Local Government

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Crossroads detox facility to shut down temporarily

Posted By on Tue, Jan 15, 2019 at 9:21 PM

  • Shutterstock.com

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional reporting

The county's detox program, which monitors intoxicated people, allowing them to safely sober up, has had a wild ride over the past decade. Now, it's about to go offline (again), which will lead to overflowing emergency rooms.

Problems with detox date to 2009, when local mental health care provider AspenPointe abruptly shut down their detox program, slamming hospital ERs. Then-El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa swooped in to help, replacing detox (often referred to informally as "the drunk tank") with a county program.

Maketa built a $1.76 million facility next to the county jail to house about 40 people who needed to sober up. The program — which was subsequently managed by various branches of county government — was funded money from local hospitals and the state. Then, in late 2017 detox management was handed over to Crossroads' Turning Points, Inc., a Pueblo-based nonprofit. The county said the move would allow for more extensive detox services.

Another benefit: Crossroads planned to move to a new location, freeing up the county facility to potentially help alleviate overcrowding at the jail. Sheriff spokesperson Jackie Kirby says the old detox facility could be used for “lower-classification inmates who aren’t a high risk.” But as of Jan. 15, officials hadn’t finalized plans.

The facility was supposed to be available to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office at the end of June, when Crossroads was expected to have finished renovating its new building at Interstate 25 and B Street. When Crossroads repeatedly ran into construction issues and administrative delays, the Board of County Commissioners voted to extend the deadline to Sept. 30, then Dec. 31, and finally Jan. 15.

Now, according to Leroy Lucero, Crossroads’ president and CEO, the organization has encountered additional issues that won’t allow it to begin operating in the new facility until early February. But the county didn’t offer another extension — so detox patients will have to go elsewhere for now.

“There will be a gap in services,” Lucero told the Independent Jan. 9.

Lucero says Crossroads notified UCHealth Memorial Hospital and Penrose-St. Francis Health Services that it couldn’t accept detox patients after Jan. 15. He expects most patients to end up at those hospitals’ emergency rooms or other community facilities, and El Paso County patients may be transported to Crossroads’ Pueblo facility on an “emergency, case-by-case basis.”
Sharon Cerrone, clinical nurse manager of emergency departments at Penrose Hospital and St. Francis Medical Center, says she was informed of the development on Jan. 9, and was preparing to call in extra nurses to deal with an expected influx of detox patients.

Crossroads did not tell Cerrone when it planned to resume operations in the new building, she says, just “that they’re having some complications with the renovation and they’ll let us know.”

“Once we increase our nursing staff, I think we’ll be fine,” Cerrone says.

UCHealth, on the other hand, expressed displeasure with the delay.

“Many of these patients do not require the high level of medical care provided in our Emergency Departments, but will be brought to us as the only other place to turn, placing additional strain on critical resources,” Mark Mayes, associate chief nursing officer for UCHealth Memorial Hospital, said in an emailed statement.

Local hospitals formerly shouldered more of the detox program’s costs (about a third of the $2 million budget in 2015), but Lucero says they now provide only a small fraction of funding. The program currently costs about $1 million, Lucero says. Most of that is covered by $792,000 in state detox funds.

Penrose-St. Francis told the Indy that it made monthly payments to the detox program, but could not disclose the current amount. UCHealth says it no longer provides funding for detox at all.

“We haven’t gotten enough financial support from the hospitals,” Lucero says. “... We’re hoping that by being able to have our own permanent location along with more beds, that maybe the hospitals will step up their financial support of these kind of services, because we take a lot of patients from the hospitals.”
Detox offered a place — other than the ER — for people to sober up. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Detox offered a place — other than the ER — for people to sober up.
The new facility will have 20 beds initially, Lucero says — the same number Crossroads operated before Jan. 15 — and will add another 15 beds soon after. The goal, he says, is to eventually get back to 40 beds, the county’s former total.

Julie Krow, the executive director of El Paso County’s Department of Human Services, which ran detox for a while, called Crossroads “a very good partner” despite the delays.

Transferring management of the detox facility to Crossroads was beneficial in part, she says, because it can bill Medicaid for services, which the county could not. Crossroads also has an outpatient facility in Colorado Springs and several residential treatment programs in Pueblo, allowing it to refer patients elsewhere after a short-term stay at the detox facility.

“As a longer-term strategy, having detox with a private provider that has that full continuum of care is much better for the citizens of El Paso County,” Krow says.
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Monday, January 14, 2019

41 percent of Suthers campaign fundraising comes from Broadmoor zip code

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2019 at 5:00 PM

Suthers: Wealthy people always give more to causes. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Suthers: Wealthy people always give more to causes.

Mayor John Suthers is off to a smashing good start in fundraising for his re-election campaign in the April 2 city election.

According to four reports filed since October, the most recent submitted on Jan. 2, Suthers has raised $95,797 from 247 donations. He had $45,160 on hand to begin with and has spent $18,639, which means he has $122,318 in the bank.

(So far, no candidates have qualified for the ballot, though the City Clerk's Office is in the process of verifying petition signatures.)

Of Suthers' total raised in this race, 41.5 percent — $39,730 — came from donors in the 80906 zip code. Of his 247 donors, 101 gave 80906 as their address.

The zip code is known for including wealthier residents, as it encompasses The Broadmoor, and it's also Suthers' home zip code, though he doesn't live in the Broadmoor area itself.  According to this website, the 80906 zip code has an average household income of $97,557 a year, compared to $77,814 for the city as a whole and $81,528 for El Paso County.

The site also shows that 10.1 percent of households in the 80906 zip code make more than $200,000 a year, compared to 4.7 percent in Colorado Springs and 5.2 percent of the county.

