Local Government

Monday, January 27, 2020

COS to award money to nonprofits for minority scholarships

Posted By on Mon, Jan 27, 2020 at 4:15 PM

  • Shutterstock.com
Proposals were due Jan. 20 from nonprofits interested in obtaining money from the city of Colorado Springs for scholarships for minority college students.

Who knew the city was in the scholarship business?

According to the posting by the city's procurement department, the city will make a donation to a nonprofit of up to $3,000 "to be used solely to fund one or more college scholarships." The total awarded per fiscal year is capped at $6,000, and the awards are being handled in an informal selection process allowed under the city's procurement rules for contracts of less than $200,000.

Here's the eligibility criteria:
• Nonprofit organizations (501(c)3) located in El Paso County which are in good standing in the state of Colorado and have previously awarded college scholarships for at least three consecutive school terms.
• Nonprofit organizations that provide financial aid to assist underserved students who have demonstrated a need for financial assistance to either enter college or need continued funding to pursue their college degree.
• Students must be a high school senior and slated to graduate in the year that the scholarship is awarded or are currently enrolled in a college or university in good academic and disciplinary standing at the time that the scholarship funds are awarded.
• The nonprofit organization must not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, pregnancy status, religion, creed, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, spousal or civil union status, veteran status, or other status protected by applicable law in awarding the scholarships.

Asked why the city does this, city spokesperson Jamie Fabos says via email:
The City has a budget of $50,000 (2020) in the Human resources diversity fund. As part of the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion program, $6,000 has been donated to local non-profits who assist underserved Colorado Springs residents with college tuition via a scholarship program in each of the last four years. This is one small way that the City is investing in the community. In the past, the City has worked with El Cinco de Mayo, Inc. and Urbanites Leading the Pikes Peak Region.

These scholarships have typically been awarded to lower income students by the chosen non-profits. These organizations must sign an agreement stating they will not discriminate based on race, gender, etc. in the awarding of the scholarships.
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Friday, January 24, 2020

City, feds team up on air tanker base at COS airport

Posted By on Fri, Jan 24, 2020 at 5:23 PM

  • Shutterstock.com
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service and the city of Colorado Springs announced on Jan. 24 they would team up to build a permanent air tanker base at Colorado Springs Airport to fight fires in the Rocky Mountain Region and the West.

Mayor John Suthers hailed the announcement, noting increasing forest fire activity.

“We want to do everything we can to protect our beautiful state and our residents," Suthers said in a release. "As wildland firefighting continues to be a priority for western states, we continue to embrace our leadership role and we look forward to completion of this vital asset."

The project, the base and a ramp will cost $20 million and be shared by the airport and the USDA. The USDA has budgeted $37 million for Aviation Safety Modernization Projects.

From the release:
The one-and-a-half-acre base will initially house six reload pits for any type of contracted airtanker, including Very Large Airtankers that can hold more than 5,000 gallons of retardant—making it the largest base in the region, with the ability to serve a 600-mile radius. The base will support even the largest airtankers and will allow multiple airtankers to reload at once. This will allow an increased amount of retardant to be sent to a wildfire faster and with greater efficiency. It will also help the firefighters on the ground and protect communities from the approaching threat of wildfire. By being able to service aircraft of all sizes and capabilities, the base will also reduce the total number of flights needed to fight a wildfire, reducing the risk to additional flight crews and other regions.
Not connected with that announcement but worth noting is that the so-called "supertanker" that carries 19,200 gallons of water or retardant also is based in Colorado Springs. It recently was called upon to assist in battling fires in the Amazon.

“This project is a perfect example of how we can work within all levels of government to promote shared stewardship,” the USDA's Acting Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien said in the release. “I am excited to see it unfold and to see what it will mean for supporting communities during peak fire year activity.”

The tanker base will serve a 600-mile radius, which includes Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska. The base will also provide support to southern Montana, southeastern Idaho, eastern Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma, western Iowa and western Missouri.

The release also noted the eight-acre ramp will be located near the airport’s main 13,500-foot runway and adjacent to the U.S. Army-operated ramp. During the winter months, when the Forest Service is not using the ramp, the airport will use it as a de-icing area for commercial aircraft. Groundbreaking is slated for spring, and the project is expected to be completed in 2021.

Of course, hosting an air tanker base doesn't guarantee that air tankers will be on-hand when they're needed. During the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire, the Forest Service had only nine tankers under contract, compared to 44 a decade earlier.
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El Paso County Sheriff's Office releases video in death in custody case

Posted By on Fri, Jan 24, 2020 at 5:18 PM

The video shows Clark bursting out of a holding room. - EL PASO COUNTY
  • El Paso County
  • The video shows Clark bursting out of a holding room.
On Jan. 24, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office released the video of an inmate's episode that led to his death in custody.

