Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Pete Lee has plenty of support for Senate run

Posted By on Wed, Sep 20, 2017 at 1:55 PM

  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Rep. Pete Lee
Term-limited state Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, recently announced that he will run for the state Senate District 11 seat being vacated by Sen. Michael Merrifield in 2018.

Lee is a popular Democratic legislator, who has focused on business and criminal justice issues. I wrote about his latter passion here.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lee is already piling up the endorsements, as he details in the following release:

Rep. Pete Lee Announces Broad
Bi-Partisan Support for Senate Run

Colorado Springs — Representative Pete Lee, a former small business owner, corporate executive and justice reform advocate is running for the State Senate in Colorado Springs. He has seen an outpouring of bipartisan support in just his first week campaigning. Elected officials from both parties, as well as unaffiliated voters are supporting Lee. City Council President Richard Skorman, City Councilors Jill Gaebler and Yolanda Avila, as well as HD 17 State Representative Tony Exum all endorse Representative Lee.

Senate District 11 incumbent, Michael Merrifield said, “I wholeheartedly support Pete Lee’s candidacy for Senate District 11. Having worked with Pete for over 10 years, I know he is a hardworking and effective legislator who will passionately and conscientiously represent the people of our community. I am most proud of our joint sponsorship of the Justice Reinvestment Crime Prevention bill, HB17-1326, which will significantly impact SD-11. I urge all of my constituents to support Pete as my successor in Senate District 11.”

City Councilor Jill Gaebler, in endorsing Lee’s candidacy, said, “ I am supporting Pete Lee for State Senate because he understands local issues and consistently works across party lines for the benefit of the entire community.”

Representative Lee, a forty two year resident of Colorado Springs, has spent his career finding common-sense bipartisan solutions that improve the lives of his constituents, and that’s why folks from across the political spectrum have enthusiastically announced their support for his campaign.

Pete has successfully sponsored scores of bills during his time in the State House, but knows there is a lot more work to be done and thus is looking forward to continuing that work on behalf of his constituents as a State Senator.

Many other community and business leaders have announced their proud support of Rep. Lee’s grassroots campaign for State Senate, including former Colorado Springs Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace, former City Councilor Jan Martin, D-11 School Board members Nora Brown, LuAnn Long and Jim Mason, former D-11 School Board members Bob Null and Jan Tanner, former Manitou Springs Mayor, State Representative, and County Commissioner Marcy Morrison, as well as community leaders Mary Ellen McNally, Rosemary Harris Lytle, Mike McDivitt, Jody Alyn, Dave Anderson, Alan and Jane Higbie, Mike and Amanda Bristol, Henry Allen, Mike Callicrate, and Chuck Murphy.

Visit www.PeteLeeColorado.com to learn more.

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New GOP chairman in El Paso County has "a vision"

Posted By on Wed, Sep 20, 2017 at 1:12 PM

Josh Hosler is the new chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party, and issued this statement on Sept. 19 after he was installed on Monday, Sept. 18. Read our story about the selection here.

I’d like to thank our Executive Committee members, elected officials, precinct leaders, and everyone who came out to last night’s meeting and encouraged me to take on the duties of Chairman. I have had the opportunity over the past few years to get to know the Republicans of El Paso County. I know that the passion for freedom and liberty runs deep in this community and I am so thankful to be a part of it.

I am focused and I have a vision that will lead us to victory. As a Marine, you are taught to never ever give up on the mission. I will bring this same commitment to my position as the El Paso County Republican Chair.

I plan to work together with past chairs and volunteers to make this transition as seamless as possible. In advance, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation for your patience and support over the next few weeks.

I will be choosing a Vice-Chair in the near future. I will look for a candidate who is willing to help unite the Party and work together as a team to help win the elections in 2018. As we all know, all successful campaigns trails lead through El Paso County. Working together, we can ensure stronger legislative majorities at the State Capitol and return fiscal sanity and common-sense governance to the Governor’s Mansion.

Please join me in thanking our former Chairman Trevor Dierdorff for his service and hard work. I would also like to thank our Secretary Kit Roupe and Treasurer Linda Potter for their tireless work the last few months. Without them, we would not have had such a successful past six months.

Again, thank you to everyone that supported me as Vice-Chairman, I plan to work just as hard for you as your Chairman.

God Bless,

Joshua Hosler

Chairman, El Paso County Republican Party 

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Catholic Charities to prioritize DACA renewals due by Oct. 5

Posted By on Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 11:11 AM

Local immigration attorney Eric Pavri wants local Dreamers to get information and assistance they need.
  • Nat Stein
Dreamers' immigration status became dire this week when the Trump administration announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) won't accept renewals in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gives work/study permits to undocumented youth brought to this country as children in two-year increments. That means this generation of immigrants, most of whom are totally integrated in American society, could become vulnerable to deportation as early as March of next year if Congress doesn't pass the Dream Act or some other kind of immigration reform.

