Local News

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Colorado Springs mayor is glad resort turned away a white supremacy conference

Posted By on Thu, Aug 17, 2017 at 4:40 PM

Mayor John Suthers wasted no time speaking out about hate. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mayor John Suthers wasted no time speaking out about hate.

Today, a day after the Cheyenne Mountain Resort announced it wouldn't host a white identity group's conference next April, Mayor John Suthers expressed thanks to see the matter resolved.

In an interview with the Independent today, Suthers said, "I felt very good about how the situation resolved. I think the city took the role it can properly assume. I was clear [that] the city can’t tell private entities who they can contract with. Anybody has the right to express the opinions they have in the city of Colorado Springs. But I would appreciate if organizations in Colorado Springs do a little bit of due diligence before they contract with groups, if it’s the type of folks that could generate controversy and [could] be bad for their business and the community’s business."

He added that he felt "fairly confident" that the resort didn't know the nature of VDARE when it accepted the booking.

The whole episode started and ended within three days in a city that has often drawn attention due to its ultra-conservative bent and intolerance of LGBTQ issues.

The short cycle could stem from Suthers' swift reaction to the news that VDARE was coming to Colorado Springs. The Indy posted a blog regarding the conference at 5:36 p.m. on August 14. Before midnight, Suthers posted this statement on his website:
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.
By Wednesday morning, Cheyenne Mountain Resort announced it wouldn't host VDARE's meeting. Game over.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

UPDATE: White nationalist group books conference at Cheyenne Mountain Resort

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 10:48 AM

Tancredo, who's an announced speaker at a white nationalist conference set for April in Colorado Springs, is pictured with Rep. Doug Lamborn, who endorsed him for governor of Colorado in 2010. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Tancredo, who's an announced speaker at a white nationalist conference set for April in Colorado Springs, is pictured with Rep. Doug Lamborn, who endorsed him for governor of Colorado in 2010.
UPDATE:

KRDO TV is reporting the Cheyenne Mountain Resort won't be the host for the VDare white identity group.

The statement issued by the resort said:
"Cheyenne Mountain Resort will not be hosting the VDARE Foundation in April of next year. We remain committed to respecting the privacy of guests at the resort."

After the cancellation, Mayor John Suthers issued this comment: “Businesses need to make their own decisions in situations like this, and in doing so, consider both the business and community impacts of hosting disruptive groups.

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.”

———————————————————-

UPDATE:
Mayor John Suthers posted this statement to his website:

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.
——————ORIGINAL POST 5:36 P.M. MONDAY, AUG. 14, 2017———————

A white nationalist organization with ties to the Charlottesville, Va., demonstration and subsequent death of one woman and injury of at least 19 others is coming to Colorado Springs.

VDare, a group based in Litchfield, Conn., whose name stems from Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World in 1587, is charging $225 to register in advance for the conference, planned for April 19-22 at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort.

VDare.com says it's "a non-profit journalistic enterprise, the main project of the VDARE Foundation. We publish data, analysis, and editorial commentary in a variety of formats. We inform the fight to keep America American."

From the website:
It all started with a bold idea: in the face of unwavering hostility from the Main Stream Media, our editor, Peter Brimelow, launched VDARE.com on Christmas Eve of 1999 as an extension of his national bestselling book, Alien Nation: Common Sense About America’s Immigration Disaster. After all, the issues of unrestricted mass immigration, both legal and illegal, weren’t going away. They were getting bigger.

We gave a call to the resort, but the person answering wouldn't comment. We left a voicemail but never heard back.

Jason Kessler, the organizer of the white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally on Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Va., has written several posts for VDare. Michelle Malkin is a regular writer featured on VDare.com. Her columns are also carried by the Gazette.


Here's an expanded report from Media Matters for America:
The white nationalist and anti-immigrant hate group VDare will host its next conference at Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, CO. The 2018 event will feature 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.”

Civil rights groups have heavily criticized VDare for its racism and anti-immigrant rhetoric. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), VDare is a white nationalist website that “regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites.” The Anti-Defamation League wrote that VDare is a racist site that “posts, promotes, and archives the work of racists, anti-immigrant figures, and anti-Semites.”

Headlines on VDare include: “One Problem With These Hispanic Immigrants Is Their Disgusting Behavior,” “Indians Aren`t That Intelligent (On Average),” “Diversity Is Strength! It’s Also…Hispanic Immigrants Taking Over FBI’s Ten Most Wanted,” “America Does Not Need ANY Immigrants From Africa,” and “Roll Over, JIHAD—There’s Also HIJRA, Muslim Conquest By Immigration.”

Numerous media outlets have correctly identified the site as white nationalist, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Associated Press, and CNN.

VDare recently announced, and started taking reservations for, its April 2018 conference at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort, which is a part of Benchmark Resorts & Hotels. A booking page for the event states that it will feature “a weekend of candor, fellowship, and top-notch speakers, as we celebrate the shifting political tides and discuss the way forward for patriotic immigration reform and American national identity.”