Brian Clark, 44, who was being held at the Criminal Justice Center, on a warrant for indecent exposure, died on Jan. 17 after struggling with deputies after he pushed his way out of a room in the medical ward, the video shows.

"Inmate Clark continued to resist deputies up until the point he was put in the chair. At that time, he suffered a major cardiac event, was wheeled into a trauma room where life saving efforts were performed, yet unsuccessful," a statement with the video says.

The Sheriff's Office also released names of the sergeants and deputies involved in the incident:

Sergeant Amy Ward, date of hire: 03-17-2008, assigned to Security Division.
Sergeant Lene Lipford, date of hire: 12-15-2010, assigned to Security Division.
Deputy Alexander Yakovlev, date of hire: 05-31-2016, assigned to Security Division.
Deputy Araceli Valle, date of hire: 08-29-2016, assigned to Security Division.
Deputy Candace Bradburry, date of hire: 06-10-2019, assigned to Security Division.
Deputy David Divine, date of hire: 08-27-2018, assigned to Security Division.
Deputy Elmer Ibarra, date of hire: 09-06-2016, assigned to Security Division.
Deputy John Vela, date of hire: 05-14-2018, assigned to Security Division.
Deputy Kyle Shelhamer, date of hire: 04-04-2011, assigned to Security Division.
Deputy Lisa Webster, date of hire: 05-31-2016, assigned to Security Division.

All sergeants and deputies have returned to full duty, the Sheriff's Office said.

The incident is under investigation by the Colorado Springs Police Department.

Accompanying the video was this description:
This video is from the Medical Section at the El Paso County Jail on Friday, January 17, 2020 at approximately 9:18 PM. Inmate Clark rushed deputies, as they attempted to switch out a defective safety smock. A call for assistance was made over the radio, and several deputies responded to Medical and assisted in restraining Inmate Clark for his safety and the safety of the deputies.
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Garden of the Gods draws controversy for fees, drainage project

Posted By on Fri, Jan 24, 2020 at 3:16 PM

Here's an example of a photo shot by a professional photographer using the Garden of the Gods as a backdrop. - COURTESY AMANDA ROBERTS WITH THISTLE AND PINE PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Courtesy Amanda Roberts with Thistle and Pine Photography
  • Here's an example of a photo shot by a professional photographer using the Garden of the Gods as a backdrop.
By now, it's old news that the city has decided to impose fees for commercial use of Garden of the Gods.

The charges reportedly caught some people by surprise, though the city had posted signs throughout the park last May that a fee was coming. Photographers expressed outrage at the idea of paying $500 a year to use the park as a backdrop for family portraits, wedding photos and the like.

"Five hundred dollars is more than any place in the entire state of Colorado," says professional photographer Amanda Roberts. "Rocky Mountain National Park charges $300."

She notes a petition opposing the fees on change.org drew 20,000 signatures. "We finally got a response back from the city saying they were not implementing it but would be putting a permit process in place. It was like we won but didn't win."

Another thing that rankled some residents was the idea that the Garden of the Gods Visitors Center would collect the fees. The Visitors Center is a limited liability company owned by the nonprofit Garden of the Gods Foundation.

The Visitors Center has had a contract with the city to run the center since 1993 and when the contract renewed last year, the commercial permitting task was added last year and will run 25 years, says city spokesperson Vanessa Zink.

More from Zink:
PRCS and VNC staff collaborated to implement a new process for administering commercial use permits, beginning this year, for commercial entities operating within the park. The new process requests that entities generating revenue from their operations within the park apply for a commercial use permit. Revenue collected from this permit will go back to the park for maintenance, programming and projects.

PRCS and VNC collaborated on these guidelines and application materials based upon the existing PRCS Private Outdoor Fee-based Activities (POFA) permit used to manage fee-based activities throughout the department. This permitting process includes an application fee along with a varied fee structure based upon whether the applicant is a nonprofit or for-profit and whether the use is a single use permit, annual permit or a group bus tour.

Park staff began to inform commercial operators of the new permitting process in May 2019 with signage installed in the park that informs operators about how to join the permitting process, more of which can be found on www.gardenofgods.com/permits. Additionally, a letter about the new process was recently sent to the nearly 200 commercial operators we know of, inviting them to join in the permitting process to help give back to the park.

In addition to providing revenue to the park, under the new permitting system, PRCS will have better oversight over what commercial entities are operating within the park, ensure those permitted have appropriate insurance, follow park rules and that their commercial use falls within the mission of the park and is in accordance with the Master Plan. VNC is administering the program closely with park staff to review applications and answer questions about the process.

