Wednesday, August 21, 2019

10 local stories making headlines this week

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 12:20 AM

  • Gribov Andrei Aleksandrovich / Shutterstock.com

The city proposes to require bear-resistant trash cans west of Interstate 25. Have your say at public meetings, which begin at 6 p.m. on Aug. 22 at Fire Station 18, 6830 Hadler View, and Aug. 29 at Westside Community Center, 1628 W. Bijou St.

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper ended his presidential bid on Aug. 15 and now is being eyed to take on Republican Cory Gardner in the U.S. Senate race in Colorado.

On the heels of the city closing Prospect Lake due to blue-green algae, Colorado Springs Utilities announced Aug. 14 that Pikeview Reservoir tested positive for the algae. Humans and pets are banned, though fishing is still allowed.

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office announced that 16 deputies graduated from its training academy to work in the crowded Criminal Justice Center, which has made headlines for assaults and inmate deaths.

Colorado Springs Airport received a $9,000 grant from the Colorado Energy Office to build a Level 2 dual-port electric vehicle charging station, to be completed in early 2020.

The Rocky Mountain Vibes baseball team will bury a time capsule next month, after the final home game of their inaugural season. The time capsule will be opened April 27, 2069, (the birthday of mascot Toasty).

The Bureau of Land Management anticipated no significant impact in Fort Carson’s request to use 43 sites in Teller, Fremont and Park counties to practice helicopter landings.

Planned Parenthood said Aug. 19 it will forgo federal Title X funding, which helps low-income people access contraception, rather than comply with a Trump administration-imposed “gag rule” it called “dangerous, unethical, and harmful to patients.” The rule prohibits the agency from providing abortion referrals.

A bat with rabies was found at the Rainbow Falls Historic Site on the western edge of Manitou Springs, El Paso County Public Health reports. If you know of a person or pet that came in contact with a bat in the area call 578-3220 immediately.

The city will host an open house at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum to present a draft historic preservation plan update, HistoricCOS.
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Manitou Springs hires interim city administrator

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 12:10 AM

Denise Howell will serve as an interim city administrator for Manitou Springs. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Denise Howell will serve as an interim city administrator for Manitou Springs.

It took more than a year and a half, but Manitou Springs City Council appears to have finally found a new city administrator. Or at least an interim.

Council offered the city’s top job to four others, all of whom turned them down, before announcing that Denise Howell will serve as an interim through Jan. 30, 2020. Howell was formerly a customer service manager with Fountain’s utilities department and a community liaison with Colorado Springs Utilities, the Pikes Peak Bulletin reports.
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Importing drugs from Canada may be a pipe dream

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 12:00 AM

  • Shutterstock
Colorado’s effort to legalize the importation of drugs from Canada as a cost-saving measure for patients could be in trouble.

Canadian officials say they haven’t been consulted on the program, which also is being pursued by Florida, the Colorado Sun reports.

Our neighbor to the north could pass a law blocking prescription drug exports or add the drugs to its export control list, which would complicate Americans obtaining drugs from Canada.

Not surprisingly, PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry trade group, and the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, oppose it.

Even without those roadblocks, several steps remain for approval by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, including drafting rules, taking public comment and finalizing those rules.

On the other hand, the Trump administration appears to support creating rules for states to set up programs to import prescription drugs from Canada.
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Conservative nonprofit presents Freedom Conference

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Then-Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt visits Hobbs, New Mexico in February. - TAMI A. HEILEMANN DOI
  • Tami A. Heilemann DOI
  • Then-Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt visits Hobbs, New Mexico in February.

A range of political thinkers — from oil lobbyist turned Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to democratic socialist magazine editor Bhaskar Sunkara — will gather in Steamboat Springs Aug. 22 to 24 at the Freedom Conference and Festival, presented by the conservative nonprofit Steamboat Institute.

Speakers include lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat who has defended President Donald Trump, including against impeachment for obstruction of justice; former Republican Sen. Jim DeMint; Hadley Heath Manning with the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, and actor Kevin Sorbo, who endorsed Trump for president, telling Fox News that “Jesus would have voted for Trump.”

The conference also will feature figures involved in the movie The Creepy Line, about the societal influence of Google and Facebook, and Ted Trimpa, with the Trimpa Group, a consultant who works to advance progressive political and societal issues.

El Pomar Foundation of Colorado Springs is a sponsor.
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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Proposed rule change could keep 33,000 Coloradans a month from getting SNAP benefits

Posted By on Wed, Jul 31, 2019 at 1:00 AM

  • Shutterstock
A proposed federal rule would change the process for determining who qualifies for food assistance, and could impact 33,000 Coloradans each month, according to the state Department of Human Services.

