Thursday, June 22, 2017

Mike Pence plans spin through military bases in El Paso County

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 12:53 PM

Vice President Mike Pence plans a tour of the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs on Friday, June 23. - GINO SANTA MARIA/ SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Gino Santa Maria/ Shutterstock
  • Vice President Mike Pence plans a tour of the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs on Friday, June 23.
In tandem with his visit to Focus on the Family on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence will avail himself of several military base visits as well.

According to a news advisory from Peterson Air Force Base, after Pence's appearance at Focus, to mark its 40th anniversary, the nation's second in command will drop in at Schriever Air Force Base, located east of Colorado Springs.

Schriever is home to the 50th Space Wing, among other units, described by the Air Force as being responsible "for the operation and support of 175 Department of Defense satellites and installation support to 16 major tenant units with a workforce of more than 7,700 personnel."
The 50 SW provides integrated combat effects from space, ensures command and control of satellite weapons systems, and conducts expeditionary operations to enable sovereign options for the defense of the United States of America and its global interests.

The wing operates and supports satellite programs including the Global Positioning System, Defense Satellite Communications System, Wideband Global SATCOM, Milstar, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, Space Based Space Surveillance, Operationally Responsive Space-1, Advanced Extremely High Frequency and the worldwide Air Force Satellite Control Network supporting 175 satellites.

The wing operates satellite operation centers at Schriever AFB and remote tracking stations and other command and control facilities around the world. Through these facilities, wing personnel monitor satellites during launch, put satellites in their proper orbits following launch, operate the satellites while they are in orbit, ensure effective and efficient satellites operations and properly dispose of the satellites at their end of life.
At Schriever, Pence will be briefed on the highly classified facility, have lunch with service members and give remarks.

After that, Pence will head for the Cheyenne Mountain Complex located at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. The mountain contains a backup station for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and Northern Command.

Pence will end his visit with a "Gardner Victory Event," details of which were not provided.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Motion seeks dismissal of charges against former Sheriff Terry Maketa

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 3:13 PM

Maketa during his sheriff years. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Maketa during his sheriff years.
The Denver Post is reporting that a prosecutor has filed a motion to dismiss charges of kidnapping and false imprisonment against former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.

Maketa is charged with other crimes as well from his 12 years in office, which ended with his resignation in late 2014, two weeks shy of serving out his third term.

Then-Undersheriff Paula Presley and then-Commander Juan "John" San Agustin also are charged in the case, but apparently motions to dismiss have not been filed on their behalf.

From the Post:
The motion was filed by District Attorney George Brauchler’s office on Tuesday, according to sources familiar with the case who spoke on condition of anonymity. Judge Larry Schwartz has imposed a gag order in the case. It was not immediately clear whether the judge has formally dismissed the charges.
We've previously reported on the case and on Maketa's tenure. The Independent also was first to report the threesome have filed a notice of claim indicating they plan a lawsuit against numerous government agencies in connection with the criminal case.

Observers speculate that the dismissal signals the prosecution, being handled by the 18th Judicial District (after 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May recused due to his past work with Maketa), might see its case as weak.

In recent weeks, prosecutors sought a six month delay of Maketa's trial, due to begin this month, but Schwartz delayed it by only a month. It's now set to begin next week. Presley's and San Agustin's trials are set for later this year.
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What the new El Paso County districts could look like soon

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 10:43 AM

El Paso County's legislative body is the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) — five elected officials who represent different parts of the county in all sorts of decisions that affect your life. The exact boundaries of their districts change every few years, according to population growth and, to a lesser degree, voter turnout. For more on the politics around an upcoming redistricting (very soon!), see here. But, if you came here to understand how the districts have changed over time and how they could change in the future, you're in the right place.

Bear with us, please — the following blog post won't be sexy but it will be informative!

First, a history lesson. This is what the county districts looked like in 2002. (Sorry the quality sucks. The internet was young then, ok.)
screen_shot_2017-06-21_at_9.43.48_am.png
















Then, the districts were redrawn in 2011 to look like this. Apparently the pastel color assigned to each district changed then too.
adoptedplanc3.jpg

In 2015, districts were redrawn again. This is our current map, overlaid with population to show the needed changes (districts one and two have to shrink, districts three, four and five have to grow.)
currentcomm2017.jpg
Per state law, the districts need to contain roughly equal numbers of constituents. Here, because the county's population is just under 680,000, the magic number per district is about 136,000. Well, it's 136,138, to be exact. The County Clerk and Recorder, Chuck Broerman, and his staff came up with three redistricting options to reach those magic numbers, while maintaining compactness, communities of interest, and logical landmarks. Here's the PowerPoint presentation explaining each option in more detail, shown at the BOCC's May 25 meeting. Find the maps below. And if it's hard to discern what's different between them, know that's on purpose — the clerk's office tried to disrupt current districts as little as possible.