Garden of the Gods Foundation President Jan Martin notes the Parks Advisory Board gave the permit program the green light in October. Responding to criticism that the family who bequeathed the park to the city required it to be free to the public, Martin notes, "Anybody can go to the park free. This is really for operations that are charging to take people into the park, like a tour bus company." Others who will pay the fee include hiking expedition companies, stables that offer horse-back riding, and Broadmoor bus tours of the park. In addition, the park, which hosted more than 5 million visitors last year, is used by companies to hype products, including cars.

While Martin notes that many cities in Colorado charge such fees in their parks, she acknowledged that none she's aware of entrust collection of the fees to a nonprofit or a for-profit company, as is the case with the Garden of the Gods fees.

She says a goal of the program is to discover how the park is being used. "The city knew there was a lot of this going on — people charging for use of services," she says. "They're hoping to get a better sense for how the park is being used, and this is one way to do that."

But Martin disputed the fee program is a way to amass piles of money. "It's not going to be a bonanza," she says. "You can make the argument if people are using the park for commercial purposes, then this is a way for them to give back to the city to help maintain the park."

Martin says there won't be any active enforcement, but rangers will ask people to produce their permit if needed. Neither the Visitors Center nor the city plan to add employees to handle the fee program.

Roberts says she hopes the city moves quickly to make a decision on the photographer fee, because photographers work months, even a year, in advance. She also hopes the fee is substantially less, because a $500 fee would pose a hardship. "We don't make enough to pay $500 for use of Garden of the Gods," she says.

Roberts notes after she and others asked for a town hall meeting about the issue, they were told to attend City Council meetings and make their wishes known during the public comment period. Council has no say in the fees, however, which fall under the purview of Mayor John Suthers, who has administrative oversight of city operations.

Zink says a professional photographer fee policy is being worked out and may apply in all city parks.
A dam on the northeast side of Garden of the Gods Park is part of a massive stormwater drainage project disrupting the park. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • A dam on the northeast side of Garden of the Gods Park is part of a massive stormwater drainage project disrupting the park.
Another controversy swirling in the Garden of the Gods Park centers on a massive detention pond and dam being built to control drainage and remove the Pleasant Valley neighborhood from the flood plain.

Former Councilor Scott Hente, for one, raised objections more than a year ago, saying other steps already taken render the project unnecessary.

But the city proceeded, and now at least 20 acres on the park's northeast side have been dug up.

As one resident, Eva Syrovy, tells the Indy via email, "They have utterly destroyed that entire area. It's close to bighorn sheep habitat. More, the foothills trail, a vital bicycle link in the westside community, has been closed for several months, supposedly to reopen on 12/31."
On the north side of the dam, earth moving equipment continue to dig and reshape the terrain. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • On the north side of the dam, earth moving equipment continue to dig and reshape the terrain.
Martin acknowledges the project doesn't make for a pretty sight, but eventually it could revert to a more natural look.

"It was something that needed to be done," Martin says. "The home owners in Pleasant Valley are pleased, because this will remove them from the flood plain. They [city officials] say when it's done, they’ll reseed it with natural vegetation and you won’t know it’s there, but that’s hard to believe when you look at it today."
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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Where do Colorado Springs residents want to move?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 22, 2020 at 9:52 AM

Apartment List's latest migration report suggests Pueblo is a popular option for apartment hunters looking to move from Colorado Springs. - GREGORY HOWELL
  • Gregory Howell
  • Apartment List's latest migration report suggests Pueblo is a popular option for apartment hunters looking to move from Colorado Springs.

According to a new report, about a quarter of Colorado Springs residents hunting for apartments are looking to move elsewhere. Meanwhile, out of the people looking for a place to live in Colorado Springs, slightly over half are from outside of the metro area.

That data comes from Apartment List, an online listing platform that also follows rental housing trends, which released the results of its latest Renter Migration Report on Jan. 22.

The proportion of apartment hunters within Colorado Springs who were looking to move outside the metro area was slightly lower than in June 2019, when Apartment List reported that 31 percent of searches from people living in the city were for apartments elsewhere. But the percentage of people outside the city looking for an apartment in Colorado Springs remained unchanged, at 54 percent.

Taken together, those two factors suggest that the city is growing in population.

About 15.5 percent of the people from outside Colorado Springs who were looking to move here lived in Denver, according to the latest report. Washington, D.C., residents represented 8.3 percent of inbound searches, while Chicago residents made up 3.8 percent. Last summer, those same three cities were the most likely to include people looking for apartments in Colorado Springs.