VDare attempted to hold its first public national conference at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite National Park earlier this year, drawing criticism from Media Matters and SPLC. That event was also set to feature Brimelow, Tancredo and Derbyshire. The lodge subsequently took “steps to immediately cancel this booking” when it “became aware of the nature of VDare Foundation.” VDare responded by criticizing Media Matters for engaging in “cultural Marxism” and questioning whether “we live in a free country or not.”

In response to Media Matters’ inquiry about VDare’s 2018 conference, a Cheyenne Mountain Resort spokesperson gave the following statement: “Cheyenne Mountain Resort respects the privacy of its guests and does not comment on groups or individuals that hold meetings at the resort.”

VDare’s scheduled speakers for its 2018 conference have a history of pushing racist, anti-immigrant, and white nationalist views.

Tancredo is a Breitbart columnist and a favorite immigration "expert" for White House chief strategist and former Breitbart head Stephen Bannon. His columns regularly demonize immigrants as dangerous and disloyal invaders, with headlines such as “Mexico Is Sending Us Colonists, Not Immigrants,” “European Colonization, Not Refugee Resettlement,” and “From Jenner to D.C., Multiculturalism Virus Is Destroying the U.S.” He claimed in January 2016 that “Muslim rape culture … could be coming to a town near you all too soon” because of immigration.

Tancredo has a long history of making anti-immigrant and racist statements. The former Colorado congressman once suggested that the United States bomb Mecca; criticized Miami, FL, for purportedly becoming “a Third World country” because so many people speak Spanish there; and proposed a “civics literacy test before people can vote.”

Derbyshire was fired from the National Review after he penned a column suggesting that white and Asian parents warn their children about the supposed threats posed by black people. Derbyshire has stated of his views: “I am a homophobe, though a mild and tolerant one, and a racist, though an even more mild and tolerant one, and those things are going to be illegal pretty soon, the way we are going.”

In a profile of Brimelow, SPLC wrote that he “is one of the leading voices in the anti-immigrant movement. Interestingly, he is himself an immigrant (from England), a fact that he regularly brings up when he worriedly notes that his son, with his ‘blue eyes’ and ‘blond hair,’ could grow up in an America in which whites have lost their population majority. For Brimelow, immigration itself is not the problem — it's the influx of non-whites that is destroying America.”
*Updated with additional information.

UPDATE (8/14): Before he organized the August 12 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, Jason Kessler wrote multiple articles for VDare. A June 19 post (his most recent) concludes that the “governments of the West are waging a campaign of slow extermination against their own core populations. It is white genocide.” VDare also posted a defense of the Charlottesville rally on August 12 which concluded that “it’s not Unite The Right that is ‘dividing’ America. Whites who aren’t comfortable with being dispossessed in every single Western country, or with seeing the symbols of their heritage wiped out, gathered to protest peacefully. … Why should Unite The Right apologize for anything? Indeed, how can the ‘Far Right’ be regarded as anything other than an incredibly moderate protest movement against a deliberate campaign of genocide?” (The white supremacists did not actually “protest peacefully.”) 

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sen. Cory Gardner makes Colorado Springs appearance

Posted By on Tue, Aug 15, 2017 at 11:33 AM

Sen. Cory Gardner, dressed in blue jeans, answered questions to a raucous crowd Tuesday morning at Pikes Peak Community College, with an assist from State Sen. Bob Gardner. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Sen. Cory Gardner, dressed in blue jeans, answered questions to a raucous crowd Tuesday morning at Pikes Peak Community College, with an assist from State Sen. Bob Gardner.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner held a town hall in Colorado Springs — finally, as one attendee yelled out — tuesday morning, and the room at Pikes Peak Community College's Centennial Campus was packed.

Gardner, who dodged speaking with voters in Colorado during the U.S. House and Senate's failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, got an earful from voters, dozens of whom held up red signs saying "disagree" or green signs saying "agree" when Gardner spoke.

They also hammered on what many in the audience said was the best solution: a single payer health system.

Gardner repeatedly said he opposes "socialized health care" and is ready to work with Democrats to find ways to bring health care costs down and make it more accessible through cheaper premiums and deductibles. He also acknowledged that Medicaid in some form should be preserved as a safety net, but said it shouldn't continue to grow.

Besides health care, which dominated the 90-minute town hall, Gardner fielded questions about North Korea, taxes and President Donald Trump.

One man asked, "Do you feel comfortable that Donald Trump is competent to lead the country?"

Gardner also repeated his previously made comments regarding the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that ended with one person dead and at least 19 injured. He called the Ku Klux Klan, national socialists and other groups "unacceptable."

"They're not part of this country, and we will not allow them to be a part of this country," he said.
There was no shortage of media for Gardner's appearance. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • There was no shortage of media for Gardner's appearance.
When Gardner then noted that "the people of this country elected Trump," the audience exploded in disapproval, shouting "No," and groaning.