Those figures for 80906 would be higher, except that it also includes an area to the east, including Stratmoor Hills where incomes are more modest.
We asked Suthers, who's also served as district attorney and Colorado Attorney General, to comment on such a large portion of his campaign contributions coming from the southwest segment of the city. He responded via email, saying:
To clarify, while I have lived in the 80906 zip code all my life, I do not live in the Broadmoor and never have. I have lived in the Cheyenne Canyon [sic] area and in Skyway. But I spent most of my summers as a kid mowing lawns in the Broadmoor. Some of my customers have been lifelong political supporters.

My experience is that people with higher amounts of discretionary income are more likely to contribute to charitable and political causes and that as a result a disproportionate amount of our community's philanthropic and political giving comes from the 80906 zip code. You might check statewide and national political campaign giving from Colorado Springs and citywide charitable giving to analyze this.

The bottom line is that throughout my career my political support in Colorado Springs has been wide and deep and I believe it still is.
Two candidates have expressed interested in trying to unseat Suthers. They are Lawrence Martinez, a home care specialist, and Juliette Parker, who runs a nonprofit.

Voters will also elect three at-large City Council members on April 2 and decide whether to give firefighters collective bargaining powers.
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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wayne Williams: Council might be a warm-up lap for mayor's race in 2023

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2019 at 12:28 PM

Williams: Playing the long game? - COURTESY OF WAYNE WILLIAMS
  • Courtesy of Wayne Williams
  • Williams: Playing the long game?
Long-time local Republican politician Wayne Williams turned in a candidate petition on Jan. 8 to run for an at-large seat on the Colorado Springs City Council in the April 2 election.

OK. That's not news. But Williams tells the Independent the rumors are true that he's eyeing a run for mayor four years from now.

"The reason I'm running for Council is because I want to do a good job for Colorado Springs. If I'm successful and do a good job, that's something I would likely look at," he says, referring to a mayoral run.

If he ran and won, Williams, who served a term as Colorado Secretary of State before being defeated by Democrat Jena Griswold in his re-election bid in November, would be the second mayor of Colorado Springs in a row who had previously been elected to a statewide office.

Mayor John Suthers served as Colorado Attorney General before becoming mayor in 2015.

Suthers could make history of his own if re-elected this year by becoming the first two-term mayor under the mayor-council form of government approved by voters in 2010.

Williams, 55, who's lived in the Briargate area for 26 years, would be well-positioned to seek the mayor's seat. The at-large seat is a citywide race, and Williams has the name recognition needed to appeal to voters across the city. He was elected twice to serve the northern district as an El Paso County commissioner; he won the county-wide election in 2010 for clerk and recorder, and he captured a term as Colorado Secretary of State in 2014. (The Indy endorsed Williams in his 2018 re-election bid.)

Williams says he's not concerned about the abysmal Council salary of $6,250 a year, because he plans to keep his law practice going and also enter the consulting world in the field of elections. (Williams was recognized for excellence in managing elections while Secretary of State, although he was also criticized for turning over voter information to President Trump's voter fraud commission.)

In addition, Williams' wife, Holly, was sworn in on Jan. 8 as an El Paso County commissioner, a post that pays $120,485 a year.

While some have speculated the Williamses could encounter conflicts of interest if one holds a county seat while the other holds a city seat, Williams dispelled concerns over that. "Sometimes our interests align and sometimes they do not," he says. If a perceived financial conflict of interest arose, he would recuse himself, as would his wife. The city and county cooperate on some projects, but that coordination doesn't necessarily pose a financial conflict for office holders, he noted.

Asked about his obviously partisan background in a city race that is, by City Charter, nonpartisan, the former El Paso County GOP chair says his service in various political offices has been "fair and nonpartisan." He also notes that Irv Halter, who ran for Congress as a Democrat and served in Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper's administration, signed Williams' Council candidate petition, as did Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn.

It's unclear whether Williams will have a leg up in fundraising against his competitors. He says he expects only a few thousand dollars to be left from his Secretary of State campaign, which he could legally transfer into his Council campaign, as did former state legislator Keith King. King transferred $10,459 to his city campaign when he successfully ran in 2013.

Others who've said they'll seek one of three at-large seats up for grabs include incumbents Tom Strand and Bill Murray (Merv Bennett is term-limited), former Councilor Val Snider, Army veteran Tony Gioia, and Terry Martinez, former Will Rogers Elementary School principal and former candidate for House District 18.

Filing deadline is Jan. 22.
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El Paso County officials take oaths of office

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2019 at 12:23 PM

  • Photos courtesy El Paso County
  • Holly and Wayne Williams
Several veteran El Paso County elected officials renewed their oaths of office on Jan. 8 in the county's Centennial Hall, along with a few newcomers. All are Republicans.

Holly Williams and Cami Bremer were both sworn in. (If those last names seem familiar, they are. Holly Williams is the wife of former Secretary of State Wayne Williams who was defeated in the November election in his re-election bid. Cami Bremer is the daughter-in-law of former commissioner Duncan Bremer.)

Williams represents District 1, the county's northern district that includes Black Forest and part of Monument. She was elected to the seat to succeed Darryl Glenn, who held the office for eight years and was barred by term limits from a third term. (Notably, Wayne Williams turned in his petition as a candidate for an at-large Colorado Springs City Council seat on the same day his wife took her oath of office.)

Bremer, elected to replace Peggy Littleton, who also was term limited, represents District 5, which covers most of the city.

They were sworn in by Chief District Court Judge William Bain, who also administered oaths to two other newly elected officials — Coroner Dr. Leon Kelly and Surveyor Richard Mariotti.

Cami Bremer with her husband, Eli, and 4-year-old son, Struthers.
  • Cami Bremer with her husband, Eli, and 4-year-old son, Struthers.
Incumbents also were sworn in, to include: County Assessor Steve Schleiker, Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman and Treasurer Mark Lowderman. Sheriff Bill Elder, meanwhile, was sworn in for his second term during a ceremony at New Life Church, along with deputies who work for him.

