Friday, December 7, 2018

Sheriff Elder loses court case regarding ICE holds

Posted By on Fri, Dec 7, 2018 at 12:35 PM

The Criminal Justice Center in El Paso County can't legally hold people for ICE authorities who are entitled to post bond, completed their sentences or otherwise resolved their criminal cases, a judge ruled Dec. 6. - COURTESY EPSO
  • Courtesy EPSO
  • The Criminal Justice Center in El Paso County can't legally hold people for ICE authorities who are entitled to post bond, completed their sentences or otherwise resolved their criminal cases, a judge ruled Dec. 6.
El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder lost a court case on Dec. 6 when a state district judge ruled against his contention that he could legally hold people in jail at the request of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Judge Eric Bentley had previously issued a permanent injunction in March against Elder to bar him from holding inmates for ICE. Elder sought to appeal that ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

The ruling issued on Dec. 6 is an order granting the ACLU of Colorado's motion for summary judgment, laying to rest the issue locally. However, Bentley notes in his ruling the lawsuit is a "case of first impression," meaning there's no precedent. In fact, Elder and the Teller County Sheriff's Office were the only ones in Colorado to continue ICE holds after the ACLU asked them not to. The Teller County case is pending after a different judge ruled in favor of the sheriff.

Hence, Bentley writes, "Resolution of one of these cases by a higher court is needed in order to provide certainty in this area to Colorado’s sheriffs and the immigrant population."

Jackie Kirby, spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office, tells the Indy, "We have not held any detainees in the jail since the March injunction and do plan to appeal." She says that will be the only statement from the office.

Meantime, the ACLU is heralding Bentley's decision as a win, and issued this news release:

DENVER – State District Court Judge Eric Bentley issued a final ruling last night barring El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder from holding people in jail at the request of federal immigration enforcement (ICE) after they have posted bond, completed their sentence, or otherwise resolved their criminal case.

“In issuing a very thorough final ruling that concludes the proceedings in state district court, Judge Bentley explained that Colorado sheriffs have no legal authority to enforce federal immigration law by holding individuals at the request of ICE,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “The court ruled that when individuals have posted bond or resolved their criminal case, sheriffs have a clear legal duty to release them.”

ACLU of Colorado filed a class action lawsuit last February arguing that Sheriff Elder had unlawfully imprisoned dozens of individuals for days, weeks, and even months, without a warrant, without probable cause of a crime, and without any other valid legal authority, solely on the ground that ICE suspected that they were subject to deportation.

In March, Judge Bentley issued a preliminary injunction finding that the prisoners held by Sheriff Elder would suffer irreparable harm by continuing to forfeit their liberty while the case proceeded. The court later certified the case as a class action. Last night’s ruling makes the injunction permanent and orders Sheriff Elder to cease the illegal practice of holding prisoners for ICE. It also declares that Sheriff Elder’s practices violate three separate provisions of the Colorado Constitution.

“Beyond finding that holding individuals for ICE is unconstitutional, the court also noted a complete lack of evidence to support Sheriff Elder’s claim that the practice promotes public safety,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Arash Jahanian. “The court cited a declaration by the Colorado legislature that public trust is undermined when local law enforcement agencies participate in federal immigration enforcement. Members of the community do not report crimes when they fear it will lead to detention and deportation rather than protection. Local law enforcement’s participation in ICE’s deportation scheme harms, not promotes, public safety.”

In 2014, ACLU of Colorado wrote to Colorado sheriffs explaining that when they hold a prisoner on the basis of ICE detainer requests, they are making a new arrest, without legal authority. The ACLU then negotiated a $30,000 settlement with Arapahoe County on behalf of Claudia Valdez, a domestic violence victim who was held for three days after a judge ordered her release because the jail honored a detainer request from ICE.

Within a few months, every Colorado sheriff receiving the ACLU letter declared that they would not hold prisoners for ICE without a warrant signed by a judge. By the end of 2016, more than 500 state and local law enforcement agencies around the country were declining to hold prisoners on the basis of ICE immigration detainers and ICE administrative warrants.

In 2017, the sheriffs in El Paso County and Teller County broke from the other sheriffs in the state and began honoring detainer requests again. ACLU of Colorado filed lawsuits against both counties. The lawsuit against Teller County is currently pending.

In addition to Silverstein and Jahanian, the legal team includes ACLU Cooperating Attorney Steve Masciocchi of Holland & Hart, LLP. 
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Governor-elect Polis announces top staffers

Posted By on Thu, Dec 6, 2018 at 2:16 PM

Colorado's next governor is choosing top staff, and none hail from Colorado Springs. - COURTESY POLIS CAMPAIGN
  • Courtesy Polis campaign
  • Colorado's next governor is choosing top staff, and none hail from Colorado Springs.
Here's what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket, called the Republican Party.

When the Democrats swept all statewide constitutional office on Nov. 6, it left Bright Red El Paso County out in the cold, as demonstrated by this first round of staffing announcements made by Governor-Elect Jared Polis, just released:

Eve Lieberman: Chief Policy Advisor and Legislative Counsel
Eve Lieberman, currently Chief of Staff to Congressman Jared Polis’ congressional office, will continue to be a close confidant of Gov.-Elect Polis while serving as top advisor on his legislative and policy agenda. She will also serve as the administration’s lead for policy and legislative efforts, including managing the legislative and policy departments.

Cary Kennedy: Senior Advisor for Fiscal Policy
Former State Treasurer and CFO of Denver, Cary Kennedy will be charged with looking for long-term creative fiscal policy solutions—a role she is uniquely qualified to hold and has demonstrated success for the City of Denver.

David Oppenheim: Legislative Director
Most recently state director of State Innovation Exchange (SIX) and previous Chief of Staff to the House Democrats for two separate Speakers, David will lead the day-to-day legislative team and brings with him extensive legislative experience.

Wade Buchanan: Policy Director
Wade will be reviving the role he fulfilled for Gov. Romer as policy director, having most recently served as Gov. Hickenlooper’s senior advisor on Aging. Prior, he lead the Bell Policy Center for more than 15 years. Wade brings an unparalleled breadth of policy and institutional knowledge to the team.