But his next statement drew a bigger response when he said, "I believe he's fit but...." The blowback was so deafening, we couldn't make out the rest of his answer.

Later, Gardner drew shouts of disapproval when he was asked whether there's a connection between Trump and a build-up of hate in America. He sidestepped the question, instead saying, "When evil raises its head, we name it and call it what it is." He then lapsed into more instruction on getting along, saying more efforts need to be made to work together.

Another groaner response came when Gardner was asked about protecting the environment, notably through growth of renewable energy. Gardner led off his comment by saying coal has a place in America's energy portfolio — cue the shouts of disapproval — but that he also supports the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

A man who said he's a registered Republican expressed concerns about the party and oberved that "a good part" of the division that exists comes from "rhetoric of the White House," as well as Republicans' "hiding behind closed doors" in drafting bills. The upshot of the question — again, health care — prompted Gardner to again say, "I believe in the free market," which, again, drew groans and protests. Several shouted, "Medicare for all."

At one point Gardner lectured the crowd about being willing to listen to one another instead of shouting someone down with whom they disagree.

Several people who posed questions to Gardner said they'd either gone to his office or sent him letters, but weren't given a chance to meet with him or received a form letter in return.

Sitting in the back of the room was Mike Seely, a retired school psychologists who attended to hear Gardner "justify why he wants to give tax breaks to the wealthy."

After the meeting ended, Seely wasn't impressed. Asked what he thought, he said, "A lot of political bullshit and deception."

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Former CSPD chief moves into role with Major Cities Chiefs Association

Posted By on Mon, Aug 14, 2017 at 9:42 AM

Myers: Moving up. - COURTESY NEWPORT NEWS POLICE DEPARTMENT
  • Courtesy Newport News Police Department
  • Myers: Moving up.
Richard Myers, Colorado Springs Police Department chief from 2007 to 2011, has accepted a national position with the Major Cities Chiefs Association.

Myers, currently serving as chief of police in Newport News, Virginia, was a casualty of the Steve Bach administration when most department heads were shooed from office to make way for Bach's chosen ones. After Myers left, Bach named Pete Carey as interim chief and later made him chief.

After leaving his Colorado Springs post, Myers took on a job few chiefs would relish. Read about that here.  ("After serving as a local police chief, Richard Myers went where few others would: Sanford, Fla.," News, June 12, 2013)

Here's a release about his new position:
Newport News Police Chief Richard W. Myers has announced plans to leave his position effective September 1, 2017. He has accepted the position of Executive Director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA). MCCA, established in 1949, is a professional association of Chiefs and Sheriffs representing the largest cities in the United States and Canada. MCCA membership is comprised of Chiefs and Sheriffs of the sixty-nine largest law enforcement agencies in the United States and ten largest in Canada. They serve 81.9 million people with a workforce of 185,183 officers and non-sworn personnel.

“It has been an honor and a privilege working with the Newport News Police Department, the City Manager, and City Council, as well as the citizens of this great city. This department truly exemplifies professionalism and community policing, and I am proud to have been a part of that,” Myers said. “This new opportunity is a natural and timely transition from being a chief while still being able to continue to serve my profession.”

“We have been fortunate to have Rick as our Chief of Police these past three and a half years,” City Manager Cindy Rohlf said. “With his extensive knowledge and experience in law enforcement, he has served the citizens of Newport News well during his tenure here.”

An extensive national search will be conducted to fill the position of Police Chief. City Manager Rohlf has not named an Interim Chief of Police at this time.


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Friday, August 11, 2017

Poverty is moving out of the city center

Posted By on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 at 9:25 AM

The number of high-poverty neighborhoods in Colorado Springs rose from six to 22 between 2000 and 2015, a study conducted by the U.S. Census and published by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University has found.

In the Springs, low-income neighborhoods used to occupy high-density urban areas, but, following a recent national trend, the study found that the city’s poor have increasingly dispersed into the city’s outer edges: fragmented neighborhoods with potentially limited access to public transportation or support programs. The study did not specify what outlying neighborhoods the growth has occurred in, but defined “high poverty” areas as those where 20 percent or more of the population lives below the federal poverty line. See image below.

screen_shot_2017-08-10_at_12.57.56_pm.png
As more neighborhoods are becoming classified as high-poverty, individual families in Colorado Springs are experiencing noticeable financial struggles as well. According to a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center, Colorado Springs saw a 6.5 percent decrease in individuals occupying the middle class between 2000 and 2014.

The United States Census Bureau reported the median income for a Colorado Springs household to be $61,190 in 2016. The standard of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for low-income household is 80 percent of the median household income of the area, while very low-income is defined as 50 percent of the median household income of the area.

Using this definition, a household that brings in less than $48,952 annually in Colorado Springs is considered low-income, while a very low-income household cannot bring in any more than $30,595 per year.