Pavri, who works at the Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, the only non-profit law firm for immigrants in the region, sent around these fliers on Friday, urging that recipients forward, print and post them anywhere they could be of use.

"Time is of the essence, because those youth eligible to renew DACA must mail their applications so that they are RECEIVED by the government by October 5, 2017," he wrote (emphasis his). "We are prioritizing these cases for appointments in our office."

He's also going to be leading "know your rights" trainings that are free, open to the public and will be presented in both English and Spanish. Here's the deets on those:

Friday, September 08, 2017

6:00 PM

Host organization:  Grupo Esperanza

2410 S. Academy Blvd.

Colorado Springs

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

6:00 PM

Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church

2715 E Pikes Peak Ave.

Colorado Springs

And here are those fliers, first in Spanish, then in English:

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

DACA: Dreamers, families and allies protest program's end

Posted By on Wed, Sep 6, 2017 at 12:29 PM

"Undocumented!" a young woman yelled through the megaphone. "And unafraid!" answered the students — some looking fierce, some desperate — assembled in front of her.

Angelica, the chant leader who withheld her full name, drove down to the Springs, her home town, for the rally on Tuesday after participating in a massive walk-out in Denver earlier that day. "We're fighting for our futures here," she explained, which for her means continuing her education at Metro State University.

"But it's not our parents' fault. They did what they needed to do for us. ... This is about our families and communities, too."
Hundreds showed up for the emergency rally to protest the Trump administration's decision to rescind DACA, short for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which is an Obama-era program that lets undocumented immigrants brought here as children or teens before mid-2007 apply for protection from deportation, and a two-year work/study permit.

(There are other criteria too. Beneficiaries had to: be under 16 upon entering the country; be no older than 31 as of June 15, 2012; have not left the U.S. since mid-2007; be enrolled in high school or college, already have a diploma, degree or GED certificate or be an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. military; and have no criminal record.)

The program was put in place by President Obama in 2012, after years of pressure from activists and failure by Congress to address this particular population's immigration status. Its opponents, including 10 attorneys general, argue that DACA is an overreach — that the executive branch improperly bypassed the legislative branch to change immigration law.

But the Obama administration has always characterized the order as an exercise of prosecutorial discretion — a legal principle for prioritizing the enforcement of a law when resources are limited. In this case, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) admits it's not currently capable of deporting all 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country. So, DACA was the former President's way of telling ICE agents to leave these youth alone.

After an agonizing "will he or wont he?" period with the threat of a state-led lawsuit looming, President Trump, an immigration hawk, announced by written statement that DHS would no longer accept applications or renewals. No current beneficiaries will lose protection until March 5, according to a DHS factsheet, and beneficiaries whose protection will expire between now and then have until Oct. 5 to apply for renewal.

The six-month grace period gives Congress time to act. If they don't, 800,000 DACA recipients could become vulnerable to deportation.

It was an emotional afternoon in Acacia Park, where Dreamers, as the DACAmented youth are called, their families, friends, teachers and supporters rallied for the opportunity to stay and keep pursuing their ambitions in America.

Several students spoke, as did Harrison High School teacher Luis Antezana, City Councilor Yolanda Avila, Congressional candidate Stephany Rose and Gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston. After their speeches, rally-goers marched down Tejon Street to Senator Cory Gardner's office. At around the same time, the Republican Senator announced he'll join Democratic Senator Michael Bennet in supporting the DREAM Act — long-standing federal legislation that would shield Dreamers from deportation and forge a pathway to citizenship.

President Trump has already insisted that funding for his border wall be tied to this legislation, setting the stage for some difficult negotiations down the line.

But the local immigrants, attorneys and activists who came out yesterday made clear that the fight — not just for Dreamers, but for the whole undocumented community — is one they won't give up.

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UPDATE: El Paso County GOP worker resigns citing "lack of fundraising"

Posted By on Wed, Sep 6, 2017 at 12:04 PM

We received this missive that further explains the GOP situation:

Dear El Paso GOP Executive Committee,

I would like to follow up on Susan’s email from earlier today because it appears to have caused great confusion. To start with, I would like to thank Susan on behalf of the El Paso GOP for her service over the last number of months. Her contributions have been very valuable.

The El Paso GOP is on solid financial ground, and any rumors to the contrary are false and unfounded. As of today, the EPCGOP has enough funds to suffice through the 2018 Caucus and Assembly with no additional fundraising. Typically, the EPCGOP hosts an event in the fall which raises additional funds which could cover additional expenses such as increased staff for caucus/assembly. The next Chairperson will have the ultimate say in what events are run, but volunteers are already working a number of potential fundraising opportunities.

As it appears members of the Executive Committee are actively contacting the media about party issues, please refer all media inquiries to me as the official spokesman of the EPCGOP. I am the only person authorized to speak with the media on behalf of the EPCGOP at this time, and I will make myself available to any reporter who has questions. I can be reached at info@gopelpaso.com or (719)213-3428 with any questions.

