Politics

Friday, September 20, 2019

Pico announces State House bid

Posted By on Fri, Sep 20, 2019 at 5:44 PM

Andy Pico: State House bound? - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Andy Pico: State House bound?
Colorado Springs City Councilor Andy Pico has tossed his hat into the ring as a Republican candidate in State House District 16, a seat now held by Larry Liston.

Liston reportedly plans to run for a senate seat.

Pico is serving his second term on City Council. If he wins the House seat, he would take office about three months before his Council term ends in 2021.

Wendy Miller also has filed as a Republican candidate for the seat.

His news release:
Today, current District 6 City Councilman Andy Pico, a Republican, announced that he is a Candidate for The House of Representatives, State of Colorado, House District 16. House District 16 currently being served by Representative Larry Liston will become a vacant seat in 2020 as Representative Liston seeks election to The Colorado State Senate, District 10.

Representing approximately 66,000 residents House District 16 is completely within the boundaries of Colorado Springs and includes the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and most of Colorado Springs School District 11.

“Republicans have been on the defense for far too long. The ruling party in Denver is now waging economic warfare on the residents of Colorado directly targeting energy and ranching, about a third of the state’s economy and hitting the pocketbooks of everyone. Their Party has gone from a moderate to liberal Party claiming to be of the people to a far-left socialist Party – let’s give everyone free lunch, free health care and free college. Who pays for all of them to play Santa Claus? - you, the hard working – what will be left of the middle class? The economically illiterate ruling regime in Denver will wreck the state. Offense is the best defense,” noted Pico.

Pico, serving his second and final term on City Council, is a known conservative voice on that governing body which oversees City government as well as serves as the Board of Directors of the municipally owned 4 service utility – a billion-dollar enterprise. Whether he is voting on Colorado Springs energy policy or supporting our first responders, Pico, an avid supporter of TABOR (the tax payers bill of rights), listens to his constituents, the tax payers and utility rate-payers, before making a decision on their behalf. He is Pro-Life, a Life Member of the NRA and a defender of the 2nd Amendment, free market advocate and defender of our individual freedoms.

“I was relieved when Councilman Pico told me he'd spoken with his wife and family, winning the most important support he'll have, that he'll seek to fill the vacancy that's been created by Representative Larry Liston running for Senate. District 16 will remain in good conservative hands with Andy. Leadership in Colorado is looking up!” - Helen Williams

A retired Navy Flight Officer who did a second career in industry, Andy Pico is married to Janice and the father of nine children and grandfather to fifteen.

For more information, visit PICO4COLORADO16.COM
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Thursday, September 19, 2019

Update: Local GOP in turmoil as 2020 approaches

Posted By on Thu, Sep 19, 2019 at 10:30 AM

Vice Chairman Tony Gioia - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Vice Chairman Tony Gioia
UPDATE:
Tony Gioia tells the Independent a different version of events from the Sept. 12 vacancy committee meeting than was described by party secretary Vickie Tonkins in an email to Central Committee members.

He says the election of a vice chair resulted in him being elected by a vote of 19 to 18 over Tonkins. But the ballot packets consisted of two blue ballots and one orange ballot, stapled together, designed to accommodate multiple balloting efforts in case a first ballot didn't result in a winner.

The sole orange ballot cast was turned in stapled to the two blue ballots, so there was no fraud.

Gioia says three executive committee members, including Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman, made sure each ballot was counted properly and it was clear who the person casting the orange ballot wanted to vote for.

The intent at the Sept. 12 meeting was to elect a vice chair; that would immediately be followed by an election to elevate the vice chair to acting chair until a Central Committee vote could be held to elect a chairperson.

When Tonkins wasn't elected vice chair, "her supporters went into a tizzy" and decided not to conduct a vote on elevating the vice chair to the chairmanship, Gioia says.

Now, the State Executive Committee will decide on Saturday whether Gioia was or was not elected as vice chair at the Sept. 12 vacancy committee meeting.

If he was, Gioia will set up a Central Committee meeting in October for election of a chair, for which he intends to run.

If he's deemed not to have been elected vice chair, Tonkins — as the sole elected party officer — will set up the Central Committee meeting. But Gioia says he still intends to run for the chair post.

We asked Tonkins about all that, and received this explanation via email:
The issue is not intent the issue is one individual did not follow clearly given instructions! I have no idea who used the incorrect ballot all I know is of 37 voting members, all heard the clear instructions (given multiple times) and the reason for the different color ballots!