Judges sworn in for six-year terms were: District Court Judges of the Fourth Judicial District Eric Bentley, Linda Margaret Billings-Vela, Jill M. Brady, Robert L. Lowery, Timothy Schutz, Larry Edward Schwartz and David L. Shakes.

El Paso County courts judges starting four-year terms include Lawrence Martin, Douglas Miles and Ann Rotolo.
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Friday, January 4, 2019

Anti-immigration group VDARE sues Mayor John Suthers

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2019 at 4:52 PM

A view from Cheyenne Mountain Resort - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • A view from Cheyenne Mountain Resort
A white identity group known for anti-immigration views has sued Mayor John Suthers. The move comes after VDARE's conference in Colorado Springs was canceled by the Cheyenne Mountain Resort, following widespread backlash and an announcement by Suthers that the city wouldn't provide resources for the event. The federal lawsuit alleges that Suthers and the city violated VDARE's First Amendment rights.

(Note: VDARE's attorney was also in contact with the Indy to dispute our description of the organization's viewpoints in early 2018.)

Filed by VDARE Foundation on Dec. 21 in U.S. District Court in Denver, the lawsuit seeks $1 million in compensatory damages, unspecified punitive damages, prejudgment interest and an injunction forbidding the city and Suthers from denying services to entities and events based on "their controversial viewpoints and affiliations."

Suthers, a lifetime Republican, former district attorney, U.S. attorney and Colorado Attorney General, was dismissive of VDARE's claims.

"The matter is completely without merit, and I’m confident the city will prevail,” he tells the Independent through a spokesperson.
Suthers: Lawsuit claims are baseless. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Suthers: Lawsuit claims are baseless.

VDARE's attorney, Randy Corporon of Denver, tells the Indy via email:
This is the first lawsuit by VDARE challenging a government official's chilling of its free speech and peaceful assembly rights. Though I have not been a part of any of the negotiation efforts, it is my understanding that VDARE has been unable to secure space for future conferences since Mayor Suthers' proclamation and the subsequent cancellation of VDARE's Colorado Springs event in spite of their efforts to do so.

This is especially troubling for those of us who support the constitutionally protected First Amendment rights of all groups, whether controversial, favored or disfavored in the eyes of governmental authorities, to peacefully assemble and share ideas. Yet we see officials in other jurisdictions, such as Portland, Oregon in Octboer [sic] of 2018, aggressively and at significant taxpayer expense, providing government services to support and protect radical, violent, disruptive groups like Antifa as they literally take over city streets.
The lawsuit comes at a time when the GOP's chief, President Donald Trump, has energized white identity groups across the country with his immigration policies, which have resulted in thousands of children being separated from their parents at the Mexican border and court battles over his executive orders to bar people from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

VDARE supports Trump's policies and states on its website, "Diversity per se is not strength, but a vulnerability."

It was widely reported that Jason Kessler, an organizer for the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia had written posts for VDARE.com. But VDARE also has more mainstream contributors — Michelle Malkin, whose syndicated column appears in the Gazette and other publications, has been featured on VDARE.com, as have right-wing Breitbart news personalities. VDARE founder Peter Brimelow says the site also has Democratic contributors.

The local, canceled event was to feature a host of anti-immigration speakers. Media Matters for America reported that they would include: "anti-immigrant writer Peter Brimelow, Breitbart.com columnist Tom Tancredo, and writer John Derbyshire, who describes himself as a 'mild and tolerant' 'homophobe' and 'racist.'”
Peter Brimelow with VDARE has a history in journalism. - YOUTUBE
  • YouTube
  • Peter Brimelow with VDARE has a history in journalism.

Brimelow, according to the lawsuit and VDARE's website, has served as a writer/editor for MarketWatch, Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, Barron’s, Financial Post, Maclean’s and National Review. He disputes that VDARE is based on white nationalism, calling the group, instead, "a coalition, agreed only on the need for immigration reduction."

According to the lawsuit, VDARE booked the Cheyenne Mountain Resort on March 31, 2017 for a conference to be held in April 2018. The following August, VDARE grabbed headlines when its plans surfaced.

The resort, the lawsuit says, "was fully aware of VDARE and its mission, as well as the potential for media attention and possible protests arising from the Conference."

But those plans folded after Suthers issued this statement on Aug. 14:

The City of Colorado Springs does not have the authority to restrict freedom of speech, nor to direct private businesses like the Cheyenne Mountain Resort as to which events they may host. That said, I would encourage local businesses to be attentive to the types of events they accept and the groups that they invite to our great city.

The City of Colorado Springs will not provide any support or resources to this event, and does not condone hate speech in any fashion. The City remains steadfast in its commitment to the enforcement of Colorado law, which protects all individuals regardless of race, religion, color, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation to be secure and protected from fear, intimidation, harassment and physical harm.
VDARE alleges the statement "amounted to a refusal to provide city services, including police protection, for the Conference due to, among other things, its controversial subject matter, VDARE’s controversial viewpoints and published content in opposition to current immigration policies, which Defendants termed 'hate speech,' and the negative media attention that the Conference had attracted."

It's worth noting that beyond basic services provided to all citizens, such as responding to emergency calls, the city doesn't provide services for events held on private property as a general rule. Large special events (that block streets, involve more than 10,000 people, serve alcohol on public property, or include high-risk activities like fireworks) or other events held on certain public properties have to apply for special event permits. The event-holder still pays for services associated with the event, like police assigned to the event (and/or private security), unless it is deemed a city-sponsored event.

But the lawsuit alleges that after Suthers' statement came out, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office told a Denver Channel 7 reporter that deputies wouldn't provide coverage for the conference unless requested by the Colorado Springs Police Department.

Then, on Aug. 15, the resort said publicly it would not host the VDARE conference and canceled the contract, a move for which Suthers expressed approval. "I know I am joined by many Colorado Springs residents when I say I appreciate Cheyenne Mountain Resort’s action to cancel this conference, and its conscientious decision not to bring this group to Colorado Springs," Suthers' statement said.

