Monday, November 12, 2018

City slammed in EPA lawsuit ruling; could stormwater fees be increased?

Posted By on Mon, Nov 12, 2018 at 1:32 PM

Many creeks in Colorado Springs like this one have eroded over time and contribute sediment downstream. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Many creeks in Colorado Springs like this one have eroded over time and contribute sediment downstream.
A federal judged ruled on Nov. 9 that Colorado Springs violated its stormwater discharge permit in at least three developments, which subjects the city to possibly significant fines under the Clean Water Act.

But Mayor John Suthers and several City Council members aren't willing to discuss whether the city's stormwater fees, approved by voters a year ago, will be amended to absorb what could be multi-million dollar penalties.

The stormwater measure, which charged residences $5 per month via their utilities billings and non-residential properties $30 per developed acre, included this provision:

"... such fees may be thereafter increased by City Council by resolution only to the extent required to comply with a valid court order, federal or state permits, federal or state laws, and intergovernmental agreements [IGA] of the city entered into before June 1, 2016." (The only IGA that qualifies in that provision is the April 2016 agreement with Pueblo County to spend $460 million over 20 years on the city's stormwater drainage system.)

While City Councilor Tom Strand told the Gazette that large fines might have to come from cuts to parks, police and fire departments, the stormwater fees obviously can be increased to cover such an expense. Strand didn't respond to a request for comment from the Independent.

Councilor Andy Pico says it's too soon to talk about penalties, because the case still has "a long ways to go." Councilor Bill Murray also sidestepped the question of increasing stormwater fees, saying he wants to "rebalance" all city fees rather than raid other departments.

"In this case the public will be the loser but this lawsuit was about the development winners," he adds in an email. "We need to take a critical review on how we encourage development."
Morning Star at Break Creek extended drainage basin never worked as it was intended. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Morning Star at Break Creek extended drainage basin never worked as it was intended.

Councilor Don Knight, who opposed the stormwater fee measure, also said it's "pre-mature" to say how the city would pay a fine until the city knows how much it might be.

He also  notes in an email that a fine could represent a one-time expense, while court-ordered additional drainage work could require multi-year commitments.

Councilor David Geislinger labeled it "fear-mongering" to speculate how the city would satisfy any fines in the case.

"It is my hope, and expectation, that the city’s earlier commitment to address the known deficiencies, and subsequent approval of the stormwater fee, will be taken into consideration by the court in any subsequent findings of damages, to include a fine," Geislinger says via email.

Councilor Jill Gaebler says via email, "I have never made any comments about raising stormwater fees, but I can tell you that I will consider raising the fee before ever cutting funding for public safety. Having said that, this lawsuit is not a done deal, and I remain hopeful."

For his part, Suthers issued a statement saying the city has taken "extraordinary steps" to build the "best stormwater program in the state" and will continue to work toward resolving the lawsuit, though it has no choice if the EPA wants to continue litigating.

It's worth noting that all three of the exemplar sites considered in the first nine-day trial in September that led to the Nov. 9 decision involved development that was initiated before Suthers became mayor in mid-2015.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch ruled that the city violated its municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permit for discharging storm runoff into creeks in the Arkansas River watershed.

A September trial focused on three developments: the 150-acre Indigo Ranch North at Stetson Ridge Filings 11, 13 and 14 in the city's northeast area; Star Ranch Filing 2, a 26-acre development for 32 homes on the city's southwest side; and Morning Star at Bear Creek, a senior facility built on five acres north of Bear Creek Regional Park.

Those are among 10 claims for relief from multiple violations of the city's permit cited in the lawsuit, filed in November 2016, by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District have also joined as plaintiffs.

For the plaintiffs, the bar was low. As noted by Matsch, they only had to show the city violated its permit conditions.

In his 43-page ruling, Matsch walks through each development in detail, citing the city's failures.

But in short, he notes the city didn't require developers to file drainage reports and perform other drainage work, despite requirements contained in the city's own drainage manuals and stormwater management regulations.

It's unclear what the next step might be, other than scheduling another trial to examine other cases in which the city failed to comply with its MS4 permit.

We've asked the Lower Arkansas District and Pueblo County for a comment on the judge's ruling and will circle back if and when we hear something.

Here's the ruling:

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El Paso County sheriff faces new lawsuit

Posted By on Mon, Nov 12, 2018 at 9:39 AM

Keith Duda and his daughter, Caitlyn, filed a lawsuit on Nov. 9 against El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Keith Duda and his daughter, Caitlyn, filed a lawsuit on Nov. 9 against El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder.
Former El Paso County Sheriff's Sgt. Keith Duda and his daughter, Caitlyn Duda, have filed a federal lawsuit against Sheriff Bill Elder, alleging retaliation against them for reporting incidents that involved Lt. Bill Huffor.

