Politics

Monday, February 18, 2019

Colorado to join multi-state lawsuit to fight national emergency declaration

Posted By on Mon, Feb 18, 2019 at 3:33 PM

A border wall might look like this. - HILLEBRAND STEVE, U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
  • Hillebrand Steve, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • A border wall might look like this.
Colorado will join a group of other states to challenge President Donald Trump's declaration of an emergency in order to redirect money toward his border wall along the U.S./Mexican boundary.

In a news release, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and Governor Jared Polis issued a statement:

Colorado will join at least 12 other states in a multistate lawsuit challenging President Trump’s unconstitutional emergency declaration to build a border wall. After reviewing the specifics of this action over the weekend, we concluded that Colorado could lose tens of millions in military construction dollars that would be diverted to build the wall. Our military bases play a critical role in our nation’s readiness and are economic drivers in several communities.

In this action, we are fighting for Colorado’s interests and defending the rule of law.

Meantime, the American Civil Liberties Union staged a protest of Trump's action at the Capitol Building in Denver. In a news release, it says the protest was "part of a national mobilization effort with protests to be held throughout the country."

Colorado's U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, issued a release on Feb. 14 calling Trump's plan to declare an emergency an "attempt to bypass the U.S. Congress by inventing a national emergency." Bennet also said in the statement that neither Congress nor a majority of the American people support Trump's wall and added, "This is a dangerous precedent that should concern everyone who cares about the health of our democracy and our institutions.”

Colorado's U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, was quoted by KRDO TV on Feb. 15 saying this about the president's emergency action: "I think the President is right to pursue additional border security dollars. I think Congress ought to do their job and make this border security a reality."

But one of Trump's most ardent supporters in Colorado, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican, wasn't crazy about Trump's action. Although he chastised Democrats for not going along with Trump's border security measures, Lamborn discouraged Trump from taking money for the wall from military construction.

"... pulling from those accounts will have serious consequences for our military readiness," Lamborn said in the statement, adding, " I hope the president will pursue other options." Lamborn is the ranking member of the Readiness Subcommittee and serves on the House Armed Services Committee.
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Friday, February 15, 2019

City election campaign roundup: endorsements, money

Posted By on Fri, Feb 15, 2019 at 5:41 PM

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
At the April 2 city election in Colorado Springs, voters will elect a third of the nine-member City Council and a mayor. They'll also decide whether to allow firefighters to collectively bargain with the city administration.

From the campaign trail:

Endorsements:
Colorado Springs Forward, a group of local business and local leaders who want to influence public policy, is urging voters to oppose Issue 1, the firefighter measure. This organization has a distinguished board of directors but apparently no full-time chief executive officer (at least that we could find) since former El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen left almost two years ago. Also, the phone number on its website doesn't work. It's worth noting that much of the language in CSF's explanation comes verbatim from a fundraising letter sent out by the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC and Mayor John Suthers on Jan. 15. And the group apparently knows how to raise campaign money. (See the Greenback report below.)

• The influential Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs has endorsed four candidates for the three at-large Council posts up for grabs. They are incumbent Tom Strand, former Councilor Val Snider (2011-15), and challengers Tony Gioia and former Colorado Secretary of State and El Paso County Commissioner Wayne Williams. The council jobs pay $6,250 a year.

A new web presence:
Strand, seeking his second term, has a website now. Listed among his endorsements, which clearly show he's the movers' and shakers' choice, are the HBA as mentioned above, Suthers, County Commissioners Mark Waller and Stan VanderWerf, El Pomar President and CEO Bill Hybl, The Broadmoor executives Steve Bartolin and Jack Damioli, and Nor'wood Development Group executive Chris Jenkins.

Greenback report:
The big money for this election is flowing into the mayor's race and for committees promoting and opposing Issue 1, the firefighter measure.
Terry Martinez has raised the most so far in the at-large Council race. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Terry Martinez has raised the most so far in the at-large Council race.
As of 5 p.m. on Feb. 15, the latest filing deadline, Mayor John Suthers has raised $175,886 so far in his bid for re-election. One challenger, John Pitchford, a retired dentist who served a career in the Army, has donated $104,163 to his own campaign.

The mayor's job pays $103,370, and is periodically adjusted for inflation.

Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs has raised $246,025, but most of that was spent on polling and petition circulating.

The Chamber's effort, Citizens Against Public Employee Unions, has gathered $168,315. It used to be that $1,000 or $5,000 was a pretty hefty donation, but for this committee, the cash is flowing in in chunks of $10,000. Those who gave that amount in the latest round include Classic Homes, Colorado Springs Auto Dealers Association, the Chamber itself and the Issues Mobilization Committee of Iverness, Colorado. Oh, and Colorado Springs Forward gave $70,000.

Looking at the Council race, those who have filed include: Terry Martinez, who has raised $14,485; Williams has brought in $12,757; Strand has accumulated $10,706; and Gordon Klingenschmitt, $9,142.
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Conversion therapy ban and birth certificate bill make progress in Colorado Legislature this week

Posted By on Fri, Feb 15, 2019 at 5:02 PM

Jude testifying in committee in favor of House Bill 1039. - COURTESY ONE COLORADO
  • Courtesy One Colorado
  • Jude testifying in committee in favor of House Bill 1039.