But Suthers' words and their results constitute a violation of the First Amendment, VDARE alleges. From the lawsuit:
Defendants’ promise that the City would not provide “any support or resources” to the Conference, given the obvious and foreseeable need for municipal police and fire services, had the effect of depriving VDARE of its First Amendment rights, chilling its speech on matters of public concern, and depriving VDARE and potential attendees of the Conference from communicating on important national issues such as immigration control and reform. By refusing to provide basic safeguards for the Conference in order to protect event sponsors and participants, Defendants deprived the Conference’s sponsors and participants of their rights to peaceably assemble and debate issues of importance to themselves, to their community, and to the country as a whole. 
The lawsuit alleges Suthers also violated the 14th Amendment of equal protection of the law in that "Defendants threatened to withhold city services based on Plaintiff's speech and associations."

As a result, the lawsuit claims, VDARE was deprived of its right to free speech, loss of revenue from the conference and negative publicity, and inability to conduct future conferences and events in Colorado Springs.

VDARE also alleges the city and Suthers retaliated against the organization for exercising its First Amendment right, which requires proof of three elements:

• that VDARE was engaged in constitutionally protected speech,
• that the city's and Suthers' actions caused VDARE to suffer injury that would chill a person of ordinary fitness from continuing to engage in that activity,
• that the city's and Suthers' action was substantially motivated as a response to VDARE's exercise of constitutionally protected conduct.

A scheduling and planning conference in the lawsuit has been scheduled for March 11.

This lawsuit comes as the city is defending against another federal case brought by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2016, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act due to alleged lack of stormwater controls. The city has spent more than $3 million on that lawsuit so far.

Read the full VDARE lawsuit here:
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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

CSFD response times slow, firefighter ballot measure found sufficient

Posted By on Wed, Jan 2, 2019 at 11:28 AM

  • Colorado Springs Fire Department map and data
The Colorado Springs Fire Department has seen response times get slower across the city over the last year, meaning it takes firefighters longer to get to the scene of a car crash, house fire or rescue.

While Mayor John Suthers tells us his plan to pump up the payroll at the CSFD over four years will change all that, firefighters aren't convinced and want a seat at the table to negotiate not only pay but spending on apparatus and fire stations.

Voters will get a chance to weigh in on whether to grant firefighters collective bargaining power, a measure opposed by Suthers.

On Dec. 21, the firefighter group issued this news release announcing the ballot measure petitions had been found sufficient by City Clerk Sarah Johnson. It will appear on the April 2 city ballot, on which voters also will elect a mayor and three at-large City Council members:
This week, the Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Association were contacted by the City Clerk and informed that the firefighters officially have a spot on the April 2019 ballot.

Firefighters needed 15,907 valid signatures to secure a spot on the ballot. Due to overwhelming support from the community, firefighters submitted over 33,000 raw signatures in November. According to the validation report received from the City Clerk this week, 17,332 signatures were considered “valid”. This generous submission is a testament to the level of support that firefighters are already receiving with regards to their campaign “Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs”.

Now that the Colorado Springs Firefighters officially have a spot on the ballot, the full campaign begins. Until the election on April 2nd, firefighters will be visible in the community educating the citizens about the need for this public safety initiative. This measure will ensure that firefighters have a guaranteed voice in public safety decisions. In addition, this measure seeks to ensure that the residents can always count on quality service that comes with; highly trained firefighters, proper staffing, and much needed equipment and fire trucks.

Dave Noblitt, President of IAFF Local 5, stated “This proposed ballot measure would solidify the seat at the table that firefighters desperately need to serve the community effectively. We look forward to talking to the citizens about this important public safety measure."
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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Colorado Springs lands $4.6-million FEMA grant

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2018 at 11:57 AM

Douglas Creek is one of two projects that will be completed using money from FEMA. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Douglas Creek is one of two projects that will be completed using money from FEMA.
The city's neglected stormwater system got a $4.6 million infusion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for two creek projects, the city and FEMA announced Dec. 19.

FEMA’s grant represents 75 percent of the projects' cost, with the city covering the balance, and is the equivalent of about a quarter of the money the city raises annually through stormwater fees charged to residents and businesses.

The first grant, for $2,612,325, will fund a bank stabilization project along a 1,100-foot stretch of Douglas Creek that eroded during 2013 and 2015 flood events and continues to erode with normal flow events, FEMA said in a release. The total cost will be $3,483,100.

From the release:
The proposed project is located on the creek between its confluence with Monument Creek and Interstate 25, just south of Garden of the Gods Road. Upon completion, this stretch of Douglas Creek will be designed to withstand a 100-year flood event. It will function as a natural stream corridor, build resilience in future events by restoring floodplain function, and will help downstream by reducing sediment in the Fountain Creek watershed.

The second grant, for $2,005,125, will fund restoration and stabilization along a 1,750 foot section of Pine Creek that's seen signification erosion and bank failure since the 2013 flood. The total cost is $2,673,500.

This project will use natural channel construction to reconnect with the natural floodplain and will employ an upstream detention pond to be constructed separately by the city. It, too, will reduce sediment downstream.

Funding is provided through FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program.
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Police Chief Pete Carey is next undersheriff, sources say

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2018 at 11:57 AM


Here's a memo that went out on Dec. 19 from Sheriff Bill Elder:


———————-ORIGINAL POST 11:57 A.M. WEDNESDAY, DEC. 19, 2018————-

Carey: From police department to sheriff's office. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Carey: From police department to sheriff's office.
For months, rumors have floated that Sheriff Bill Elder would name Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey as undersheriff after Elder was re-elected Nov. 6.

Elder's office  has refused to confirm this, but Elder told command personnel on Dec. 14 that Carey will become his second-in-command in February upon the retirement of Undersheriff Joe Breister, sources tell the Independent.