Option 1:
option1d.jpg

Option 2:
option2d_060917.jpg

Option 3:
option3d.jpg

Not everyone is pleased with these options, as you can read more about here. Grievances focus more on process, particularly that the clerk didn't incorporate citizen and nonpartisan input before drawing the maps. Some Democrats aren't pleased with the substance, particularly that the districts may become less competitive and even more secure for Republicans. To that end, El Paso County Democratic Party chair, Electra Johnson, who lost the race for commissioner in district 3 by an unusually narrow margin in November, tried her hand at redrawing the lines herself. She didn't have access to quite the same data as the clerk's office, but found some clever workarounds, like using satellite imagery of housing developments over time. Here's what she came up with.
 
redistricting_alternative_community_plan_2.jpg

If you have a preference, critique or suggestion you want the commissioners to consider before amending and adopting one of these maps, send them to mattiealbert@elpasocountyco.com or call them in to 520-6226. Public comment ends June 24 and the meeting where decisions get made is June 29.
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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

All Souls prepared to offer sanctuary, supported by new coalition

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 1:52 PM

All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church has formally declared itself a sanctuary church, meaning an undocumented immigrant could live in the building's basement bedroom to avoid deportation. The church's congregants, who are a diverse, nondenominational bunch, made the decision to prepare for such a scenario in late May by a near-unanimous vote. Their minister, Rev. Nori Rost, announced the result at a June 19 press conference. 

Rev. Nori Rost has long considered turning her church into refuge for immigrants and recently got the go-ahead from the congregation. - NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
  • Rev. Nori Rost has long considered turning her church into refuge for immigrants and recently got the go-ahead from the congregation.

The downtown church is prepared to, but not currently offering, sanctuary to one immigrant at a time. The tactic hinges on Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) policy to refrain from conducting raids in “sensitive locations” including places of worship. At the press conference, Alex McShiras, a local immigration attorney with the Joseph Law Firm, reminded everyone that that's a policy, not a law, so it could change at any time. He did, however, assure that he had word from ICE's field office in Colorado that its agents intends to uphold that policy.

Surrounding Rost during the declaration were other church leaders, congregants, lawyers, academics, nonprofit leaders, immigrant organizers and their children. Candace Datz, director of youth and adult ministry at First Congregational Church, introduced them as members of the newly formed Colorado Springs Sanctuary Coalition. The purpose of the coalition is to help the host church prepare, work with immigrant organizers to set up intake procedures and coordinate financial, legal and strategic support around the whole effort. (For a more comprehensive look at the origins and goals of the sanctuary church movement, see: "Not in our house", Cover, April 19.)
Other churches in the coalition include the First United Methodist Church, the First Congregational Church, and Colorado Springs Friends Meeting. - NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
  • Other churches in the coalition include the First United Methodist Church, the First Congregational Church, and Colorado Springs Friends Meeting.

The coalition first began organizing after President Donald Trump ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to step up immigration enforcement. Since then, increased deportations around the country have immigrant communities on edge, fearful that any interaction with law enforcement could trigger removal proceedings.

Karina, the young citizen daughter of an immigrant coalition member, told reporters and other listeners that she's "always nervous to see if [her] parents will come home from work or not" and that she "doesn't understand why [her] community is being treated badly [since] we’re all the same no matter the skin color or culture."

Karina aspires to become a psychiatrist, but in the meantime, she just wants to go to school and play with friends without worrying her parents won't be there to support her. - NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
  • Karina aspires to become a psychiatrist, but in the meantime, she just wants to go to school and play with friends without worrying her parents won't be there to support her.

"
They came here to give their children, like me, a chance at a better life," she said. "We only want to live in peace."

A slight reprieve came on June 15, when DHS Secretary John F. Kelly announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, will stay in place. Instituted by former President Barack Obama in 2012, the program grants temporary work or study permits to immigrants brought over as children, specifically those who arrived before June 15, 2007, but are under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. The announcement was a surprise — since then-candidate Trump had promised to eliminate the program — but not considered totally positive, since Kelly also announced that Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, known as DAPA, will not stay in place. That program, which was designed to grant similar protections for parents and older siblings of DACA recipients, had hung in legal limbo as a court challenge made its way up to a tie at the U.S. Supreme Court. Now that it's gone-for-good, we have a clearer sense of the administration's policy on immigrant families: children can stay but their parents have to go.

The coalition chose the day after Father's Day for that reason, Datz explained. "We absolutely believe in the importance of families remaining together and not being separated by unjust and immoral deportations," she said, adding, "Our faith traditions have much to say about the vital role of families in our communities, and we believe that each child deserves to have their parents present during their childhood."


Silvia H. introduced herself, through a translator, as "one of many people who came to this country wanting to get my family a better life." For 14 years now, she said, she and her husband have worked hard, paid taxes and raised their children, now teenagers, here in Colorado Springs. "I am not a criminal," she emphasized.

Though she has friends who have already lost a father to deportation, Silvia is hopeful now, in addition to fearful. "
Thank God that he put us in the way of these people who still believe in us and believe that we all have the same rights and the same opportunities," she said. "Thanks to the sanctuary coalition, we hope to keep families together."
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City legal advisor shifts to Parks Department

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 10:48 AM

Britt Haley: Changing hats, staying with the city. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy city of Colorado Springs
  • Britt Haley: Changing hats, staying with the city.
An attorney with the the city of Colorado Springs is taking a significant pay cut to take a different job with the city Parks Department.

