Politics

Thursday, May 24, 2018

EPA and City of Colorado Springs negotiating end to Clean Water Act lawsuit?

Posted By on Thu, May 24, 2018 at 4:13 PM

City stormwater manager Rich Mulledy stands in a cavern created by faulty drainage facilities, as it appeared last September. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • City stormwater manager Rich Mulledy stands in a cavern created by faulty drainage facilities, as it appeared last September.
Despite protests from fellow plaintiffs, the Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to revisit a possible settlement with the city Colorado Springs over alleged Clean Water Act violations caused by the city’s longterm neglect of stormwater management, according to documents obtained by the Independent.

The renewed negotiations come as U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch scheduled an August trial in the lawsuit on May 22, the day after the state’s lead attorney in the case was reportedly fired for a reason the Colorado Attorney General’s Office won’t discuss.

Margaret “Meg” Parish, first assistant attorney general in the Natural Resources & Environment Section, wrote several scathing letters to the EPA in recent months, calling the EPA’s action “shocking and extraordinary” and expressing “deep concern and disappointment” that the agency would unilaterally reopen settlement discussion without consulting co-plaintiffs. Besides the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), those include Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

The move was particularly alarming, she noted, because the state and EPA had signed an agreement in which both agreed not to communicate with the city without the presence of the other.

Some who couldn’t comment on the record due to confidentiality rules called the latest moves — reopening negotiations and the firing of Parish — as “pure politics” in an era when the EPA’s reputation is pivoting from protecting the environment to serving polluters.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has long-standing and close ties to the oil and gas industry and is under investigation for multiple alleged ethics breaches, met with the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs in October when the HBA paid for his night’s stay at The Broadmoor.

A few months later, on March 19, the EPA wrote a letter to the city “as a follow up to the City’s recent request to re-initiate settlement negotiations.”

The EPA’s co-plaintiffs were given two days notice that the letter would be sent to the city’s legal counsel, reportedly fueling outrage among those partners. Pueblo County has harbored distrust of the city of Colorado Springs for decades regarding sewage discharges and raging stormwater flows in Fountain Creek, which befouls the creek and threatens levees at Pueblo where the creek joins with the Arkansas River. Farmers in the Lower Ark region have complained for years that sediment blocks their irrigation headgates interfering with raising crops.

The dismissal of Parish, who couldn’t be reached for comment, has precipitated the likelihood of a court hearing on May 30 or 31 to replace her as the state’s lawyer in the case.

Mayor John Suthers campaigned vigorously last fall in favor of stormwater fees, saying repeatedly that voters’ approval would help the city end the EPA lawsuit, but now correspondence suggests the fee money won’t be enough, according to the documents obtained by the Indy.

Asked about the latest maneuver to negotiate a settlement, Suthers tells the Indy in a statement that the city has always expressed a desire to “sit down with all parties in the case and review the tremendous progress that’s been made in its [the city’s] stormwater program....”
But Suthers side-stepped questions about what influence he exerted on the EPA in general or Pruitt in particular.

Rather, he repeated a past comment, noting he’d rather spend money on compliance than litigation, adding, “A settlement agreement can give the parties all the assurances they need in regard to future compliance.”

The EPA declined to comment, as did Pueblo County Commission Chair Terry Hart and Lower Ark District General Manager Jay Winner.

The Attorney General’s Office told the Indy via email it wouldn’t comment on Parish’s departure but added the office represents CDPHE in the case and will continue to do so “with the highest level of professionalism and with the focus remaining on what is in the best interest of the citizens of Colorado.”

On March 14, the DOJ sent the state, Pueblo County and Lower Ark a proposed letter to the city about revisiting a settlement, giving them two days to provide input. In an emailed response on March 16, Martha Rudolph, CDPHE’s director of environmental programs, said neither Pueblo County nor the Lower Ark could sign on without their boards’ approvals, and the earliest that could happen was March 21.

Noting the state had worked in good faith with all parties, Rudolph said, “The decision by EPA and DOJ to suddenly shift course to pursue settlement now without first conferring with co-plaintiffs unfortunately risks eroding our good working relationship.”

On March 19, DOJ trial attorney Heidi Hoffman sent the proposed letter to the city. The letter commended the city for its “significant improvements that the City intends to achieve through its Stormwater Program Implementation Plan (November 2016)” as well as the November 2017 stormwater fees ballot measure. But Hoffman also noted those “positive events” don’t comprise full compliance or address water quality problems stemming from years of failed efforts. She also said the city is responsible for funding and carrying out the “technically difficult and potentially costly” steps necessary to become compliant.

“With this in mind,” Hoffman wrote, “the United States is willing to meet with the City to learn about any alternative measures or additional work the City is willing to undertake in order to come into compliance with its permit and address the water quality impacts of its MS4 system.” She also said the DOJ hoped the conversation “will advance settlement discussions and lead to a mutually accepted path forward for resolving this case.” She closed by saying the other plaintiffs will be invited to participate in any negotiations.

On March 26, Rudolph, Winner and Hart signed a letter to the EPA asking the agency to “recommit to working in partnership” (News, May 9, 2018).

In a separate March 26 letter to several EPA officials in Denver and Washington, D.C., Parish cited her “deep concern and disappointment” that the EPA failed to “work with or respect” the CDPHE. She also noted the confidentiality agreement, to which the state has complied, and the “thousands of hours” and “considerable expertise” the state has brought to the case.
“This partnership is bearing fruit: we are on the verge of a trial that is likely to be highly successful for EPA and the State of Colorado,” she wrote, “leading to an outcome wherein the City will finally remedy its ongoing damage to Colorado’s waters, public health, and downstream communities.”