Asked about that on Dec. 17, Sheriff's Office spokesperson Jackie Kirby tells the Indy in an email, "There was no such meeting on Friday and I cannot confirm. Your source is incorrect."

Now, KKTV reports Breister has submitted his retirement papers, effective in March, and Carey will take office on Feb. 11, days after his Feb. 1 retirement as police chief.
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Thursday, December 13, 2018

New campaign finance rules adopted in Colorado Springs

Posted By on Thu, Dec 13, 2018 at 2:13 PM

City Council and mayoral candidates will have to follow new campaign finance rules in 2019. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • City Council and mayoral candidates will have to follow new campaign finance rules in 2019.

Those running for city offices in Colorado Springs in the April 2 election will have new rules to follow.

City Council voted 5-2 on Dec. 11 to make changes in the city's campaign finance code. Councilors Andy Pico and Tom Strand opposed the measure, and Councilors Bill Murray and Merv Bennett were absent for the vote.

Here's a description of the changes from our previous report on the measure:
• Any campaign piece [must] state who paid for it, including ads in magazines, and on billboards, large campaign signs, direct mailings, handbills, internet-based advertising and broadcast ads on radio, television and other technologies. Disclosure [will] not be required on yard signs, pens, lapel pins or bumper stickers. It [won't] apply to individuals who don’t form committees. The [previous] ordinance [required] the disclosure only in 
newspaper ads.

The requirement [will] allow voters to consult campaign finance reports to identify which group or individuals funded which campaign tools. Even dark money groups are required to file campaign finance reports, although they don’t have to list individual donors. Frequently, dark money groups list one donation from their own political action committee. For example, in one 2017 filing, the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs was listed as the sole donor, of $50,000, to the HBA Political Action Committee.

• More precise disclosure of how money is spent [is now required]. Under the [past] ordinance, candidates [could] list an expense for a campaign consultant without detailing what’s covered. During the 2017 election, for example, one candidate listed $8,000 was spent on “grassroots” campaigning. [The new] measure [requires] candidates and campaign committees in the upcoming April 2 city election to report “the source and purpose” of each expenditure.

But how much detail is required is sort of fuzzy and led Strand and Pico to oppose the measure, along with Mayor John Suthers.
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El Paso County wins $8,922 in court expenses, but fails to recover more

Posted By on Thu, Dec 13, 2018 at 1:03 PM

Sheriff Bill Elder's hotel bill and those of others were denied as a legitimate expense in a recent federal lawsuit. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Sheriff Bill Elder's hotel bill and those of others were denied as a legitimate expense in a recent federal lawsuit.
El Paso County took the unusual step on Dec. 11 of announcing to the world in a news release that it was awarded costs in a lawsuit in which it prevailed over former sheriff's Sgt. John Huntz.

Huntz had alleged he was retaliated against with a job change and termination because his wife, Tiffany, had claimed she was sexually harassed by a commander.

After a five-day trial in August, the jury sided with Sheriff Bill Elder, meaning the county won and Huntz lost.

But the county doesn't mention in the release that it's quite common for costs such as witness fees, deposition fees and court filing fees to be automatically awarded to the prevailing party, at the expense of the losing party.

In this case, the county was awarded $8,922 for those expenses.

The county also failed to state in the news release that it actually had sought reimbursement for $18,565 in expenses, most of which was denied by the court clerk.

Besides seeking $1,912 in witness fees and $8,618 in costs associated with taking depositions, the county also sought $8,618 for travel expenses. That travel included $7,938 in hotel rooms for two attorneys, a paralegal and Elder, who testified one day but attended all five days of the trial, at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver in downtown Denver.

That's $259 per night for the five-day trial, although the case wrapped up on Friday, so it's unclear why a fifth night of lodging would be required. In any event, the county also sought reimbursement of $396.75 for each of those four people for the week, along with about $250 in mileage costs for all four and another $230 for each of the four for parking.

The court clerk disallowed all of the travel except for $85 for witness fee, parking and mileage for Elder, noting on the county's reimbursement request, "The Clerk declines to award defense counsel and staff's travel expenses for trial. As this is a Title VII employment discrimination suit — i.e., under federal question jurisdiction — ... attorney travel expenses are not awardable."

The county also tried to persuade the court to reimburse $1,600 for an expert witness fee, but the court clerk disallowed it, saying, "This is an expert witness fee, not awardable" under federal law.

In the release, Board of El Paso County Commissioners President Darryl Glenn, who's a lawyer, praised the court. “We’re very happy that the court ruled in favor of us in this matter," he said, though, as previously noted, the court did not rule in the county's favor on all the expenses for which it sought reimbursement.

Glenn also called the lawsuit "frivolous," although that label is a term of art in the legal world, and the Huntz lawsuit was not frivolous. A judge saw fit to allow the case to proceed to a jury trial, which makes it non-frivolous.

Without disclosing the nearly $10,000 in expenses denied by the court, County Attorney Amy Folsom said in the release, "We are entitled to all of these costs. The important thing to note is that the reimbursement will come out of the pocket of John Huntz himself."

True enough.

Huntz, through his attorney Ian Kalmanowitz, declined to comment as did Kalmanowitz.

Huntz had alleged he was transferred from his training officer post to night shift as payback after his wife reported being sexually harassed by a commander. His wife's claim was dismissed by a judge in September 2017. John Huntz eventually was fired after being on leave for eight months.
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Council adopts RV parking ban

Posted By on Thu, Dec 13, 2018 at 11:10 AM

RVs like this one have proliferated on city streets, triggering an ordinance to bar them from parking on the streets of Colorado Springs. - GREG GJERDINGEN ON FLICKR
  • Greg Gjerdingen on Flickr
  • RVs like this one have proliferated on city streets, triggering an ordinance to bar them from parking on the streets of Colorado Springs.