Two major updates have come out of the Colorado Legislature this week, with potential impact to the state's LGBTQ community. Both the bill to ban conversion therapy and the bill to ease the path toward changing gender on birth certificates have been cycling through the Legislature for years with little progress in Republican-controlled committees. Now with Democrats running both the House and the Senate, these bills are poised to make history.

On Feb. 13, the bill to ban conversion therapy — a dangerous and ineffective process meant to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity — passed out of the Colorado House Public Health Care & Human Services committee, where it has been dead on arrival for the past four years. Now, with bi-partisan support, it will soon reach the House floor for a vote.

“What this practice does is harm children and falsely make them believe that something is wrong with them through the use of shame, rejection and psychological abuse,” reads a statement by Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, one of the bill’s sponsors. “We need to put an end to a practice that makes these youths six times more likely to have depression and eight times more likely to attempt suicide.”

In other Legislative news, another long-contested bill that would make it easier for transgender and nonbinary people to change the gender on their birth certificates (without court order, surgery or doctor recommendation) has been given a new name on its third reading. Now called “Jude’s Law,” this bill — currently on its way to the Colorado Senate — was named for a 12-year-old transgender girl, who has given testimony in support of similar legislation for four years running.

About the bill’s re-naming, Jude provided the following statement through LGBTQ advocacy organization One Colorado: “I’m so happy that I can be a part of such a phenomenal bill and the fact that it has now been named after me is a true honor! I feel very grateful and fortunate that we are one step closer to achieving basic rights for transgender people.”
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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Campaign roundup: A town hall, endorsements, a new voter is born

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 11:29 AM

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
UPDATE:
Late yesterday, we heard from Tom Strand and share his comments:
I have checked and met with three staff attorneys of the City Law Office. Their opinion is that as long as we ( Bill and me) do not talk about the upcoming election and ballot issues, or any campaign matters , this Town Hall is an appropriate opportunity to reach out to constituents on matters of concern to them and that we, as current elected officials, can and should address. There is no violation of the Code of Ethics or the Election Campaign Regulations. As such, I plan to be there tomorrow evening.
———————ORIGINAL POST 11:29 A.M. WEDNESDAY, FEB. 13, 2019———————-

The April 2 city election is just around the corner. Here are some tidbits from the campaign trail:

City councilor town hall:
Incumbent City Councilors Tom Strand and Bill Murray will host a town hall meeting on Feb. 14 —  as nine other candidates are vying for one of three at-large seats. The meeting will take place at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave., and deal with some issues that can be seen as talking points in the campaign. From the notice: "Topics could include - but are not limited to - City for Champions (C4C) projects, bike lanes, Homelessness Action Plan, and issues impacting Colorado Springs Utilities."

We asked the city if either Strand or Murray hosted a town hall in the first four months of 2018 and found out they did not, although they did convene town halls in September 2018, and in June and September 2017.

Campaign rules bar the use of public money for election campaigns, so we asked Strand and Murray about the timing of this event.

"Both Tom and I have been briefed on what we can and cannot say and do during this town hall," Murray said via email on Feb. 12.

Strand had more to say. "I am asking for legal advice from our City Attorney and Staff before we proceed with this Feb 14 Town Hall," Strand tells the Indy via email. "We generally have been conducting 'At Large' City Council Town Halls every 3 to 4 months during our tenure. This one will just solicit concerns from the constituents for our response and action. It in no way is intended to be a campaign speech or event."

We haven't heard back from Strand since that Feb. 12 message, but there's been no notice issued that there have been any changes in the planned town hall.

Council candidate Tony Gioia has his hands full with this bundle of joy. - COURTESY TONY GIOIA
  • Courtesy Tony Gioia
  • Council candidate Tony Gioia has his hands full with this bundle of joy.
Endorsements:
Val Snider, who served on Council from 2011 to 2015, is taking another run at the office after sitting out a term. He's snagged support from former Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace, former Council President Scott Hente and former Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin.

New in town:
Council candidate Tony Gioia and his wife, Sara, are the proud parents of Gabriella Marie, who was born Feb. 7. She's their first child. She's expected to go home on Feb. 14, Valentine's Day.
(Disclosure: Gioia is a former Indy's distribution employee.)

Let us know:
If you have an item of interest about the city election, which will elect three at-large Council members and a mayor, send them to zubeck@csindy.com. The Indy is interested in learning about endorsements and campaign events, as well as fact-checking campaign materials. 
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Transgender man files discrimination charge against local company

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 11:27 AM

Dashir Moore hopes sharing his story will help other transgender people get the care they need. - COURTESY OF THE ACLU OF COLORADO
  • Courtesy of the ACLU of Colorado
  • Dashir Moore hopes sharing his story will help other transgender people get the care they need.

At 31, Dashir Moore left his family and friends behind in Atlanta for a new life in Colorado Springs. His dream? "To unapologetically be myself."

Moore had heard Colorado's health care system was more inclusive of transgender people than Georgia's, so he got a job at Innosource, an employment agency in Colorado Springs, and scheduled a gender transition surgery that he believed was covered by his employer-provided insurance policy.