The lawsuit, filed Nov. 9, also alleges Elder retaliated against Keith Duda for supporting the campaign of Elder's primary opponent, Mike Angley, though he did not do so on county time. Duda also alleges that Elder fired him after a story appeared in the Independent about the retaliation against him and his daughter.

From the lawsuit:
Keith Duda also spoke to the press as a private citizen about a matter of public concern: unlawful discrimination, retaliation, and political retribution in the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and by EPSO members.

Keith Duda was not acting pursuant to his job duties when he spoke to the press about unlawful discrimination, retaliation, and political retribution in the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and by EPSO members.

Keith Duda’s speech about unlawful discrimination, retaliation, and political retribution in the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and by EPSO members was not personal to him, but was directed to informing the community at large about acts committed by EPSO employees.
We've reached out to the Sheriff's Office for a comment and will update if we hear back.

The Sheriff's Office declined to comment.

Here's the lawsuit:
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Friday, November 9, 2018

KOAA News5 to change ownership, Colorado Public Radio adds Springs reporter

Posted By on Fri, Nov 9, 2018 at 3:03 PM

Southern Colorado's KOAA News5 launched in 1953. - COURTESY OF KOAA NEWS5
  • Courtesy of KOAA News5
  • Southern Colorado's KOAA News5 launched in 1953.
Changes at  local and statewide media organizations could soon affect coverage of Southern Colorado.

First up, KOAA News5’s owner, Cordillera Communications, announced on Oct. 29 it had sold 15 of its 16 stations — including KOAA, a CBS NBC affiliate — to The E.W. Scripps Company, and its Tucson, Arizona, station to Quincy Media, Inc. The sales are pending federal regulatory approvals.

KOAA launched in 1953 and was purchased by Cordillera in 1977, according to the station's website. In an emailed conversation, Evan Pappas, the station's president and general manager, seemed optimistic about the purchase.

"Cordillera Communications remained committed to finding a buyer that fit our culture, ethical standards, commitment to quality news and community service and placing our valued employees in the hands of a company that cares for its employees as both these companies do," Pappas wrote. "They did that in committing to Scripps. If we can't work for Cordillera any longer, Scripps is as close to a perfect match as they come."

Pappas pointed out that Scripps would provide "cutting edge digital projects" and "more resources for news content."

Scripps currently owns 33 local television stations across the country, including Azteca Colorado, a Spanish-language station in Colorado Springs, Denver and Fort Collins; and ABC affiliate KMGH-TV (The Denver Channel).

In other media news, Colorado Public Radio, the state NPR affiliate based in Denver, hired two reporters in Colorado Springs and Grand Junction as part of a multi-year plan to grow its newsroom by one-third.

Dan Boyce and Stina Sieg are the first reporters CPR News has embedded outside the Denver metro area, according to a statement. Boyce, who's previously worked for Montana Public Radio and Inside Energy, a Colorado public media collaborative, will focus on military and veterans issues and other major news in the Colorado Springs area.

Sieg has worked at public radio stations in Phoenix and Spindale, North Carolina. She'll report on issues including land use, agriculture and development on the Western Slope.

“These additions enable the newsroom to produce significantly more news for and from Colorado, in a capacity not possible before,” Kevin Dale, executive editor of CPR News, is quoted in the statement. “As a result, Coloradans can expect to hear about the most important issues happening across the state, giving them a greater sense of place and connection with one another.”

Colorado Springs also has a local public radio station, 91.5 KRCC, a member-supported service of Colorado College and NPR affiliate.

Editor's note: This post has been updated to correct KOAA's network affiliation.
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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Colorado Women roared in the midterm elections

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2018 at 4:05 PM

Women's votes counted big time in the mid-term elections. - SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
  • Women's votes counted big time in the mid-term elections.
After a burst of applause and cheers on election night at the Gold Room, State Senator-elect Pete Lee, a Democrat, made a point to say, "Thank you women, thank you women."

And here's why. 

More women went to the polls on Nov. 6 in Colorado than men. According to the latest numbers from the Secretary of State's Office, 1,296,893 women cast ballots, compared to 1,190,623 men. About 750,000 of those women were ages 26 to 60. (Another 30,764 voters were labeled "unknown" gender.)

In El Paso County, 145,728 women voted, compared to 132,195 men. (And 3,618 voters were labeled "unknown" gender.)

Here's some stories from around the web about women voters, and women in politics.