But EPA’s behavior, she says, “throws this partnership into doubt” and has undermined chances of securing a “strong settlement” that would force the city to comply and correct damage it caused to Fountain Creek.

Parish also noted EPA promotes an image of an agency that wants to work with states on enforcement matters, but then undercuts such cooperation. Finally, Parish writes that the state reserves the right to object to any proposed consent decree or voluntary dismissal of claims proposed by the EPA.

The EPA and CDPHE filed the lawsuit in November 2016 after the city flunked inspections in 2013 and 2015 of compliance with its MS4 permit (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System).

The lawsuit alleged multiple and ongoing violations of the Clean Water Act by the city, which failed to force developers to install proper storm drainage infrastructure, gave waivers to others and didn’t adequately inspect and monitor its drainageways. The city spent only $1.6 million a year on those tasks from 2011 to 2014, a pittance considering some estimates set the city’s stormwater needs at upwards of $1 billion.

In April 2016, when the city prepared to activate its $825 million Southern Delivery System water pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir, Pueblo County threatened to pull the construction permit it issued years before unless the city dealt with its flood waters. After enacting stormwater fees in 2007 only to abolish them in 2009, the city agreed at the behest of Pueblo County to spend $460 million over 20 years.

Suthers then sought and received voter approval of stormwater fees in November 2017 to fund the agreement. It’s worth noting the ballot measure states that City Council can raise the fees without voter approval “to the extent required to comply with a valid court order, federal or state permits, federal or state laws, or any intergovernmental agreement to which the City is a party which was entered into before June 1, 2016.”

That means whatever verdict is imposed in the lawsuit, including a settlement, could translate to fee hikes for residents.

According to a February 5 letter to the EPA and DOJ after word leaked the EPA would reopen settlement talks, those costs could be significant. Noting the city’s agreement with Pueblo County and that the new stormwater fees are “far from enough to remedy the damage the City has already caused,” Parish said in the letter, “Remedying this ongoing damage and ending the City’s ongoing noncompliance will be neither easy nor cheap. Unless the City is willing to pass these costs on to developers, fixing and installing these controls and otherwise remedying the damage will be very expensive because that damage has been so widespread.”

Despite more than a year of settlement efforts, which ended last year, Parish noted the parties “were unable to come to basic understandings on bedrock permit issues, like the City’s responsibility to ensure that stormwater controls are operational and maintained.”

Parish proposed five conditions to resurrecting negotiations, including requiring the city to fix “missing and nonfunctional stormwater controls,” mandating all litigants be present during negotiations, keeping the lawsuit going until “a broad settlement agreement” is in place, and proceeding with the August trial, which she predicted would be resolved in the plaintiffs’ favor.

Parish also noted the lawsuit was filed under federal authority, i.e., the Clean Water Act, and the state can’t legally bring such an action on its own. Shifting the case to state court under the Colorado Water Quality Control act, she noted, “would cause a host of procedural problems which would cripple and likely destroy the case.”

“Without EPA’s participation in this litigation,” she wrote, “this case likely vanishes — and with it, years of time and effort” by the plaintiffs. Worse, she added, without the lawsuit, the city will continue to violate its MS4 permit and harm Colorado’s waters and communities.
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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Russians planted local "driving while black" case in Facebook ads

Posted By on Tue, May 15, 2018 at 12:12 PM

Ryan Brown accused the CSPD of stopping him and his brother for "driving while black." - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Ryan Brown accused the CSPD of stopping him and his brother for "driving while black."
A local case of racial profiling was used by the Russians to sow division among Americans in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, according to an extensive report by USA Today that looked at all 3,517 Facebook ads used by Russians.

From the USA Today story:
The Russian company charged with orchestrating a wide-ranging effort to meddle in the 2016 presidential election overwhelmingly focused its barrage of social media advertising on what is arguably America’s rawest political division: race.

The roughly 3,500 Facebook ads were created by the Russian-based Internet Research Agency, which is at the center of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s February indictment of 13 Russians and three companies seeking to influence the election.

While some ads focused on topics as banal as business promotion or Pokémon, the company consistently promoted ads designed to inflame race-related tensions. Some dealt with race directly; others dealt with issues fraught with racial and religious baggage such as ads focused on protests over policing, the debate over a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico and relationships with the Muslim community.

That case involved Ryan and Benjamin Brown, which got widespread attention in 2015 after Colorado Springs Police Officers pulled Ryan Brown from a vehicle after a stop made for unknown reasons. The city later settled a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Colorado on the Browns' behalf. The city paid $212,000 and agreed to change some procedures.
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Senators challenge revisions to DoD report removing "climate change"

Posted By on Tue, May 15, 2018 at 10:08 AM

MRPBPS
  • mrpbps
The Trump Administration has made a practice of trying to erase science, notably by downplaying, or ignoring altogether, the impact of climate change.

The latest turn on this strategy is a report in the Washington Post that the Department of Defense revised a January vulnerability assessment by removing references to climate change and findings regarding the risks from sea level rise.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, and nearly two dozen fellow lawmakers have called on the administration to release the unpublished draft of the report and explain the omissions.

In a letter to the Pentagon, Bennet and others write:

These are substantive, not stylistic, changes—and it is not the way we expect DoD to conduct business. If DoD is not publishing data that it collects from our installations because they do not fit a particular political narrative, the department is failing to let the science inform its understanding of how changes in the environment may pose a risk to the ability to train our forces, the safety of our facilities and service members, and the long-term readiness of our military.