On May 21 of last year, Moore went through the surgery. But two days later, he says, he got the news that turned his world upside down: The insurance company had refused to pay for his operation, and he would be obligated to cover nearly $30,000 in hospital bills himself.
"I was just heartbroken," Moore says. "My worst fear basically happened."

Since then, Moore has left Innosource for a different job in Colorado Springs, which pays $5 to $6 less an hour, he says, adding up to an annual salary less than the cost of his surgery. He paid some of the surgery's cost on a payment plan, but as larger bills started rolling in, he could no longer afford them — and has been hit with collections and notices, while the state of his credit means he "can't get approved for anything."

"If I wanted to leave my apartment, I'm stuck," Moore says.

Moore's best hope right now rests with two powerful allies — The American Civil Liberties Union and American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, who have filed a discrimination charge against Innosource on his behalf.

The ACLU is alleging that insurance carve-outs for transition-related care are illegal, based on state and federal law that prohibit discrimination based on sex or sexual orientation.

"Our state anti-discrimination in employment statutes ... prohibit discrimination against employees in the provision of benefits," says Sara Neel, Moore's attorney. "Your health insurance is a benefit associated with your employment, and therefore the employers, we would argue, cannot discriminate against transgender individuals in the provision of health care."

While President Donald Trump's administration has reportedly proposed defining "sex" in a way that excludes transgender people from federal anti-discrimination laws, Colorado law passed in 2008 strengthened protections by explicitly including transgender status under sexual orientation, a protected class. And most transition-related health care, including surgical procedures, is covered by Colorado's Medicaid program.

According to a statement from the ACLU, Moore's employer-provided plan "categorically excluded coverage for anything related to gender transition including 'treatment, drugs, medicines, services, and supplies for, or leading to, gender transition surgery.' The exclusion applied to all transition-related care, including care that is medically necessary and otherwise would be covered under the plan."

What's more: "Prior to his surgery, Mr. Moore completed the necessary pre-op consultation at Denver Health as well as the insurance verification process. He contacted his claims administrator to confirm the surgery would be covered and was assured that it would be."

Neel says she doesn't know of a case like Moore's in which a private employer was successfully charged with discrimination related to health coverage (though a 2016 case challenged Wisconsin's ban on transition-related coverage for state employees). Depending on the outcome of the case, it could make waves nationally.
"The goal in this case is really, obviously, to get Mr. Moore compensated for what he's been required to pay or is being required to pay, and then also to get the employer to change their policy," Neel says."...And to continue to set precedent, because we do believe the law is on our side."

The first step in the process was to file a discrimination charge with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, which will investigate the charge. If a resolution is not reached between Moore and Innosource as a result of the investigation, he could then choose to file a lawsuit, Neel says.

In the meantime, Moore's taking it day by day. Since the denial, he's been prescribed antidepressants and wonders what someone with less mental strength would do in the same situation, in a society where suicide rates for transgender people dwarf those of the general population.

While Moore is open about his transgender status with those close to him, he's not used to talking about it with his employers, much less strangers. He decided to go public with his story in hopes of saving others from the emotional pain and economic uncertainty he's endured for the past year, hundreds of miles from the friends and family he left in Atlanta.

"All the things that I hoped to accomplish by having surgery were kind of erased by the denial," Moore says. "Any moments of joy that I was supposed to have, I didn’t have that."

"...I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else."
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Senate votes to reauthorize Land and Water Conservation Fund

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 10:22 AM

The Land and Water Conservation Fund paid for more than $8 million in projects in Rocky Mountain National Park, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition. - NATIONAL PARK SERVICE PHOTO/ WALKER HALL
  • National Park Service Photo/ Walker Hall
  • The Land and Water Conservation Fund paid for more than $8 million in projects in Rocky Mountain National Park, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition.

The U.S. Senate has passed a massive public lands package that includes legislation to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The package, Senate Bill 47 — which encompasses more than 100 bills addressing land exchanges, national parks, wildlife conservation, recreation and more nationwide — soared through on a vote of 92 to 8. It now goes to the House for consideration.

Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner issued a statement championing the legislation's passage. Gardner, like his counterpart, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, has been a vocal supporter of reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund, which expired in September after legislators failed to reauthorize it, had been used since 1965 to buy and preserve land, water and recreation areas with royalty payments from offshore oil and gas money.

"The [Land and Water Conservation Fund] has a direct impact on public lands in Colorado and will be used to protect our state’s natural beauty for future generations," Gardner said in the statement. "I’m thrilled we were able to finally permanently reauthorize this commonsense program supported by Coloradans across the political spectrum."

Gardner sponsored or cosponsored several Colorado-related bills that were included in the package.

Bennet also issued a statement praising the public lands package. He led or co-led several of the bills, including some that were collaborations with Gardner.

“It’s rare that a bipartisan lands package moves in Congress, so this bill is a significant accomplishment for communities across Colorado,” Bennet said.

Bennet tried to get his Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, which combined four previously introduced bills to protect 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, included in the package, but that amendment did not pass.

Conservation groups in Colorado and beyond applauded the public lands package, especially the fund's reauthorization.

“Today’s vote is a big step toward ending the cycle of uncertainty that has plagued this amazing and incredibly important conservation program," Carlos Fernandez, state director for the Nature Conservancy, said in a statement. “Thank you, Senators Bennet and Gardner, for championing this effort. Your leadership and stalwart support has helped get this legislation to where it is today."