The Secretary of State's tally also shows that 822,419 Democrats cast ballots, compared to 804,991 Republicans. Unaffiliated voters cast 852,443 votes, more than either party.

That's vastly different than in the 2014 midterm election in Colorado when, according to the Atlas Project's 2014 post-election analysis, "male voters outnumbered women by a six- to eight-point margin. This shift spelled trouble for Democrats, who have historically made up for subpar performances among men by winning female voters."
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Do no-bag policies keep you safer?

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2018 at 3:08 PM

Do bans on backpacks and purses mean a person hell-bent on hurting people will be repelled from a public place? Do searches of bags help keep us safe at entertainment venues?

Some say yes, while others say not at all. One expert calls such policies "security theater."

Read about the new rules adopted locally in the last several months at several large gathering places, which are following in the footsteps of other venues across the country.

Here's a visual for what's now allowed at the Broadmoor World Arena.

BROADMOOR WORLD ARENA WEBSITE
  • Broadmoor World Arena website
 
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Blue wave strong in Colorado

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2018 at 6:31 AM

Jared Polis - COURTESY JARED POLIS CAMPAIGN
  • Courtesy Jared Polis campaign
  • Jared Polis

On the national stage, Democrats' blue wave took the House, but failed to capture the Senate, losing seats to Republican challengers. Colorado contributed to the Democratic take over of the House with Democrat Jason Crow beating hardy Republican incumbent Mike Coffman in Congressional District 6.

The news was even better for Dems in Colorado, where Democrat Jared Polis became the state's first gay and first Jewish governor, and Democrats expanded their majority in the Colorado House and gained a majority in the Colorado Senate.

The Dems also captured other statewide offices with Jena Griswold winning the race for Secretary of State  against incumbent Republican (and El Paso County local) Wayne Williams. Democrat Dave Young took the Treasurer's office, and Dem Phil Weiser beat Republican George Brauchler in the Attorney General race. 
Stephany Rose Spaulding at the Gold Room on election night. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Stephany Rose Spaulding at the Gold Room on election night.

As would be expected, the blue wave wasn't able to capture safe Republican seats in red El Paso County. Doug Lamborn easily defended his Fifth Congressional District seat from a challenge by Democrat Stephany Rose Spaulding.
Doug Lamborn on election night. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Doug Lamborn on election night.

At a party at the Colorado Springs Country Club on election night, Lamborn told the crowd he was glad to have survived the blue wave and would work to expand the local military presence.

"I want to see the Space Command here in the Fifth Congressional District at Peterson," he told the crowd.

But the few seats in El Paso County where Democrats can win, or usually do, were taken by progressive candidates. Democrat Pete Lee won his Colorado Senate District 11 seat. (The seat was left vacant by departing Dem Michael Merrifield.) Lee, who took the stage at the Gold Room to rapturous applause, told the crowd, "The one thing I want to say now is thank you women, thank you women."
Pete Lee (left) and Marc Snyder on election night. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Pete Lee (left) and Marc Snyder on election night.

Tony Exum, the Democrat incumbent from Colorado House District 17, was reelected— in spite of the fact that Dems normally lose the seat in midterm elections. Democrat Marc Snyder won Colorado House District 18, Lee's old seat. Republicans retained the other House and Senate seats in the Pikes Peak area.

On a local level, Republicans Holly Williams and Cami Bremer have won seats on the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners, and Republicans also retained control of all El Paso County offices to include sheriff. El Paso County 1A, the Sheriff's Office tax, passed easily.

Voters weren't friendly to most statewide ballot issues (beyond minor legal fixes), though they did approve proposals to change the way districts are drawn for both congressional and state legislative races in an attempt to avoid gerrymandering, as well as a measure to lower the cap on interest rates for predatory payday loans. But Amendment 73, the state education funding tax, was defeated, as was Amendment 74, an oil and gas industry supported measure to make government pay for reductions to property values. Amendment 75, which sought to even the playing field for those who can't self-fund campaigns, failed. Both state transportation funding measures were shot down, as was a measure to increase setbacks for oil and gas operations.

There were reports that some local polling locations had long lines and some ran out of ballots.

“There was enormous participation in this election, with record breaking turnout,” Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman, who just won reelection, stated in a press release. “We greatly appreciate all the voters who participated in our representative democracy’s cherished right to vote and made their voices heard.”

For a full list of El Paso County race results, go here. Statewide and congressional race results can be found here. The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder is still counting ballots and will update at 4 p.m. on Nov. 7.