With that said, the voter did not follow the instructions. This was brought to the attention of those in charge both in the counting room and by myself. It should have been brought back to the body for a re-vote. If that orange ballot would have had my name on it, I would have asked for a re-vote because any reasonable person could see this was not appropriate!

Others of the committee saw this and felt they had to contact the state, I did not contact the state, and their voices should be heard!

This is unfortunate but to say it is right for any of us to not follow instructions and do our own thing is a problem at best and dangerous at worst.
—————-ORIGINAL POST 12:42 P.M. WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 18, 2019—————————-

In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, the El Paso County's Republican stronghold lacks leadership and recently set aside an election for a chairperson due to voting irregularities.

The election was made necessary by the Aug. 28 resignation of County Republican Party Chairwoman Tamra Farah and the earlier departure of Vice-Chairwoman Mary Bradfield. Farah said in a resignation letter she had met with "opposition to my chairmanship within our central committee," which she termed "deeply disappointing," according to Colorado Politics. The disruption comes at a time when the party hopes to stave off an unseating of U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and re-elect Donald Trump for a second presidential term in 2020.

A Sept. 12 meeting of the party's executive committee to elect a temporary acting chairperson "failed to reach a conclusion due to balloting discrepancies," party secretary Vickie Tonkins wrote in a Sept. 16 message to Central Committee members.

"As the only properly elected party officer left, the responsibility has fallen to me to work with you to rebuild our party and avert further turmoil," Tonkins wrote. "Unfortunately, there are more problems surfacing as the fallout from these resignations continues to develop."
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After the failed vote on Sept. 12, she says, the state GOP is reviewing a formal challenge to that election report, which she said was submitted by fellow committee members.

Two people sought the chair position. Tony Gioia, which the GOP website identifies as the currently serving vice chair, is a local realtor and unsuccessful 2019 candidate for a Colorado Springs City Council at-large seat. He received one more vote than a challenger, who Tonkins didn't name in her letter. But that vote wasn't an authorized ballot for that election, she said. The legitimate ballots were blue, while the ineligible ballot cast was orange.

So the results had to be tossed.

"The only conclusions to draw are someone cast an improper ballot or worse, somebody may have voted twice," Tonkins wrote. "Either way, the proper results should have been an 18 to 18 tie then triggering another round of voting, which unfortunately didn’t happen."

Thus, Tonkins said she will call a new election of the Central Committee.

"This type of approach, respecting the rule of law, is the only way we can have unity going into a critical election year, because it is no secret that El Paso County will be a linchpin in ensuring the reelection of President Trump and Senator Gardner," she said.

According to the party's bylaws, the meeting requires 30 days notice. 

We've reached out to Gioia and Tonkins and will update when we hear from them.
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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Efforts to recall Lee, Pettersen fail

Posted By on Wed, Sep 11, 2019 at 11:52 AM

Sen. Pete Lee - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Sen. Pete Lee
The recall efforts against Colorado Sens. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, have ended in failure, after organizers told the Colorado Secretary of State's Office they will not turn in signatures seeking special elections.

Neither senator — each of whom won a 2018 election by a large margin — faced allegations of ethical or legal violations; instead, organizers said they disagreed with their votes on key bills.

Gov. Jared Polis welcomed news that the recalls had failed, saying in a press release:

Coloradans are tired of political games and I am pleased to see these sideshows have failed. Senator Pettersen and Senator Lee are dedicated public servants who work hard every single day for their constituents and their communities. They have served as thoughtful and strong partners in our administration’s efforts to address the opioid crisis and reform our broken criminal justice system. This announcement simply reiterates that Coloradans are not interested in divisive politics and distractions that take away from the pressing needs of our state like improving education, solving traffic problems and saving money on health care. Coloradans want real results and that is what I believe — regardless of political affiliation — we can continue to deliver, together.
Colorado Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carroll was more cutting in her statement:

Considering that both Senators Lee and Pettersen won their 2018 elections overwhelmingly by double digits, it is hardly surprising the sore losers running these sham recalls are throwing in the towel. As has been the case with the previous failed recalls, this was never about their votes. These were far-right activists who are upset they lost so badly in 2018 and were desperate for a redo through these ridiculous recalls. The people of SD11 and SD22 saw through this sham, which is exactly why they rejected this cynical effort to overthrow their 2018 votes.