Since 1965, Colorado has received more than $268 million from the fund, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, a group advocating for its reauthorization. The money has paid for projects in Mesa Verde National Park, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Arapaho National Forest, Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge, Rocky Mountain National Park, Cross Mountain Canyon Ranch and more.
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Saturday, February 2, 2019

Homeless Right to Rest Act gets fifth try in Colorado Assembly

Posted By on Sat, Feb 2, 2019 at 8:40 AM

Christer Pierce, center, lets Jackie Allen borrow his guitar so she can earn money for lunch. The Right to Rest Act would make it illegal for cities to ban sitting or standing in public spaces. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Christer Pierce, center, lets Jackie Allen borrow his guitar so she can earn money for lunch. The Right to Rest Act would make it illegal for cities to ban sitting or standing in public spaces.

A bill creating “basic rights” for homeless people — including the ability to rest in public spaces, shelter oneself from the elements, occupy a parked car, and be free from discrimination based on housing status — has been introduced in the state House for the fifth time by Rep. Jovan Melton, an Aurora Democrat.

On Colorado Springs’ Westside, one neighborhood activist sounded the alarm.

Welling Clark, an active Republican who is the former president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (and married to former County Commissioner Sallie Clark, who was appointed by President Donald Trump to serve as the Colorado Director for USDA Rural Development), sent out a mass email asking residents to contact their legislators to oppose the bill.

“Dear law-abiding citizen,” Clark wrote, “...If [the Right to Rest Act is] passed, those that claim to be ‘homeless’ (even those that homeless by choice) will be afforded rights that will impact your life.”

Though Clark seems to feel it’s more important now than ever to take action against the bill, its chances could be slim even with a trifecta of Democratic power in Colorado government. In previous years, opponents on both sides of the political spectrum have prevented the bill from ever reaching the floor, even in the House, which Democrats have controlled since 2012.
Detractors argue that it unfairly limits local governments’ ability to regulate activities like panhandling and loitering.

And Rep. Matt Gray (D-Broomfield), who chairs the Transportation and Local Government committee (where the bill has been assigned), voted against the bill two years in a row.

Notably, though, this year’s version is slightly different from previous iterations. The 2019 Right to Rest Act adds a section that would authorize $10 million over three years from the marijuana tax cash fund to help local housing authorities reduce their waiting lists.

Jurisdictions with waitlists of fewer than 50 people for at least three consecutive months would be exempt from the “right to rest” portion of the bill — meaning that they would be allowed to enforce bans (like Colorado Springs’ sit-lie ordinance) on resting in public spaces.

Colorado Springs is a far cry from exemption status. Here, demand for Section 8 vouchers is so high that the Colorado Springs Housing Authority only opens waitlists once a year for lottery pre-applications.

Such legislation could put the brakes on city policies that opponents — including the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, a main backer of the Right to Rest Act — have said effectively criminalize homelessness. In 2012, the ACLU filed a complaint in federal district court over a city ordinance banning panhandling downtown, resulting in an injunction that ultimately led to a repeal of that ban. Its legal director has also voiced concern about a recent ban on creekside camping.

Westside Cares, a nonprofit serving homeless people on Colorado Springs’ Westside, has not taken an official position on the Right to Rest Act, says CEO Kristy Milligan. (As a 501(c)3 organization, Westside Cares is somewhat limited in terms of advocacy.)

That said, Milligan adds in an email that “We generally applaud efforts aimed at decriminalizing homelessness, and this year’s bill goes a step beyond previous iterations... We track legislation like this closely, because we believe that early votes — and community engagement around these efforts — are useful barometers for determining the willingness of communities across Colorado to tackle poverty issues in meaningful ways.”

Asked to respond to Clark’s message, Milligan says Westside Cares prefers to work with neighborhood organizations than against them.

“I think there’s a lot of common ground around wanting safer neighborhoods,” she says. “We might disagree about how to get there.”

Read the full text of the bill here:

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UPDATE: First campaign finance reports filed for 2019 city election

Posted By on Sat, Feb 2, 2019 at 8:39 AM

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
UPDATE:
John Pitchford, who's running for mayor after filing and then pulling out of the at-large City Council race, has filed a report showing he's raised $104,163 via a loan to himself.

So it seems Pitchford will have the resources to take on well-funded incumbent John Suthers.

—-ORIGINAL POST 8:39 A.M. SAT., FEB. 2, 2019—
The first campaign finance reports filed after the field of Colorado Springs City Council and mayoral candidates was set in late January suggests it could be a costly race, although many candidates didn't file reports by 5 p.m. on Feb. 1.

Voters will choose three at-large candidates from a field of 11, and also select a mayor at the April 2 city election.

In addition, voters will decide whether to allow Springs firefighters the ability to collectively bargain with the city over pay, working conditions, equipment and benefits.

Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs the "vote yes" committee, raised only a few bucks in the last cycle, but had brought in $221,000 previously, spending all but about $12,000 on polling, petitioning and consulting.

The vote-no effort, launched by Mayor John Suthers and the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC in a Jan. 15 letter that pleaded for donations, is called Citizens Against Public Employee Unions.