City Council voted Dec. 11 to adopt a ban on RVs on city streets. The vote was 4 to 3, with Yolanda Avila, David Geislinger and Jill Gaebler dissenting and Merv Bennett and Bill Murray absent.

A first offense carries a fine of $75; second offense, $100, third, $125.

But the city notes that "violations of this ordinance (as currently drafted and proposed) are noncriminal civil infractions not punishable by imprisonment. A violation of 10.25.102(U) may result in the issuance of a parking citation, impoundment of the vehicle or both. This violation, in addition to having been designated as a payable offense as indicated above, has also been designated as an offense that can be heard by a Municipal Court Referee. Any person who has received a parking citation for a violation of the proposed ordinance may appear before the Municipal Court Referee. Pursuant to City Code section 11.5.105 the Referee may reduce fines or dismiss parking citations in accord with this section and the best interests of justice."

The Dec. 11 vote was first reading; it's unclear when the ordinance becomes effective, but generally, such measures must under go a second reading. That would take place in early January. The draft ordinance itself does not state the effective date.

Given the vote was so close with two councilors absent, it's possible the measure wouldn't be adopted on second reading.

———————-ORIGINAL POST 11:55 A.M. TUESDAY, NOV. 27, 2018———————

Colorado Springs has long banned parking RVs on city streets in residential neighborhoods, but soon, City Council will cast a vote on whether to expand that prohibition to all city streets.

The proposed ordinance is part of the city's efforts to address the city's homeless problem, with Police Commander Sean Mandel telling Council that many of the complaints received over the last year involve homeless people living in RVs parked all over the city.

The biggest issues are safety of drivers and pedestrians, environmental impact from RV occupants dumping human waste and other refuse on city streets or into storm sewers and quality of life of residents who observe such activity.

Mandel said during a Council work session on Nov. 26 the Colorado Springs Police Department has seen "a dramatic increase" in complaints over the last year.

"What we’re hoping for is to enable ourselves to go out and contact these owners of vehicles and inform them of the fines associated with the ordinance change," he said. "With the possibility of fines, we can get these vehicles to move and park somewhere outside the city limits."

Those fines are $75 for the first offense, $100 for the second and $125 for the third. It would be a non-jailable offense, but officers could impound the RV, although that would be a last resort.

Councilor David Geislinger, who said he opposes the ordinance as currently written, said he foresees creating a "Whack-a-mole" situation where RV dwellers would merely move the problem from place to place.

He also said he views the ordinance as criminalizing homelessness, though the city's legal advisor said the offense is a parking violation, not a criminal charge.

"I would like to see this ordinance and this problem addressed as part of the ambit of homeless diversion program in our city courts," he said. "The first approach is to bring these families, these individuals into the ambit of services. We heard that the homeless community is expressing frustration that every time they move, they’re losing all their possessions. So with this ordinance, the RV is impounded because of a violation of this statute, and all of a sudden we’ve taken that situation for that family and made it worse."

Mandel told Council the Homeless Outreach Team would likely carry out checks on RVs seen as breaking the ordinance, although all officers could issue citations.

But Geislinger was adamant that the ordinance doesn't truly hit the homeless problem head on. "This is part of the homeless issue that many people are not aware of," he said. "Now that it is out in the open, it is our job collectively to do what we can to address it."

Council is set to vote on the ordinance on Dec. 11.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

City begins clearing "Quarry" homeless camp

Posted By on Tue, Dec 11, 2018 at 1:50 PM

Police and city workers showed up with bulldozers Dec. 11 to clean up the "Quarry" campsite southeast of downtown. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Police and city workers showed up with bulldozers Dec. 11 to clean up the "Quarry" campsite southeast of downtown.

Police and city workers began cleaning up the "Quarry" campground southeast of downtown early Dec. 11. Though police gave campers about two weeks notice to leave — far longer than the 24 hours usually required under city code — pockets of people still remained with their tents and belongings.

"I got an estimate — as of yesterday, there was like 70," says Lt. Lux, who leads the Colorado Springs Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team. "I don't think there's that many now...but there's certainly more than we had hoped."

Lux points out that because the Quarry is on private property, police technically don't have to give campers any notice before ordering them to leave. If anyone refuses to move, they could be arrested and cited for trespassing. But Lux says most were "actively trying" to pack up and leave.

"We've contacted people, they've been trying to get their stuff, and then we'll work around them best we can," he says.

Before police posted the site, Lux estimated there were more than 100 people camping. About five large bulldozers and 40 people, including police and city workers, were present Dec. 11 for the cleanup, which will probably take multiple days.

Police officers stopped by tents to speak with remaining campers, who hurried to fold tents and stuff garbage bags and suitcases with belongings.

Police officers talk to campers still present at the Quarry the morning of cleanup. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Police officers talk to campers still present at the Quarry the morning of cleanup.

For Regina, who said she'd been living in the Quarry with her boyfriend for the past few months since getting evicted, city efforts to give campers extra time and connect them with resources weren't enough to make up for kicking them off the land.

"Some people didn't have rides until today," said Regina, who declined to give her last name. She worried that police would make them leave before her mother could get there to help them load their belongings into her car.

"They make it seem like, 'Oh, we're so nice to you, we brought out DHS and the health department so let me give you some shots if you've got hepatitis A. Let me sign you up for food stamps and Medicaid,'" Regina said. "OK, that's wonderful. But what are you going to do about putting people up in houses? How are you really going to help people? Because you're not."

Regina said she didn't plan on going to a homeless shelter, even though Springs Rescue Mission had opened 150 additional low-barrier beds the day prior. Her dog, used to sleeping by her side, would have to sleep in a kennel. She also isn't sure where she would go during the day, as she doubts anyone would hire her and doesn't want to sit on the sidewalks or in the park waiting for the shelter to open.

Instead, Regina expects that she and her boyfriend will find another place to set up camp.