In a survey conducted by the rental service Apartment List, average rent for a Springs-area apartment is now $1,060.84 a month — unaffordable to those with the above very low-income status.

Low-income housing, provided by organizations such as the Colorado Springs Housing Authority and Greccio Housing, have strict guidelines for individuals and families to be waitlisted for placement in an affordable home. While Greccio requires applicants to meet HUD’s definition of low- or very low-income, the Housing Authority alters their standard of family income based on the number of individuals in a household, such as $36,800 for four people. Neither organization currently has housing availability.

The problem isn’t just helping those who are already low-income. With few affordable housing options, a shrinking middle class and skyrocketing rent prices, many people are at risk of finding themselves in poverty.

The need for affordable housing in Colorado Springs is only expected to increase over time. “As real incomes decline while housing costs remain the same, the need for affordable housing options in Colorado Springs and El Paso County increases,” reads The City of Colorado Springs and El Paso County’s 2014 Affordable Housing Needs Assessment. “The increase in cost burden and rise in low-income households suggests that the supply of affordable housing does not currently meet the demand for affordable housing.”

With the city bus service, Mountain Metropolitan Transit, most heavily concentrated in and around downtown, low-income individuals and families are not guaranteed to live near a bus route, therefore potentially becoming isolated from resources such as food banks, donation centers, and job counseling that often exist in urban settings.

As Colorado Springs is a sprawling city, it may become increasingly difficult to extend assistance to high-poverty neighborhoods if they start popping up on the edges of town. With financially struggling households shifting out of the public eye and into less traveled outskirts of Colorado Springs, the next steps the city must take to support its growing impoverished population remain unclear.


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Monday, August 7, 2017

Colorado Springs Council poised to resurrect Stormwater Enterprise

Posted By on Mon, Aug 7, 2017 at 5:52 PM

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

Several City Council members aren't thrilled with a proposal to impose fees on property owners to fund stormwater drainage projects and maintenance, but it appears a majority is willing to submit the measure to voters at the November 7 election.

At today's informal City Council meeting, Council was briefed on an ordinance to resurrect the city’s Stormwater Enterprise fund as a vehicle to raise $17 million a year in drainage project funds.

Three members expressed opposition: Don Knight, Andy Pico and Bill Murray. They said the fees as proposed appear to lack equity and the program as proposed so far has no detailed implementation plan.

The ballot measure would make the fees effective July 1, 2018, and create three classes of property:

• All residential lots would be assessed at $5 each per month. This means a 1,000-square-foot home sitting on a 5,000-square-foot lot would pay the same amount as an 8,000-square-foot home sitting on a 50,000-square-foot lot.

• All other property would be assessed at $30 per acre per month.

• Except that parcels larger than five acres would have their fees calculated by the stormwater manager to disregard areas that are in "a natural state," such as golf courses and athletic fields. So this would impact, say, a resort that has a lot of golf courses.

The measure would permit Council to increase fees only to comply with a court order, federal or state permit, or intergovernmental agreement regarding stormwater entered into before June 1, 2016. The only such IGA is the city's $460-million, 20-year agreement with Pueblo County OK'd in April 2016.

The court order provision is included in anticipation of a ruling in a case in which the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sued the city in November 2016 for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act and not complying with its federal MS4 stormwater discharge permit.

As Councilor David Geislinger noted, Atlanta, Georgia was ordered to spend $3 billion in a similar case, which translates to ratepayers paying $50 a month.

"We run the same risk here," he said. "Yes, it can be increased if the court orders the city to do more."

Several members complained of the rush job of getting the measure on the November ballot, despite not knowing exactly how it would be implemented. City officials told Council the plan is for Colorado Springs Utilities to collect the residential stormwater fees as part of the monthly utility bill, but the non-residential stormwater bills will be farmed out to a vendor for collection. Also, it's unclear whether non-payers would face liens on their property. There was no mention during the two-hour debate of whether late fees would be imposed, or whether Utilities would cut off service for those who didn't pay.

Councilor Don Knight said he won't be voting for the ordinance. "In trying to make the November [ballot] deadline, I think we’ve cut out too many important processes," he said. "I have said repeatedly, the last thing I want is something brought to me poured in concrete where I have to vote up or down, and that’s exactly what I’m seeing now."

He said the "one size fits all" residential monthly charges "dooms" the ballot measure and proposed the start date be moved from July 1, 2018, to Jan. 1, 2019.

Councilor Bill Murray wondered when the city would hold informational meetings to take the pulse of the public. "I thought it was clear — unanimous by council that we would have public meetings prior to any public vote," he said. "When are we having public hearings?"

Council President Richard Skorman said a poll was being conducted this week, with results due next week. "If we're confident it will pass," he said, "then let’s have public meetings."

Skorman also said he wanted to remind everyone that it's the city's responsibility to control its stormwater. Currently, that money, about $13 million a year, is coming from the city's general fund, at the expense of funding other city services, he said, such as police response times, parks maintenance and a fleet that has an average age of 15 years.