As for outbound searches — people in Colorado Springs who wanted to move to a different city — about 30 percent were looking in Denver. Pueblo was the second most popular destination, drawing 5.2 percent of outbound searches, and 3.9 percent of outbound searches were for Phoenix listings.

That's a significant change from June 2019, when the three most popular destinations were Denver (34 percent), Phoenix (4.3 percent) and Boulder (3.5 percent).

It could reflect that Colorado Springs residents are increasingly looking to Pueblo as a more affordable option. Apartment List's latest report on Colorado Springs rents showed that median rent grew 3.4 percent between December 2018 and December 2019, the fourth-highest such increase among metro areas in the U.S.

Median rent for a two-bedroom apartment was $1,270 in December, according to Apartment List numbers for Colorado Springs. In Pueblo, median rent was just $800.

It's also clear that Denver remains a popular place for apartment hunters looking to move to a different city.

Apartment List's latest migration report showed that 48 percent of people looking for listings in Denver lived outside the city. By that measure, the city is attracting more outsiders than any other metro area in the country. A typical two-bedroom apartment costs about $80 more a month in Denver than in Colorado Springs.
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Thursday, January 16, 2020

CSPD commander, cited for careless driving, retires

Posted By on Thu, Jan 16, 2020 at 12:30 PM

Commander Rafael Cintron - COURTESY CSPD
  • Courtesy CSPD
  • Commander Rafael Cintron
Colorado Springs Police Department officials are downplaying an incident in which Commander Rafael Cintron, a 34-year CSPD veteran, was cited for careless driving after crashing his personal vehicle into a trash container and being observed with the smell of alcohol on his breath.

Cintron, 57, served as the staff duty officer at the time of the crash, about 6 p.m. on Dec. 15. That means he was the commander in charge of any major incident, such as an officer-involved shooting, and would be called upon to oversee the incident as well as brief the police chief and the District Attorney's Office.

Facing a March 20 hearing in El Paso County court and an internal affairs investigation, Cintron recently retired. He's still listed on the CSPD website as commander of the Metro Vice Narcotics and Intelligence Division.

CSPD spokesperson Lt. Jim Sokolik tells the Indy a DUI officer conducted a field sobriety test and found him unimpaired. But a neighbor tells the Indy that Cintron was "yelling at everyone" after the crash and proceeded to drink two gallons of water at neighbors' homes as police arrived and perused the scene. Deputy Chief Adrian Vasquez, who signed Cintron's citation, drove Cintron home that night, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fears of retaliation.

The incident has raised questions among the ranks about why Cintron was granted what they perceive as special treatment not afforded to any other cop, not to mention any member of the public.

Former CSPD officer John McFarland believes Cintron got special treatment via the ride home and for not being charged with a more serious crime. He also alleges the deputy chief helped in an attempted cover-up of the incident. Sokolik says there was no special treatment.

"I strongly believe in holding police officers, whether street cops or senior management, to the highest standards," McFarland wrote in an email to his friends that was shared with the Indy. "A cop who 'departs from the truth' (the oft-repeated euphemism for being a liar) deserves to be fired and criminally prosecuted. For this reason, I feel morally compelled to act. I cannot simply look the other way and sleep at night."

If someone detected alcohol on an officer's breath, that officer would be given a portable breath test. If it came back positive, the officer would immediately be suspended and an internal affairs investigation launched, a police source says. Motorists under suspicion of DUI aren't allowed to drink water, eat or chew gum, the source says.

Sokolik disputed that, saying officers who smell of alcohol aren't automatically suspended, because there must evidence of intoxication to impose sanctions. He also disputed that motorists under suspicion of DUI aren't allowed to drink or eat. He said if probable cause exists of a DUI, then there is a period of time called observation during which a suspect isn't allowed to eat or drink but other than that, suspects could drink water. Moreover, Sokolik took issue with the idea that drinking water would impact a person's blood alcohol level. He says it does not. "Intake of liquid has nothing to do with it," he says.

Careless driving is a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense and carries a penalty of three months to 364 days in jail, a fine of between $250 and $1,000 or both  10 to 90 days and a fine of $150 to $300 or both.

We've requested the police report of the incident, but haven't yet received it.

Sokolik tells us in an email that "somebody [is] leading you down the wrong path on this."

"Cintron was involved in a traffic crash and received a ticket, he was evaluated after a witness stated that they smelled alcohol, but he was not impaired," Sokolik writes. "It was well known that he was retiring sometime in the first half of this this year .... It is not unusual at all for someone to move that date around. I don’t believe there is any link between his retirement and the traffic accident."

Cintron, a Widefield High School grad, joined the department in 1985 and was promoted to commander in 2012. He couldn't be reached for comment.

Read more details in the Indy next week.