The committee reported $37,450 in donations in the last week weeks of January. Big donors include Folium Biosciences, $25,000; Gaylord Smith and Gary Loo, $5,000 each, and Nunn Construction and its owner, $2,000.

Meanwhile, Suthers, seeking a second term, is way ahead of other candidates, having raised well over $100,000.

Juliette Parker, one of his three opponents, reported raising $250. Lawrence Martinez didn't file a report and John Pitchford's report shows him giving himself back money that he loaned for a council run, which he's backed out of.

In the race for the at-large City Council seats, former state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt has raised $11,916, including $5,000 he loaned himself.

Terry Martinez, a longtime educator, has drawn $9,944 in contributions.

Athena Roe reports she's raised no money, while incumbents Tom Strand raised $2,451 and Bill Murray $1,100, of which $500 was a loan from the candidate.

No other candidates had filed reports by the end of business Feb. 1.
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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Democrats introduce bill to protect 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2019 at 5:52 PM

Two Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill in Congress they say would safeguard 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado.

The 82-page Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, or CORE Act, would create about 73,000 acres of new wilderness areas, preserve nearly 80,000 acres for outdoor recreation, expand access to existing protected lands and prohibit new oil and gas development in some areas. Sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet and freshman Rep. Joe Neguse, the legislation "unites and improves" four bills spearheaded by Bennet and other Colorado legislators — including now-Gov. Jared Polis and former Rep. John Salazar — in previous years.

"This bill is the result of years of hard work from local leaders, businessmen, sportsmen and conservationists across Colorado," Bennet said in a Jan. 25 conference call announcing the legislation.

Not since 1993, when Congress passed the Colorado Wilderness Act, has this much Colorado land been preserved at once, Bennet told the Denver Post.

Should Congress pass the CORE Act this year, Bennet's likely to leverage it if he runs for president — which he told MSNBC he was "thinking about" just a day before announcing the new legislation, after an uncharacteristically emotional speech on the Senate floor had catapulted him into the national spotlight.

(Does Bennet's verbal takedown of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., pass fact-checking muster? Check out this analysis from PolitiFact.)

Proposed Porcupine Gulch Wildlife Conservation Area. - MASON CUMMINGS, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society
  • Proposed Porcupine Gulch Wildlife Conservation Area.

Anyhow, here's a quick summary of each section of the CORE Act (formerly separate bills):

Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act

Last year, Bennet introduced this bill in the Senate, and Polis sponsored its counterpart in the House. Neither got a vote.

This section of the CORE Act would create three new wilderness areas totaling 21,000 acres in the Tenmile Range west of Breckenridge, Hoosier Ridge south of Breckenridge, and Williams Fork Mountains north of Silverthorne. In the Tenmile Range, a new 17,000-acre recreation area would protect access to hiking, hunting and mountain biking. The bill would also expand three existing areas — Eagles Nest, Ptarmigan Peak and Holy Cross — by a total of 20,000 acres. Two new wildlife conservation areas, Porcupine Gulch and Williams Fork, would comprise a total of 12,000 acres.

Under this bill, the 29,000-acre area surrounding Camp Hale, where Army troops trained in skiing and mountaineering during World War II, would become the first ever National Historic Landscape. This section creates a $10 million fund for "activities relating to historic interpretation, preservation and restoration" in the Camp Hale area.

The bill would also adjust boundaries around the Trail River Ranch in Rocky Mountain National Park to ensure continued public access, protect water rights for Minturn, a town southwest of Vail, and grant several parcels of land in Grand County to the U.S. Forest Service.

Proposed Sheep Mountain Special Management Area. - MASON CUMMINGS, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society
  • Proposed Sheep Mountain Special Management Area.

San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act

Bennet introduced this bill last spring. Subcommittee hearings were held in the fall, but it never reached the Senate floor.

The CORE Act's version of the bill designates new wilderness areas and expands others — including Lizard Head and Mount Sneffels — near Telluride, Norwood, Ouray and Ridgway in southwest Colorado. It also creates two special management areas where roads and most motor vehicles would be prohibited: the 22,000-acre Sheep Mountain area between the towns of Ophir and Silverton, and 790-acre Liberty Bell East area near Telluride.

This bill also prohibits future oil and gas development on 6,600 acres in Naturita Canyon.

In total, this section of the CORE Act protects about 61,000 acres of land in the San Juan Mountains through new wilderness areas, expansions, and oil and gas restrictions.

Stakeholders in San Miguel, Ouray and San Juan counties "came together over a decade ago to plan for the future," San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper said on Bennet's Jan. 25 conference call. "All sides compromised again and again, and then again, and the result is the designations and boundaries of the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Bill we have today."

Thompson Divide. - JON MULLEN, COURTESY OF THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • Jon Mullen, courtesy of The Wilderness Society
  • Thompson Divide.

Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act

Bennet introduced this bill in 2017, after which it languished in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The CORE Act version protects around 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide near Carbondale and Glenwood Springs from future oil and gas development, while preserving existing property rights.

"There's just some areas where the costs to the community outweigh any potential benefit of drilling, and Thompson Divide is surely one of those places," said Bill Fales, a local rancher on Bennet's conference call. "What is on top of this land is much more valuable to us than any petroleum that might lie below it."