The announcements are the latest in a string of failures by conservative activists, some with strong ties to the state's Republican Party, against Democratic officials. Activists failed to collect the 631,266 signatures needed to force a special election recalling Polis by the Sept. 6 deadline. Organizers likewise withdrew earlier efforts to recall state Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, and Rep. Rochelle Galindo, D-Greeley, the latter after she resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations.

The recall effort against Lee needed 11,304 valid signatures by Sept. 10, and Pettersen's needed 18,376 by Sept. 16. Technically, the Pettersen recall effort is still active, but the Secretary of State's Office says recall organizers have said they will not turn in signatures.

Notably, no signatures have been turned in for any recall effort.

Only state Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, still faces a recall effort. Organizers need 13,506 valid signatures by Oct. 18 to force a recall election.
Sen. Brittany Pettersen - BRITTANY PETTERSEN CAMPAIGN
  • Brittany Pettersen Campaign
  • Sen. Brittany Pettersen
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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

10 local stories making headlines this week

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

GRIBOV ANDREI ALEKSANDROVICH / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Gribov Andrei Aleksandrovich / Shutterstock.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sen. Gardner defends SAFE Banking Act for cannabis industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Locals protest inhumane immigration detention centers, raids

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

PHOTOS BY LILY REAVIS
  • Photos by Lily Reavis
Chants of “No hate, no fear; immigrants are welcome here,” echoed through the streets of downtown Colorado Springs on Friday, July 12, as over 200 people attended the city’s Lights for Liberty protest.
The event happened the same day the Trump administration announced that large-scale immigration raids were planned for 10 major cities, including Denver, starting on July 14. That never materialized; however, a small number of coordinated federal raids targeting undocumented migrant parents and their children launched Sunday, July 14, The New York Times reported. 
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The Friday demonstration was one of nearly 800 that took place across the world in protest of inhumane living conditions faced by migrants in the United States. “Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps” is the self-defined human rights coalition responsible for organizing the international protests.
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The event began at 7 p.m. outside of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, 27 E. Vermijo Ave. A diverse group of protesters joined the march, including mothers and their young children, students from University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and roughly a dozen members of High Plains Unitarian Universalist Church (HPUUC).
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Jerima King, an immigration activist who was arrested in June 2018 while protesting family separation laws, spoke about her time volunteering at shelters in Laredo, Texas

“Who are these detainees? They are people so desperate that they cross rivers and deserts and turn themselves in to border patrol,” she said. “People are crossing [the border] on their own because they are not allowed to petition for asylum at points of entry.”
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Another speaker, Sanda Dangle, said: “We can’t be quiet anymore. We need to fight what’s going on.”

The protesters marched north up Tejon Street, eventually turning east on Platte Avenue and looping back to the sheriff’s office via Nevada and Vermijo avenues. Several passing cars showed their support by honking their horns and cheering, though others expressed their disagreement with Lights for Liberty.
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The demonstration ended with a candlelight vigil and final speakers outside of the sheriff’s office. During the vigil, a volunteer read the names of migrants who have died while in U.S. custody at the border.

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

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

Conservation Colorado grades state lawmakers on environmental issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Rep. Terri Carver (R): 15

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

• Rep. Tony Exum (D): 100

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

• Rep. Tim Geitner (R): 0

Geitner opposed all of the bills.

• Rep. Lois Landgraf (R): 8

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

• Rep. Larry Liston (R): 15

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

• Rep. Shane Sandridge (R): 0

Sandridge opposed all of the bills.

• Rep. Marc Snyder (D): 100

Snyder voted for all of the bills.

• Rep. Dave Williams (R): 0

Williams opposed all of the bills.

• Sen. Bob Gardner (R): 8

Gardner opposed all of the bills except HB 1264.

• Sen. Owen Hill (R): 8

Hill opposed all of the bills except HB 1264.

• Sen. Dennis Hisey (R): 17

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

• Sen. Pete Lee (D): 100

Lee voted for all of the bills.

• Rep. Paul Lundeen (R): 8

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

Deputy DA Michael Allen announcing candidacy July 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

CNN reports that according to ICE data, deportations increased about 13 percent between fiscal years 2017 and 2018, when 256,085 people were deported. In 2012, Barack Obama's administration deported more than 400,000 people.
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