This blog post has been updated to reflect changes and additions made based on information provided by the Police Department.
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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

COS Councilor given "Climate Meltdown Award"

Posted By on Tue, Jan 14, 2020 at 2:10 PM

Amy Gray holds an award for Councilor Andy Pico for his belief that climate change is not a crisis. - CITY COUNCIL MEETING
  • City Council meeting
  • Amy Gray holds an award for Councilor Andy Pico for his belief that climate change is not a crisis.
Colorado Springs Councilor Andy Pico was awarded a "'Climate Meltdown Award" on Jan. 14 by 350 Colorado, an environmental watchdog group, for his position that climate change hasn't been proven to be human caused and does not pose a crisis.

The award, presented by 350 Colorado volunteer coordinator Amy Gray, opened a can of worms at the City Council meeting, with several councilors defending Pico's right to embrace a different viewpoint without being chastised for it.

It's worth noting the award grew from Pico's admonishment to students campaigning for effective countermeasures to combat climate change. When a student invited Pico to participate in the Climate Strike event on Dec. 6, he wrote back:


At the Jan. 14 meeting, Gray told Council the signs of climate change are "irrefutable" and accused climate change deniers of "sit[ting] on their high horse while the planet burns" and ignoring their constituents' "fight for a better future."

Besides the "Climate Meltdown Award" certificate, Gray presented Pico and Councilor Don Knight with lumps of coal.

Other residents also spoke, expressing concern over the city's plan to keep running the downtown coal-burning Drake Power Plant until 2035. One woman who lives in southwest Colorado Springs noted a marked decline in birds who visit her heated bird bath and the appearance of "a chemical film" on the bath's water, which she said "has to be coming from Drake."

Scott Anderson told Council the city should do more to invest in renewable energy. "When I go for a walk, I get tired of smelling it," he said of Drake's emissions.

One speaker accused climate change deniers of sacrificing the health of the planet and its residents to greed.

Stephany Rose Spaulding, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully against Congressman Doug Lamborn two years ago, termed climate change "the justice issue of our time."

"It will not resist attacking any one of us," she says. She urged Council to formulate a sustainability plan, especially in light of predictions the local population will balloon to 1 million in a few years. "We do not have the infrastructure for this many people... . We have to be serious about the work of the environment. We can’t afford an apology later."
A Springs Utilities solar array at Clear Springs Ranch south of Colorado Springs is one way the city is moving toward renewables, although the downtown coal-fired Drake Power Plant isn't slated for retirement until 2035. - COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities
  • A Springs Utilities solar array at Clear Springs Ranch south of Colorado Springs is one way the city is moving toward renewables, although the downtown coal-fired Drake Power Plant isn't slated for retirement until 2035.

Councilor Bill Murray chimed in noting that Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world's largest money manager overseeing $7 trillion in assets, said in his annual letter to CEOs published Jan. 14 that "Climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects. … But awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.”

After about an hour of commentary, Pico finally weighed in, saying that "comments about denialism really are insulting."

He produced several graphic slides based on NASA research that he said defies climate change hysteria. "This is coming from a data source that you all are using to say we have an emergency," he said. "You need to have an open mind. If you hear about a consensus, there's no such thing as consensus in science."

He attributed many of fires in Australia to arson, not climate change, adding he has no "secret motivation."

"I'm looking at this from reality," he added.

Councilor Knight jumped in to defend Pico, saying Australia's fires have more to do with failure to mitigate for years than global warming, and scolded citizens for criticizing Pico, saying it's unfair for them to "attack a Council member just because they don't agree with that Council member." He described Pico as honorable without "vicious motives."

Councilor Wayne Williams noted the state is curtailing highway money to the region based on air quality, meaning air quality has improved, with the implication being that it's OK to keep Drake cranking for years. Drake, he noted, produces electricity cheaper than renewable sources do.

Council President Richard Skorman said he disagreed with Pico on climate change but agreed "we should have a respectful conversation."

Councilor Yolanda Avila said she's in the corner of environmentalists, and challenged Williams' point about air quality, saying, "One can argue whether those [regulations] are stringent enough."

But she, too, went to bat for Pico, characterizing him as a "man of integrity."
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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Air Force Academy to city: Don't foist your stormwater problems on the Academy

Posted By on Wed, Jan 8, 2020 at 4:27 PM

Stormwater work on Monument Branch in the Northgate area — Voyager north of Middle Creek Parkway. This project was listed under the Intergovernmental Agreement with Pueblo County, which is designed to significantly reduce the amount of sediment entering Monument Creek and involves some work to address runoff concerns at the Air Force Academy. Phase 1 of this project was completed in April, 2017. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • Stormwater work on Monument Branch in the Northgate area — Voyager north of Middle Creek Parkway. This project was listed under the Intergovernmental Agreement with Pueblo County, which is designed to significantly reduce the amount of sediment entering Monument Creek and involves some work to address runoff concerns at the Air Force Academy. Phase 1 of this project was completed in April, 2017.