Maria De Cambra: Director of Communications and Community Engagement
Maria is the former Mayor Pro-Tem of Westminster’s City Council and Managing Director at the Campaign for a Strong Colorado. Most recently, she was Senior Associate at prominent public affairs firm, Hilltop Public Solutions. Maria will be leading the Gov.’s communications and outreach strategy.

Kate Siegel Shimko: Director of Boards and Commissions
Kate is a longtime staffer to Congressman Jared Polis, serving as his national finance director for the past seven years. She joins the team with a keen awareness of the administration’s network and its goals.

Danielle Oliveto: Deputy Chief of Staff
Danielle rejoins the Polis team after a four-year hiatus working as a sustainability advocate in San Francisco. Prior, she worked on Congressman Jared Polis’ campaigns and in his congressional office in various roles since 2008.

Jacki Cooper Melmed: Chief Legal Counsel
Jacki Cooper Melmed will continue to serve the Polis Administration in the role she has fulfilled for the Hickenlooper Administration since 2015. Prior to public service in the Gov.’s office, she gained extensive legal experience at Shoemaker, Ghiselli + Schwartz, and Hogan & Hartson, LLP. Jacki also served as a law clerk for the Honorable Michael Bender in the Colorado Supreme Court.

Lauren Larson: Director of the Office of State Planning and Budgeting
Lauren will continue serving as the director of OSPB, a role she has fulfilled since July for the Hickenlooper Administration. Prior, she managed a $50 billion budget at the White House Office of Management and Budget where she was Chief of the Treasury Branch under Presidents Bush and Obama. Prior to her work in public service, Lauren was an economist at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Xcel Energy draws praise for aggressive pursuit of renewables

Posted By on Thu, Dec 6, 2018 at 11:11 AM

On Dec. 6, the Platte River Power Authority did one better than Xcel when its board of directors voted to set a goal for a 100-percent non-carbon resource mix by 2030.

All four of PRPA's owner municipalities support the zero-carbon goal. Those include the cities of Longmont, Fort Collins, Estes Park and Loveland.

“We applaud PRPA for hearing the voices of people from across Northern Colorado who are ready to be powered by 100 percent clean electricity. This statement of values from PRPA is encouraging as the utility starts its long term energy planning, and we will continue to voice our vision throughout that planning process for Northern Colorado to shift away from fossil fuels and embrace clean, renewable electricity,” Kevin Cross with the Fort Collins Sustainability Group said in a release.

————ORIGINAL POST: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 —————

Xcel Energy, which provides power to customers in eight states, including Colorado, announced on Dec. 4 a
Xcel Energy says the future is in the sun and wind. - SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Xcel Energy says the future is in the sun and wind.
commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050 from the baseline emissions of 2005.

The ambitious targets — Xcel is the first major interstate utility in the nation to set such lofty goals — immediately drew praise from conservationists, including a solar power entrepreneur whose business originated in Colorado Springs.

David Amster-Olszewski, founder and CEO of SunShare, now based in Denver, issued a statement calling Xcel's plan "a huge win for consumers, the solar industry, and the environment."

"We congratulate and commend our partners at Xcel for their bold vision," his statement said. "SunShare has helped build the community solar programs in Colorado and Minnesota, the nation's first and largest, both of which are part of Xcel’s service area."

David Amster-Olszewski calls Xcel's plan "a bold vision." - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • David Amster-Olszewski calls Xcel's plan "a bold vision."
Xcel serves 1.4 million electricity customers and 1.3 million natural gas customers in Colorado. Other states in which it provides power are Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.

The move toward zero emissions exceeds goals set by the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan, which the Trump Administration has rejected, opting instead to promote coal.

Zach Pierce, the Sierra Club’s senior campaign representative for the Beyond Coal Campaign in Colorado, hailed Xcel's announcement as "good for business, job creation, our health and the environment."

He noted the company is replacing coal plants with solar, wind and battery storage, which ultimately will save customers millions of dollars on energy bills and bring investment to communities in Colorado.

As we reported last year, there's a strong movement toward renewables to save the planet, despite the current administration's aversion to clean energy.

Meantime, in Colorado Springs, city-owned Colorado Springs Utilities still relies on coal and natural gas for a good chunk of its power and hasn't targeted renewables with as much vigor as Xcel.

"In the next few years, we will be adding almost 250 megawatts of solar energy plus battery storage to our portfolio, bringing our carbon-free energy mix to more than 20 percent," Utilities' energy acquisition engineering and planning general manager John Romero said in a statement.

He noted the utility has launched an initiative to create a new "Energy Vision" for its customers that "incorporates the protection of our natural resources, supports clean energy and transportation, builds a more resilient system and empowers energy choice."

The new vision plan is in the making and seeks community input that will guide the city's 2020 Energy Integrated Resource Plan.

All that said, the Utilities Board, comprised of City Council, has decided to keep the downtown coal-fired Drake Power Plant churning until 2035, though some board members want to hasten its closure.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

"Quarry" homeless camp targeted for cleanup by City

Posted By on Wed, Dec 5, 2018 at 5:27 PM

Dozens of campers living in the "Quarry" camp southeast of downtown must leave by Dec. 11, according to a Dec. 3. statement from the city.

The camp, a large portion of which encompasses land where nonprofit Concrete Couch plans to build its new headquarters, exploded in recent months as police conducted sweeps in nearby areas, Steve Wood, Concrete Couch's director, told the Indy recently.

The city and Colorado Springs Police Department, in partnership with local nonprofits, planned to conduct a Service Provider Outreach Day on Dec. 5 in hopes of providing campers with resources to help them find shelter and eventually exit homelessness.

While city officials and Mayor John Suthers have opposed self-governing campsites as a solution to homelessness issues, the Quarry has proliferated on private land for years. The recent move by the city is probably tied to the addition of 150 new low-barrier shelter beds at Springs Rescue Mission, which will open Dec. 10, the day before campers must leave.

"I can tell you that the private property owners have asked us to assist them in encouraging people to leave," says Lt. Michael Lux, who leads the police Homeless Outreach Team (HOT). "We were involved with this months ago, monitoring it, watching it, even though it’s not city property, it’s private property. But we had some issues with one parcel of the property that the attorneys for the city were working on contacting the owners that were not in the city. And they were working on that. So that led to us holding off and not to move forward with moving people until this time."

Many homeless people prefer to camp outdoors versus staying in shelters. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Many homeless people prefer to camp outdoors versus staying in shelters.
Recent publicity about the Quarry may have also served to draw further attention to the campsite, which is illegal per city zoning requirements.