For all those doubters out there, the Pentagon has issued reports in the past highlighting how climate change impacts national security, such as this DoD statement from 2015, and this article from last fall
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Monday, May 14, 2018

Gov. Hickenlooper signs three bills sponsored by Rep. Pete Lee

Posted By on Mon, May 14, 2018 at 5:19 PM

Rep. Pete Lee - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Rep. Pete Lee
Editor's note: This story lhas been updated to correct the date on which Gov. Hickenlooper signed the bills.

Gov. John Hickenlooper visited Colorado Springs on May 11 to sign three bills into law. They included an extension of a veterans’ career program, a bill to streamline community corrections transition placements, and penalties for retailers selling products with dextromethorphan (such as DayQuil) to children under 18.

Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, was the sponsor on all three bills. Another local legislator, Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, co-sponsored the veterans’ career program bill.

Here’s a rundown:

• HB18-1343: Veterans' Service-to-career Program
Sponsors: Pete Lee, Terri Carver, Kent Lambert, Nancy Todd


This bill continues a statewide program to help veterans, their spouses, and qualified dependents and caregivers find employment. It expands the program to include those actively serving in the military who are within six months of discharge.

• HB18-1251: Community Corrections Transition Placements
Sponsors: Pete Lee, Cole Wist, Daniel Kagan, Bob Gardner

The community corrections system in Colorado provides services to convicted adults who are “halfway in” or “halfway out” of prison. Community corrections, which includes housing and supervision, is either a “last chance” before being sent to prison, or a way for those leaving the criminal justice system to transition back into the community.

This bill requires the Colorado State Board of Parole to submit a list of offenders for community corrections transition placement referrals to the state Department of Corrections, who will choose whether or not to make a referral. Community corrections boards, which then decide whether to accept or reject an offender, must do so through a “structured, research-based decision-making process that combines professional judgment and actuarial risk and needs assessment tools,” according to the bill.

HB18-1307: Limit Access To Products With Dextromethorphan
Sponsors: Jonathan Singer, Pete Lee, Bob Gardner, John Cooke


This bill makes it illegal for a seller, retailer or vendor to sell products containing dextromethorphan — a drug found in such over-the-counter cough suppressants as DayQuil and Robitussin — to children under 18. For the first offense, the seller will receive a written warning; future offenses mean a fine of up to $200.

Dextromethorphan can cause fatal liver injury and cardiovascular problems if consumed in high doses. It has been used as a recreational drug, particularly among teenagers, for its hallucinogenic and dissociative effects at high doses.
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Monday, May 7, 2018

Chaffee County Republicans hit with campaign finance complaint

Posted By on Mon, May 7, 2018 at 4:53 PM

DONKEY HOTEY
  • Donkey Hotey

The Republican Party of Chaffee County has some campaign finance problems, according to a complaint filed by the Chaffee County Democratic Party regarding the GOP's campaign finance report filed last year.

In it, the party claimed to have taken in zero contributions and spent zero funds. But during the nearly one year leading up to the report, the party hosted a Lincoln Day dinner, sponsored several raffles and rented buildings for various functions, the Dems allege.

In that GOP report filed in November to cover the previous year, the GOP failed to report ticket sales to the Lincoln Day dinner, rental of the county fairgrounds facility, a catered dinner in Buena Vista along with room rental and a raffle license application fee, to name a few.

Some of the spending was documented by the Democrats through records obtained through the Colorado Open Records Act, Allen says.

Now, the GOP has filed a new report, which essentially acknowledges that the November 2017 report was inaccurate, because it reports more than $8,000 in contributions and more than $4,400 in spending.

But that report still doesn't accurately reflect the GOP's financial activities, according to Democratic Party first vice chairperson JoAnne Allen, who says there was publicity about GOP members contributing by placing money into a firearm magazine but the Republican Party never reported such income.

The county GOP could face fines in the $9,000 range for violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act, or more, if each expenditure and contribution is treated as a separate infraction at at $50 per day in fines.

But that's not the point, Allen says.

"We're not really doing it for the state to collect a fine," she says in an interview. "Our purpose is to bring transparency to our campaign process and our political process in Chaffee County."

The Dems' complaint was filed on April 27, and the Secretary of State's Office referred the matter to an administrative judge who will hear the matter on May 14.

Officials with Chaffee County Republicans didn't return a phone call and email seeking comment.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Doug Lamborn foes seek further court consideration

Posted By on Wed, May 2, 2018 at 3:35 PM

Rep. Doug Lamborn: Let the primary campaign get under way. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Rep. Doug Lamborn: Let the primary campaign get under way.

UPDATE:

Both appeals by the plaintiffs in the lawsuit regarding Rep. Doug Lamborn's petitions have been denied, prompting them to issue a lengthy statement, which says inpart:

Wayne Williams will endorse voter fraud by certifying Doug Lamborn to the primary ballot.

The legal challenges exhausted, we are exceptionally disappointed in the abject failure of Secretary Williams' decision to place Lamborn back onto the primary ballot to in spite of a state court ruling finding that Lamborn committed petition fraud. It is a shame that in this action, Secretary Williams chooses to ignore the findings of circulator fraud and voter affiliation in his desire to place his good friend Doug Lamborn back on the ballot. The Secretary has made it clear through public comments that his office will prioritize ballot access to any candidate, including those campaigns who clearly broke the law. 
Read the entire statement here:

———————ORIGINAL POST 3:35 P.M. WEDNESDAY, MAY 2, 2018——————-

After U.S. District Court Judge Philip Brimmer issued a ruling on May 1 stating that six-term Rep. Doug Lamborn should be placed on the June 26 Republican primary ballot, those challenging his petitions moved to continue the court challenge.

Read our story about Lamborn's tenure in Congress here.

The plaintiffs, five El Paso County Republicans, filed an appeal with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals asking for a stay of Brimmer's order and reverse his finding that the state's residency requirement for petition circulators is unconstitutional.