This section of the CORE Act also creates a leasing program to generate energy from excess methane produced by abandoned and existing coal plants in the North Fork Valley, a region on Colorado's Western Slope.

Curecanti National Recreation Area. - NPS/VICTORIA STAUFFENBERG
  • NPS/Victoria Stauffenberg
  • Curecanti National Recreation Area.
Curecanti National Recreation Area Boundary Establishment Act

Last introduced by Sen. John Salazar in 2010, this bill formally establishes the boundaries of the Curecanti National Recreation Area, which includes three reservoirs on the Gunnison River. Though the National Park Service has co-managed the area since 1965, it has never been legislatively established by Congress. The bill makes some administrative changes to the way the land is managed, gives the Bureau of Reclamation jurisdiction over Curecanti's three reservoirs, and ensures that the public will have greater access to fishing.

Gunnison County Commissioner Jonathan Houck spoke in support of the bill on Bennet's conference call.

"The need to declare that boundary designation and have management plans...has been the desire of this community for decades," Houck said, pointing out that Curecanti's Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest body of water in Colorado.

"You can count on the support from the greater Gunnison community to provide a voice to match our values around this legislation to protect these amazing and cherished places for now and into the future," he added.

Go to the next page for maps of each area.




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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Sen. Bennet is mad as hell and you should watch the video

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2019 at 3:15 PM


U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, is a reserved guy most of the time. And that is why we think you need to watch this video of him getting absolutely furious with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, over the shutdown, floods, the wall, Donald Trump, infrastructure and whatever else. The remarks come after Cruz tried to pin the shutdown on the Democrats.

"These crocodile tears the senator from Texas is crying for first responders are too hard for me to take," Bennet said, his voice rising. "They're too hard for me to take, because when the senator from Texas shut this government down in 2013, my state was flooded! It was underwater! People were killed! People's houses were destroyed! They're small businesses were destroyed! Forever!"

It doesn't end there. Nope. Apparently, Bennet was ready to let the Senate know what he really thinks.

Enjoy.
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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Colorado Springs businesses supporting unpaid federal workers

Posted By on Wed, Jan 23, 2019 at 1:34 PM

Poor Richard's Restaurant is offering free meals to federal employees and their families. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Poor Richard's Restaurant is offering free meals to federal employees and their families.

As of Jan. 23, the longest-ever federal government shutdown was in its 33rd day — and though Senate Republicans and Democrats scheduled votes for Jan. 24 on two competing bills to refund the government, there was no clear resolution in sight for hundreds of thousands of federal employees who've been furloughed or are working without pay.


Several local businesses have stepped up to offer deals and giveaways for those affected by the shutdown. Here's a list (and if there's a business you don't see here, feel free to email faith@csindy.com with additional suggestions):

• Poor Richard's Restaurant, located at 324.5 N. Tejon St., has been offering free meals to ID-holding federal employees and their families since Jan. 3 — and has no plans to stop anytime soon.
Pizza Baked Spaghetti. - COURTESY OF FAZOLI'S
  • Courtesy of Fazoli's
  • Pizza Baked Spaghetti.

• Fazoli's is offering free meals of Pizza Baked Spaghetti with regular drink purchase throughout the shutdown. Limit one meal per ID-holding guest per day. Colorado Springs locations:

Cheyenne Mountain
1790 E. Cheyenne Mt. Blvd
Colorado Springs, CO 80906

Austin Bluffs
3607 Austin Bluffs Pkwy
Colorado Springs, CO 80918

• McDivitt Law Firm is giving away $40 King Soopers gift cards through 5 p.m. Jan. 23. Present a valid federal ID card at one of the following locations:

Downtown Colorado Springs
19 E. Cimarron Street
Colorado Springs, 80903

Aurora
14261 E. 4th Avenue, Suite 300
Aurora, 80011

Pueblo
409 North Grand Avenue, Suite D
Pueblo, 81003

• YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region is suspending monthly dues for member families and offering free day passes to nonmember families affected by the shutdown. Just present a federal ID at one of the YMCA's 18 local facilities.

• PB&T Bank is offering $3,000 unsecured loans at 6 percent APR with approved credit for families affected by the shutdown. Customers don't have to have a PB&T bank account, and there are no extra fees. Contact Mary Mangino at 719-585-2302 or mmangino@pbant.bank to apply.

• Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center is offering free tickets to the short film, How Did Those Red Rocks Get There, to federal employees and their immediate family members through February. The show runs every 20 minutes at the center's Geo-Trekker theater, located at 1805 N. 30th St.

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Parks protection ballot measure has lots of problems says city attorney

Posted By on Thu, Jan 17, 2019 at 5:39 PM

Kent Obee and dozens of other citizens opposed the Strawberry Fields land swap and now propose a ballot measure to stave off a similar action. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Kent Obee and dozens of other citizens opposed the Strawberry Fields land swap and now propose a ballot measure to stave off a similar action.

City Attorney Wynetta Massey has a lot of reasons why City Council shouldn't refer a measure to the April 2 ballot that would propose requiring a vote of the people before the city disposes of park land and open space.

The measure, Protect Our Parks, or POPs, is slated to be discussed by Council at its Jan. 22 work session.