Republicans at the Colorado Springs Country Club - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Republicans at the Colorado Springs Country Club
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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Leon Young Pavilion meeting a 'turning point,' one Hillside advocate says

Posted By on Tue, Nov 6, 2018 at 3:59 PM

Attendees of the city's latest meeting on the Leon Young Pavilion look at photos of the park. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Attendees of the city's latest meeting on the Leon Young Pavilion look at photos of the park.

The meeting Nov. 2 at the Hillside Community Center was the third since August discussing plans for the Leon Young Pavilion. This one had marked differences from an Aug. 22 Hillside neighborhood meeting, the last one we covered related to the pavilion project.

At that meeting, emotions ran high as Hillside residents expressed disappointment with the city's rejection of plans to rebuild the pavilion — an aging and neglected wooden structure named for the city's only black mayor — and a city parks representative refused to admit wrongdoing on the part of the department.

At this meeting, attendees were met with an array of refreshments, and were invited to leave comments on poster boards about aspects of pavilion redevelopment. Tilah Larson, senior analyst for the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department, took on a more optimistic tone. Catherine Duarte, senior analyst for the city's Community Development Division, and Steve Wood, the founder and director of Concrete Couch, shared considerations and ideas for the space. But some neighborhood advocates remained guarded.

Hillside activist Victoria Stone says there's still more work to be done to get the city and community on the same page, but felt that by the end of the meeting, they'd been able to nail down what mattered most: memorializing the late Mayor Leon Young.

"The next step is going to be to really thoughtfully look at the budget, which again, will shake things up," Stone said a few days later. "I think that last meeting was a turning point to really put us in the right trajectory."

The Leon Young Pavilion is near the southern end of Shooks Run trail. - ALLEN BEAUCHAMP
  • Allen Beauchamp
  • The Leon Young Pavilion is near the southern end of Shooks Run trail.

Last year, although a $150,000 federal community-development block grant was available for pavilion redevelopment, the Parks department said the project couldn't go forward because it might interfere with the Envision Shooks Run and Legacy Loop plans for a connected trail system. But it wasn't clear what the interference would be — wide cement paths are already in place in the park.

That $150,000 will likely be available again this year, Duarte says, and city officials are hoping to get the community on board with a new plan. While community members have differed over whether the pavilion should be demolished and replaced, or restored and refurbished, the general consensus now appears to be to keep the original structure, Larson says. She also says Parks can't accommodate completely demo-ing and rebuilding the pavilion.

The city is limited by several considerations, including accessibility requirements outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act, stormwater issues — the pavilion is positioned on a floodplain — and the need for revitalization of the area. People experiencing homelessness frequent the pavilion, as there are a number of camps nearby, and trash has been an issue.

Attendees of a Leon Young Pavilion planning meeting were invited to leave comments. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Attendees of a Leon Young Pavilion planning meeting were invited to leave comments.

Wood, whose Concrete Couch is a nonprofit focused on creative construction, community and sustainability, suggested the project could employ three to five local teenagers for about 30 hours to re-oil and hydrate the tall wooden beams of the pavilion, dig out low, rotted walls, and rebuild any damaged tables. (The pavilion is located near the site of the nonprofit's future campus.)

Pastor Paul Nelson, of The Living Word Baptist Church, which often hosts Hillside neighborhood meetings, worried that those steps alone would not make the splintering structure safe. "I would not bring my grandkids there to play," he said.

Stone says she's hopeful that the $150,000 grant will pay for more than what Concrete Couch's revitalization ideas entail. She wants the city officials who presented at the Nov. 2 meeting to come to a weekly neighborhood meeting, where she thinks they'll be able to interact with more of the community that's been involved in planning efforts from the beginning.

"I just think maybe we need one more meeting to hash out some stuff," she says, "because I think the other piece that maybe gets lost in public process, is public process I think maybe feels a little bit benign, but when you're thinking about things actually happening in your community, it's an emotional space. It's a big deal to decide where to move, it's a big deal to think about what kind of amenities you want."

Larson says that Parks hopes to have a detailed action plan at the next big meeting in January, date TBA.
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Monday, November 5, 2018

Time to vote is now!

Posted By on Mon, Nov 5, 2018 at 9:26 AM

2018electionbug.jpg
Less than half of Colorado's 3.8 million registered voters had cast ballots by the morning of Nov. 5, one day before the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

According to Secretary of State Wayne Williams, 1.5 million voters had cast ballots, with women casting 55,000 more ballots than men and Democrats (519,833) casting about 4,700 more ballots than Republicans (515,131). Voters who are unaffiliated at cast 461,154 votes, Williams report showed.

In El Paso County, 170,519 people had voted by the morning of Nov. 5 with 39,320 Democrats voting, 79,862 Republicans voting and 48,681 unaffiliated voters casting ballots.