Also, the plaintiffs filed a motion in the existing Colorado Supreme Court case, noting that Brimmer's decision was conditional and not absolute.

"The effect of Judge Brimmer’s order does not vacate the order of the Colorado Supreme Court to remove Lamborn from the ballot, instead it contemplates a state court reviewing the remaining criteria for circulators," plaintiff's spokesman Kyle Fisk tells the Independent in an email.

The group argues that Secretary of State Wayne Williams is "wrongly applying" Brimmer's decision and "choosing to ignore the court findings of circulator fraud and voter affiliation in his attempts to place Lamborn back on the ballot," Fisk says.

Specifically, Fisk notes, Brimmer's decision says Lamborn cannot be placed on the ballot unless he satisfies all other state law requirements, apart from the residency question.

At issue is Lamborn's petition for the 5th Congressional District nomination, which was circulated by several people who the plaintiffs say aren't truly residents of the state, weren't legitimately registered to vote in Colorado and weren't members of the party in Colorado. Circulators must swear to those statements on an affidavit. Here's more background on this case.

"It is undisputed that Lamborn’s circulators committed fraud," Fisk says, noting that two circulators were shown not to be Colorado residents. "Regardless of the constitutionality of that requirement of circulators, their lack of residency proves two things. One, they illegally registered to vote as Republicans, as you must be a resident to register. The judge’s order had nothing to do with a separate state provision requiring, as all states do, that you must be a resident in order to register to vote as a Republican in Colorado. The judge did not rule in any way on the requirement of circulators to be affiliated with the proper party so that qualification still exists. And most importantly, both circulators committed fraud when they lied to the state of Colorado, claiming to be a resident, when in fact, they were proven in court to be residents of Missouri and California."

Fisk asserts that both circulators lied on their affidavits, rendering them invalid.

These are the grounds, he notes, upon which Williams should keep Lamborn's name off the ballot.

"We call on the Secretary of State to properly apply the complete findings of the Colorado Supreme Court and follow the partial ruling by Judge Brimmer and not ignore the Colorado state proceedings on these separate flaws with Lamborn’s signatures that Judge Brimmer, expressly, did not address," he writes.

Lamborn's campaign issued a statement saying, in part, it's time to move on and stop the "legal maneuverings."

"As we have said all along, we believe voters – not lawyers and judges – should decide the outcome of elections," the statement said.

Secretary of State spokesperson Lynn Bartels tells the Indy via email, "We are looking at it [Brimmer's ruling] but at this point Lamborn is on the ballot."

Lamborn faces four primary opponents: El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, State Sen. Owen Hill, former Green Mountain Falls mayor Tyler Stevens and retired Texas judge Bill Rhea.

Stephany Rose Spaulding is the sole Democrat running for the office.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Doug Lamborn ordered onto GOP primary ballot

Posted By on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 4:04 PM

Lamborn is back on the June 26 primary ballot. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Lamborn is back on the June 26 primary ballot.
U.S. District Court Judge Philip Brimmer ruled Tuesday that Rep. Doug Lamborn's name should be placed on the June 26 Republican primary ballot.

But Kyle Fisk, spokesman for the El Paso County Republicans who started the dispute with a lawsuit a couple weeks ago, said they will appeal to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"We are disappointed that a federal judge chose to overrule the unanimous decision of the Colorado Supreme Court as well as overturn the will of the people of Colorado as expressed by their elected representatives," he said via text message to the Indy. "We have filed an immediate appeal to the 10th Circuit. We have also requested that Secretary [of State Wayne] Williams not be allowed to certify the ballot until the 10th Circuit hears the appeal."

Here's some background on the case.

Lamborn's campaign issued this statement:
We are extremely pleased that the judge ruled in our favor and has ensured that Congressman Lamborn’s name will appear on the primary ballot. Consistent with court rulings here in Colorado and around the country, the federal court agreed that the part of Colorado election law that requires petition collectors to be state residents is unconstitutional and unduly infringes on the First Amendment rights of voters and petition circulators.

We believe it is time to move on from this issue, and we hope our opponents will end their legal maneuverings in an effort to disqualify Congressman Lamborn from the Republican primary. As we have said all along, we believe voters – not lawyers and judges – should decide the outcome of elections.

Congressman Lamborn looks forward to continuing this spirited campaign and the opportunity to share his record of bold leadership and working with President Trump to pass his conservative agenda.

Lamborn, of Colorado Springs, faces formidable opposition in the primary. Others who have petitioned onto the ballot are El Paso County commissioner and 2016 U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn; Green Mountain Falls' former mayor Tyler Stevens and retired Texas judge Bill Rhea.

State Sen. Owen Hill won backing from delegates at the Republican assembly to win his primary spot.

We asked Hill for his thoughts in anticipation of the ruling, and he tells us via email on April 30, "Doug Lamborn broke the law. Should Lamborn successful[ly] sue his way on to the ballot, he’ll have to answer to voters for why he needed to shred Colorado election law in the process. I’m eager to continue meeting with voters and I’m not afraid to discuss the tough issues or defend my record. Let’s talk about the issues."

Be sure to check out the Indy's May 2 edition for more about Lamborn's past service and what might lie ahead.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Doug Lamborn would collect a pension for life after leaving Congress

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2018 at 5:36 PM

Lamborn might be in the pension line soon. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Lamborn might be in the pension line soon.
UPDATE:

When it comes to deciphering retirement benefits, things can get a little complicated, and the Independent goofed in reporting that Doug Lamborn was likely under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).

Rather, Lamborn's retirement benefit will be provided through a program called the Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS).