But Massey clearly outlines why the measure is a bad idea from the mayor's and Council's perspective of wanting to maintain control over the ability to trade, sell or otherwise get rid of parks property. "The transfer of parkland is an administrative function of the Mayor, Parks Department, and City Council," she writes.

The POPs measure grew from Mayor John Suthers' and Council's controversial decision to trade the 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor in 2016. Most of the property, adjacent to North Cheyenne Cañon, has been placed in a conservation easement, which is designed to allow public access to all of the land except an 8-acre riding stable and picnic pavilion area reserved for Broadmoor guests.

Opponents of the swap, who formed the nonprofit Save Cheyenne, took the measure all the way to the Colorado Court of Appeals and lost. The state Supreme Court refused their plea to hear the case. They also raised questions about how the property was appraised.

(Notably, now-City Council President Richard Skorman was an original leader of Save Cheyenne, before being elected to Council in 2017.)

Now, POPs advocates want to be sure another Strawberry Fields swap or give-away doesn't recur, and want voters to approve a Charter change to prevent it.

But Massey's five-page legal opinion obtained by the Indy outlines myriad reasons why Council should not refer such a measure. She takes issue with the word "transferred," saying its an "undefined term." She notes the ballot language would ask for protection of "city parks" but isn't clear what that includes. (Read her entire opinion on the next page.)

It is perhaps notable that while some Councilors (Skorman included) favor the legal change, the mayor, who opposes it, has the power to hire and fire Massey. Past City Councilors have unsuccessfully sought to change city law to allow them to hire a separate attorney in cases where the mayor and Council have opposing viewpoints.

Kent Obee, who led the Strawberry Fields swap opponents, says he interprets Massey's opinion as a roadblock.
"They're just trying to throw every legal roadblock they can at what is basically a pretty simple issue," he says. "It is just nitpicking to try to block us or slow us down."

He notes that over 30 cities in Colorado, including Denver, Boulder and Aurora, have such protection for city parks.

Obee says if the measure isn't referred, proponents likely will try to petition the measure onto the November ballot, which also is likely to contain a five-year extension of Suthers' 2C road improvement tax.

For more detail, see the next page.



Here's the research upon which POPs is based:
Massey's opinion:
The ballot language:
Section 1: City owned parks and open space may not be sold, traded, exchanged, transferred, disposed, abandoned, conveyed, or otherwise alienated unless said transaction is approved by the voters in a City regular or special election.
Section 2: City parks shall be defined as: Any city owned land intended for use as public parkland or open space.
Examples of parks and open space include, but are not limited to: (a) city owned land that is in operation as a park or that is in a condition or state of readiness and availability for use as a park or open space; (b) land that is zoned or platted for the intended use as a park; (c) parks or open spaces identified in the Colorado Springs Parks System Master Plan dated September 23, 2014, Appendix A, and identified as parks classified as: regional, community, neighborhood, open space including special resource areas, sports, and special purpose parks; (d) future approved additions to the inventory of parks and open space as identified in future Colorado Springs Parks System Master Plans or similar documents; or (e) any part or portion of an existing park or open space.
Section 3: Exclusions: no vote is required for certain “specific transfers”, or “proposed parks”:
(a) Easements for utilities, right of ways or emergency services;
(b) Any court ordered transfers of title, possession or similar matters;
(c) Creation of a conservation easement or other similar actions intended for park protection;
(d) Survey, boundary or encroachment adjustments;
(e) Short term leasing or permitting in a manner consistent with parks use;
(f) Any land deemed unsuitable for park use due to safety or environmental issues;
(g) Proposed parks, in the planning and development process, under the Park Land Dedication Ordinance (PLDO) or similar ordinances;
(h) Transfers of trails, rather than parks or open spaces, for the purpose of development of trails, access to parks, improvement of a park or realignment of a trail;
Section 4: Nothing in this amendment shall lessen any existing park or open space protections.
Examples of existing protections that will not be lessened include, but are not limited to: (a) deed restrictions; (b) conservation easements; (c) protections under the Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) Ordinance; or (d) parks with historical designations.
Section 5: The purpose and intent of this amendment is to protect parks by recognizing the value that parks add to the community, users and property holders. Sale or transfer of parkland affects individuals that relied on representations of continuing park usage.
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Monday, January 14, 2019

41 percent of Suthers campaign fundraising comes from Broadmoor zip code

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voters will also elect three at-large City Council members on April 2 and decide whether to give firefighters collective bargaining powers.
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El Paso County needs SNAP paperwork early due to shutdown

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2019 at 12:15 PM

Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado will hold a food distribution event Jan. 18. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado will hold a food distribution event Jan. 18.

Due to a federal government directive, state and local agencies around the country are sounding an urgent message to those in need of food benefits: Get your paperwork in before funding runs out.

Those in El Paso County whose food assistance cases are due for redetermination must submit documents by 3 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, in order to be eligible for February benefits, according to a Jan. 11 statement from the county's Department of Human Services titled "Urgent Update to Food Assistance Program in Government Shutdown."

Normally that paperwork wouldn't be due until February, says El Paso County DHS spokesperson Kristina Iodice. But the federal government shutdown has left agencies around the country scrambling to let SNAP recipients know about deadline changes.