"The longer you wait, the more expensive it is," he said. "We can wait until 2018 [to ask voters approval] ... so then we let all the other problems fester. We don’t have money to run our city government because we have this stormwater obligation. Once we can get that taken care of, I think our city budgets and city government will be whole. In my mind, I think it's time to get going."

Councilor Andy Pico said he had "a lot of grave concerns." He noted that a drainage measure in 2014 failed at the polls. That makes the newest version the third time voters have weighed in.
"We shouldn’t go back [to voters] unless we’re compelled to," he said. "We need to do it right the first time."

He noted that voters already have given the city $50 million a year for five years under ballot measure 2C for roads and allowed the city to keep $12 million in excess revenue under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights for 2016 and 2017.

He cited the newest measure as asking for "too much too soon" and added that "going through Utilities is absolutely the wrong way to do it. If we're using a third party to bill nonresidential, then we should roll the residential into it."

The stormwater enterprise would be considered an enterprise under TABOR, which bars such "government businesses" from receiving more than 10 percent of their funding from state and local grants. So does that mean the city will stop applying for grants to fund stormwater projects? If more than 10 percent of funding comes from such grants, the operation is no longer an enterprise, meaning its revenues are subject to TABOR caps, which limit growth of revenue year to year.

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Recent hate crimes lead to "love lives here" rally

Posted By on Mon, Aug 7, 2017 at 5:43 PM

On Aug. 6, two days after a pair of hate crimes shook Colorado Springs, hundreds of people came together to denounce bigotry and affirm that this community values multiculturalism, tolerance and peace. The rally, organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) State Conference, took place in Bonforte Park, just a block from Temple Beit Torah, the reform Jewish synagogue that was targeted last week.

Anti-Semitic graffiti — a swastika next to the Nazi salute misspelled as “sig [sieg] heil” — was found tagged on the temple’s sign, as was the N-word, written out in lowercase, on a nearby neighbor’s car.

Investigators are on the case but no suspects have been identified yet, according to police spokesperson Lt. Howard Black. “At face value, it’s somewhat obvious” this vandalism was bias-motivated, he says, emphasizing that the department takes hate crimes very seriously. That means charges could carry heavier penalties, including alternative sentencing options. “But I can’t say one way or another until we really get into it,” Black says.

Community members held the rally to tell the perpetrator, local minorities and the rest of the country that “love lives here” in Colorado Springs, where a reputation for exclusionary ideologies still lingers. A long list of faith and civic leaders addressed the gathered crowd, some of whom brought their own lawn chairs and handheld signs to the 90-minute event that resembled, at points, both a spiritual service and political rally. At the end the mic was open to anyone who felt moved to speak. Woven throughout the remarks was the common thread of neighborly solidarity — that bigoted acts are unacceptable in a community where everyone, regardless of race, religion, etc., is welcome. 

Stephany Rose, pastor, professor and congressional candidate, looks on. - NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
  • Stephany Rose, pastor, professor and congressional candidate, looks on.

“Y’all renewed my faith in this community,” said racial justice activist and Old North End resident Kevin Mitchell. “But after this rally, don’t go put love back on the shelf and let it collect dust … We have to keep standing for each other in love.”

FILE PHOTO
  • file photo

Locally, the crimes add to a growing list of incidents over recent months. In May, swastika stickers were found on stop signs and public benches. Last month, a known white supremacist was arrested after he was caught on security camera posting a “Fight Terror, Nuke Israel” sticker on the entrance to a synagogue in Rockrimmon.

Over the past half year, vandals have targeted Jewish cemeteries nationwide and, in general, reports of hateful acts against other minority groups — Muslims, African-Americans, immigrants and LGBTQ people — are on the rise too, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center

The Independent is part of a network of newsrooms committed to documenting hate, in an effort not only to inform local readers, but also to help amass better data on bias-motivated incidents in America. The ProPublica database this coalition is building is based on verified stories submitted by victims and witnesses, so we ask that you let us know if you, or someone you know, has experienced a bias- or hate-motivated crime. Submit tips using this online form.


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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sen. Cory Gardner holds long-awaited town hall, but it's very, very far away

Posted By on Thu, Aug 3, 2017 at 2:57 PM

COURTESY COS CAN
  • Courtesy COS CAN
Coloradans have been pleading for a chance to interface with their evasive Junior Senator for some time now. Tactics have gotten pretty creative: There were the "missing" fliers; the cardboard Cory campaign; and the days-long stakeout of his Denver office that ended in arrest (and national media attention.) All to no avail.