Thank you for your support of the El Paso County GOP, and I look forward to seeing everyone at the upcoming Executive Committee meeting.

Eli Bremer
Spokesman, El Paso County Republican Party 
————ORIGINAL POST 12:04 P.M. WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 6, 2017————

On Sept. 1, we reported that Trevor Dierdorff resigned as chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party, citing a desire to spend more time with his family and business.

However, now we learn that Dierdorff didn't quite turn out to be the rainmaker his fellow party members thought he would be.

The county party's office manager, Susan Dahlby, resigned today, Sept. 6, sending an email to the Executive Committee saying this:
Effective immediately I am resigning my position as Office Manager. My last paycheck was 25 August 2017. Due to the lack of fundraising on the part of Chairman Trevor Dierdorff, I can no longer in good conscience accept a paycheck from the El Paso County Republican Party. The current funds need to be allocated to upcoming meetings, caucus preparations and monthly expenses.

With great regret ,

I am respectfully yours,

Susan Dahlby
Dierdorff: Resigned last week. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY GOP
  • Courtesy El Paso County GOP
  • Dierdorff: Resigned last week.
This is an odd turn of events, considering Dierdorff said this in his resignation letter:
Since being elected in February, I cut our operational expenses by 50% over last year and the party will have the financial resources to pay our bills through the caucus, so my successor will be able to focus on the 2018 election immediately. I am happy to leave that legacy, though I had hoped to do more.
The county GOP's most recent finance report filed with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office covers the period from Oct. 31, to Dec. 3, 2016, and shows cash on hand of $158.93.

The next report is due in December.

We first reached out to Daniel Cole, who's provided consultant services in communications for the party. He says he's "not in a position to comment" and couldn't address the funding shortage because, "I don't have access to the party's bank account."

We then called the local GOP headquarters and were told that no officers were around. "It's just us volunteers here," the person on the other end of the line said.

If we hear back from someone authorized to speak on behalf of the county party, we'll circle back with an update.

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Dierdorff resigns as El Paso County GOP chair

Posted By on Fri, Sep 1, 2017 at 12:33 PM

Trevor Dierdorff: stepping down after only six months in the chairman's chair. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY GOP
  • Courtesy El Paso County GOP
  • Trevor Dierdorff: stepping down after only six months in the chairman's chair.
El Paso County GOP chairman Trevor Dierdorff has notified the party he plans to resign within weeks.

Dierdorff was just elected to the seat in February. In April he backed his vehicle over Mel Tolbert, 79, on March 28 in downtown Colorado Springs. Though the Colorado Springs Police Department filed charges of careless driving causing death and failure to exercise due care, District Attorney Dan May immediately dismissed the charges saying they weren't appropriate because Tolbert was crossing the street outside a crosswalk.

The normal course of business would mean the vice chair, Josh Hosler, would take over. But because Dierdorff appointed past county chairman Eli Bremer to be his spokesman, some Republican faithful wonder if Bremer has designs on the office.

Here's Dierdorff's letter:
Executive Committee Members:
I regret to inform you that I intend to resign from my position as Chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party. My resignation will formally take effect at the adjournment of the Executive Committee meeting next month.

My reasons for stepping aside are largely personal, and I am looking forward to having more time and energy to devote to my family and business. I believe this is a practical time for a leadership transition with the conclusion of the Lincoln Day Dinner, and six months lead time until the 2018 caucus.

Since being elected in February, I cut our operational expenses by 50% over last year and the party will have the financial resources to pay our bills through the caucus, so my successor will be able to focus on the 2018 election immediately. I am happy to leave that legacy, though I had hoped to do more.

It has been a privilege to work with the great Republicans of El Paso County, and it is with a heavy heart that I am stepping aside. I expect to stay involved with the Republican Party and be a strong contributor to the effort to elect a Republican Governor in 2018.

Though I will remain in the position of Chairman through the next Executive Committee meeting, I will start the transition immediately. Additionally, I will be on extended travel in early September and may not be easily reachable during that time. I have appointed Eli Bremer to be the Party Spokesman and he will serve as the hub for all communication internally and externally regarding this matter.

I appreciate the trust you have put in me for this role and am sorry to know that my departure will disappoint many. Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your chairman. Please know that this difficult decision was made with the best interests of our county party in mind.

I am grateful to our volunteers, donors, and elected officials who contribute so much to this cause we hold dear. You are the heart and soul of this party, and I look forward to continuing to work with you for years to come.

Thank you, Trevor Dierdorff
The next Executive Committee meeting reportedly is slated for Sept. 26.