Development within the city's northern reaches has caused "costly infrastructure damage" to the Air Force Academy's drainage ways — a cost that "should not be borne solely by the Academy," according to a recent letter from the Academy to the city's stormwater manager Richard Mulledy.

The letter comes on the heels of several similar letters in response to development proposals in which Academy officials bemoaned the city's lack of stormwater controls, which have caused stormwater to overflow onto Academy property. The city has either approved those projects or they remain under review.

But the Academy's concerns coalesced in its December 23, 2019, letter from Air Force Col. Brian Hartless to Mulledy, in which Hartless noted:
...the cumulative effect of all new and proposed development will be a significant alteration of the volume, duration, and frequency of stormwater events conveyed across the Academy's eastern boundary. Furthermore, this situation is being replicated in virtually all of our other eastern drainage ways.... 
The letter goes on to note the city's Drainage Criteria Manual requires developers to release stormwater at "historic rates" and that downstream drainage ways undergo stabilization as necessary.

In other words, the problems being caused by the city's continual approval of development in areas within the city limits, which border the Academy, should be dealt with by the city, not the Academy.

"Unfortunately, the Academy's experience is that little to none of this is being implemented or enforced along our property boundary," the Academy's letter says.

Mulledy tells the Indy in an interview that problems stem from development that occurred prior to adoption of the manual in 2014, the first update since 1991.

"What's happened to the academy, things have been developed over decades and we didn't have full spectrum detention," he says. (Full spectrum detention is that which holds back water from drainage ways and releases it gradually, so as not to overwhelmed channels.) "That wasn't a requirement until 2014. Since 2014, we've always made them [developers] do it. Even though you have detention [requirements] back in the older criteria, you still ended up with impacts. Those impacts may be miles away and don't show up that day and may show up 10 years later."

He adds, "What we've always required developers to do is build and implement detention on their site and do channelization to city limits. But the city doesn't believe it can require a property owner to do work on federal property."

Mulledy says the city has worked with the Academy to construct stormwater projects. He also plans to meet with Academy officials soon to "continue to develop that relationship," though he says he hasn't yet responded to the Dec. 23 letter.

Noting the runoff that empties onto the east side of the Academy ultimately flows into the city, Mulledy says, "Of course we want to mitigate that. It's in our best interest to make it right."

One example of the city's efforts is on display via the Monument branch, part of a larger project that Mulledy says is about half-complete.

"We're not turning a blind eye to it," he says, "trust me."

It's worth noting the city is entangled in a lawsuit filed by water quality regulators, including the EPA, in 2016, alleging the city failed to provide adequate stormwater controls and granted waivers to developers giving them a pass from installing such controls. Mulledy says the issues raised by the Academy don't involve any such waivers and that developers in that area have always met city-imposed criteria.
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Thursday, December 5, 2019

Bitcoin mining operation shipping containers tumble in high winds

Posted By on Thu, Dec 5, 2019 at 8:39 AM

Remember the saga of the noisy neighbor up in the northwest part of the city? Things are still in turmoil, it seems.

We wrote about the bitcoin mining operation taking place in a building on Garden of the Gods Road last May, and again in July when the operator, 3G Venture, was having trouble complying with the city's noise ordinance, and again in August when the city decided not to cite the operator.

Now, the complaint — in addition to continued noise that a neighbor, Ron Graham Becker, says violates the city's noise ordinance — centers on potential danger from stacking shipping containers against the building to buffer the sound.

Some of those containers, stacked four high, came tumbling down in high winds on Nov. 29 and 30, as shown in this photo provided by Graham Becker.

Says Graham Becker in an email to officials with the city, Fire Department and Pikes Peak Regional Building Department: "As you may know, a wall of shipping containers came crashing down at Bldg 1625 — 3G Venture II — during the high winds of this past Friday and Saturday, 29 & 30 November, 2019. Fortunately, as far as I know, no one was killed or injured. Very fortunate, indeed."

Here's another photo supplied by Graham Becker.

Graham Becker reports that he reported the incident to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which has filed an informal complaint against 3G, whose owner, John Chen, must file a response within five days.

His complaint, he says, states that "Approximately 10 employees exposed to 'struck-by hazards' in that shipping containers, used to isolate noise, are resting on uneven surfaces, stacked up to 40 feet high, and leaning precariously toward occupied areas. Contrary to Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act of 1970."