Now, a day after a heated telephone-only town hall, Sen. Cory Gardner's office announced he'll be appearing at an in-person town hall. Here's the catch: it's tomorrow and it's six hours away.
According to the press release, Gardner will tour the Gold King Mine — the site of a 2015 wastewater spill — with fellow Republican Congressman Scott Tipton and Democrats Senator Michael Bennet and Governor John Hickenlooper, before sitting down for an update and question-and-answer session. That'll take place at the La Plata County Administration Building Board Room in Durango (1101 E. 2nd Ave) at 2:30 p.m. on Friday. The two Senators, at least, may also do some self-congratulating for having supported a Department of Transportation program that recently awarded La Plata County a grant for highway construction.

COURTESY IMGUR
  • Courtesy Imgur
Coloradopolitics.com reports that new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will be on the site tour too, but he's not on the town hall roster even though residents in communities affected by the chemical contamination — which the EPA admits to causing — are still anxious about restoration efforts. There are also various lawsuits (three against the EPA and one against the State of Colorado) pending.

No doubt that topic is an important one, but it's not the big one of the moment: health care. Three times in recent weeks, Gardner voted for versions of Senate Republicans' "repeal and replace" legislation, despite public intimations about being on the fence.

Want him to explain himself? You may have to start driving now.


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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Former Springs Utilities official in the crosshairs over Kentucky Derby trips

Posted By on Wed, Aug 2, 2017 at 3:47 PM

THOMAS KELLEY/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Thomas Kelley/Shutterstock.com
A former high-ranking Colorado Springs Utilities official is in some hot water after it was discovered that his new employer, the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative, spent more than $1 million taking top officials to the Kentucky Derby from 2013 to 2016.

Drew Rankin, CSU's general manager of energy supply for more than six years, left in December 2010 to take the Connecticut job.

Rankin had a lot to do with Utilities hiring Neumann Systems Group to build pollution control equipment for Drake Power Plant, which exceeded original cost estimates. Neumann is no longer in business. Rankin also was quoted in this story I wrote while working at a different newspaper.

According to theday.com, the list of attendees were:
2013 participants in Kentucky Derby trip hosted by CMEEC:
Debra Bilda, John Bilda, Dee Boisclair, Richard Boisclair, Jeff Celuch, Amy Demicco, Louis Demicco, Edward DeMuzzio, Michael Huntwork, Carolyn Pryor, Edward Pryor, Drew Rankin, Linda Sanchez, Paula Sinko, Steve Sinko, James Smith, Jessica Smith, Kathleen Solano, James Sullivan, Kenneth Sullivan, Nancy Sullivan, Terry Thompson-Cannon, Carol Throwe, Richard Throwe.

2014 participants:
Debra Bilda, John Bilda, Nancy Black, Randy Black, Leslie Blew, Dee Boisclair, Richard Boisclair, Justin Connell, Amy Demicco, Louis Demicco, Edward DeMuzzio, David Giroux, Lisa Giroux, John Hanselman, Rachel Hanselman, Ellen Kachmar, Carolyn Pryor, Edward Pryor, Michael Rall, Nicole Rall, Drew Rankin, Linda Sanchez, Paula Sinko, Steve Sinko, James Smith, Jessica Smith, Kathleen Solano, Cara Stellato, James Sullivan, Kenneth Sullivan, Nancy Sullivan, Carol Throwe, Richard Throwe.
We've bold-faced Solano's name, because she's general manager of customer services for Springs Utilities. She says through Utilities spokesman Steve Berry that she attended the Derby as Rankin's guest in 2013, 2014 and 2015, but hasn't been in touch with Rankin since 2015. No Utilities money was spent and she used vacation time for the trips, he said.

The Norwich Bulletin reports the FBI is looking at the Connecticut utility, which might include the Derby trips.


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Monday, July 31, 2017

Courthouse in Colorado Springs tosses out old furniture

Posted By on Mon, Jul 31, 2017 at 1:44 PM

Office furniture from the local courthouse destined for the dump. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Office furniture from the local courthouse destined for the dump.
While making a visit to the courthouse last week, we couldn't help but notice the roll-off disposal container parked next to the building filled with office furniture.

Some chairs look usable, but according to Scott Sosebee, the 4th Judicial District's administrator, it's all junk.

Here's his explanation, received via email:
The furniture that was disposed of was damaged, non-operational, or unfit for use in the courthouse. A majority of the furniture thrown away was seating. The most common problems with seating is damage to the armrests, stains or tears to the upholstery, and broken hydraulics. Furniture that could be reused was repurposed throughout the courthouse and offered to others. We also actively work with our vendors to repair and replace broken furniture.

In the past, we have solicited for non-profits to take our surplus equipment and furniture. However, many organizations will only accept furniture in good working condition and they often are unable to haul-away the equipment. Unfortunately, if an organization is unable to haul-away the equipment, it is more economical to dispose of the equipment through a waste disposal company.

It would be difficult to provide you with a meaningful estimate regarding the replacement costs associated with the furniture in the photograph. Unusable furniture is collected in our storage room over a period of years and items are replaced as needed. The furniture disposed of in your photograph was not the result of a large recent acquisition of replacement furniture.
It's worth noting that El Paso County had nothing to do with the disposal. County spokesman Dave Rose says in an email, "The County maintains a small warehouse space where surplus county office equipment and supplies in good condition can be accessed by department supervisors an repurposed. County Procurement and contracts is responsible to negotiate for the sale of obsolete and surplus supplies and equipment...."