Here's what the county party's bylaws say about replacing the chairman:
In the case of the Chairman’s death, resignation, removal from office, permanent inability to act or permanent absence from El Paso County, the Vice-Chairman shall automatically succeed to all powers and duties of the Chairman and shall immediately call a meeting of the Executive Committee to be held within 14 days. The Executive Committee may by a 2/3 vote determine that the Vice-Chairman shall complete the departing Chairman’s term. Absent such vote, the Vice-Chairman shall, within 14 days, call a meeting of the Central Committee to elect a Chairman. The Central Committee meeting shall be held within 30 days of the Executive Committee meeting.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hickenlooper, in bipartisan bromance, releases health care proposal

Posted By on Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 11:34 AM

  • Colorado.gov
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican, have teamed up to draft a proposal to stabilize individual health insurance markets that, nationwide, have seen insurers drop-out and premiums go up over the past year.

Now, you might be thinking, "Hmm... health care reform... Doesn't the Republican majority in Congress still want to 'repeal and replace?'"

Ding, ding! They sure do, since it's a seven years-long promise and all, but you'll recall that despite controlling both chambers of the legislative branch with a willing executive in the White House, Republicans have failed to accomplish anything on the health care front.

In addition to embarrassing, their failure has been destructive. As the Indy has reported, all this uncertainty around policy has created instability, most acutely in the the individual market, where people who don't have employee or government sponsored insurance must buy their plans. About 13 million Americans, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, get coverage through the exchanges that were set up under the Affordable Care Act. This year, because of all the jockeying in Congress, premiums for insurances plans offered through Connect for Health Colorado, our own state exchange, are projected rise an average of 27 percent. That could be a huge hit in the wallet for the about 13,400 El Paso County residents who enroll through the exchange.

That's why governors, who have experience implementing health care policy on the state level, are taking matters into their own hands. The Hickenlooper-Kasich proposal, which has the support of six other governors, is addressed to Congressional leaders of both parties. It recommends "immediate federal action to stabilize markets," "responsible reforms that preserve recent coverage gains and control costs" and "an active federal/state partnership that is based on innovation and a shared commitment to improve overall health system performance."

Check it out yourself for the specifics.

(Don't have time to read the whole plan? Highlights are: fund cost sharing reduction payments; keep the individual mandate for now; fund outreach and enrollment efforts; and commit to federal risk sharing mechanisms.)

And, if you're just swooning at how reasonable and pragmatic and bipartisan these popular governors' partnership is, you'll be tickled to know there are, indeed, rumors that they're toying with a "unity ticket" in 2020. Each governor has been coy about it in the press, saying there are no ulterior motives to this joint health care proposal... Which is exactly what you would say if you were running for president.

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UPDATE: Meet (some of) the candidates at partisan town hall at Colorado College

Posted By on Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 10:03 AM

  • Georgia Democrats
Trevor Dierdorff, chair of the El Paso County Republicans, says the candidates from his party didn't really get a fair shake.

"[The student organizer] didn’t email me his request until after hours last Friday," Dierdorff wrote to the Indy. "I’m afraid that participation will be very light as he was trying to get a couple dozen very busy candidates to come to an event on Labor Day Weekend with only one week’s notice. He should have been reaching out to campaigns at least six weeks prior."

———————-ORIGINAL POST 2:23 P.M. Wednesday, AUG. 30, 2017———————-

We're sure you're busy, but we're also pretty confident you care to inform yourself about the people running to represent you at the various levels of government. So, this may be just the right chance to hear from nearly all of the Democrats in one fell swoop. (Insert idiom about multiple birds and fewer stones here.)

The Colorado College Democratic Student Club is sponsoring a candidate forum they're calling "State of the State" (not to be confused with the Governor's annual address.) It's this Saturday, Sept. 2 from 5:30-9:30 p.m. at the Kathryn Mohrman Theatre in Armstrong Hall on the campus of Colorado College. If you've never been, just plug 14 E Cache La Poudre St. into your preferred mode of navigation.

Steven Ortega, the student organizer, says by email he had hoped that candidates from both political parties would participate — both for the sake of fairness and to comply with a college policy stipulating that campus events featuring candidates for elected office give equal opportunity to both sides of the aisle. To that end, early this summer he asked both party chairs (Electra Johnson for the Democrats and Trevor Dierdorff for the Republicans) to invite their slate of candidates, but only Johnson followed through.

There's currently no GOP-affiliated student group at Colorado College, a famously progressive-minded institution.

Ortega comments, "As you can probably imagine, it makes complying with college policy on events like these a touch awkward for CC Dems, since in the past the college Dems and [Republicans] would contact their respective party's officials/candidates. We're working on developing a similar relationship with CC Centrists, a new student group, but political events would undeniably be simpler to put on if there was a Republican group on campus again."

Kit Roupe, secretary for the El Paso County Republicans, says that GOP candidates for all these state and local offices have made plenty of public appearances. "We have had candidates speak already, including the 5th Congressional and [Gubernatorial] candidates at our Lincoln Day Dinner two weeks ago," she wrote the Indy by email. "I know personally the candidates have attended local events and were at the El Paso County Fair Republican booth in July."