The rule would mandate that people between 18 and 59 who are making between 130 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($16,910 for a two-person household) could no longer receive benefits through the Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Parents whose households bring in between 130 and 200 percent of that amount could only receive SNAP benefits if they also qualify for at least $50 in other federal assistance each month.

The federal government argues that the changes will “create a clearer and more consistent nationwide policy” and help ensure that government assistance programs have a greater positive impact.
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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Sen. Gardner defends SAFE Banking Act for cannabis industry

Posted By on Wed, Jul 24, 2019 at 12:37 PM

  • Shutterstock
At a Senate committee hearing July 23, Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, other lawmakers and representatives from the cannabis industry testified in support of the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act.

The legislation, years in the making and possibly closer to passage than ever before, would protect financial institutions that work with cannabis-related businesses from federal enforcement action.

"It's the states that are leading on this issue, and the federal government has failed to respond," Gardner said. "It's closed its eyes and plugged its ears and pretended and hoped the issue would just go away, but it won't."

Marijuana’s federal status as a Schedule I controlled substance affects how dispensaries track income — with many forced to operate only in cash, pay bills through personal accounts or pay extra for scarce banking services. Banks and lenders are also hesitant to serve dispensary employees, who often have trouble buying cars and homes.

Gardner, an original cosponsor of the bill (it's sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon), said that while he's been skeptical about cannabis in the past — and opposed the state amendment legalizing recreational weed — improving banking for businesses in the 47 states where some form of weed is legal is something both parties should be able to agree on.

"At a time when all the talk is about how divided we are in our country, we are remarkably united on this issue," Gardner said.

Joanne Sherwood, the president and CEO of Denver-based Citywide Banks and chair of the Colorado Bankers Association, said financial institutions risk coming under federal enforcement action by serving "any person or business that derives revenue from a cannabis firm, including utilities, vendors, employees of cannabis businesses, as well as investors."

Sherwood urged lawmakers to provide clearer regulatory guidance for banks, and emphasized the SAFE Banking Act's benefits for collecting taxes and tracking of cannabis-related financial activities.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colorado, is sponsoring the House's version of the SAFE Banking Act, and has pushed the legislation for years. While the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee (which held the most recent hearing) hasn't yet voted on whether to move the legislation forward, the House measure has passed through several committees and awaits a vote of the full chamber.

Colorado's Attorney General Phil Weiser recently led a bipartisan group of 38 state attorneys general in standing behind the legislation.

Though the landscape around cannabis has certainly changed since Perlmutter first introduced the bill in 2013, not everyone is on board with cannabis banking.

Garth Van Meter, the vice president of government affairs for Smart Approaches to Marijuana, expressed his organization's view that allowing banks to work with cannabis-related businesses would give way to increased drug use and harmful effects on public health and safety.

"It took us over a hundred years to reverse the public health impacts of the tobacco industry, who continually cast doubt on public health advocates with industry-funded bunk science," Van Meter said. "We have an opportunity today not to repeat those mistakes."
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Weld County, state commission wage war of words over oil and gas

Posted By on Wed, Jul 24, 2019 at 12:01 AM

Local governments can now set stricter rules than the state for oil and gas. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Local governments can now set stricter rules than the state for oil and gas.

As Weld County, the state’s largest producer of oil and gas resources, sets up its own regulating and permitting system, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission warns that a new state law doesn’t allow jurisdictions to come up with less stringent regulations than the state’s.

Senate Bill 181
, a contentious piece of legislation passed earlier this year, changes the state’s relationship with the industry by moving from “fostering” oil and gas development to “regulating” it, and gives local jurisdictions the power to impose further regulations.

In response to that law, Weld County commissioners created an internal oil and gas department earlier this month.

But the state commission warned that while the law “provides local governments with siting authority over oil and gas surface locations, it does not diminish the COGCC’s authority to regulate the orderly development of oil and gas throughout the state.”
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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

If feds approve reinsurance, Colorado's premiums are likely to decrease

Posted By on Tue, Jul 23, 2019 at 10:13 AM

  • Shutterstock
The Colorado Division of Insurance has predicted that health insurance premiums will decrease next year — as long as the federal government OKs a reinsurance program that state lawmakers passed this session.

Colorado health insurance providers expect premiums on individual plans (for those who do not get insurance through an employer or a government program) will decrease by an average of 18.2 percent.

In the Colorado Springs area, premiums would decrease by an average of 15 percent. (See a full breakdown of projected impacts here.)

The proposed reinsurance program is a state enterprise that covers a portion of high-cost claims so that insurance carriers can lower premiums. It's contingent on the federal government's approval of a waiver under the Affordable Care Act, which allows states to try innovative strategies to improve access to health care.

The program would be funded partly through a special fee assessed to hospitals, and partly through "pass-through funding" from the federal government. 