Nearby, Cody Gross and Josh Striker, who had each lived in the Quarry about a year in total, were more accepting as they packed up their belongings. "[The police] were actually nice this time about it," Striker said.

Neither was sure where he would go. Striker, like Regina, didn't want to go to the shelter because he'd have to put his dog in a kennel. He said he's been homeless on and off since 1996, when his family's trailer burned down.

"Definitely glad they're cleaning it up," said Gross, who's been homeless since 2015. "I do see a lot of families come through on that trail down there, a lot of people ride their bike through there."

Striker mused, "If there was more people like us that camped around here where we try to make sure it stays clean—"

"If there was structure, it'd be a lot easier," Gross said. "There was no structure, it was just pretty much come and go as you please."
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Monday, December 10, 2018

UPDATE: Downtown development includes Vermijo Avenue streetscape

Posted By on Mon, Dec 10, 2018 at 4:54 PM

  • City of Colorado Springs presentation


City Council voted Dec. 11 unanimously, with councilors Bill Murray and Merv Bennett absent, to approve an urban renewal designation for the block southwest of Tejon and Costilla streets — the proposed site of a hotel.

In addition, Council voted unanimously with Murray absent at the same meeting to approve an urban renewal designation for what used to be known as the Southwest Downtown URA. Now, it will be called the Museum and Park Urban Renewal Area. The new area is slightly smaller than the previous about 100 acres, and is bounded by Colorado Avenue and West Cucharras Street on the north, Cascade Avenue and Sahwatch Street on the east, Cimarron Street on the south and Interstate 25 on the west. It excludes most of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railyard right of way.

Council also approved the use of tax increment financing by both urban renewal areas. TIF is the amount of sales and property tax above the base level prior to development that's brought about after development. The money, approved for a term of 25 years, is to be used for public infrastructure such as sidewalks and utilities.

————————ORIGINAL POST 4:54 P.M. MONDAY, DEC. 10, 2018————————

It's hard to imagine how you could spend $11.3 million on a bridge that will span a block or so, but that's what will happen with the construction of the pedestrian bridge that will connect the Olympic Museum, due to open in late 2019, and America the Beautiful Park in lower downtown.

City Council heard a presentation Dec. 10 about progress on the project, which apparently will be built by Kiewit Construction, according to materials attached to the Council agenda.

The bridge's total cost is set at $15.6 million. Add to that $24.5 million to rehab Vermijo Avenue east of the project site into a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare. That's $40.1 million total.

Here's where the money will come from, according to the presentation:

As you can see, there will need to be more money added to fully fund the two projects.

The Regional Tourism Act empowered the Colorado Economic Development Commission to allow state sales tax money produced because of development in a certain area to be applied toward public infrastructure to support economic development. The city won approval for $120.5 million from the EDC for the City for Champions tourism projects. The museum is one of those. Others will be located at the Air Force Academy (visitors center), the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (sports medicine center), Colorado College (arena) and lower downtown (soccer stadium).

The city issued this news release about the streetscape project:
The City of Colorado Springs today presented the Signature Street plan for the redevelopment of Vermijo St. The total redevelopment features a wide, pedestrian and business-friendly format that will render the street appropriate for both pedestrians and automobiles while offering the opportunity to host festivals and plaza-type events. The large-scale plan also includes completion of a modern pedestrian bridge that will finally connect America the Beautiful Park with downtown Colorado Springs, a goal that has been envisioned in the downtown master plan for decades.

"Vermijo was identified as a future 'signature street' for our city years ago, and it's exciting to actually have the renderings that can help us visualize just how transformative this project will be for southwest downtown," said Project Engineer Ryan Phipps. "By combining low impact development, smart technologies, effective stormwater management and an overall design that will draw people to the area, this is truly the type of project we're seeing in best-in-class cities nationwide."

Tejon is the city's only signature street at present.

Phipps further stated that design and engineering for this project was impacted by extensive research into best practices in other major cities across the country. "What we ultimately chose to do with Vermijo was to embrace a timeless design that is flexible enough to make this street sustainable for the next 50 or 100 years. While providing a very classic aesthetic, it will also be equipped to host temporary features and displays that can easily be updated or refreshed. In addition, we will set it up to be ready for evolving smart technologies, from smart street lights to smart parking, kiosks and sensor-driven irrigation."

In addition, the streetscape will use an innovative underground stromwater filtering system which will collect and cleanse runoff by using the natural materials created by the trees lining the two-lane road. Once cleaned by this natural and sustainable system, the water will collect in an underground basin before flowing to Fountain Creek.

Other features of the plan include ADA and bike-friendly accommodations on the pedestrian bridge connecting downtown to America the Beautiful Park, a curb-less design making the street appropriate for festivals and events while remaining accessible, pre-run power for on-street activation and thoughtful planting using the small-leaved and disease resistant Honey Locust tree.

Funding for the project will come from multiple sources to include PPRTA, Regional Tourism Act funding (RTA) granted by the successful City for Champions application, Colorado Springs Utilities and the business improvement district, which was established in 2017.

The funding breakdown is anticipated as follows:
- $17M from the Business Improvement District (BID)
- $9.2M in State RTA funding
- $7.9M in PPRTA funding
- $3M from Colorado Springs Utilities
- $1.3M for the stormwater infrastructure as a pre-identified IGA project
-$1.3M from the parking enterprise

The project is expected to be completed in the first half of 2020.
Go to this link for more information
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Friday, December 7, 2018

Sheriff Elder loses court case regarding ICE holds

Posted By on Fri, Dec 7, 2018 at 12:35 PM

The Criminal Justice Center in El Paso County can't legally hold people for ICE authorities who are entitled to post bond, completed their sentences or otherwise resolved their criminal cases, a judge ruled Dec. 6. - COURTESY EPSO
  • Courtesy EPSO
  • The Criminal Justice Center in El Paso County can't legally hold people for ICE authorities who are entitled to post bond, completed their sentences or otherwise resolved their criminal cases, a judge ruled Dec. 6.
El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder lost a court case on Dec. 6 when a state district judge ruled against his contention that he could legally hold people in jail at the request of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Judge Eric Bentley had previously issued a permanent injunction in March against Elder to bar him from holding inmates for ICE. Elder sought to appeal that ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

The ruling issued on Dec. 6 is an order granting the ACLU of Colorado's motion for summary judgment, laying to rest the issue locally. However, Bentley notes in his ruling the lawsuit is a "case of first impression," meaning there's no precedent. In fact, Elder and the Teller County Sheriff's Office were the only ones in Colorado to continue ICE holds after the ACLU asked them not to. The Teller County case is pending after a different judge ruled in favor of the sheriff.