In response to Graham Becker's email, Colorado Springs Fire Department Fire Marshal Brett Lacy says the issue falls outside his purview.

We asked Regional Building about it, and got this response from RBD spokesperson Greg Dingrando, via email: "RBD would not be involved because the Building Code does not address, or regulate placement of shipping containers. A building permit is not required to stack shipping containers."

The Indy also asked the city to comment, leading to this statement from the city communications office:
The City of Colorado Springs Planning Department and Code Enforcement divisions have been in communication with the owner of 3G Venture II for the past several months. City employees made the owner aware approximately one month ago that a development plan must be submitted to our Land Use Review division by Wednesday, December 4th. This development plan should address the owner’s intent for noise mitigation, including plans to ensure safety on and around the property. If the city does not receive the development plan by December 4th, Code Enforcement can issue a summons.
Chen tells the Indy he restacked the containers within a day or so, and "Everything is back to where it was."

But Chen says he's getting just as tired of the complaints as the complainers are getting of making those complaints.

"At some point I think it's becoming — I don't know how to put it. Everyone is entitled to their thinking, it's becoming harassment," he tells the Indy by phone. "At some point, it's beyond reasonable."

Chen asserts the bitcoin operation complies with the city's noise ordinance, and it's cost him a bundle to achieve that, but the complaints continue.

"I'm doing everything I can to comply with everything. Every little thing they're calling everyone in the world," he says. "I think there has to be some reasonableness in the whole thing."

Meantime, we asked how his bitcoin mining operation is going, and Chen reports it's been successful.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Raises coming for 3 top city employees

Posted By on Wed, Nov 27, 2019 at 7:48 AM

City Attorney Massey: getting a big salary boost. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • City Attorney Massey: getting a big salary boost.
Just in time for the holidays. Three top-ranking city employees are in line for raises when City Council takes up the pay hikes on Dec. 10.

The biggest — almost $10,000 — will go to City Attorney Wynetta Massey. She's served in that role since April 2014 when appointed by then-Mayor Steve Bach at a salary of $192,276.

When John Suthers succeeded Bach in 2015, he kept Massey as top legal beagle, and upped her pay modestly to $196,723 in 2018. But this time, Massey will see her pay boosted by 5 percent, or $9,836 a year, to $206,650, effective Dec. 28. Massey reports to the mayor and also provides legal advice to City Council.

The agenda items background material noted that Massey's proposed salary "is within the range established for City Attorney/Chief Legal Officer in the 2020 Salary Structure, and is below the market average reflected therein for that position."

City Auditor Denny Nester, who's previous salary was $171,797 will get a 1.5 percent raise, or $2,577, bringing his new pay to $174,354. He reports to Council.

Another Council appointee, Council Administrator Emily Evans, will see a 5 percent, or $4,970, pay boost to $103,584.

Nester's and Evans' raises also will become effective Dec. 28.
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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Airbnb hosts projected to earn $1.3 million over Air Force football season

Posted By on Tue, Nov 26, 2019 at 2:46 PM

Airbnb says its hosts help accommodate visitors during the college football season. - U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY BRANDON O'CONNOR
  • U.S. Army photo by Brandon O'Connor
  • Airbnb says its hosts help accommodate visitors during the college football season.

As City Council debated new regulations for Airbnbs and other short-term rentals, Colorado Springs Airbnb hosts earned $1.24 million over five Air Force Academy football home game weekends this season — and are projected to bring in an additional $139,000 the weekend of Nov. 30, when the Falcons play the University of Wyoming.

That's according to booking data from Airbnb, which announced the projected totals Nov. 26.

Airbnb hosts in Colorado Springs earned the most money of any Air Force home game weekend this year Sept. 27 and 28, when the Academy hosted San Jose State University. They brought in $391,000 from 4,080 guest arrivals, according to Airbnb booking data.

More recently, Airbnb hosts earned $155,000 from 2,380 guest arrivals the weekend of Nov. 1 and 2, when the Air Force played the Army.

(Those numbers represent Airbnb totals for the game weekends, not necessarily just people who visited Colorado Springs for the purpose of attending a football game.)

"This college football season is a great example of how Airbnb expands lodging stock to help cities like Colorado Springs welcome an influx of visitors for big events," Laura Spanjian, Airbnb
senior policy director for Colorado, said in a statement. "Fans and alumni can find a comfortable, affordable place to stay, while hosts and small businesses are receiving an economic boost from this expanded tourism economy."

The announcement went out the same day that City Council was set to hold a public hearing on proposed new requirements governing the occupancy and density of short-term rentals, or STRs, within city limits.