Wood and his colleagues at Concrete Couch had hoped the site could serve as transitional housing for campers before the nonprofit opened its new headquarters. However, the number of campers on the site increased rapidly before Concrete Couch could close on the property, and Wood acknowledged even this summer that such a vision, which would involve imposing rules such as sobriety requirements and cleaning duties, would be difficult to see through.

At a town hall Nov. 15 to discuss the city's Homelessness Action Plan, at least one person who had lived in the Quarry was present. He and a handful of others asked city officials to allow campers to remain there legally.

"My question is why can’t the city allocate some land, a campsite, where maybe the [police Homeless Outreach Team] can come through, if your campsite is not clean you cannot be there?" asked Brandon Robbins, who called himself the Quarry's "longest-standing tenant."

"The shelter is not always for everyone," Robbins said. "It actually makes people’s anxiety worse, their mental illness worse, and you don’t get treated the right way sometimes, and so we say, 'You guys, we’re out. We’re going to go camp.' And yeah, there’s certain spots you can’t camp. Those are the people you need to take care of. But where we’re at we police ourselves in the best manner we can."

But city officials, as in the past, seemed unlikely to consider such a proposal.

Staff research shows "legal encampments that have been successful have been just as expensive, if not more expensive to run, as just adding shelter beds" due to security costs, replied Andrew Phelps, the city's homelessness prevention and response coordinator. "The reason that we’re adding shelter beds is that the services are already there. We have nonprofits in our community that are stretched thin. The case managers are stretched thin. They don’t have the time to get out to the camps, so it’s easier and it’s cheaper to just add the beds."

City Councilor Richard Skorman said he thought there "could be possibilities" for legal encampments in the future.

"Personally, I’m not opposed to small encampments that are well-managed," he said at the town hall. "I know they did this at Rocky Top [Resources] and there was 55 campsites there...It was very clean. They had their own security. They worked with the stormwater folks to build their latrines and the county took it away. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t look into that, but there is skepticism from some bad examples out there."

Lux says campers responded well to the outreach day Dec. 5. Around 30 received hepatitis A vaccinations, important in light of an increase in reported cases of the liver infection in El Paso County. Others, he says, connected with nonprofits that could help them find housing and other resources.

"I liked all the providers coming together," Lux says, "...and on the way out they said, 'Let’s do it again. If you get another large camp, this is the way to do it.' And I said, 'That’s great.' The city wants to do things the best way we can for all the citizens and this just seems reasonable.'"

While the city only requires police to give campers 24 hours notice to move, Lux noted that in this particular situation, with 100-plus campers, giving them more time was the "right thing to do."

Lux says that campers who are unwilling to move by Dec. 11 could be prosecuted for trespassing, but anticipates most will voluntarily leave.

Read the city's statement on Service Provider Outreach Day at the Quarry:

City, CSPD to Convene Service Providers Ahead of Quarry Camp Cleanup
Wednesday Morning Gathering Intended to Direct Campers to Shelters, Services

A week before the posted clean-up date for the “Quarry” camp southeast of downtown, the City of Colorado Springs, together with the Colorado Springs Police Department, have coordinated an outreach event aimed at connecting individuals experiencing homelessness with local non-profits which offer shelter, counseling, health care and mental or substance abuse assistance.

“We are fortunate in Colorado Springs to have a number of well-qualified agencies that are prepared to offer services that can make a difference,” said Andrew Phelps, homelessness outreach and prevention coordinator for the City of Colorado Springs. “I’ve said before that camping is not a safe or dignified option, nor is it a legal one. By connecting the campers at the Quarry with qualified service providers, we hope we can get people out of the elements and connect them with services that can actually set them on the path to permanent housing.”

Among the non-profits providing outreach on Wednesday are the Salvation Army and the Springs Rescue Mission, which are working together to add a combined 320 additional low barrier shelter beds. The Rescue Mission’s 150 new beds will open on December 10. The camp has been posted for cleanup on December 11.

Other non-profits participating are Aspen Pointe, Catholic Charities, Coalition for Compassion and Action, the Community Health Partnership, the El Paso County Department of Human Services, Homeward Pikes Peak, Peak Vista, RMHS Homes for All Veterans, Urban Peak and Westside Cares.

Also, in the wake of the announcement from the State Health Department, the El Paso Department of Public Health will be in attendance offering Hepatitis A vaccinations to anyone who may have been exposed to the virus, which has recently appeared in the community.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , ,

Colorado Springs Utilities seeks ratepayer feedback

Posted By on Wed, Dec 5, 2018 at 12:30 PM

An aerial view of the Edward Bailey Water Treatment Plant while  under construction in 2014. It's part of the city's Southern Delivery System water pipeline project. - COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities
  • An aerial view of the Edward Bailey Water Treatment Plant while under construction in 2014. It's part of the city's Southern Delivery System water pipeline project.
The biggest local government operation — Colorado Springs Utilities, with a $978.3 million budget this year — seeks community feedback for its new annual strategic plan, which seeks to:

• Analyze regulatory and legislative drivers
• Evaluate customer expectations
• Assess risks to the organization and community
• Integrate resource planning and robust conversation
• Communicate and cascade strategic planning principles to plan, finance and fund budget and annual operating plan components

Utilities Board Chair Tom Strand issued the following letter to the community, encouraging ratepayers to take part in the strategic plan process. Board meetings are held on the 5th floor of the south tower in the Plaza of the Rockies building downtown.
Colorado Springs is fortunate to operate its own community-owned utility. This means that our customers have a say in how their utility operates and plans to provide service in the future.

Right now, our Colorado Springs Utilities Board and CEO Aram Benyamin are updating the utility’s strategic plan. We are reaching out to you asking for your insight, suggestions and ideas on this important utility roadmap to improving utility performance and meeting the expectations of our customers.

The plan focuses on many areas directly impacting utility services, rates, reliability and our local environment, from electric transmission projects and renewable energy development to regional water projects and the modernization of utility infrastructure.

Every component of the strategic plan has the potential to reshape how utility services are delivered to you in the future. That’s something our entire community can get excited about.

The Utilities Board and Colorado Springs Utilities would like your input on the draft strategic plan. Please read the plan and provide comments at CSU.ORG. Our Board will discuss the draft at the December 17 Board meeting and consider adopting the plan at our January 16 Board meeting.