Hence, Bentley writes, "Resolution of one of these cases by a higher court is needed in order to provide certainty in this area to Colorado’s sheriffs and the immigrant population."

Jackie Kirby, spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office, tells the Indy, "We have not held any detainees in the jail since the March injunction and do plan to appeal." She says that will be the only statement from the office.

Meantime, the ACLU is heralding Bentley's decision as a win, and issued this news release:

DENVER – State District Court Judge Eric Bentley issued a final ruling last night barring El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder from holding people in jail at the request of federal immigration enforcement (ICE) after they have posted bond, completed their sentence, or otherwise resolved their criminal case.

“In issuing a very thorough final ruling that concludes the proceedings in state district court, Judge Bentley explained that Colorado sheriffs have no legal authority to enforce federal immigration law by holding individuals at the request of ICE,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “The court ruled that when individuals have posted bond or resolved their criminal case, sheriffs have a clear legal duty to release them.”

ACLU of Colorado filed a class action lawsuit last February arguing that Sheriff Elder had unlawfully imprisoned dozens of individuals for days, weeks, and even months, without a warrant, without probable cause of a crime, and without any other valid legal authority, solely on the ground that ICE suspected that they were subject to deportation.

In March, Judge Bentley issued a preliminary injunction finding that the prisoners held by Sheriff Elder would suffer irreparable harm by continuing to forfeit their liberty while the case proceeded. The court later certified the case as a class action. Last night’s ruling makes the injunction permanent and orders Sheriff Elder to cease the illegal practice of holding prisoners for ICE. It also declares that Sheriff Elder’s practices violate three separate provisions of the Colorado Constitution.

“Beyond finding that holding individuals for ICE is unconstitutional, the court also noted a complete lack of evidence to support Sheriff Elder’s claim that the practice promotes public safety,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Arash Jahanian. “The court cited a declaration by the Colorado legislature that public trust is undermined when local law enforcement agencies participate in federal immigration enforcement. Members of the community do not report crimes when they fear it will lead to detention and deportation rather than protection. Local law enforcement’s participation in ICE’s deportation scheme harms, not promotes, public safety.”

In 2014, ACLU of Colorado wrote to Colorado sheriffs explaining that when they hold a prisoner on the basis of ICE detainer requests, they are making a new arrest, without legal authority. The ACLU then negotiated a $30,000 settlement with Arapahoe County on behalf of Claudia Valdez, a domestic violence victim who was held for three days after a judge ordered her release because the jail honored a detainer request from ICE.

Within a few months, every Colorado sheriff receiving the ACLU letter declared that they would not hold prisoners for ICE without a warrant signed by a judge. By the end of 2016, more than 500 state and local law enforcement agencies around the country were declining to hold prisoners on the basis of ICE immigration detainers and ICE administrative warrants.

In 2017, the sheriffs in El Paso County and Teller County broke from the other sheriffs in the state and began honoring detainer requests again. ACLU of Colorado filed lawsuits against both counties. The lawsuit against Teller County is currently pending.

In addition to Silverstein and Jahanian, the legal team includes ACLU Cooperating Attorney Steve Masciocchi of Holland & Hart, LLP. 
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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Colorado Springs Utilities seeks ratepayer feedback

Posted By on Wed, Dec 5, 2018 at 12:30 PM

An aerial view of the Edward Bailey Water Treatment Plant while  under construction in 2014. It's part of the city's Southern Delivery System water pipeline project. - COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities
  • An aerial view of the Edward Bailey Water Treatment Plant while under construction in 2014. It's part of the city's Southern Delivery System water pipeline project.
The biggest local government operation — Colorado Springs Utilities, with a $978.3 million budget this year — seeks community feedback for its new annual strategic plan, which seeks to:

• Analyze regulatory and legislative drivers
• Evaluate customer expectations
• Assess risks to the organization and community
• Integrate resource planning and robust conversation
• Communicate and cascade strategic planning principles to plan, finance and fund budget and annual operating plan components

Utilities Board Chair Tom Strand issued the following letter to the community, encouraging ratepayers to take part in the strategic plan process. Board meetings are held on the 5th floor of the south tower in the Plaza of the Rockies building downtown.
Colorado Springs is fortunate to operate its own community-owned utility. This means that our customers have a say in how their utility operates and plans to provide service in the future.

Right now, our Colorado Springs Utilities Board and CEO Aram Benyamin are updating the utility’s strategic plan. We are reaching out to you asking for your insight, suggestions and ideas on this important utility roadmap to improving utility performance and meeting the expectations of our customers.

The plan focuses on many areas directly impacting utility services, rates, reliability and our local environment, from electric transmission projects and renewable energy development to regional water projects and the modernization of utility infrastructure.

Every component of the strategic plan has the potential to reshape how utility services are delivered to you in the future. That’s something our entire community can get excited about.

The Utilities Board and Colorado Springs Utilities would like your input on the draft strategic plan. Please read the plan and provide comments at CSU.ORG. Our Board will discuss the draft at the December 17 Board meeting and consider adopting the plan at our January 16 Board meeting.

Thank you for your involvement.
Tom Strand
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