The GOP keeps a web calendar that lists opportunities to meet candidates running for elected office.

As for this Saturday, the hosts have provided a commendably thorough rundown of what to expect:

5:30-6:30 p.m. Candidate Tables

Candidate tables may remain open for the duration of the event and a number will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis in Armstrong Hall outside of the Kathryn Mohrman Theatre. Candidates may bring their own tables should they so choose.

6:30-7:00 p.m. State House and Senate (30 minutes)

Candidates Confirmed: Tony Exum, Graham Anderson, Liz Rosenbaum, Terry Martinez


• What topics or issues will you principally focus on if elected?

Q&A: Audience

7:00-7:20 p.m. CD5 (20 minutes)

Candidates Confirmed: Stephany Rose Spaulding, Betty Field


• What topics or issues will you principally focus on if elected to Congress?

Q&A: Audience

7:20-7:40 p.m.  Secretary of State (20 minutes)

Candidates Confirmed: Jena Griswold, Gabriel McArthur


• What is the core mission of the position you’re running for, and why is it relevant to the community in-and-around Colorado College?

• What topics or issues will you focus on if elected?

• What steps will you take, if any, to expand Coloradans' access to the ballot?

Q&A: Audience

7:40-7:50 p.m. State Treasurer (10 minutes)

Candidates Confirmed: Steve Lebsock

•What is the core mission of the position you’re running for, and why is it relevant to the community in-and-around Colorado College?

• What is your assessment of the fiscal health of Colorado's state pension fund, and what, if any, steps does PERA need to take to ensure that it meets its future obligations?

Q&A: Audience

8-8:30 p.m. Governor (30 minutes)

Candidates Confirmed: Cary Kennedy, Noel Ginsberg, Mike Johnston (by proxy), Jared Polis (by proxy)


• Hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as "fracking," has become an increasingly large part of Colorado's economy in recent years, with over 900 injections wells currently in operation across the state, according to EPA data. However, in light of the fatal explosion of an abandoned flowline in Firestone this last April, public scrutiny of the practice has also increased. If elected, would you support additional safety regulations on fracking, and what role do you see for the practice in Colorado's energy landscape?

•A Colorado Public Radio assessment of Colorado's public school system found that our state ranks 42nd in the nation in terms of funding per student. Does this funding shortfall impact the quality of K-12 education in Colorado, and if so, what will you do as Governor to increase funding for our public schools?

• A 2015 report by the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice found that African-Americans were the target of 12.4% of arrests and court summonses in Colorado, despite making up only 4.2% of our state's population. To what extent do you believe this disparity is a reflection of bias in our state's judicial system, and if it is, what will you do as Governor to reduce such bias?

• A report by the Denver Post found that the city of Denver saw an average of 2.9 jobs created per every unit of housing in the city since 2010, contributing to rising rents in the capital, and other cities with similar labor markets, at a time when Colorado has seen an 8% increase in its homeless population since 2013. As governor, what actions will you take, if any, to make Colorado's cities more affordable places to live?

A recent Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll of rural America found that two thirds of those surveyed rated local job opportunities as only "fair" or "poor," sentiments that are often echoed in rural Colorado. If elected, what steps, if any, will you take to create greater economic opportunity in Colorado's rural communities?

Q&A: Audience

8:30-9:30 p.m. Attorney General (30 minutes)

Candidates Confirmed: Phil Weiser, Brad Levin, Michael Dougherty, Joe Salazar (by proxy)


•What is the core mission of the position you’re running for, and why is it relevant to the community in-and-around Colorado College?

•A report by the Drug Enforcement Administration released in 2016 indicated that Colorado has seen a 350% increase in the rate of drug overdoses since 2011, largely tied to heroin usage throughout the state. If elected, what, if any, steps will you take to address the opioid crisis in Colorado?

• Data from the Prison Policy Institute indicates that Colorado imprisons 364 people out of every 100,000 in our state, a rate of incarceration much higher than the state had during the peak of its violent crime rates in the 1980s and early 1990s. As attorney general, would you seek to reduce the size of our state's prison population, and if so, how would you go about doing so?

Earlier this year, the Colorado State Court of Appeals released a decision requiring that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission consider public health, safety, and welfare when reviewing requests for oil and gas extraction permits. However, since then, the State of Colorado has appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of our state. As Attorney General, would you continue to appeal the State Court's decision regarding the COGCC?

Q&A: Audience

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

James Mattis puts stay on transgender military ban, pending study

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2017 at 10:53 AM

  • Shutterstock
In this weeks’ Queer & There, we heard from a transgender veteran who spoke out in opposition to President Trump’s ban on transgender people entering or serving in the U.S. Military.