The state Division of Insurance describes the "pass-through funding" this way:

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), for people with household incomes under 400 percent (4 times) of the Federal Poverty Level, tax credits from the federal government are available to help make health insurance in the individual market more affordable. These tax credits are tied to health insurance premiums, so that when premiums go up, tax credits go up, and when premiums go down, the tax credits also go down.

As the reinsurance program brings health insurance premiums down, the amount of money the federal government has to spend on tax credits will also go down. But rather than letting it pocket the money, Colorado will ask the federal government to pass that money through to the state to fund the reinsurance program and maintain the lower premiums and stability it will bring to the individual health insurance market.

"Reducing health care costs for Colorado families has been a primary focus of my administration, and today we are seeing the first signs that our hard work is paying off,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a July 16 statement announcing the possibility of lower premiums.
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Monday, July 15, 2019

Locals protest inhumane immigration detention centers, raids

Posted By on Mon, Jul 15, 2019 at 4:23 PM

  • Photos by Lily Reavis
Chants of “No hate, no fear; immigrants are welcome here,” echoed through the streets of downtown Colorado Springs on Friday, July 12, as over 200 people attended the city’s Lights for Liberty protest.
The event happened the same day the Trump administration announced that large-scale immigration raids were planned for 10 major cities, including Denver, starting on July 14. That never materialized; however, a small number of coordinated federal raids targeting undocumented migrant parents and their children launched Sunday, July 14, The New York Times reported. 

The Friday demonstration was one of nearly 800 that took place across the world in protest of inhumane living conditions faced by migrants in the United States. “Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps” is the self-defined human rights coalition responsible for organizing the international protests.

The event began at 7 p.m. outside of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, 27 E. Vermijo Ave. A diverse group of protesters joined the march, including mothers and their young children, students from University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and roughly a dozen members of High Plains Unitarian Universalist Church (HPUUC).

Jerima King, an immigration activist who was arrested in June 2018 while protesting family separation laws, spoke about her time volunteering at shelters in Laredo, Texas

“Who are these detainees? They are people so desperate that they cross rivers and deserts and turn themselves in to border patrol,” she said. “People are crossing [the border] on their own because they are not allowed to petition for asylum at points of entry.”

Another speaker, Sanda Dangle, said: “We can’t be quiet anymore. We need to fight what’s going on.”

The protesters marched north up Tejon Street, eventually turning east on Platte Avenue and looping back to the sheriff’s office via Nevada and Vermijo avenues. Several passing cars showed their support by honking their horns and cheering, though others expressed their disagreement with Lights for Liberty.

The demonstration ended with a candlelight vigil and final speakers outside of the sheriff’s office. During the vigil, a volunteer read the names of migrants who have died while in U.S. custody at the border.

Clare Twomey, the pastor at Vista Grande Community Church, urged the crowd to continue fighting for migrant rights.

“[Migrants’] stories do not belong to us, but they allow us to understand what it means to be human,” she told the teary-eyed crowd. “[This protest] is worthless if that’s all we do... Our liberation is bound to those who are currently in cages.”
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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Conservation Colorado grades state lawmakers on environmental issues

Posted By on Tue, Jul 9, 2019 at 5:22 PM

  • Tony Webster via Flickr
Back in May, we reported on nonprofit Mental Health Colorado's release of its 2019 legislative scorecard, which assigned scores to state lawmakers based on how they voted on mental health-related bills.

If voting records on environment-related legislation (such as the notorious "oil and gas bill," Senate Bill 181) play a role in whom you choose to help elect, you also might appreciate this scorecard from Conservation Colorado.

The Denver-based nonprofit gave state lawmakers "scores" based on how they voted on "priority bills that affect Colorado’s land, water, climate, and communities." (Conservation Colorado isn't affiliated with a political party.)

The rankings are based on five bills related to "climate and clean energy," the oil and gas bill, two transportation bills, and five bills related to "land, water and wildlife." Most were approved by lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat.

Environmental issues appear to be more polarizing then mental health, based on a comparison of the two scorecards. While Mental Health Colorado assigned scores across the spectrum, most lawmakers got either an A+ or an F when it came to conservation.

Spoiler alert: Three El Paso County Republicans (Tim Geitner, Dave Williams and Shane Sandridge) got big, fat zeroes from Conservation Colorado. For voters who don't like environmental regulations, that could, of course, be a good thing.

Here's a handful of included bills you maybe haven't heard of (and you can view the rest at Conservation Colorado's website):

House Bill 1026: "Parks and Wildlife Violations of Law" increases fines for violations of laws enforced by Colorado Parks and Wildlife — such as possessing live wildlife without a license, fishing without a license, or hunting without a hunter education certificate. It also changes the way fine revenue is distributed.