Thank you for your involvement.
Tom Strand
  • Favorite

Tags: , ,

Sheriff Bill Elder eyes partnerships for dispatch, evidence storage

Posted By on Wed, Dec 5, 2018 at 11:14 AM

Sheriff Elder looks ahead toward potential partnerships. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Sheriff Elder looks ahead toward potential partnerships.
El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, elected to his second term on Nov. 6, has big ideas for the coming four years.

In a memo to all personnel obtained by the Independent through a records request, Elder wants to reach out to regional partners to form a regional dispatch center and regional evidence storage, as we reported in this week's issue.

Colorado Springs Police Department spokesperson Lt. Howard Black tells the Indy via email, "There is no direction of establishing a regional evidence center." He also says the city's evidence storage is not full.

As for sharing dispatch, Black says there's "only been conversation. No plan in place."

So it looks like the sheriff has his work cut out for him.

But that's not all. The memo also outlines additional projects to include a video visitation upgrade at the Criminal Justice Center, as well as options for using the sprung structure previously housing the detox unit next to the jail, and enhanced front desk security, cameras and door locks, among other things.

The memo also outlines personnel changes, including a change for Elder's Chief of Staff Janet Huffor, and others.

Elder's office refused to discuss the memo, saying it "speaks for itself."

Read the entire memo here:

  • Favorite

Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Paying for college in Colorado is tough, new analysis shows

Posted By on Tue, Dec 4, 2018 at 7:10 PM

How do you determine whether a higher education institution is affordable? According to the Lumina Foundation's "Rule of 10," students should be able to pay for college by saving 10 percent of their discretionary income for 10 years, and working 10 hours a week while in school.

Sounds reasonable enough, right? But only 52 percent of Colorado's universities are affordable by that definition, according to a new analysis based on statewide median household incomes for college students.

The analysis — conducted by the Lumina Foundation, a private foundation with the goal of expanding access to higher education, and Young Invincibles, a policy research and advocacy organization — applied the net prices of Colorado's institutions (cost of attendance minus grant aid) to the Rule of 10 to determine affordability for different groups of students.

According to the analysis, none of Colorado's institutions are affordable for students with housing insecurity, defined as those spending more than 35 percent of household income on rent. Eight percent of institutions are affordable for student parents and returning students, and 12 percent are affordable for student workers, the analysis found.

The median net cost of attending a four-year school in Colorado is $18,831 a year, the report found.

In order to afford that per the Rule of 10, you'd have to earn at least $18.11 an hour, or $37,660 a year, in discretionary income.

That's assuming you save 10 percent of your extra income for 10 years, work 10 hours a week during school, and contribute all of your discretionary income during school to your education.

Seeing as the state minimum wage is $10.20, that might be hard to do without a college degree.
And the least affordable private school in Colorado, the University of Denver, costs nearly twice that — $32,940 a year. The least affordable public school is Colorado School of Mines, at $25,097.

Colorado Mountain College had the most affordable net cost at $3,297 a year. The most affordable private school, Johnson & Wales University- Denver, costs $23,765.

How does Colorado compare to other states? While Young Invincibles doesn't have an overarching national analysis, it published fact sheets on Illinois and California the same day Colorado's were posted.

Young Invincibles considers 38 percent of California's institutions to be affordable for those making the student household median income, and only 27 percent of Illinois'. The median net cost of attending a four-year school is $18,989 in California and $27,708 in Illinois.

So, Colorado may not be all that bad...?
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , ,

Friday, November 30, 2018

Scientist Trish Zornio mulls run against Cory Gardner

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2018 at 4:46 PM

Trish Zornio wants scientists in politics. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Trish Zornio wants scientists in politics.
Trish Zornio knows unseating Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner as a relative unknown and political first-timer is a long shot.

It's partly for that reason that the 33-year-old science lecturer says she embarked on a 64-county "exploratory tour" of Colorado to determine whether a grassroots campaign could be successful.

Zornio, who teaches behavioral neuroscience at the University of Denver, says the moment that triggered her decision to run for office came when she sat in the audience of a Senate hearing on automated technology while on a work trip to Washington, D.C., several years ago.

"I had this moment of realization where I realized there wasn't a single scientist on that panel," Zornio said at an event Nov. 28. "I set about asking the question, Can we incorporate scientists into elected offices and can we bring in different types of expertise to a place that has typically been reserved for people of different backgrounds in more of the law and more of business. So can we actually put scientists on the science committee?

Zornio has already hit 60 counties — which she points out many candidates don't even bother to do. Should she decide to run, she faces an uphill battle against Gardner, who reportedly already has $1 million on hand for his next campaign, and a pool of Democratic candidates that could include Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran, former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Gov. John Hickenlooper. (So far, just one candidate, nonprofit director Lorena Garcia, has announced plans to run.)

Zornio answers questions from audience members at Library 21c on Nov. 28. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Zornio answers questions from audience members at Library 21c on Nov. 28.

On her Nov. 28 tour stop at Colorado Springs' Library 21c, Zornio answered questions from audience members about her stances on various issues. Here's a few questions and answers (edited for brevity) so you can get to know her:

Jack Heiss: Through the passage of a recent I think ill-informed tax cut and what amounts to a drunk sailor budget that were passed, we're pushing trillion dollar ... deficits. The dollar won't take it for very long...We got to fix this now. What do you say, how do you fix this without losing an election?

This is very personal to me. Because unlike many of the people who are making the decisions in office today, I will be here for 60 years hopefully, and I'm going to have to be part of that economy that's struggling as a result… One thing in particular that I would really like to see is that we have a comprehensive understanding of where the money is actually going and that we can actually vet for the way it's being spent currently, because sometimes there are aspects of the budget that are not being monitored in that same sort of way, in military especially. That's not to suggest that I want to cut in any sort of way security or anything like that, but I do want to address how we are spending those military funds, and then I also want to address health care.

Jacob Foreman: Would you in Congress support ... talk of a policy called the "Green New Deal" ... [to] enact a New Deal kind of economic policy to put Americans to work in clean energy jobs and help to transform our economy?