And that means, his benefit is likely to be lower than we originally reported. According to a formula contained in the Congressional Research Service report we cited, his annual pension payment if he leaves Congress after 12 years would come to $35,496.

This payment could be supplemented with a Social Security retirement payment as well, according to the report.

—————-ORIGINAL POST 11:32 A.M. TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2018————————-

As near as we can figure, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, is entitled to a congressional pension of $52,200 a year for life if he leaves office at the end of this term in January 2019, according to formulas outlined in a report by the Congressional Research Service.

That could happen due to a Colorado Supreme Court ruling on April 23 that bumped him off the June 26 Republican primary election ballot. (Lamborn is now challenging Colorado election law in an effort to get added back onto the ballot.)

Of course, it's not simple nor cut and dried, because members of Congress are covered under several plans that have changed over the years.

But assuming Lamborn is covered under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), his minimum benefit would be $52,200, which is adjusted for inflation just as Social Security benefits are, based on his annual pay of $174,000.

That benefit doesn't include Social Security benefits to which he would be entitled; nor does it include the Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS), for which certain members qualify. At 63, Lamborn could take early retirement benefits under Social Security, in which the earliest age for benefits is 62.

Lamborn is an attorney, so he could set up a law practice. Or perhaps he'll be appointed to a government job by President Donald Trump?

The Congressional Research Service report, delivered in December 2017, found:
There were 611 retired Members of Congress receiving federal pensions based fully or in part on their congressional service as of October 1, 2016. Of this number, 335 had retired under CSRS and were receiving an average annual pension of $74,028. A total of 276 Members had retired with service under FERS and were receiving an average annual pension of $41,076 in 2016. 
Read the whole report here:





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Monday, April 23, 2018

Doug Lamborn promises he'll appeal in effort to get onto primary ballot

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2018 at 5:17 PM

Michael Franciso, left, and Michael Kuhn, one of the plaintiffs that brought the lawsuit to remove Lamborn from the ballot, talk with reporters after the Colorado Supreme Court ruling. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Michael Franciso, left, and Michael Kuhn, one of the plaintiffs that brought the lawsuit to remove Lamborn from the ballot, talk with reporters after the Colorado Supreme Court ruling.
UPDATE:

From Rep. Doug Lamborn's campaign spokesperson Dan Bayens:
Today we took action in federal court by filing a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction with the federal court for the District of Colorado in Denver.

We believe that the part of Colorado law that requires petition gatherers to be residents of the state is manifestly unconstitutional, and controlling case decisions here in Colorado and courts around the country have agreed with that assessment. Citizens who either signed the petitions for Congressman Lamborn or who plan to vote in the 5th District in the Republican primary should not be deprived of their rights by an unconstitutional election law.

We are also seeking to keep Congressman Lamborn's name on the ballot while this matter is decided.
This statement then prompted a lengthy statement form five El Paso County Republicans who challenged Lamborn's petition. Spokesperson Kyle Fisk says in an emailed statement:
A coalition of interested parties, including the five plaintiffs from the original suit, as well as various state legislators, will be filing a motion to intervene in this federal lawsuit and defend Colorado law. This group has a vested interest in upholding the law as it clearly complies with the US Constitution and will vigorously work to defend the state statutes in question. It’s a pity that Doug Lamborn refuses to comply with the order of the Colorado Supreme Court, who has the final say in the interpretation and application of state election law. We sincerely wish that one who is charged with writing and passing laws would have more respect for the laws of our state.

Until 2:45 this past Monday afternoon Doug Lamborn had no problem with Colorado law as it stood for decades. In fact, he has declared multiple times that he followed the law. He claimed to have spoken to the company who collected the petitions and was assured that all laws and regulations were followed. We now know that was not the case as proven in Court.

Doug Lamborn has said that courts shouldn’t decide elections. Let us be clear. The Court did not decide an election. The Court determined that Lamborn’s campaign broke the law, committed petition fraud and should not be allowed to appear on the Republican Primary Ballot. That is the role of the judiciary. When you break the rules these are the consequences.

Until 2:45 PM this past Monday Doug Lamborn had said lawsuits shouldn’t determine ballot access. Yet, now that it has been proven that his campaign broke the rules and violated Colorado law he’s changing his mind on the role of lawsuits. Now that he won’t appear on the ballot and is on the outside looking in, we are witnessing a stunning reversal where Mr. Lamborn is now the one asking the Courts to intervene and place him back on the ballot. The inconsistency is staggering.

We believe the requirements for petition circulators is fully constitutional. So does the Colorado Secretary of State, as his office argued in their briefs before both the District Court and Supreme Court in the Kuhn v Williams case. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with Secretary Williams and Attorney General Coffman to defend this unwarranted attack upon the laws of Colorado.

——————————————————————————————————————-


UPDATE:
Bill Rhea, a retired judge from Texas who's on the primary ballot for the Republican nomination in the 5th Congressional District, says he believes Lamborn should be placed on the ballot.

In a statement provided to the Indy, Rhea says, in part:
The key issue in that federal court proceeding will be whether circulators are involved in “core political speech” in their activity of collection ballot access petitions. If so, the 10th Circuit precedent, particularly in YOTL v. Savage (2008), almost certainly would control and the incumbent would prevail. “Core political speech” is very clearly involved in the circulation of referendum initiative petitions (which was involved in the YOTL case). I believe it is highly likely that the federal court(s) will also hold that ballot access petitioning will fall into the same category. 
Here's his entire statement:
——————ORIGINAL POST 5:17 P.M. MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2018—————————-

The attorney who brought an action to have Doug Lamborn removed from the primary ballot met with reporters on April 23 to essentially take a victory lap after the Colorado Supreme Court deemed 269 signatures collected by an out-of-state circulator ineligible on Lamborn's petitions.