This shutdown, which has left nine federal departments and dozens of agencies without funding, and hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed or working without pay (including thousands in Colorado), is the longest in history. It began Dec. 21 when a stopgap funding measure expired, and President Donald Trump refused to sign new legislation to fund the government that did not include $5 billion for a border wall — a demand that Democrats have firmly opposed.

As of the morning of Jan. 14, there were about 2,000 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipient households in El Paso County that needed to submit redetermination paperwork, Iodice says. The documents may be submitted online at http://colorado.gov/PEAK, by fax at 719-444-5139 or 719-444-8353, or in person at El Paso County DHS locations.

El Paso County DHS' main location at 1675 Garden of the Gods Road will stay open until 8.p.m. — three hours later than usual — on Jan. 14 to accommodate an increased demand for services.

SNAP funds for February will be distributed by Jan. 20, weeks earlier than normal, to those who have complete files. However, the statement notes that the county "cannot guarantee assistance" even if documents are received by the appropriate deadlines.

"At this time, there is no information available about March food assistance," the statement continues.

The directive to distribute funds early came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which announced Jan. 8 that it would utilize a provision in the last stopgap funding measure allowing certain payments within 30 days of the measure's Dec. 21 expiration date. It expects February SNAP benefits to cost around $4.8 billion.

The USDA also announced it will continue funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) through February, using some unspent funding from prior years.

Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado hoped to address another need created by the government shutdown — food for federal workers who haven't received pay since December. The food bank will host a free food distribution Jan. 18 from 3 to 6 p.m. at its Colorado Springs facility, located near the intersection of Powers Boulevard and Constitution Avenue, at 2506 Preamble Point.

"Please help us spread the word to families and individuals affected by the government shutdown, or anyone who is in need," Care and Share posted on Facebook. "It is drive-thru style. Volunteers and staff will load fresh produce, frozen and staple food items into vehicles. Everyone is welcome and will receive food!"

Lynne Telford, the southern Colorado food bank’s president and CEO, says Care and Share is looking at options to address an anticipated need from federal workers and SNAP recipients who didn’t turn in paperwork on time.

That could include using reserve funds to buy food, she says, “but it’s important that we maintain enough reserves for our ongoing operations.”

“We really are hoping that the community will once again rise when we have a community emergency, much like they did for Waldo Canyon Fire or Black Forest Fire,” Telford adds. “The community made sure we were able to take care of the people who were impacted.”

Care and Share is asking the community for financial donations in particular, says Joanna Wise, the food bank’s marketing and communications director.

“We’re always in need of food donations year-round, but when it comes to something that we have to react to quickly, monetary donations are more effective for us,” Wise says. “It saves us a lot of time, because with food donations we have to inspect it and sort it and repack it. When we purchase it, we’re able to eliminate that step so we can get it to our partners a lot faster.”
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Friday, January 11, 2019

Independence Center to host watch party for Disability Integration Act

Posted By on Fri, Jan 11, 2019 at 12:33 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
People with disabilities who need longterm services are often forced to leave their homes for assisted living facilities because Medicaid won't pay for at-home care. Disability rights activists say that legislators in Congress can change that by passing the Disability Integration Act, set to be introduced in both the House and Senate on Jan. 15.

Disability rights supporters will be watching across the country — including at the Independence Center, a local nonprofit for people with disabilities.

The bill, introduced last spring in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and in the House by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, would require states, local governments and insurance providers to provide community-based services for people with disabilities as an alternative to institutionalization.

States and local governments would be required to work with housing authorities to ensure sufficient quantities of affordable, accessible, integrated housing where people can receive services while remaining in the community.

The list of Senate cosponsors includes Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner. Gardner, the latest cosponsor to sign on, was the only Republican to do so as of Jan. 8.

It's possible that pressure from disability rights organization ADAPT, the legislation's main backer, led to his decision. ADAPT supporters were arrested multiple times in Gardner's offices where they were pressuring him to cosponsor the legislation, according to a statement from the organization. And in November, the statement says, ADAPT had an airplane bearing the message “GARDNER SUPPORT S910 DIA FREE OUR PEOPLE!” fly around Gardner's Washington, D.C., office building. That evening, ADAPT projected the same message "shining like a bat-signal" on the front of the building. Gardner added his name a month later.

Last legislative session, all of Colorado's House representatives also signed on as cosponsors.

Neither the House nor Senate bill made it out of committee last session, but advocates are hopeful that this year, things will be different.

“The Disability Integration Act (DIA) is the next step in building a fulfilling and sustainable world for persons with disabilities," Becca Michael, advocacy manager at the Independence Center, said in an emailed statement. "...The Independence Center is excited about this legislation, as our mission is to work with people with disabilities, their families, and the community, to create independence so all may thrive."

The Independence Center, located at 729 S. Tejon St. will host a watch party Jan. 15 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. to livestream the bill's introduction and discussion. The event is open to the public, and snacks will be provided.

"The Independence Center is hosting this watch party, not only because it is important for our consumers and employees, but because it is gaining momentum, and we want to make sure it makes it over the finish line," Michael said. "For now, we want to raise awareness of the legislation, and celebrate the effort!”

disability_integration_act_watch_party.jpg
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