Absolutely we need to vigorously address infrastructure needs… So we talk a lot about the need to move to say electric vehicles or to move to renewable energies like solar and wind and such. What we don't often remember to talk about is right now our national grid structure is not actually set up to be able to go fully renewable, and we need to invest in the research to have battery storage and transmission lines that will actually be able to accommodate that kind of renewable energy and the output — being able, so like when it is not sunny in an area that you have battery storage such that people can still use active power at the rates that they are accustomed to... We also have to take it a step further. It's not just transportation and energy sectors. It's everything from single-use plastics [to] textile productions.

Pam Lively: Are you prepared to fight an ugly campaign? Because your potential opponent is not a nice person and is backed by dirty money.

I've actually met Sen. Gardner... I have to say, we differ immensely on policy stances and the way that we would probably do things in office, but actually he is a nice person. We had a great chat and his family is wonderful... A lot of people have asked me, actually, “Do you have thick skin?”... And truthfully, I don't. I'm human, just like every other one of you here. And quite frankly, I'm very happy about that. If I don't, if I have skin that is so thick that I'm immune to what anyone says, I don't think I would be a very good representative... I also have spent three years preparing and having conversations on what this would look like. I am definitely aware of the things that happen on campaigns. And that's not the fun part, but I think it's the necessary thing to have to deal with, and I plan to surround myself with people who would help me get past that sort of stuff if we go this route.

Danette Tritch: What do you see as what our health care system's ready for, and what would you be advocating for in terms of health care?

You have a health care system that needs to service over 325 million people. That's a very complex, advanced system and change is not going to happen immediately, and it's one of the things that if we want to actually achieve this, we need to be systematic in approach but still swift in approach… Comprehensive medical programs actually at large have to start with one thing. And it cannot be for-profit on basic medical procedures. It cannot. I've worked in hospitals, you do not have the luxury, if you're having a heart attack, [to say], “Please give me the list of providers for the free-market approach to my health care.” You don't get to do that. So the base and the core value is everyone needs to have access, because we've made that decision already… The emergency department is open for anyone regardless of your ability to pay. Let's do it the economically and more preventative way, right? So let's make sure that everyone has access, and let's make sure that we do it in a way that is thoughtful. And what I mean by that is that it's probably a combination of some of these systems... There's probably an element of single-payer, but with a capitalistic overlay…There's probably an ability to expand Medicare… We want to expand it to things like really strong mental health services, preventative care, eyes… We have a whole team of people ... and we're analyzing some of this information right now, and we're going to roll out a two-, a five-, and a 10-year plan on what this would look like.

Stephany Rose Spaulding (former Democratic House candidate): In the last two years or so our Supreme Court has been hijacked from us. As a member of Congress, do you support the expansion of the Supreme Court, or what alternatives might you propose to level out the Supreme Court? And even other federal courts, because we see it happening still across the board. The decks are stacked.

We're two years out, hypothetically, and there's some things underway that could potentially change what happens between now and then, so it does make that a little more challenging to address what is the best option, say, in 2020. One of the things that I was interested in though is that the [American Bar Association] and a number of lawyers have actually come out against the recent nomination, wondering if that was actually out of character... So I'm curious to see if one of the things that shakes out is whether or not we can actually challenge that particular nomination.

Jillian Freeland: Related to Justice Kavanaugh, can you speak to the MeToo movement, holding our politicians who have been accused of sexual assault accountable?

A lot of people have asked me, what was the thing that ultimately is getting me here… So before MeToo … about a year, year and a half, or something, I actually filed my first harassment and retaliation claim with HR of the place where I was working, and I'd never done that before, and it was terrifying. And the first thing that they told me at HR was, “Are you sure you want to do that? He's a pretty notable person here. He brings in a lot of money.” And I said, “Excuse me?” And then I was actively encouraged not to report. I was actively encouraged to find another job that better suited me... It's actually one of the things that I'm waiting for MeToo to hit, is the academic and medical scene... When I made this file with HR the retaliation actually worsened, and it got to the point where this person had repeatedly told me so many times that I needed to learn my place... About the sixth time he told me to learn my place, and I had this moment when I realized, “Oh my goodness, he's right.” And it clicked. And I went, “It's not working for men like you.” ... That was literally the thing that made me [start] this, because I realized right away, he's right, I shouldn't be working with men like that. Absolutely. Yes to investigations, yes to clearing house, absolutely.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Fountain settles two discrimination claims, deputy police chief retires

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2018 at 4:45 PM

City of Fountain has settled more legal actions alleging discrimination. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • City of Fountain has settled more legal actions alleging discrimination.
The city of Fountain has made deals to pay two former police officers money after both submitted notices saying they planning to sue for constructive discharge based on gender and racial discrimination, according to the agreements obtained through a records request.

In addition, Deputy Chief Tommy Coates, who claimants said took part in forcing out several police officers who are members of protected classes due to race or gender, will retire Dec. 7, according to a letter also obtained through a records request.

The actions come after the Independent published a story on Oct. 17, which included this sidebar, outlining the legal problems the city faces regarding a sort of house-cleaning carried out by Fountain's Police Chief and Public Safety Director Chris Heberer.

From the Oct. 17 report:
So far, four cops and a firefighter have filed claims against the city of Fountain, a precursor to a lawsuit, according to records obtained by the Independent through open records requests and sources. The firefighter remains on the job, and one police officer is on administrative leave. The others are gone and have yet to be replaced.

The casualty list also includes a black officer who served more than a decade and a 17-year officer of Asian heritage. The other officer, the only Mexican-American on the force, his attorney notes, remains on the payroll but hasn't returned to work after he was pressured by Heberer to report sexual harassment misconduct by others and did so, saying command staff members were "preying on new female recruits." He says he was later pressured by the deputy chief to resign.

All those who have left allege they resigned under duress (known as "constructive discharge" in legal lingo) based on racial and gender discrimination and sexual harassment. And attorney Andrew Swan, who represents four of the five claimants, says people don't "get forced out without the chief's approval." The claims seek a combined total of $3.5 million in damages, or in some cases, reinstatement.
An ex-officer who is female wasn't named by the Indy, because she fears retaliation and inability to get another job based on her claims. The woman agreed to drop legal action in exchange for a $55,000 payment and the city's agreement not to oppose a filing for unemployment. She signed the settlement agreement on Oct. 11.

Former Sgt. Tim Johnson agreed to drop his legal actions upon payment of $30,000, and the same condition for unemployment benefits, in an agreement dated Nov. 14.