House Bill 1050: "Encourage Use of Xeriscape in Common Areas" prevents homeowners associations from prohibiting drought-tolerant landscaping in common areas. (There's already a law protecting individual property owners in HOAs who want to xeriscape.) It also requires special districts to allow such landscaping in open space and park land.

House Bill 1113: "Protect Water Quality Adverse Mining Impacts" essentially tells hardrock mines they can’t say that water quality can be maintained only through treating water for an indefinite period; they must show that their reclamation plan will lead to an end date for such measures. They must also provide financial assurances "in an amount sufficient to protect water resources, including costs for any necessary water quality 
protection, treatment, and monitoring,” according to the bill's fiscal note.

House Bill 1231: "New Appliance Energy And Water Efficiency Standards," according to Conservation Colorado, "sets new energy and water efficiency standards for many household appliances sold in our state, benefitting Colorado consumers, businesses and our environment."

House Bill 1264: Under a conservation easement agreement, a property owner agrees to limit the use of their land to serve a conservation purpose, in exchange for a state income tax credit. This bill, "Conservation Easement Improvements," extends the state's Conservation Easement Oversight Commission and the conservation easement certification program, and makes various changes to the process.

House Bill 1314: "Just Transition From Coal-based Electrical Energy Economy" creates the "Just Transition Office" to provide benefits for former employees of retired coal plants, award grants, and receive utility reports related to coal plant retirement.

Senate Bill 181: "Protect Public Welfare Oil & Gas Operations" makes major changes to the way the oil and gas industry is regulated in Colorado. It grants local governments broad powers to regulate oil and gas operations, including to “zone land use for mineral resource development, to site, monitor, and inspect oil and gas facilities, and to impose fees and fines,” according the bill’s fiscal note.

Senate Bill 236: This bill, "Sunset Public Utilities Commission," will "help Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission — the regulatory body responsible for determining which resources to use to power Colorado’s grid — drastically reduce these emissions by directing utilities in the state to generate more carbon-free electricity and consider the 'social cost' of carbon when planning future energy projects," according to the nonprofit. The bill requires a $1.1 million appropriation to multiple state agencies.

Here's how El Paso County legislators scored, on a 100-point scale.

• Rep. Terri Carver (R): 15

Carver opposed all of the bills except HB 1026 and HB 1113.

• Rep. Tony Exum (D): 100

Exum was excused for HB 1231, HB 1314, SB 236 and HB 1264, but voted for all of other the bills.

• Rep. Tim Geitner (R): 0

Geitner opposed all of the bills.

• Rep. Lois Landgraf (R): 8

Landgraf opposed all of the bills except HB 1050. She was excused for HB 1026.

• Rep. Larry Liston (R): 15

Liston opposed all of the bills except HB 1264 and HB 1050.

• Rep. Shane Sandridge (R): 0

Sandridge opposed all of the bills.

• Rep. Marc Snyder (D): 100

Snyder voted for all of the bills.

• Rep. Dave Williams (R): 0

Williams opposed all of the bills.

• Sen. Bob Gardner (R): 8

Gardner opposed all of the bills except HB 1264.

• Sen. Owen Hill (R): 8

Hill opposed all of the bills except HB 1264.

• Sen. Dennis Hisey (R): 17

Hisey opposed all of the bills except HB 1264 and HB 1050.

• Sen. Pete Lee (D): 100

Lee voted for all of the bills.

• Rep. Paul Lundeen (R): 8

Lundeen opposed all of the bills except HB 1264.
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Friday, July 5, 2019

Deputy DA Michael Allen announcing candidacy July 11

Posted By on Fri, Jul 5, 2019 at 2:58 PM

Michael Allen: All the murder trials he handled ended in convictions. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Michael Allen: All the murder trials he handled ended in convictions.
District attorney candidate Micheal Allen filed his candidacy on July 3, after the Independent reported his opponent, El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller, expressed outrage over several early endorsements for Allen.

"This is a very important job and requires somebody to have strong background in public safety and prosecution, and I'm that person," Allen tells the Indy.

Allen, who's a Republican, will officially kick off his campaign at 11:30 a.m. on July 11 at the Alamo Square Park at Pioneers Museum. Those who will be on hand and who have (or will) endorsed him include Colorado Springs Mayor and former DA John Suthers, District Attorney Dan May, former District Attorney Jeanne Smith, Detective Joe Somosky (who's president of the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association), the CSPPA's executive director Sherryl Dillon.

After graduating from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in political science, Allen, 47, earned his law degree from the University of Kansas. He then worked as a prosecutor in Johnson and Douglas counties and in the Kansas Attorney General's Office before joining the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office in 2011.