The public hearing, which would not have included a formal vote, was postponed due to a snowstorm. Update Dec. 4: The hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 5 during the City Council meeting that begins at 8 a.m.

City staff had devised four potential options for an ordinance regulating STRs. The hearing Nov. 26 would have solicited public feedback on the different options:

Ordinance options A, B and C define an "owner occupied" short-term rental as a property that is occupied by the owner for at least 180 days out of the year, with exceptions for deployed military service members.

Option A mandates that no non-owner occupied STR could be located within five lots of another non-owner occupied STR in any direction.

Option B includes the same five-lot spacing requirement as Option A, but also bans non-owner occupied STRs in single-family zones.

Option C includes the same five-lot spacing requirement as options A and B, but requires that applications for non-owner occupied units within single-family zones be reviewed by the Planning Commission at a public hearing.

Option D, city's staff's recommendation, defines an "owner occupied" short-term rental as occupied by the owner for at least 210 days out of the year, with exceptions for deployed service members. Other than that, it's identical to option B: It requires non-owner occupied STRs to be spaced five lots apart, and also bans non-owner occupied units in single-family zones.
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Friday, November 22, 2019

Pete Lee, Juaquin Mobley talk criminal justice reform

Posted By on Fri, Nov 22, 2019 at 9:23 AM

Juaquin Mobley directs Colorado Springs Works. - BRYAN GROSSMAN
  • Bryan Grossman
  • Juaquin Mobley directs Colorado Springs Works.
As the director of Colorado Springs Works, Juaquin Mobley works to transform crime prevention and anti-recidivism efforts in Southeast from The Community barbershop.

The work — which involves everything from career preparation to cognitive behavioral therapy to acupuncture to something called Drug Dealers Anonymous — aims to "enrich our communities and reestablish our greatness and confidence," he says.

Mobley says those efforts have helped reduce recidivism (the percentage of offenders returning to jail or prison) among his program's participants to 1 percent, compared with the state average of nearly 50 percent.

They're made possible in part by the work of state Sen. Pete Lee, a Colorado Springs Democrat who's pushed for criminal justice reform at the state Legislature. A bill that Lee sponsored as a state representative in 2017, titled Justice Reinvestment Crime Prevention Initiative, reduced the amount of time inmates can serve for technical parole violations.

With the money saved, the bill created the Transforming Safety grant program to fund efforts designed to keep people out of the criminal justice system in Aurora and Southeast Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs Works, a chapter of the nonprofit Community Works, received a $193,000 grant in 2018.

Mobley and Lee came together Nov. 19 for an event at Colorado College titled "From Incarceration Nation to Opportunity for All."

Sen. Pete Lee champions restorative justice. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Sen. Pete Lee champions restorative justice.
Lee began by discussing his work in restorative justice. That includes sponsoring five bills aimed at diverting people from jails and prisons and reducing recidivism — in part by fostering dialogue between offenders and their victims.

Restorative justice can "transform our criminal justice system from one of retribution and punishment to one of responsibility, accountability, restoration and healing," Lee said.

But despite a diversion pilot program showing shocking success rates in terms of reducing recidivism (an 8.8 percent recidivism rate among 1,000 juvenile offenders), and legislation making widespread adoption possible, district attorneys have failed to adopt restorative justice practices on a bigger scale, Lee said.

That includes El Paso County District Attorney Dan May, Lee said, who sends more people to prison than any other judicial district in Colorado.

But Lee pointed to Mobley's efforts in Southeast as a successful example of finding community-based solutions to crime that don't include incarceration.

Mobley has his own history in the criminal justice system.

Serving years in prison for a 2006 armed robbery showed him that crime was a "community issue," and inspired him to make a difference.

"You have to understand that the kids I grew up with were equally as ambitious as Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, but without a community that knows how to support that unbridled ambition, that ambition can turn toxic for us," Mobley said. "So we start looking for other avenues ... to become entrepreneurs or become the next Mark Zuckerberg."

Colorado Springs Works, along with a sister chapter in Aurora, hopes to "restore vitality to these neighborhoods that have been discarded and referred to as hopeless and incorrigible."

Mobley's team does that not only through teaching "hard skills" through career preparation programs, but by providing emotional healing through therapy and acupuncture. It also finds ways to work directly with the community.

For example, the "Drug Dealers Anonymous" program provides a way for participants to apply skills they may have gained through selling illegal substances to instead selling bowties and T-shirts in the community. And The Community barbershop holds public events such as cornhole matches, art therapy and Cypher Saturdays, an open mic-style event for rappers, singers and poets.

"Overall, we help remove all barriers and impediments that are placed in a participant’s path to greatness and redemption," Mobley said. "...Our methods will enrich our communities and reestablish our greatness and confidence."
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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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