"Settlement payments have been made by the City’s insurance provider," City Attorney Troy Johnson says in an email.

Andrew Swan, a Colorado Springs attorney who represents both former officers, declined to comment, citing legal constraints.

Meantime, Coates, 50, submitted an "intent to retire" memo to Heberer on Nov. 7, noting, "It has been an absolute privilege and honor to work for the City of Fountain and serve alongside the great men and women of the Fountain Police Department."

He noted he'd worked for nearly 20 years in law enforcement and is "excited to pursue other opportunities and future endeavors while beginning a new chapter in life."
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, November 29, 2018

UPDATE: Police Chief Pete Carey to retire Feb. 1

Posted By on Thu, Nov 29, 2018 at 4:09 PM

Carey: Calling it quits at the city. Does he have a future with the county? - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Carey: Calling it quits at the city. Does he have a future with the county?
UPDATE: Jackie Kirby, Sheriff's Office spokesperson, tells us via email, "There is nothing to comment on. Joe Breister is still the Undersheriff and has not submitted a retirement notice."

-ORIGINAL POST 4:09 P.M. THURS., NOV. 29, 2018—

Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey will retire Feb. 1, the city announced, ending a 35-year run in the Colorado Springs Police Department, eight spent as chief.

While rumors have circulated for months that Carey will be appointed as undersheriff by Sheriff Bill Elder, replacing the soon-to-retire Undersheriff Joe Breister, the Sheriff's Office didn't respond to questions about that. If we hear back, we'll update.

Carey actually served as chief longer than he normally would have after Mayor John Suthers asked him to stay on and special arrangements were made through the retirement plan.

Suthers issued this statement about Carey in a news release:
Chief Pete Carey has provided exceptional leadership and service to the Colorado Springs Police Department, and we are grateful for his tenure. There’s no question that he leaves CSPD in strong standing, and its ongoing CALEA accreditation is tribute to his time at the helm. CSPD has gained a positive local and national reputation, and as such, the City will conduct a national search to ascertain interest in this very important position. That said, we are also mindful of a wealth of talent that exists in the department and we hope there will be several internal candidates for the role of chief. 
Not mentioned,  though certainly worth noting, are the numerous problems that arose under Carey's leadership, including:
• the home addresses and names of officers turning up in the hands of drug dealers,
• the $2.5 million settlement the city paid because of Carey's physical abilities test being deemed discriminatory against women over 40, 
• the department losing track of an M16 rifle,
• and numerous officers being accused of excessive use of force, including an incident several years ago in which an officer slammed a handcuffed woman face-first into the floor at Memorial Hospital's emergency room.

Whether or not he was directly to blame, it's also true that during Carey's time as chief, so many officers retired or left the department that there weren't enough cops to cover beats and crime went up, leading Carey to stand down special units, including the gang unit. And then there was the officer charged with racketeering who was allowed to stay on the force so he could qualify for retirement.

In the city's release, though, Carey looks back on his time with fondness. “I have served the community of Colorado Springs with the support of this amazing police force for 34 years as both an officer and as chief, and every day, it has been my honor to do so,” Carey said in the release. “I am proud of every civilian employee, every CAPS volunteer and every officer, for showing up for each shift with commitment and courage, all while keeping professionalism and excellent customer service top of mind. It has been a pleasure to work with each of these dedicated men and women and I am grateful for the time here and the honor of serving this great city.”
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , ,

Firefighters turn in signatures for April 2 Colorado Springs city election

Posted By on Thu, Nov 29, 2018 at 1:51 PM

Fire Station 22, the city's newest, opened in March 2016. - COURTESY CSFD
  • Courtesy CSFD
  • Fire Station 22, the city's newest, opened in March 2016.
Local firefighters turned in more than 29,000 signatures on Nov. 28 to force a ballot measure to change the city's Charter to allow firefighters collective bargaining powers. The measure would ban a labor strike, however.

The Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Association needs only 15,907 valid signatures of city registered voters to secure a spot on the April 2 city election ballot. Voters also will elect a mayor and three at-large city councilors at that election.

"This is the first step in securing the protections fire fighters in Colorado Springs need to ensure public safety is always a priority in Colorado Springs," firefighters said in a release.

The campaign will be called Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs, which will emphasize the goal is to "keep service delivery high, to ensure that the city remains safe, and to ensure that the City of Colorado Springs attracts and retains high quality firefighters."

The International Association of Fire Fighters Local 5 President Dave Noblitt tells the Indy the campaign will kick off next month.
Local 5 has previously said Colorado Springs firefighters have the lowest salaries of any metro department in the state and the fewest firefighters per capita. Those firefighters must respond to incidents with engines that are 15 years old. Although voters approved the Public Safety Sales Tax dedicated to police and fire in 2001, revenues haven't been sufficient to satisfy all needs, Local 5 has said.

City Clerk Sarah Johnson has up to 30 days to determine if the petition is valid.

After the city previously asserted its home-rule powers insulate it from compliance with Senate Bill 25, approved by the 2013 Colorado General Assembly to allow firefighters to seek collective bargaining status, local firefighters decided to seek a change in the city Charter instead.

Every other major metro fire department (Denver, Fort Collins, Aurora and Pueblo) has obtained collective bargaining status.

Mayor John Suthers opposes firefighter collective bargaining, as do some Council members, including Jill Gaebler, who was endorsed by firefighters for her second term in 2017.

Gaebler tells the Indy she's concerned the measure would give firefighters a right that no other department has. "Firefighters will say, 'We totally respect everyone having it,'" she says.

Noting firefighters' complaints that they're not given the same consideration as police officers, she says, "They have had a seat at the table like every other employee group, and they don’t ever seem to think they have enough voice, and I’m not sure this is going to make a difference. I think it’s really hard for the mayor and Council to balance the budget and all different needs of the city, and this puts everything out of line with one group. At the same time, I do worry about how public safety will be impacted as the city develops out east."

She was referring to the mayor's and Council's approval last spring of an amended annexation agreement for the 18,500-acre Banning Lewis Ranch where developers will be required to pay police and fire development fees that the city auditor has said will fall short of fully funding public safety requirements.