As a senior deputy district attorney, Allen supervises a team of prosecutors and prosecutes cases himself.

"The vast majority of my caseload is homicide cases," he says. Allen has tried eight murder cases since joining the DA's Office. "Each one of those defendants has been convicted and is in prison," he says.

Asked why he's running to succeed May, who's term-limited from seeking a fourth term, Allen says, "I'm committed to public safety and doing this job well. That's the biggest thing that motivated me to do this."

Beyond contributing minor amounts to some candidates, Allen has served as a precinct leader and a delegate and has helped with others' campaigns. He's never run for public office, however.
Asked about Waller's objections to his securing endorsements prior to becoming an official candidate, Allen says, "I'm honored to have an organization like the PPA supporting my candidacy, an important voice in public safety. I'm not going to get into negative campaigning, although he's choosing to do so right out of gate."

An Illinois native, Waller, also a Republican, earned a degree in political science at Southern Illinois University, a master's degree in space studies at the University of North Dakota and graduated from University of Denver law school.

He served in the Air Force on active duty from 1993 to 2000 and in the Air Force Reserves from 2001 to 2009. He deployed to Iraq in 2006.

Waller worked as a prosecutor in the 10th Judicial District Attorney's Office, Pueblo, and served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 2009 to 2014.

He was appointed to the El Paso County Board of Commissioners in July 2016 to replace Amy Lathen, who resigned, and was elected to a four-year term in November 2016.
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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Immigration raids, fines in the forecast this Fourth of July weekend

Posted By on Wed, Jul 3, 2019 at 5:36 PM

Donald Trump speaks on immigration policy in 2016 at the Phoenix Convention Center. - GAGE SKIDMORE VIA FLICKR
  • Gage Skidmore via Flickr
  • Donald Trump speaks on immigration policy in 2016 at the Phoenix Convention Center.

As the administration of President Donald Trump prepares to carry out immigration sweeps in 10 cities this weekend, National Public Radio reports that the Department of Homeland Security is also issuing notices to undocumented immigrants saying they are subject to fines, some up to $500,000.

Ingrid Encalada Latorre, an undocumented immigrant in sanctuary at a Boulder church, was one of those issued a fine.

“After 3 years of no word from them they send me this letter with only 30 days to pay and it’s a lot of money for me," she said in an emailed statement via American Friends Service Committee Denver, an advocacy organization. "Really I will not get any benefit from this money, not a work permit or residency. What they want to do with these letters is to intimidate us and scare us."

The Immigration and Nationality Act includes a provision passed in 1996 that allows the government to fine any migrant who "willfully fails or refuses" to comply with an order to leave the country, up to $500 per day (now adjusted to $799 for inflation). However, the provision has not been enforced in this manner by other administrations, according to media reports.

After receiving a notice of intention to fine (NIF), the immigrant "has 30 days to respond, and is granted procedural rights to establish a defense if they believe a fine should not be imposed," reads an emailed statement from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson.

An ICE [Enforcement and Removal Operations] Supervisor will review all possible evidence to determine if a NIF was properly issued, and will make a final decision – in coordination with the local Field Office Director – that may be appealed with the Board of Immigration Appeals.

If the alien fails to respond to the NIF, or exhaust all procedural avenues without being granted any relief, then the penalty becomes a unappealable order, and will be assessed as a formal debt to the government.

The total number of people fined was not available from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

As for the immigration sweeps, Trump has said that they would begin after the July 4 holiday if Congress did not make changes to asylum law:

Media outlets have reported that those sweeps will target recently arrived migrants in 10 U.S. cities.

When asked whether Denver would be affected, ICE spokesperson Alethea Smock emailed this response:

"ICE does not conduct raids. ICE performs daily, targeted immigration enforcement operations, which maintain the integrity of U.S. immigration laws, and also help improve public safety by removing criminal aliens from local communities.

"ICE deportation officers carry out targeted enforcement operations daily nationwide as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to protect the nation, uphold public safety, and protect the integrity of our immigration laws and border controls. These operations involve existing and established Fugitive Operations Teams."

CNN reports that according to ICE data, deportations increased about 13 percent between fiscal years 2017 and 2018, when 256,085 people were deported. In 2012, Barack Obama's administration deported more than 400,000 people.
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Waller: DA candidate cries foul after major player endorses unannounced candidate

Posted By on Wed, Jul 3, 2019 at 5:19 PM

Commissioner Waller: Seeking the DA post. - COURTESY OF MARK WALLER
  • Courtesy of Mark Waller
  • Commissioner Waller: Seeking the DA post.
El Paso County Commission Chair Mark Waller, a Republican, filed to run for 4th Judicial District Attorney in 2020 on June 17. That's recorded in Secretary of State records, and he remains the only candidate to declare or file.