Michael Francisco told reporters, "In this expedited appeal under section 1-1-113(3), the Supreme Court addresses whether the Colorado Secretary of State may certify incumbent Rep. Doug Lamborn to the 2018 Republican primary ballot for Colorado's 5th Congressional District. Relying soley on the Colorado Election Code, the Supreme Court concludes he may not."

Lamborn released a statement saying, "We are disappointed by the outcome and we believe it was wrongly decided. We are immediately bringing an action in federal court to overturn the part of Colorado law that deprives voters who have petitioned to have Congressman Lamborn on the ballot of their Constitutional rights."

But Francisco said such a federal lawsuit would have to ask the nation's highest court to rule Colorado election law unconstitutional.

"Today, the Supreme Court has unanimously overturned the District Court ruling and declared that Mr. [Ryan] Tipple [a petition circulator] was not a resident of Colorado and, therefore, ineligible to collect petition signatures," Francisco said. "His 269 signatures on behalf of primary candidate Congressman Doug Lamborn have been declared invalid."

He also said Lamborn had the choice to go through the Republican assembly process to gain a spot on the June 26 primary ballot, but instead went the petition route. Digging at Lamborn, Francisco noted, "It's a pity that Mr. Lamborn cares to little about election fraud in our state. The dismissiveness with which Doug Lamborn has treated this case is indicative of the dismissiveness with which he has treated Colorado election law."

Other Republicans who have qualified for the ballot include El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, state Sen. Owen Hill, retired Texas judge Bill Rhea and former mayor of Green Mountain Falls Tyler Stevens.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

PPCC Black Student Union to host community discussion

Posted By on Thu, Apr 12, 2018 at 11:59 AM

Black Lives Matter protests have been held throughout the country since the movement began around 2013. - SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
  • Black Lives Matter protests have been held throughout the country since the movement began around 2013.

The subject of police brutality, especially against people of color, has been much in the news in recent years. Since the uprising in Ferguson after the fatal shooting of Mike Brown in 2014, the public has begun paying more attention to institutionalized racism within police departments across the country, and recognizing the disproportionate amount of black people killed by police for minor or even perceived infractions.

Our local community has its concerns, too, as the whole nation has watched the same stories play out in cities of all sizes, in every region. Tensions are high everywhere, and no one wants to see them reach a boiling point.

In order to facilitate dialogue between law enforcement and activists, the Pikes Peak Community College Black Student Union has organized a panel to facilitate a community discussion about police brutality and racism.

Panelists will include a sheriff deputy, a Black Lives Matter representative, a CSPD officer, two PPCC sociology professors and a local activist.

In a press release, the Black Student Union said: “This will be an opportunity for the community to have an uncensored conversation regarding police brutality and address any questions or concerns with community policing and activism.”

Attendees are encouraged to bring questions to the Pikes Peak Community College Centennial Atrium, 5675 S. Academy Blvd. on Friday, April 13, 6 p.m.
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Thursday, April 5, 2018

UPDATE: Doug Lamborn's primary ballot spot in question

Posted By on Thu, Apr 5, 2018 at 9:54 AM

UPDATE:

From the Doug Lamborn campaign:

U.S. Congressman Doug Lamborn released the following statement after one of his opponents sued the Secretary of State over the sufficiency of Lamborn's petition.

"This lawsuit will be dismissed soon. I have spoken to the company that gathered signatures and have been assured that all applicable laws and regulations have been followed. I look forward to continuing this spirited campaign."
——————ORIGINAL POST 1:03 P.M. WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4, 2018———————

Six-term Congressman Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, might not make the June primary ballot, if claims in a lawsuit filed April 3 are
Rep. Doug Lamborn might not have a shot at re-election. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Rep. Doug Lamborn might not have a shot at re-election.
substantiated.

The lawsuit, filed by five El Paso County residents who are registered Republicans, contends that petition circulators for Lamborn aren't actually residents of the state of Colorado, which is required of circulators.

The lawsuit asserts that seven circulators lived together in a Thornton condominium, and although they were registered to vote in Colorado, they "lack any real connection to Colorado." For example, public sources suggest several live in Michigan and another in California. The latter person also is registered to vote in Texas, the lawsuit says, and collected 269 signatures for Lamborn.

Several are members of the National Association of Professional Petitioners and Coordinators, the lawsuit says.

Moreover, the circulators who occupied the Thornton home reportedly no longer live there, or in Colorado, says Michael Francisco, the attorney who filed the lawsuit.

"We are continuing to try to track them down," he says. "Everything I've seen so far indicates they're not in Colorado."

If signatures collected by the group are disallowed, Lamborn would fall short of the 1,000 signatures of registered voters in Colorado required to place him on the ballot.

The only other candidate who has petitioned onto the ballot so far is El Paso County Commission President Darryl Glenn. State Sen. Owen Hill was nominated at the Congressional District 5 assembly on March 31, and two other candidates — Bill Rhea and Tyler Stevens — plan to petition onto the Republican primary ballot.

Ben Schler, legal and policy manager for the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, tells the Independent his office "did what we were supposed to do under the statute," which was to "determine whether these folks were on the voter registration roles" and members of the Republican Party when they circulated the petition.

He says whether the circulators had, indeed, established legitimate residency in Colorado is "outside the scope of what the Secretary of State's Office can look into." He noted when a person registers to vote, they affirm their residence is what it is.

"That is not something for us to question," Schler says.

The lawsuit gives this outline for each of the petition circulators in question:
17. Circulator Joshua Whaley who collected 206 accepted signatures does not satisfy the residence and registration requirements of Colorado law. Whaley claimed 564 W. 91st Circle, Thornton CO 80260 as his primary residence when registering to vote on 1/23/18. Whaley appears to have recently resided in Michigan and to have been affiliated with the National Association of Professional Petitioners and Coordinators.