Council President Richard Skorman says in an interview he hopes firefighters are willing to allow Council to refer the measure to the ballot, so that a key provision can be changed. That provision would allow Council to be the arbiter in the case of an impasse between the mayor's office and firefighters over bargaining for pay, benefits and working conditions. The measure as proposed would allow voters to decide, which Skorman says could be costly and confusing.

"Are the voters really going to understand we need these many people on a hazmat truck, we need these fire engines added?" he asks.

Noblitt, with Local 5, says firefighters just want to ensure they get equal representation. "We hope to gain equal footing," he says.

Noblitt says signatures were gathered through paid solicitors as well as firefighters working on their own time. The campaign plans to spent about $250,000 trying to win passage of the measure.

Meanwhile, Suthers is the only mayoral candidate so far, and he's raised $107,729 as of Oct. 27 for his re-election campaign, according to campaign finance reports. Many of the larger donations to Suthers came from business people, contractors and developers.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

UCHealth pays COS health foundation $675,475 in revenue sharing

Posted By on Wed, Nov 28, 2018 at 10:27 AM

Memorial's stroke center includes an emergency vehicle to respond to stroke patients throughout the community. - PHOTOS COURTESY UCHEALTH MEMORIAL
  • Photos Courtesy UCHealth Memorial
  • Memorial's stroke center includes an emergency vehicle to respond to stroke patients throughout the community.
The city's lease of city-owned Memorial Hospital to UCHealth is again paying off, with a $675,475 revenue-sharing check issued to the Colorado Springs Health Foundation, UCHealth said in a release.

It's the fourth consecutive year UCHealth has issued such a payment since the lease began on Oct. 1, 2012. Revenue sharing totals $4.45 million over the four years. The money is used by the foundation to improve the health of the community.

This year's payment is lower than previous checks due to UCHealth's investment in the local system, including achieving the first Level 1 Trauma Center designation for a facility outside the Denver metro area at Memorial Central and obtaining certification as a comprehensive stroke center. (Despite Memorial having the only such stroke center label in Southern Colorado, the city has instructed emergency crews not to give preference to Memorial for stroke patients, but to also transport them to Penrose Hospital.)
UCHealth Memorial is operated under a 40-year lease that includes participation in providing training to medical students.
  • UCHealth Memorial is operated under a 40-year lease that includes participation in providing training to medical students.
In addition, UCHealth invested in Grandview Hospital to expand the innovative orthopedic care the hospital can provide, UCHealth said in a release.

“Grandview now offers advanced orthopedic specialties from a host of talented surgeons using state-of-the-art equipment," Joel Yuhas, president and CEO of UCHealth Memorial, said in the release. "While such investments in physician growth, new services and new facilities in fiscal year 2018 resulted in a decrease this year in our revenue-sharing payment, we are confident these investments will benefit the health of residents in southern Colorado for years to come.”

Revenue-sharing payments stem from earnings in excess of baseline percentages outlined in the 40-year lease, under which UCHealth also pays the foundation roughly $5.6 million a year, among other provisions.

From the release:
Growth this past year included:
• A 19 percent increase in hospitalized patients at Memorial Central and North
• A 39 percent increase in Emergency Department visits at both campuses
• A 25 percent increase in outpatient visits
• The addition of 70 physicians to the UCHealth Medical Group, improving access to primary and specialty care

Among the many advancements made in the past year:
• In April, the State of Colorado designated UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central as a Level I Trauma Center, making it the only hospital in southern Colorado to achieve the highest classification for trauma care.
• The expansion of Memorial Hospital North continues, with eight additional exam rooms, including two new trauma suites, recently added to the emergency department. Two new operating rooms were also opened, and a new 47-bed tower is scheduled to open to patients in February. The new tower adds additional bed capacity for maternity and medical/surgical services, as well as an expansion of the cancer center.
• In January, Memorial Central became the first hospital in southern Colorado designated as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, a classification given to programs that offer the highest and most advanced level of stroke care.
• A new state-of-the-art air ambulance helicopter was added to UCHealth LifeLine’s transport fleet to ensure patients throughout southern Colorado and northern New Mexico receive rapid and safe transport to needed medical services.
• Pikes Peak Regional Hospital in Woodland Park joined UCHealth.
• Grandview Hospital became fully owned and operated by UCHealth.

“UCHealth has advanced the level of care in Colorado Springs, and those are dividends that play out in multiple ways – in the health of our families that receive care there and via the Colorado Springs Health Foundation, which will use the funds to address crucial needs in our region and support organizations that encourage healthy living,” City Councilor Merv Bennett said said in the release. “This is not only a tribute to the entire team at UCHealth Memorial, but also a reminder to the citizens of Colorado Springs that they made an important decision in 2012 in choosing UCHealth to lead the hospital.”
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A little Giving Tuesday inspiration from Give! nonprofits

Posted By on Tue, Nov 27, 2018 at 12:31 PM

Now that you're done splurging on Black Friday doorbusters, small business steals and cyber deals, you may have a hankering to give back this Giving Tuesday.

The annual Give! campaign — featuring a whopping 93 local nonprofits — is a good place to start. The campaign, now in its 10th year, is the civic arm of Colorado Publishing House, which owns the Colorado Springs Independent, Colorado Springs Business Journal and the Pikes Peak Bulletin.

Give! has helped 180 local nonprofits raise more than $9.6 million from over 74,000 donations since its start in 2009. The campaign also helps nonprofits access matching grants, media exposure and capacity-building training.

Each week through December, we're profiling two nonprofits in the Independent to help you get to know them. Check out the stories we've published so far, for your Giving Tuesday inspiration:

Peak Military Care Network
"When members of the military need expanded assistance, it can be difficult for them to find exactly what they need. Since 2004, Peak Military Care Network has endeavored to change that, creating a centralized hub of support that guides those seeking answers to the proper services and information."
Angels of America's Fallen provides kids with opportunities for growth through activities like making art, playing music or sports, baking and dance. - COURTESY ANGELS OF AMERICA'S FALLEN
  • Courtesy Angels of America's Fallen
  • Angels of America's Fallen provides kids with opportunities for growth through activities like making art, playing music or sports, baking and dance.
Angels of America's Fallen
"Angels of America's Fallen devotes itself to mentoring children of those who have given their lives to protect others, by providing positive outlets for them to develop while missing one of their most important mentors."