So imagine his surprise when he learned that some heavyweight  political players, including term-limited incumbent DA Dan May, also a Republican, have come out in support of someone else.

That's what happened when the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association issued an email on July 3 to an undisclosed list of recipients advocating for Michael J. Allen, a deputy DA serving under May.

Waller calls the endorsements the result of "backroom dealings" for which, he says, voters have a low tolerance.

The CSPPA's email obtained by the Independent outlines Allen's credentials and announces the CSPPA board voted to support him in the 2020 election. The email said the board favored Allen, a Republican, as early as February but solidified the endorsement after meeting with him again on June 28.

The CSPPA did not meet with Waller. "They never called me, never asked me for an interview," Waller says.
There's no rule or requirement that endorsers give all candidates equal time, but it's common practice to interview more than one candidate seeking a certain office.

Add to that some peculiarities in the email, such as claiming that Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers has already endorsed Allen when he has not, at least not yet.

Mayor Suthers: No endorsement yet. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mayor Suthers: No endorsement yet.
Asked to confirm his endorsement, Suthers, who served as DA from 1989 to 1997, tells the Indy via email on July 3, "I haven’t endorsed Mr. Allen yet, but intend to do so at his campaign kickoff." He didn't elaborate on why he's backing Allen.

Sheryl Dillon, the CSPPA executive director, said in the email:
In addition to the PPA, Mr. Allen has been endorsed by Mayor Suthers, District Attorney Dan May and the Teller County Sheriff’s Office.

Mr. Allen has been a prosecutor for 15 years, and has been with the 4th Judicial District for the past eight years. He’s prosecuted DV, DUI, TA and homicides cases, and is held in very high esteem by PPA members having a major crimes background. He is described as an ethical, sharp trial attorney who is highly supportive of police. Mr. Allen has testified before the state legislature opposing bills moving drug convictions from felonies to misdemeanors, recognizing the impact that decriminalization has on area crime rates.

We hope you will join us in supporting Michael as he kicks off his campaign in the coming weeks.
While the email says the Teller County Sheriff's Office has also endorsed Allen, it's not kosher for a government agency to pick sides in political races. The Indy contacted the Teller Sheriff's Office and Commander Greg Couch says that Sheriff Jason Mikesell endorses Allen, but the office has taken no position in the race.

We tried to ask several questions regarding the CSPPA's email, but Dillon said, "We are not prepared to give any statements at this time."

According to campaign finance records, Allen, of Monument, has given small contributions to GOP committees and Republican candidates, including Sheriff Bill Elder. State records show he's never run for public office in Colorado. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in September 2005, and in Colorado in December 2010.

Waller is dumbfounded by the endorsements of a candidate who isn't even a candidate yet.
"This is absolutely unbelievable. It's shocking," he says, "that an organization would endorse a candidate before the candidate's in the race. It's unfortunate that we're in a circumstance that people feel that backroom deals have to happen to create success for candidates.

"This is why [President] Trump ran," he adds. "This is why I served as deputy director in Colorado for Trump [his campaign] — to put some integrity and transparency back into the process, because we can't have politicians and labor unions engaging in this kind of behavior."

Waller, who served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 2009 to 2014 and served as a prosecutor as well, points out that while the CSPPA's email notes Allen is ethical, the email "is full of lies and inaccuracies. That doesn't speak to integrity at all."

All that said, Waller claims he's not bothered by the sitting DA and a former DA endorsing a person who could wind up a primary election opponent.

"I'm not worried about this at all," he says. "I think the voters will be able to see right through this. They don't like people choosing the successor in backroom deals."

We heard back on our call to Allen and have the story on his candidacy here.
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Friday, June 21, 2019

Business district now admits Scheels sales figure "was wrong"

Posted By on Fri, Jun 21, 2019 at 3:08 PM

Aquariums are one attraction that appear in some Scheels stores. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy city of Colorado Springs
  • Aquariums are one attraction that appear in some Scheels stores.

A low-ball estimate of annual sales expected from the proposed Scheels All Sports store in north Colorado Springs, "was wrong," says an attorney representing the Interquest North Business Improvement District (BID).

The Independent reported on June 14 that the BID, controlled by Nor'wood Development Group via seats on the board, submitted a document on May 16 that stated Scheels' annual sales would total $20.4 million. That's a third of the $60-million estimate previously provided to the city in support of a $16.2 million sales tax break for Scheels. City Council approved the incentive in February. The city also confirmed June 13 the $60 million is correct.

Three days after the Indy's blog post, Russell Dykstra, with Spencer Fane LLP law firm in Denver, wrote the city an email on behalf of the petitioner, Nor'wood — which is owned by developer David Jenkins — in which it corrected the figure.