Tuesday night, after the Independent went to press, news broke that Secretary of Defense James Mattis had put a “freeze” on the ban, pending a six-month study and input from a panel of experts. The exact makeup of that panel is as yet uncertain, though one might hope transgender military personnel may be involved in the process.

While Mattis’ decision to delay implementation of the ban was lauded by those who oppose it, the Washington Post pointed out in a Wednesday report that, in reality, Mattis was just following orders. The text of the White House directive clearly states that implementation must occur by February of 2018. Moreover, it reads:

As part of the implementation plan, the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall determine how to address transgender individuals currently serving in the United States military. Until the Secretary has made that determination, no action may be taken against such individuals under the policy set forth in section 1(b) of this memorandum.

And while an extensive study on this matter (conducted by the RAND Corporation) has already determined that the effect of transgender service members on military readiness and budget would be negligible, it seems the upcoming six months of study and deliberation will yield final results.

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Mary Lou Makepeace announced as Inside/Out Youth Services interim executive director

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2017 at 9:28 AM

  • File photo
Inside/Out Youth Services, our local LGBTQ youth center, announced Tuesday that Mary Lou Makepeace will soon become interim executive director of the organization.

Makepeace, who served on the Colorado Springs Planning Commission, City Council and, most notably, as mayor of Colorado Springs from 1997-2003, has historically been a steadfast ally to the LGBTQ community. In addition to championing local LGBTQ causes, she has also served as executive director of the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado.

She will begin her duties as Inside/Out’s executive director in mid-September while she helps the board search for someone to fill that position permanently.

We reached out to Inside/Out's current executive director, Mary Malia, for comment, but have yet to hear back. We will update this space when and if we do.

See the full letter from Inside/Out Youth Services Board President Margo Chandler below:

The Inside Out Youth Services Board of Directors is extremely excited to announce that Mary Lou Makepeace has accepted the position of interim Executive Director of the organization.

Mary Lou brings a depth of experience to the position that will support the mission of Inside Out while continuing outreach to the Colorado Springs community and assisting the Board in the search for a permanent Executive Director. The Board is thrilled to have Mary Lou joining the Inside Out family in mid-September and we look forward to the continued success of Inside Out.

Mary Lou Makepeace, Colorado Springs' first female mayor, completed two full terms and was responsible for several equality measures including domestic-partner benefits under her leadership. Prior to becoming mayor, she was the Executive Director of the adolescent child placement agency STAY, and after leaving office, became the Executive Director of The Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado, where she was responsible for awarding over $2 million annually to nonprofit organizations across Colorado. Mary Lou attended the Harvard University Program for State & Local Government, earned a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Colorado - Colorado Springs (UCCS), and earned a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and Political Science from the University of North Dakota. She was inducted to the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 2009.

The Board of Directors is also pleased to announce the promotion of Maegan Brundage to the position of Youth Health Educator and Program Manager. Maegan joined Inside Out as a youth facilitator and volunteer in 2014, and was hired in May 2017 as a part-time Youth Health Educator and Program Coordinator. She has been an integral part of the organization's growth, the development of programs, and the overall reach within the community. We are excited that she's joining Inside Out in a full-time capacity to further expand our reach and mission within the community.

Maegan Brundage worked in child welfare at the Pikes Peak Region and Cleveland County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for six years. In her position with the Pikes Peak Region CASA, Maegan spearheaded the Human Rights Campaign's All Children - All Families initiative, which created a welcoming and affirming space for LGBTIQ youth, volunteers, and staff. She also attended the 2017 National CASA Conference, where she advocated for, and presented on, how to best serve LGBTIQ youth in the child welfare system. Maegan received both her Bachelors and Masters of Social Work from The University of Oklahoma. She lives in Colorado Springs with her Siamese cat and miniature Aussie puppy. When not focused on youth initiatives, she enjoys hiking, photography, exploring new places, and writing her blog.

Margo Chandler
Inside Out Youth Services
Board President

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Friday, August 25, 2017

White House working on guidelines for banning transgender service members from the military

Posted By on Fri, Aug 25, 2017 at 1:18 PM

  • Shutterstock
After President Donald Trump tweeted about a blanket ban on transgender service members last month, the future of transgender folks currently serving in the military, and those hoping to serve, was up in the air. Originally, the tweets suggested that all transgender people might be banned from service, but a recent memo gives Secretary of Defense James Mattis discretion when it comes to those currently serving.

However, should Mattis decide that current transgender service members are not “capable” of fulfilling their service (i.e. being deployed), then it seems he could extend the ban as per Trump’s original intent.

Of course, transgender service members have been deploying faithfully and openly since President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Defense Ash Carter lifted the ban on transgender service members last year, and serving closeted much longer than that. But in spite of a lack of evidence, the White House and the Pentagon seem to be of the opinion that the presence of transgender troops could be “disruptive.” Which basically means that cisgender troops might be uncomfortable with their presence.