Wild Blue Cats
"Envision 1,750 cats at large across the county, with no homes, having kittens, starving. Thanks to Wild Blue Cats, that same number of felines found shelter and food at the nonprofit's Black Forest-area refuge, which also neuters or spays and provides veterinary care."

Paws N Hooves
"Thousands of animals ... annually pass through the rescue, also known as Black Forest Animal Sanctuary, a no-kill shelter. Located on 35 acres, the nonprofit began as a wildlife rescue, but now handles domesticated animals that include cats, parrots, lizards, horses, miniature donkeys, goats, sheep, ducks, llamas and a Holstein steer named Homer."

High Plains Helping Hands
"On the grounds of Mountain Springs Church, Helping Hands boasts a clean and comfortable waiting room for those who use its food pantry, a fully stocked storeroom with everything from packaged pies to fresh vegetables, an outdoor garden area and an aquaponics greenhouse — all geared toward giving individuals in its service area (20 ZIP codes) a fresh start."

Finding Our Voices
"[Joyce] Aubrey established Finding Our Voices in 2009, hoping to provide a platform for survivors of sexual assault to share their healing journeys through artwork. It began as an annual art show, still held every April at Cottonwood Center for the Arts."

You can browse the full list nonprofits and make donations on, which includes information about each organization's mission, matching grants, leaderboards and more.

If good karma isn't enough, Give! partners offer exciting rewards for those who donate as little as $25. Young donors are eligible for their own unique prizes.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Lorena Garcia announces challenge to Cory Gardner in 2020

Posted By on Tue, Nov 27, 2018 at 11:56 AM

Lorena Garcia: Hoping to unseat Cory Gardner. - COURTESY LORENA GARCIA
  • Courtesy Lorena Garcia
  • Lorena Garcia: Hoping to unseat Cory Gardner.
Three weeks after the midterm election, Colorado's U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner has his first opponent in Lorena Garcia, the head of the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition.

Garcia, a Democrat, said in a news release she will challenge the Yuma Republican for his Senate seat in the 2020 election and becomes the first challenger to Gardner, who some see as vulnerable, especially in light of the blue wave that washed over the state on Nov. 6, leading Democrats to capture all constitutional statewide races, as well as majorities in the state House and Senate.

Garcia, who has been active in the nonprofit world and on women's and Latina rights, is also married to a woman — notable because the midterm proved pivotal for LGBTQ Colorado candidates, with the election of the state's first gay governor and other major wins for LGBTQ people.

From Garcia's news release:
Garcia is running on a platform with a core focus on economic equity for all, the cornerstone of which includes access to healthcare and education. As a veteran organizer, Garcia supports women’s rights, funding for public transportation and civil rights protections for women’s reproductive independence.

“It’s time for a new voice in the U.S. Senate,” said Garcia. “We are at a crossroads in our history where we can no longer accept the status quo and must take action to fix our broken government systems. I’m running because we need innovative leaders who will work on behalf of the interests of every Coloradan, not for political self-interest.”

Dedicated to serving nonprofit organizations over her entire career, Garcia has acted as Executive Director of Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition since March of this year. Garcia has also served as Executive Director for Namlo International since 2017. Namlo is an international nonprofit organization that works in Nepal and Nicaragua, supporting local communities to achieve economic self-sufficiency through grassroots development projects.

Tirelessly working toward uplifting the dignity of marginalized communities, Garcia served as the Executive Director of the Colorado Organization For Latina Opportunity and reproductive Rights and prior to that as the Colorado State Director of 9to5, National Association for Working Women.

As a 7th generation Coloradan on her father’s side and first generation on her mother’s side, Garcia’s family background mirrors the diversity families represent in Colorado and across the country. She is the youngest of six siblings and aunt to 16 nieces and nephews and has been married to her wife for seven years. 
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , ,

Springs' RV parking ban heads for December vote

Posted By on Tue, Nov 27, 2018 at 11:55 AM

RVs like this one have proliferated on city streets, triggering an ordinance to bar them from parking on the streets of Colorado Springs. - GREG GJERDINGEN ON FLICKR
  • Greg Gjerdingen on Flickr
  • RVs like this one have proliferated on city streets, triggering an ordinance to bar them from parking on the streets of Colorado Springs.
Colorado Springs has long banned parking RVs on city streets in residential neighborhoods, but soon, City Council will cast a vote on whether to expand that prohibition to all city streets.

The proposed ordinance is part of the city's efforts to address the city's homeless problem, with Police Commander Sean Mandel telling Council that many of the complaints received over the last year involve homeless people living in RVs parked all over the city.

The biggest issues are safety of drivers and pedestrians, environmental impact from RV occupants dumping human waste and other refuse on city streets or into storm sewers and quality of life of residents who observe such activity.

Mandel said during a Council work session on Nov. 26 the Colorado Springs Police Department has seen "a dramatic increase" in complaints over the last year.

"What we’re hoping for is to enable ourselves to go out and contact these owners of vehicles and inform them of the fines associated with the ordinance change," he said. "With the possibility of fines, we can get these vehicles to move and park somewhere outside the city limits."

Those fines are $75 for the first offense, $100 for the second and $125 for the third. It would be a non-jailable offense, but officers could impound the RV, although that would be a last resort.

Councilor David Geislinger, who said he opposes the ordinance as currently written, said he foresees creating a "Whack-a-mole" situation where RV dwellers would merely move the problem from place to place.

He also said he views the ordinance as criminalizing homelessness, though the city's legal advisor said the offense is a parking violation, not a criminal charge.

"I would like to see this ordinance and this problem addressed as part of the ambit of homeless diversion program in our city courts," he said. "The first approach is to bring these families, these individuals into the ambit of services. We heard that the homeless community is expressing frustration that every time they move, they’re losing all their possessions. So with this ordinance, the RV is impounded because of a violation of this statute, and all of a sudden we’ve taken that situation for that family and made it worse."

Mandel told Council the Homeless Outreach Team would likely carry out checks on RVs seen as breaking the ordinance, although all officers could issue citations.

But Geislinger was adamant that the ordinance doesn't truly hit the homeless problem head on. "This is part of the homeless issue that many people are not aware of," he said. "Now that it is out in the open, it is our job collectively to do what we can to address it."

Council is set to vote on the ordinance on Dec. 11.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , ,

Recent Comments

All content © Copyright 2018, The Colorado Springs Independent

Website powered by Foundation