"Of note, the prior information as to the impact of the Scheels store in relation to comparable commercial property in the Interquest North Business Improvement District was based on erroneous information (the projected annual sales amount was wrong) and should be disregarded," Dykstra wrote.

He then notes that Scheels stores "can do sales of $60 million a year or more," which would mean the BID would receive "$750,000+ per year from the PIF (public improvement fee, which is collected like a sales tax) alone."

Read the email here:

Two businesses oppose the exclusion, arguing that removing Scheels from the BID means Scheels wouldn't have to pay 51 mills in property taxes and the 1.25 percent PIF. Together, those levies would bring in roughly $1 million a year — an amount that the remaining BID members would have to pay.

Tim Leonard owns Deepwater Point Co., a development management company that represents the two opponents, BWR Investors LLC, owner and operator of the Burger King, and Riverside Restaurant Group LLC, owner of the Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen.

Both lie within the BID and oppose excluding Scheels.

Leonard notes in an outline provided to the Indy that if the BID continues to collect its mill levy and PIF, with Scheels in the district, it would receive $2.8 million a year toward payment of bond debt of $972,000 per year. (The BID has issued debt totaling $11.3 million that's earmarked for public improvements such as sidewalks.) He further notes the BID's fund balance this year would swell to $4.1 million.

But, Leonard also says, if the mill levy and PIF were lowered to 5 mills and 1 percent, respectively, the district still would collect ample funds, $1.25 million a year, to meet its debt payments.

"So the issue is not whether Scheels should be subsidized by all the smaller businesses," Leonard says, "but why does the Board not lower the mill levy as its tax base expands?"

Councilor Bill Murray: Council didn't know about opposition. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Councilor Bill Murray: Council didn't know about opposition.
Leonard has said his clients and other businesses in the BID were not notified of the exclusion request prior to a May 28 briefing by city staff to Council. According to a certificate of mailing recently submitted to the city, Spencer Fane mailed notices to all BID members on June 13.

That's two days after Council was originally slated to consider the exclusion request (June 11) but delayed it after receiving a June 6 letter from Leonard expressing opposition. Councilor Bill Murray has said Council wasn't told of any opposition until it received Leonard's letter.

Now, Council is poised to make a decision on the exclusion on June 25.

The BID is controlled by Nor'wood through seats on the board. Hence, Nor'wood controls issuing debt, which Nor'wood, in turn, has purchased through entities created by Jenkins and his son, Chris, president of Nor'wood. Those entities are Enterprise Fund No. 6 and Enterprise Fund No. 8. The Nor'wood-controlled board also sets the BID's property tax rate.

We reached out to Dykstra, inviting him to explain how the $20.4 million sales figure came to be submitted to the city in error, and asking him to comment on any part of the exclusion request he wishes. We'll circle back when we hear something.

We've invited Nor'wood and Scheels to comment a couple of times in recent days and never heard back.
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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Gov. Polis signs final bills into law, announces five vetoes

Posted By on Wed, Jun 5, 2019 at 3:02 PM

Polis spoke about his legislative accomplishments at Pikes Peak Community College on June 5. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Polis spoke about his legislative accomplishments at Pikes Peak Community College on June 5.

At a June 3 appearance in Colorado Springs, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, said this year's legislative session delivered victories for health care and education.

He emphasized that 95 percent of the 454 bills he signed "were bipartisan: Republicans and Democrats working together to make Colorado better."

Polis vetoed five bills on May 31, three of which concerned state occupational licensing requirements. The vetoes drew consternation from lawmakers in Polis' own party, including Rep. Monica Duran of Wheat Ridge. Duran sponsored House Bill 1212, which would have extended a program requiring managers of homeowners associations, or HOAs, to have state licenses.

“We are greatly disappointed that the work we have done to protect homeowners’ biggest investments in their lifetime — their homes — has been undone," Duran said via a statement from the Community Associations Institute (CAI) Colorado Legislative Action Committee. CAI is an international membership organization for homeowners, HOA managers and businesses that provide services for HOAs.
"Managers of HOAs will no longer have to be licensed, which means they are not required to have background checks, demonstrate any knowledge of core competencies, show they understand Colorado HOA law or get continuing education," Duran continued.

On the other hand, Polis' vetoes drew rare approval from some conservatives.

“Governor Polis is right to veto legislation that makes it harder for Coloradans to find work," said Jesse Mallory, the state director of libertarian and conservative group Americans for Prosperity. Mallory was quoted in a statement from the group.

"Too often occupational licenses—government permission slips to work—are misused to protect entrenched interests, slamming the door on the dreams of would-be entrepreneurs," he added.

With his veto statement, Polis issued an executive order directing the Department of Regulatory Agencies to review existing and potential laws around HOAs and their managers, and recommend strategies for "efficient and effective" regulation.