The White House’s guidelines are currently pending legal review, but will most likely include instructions to cease admitting transgender people into the military, and cease paying for transition-related medical treatment.

For the estimated 2,450 active-duty transgender military members, this could mean remaining closeted and without medical care that, in many cases, is vital to a transgender person’s mental health.

Once the guidelines are finalized by Trump administration lawyers and officially handed off, the Pentagon will have six months to implement the restrictions.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Strand plans a bid for GOP nomination in Congressional District 5

Posted By on Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 11:33 AM

Strand: Soon to enter CD5 race. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Strand: Soon to enter CD5 race.
The race for the Republican nomination in Congressional District 5 will soon widen.

Colorado Springs City Councilor Tom Strand tells the Independent he'll announce his candidacy in late September. Strand formerly was registered as a Democrat but says he'll run as a Republican because Democrats can't win in the GOP-dominated district. More on this later.

There seems to be little question Strand can hold his Council seat during a campaign for another office, because Darryl Glenn did just that as he sought an El Paso County commissioner seat some years ago.

Strand, 69, says his top three issues — far from the normal political grist — include support for federal leadership in funding wildfire protection, both fire response and mitigation of the nation's forests, further including all disaster response; creating an environment in which young people don't have to flee their birthplace to find good-paying jobs, and bringing strong military representation to Congress.

That's all he had time to say during a quick chat following the annual fundraiser breakfast for the city-owned Pioneers Museum. Then, he was off to another meeting.

Strand, a 30-year Air Force veteran, served as a military lawyer and began his service at Peterson Air Force Base on the city's east side. He served on the Colorado Springs School District 11 board prior to being elected to an at-large seat on City Council in 2015. His term expires in 2019.

His voter registration history is as follows, according to the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office:
Registered with the Democratic Party on 2/28/05.
Changed from Democratic to Republican on 5/26/16.
Changed from Republican to Unaffiliated on 1/1/17.
Changed from Unaffiliated to Republican on 7/23/17.

Given Strand's past association with the Democratic Party, if he makes it onto the primary ballot, his candidacy might draw a lot of Democrats to cross over for the Republican primary next June when Colorado conducts its first open primary in which voters can ask for a certain party's ballot at the polls.

Strand is the third candidate to say he'll challenge incumbent Rep. Doug Lamborn, serving his sixth term. The others are County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, who lost a bid for U.S. Senate against Democrat Michael Bennet last year, and state Sen. Owen Hill. Glenn and Hill are Air Force veterans and Air Force Academy graduates.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Rallygoers agree white supremacy is bad, but disagree about everything else

Posted By on Mon, Aug 21, 2017 at 5:50 PM

Suffice it to say, emotions are high in “the resistance” right now.

Last week’s terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, where hordes of armed white nationalists clashed with their detractors, seems to have been an inflection point in America’s post-election identity crisis. Before, there were warnings of growing extremism, but now it's obvious that there are emboldened extremists on the right who’d like to see anyone who’s considered a threat to white patriarchy — be they people of color, women, Jews, LGBTQ people, etc. — subordinated at best and removed or exterminated at worst.

Decent people recognize the hideousness of that ideology, despite the commander-in-chief’s apparent sympathy for it, so, it would seem as good an opportunity as any to rally together behind liberal values like diversity and inclusion. But, how to act in response is a question that’s effectively dividing the liberal-left even further.

  • Nat Stein

On Sunday, a handful of grassroots organizations held a rally in solidarity with counter-protesters in Charlottesville. Hundreds turned out for the nearly two hour long event that was punctuated by outbursts and shouting spats, confusion and anger, misunderstandings and assumptions. To be sure, there were empowered moments, but the infighting left many attendees feeling disheartened, likely to the pleasure of right-wing onlookers.

  • Nat Stein

Philosophical and, to a greater degree, tactical differences bred conflict between leftists (an assemblage including Antifa, the Colorado Springs Socialists, Democratic Socialists of America, Industrial Workers of the World  and the Green Party), who stood atop City Hall steps, and liberals (an assortment of sign-toting community members flanked by local leaders and a few elected officials), who gathered on the sidewalk below.

  • Nat Stein

One source of consternation was the apparent failure by attendees to properly respect that

Heather Heyer, the young white woman mowed down in Charlottesville, was part of an IWW bloc, meaning she was a Nazi-puncher not a Kumbaya-singer. Thus, leftists bristled at the idea that liberals would co-opt her as their own martyr, whether unwittingly or not. Heated arguments broke out, too, over whether a prayer was appropriate at a political event and 

whether a combat veteran ought to lecture the crowd about nonviolence.

  • Nat Stein

The most prolonged dispute broke out when a Socialist called out a solitary man in the crowd as an undercover cop. (Remember, local socialists have reason to look out for infiltrators.) The interruption escalated into dueling chants of “cops get out” and “love lives here,” with people on both sides becoming exasperated and then furious.


