slow. The letter also gave Falck until Oct. 8 to submit a "corrective action plan."

• On Sept. 26, Scott Griffith Collaborative Solutions LLC (SGC), Westlake, Texas, filed a federal lawsuit in the Northern District of California against Falck NorCal, its subsidiary Care Ambulance Service and Falck USA. The suit alleges copyright and trademark infringement and unfair competition under federal and California laws. SGC alleges Falck borrowed its intellectual property developed to assist aviation, health care and transportation industries operate at a higher level of safety and reliability through specific methods and techniques it calls "revolutionary." In 2015, SGC granted Care Ambulance a onetime use of the materials. In September 2019, the lawsuit alleges, Falck NorCal used SGC's products in its proposal for the Alameda County contract. The lawsuit seeks to bar Falck from using SGC's materials and monetary damages as proven at trial.

On that same day, in the Northern District of U.S. District Court in Texas, Falck sued SGC, claiming breach of contract, business disparagement, libel and interference.

Falck contends SGC gave permission to Care Ambulance to use its materials in a 2016 agreement and later claimed it hadn't given permission. After SGC issued a letter demanding the Falck stop using the materials, "Falck promptly responded to the demand letter by explaining that Care was included as a respondent on the subject request for proposal response bid, and that the
material was accordingly used in accordance with the Agreement and the May 20, 2016
Written Consent," the lawsuit says.

From Falck's suit:
However, before Falck could even respond to the demand letter, Defendant shared the letter with one or more competitors of Falck and Care, and the letter was reported by various media outlets, published in its entirety by at least one outlet, which broadcast it under the following headline: “Falck Ambulance, the city’s choice for a 5‐year contract, accused of lying in a proposal in California.” 
Moreover, Falck accuses SGC of "making statements "maliciously and with an intentional disregard of their accuracy, and in complete disregard of what is actually provided for in the Agreement and written consents." Falck seeks damages to be proven at trial.
Falck Rocky Mountain CEO David Patterson tells the Indy via email the Alameda contract represents a transition from a provider that wasn't complying with response times and was "severely understaffed." Falck has hired 66 EMTs and paramedics there since July 1, growing the workforce more than 15 percent. Those employees are being trained, he said, adding, "While not yet where we want them to be, response times improved in the first two months following Falck’s assumption of the contract from the previous provider." Patterson predicted "significant improvement" in compliance due to changes Falck has made.

Regarding the copyright infringement suit, Patterson says Care Ambulance Service Inc., "has a valid contract" with SGC "to use copyrighted material and intellectual property of SG Collaborative in 911 bids." He adds that Falck possesses emails in which SGC expresses interest in Falck sharing the SGC strategies in 911 service bids. In a Sept. 13 statement to the Indy, Falck said it was "prepared to pursue further legal action to remedy the situation." He also noted the SGC materials were not used in its Colorado Springs bid.

Falck is contrite about the unfair competition case.
  • Shutterstock.com
"Falck acted in a way that was unacceptable and which we will never repeat," Falck President and CEO Jakob Riis said in a statement. "We have accepted the ruling by the authorities. We have worked to create a joint solution for both large and small creditors. We are happy that we have reached a settlement and will now pay the parties’ losses."

Falck said in a news release in response to the ruling earlier this year, "Around 500 minor creditors will be covered by the bankruptcy estate with an amount, which as matters stand, is considered sufficient to ensure payment of the known claims against the [BIOS] bankruptcy estate."

A question also has arisen about Falck's business ventures in Russia and its data storage of personal customer information. Its website states the company "may transfer some of your data to recipients in countries outside the EU/EEA [European Union/European Economic Area] as we may use external suppliers to host/store some of our data and personal information."

Asked about that, Patterson calls Falck's data security program "robust" and says Falck "follows a layered approach to the international data transfers considering first whether the third country provides an adequate level of protection, as recognized by the European Commission, and ensuring that the exported data will be safeguarded in that country."

Although one Indy reader pointed out that Falck also provides fire service to government agencies worldwide, raising the idea that Falck might be eying a Colorado Springs Fire Department takeover, Patterson dismisses that concern.

Falck's focus is industrial firefighting, he says, adding, "There are no plans for this in the U.S. Interestingly, AMR, through their acquisition of Rural/Metro, provides privatized fire service in the United States today."

As for AMR's record: It's faced criticism locally for failing to meet response times without the help of firefighters. It also racked up more than $1 million in fines in Georgia last year due to slow response times.
Scott Lenn, vice president of operations for AMR, says the contract issue was resolved.

"In the EMS industry, there may be disagreements over response time penalties due to causes that are out of the provider's control such as weather, traffic accidents or system problems," he says.

The city wants the ambulance provider to pay $1.4 million a year to reimburse the city for firefighter support in responding to medical calls. The contract in place today requires a payment of $1.17 million annually. The new five-year contract, to take effect in January, contains five one-year options for renewal.
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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Independent report: Most people shot by officers are armed

Posted By on Wed, Oct 2, 2019 at 10:21 AM

Cries of racism in connection with the De'Von Bailey shooting by police on Aug. 3 prompted the Independent to take a deeper look at officer-involved shootings in the region, which is featured as our cover story in this week's issue.

A close look at 68 shootings that involved 70 suspects shows that officers shot at six black people, which comprised 9 percent of the total. The local black population comprises about 6.9 percent of the total, which shows a close correlation.

The Indy's review of District Attorney's Office rulings in the 4th Judicial District, coroner reports, jail booking records and media reports revealed other important findings:

• Most people killed had drugs and/or alcohol in their systems.
• Most people shot at were armed, and most of those armed chose guns.
• All but one of the shootings for which a decision has been rendered were ruled justified by the DA's Office; the other was ruled justified by a grand jury. Three are pending.
• Despite those rulings, two agencies paid settlements to families of suspects who were killed, and three shootings wound up involving people who were innocent.
  • Courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office
• Officers shot at more suspects and killed more people in the period from 2011 through September 2019, compared to the first decade, 2001 to 2010.

We also looked at Taser use by Colorado Springs Police Department officers, which wasn't reported in this week's story. We found that while Taser use has increased — from 118 times in 2012 to 142 times in 2018 — when figured against the number of calls for service, it's actually declined.

But assaults on police officers is on the rise, significantly. From 2011 to 2018, officers saw a 158-percent increase in assaults on officers.

Read our coverage here
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