The point is, VOTE!

To find out all the details of how you can still vote in this crucial election, go to www.epcvotes.com.

Do not mail your ballot. It's too late for the U.S. Postal Service to guarantee election workers will receive your ballot.
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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Dems, GOP hope to push Colorado Springs to the polls ahead of Election Day

Posted By on Thu, Nov 1, 2018 at 5:06 PM

Ben and Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen, right, scoops ice cream at a campaign event for Stephany Rose Spaulding, left. - MARILYNNE ANDERSON STARR
  • Marilynne Anderson Starr
  • Ben and Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen, right, scoops ice cream at a campaign event for Stephany Rose Spaulding, left.

As one Nov. 1 poll showed enthusiasm growing among registered Republicans and Democrats, Colorado's two major parties prepared to pump up local voters.

Democrats' statewide "Colorado For All Bus Tour," which will make more than 50 stops between its Oct. 23 launch and Election Day, stops in Colorado Springs Nov. 2 for the following events (information from Colorado Democratic Party and Stephany Rose Spaulding's campaign):

March to the Polls at Colorado Springs Voter Service and Polling Center:

• 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
• Hillside Community Center, 925 S. Institute St.
• Speakers include: Lieutenant governor nominee Dianne Primavera, 5th Congressional District nominee Stephany Rose Spaulding, 2nd Congressional District nominee Joe Neguse, Attorney General nominee Phil Weiser, CU Regent At-Large nominee Lesley Smith, Treasurer nominee Dave Young
• RSVP online here.

Colorado Springs Canvass Launch

• 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
• El Paso County Field Office, 506 W. Colorado Ave.
• Speakers include: Primavera, Spaulding, Neguse
• RSVP online here.

Church Rally & Service with Stephany Rose Spaulding

• 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
• Relevant Word Christian Cultural Center, 1040 S Institute St.
• Speakers include: Spaulding, Pastor Promise Lee, NAACP President Rosemary Lytle, Secretary of State nominee Jena Griswold, state Rep. Tony Exum, Primavera, Weiser
• RSVP online here.


Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton trails Democrat Jared Polis by 5 to 8 points in the latest polls. - JEFFERY BEALL WIA WIKIMEDIA.COM
  • Jeffery Beall wia Wikimedia.com
  • Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton trails Democrat Jared Polis by 5 to 8 points in the latest polls.

The Colorado Republican Party is turning up the heat in El Paso County, too. Attorney general candidate George Brauchler and gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton will both speak in Colorado Springs as part of their get-out-the-vote tours, says state GOP spokesperson Daniel Cole. More info below:

George Brauchler

• Friday, Nov. 2 at 1 p.m.
• El Paso County Victory Office, 5145 Centennial Blvd., Suite 101

Walker Stapleton and Rep. Lang Sias

• Monday, Nov. 5 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
• El Paso County Victory Office, 5145 Centennial Blvd., Suite 101
• RSVP online here.

A telephone survey of 500 likely voters, released Nov. 1 by conservative polling firm Magellan Strategies, showed Polis with a 5-point lead over Stapleton, 2 percentage points less than the same firm's survey results three weeks prior. The survey also showed enthusiasm growing among members of both parties — 66 percent of people rated their interest in the election as a 10 on a 10-point scale, compared with 47 percent of respondents Oct. 8.

But the survey, in the interest of consistency, did not account for a slightly lower Republican turnout than what had been expected three weeks ago. And even Magellan's conclusion looks good for Polis: "With less than a week remaining in the 2018 election cycle, the election for Colorado Governor appears to be tightening slightly. However this survey, along with the two prior public surveys we have released this election cycle have consistently measured Jared Polis with a lead of 5 to 7 points. Taking that survey data into account and a real chance that Democrat and unaffiliated turnout will exceed 2014 levels, it is safe to say that Jared Polis has the inside track of becoming the next Governor of Colorado. We shall see."

On the same day, a survey by a liberal consortium that included Keating Research, OnSight Public Affairs and Martin Campaigns showed Polis with an 8-point lead over Stapleton. The survey cites "weak Republican turnout and robust Unaffiliated voter support for Polis (53% vs. 32% for Stapleton)" as factors in Polis' likely victory.

Election watchers note that Republican turnout has taken a dive since the last midterm election.

Over 50,000 fewer Republicans had turned in ballots by Oct. 31 of this year compared with 2014, according to Magellan Strategies. By contrast, almost 40,000 more Democrats had voted by Oct. 31 of this year than Oct. 31 of 2014.

And while in 2014, Republican turnout was 28 percent higher than Democratic turnout as of Oct. 31, elections data from the Secretary of State's office shows Republicans leading by less than 1 percent on Nov. 1 of this year.

COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE
  • Colorado Secretary of State
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Parents claim AFA cadet said slain Jews are "burning in hell forever"

Posted By on Thu, Nov 1, 2018 at 3:55 PM

COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
The parents of an Air Force Academy freshman cadet are considering removing him from the school after upperclassmen told him, "The 11 Jews murdered would now be burning in hell forever because none of them had accepted Jesus as their savior prior to being shot and killed," according to the parents.

The comment, which came during the noon meal on Oct. 29, referenced the Oct. 27 massacre of 11 people at the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

A Christian freshman cadet, we'll call him "C,"  talked to the Jewish cadet, who we'll call "J," about it later saying C, too, was outraged by the comments. J was particularly upset because he has living relatives who survived the Holocaust, J's parents told the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

C reported the incident to his parents, who suggested J contact MRFF, the Albuquerque-based nonprofit established by 1977 Academy grad Mikey Weinstein in 2004. Weinstein has long maintained that fundamentalist Christianity is the favored religion at the Academy, based on information passed on by more than 400 of MRFF's clients who work or study there.

J didn't report the incident through his chain of command or call MRFF. But J's parents did reach out to Weinstein on Oct. 30, Weinstein says.

Weinstein tells the Independent he tried to reach Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, who was said to be on leave and unavailable. Weinstein then contacted Col. Houston Cantwell, vice superintendent, who said he'd look into it and get back but he never did. Weinstein contacted several other Academy officials, but says no one responded.

The Indy sought a comment from Cantwell on Oct. 30. He wouldn't comment and referred the Indy to the Academy's Public Affairs Office, which issued a statement Nov. 1 saying the episode couldn't be substantiated and that the Academy "therefore [was] unable to provide a specific response." It went on to say there are "multiple avenues" available for staff and cadets to "bring forward concerns" but remain anonymous. The statement also said the Academy is committed to supporting the U.S. Constitution and supports "everyone's right to exercise his or her own religious beliefs, or to not subscribe to any religious beliefs."

"We welcome and celebrate the diversity of our cadet wing not only as an ethical issue, but because it is imperative to our mission. Intolerance divides us," the statement read in part.

Meantime, at 2:05 p.m. on Oct. 31, Silveria sent an email to Academy staff and cadets saying he was "outraged by the senseless loss of life and tragic impact to the families and loved ones of those lost." He also said the incident reminded him why he serves — "to support and defend the Constitution, guaranteeing all of us the freedom to exercise our own religion or no religion at all."

Silveria's statement also said:
We offer religious services and religious education through Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, and Earth-Centered programs. These programs support the individuals that freely come to them, but do not proselytize or try to convert. Our chaplains also provide spiritual care for members from every religious or ideological perspective, including Freethinkers, Hindu, Latter-day Saints, Sikh, and other faiths, connecting them with resources for spirituality.
Weinstein: Retribution deters cadets from filing official complaints. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Weinstein: Retribution deters cadets from filing official complaints.
J's parents wouldn't allow their names to be used, saying in an email written to Weinstein and provided to the Indy, "We fear serious repercussions against our son and our family if our names were ever to be known."

In that message, the parents expressed disbelief they've heard nothing from the Academy, although it's worth noting neither they nor their son have officially reported the incident. Rather, they relied on MRFF to raise the issue.

"Why won’t they do anything?" the parents wrote to Weinstein. "We are all shocked by all of this. Distraught and disappointed. Not sleeping. We are horrified by what our child had to go through. How can this have happened?"

Weinstein, who's Jewish, dismissed the Academy's contention it couldn't substantiate the incident. "We've heard that for 15 years," he says. As for reporting the incident through chain of command or complaining, Weinstein says, "Cadets who have tried to stand up have been faced with retribution for doing that."

Weinstein says the upperclassman's comment is a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment, because the freshmen cadets must attend the noon meal and have no standing to reply to such commentary in any form. He argues the "burn in hell" comment is not protected speech under a Supreme Court ruling in 1974 that concluded military members don't share the same free-speech rights as civilians, due to the compelling government interest to maximize good order, morale, discipline and unit cohesion.

If the Christian cadets want to discuss the shooting in the context of their belief system, they have that right at the proper time, place and manner, which is not at a mandatory meal where others are subjected to their beliefs, Weinstein says.

Retired Brig. Gen. Martin France, who taught at the Academy for years and since his recent retirement has joined MRFF's advisory board says he wishes cadets felt more comfortable reporting incidents like this.