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Monday, July 24, 2017

8th and Cimarron streets Intersection due to open Monday

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 4:16 PM

The new reconfigured intersection of 8th and Cimarron streets opened today. - COURTESY CDOT
  • Courtesy CDOT
  • The new reconfigured intersection of 8th and Cimarron streets opened today.
When you're talking about 60,000 vehicles a day, things can get hairy, so state transportation officials needed to get things right the first time.

That's why a planned opening of the 8th and Cimarron streets intersection was postponed.

Instead of opening Tuesday, July 18, the opening of the redesigned intersection was moved to Friday due to "an equipment breakdown," the Colorado Department of Transportation's website said.

Now, the intersection is said to have opened Monday.

See the traffic flows here.



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Dave Munger to retire from Council of Neighbors and Organizations

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 4:14 PM

Dave Munger will soon retire after leading the Council of Neighbors and Organizations (CONO) since 2007. CONO works to advise and connect around 900 neighborhoods in El Paso and Teller Counties on issues relating to local government, development and elections.


Under Munger’s leadership, the organization has really matured: CONO became a federally-recognized 501(c)3 nonprofit; grew its budget to six figures; hired four staff members; got a downtown office building at 309 S. Cascade Ave; completed two strategic plans; and launched the popular education series “Coffee and Civics” and “Civics on Tap.”

Residents gather for a discussion over beer at CONO's "Civic on Tap" - COURTESY OF CONO
  • Courtesy of CONO
  • Residents gather for a discussion over beer at CONO's "Civic on Tap"

COURTESY OF CONO
  • Courtesy of CONO

His retirement caps off a storied career. Munger spend 37 years in the professional world working in military intelligence, higher education, marketing and consulting before pivoting to community service. Then, for the past 13 years, in addition to serving as board president and executive director of CONO, Munger has also served on the board of Penrose Hospital, Ecumenical Social Ministries and the Board of Review and Advisory Board for the Regional Building Department.

He was active in planning for the redevelopment of South Academy Boulevard and North Nevada Avenue, as well as revising trucking routes throughout the city, extending funding for the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority and placing a ballot measure to establish a regional stormwater management authority (which didn't pass).

Currently, Munger serves on the search committee for the executive director of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (which is likely to conclude this fall), and the board of the Police Foundation of Colorado Springs and the board of the Fire Foundation of Colorado Springs (where he intends to stay until he’s no longer needed.)


Whew!


CONO’s board has already put together a search committee to find Munger’s replacement. He says there’s been some discussion about who they’d like to apply, but the process is just getting started. Munger plans to stay on through the end of the year to aid a smooth transition for the incoming executive director.


With retirement now coming into focus, Munger tells the Indy he’s eager to spend time with his family, travel and write. Up first is a cruise trip in the Baltic sea, then an extended visit to Australia with his wife. “I feel like I’m retiring at the top of my game,” he says.


But Munger won’t disappear from civic life in Colorado Springs. He is, after all, a neighborhood man.


“I deeply believe neighborhoods are the building blocks of cities and counties and the basic units of democracy,” Munger wrote in his retirement announcement. “When neighborhoods operate well, they are where we learn to work together to accomplish mutual aspirations through consensus, cooperation, and compromise.”


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Friday, July 21, 2017

Urban Peak's annual "Off the Street" breakfast a success

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 12:51 PM

Urban Peak, a local nonprofit serving homeless youth, got over 800 people to congregate under the Colorado Avenue bridge early Thursday morning. Sounds like a bizarre feat if it weren't tradition.
Spotted: Indy publisher Carrie Simison (bottom right) - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Spotted: Indy publisher Carrie Simison (bottom right)
During the breakfast fundraiser, the organization's leaders and supporters spoke about why it's important, as a community, to create the conditions for homeless youth to thrive. Urban Peak does this by providing a safe place to stay at their 20-bed shelter facility downtown, meeting youth where they're at through street outreach, and offering case management in matters of health, education, employment and housing.

"At Urban Peak I don't get lost in the shuffle," Colton, a formerly homeless youth who now works the shelter's front desk, told the audience.

Urban Peak, like many youth and homeless programs, is currently under threat from the Trump administration and its allies in Congress, who have proposed significant cuts to the federal block grants that support anti-poverty efforts. Forty percent of Urban Peak's budget comes from federal sources. For that reason, Urban Peak executive director Shawna Kempainnen, who also serves on the Pikes Peak Continuum of Care board, emphasized that service providers will have to rely on support from local elected officials, businesses and community members more than ever.