“You can’t do it this way!” pleaded a black woman, near tears, who spontaneously grabbed the microphone in the midst of the shouting. “It’s killing our country! Please stop!”

The speakers carried on though the mood stayed tense.

In broad strokes, the debate playing out in the resistance movement revolves around the efficacy of nonviolence, though it’s more nuanced than it may seem. When a white guys flies a neo-Nazi flag, is he inciting violence? And, if so, does that justify punching him in the face? Or, do pacifists have the right to tell Antifa not to practice self-defense? Does bringing a firearm to a rally prevent or invite harm? Can you share a movement with those whose tactics you wouldn’t yourself choose? And, of course, what would the exalted Martin Luther King Jr. say about all this?

  • Nat Stein

Rosemary Lytle of the NAACP offered an answer to the latter during her rousing speech. “Do your research, people," she told the crowd. "MLK was a pacifist but he wasn’t a pushover. Don’t get it twisted. … It’s possible to act nonviolently but fiercely.”

After the conclusion of speeches, a march around downtown and a brief convergence back at City Hall, attendees disbanded. Some seemed amped; some dejected. Squabbling would continue online later that evening.

Before heading home, Aja Black, of the hip-hop duo The Reminders, recalled a frustrating exchange with some members of the leftist bloc. “It’s weird,” she said, to have white people tell her, a woman of color, “how to feel and how to fight [white supremacy].” Black’s take on the rally? “We all agree there’s something wrong and something needs to be done, but we can’t agree on what to do about it.” That said, “We need a heart and a fist in this movement. We need each other.”

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Conservation group targets Lamborn

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 8:38 PM

  • League of Conservation Voters Facebook page
The League of Conservation Voters is going after Rep. Doug Lamborn and others over their position on President Trump's executive order to determine if the Department of the Interior should scale back some national monuments.

In Facebook posts and a news release, the group is making a push for public responses in the runup to the deadline for public comment, as reported in a more far-reaching story by politico.com.

Here's the portion of that story that pertains to Lamborn:
The League of Conservation Voters is launching a final $100,000 push today across multiple platforms against the Trump administration’s review of nearly two dozen previously-designated national monuments. The campaign will urge people to urge Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke against making changes to the designations and promote videos highlighting support of public lands. LCV also plans to use Facebook and Instagram to push Reps. Paul Gosar, Steve Pearce, Doug LaMalfa and Doug Lamborn to stop their support of the review.

Here's the news release from the LCV:
Denver, CO – With the futures of national monuments across the West on the line, the League of Conservation Voters is investing $100,000 in a final push to urge Congressman Doug Lamborn and other members of Congress to stop attacking our public lands and to ensure Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Trump administration hear the overwhelming outpouring of support for our national monuments ahead of the August 24th deadline for its unprecedented monument ‘review.’

A member of the anti-public lands Congressional Western Caucus, Lamborn supports far-reaching changes to the dozens of national monuments caught up in the Trump administration’s dangerous and unnecessary review, including completely eliminating Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

“Coloradans cherish our public lands, but Congressman Lamborn and Secretary Zinke are pushing a dangerous agenda that threatens all of our parks and monuments protected under the Antiquities Act,” said Conservation Colorado Wilderness and Public Lands Advocate Scott Braden. “While the Trump administration’s mysterious review criteria spared Canyons of the Ancients, this unprecedented attack opens the door to drastic changes to public lands across the West.”

Starting today, LCV will run animated Facebook and Instagram ads urging Lamborn to stop attacking our public lands and monuments, and encouraging his constituents to take action by calling his office and expressing their opposition to the monument review. Lamborn is one of four members of the Congressional Western Caucus included in the ad campaign.

LCV is also running ads encouraging monument supporters to call Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and tell him to stop playing games with our public lands and end his dangerous review without recommending any changes to national monuments. Additionally, the campaign includes promoted videos amplifying support for threatened public lands and outlining the risks of the Trump administration turning over these special places to Big Polluters.

“It’s time for Secretary Zinke to stop playing games with our public lands, our waters and our national monuments,” said LCV President Gene Karpinski. “People across the country have spoken out and shared their stories of the value these special places bring their communities, from boosting local economies to preserving our cultural heritage for the next generation. But Zinke is treating our national monuments like contestants on a reality TV show, and his anti-public lands allies in Congress are enabling this dangerous agenda. Let’s be clear: if the Trump administration attempts to revoke protections for our national monuments, the millions of families who hike, fish, and enjoy our parks and public lands won’t sit on the sidelines while they sell out these special places to polluters.”

An unprecedented 2.7 million public comments were submitted in support of protecting national monuments, including more than 350,000 from LCV members. LCV’s “Our Lands, Our Vote” campaign has been engaging people across the country to stand up for our public lands and waters throughout the summer.
We've asked for a comment from Lamborn's office and will circle back if and when we hear something.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sen. Cory Gardner makes Colorado Springs appearance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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