"What worries me the most is that despite the institutions and procedures and protocols that are available for cadets to lodge complaints about this sort of event, the troubling thing is that they didn't feel there was enough trust to do so," he says.
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Monday, October 29, 2018

Weed-eating goats are baaaack in Bear Creek Regional Park

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2018 at 8:06 PM

Lani Malmberg stands among her herd in 2014. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Lani Malmberg stands among her herd in 2014.

A herd of 500 goats arrived in Bear Creek Regional Park on Oct. 26, and they'll stay there through the following weekend munching on weeds and poisonous plants.

Lani Malmberg and her son, Donny Benz, co-owners of Goat Green, are leading the eco-friendly effort in its 20th year. (We ran a profile on Malmberg, a self-proclaimed "gypsy goat herder," a few years ago.)

The herd will munch through 20 acres of the park surrounding the Charmaine Nymann Community Garden, according to a statement from El Paso County. The nonprofit Bear Creek Garden Association raises about $10,000 each year to pay for the organic weed control.

“The goats prefer the dry vegetation first—leaves, weeds and brush,” Malmberg is quoted in the statement. “They're browsers, not grazers like cows, and will only eat the green grass as a last resort. They like the dry prickly things and the herd will eat two to three tons a day. What they eat, they recycle — pure organic fertilizer — back into the soil. Plus, their 2,000 hooves work the soil, aerating and mulching as they go.”


The goats eliminate the need for harmful herbicides, and digest weeds and poisonous plants without spreading their seeds. Goat Green also does fire mitigation work in areas where dry brush poses a risk.

Planning to visit the weed eaters this week? Just keep in mind that the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department and Garden Association ask visitors to keep their dogs leashed, citing a few altercations between uncontrolled canines and goats in the past.

To help bring the goats back next year, you can send tax-deductible donations for the Bear Creek Garden Association Goat Fund to P.O. Box 38326, Colorado Springs, CO 80937.
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Vigil planned to honor victims of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2018 at 12:25 PM

YAIR ARONSHTAM
  • Yair Aronshtam
Following the slaughter of 11 people at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Oct. 27, the Temple Shalom and Temple Beit Torah will co-host a prayer vigil in Colorado Springs on Monday, Oct. 29, starting at 5:30 p.m.

Authorities took Robert Bowers, 46, into custody following the shooting that also injured six others, and CBS News reports that U.S. Attorney Scott Brady says federal prosecutors will seek to pursue the death penalty against Bowers. He was to make a first appearance in court Monday, Oct. 29.

According to the charging document, CBS reports, Bowers told one officer, "They're committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews."

The local prayer vigil will feature prayers of healing for those victims who survived the attack and are still being treated for their wounds and honor those who died, the Temples said in a release.

From the release:
All members of the community are welcome to attend. The vigil will begin at 5:30 p.m., and will feature prayers, music and speakers. Participants will include local clergy, elected officials, and other civic leaders. The vigil will take place at Temple Shalom, 1523 E Monument St., Colorado Springs, CO.

In a time of such tragedy, we hope that this gathering will provide a venue for the beginning of healing, the beginning of comfort, and the beginning of a pathway forward.

In addressing his congregation, Rabbi Jay Sherwood of Temple Shalom wrote, "We must never let hate and fear impede our march toward peace and righteousness. We will walk out of the darkness and continue to be a light unto the nations."

May the memories of those murdered in this horrific attack be a blessing.

Temple Shalom was founded in 1971 in Colorado Springs, Colorado and today is a vibrant congregation of more than 250 families which conducts itself according to the principles of both the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements. Its mission is to promote a spiritually centered community that inspires Jewish values, life and learning.

Temple Beit Torah is a Reform Jewish Synagogue founded in 1992 and located in beautiful Colorado Springs, Colorado. Temple Beit Torah strives to provide a warm and truly all-inclusive Reform Jewish community. We are committed to strengthening all of our members in their Jewish identity and knowledge. 
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers issued this statement:

This was a tragic weekend in our nation where we saw reprehensible hate crimes against the black and Jewish communities including an attack and an attempted attack on two places of worship. Such crimes are disgusting acts of cowardice and I want to personally express my deepest condolences to all who grieve; both here in Colorado Springs and across the nation. The Constitution of the United States expressly protects our right to religious freedom and the City of Colorado Springs is committed to upholding that precious right. Let it be known that this city will not tolerate acts of racial, religious or ethnic prejudice and those who would commit such acts will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Colorado Springs Airport lease to BLANK revealed!

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2018 at 10:08 AM

Colorado Springs Airport stands to gain nearly a half million dollars from BLANK by leasing four acres to BLANK for up to three and a half years for the purposes of BLANK.