18. Circulator Nickole Ort who circulated 73 accepted signatures does not satisfy the residence and registration requirements of Colorado law. Ort claimed 564 W. 91st Circle, Thornton CO 80260 as her primary residence when registering to vote on 2/16/18. Ort began collecting signatures one day after registering to vote. Ort appears to have recently resided in Michigan, registered vehicles in Michigan, had a drivers license issued in Michigan, lists Kalamazoo as a place of residence on a public document, and lists a phone number with a Michigan area code

19. Circulator Jeffrey Carter who collected 58 accepted signatures does not satisfy the residence and registration requirements of Colorado law. Carter claimed 564 W. 91st Circle, Thornton CO 80260 as his primary residence when registering to vote on 1/23/18.

20. Circulator Terrance Allen Despres, Jr. who circulated 42 accepted signatures, does not satisfy the residence and registration requirements of Colorado law. Despres claimed 564 W. 91st Circle, Thornton CO 80260 as his primary residence when registering to vote on 1/23/18. Despres appears to have recently resided in Michigan and to have been affiliated with the National Association of Professional Petitioners and Coordinators

21. Circulator Joshua Stinger who circulated 36 accepted signatures does not satisfy the residence and registration requirements of Colorado law. Stinger claimed 564 W. 91st Circle, Thornton CO 80260 as his primary residence when registering to vote on 1/23/18.

22. Circulator Darrell Herron who circulated 12 accepted signatures does not satisfy the residence and registration requirements of Colorado law. Herron claimed 564 W. 91st Circle, Thornton CO 80260 as his primary residence when registering to vote on 2/16/18.

23. Circulator Ryan Tipple who circulated 269 accepted signatures does not satisfy the residence and registration requirements of Colorado law. Based on information and belief, Tipple owns a home in California, has a spouse residing in California, and may be registered to vote in Texas concurrently with his purported registration in Colorado. 

The lawsuit was filed in Denver District Court, which is expected to set a hearing within a few days or weeks. Any judgment can be appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, which has the final say, although the high court could reject the case and allow the District Court decision to stand.

Meantime, the Secretary of State's Office is preparing to print ballots, and the last possible print date is reportedly in mid-May.

Secretary of State spokesperson Lynn Bartels says via email, "Ballot certification deadline is April 27. Practically, ballots have to be in [county] clerk’s hands in time to meet the May 12 deadline to transmit to military and overseas voters."

Here's the lawsuit:
Michael Francisco, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, says he expects a hearing to be held next week.

"It’s important for people to follow the rules," Francisco says. "This is a common occurence in Colorado. Somebody who has the expertise as Lamborn should know about these laws and that they need to be followed. It’s not that hard to comply with the law. Darryl Glenn seems to have complied. A lot of people at assembly wanted Lamborn to be there, and he skipped out."

We've also sent an email to Lamborn and will update if and when we hear something.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Grand jury investigation of SoS Wayne Williams closed

Posted By on Wed, Apr 4, 2018 at 4:52 PM

An investigation of Secretary of State Wayne Williams' intervening in campaign finance cases has ended. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • An investigation of Secretary of State Wayne Williams' intervening in campaign finance cases has ended.
The investigation of the Secretary of State's Office has been called off.

Denver District Attorney Beth McCann issued this statement:
The Denver Grand Jury issued subpoenas to Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert on March 20, 2018. My office has since received additional documents which the Secretary of State’s Office provided voluntarily and yesterday I met with attorneys representing Secretary Williams and Deputy Secretary Staiert. I am requesting that the Grand Jury withdraw the subpoenas that had previously been issued and my office will close the grand jury investigation at this time.
Secretary of State's spokesperson Lynn Bartels tells the Independent via email, "We have always maintained that we follow the law and that this was not about granting favors, as the complainant, Matt Arnold, alleged. Matt has a long history of attacking the secretary of state."

Matt Arnold, who heads Campaign Integrity Watchdog which instigated the investigation, had a lot to say about the investigation being called off. From his email to the Indy:

My understanding of the grand jury process is that once they take up the case, decisions on how or whether to proceed are up to them, precisely in order to insulate the process from political influence.
Apparently that does not seem to be the case.

The facts related to the allegations are essentially undisputed:

1) SOS Williams failure to collect the $9,650 penalty owed by his buddy Bob Gardner & Sarah Jack's guilty political committee (ASIWH), as required per Colo. Const. Art. XXVIII Section 10(d) is undisputed.
Williams claims he is "unable" to collect the penalty because "the committee has no money" and because the office can only pursue collections against individuals if the violator is a candidate.
Two problems with that statement:
a) the constitutional mandate applies regardless of what the committee CLAIMS to have in funds available; clearly, lots of people owing debts CLAIM to have no money, but collections occur either way
b) ASIWH has continued operations, receiving and spending tens of thousands of dollars, in other legal proceedings, which are well documented. Wayne is aware of this fact.
c) the Final Agency Decision found as FACT that the ASIWH committee never had a separate bank account (as required by law) and that all committee finances flowed through the accounts of its officer, Sarah Brittain Jack.

Due to that illegal commingling of funds, collections in this instance are not only warranted against the individual (committee officer) accounts, they are mandatory.
Wayne knows this, as he has been repeatedly apprised of the facts (both the Court's Order and factual findings, and the subsequent financial activity by ASIWH). Yet, he refuses to refer the outstanding debt to collections.

Wayne's failure to carry out his constitutionally mandated duties to collect the outstanding penalties owed the state by his associates and campaign contributors is clearly "for the benefit of" those persons.