"We can end youth homelessness if we are relentless," she said.
Shawna Kempainnen - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Shawna Kempainnen

Her plea relied as much on logos as it did on pathos. Kempainnen cited an estimate that the city spends about $57,000 a year per chronically homeless person. Compare that to the $17,000 a year Urban Peak's supportive housing program spends to get one youth into his or her own apartment, where they're able to stabilize enough to start paying rent themselves. Over time, especially, the difference there is a stark reminder why it pays to invest in youth before their lives spiral any further.

To further that mission, Kempainnen announced a partnership with the Pikes Peak Library District to launch a "National Safe Place Network" by November. The idea is that teens in crisis who go to the library seeking help would activate a response from Urban Peak's team of staff and volunteers to get them linked up with the resources and services they need right away. Urban Peak is looking for new volunteers to support the effort.

All told, the breakfast brought in $114,500 for the organization — about $44,000 shy of their goal, albeit with 120 fewer attendees than last year.

"But we know the people in the space are always exactly the right people at the right time, and we are overwhelmed with the community’s generosity," Kempainnen wrote in an email thanking table captains. "We will continue engaging people who could not attend to get involved and invested," she added.
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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Southeast PlanCOS event, now logically located, is tonight

Posted By on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 2:44 PM

ALLEN BEAUCHAMP
  • Allen Beauchamp
Word is the PlanCOS event at the Lincoln Center Wednesday night was a hoot.

And you know millennials were in the house by the looks of this bike rack out front. (Now, what does that tell us about how to build infrastructure that meets the younger generation's transportation needs?)
ALLEN BEAUCHAMP
  • Allen Beauchamp
If you've got nothing but time on your hands, here's a video of the entire event, including the audience brainstorming some pretty neat ideas for our fair city.


If you're bummed you missed it, or you simply cannot get enough of civic engagement, there's another opportunity to tell city planners about all of your dreams and desires tonight. Head over to the YMCA at 2190 Jet Wing Dr for "PlanCOS: Heading Southeast" — an event that earned some cringes in its early stages, but that's now got a venue in the right part of town.

Nice!

Here are the details, courtesy the PlanCOS team.

Heading Southeast:
Understanding the City's Comprehensive Plan and its Connection to Southeast Colorado Springs

Join El Pomar, the PlanCOS team, and our featured guests to discuss the future of Colorado Springs and how the update to the comprehensive plan affects SouthEast Colorado Springs. Bring your biggest and wonderful ideas to share with us! We want to hear from you! RSVP for FREE today at Elpomar.org/plancos. We look forward to hearing what you have to say!

Thursday, July 20, 2017
5:30-7:30 pm
Dinner and Reception to Follow

Southeast & Armed Services YMCA
2190 Jet Wing Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80916

Childcare will be provided, space is limited. Please note number and ages of children when you RSVP.
Please use the East Entrance. Accessible Parking is available.

Featuring:
Mayor John Suthers, City of Colorado Springs

Eric Phillips, ELD member, Chair of Colorado Springs Planning Commission and Comprehensive Plan Executive Steering Committee member

Taj Stokes, Comprehensive Plan Executive Steering Committee member representing SE Colorado Springs , Passion City Church

Felicia Barbera, Pikes Peak Workforce Center, and SE Colorado Springs

Elizabeth Gardner, Southeast area resident and business owner

Robert Shonkwiler, Comprehensive Plan Executive Steering Committee, SW Colorado

Peter Wysocki, AICP, Colorado Springs Planning and Community Development Director

Bruce Meighen, Principal, Logan Simpson Inc., Plan consultants

Yolanda Avila, Colorado Springs City Council, District 4


For more information on PlanCOS, please visit: coloradosprings.gov/plancos

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Friday, July 14, 2017

PlanCOS wants a "younger perspective" on the city's future

Posted By on Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 2:23 PM

colorado_springs_downtown.jpg

The city of Colorado Springs generally recognizes that it has some trouble retaining young  people, even graduates of higher education institutions right here in town. Proposed solutions have come from all sides, and encompassed everything from affordable housing to plans to artistically enrich our Downtown corridor.

Faced with the question “what do millenials want?” the team behind PlanCOS, the comprehensive plan meant to help guide the city’s future growth, has decided to do the obvious: ask.

EnvisionCOS (Wed., July 19, 5-8 p.m., Lincoln Center, 2727 N. Cascade Ave.) will be “an interactive presentation and opportunity for [a] younger perspective with big ideas to have your voices heard.”

With opportunities to engage, network and connect with city leaders including members of City Council and Mayor John Suthers, this will allow community members who have strong ideas about our collective future to affect the city’s master plan. Online surveys have so far helped mold aspects of PlanCOS, but little can compare to the impact of a face-to-face conversation.

Bonus: Refreshments will be served at the event, and attendees may take advantage of discounts at some of the businesses within the Lincoln Center. Plus, Goat Patch Brewing Co. will provide exclusive beers.

Craft beer and civic engagement — what more could a millennial want? Well, hopefully the city will soon be able to answer that question.

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