"Before any unregulated occupation is to be regulated, or any regulated occupation is to be continued, the state should complete its due diligence to ensure that regulation will, in fact, ensure consumer safety in a cost-efficient manner," Polis wrote in his veto letter. "This bill does not meet that threshold."

Similarly, Polis vetoed Senate Bills 99 and 133, which would have required licenses for sports agents and genetic counselors. Both bills were sponsored by Democrats.

"Licensing in the United States over the years has at times prevented minorities and the economically disadvantaged from having the ability to access occupations," Polis wrote.

He also vetoed Senate Bill 169, which would have made changes to the budget submission process for information technology projects, saying that it limited the governor's ability to manage state contracts.

House Bill 1305 would have given tribal governments access to state databases for conducting background checks in child welfare cases. In his veto letter, Polis said the bill contained errors that would have forced tribes to comply with state child protection requirements. So in place of the bill, he issued an executive order allowing tribal governments access to the state databases while leaving out those mandates.

"In Colorado, we respect our government-to-government relationship with the Tribes," Polis wrote. "We also are committed to making resources available to assist the Tribes in conducting their governmental responsibilities."

In other news, here's some highlights from the list of bills Polis recently signed.


House Bill 1032: "Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education" appropriates money ($1 million annually) for the state’s grant program for schools that want to add comprehensive sexual education, closes a loophole that allowed private contractors to collect government money for teaching abstinence-only classes in public schools and ends an exemption for charter schools to the requirements. It also prohibits schools that have sex ed courses from teaching religious ideology, using shame-based or stigmatizing language, employing gender stereotypes, or excluding the experiences of LGBT individuals.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, and Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton, and Sens. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, and Don Coram, R-Montrose
House Bill 1110: "Media Literacy" creates an advisory committee to make recommendations for ways to teach K-12 students how to read news critically, and discern fake news from the real thing. It allocates $19,800 from the state's general fund to the Department of Education for this purpose.
  • Sponsors: Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Evergreen, and Sen. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood
Senate Bill 007: “Prevent Sexual Misconduct At Higher Ed Campuses” requires higher education campuses to adopt policies on sexual misconduct based on minimum requirements set out in the bill. It provides for oversight and requires training on the policies.
  • Sponsors: Sens. Pettersen and Faith Winter, D-Westminster, and Reps. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, and Janet Buckner, D-Aurora


House Bill 1039: "Identity Documents For Transgender Persons" makes it easier for transgender and nonbinary people to change the gender on their birth certificates (without court order, surgery or doctor recommendation).
  • Sponsors: Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, and Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City
House Bill 1129: "Prohibit Conversion Therapy for A Minor" prevents licensed mental health and medical professionals from attempting to change a minor’s gender identity or sexual orientation through therapy. Democrats, who won control of the Senate last fall, were finally able to pass this bill on the fifth annual attempt.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, and Esgar, and Sen. Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder


House Bill 1176: The "Health Care Cost Savings Act of 2019" creates a task force to analyze the costs of alternative health care financing systems, such as single-payer, and make a report to state legislators. Polis signed the bill, but noted his concern that the bill's appropriation (around $100,000) wouldn't be enough to hire an analyst. He directed the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to let him know in October whether legislators should request more money next session.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Emily Sirota, D-Denver, and Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont, and Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette
House Bill 1279: "Protect Public Health Firefighter Safety Regulation PFAS Polyfluoroalkyl Substances" bans firefighting foam that contains certain toxic, man-made chemicals: those classified as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS. (An amendment to the bill makes an exception for when PFAS-containing foam is "required for a military purpose.") The bill also requires manufacturers to disclose when personal protective equipment contains PFAS.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, and Lois Landgraf, R-Colorado Springs, and Sens. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Dennis Hisey, R-Colorado Springs
Senate Bill 077: "Electric Motor Vehicles Public Utility Services" requires public utilities to facilitate charging stations and to support the adoption of electric vehicles.
  • Sponsors: Sens. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, and Angela Williams, D-Denver, and Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver


House Bill 1324: "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation" adds protections against lawsuits viewed by First Amendment advocates, media organizations and others at infringing upon free speech. Specifically, it allows defendants accused of libel or slander to ask a judge to dismiss a civil case on the grounds that they were simply exercising their constitutional right to free speech or to petition the government.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Cutter and Shannon Bird, D-Westminster, and Sen. Foote
Senate Bill 179: "Enhance School Safety Incident Response Grant Program" adds funding to an existing state program, which funds nonprofit-led school safety training for law enforcement and school districts. The bill appropriates $1.16 million to the Department of Public Safety for the program.
  • Sponsors: Sen. Lee and Rep. James Wilson, R-Salida
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