Ergo, it would seem that both fact and law are indisputable. I cannot conceive of what "additional documents" could have been provided to call either fact or law into question.

2) SOS Williams has allocated tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars for legal services to intervene at the trial court level in campaign finance cases (which is unprecedented in the history of Colorado's campaign finance laws) to DEFEND several committees charged with violations of state law - all of which seem to either involve Wayne's campaign contributors, political associates, or affiliates and/or involve cases brought by Campaign Integrity Watchdog to prosecute violators.

SOS Williams claims the interventions were to "defend the law" rather than intended to benefit the particular defendants; however, rather than apply the existing law as written, the SOS positions have uniformly argued in favor of changing or re-defining the law (again, curiously aligning with the position of the Respondents). In each of the cases, the legal positions taken by the Secretary have been refuted by the courts.

Most egregiously, in at least one case (the SOS has refused to provide evidence or answer CORA requests to confirm or deny in other cases), the Secretary actually entered into a secret agreement with the Respondents expressly intended to lead to DISMISSAL of the charges - clearly, a position taken for the benefit of the defendant committee rather than a neutral position on interpretation of the law.

Again, the facts - SOS intervenes at the trial court level in campaign finance cases, documentably pursuing a result "for the benefit of" the defendant - are indisputable.
Consequently, the violations of law would also appear to be indisputable.

Once again, I cannot conceive of what "additional information" could have been provided to call either fact or law into question.
In response to all that, Bartels says via email, "Now Matt Arnold is an expert on the grand jury process? The investigation was dismissed because it never should have been started in the first place.”

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Monday, March 26, 2018

March for Our Lives draws huge crowds

Posted By on Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 3:56 PM

Colorado Springs marchers - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Colorado Springs marchers

The March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., may be the largest single-day protest in the history of the nation’s capital, drawing some 800,000 people on March 24. The march also included one of the most memorable moments in recent activism: Parkland, Florida student Emma González’ marking of the 6 minutes and 20 seconds it took for 17 people to be killed in her high school on Valentine’s Day.

A large crowd in the Springs. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • A large crowd in the Springs.

Closer to home, tens of thousands protested at the state capitol in Denver, while the Gazette estimated that 2,000 showed up for the Colorado Springs protest. (The city police no longer offer crowd estimates, but the march wrapped a city block.)

The Colorado Springs marchers chanted “not one more!” as they marched out of Acacia Park and through downtown.
Kids joined parents at the march in the Springs. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Kids joined parents at the march in the Springs.

The 2017 Women’s March is the only action in recent Colorado Springs history to rival its size.
Multiple recent polls have shown a surge in support for stronger gun control laws, with a solid majority of Americans supporting them.


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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Students walked out against gun violence. Let's honor them.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 6:12 PM

Palmer High School walk-out - ASHLEY PERRY
  • Ashley Perry
  • Palmer High School walk-out

Wednesday, at 10 a.m., students across the country walked out to demand action against gun violence. They spent 17 minutes outside, one for each person killed in the Valentine's Day massacre in Parkland, Florida this year.

A lot of people have said that this isn't appropriate action for students. Of course, people said the same thing about protesters during the Civil Rights movement, or during the Vietnam War.

The Gazette editorial page, in particular, has run several opinion pieces in recent days claiming that, by supporting their students' First Amendment rights (yes, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled this is within a student's constitutional rights), school administrators were putting kids in harm's way. They said that liberals are enticing kids to protest, ignoring the fact that the students who survived the Parkland shooting have sparked this movement out of a place of deep trauma and a need for change. They've claimed that so-called "walk-ins" would be a better option for kids, or that schools wouldn't allow kids to walk out for Jesus.

Seriously?

Children across the country left their classrooms, often with their teachers and parents meeting them on their schools' lawn. They came out to say that they're tired of lawmakers stalling on a problem that is claiming so many young lives. They came out to say that they're scared to go to school. They came out to exercise their right to speak — a right that Americans, even young Americans, cherish. They came out to protect their fundamental right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Let's not forget that every kid gunned down in our schools is robbed of that fundamental right.

Americans are all over the place when it comes to gun control. But the students that walked out today make a fair point: This issue has been so polarizing that lawmakers have, in most cases, deadlocked, doing nothing to prevent the next school shooting. By speaking out, our country's children are telling us that isn't enough. Something must be done.

We shouldn't be ashamed of these kids. We should honor them. They're brave, they're bold, and in making their voices heard, they are 100 percent American.
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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Pikes Peak Womxn for Liberation seek input for upcoming Womxn's Liberation Convention

Posted By on Thu, Mar 1, 2018 at 10:15 AM

shutterstock_778017982_fotor.jpg
Pikes Peak Womxn for Liberation, a relatively new, regional group with a focus on intersectional activism, has announced that they will soon host a resource fair and convention for Colorado Springs womxn (an alternative spelling to “women,” if you are curious). They are currently seeking input regarding what resources would be most beneficial.

They encourage womxn in the area to take a quick online survey, which will ask about the most prominent issues facing our community's womxn, and what resources or groups they should make available. The survey takes about two minutes, and can be found here.

So, why the “x?” Many groups and individuals have been using the term “womxn” since the '70s (though it is seeing a recent resurgence), partly in order to do away with the “–men” suffix in the traditional spelling —liberating the word from patriarchal language structures — and partly to illustrate inclusion of transgender and nonbinary womxn-identifying people.

Local organizations also made use of the term in 2018's local Womxn's March, in order to make the event more inclusive, as the 2017 Women's March was widely criticized for focusing on cisgender (identifying as the gender they were assigned at birth) womxn.
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