That's according to a lease obtained by the Independent between the city and BLANK.

See? Here's how BLANK signed the contract:

screen_shot_2018-10-24_at_3.36.47_pm.png

Why all the secrecy? The "Modular Delivery Station Lease Agreement" contains this provision:
No Landlord Party will make any public announcements regarding this Lease or Tenant's proposed or actual occupancy of the Premises without Tenant's prior consent, which Tenant may withhold in its sole discretion.
The agreement allows for certain permitted uses, but doesn't want the public to know what those are. From the agreement:
screen_shot_2018-10-24_at_4.41.56_pm.png

What isn't redacted from the lease agreement is the term, which runs from Sept. 1, 2018, to March 31, 2020, with the tenant allowed to extend the term for an additional two terms of one year each.

If Amazon — er, I mean, BLANK — sticks around for the entire time covered by the lease, the airport would collect $420,000 ($10,000 a month for 42 months).

We wrote about this a couple weeks ago, as did other media. The tenant is very likely Amazon, because about that time the online giant held a job fair at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center.

We sought the agreement through the Colorado Open Records Act and were rather surprised to get anything.  But then again, all the pertinent parts are BLANKety BLANK BLANK redacted.

Here's the lease:
SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
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Stephany Rose Spaulding gets Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2018 at 10:07 AM

stephany.jpg
When it comes to political campaign merchandise, candidates have pulled out all the stops in recent years to attract meme-happy millennials. Case in point: "I Stand with Rand" flip-flops, the "Chillary Clinton" can holder and the Ted Cruz coloring book.

This year, Ben and Jerry's Homemade founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are going a step further. They came up with unique ice cream flavors for seven progressive candidates running for Congress in partnership with MoveOn.org Political Action, which paid for television ads that feature each candidate and their flavor.

Stephany Rose Spaulding, the candidate for House District 5 running against incumbent Doug Lamborn, is one of the chosen ones.

Her flavor: "Rocky Mountain Rose."


A video caption from MoveOn.org describes the flavor as "Colorado’s own Palisade peaches and pecans, in a light 'care'-amel base."

Cohen and Greenfield are making 40 pints of each ice cream flavor by hand in their home, says Edward Erikson, a consultant who works with Cohen. You can enter to win a pint by texting "ICECREAM" to 668366 or by signing up online to host or attend a campaign event.

Each pint will be signed by Cohen and Greenfield, Erikson says.


It'll take a lot of ice cream to win over all of District 5's Republicans, and Spaulding is definitely the underdog in this race. FiveThirtyEight gave her a 1 in 40 chance of winning, and pollsters consider District 5, where Lamborn's already won six times, an uphill battle for any Democrat.

But Erikson says that's part of the reason she was so appealing to Cohen and Greenfield, who purposely looked for candidates running in places "where we thought we could be most helpful."

"[District 5] is not viewed as being competitive, but looking at that district and looking at the changing demographics in Colorado we think that the math could be turning there," Erikson says. "It might not turn this cycle, but we think it could turn soon. And [Spaulding] is an exceptionally dynamic candidate who we were drawn to and wanted to support."

The other candidates include Jess King of Pennsylvania, Lauren Underwood of Illinois, Aftab Pureval of Ohio, J.D. Scholten of Iowa, Ammar Campa Najjar of California and James Thompson of Kansas.
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Monday, October 22, 2018

Multi-million dollar Sand Creek stormwater project completed

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2018 at 11:21 AM

Before the stabilization project on Sand Creek. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Photos courtesy of city of Colorado Springs
  • Before the stabilization project on Sand Creek.
What a difference $6 million can make, as evidenced by a stormwater stabilization project on Sand Creek in the vicinity of Platte Avenue bridge.

The city announced completion of the project on Oct. 22, noting it's one of 71 projects the city agreed to complete under a 20-year, $460-million agreement with Pueblo County. Since that deal, inked in 2016, the city has completed six projects, says city spokesperson Vanessa Zink via email. Check out the entire list here.

The work on Sand Creek took 10 months and spanned a half mile, the city said in a release. Crews filled and reshaped the creek, installed grouted boulder drop structures to step the creek down and rebuilt the natural habitat along the creek. "The project raised the bottom of Sand Creek and regraded the banks back to a stable slope to prevent erosion and provide flood protection for up to a 100-year storm event through the half-mile improved section that will ultimately improve water quality for downstream communities," the release said.

Funding for the project broke down this way: $3.9 million from a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant; $600,000 from the state and $1.5 million from the city.

Contractor was Tezak Heavy Equipment.
After the project was completed.
  • After the project was completed.
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