Britt Haley has been hired into a new position, park design and development manager, the city said in a news release.

She's worked in the City Attorney's Office since December 2012 and has advised the Parks Department on various issues for five years. She played a role in the city's controversial swap of city-owned Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor last year. (The swap was challenged in court by a nonprofit, Save Cheyenne, which lost in District Court but has appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals.)

In her current job, Haley is paid $131,722 a year. Her new salary is $110,000 a year.

As described in the news release below, Haley formerly worked with the State Board of Land Commissioners and is a past chair of the State Trails Committee.

From the release:
“We are so excited to bring Britt on board in this new role. Her background and expertise in land management, trails, stewardship and conservation will lend itself well to overseeing our Design and Development Division,” said Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Karen Palus. “Her experience in municipal government, managerial skills, working with stakeholders and her familiarity with Colorado Springs’ overall park system will be great assets to the City and our community.”

Haley has been the assigned corporate attorney to the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department for the last five years. She is also the former Director of the State Board of Land Commissioners and past State Trails Committee Chair.

“I am thrilled to join the parks team and thankful for the opportunity to put my skills to work on projects that will steward and further enhance Colorado Springs’ world class trail, open space and park amenities,” said Haley.

The Park Design and Development Division is responsible for the management of the City’s park system development, land acquisitions, park land dedication ordinance, conservation and stewardship of our open spaces. This position oversees the Trails, Open Space and Parks Program (TOPS) with an overall division annual budget of $7.5 million. The Park Design and Development Manager reports to the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director with an annual salary of $110,000.

Haley’s first day with the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department will be July 17.

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Paul Lundeen announces run for Colorado Senate

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 9:43 AM

Lundeed: Wants to change houses. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Lundeed: Wants to change houses.
Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, says he’ll seek the state Senate District 9 post now held by Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, who is barred by term limits from serving another term.

Lundeen has served two terms in House District 19. He touts his efforts to reduce testing in schools and combat human trafficking.

Senate District 9 covers the north portion of the county including, Gleneagle and Black Forest. Lundeen described himself in a news release as a citizen legislator who’s “mostly a father, husband and grateful child of God.”

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Nicoletta, Jaray running for Manitou mayor

Posted By on Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 2:20 PM

Manitou Mayor Nicole Nicoletta will seek a second term. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Manitou Mayor Nicole Nicoletta will seek a second term.

Manitou Mayor Nicole Nicoletta will seek a second  two-year term in the November 2017 city election, the Pikes Peak Bulletin reports.

The mayor, who has presided over fiscally cheery times in the west side town, says she wants to continue her work.

Nicoletta told the Bulletin:

I've succeeded in forming strong relationships with local and state leaders, including Colorado Springs Utilities and El Paso County, elected officials from surrounding municipalities, representatives from each of our military installations, and members of the Colorado Municipal League.

None of these successes could have happened without a team effort; Manitou Springs' team is rocking it right now. The city is in fantastic shape — not perfect but doing very well. Every one of us is working incredibly hard to tend to the city.
Nicoletta will be challenged by longtime resident Ken Jaray, a retired lawyer, former Manitou Springs city attorney and the founder of several community organizations in the area. Jaray told the Bulletin that he will focus on community engagement, particularly when it comes to implementing Manitou's new master plan. Jaray stressed that keeping Manitou looking good would be a top priority of his.

"It's important to always keep track of how we present to the outside world: potholes filled, streets clean, parks and commercial areas where people feel comfortable," Jaray told the Bulletin.
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Letter of counseling surfaces in El Paso County Sheriff's Office case

Posted By on Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 1:45 PM

Sheriff Elder after he took the oath of office on Dec. 31, 2014. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Sheriff Elder after he took the oath of office on Dec. 31, 2014.
Dirtyelder.com is still hard at it, finding ways to call into question how Sheriff Bill Elder is running the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

The latest: The website obtained a copy of a letter of counseling for Lt. William Huffor, who was accused of sexual harassment of a female deputy last fall. The website reported on that here.

The so-called scandal is that after the allegation was made against Huffor, who's married to Elder's chief-of-staff Janet Huffor, Elder got rid of the Disciplinary Action Board, which oversaw such cases.

You can read the latest post about the counseling letter here.

The letter of counseling sure makes it sound like sexual harassment might have been at play in the Huffor matter. It notes that what Huffor allegedly said to a female deputy "implies immoral, indecent or lewd behavior," the letter states. It also notes, "This is a serious violation of El Paso County Sheriff's Office policy...."

Yet, Huffor didn't suffer much punishment. He got a letter in his file and had to attend some training classes about "supervisor roles and responsibilities."

We asked Elder's spokesperson, Jackie Kirby, about the counseling letter and whether the sheriff was looking into how it was shared with an outsider.

She said via email, "It appears to be an authentic letter of counseling. We are not investigating how it was leaked."

Elder himself has said he doesn't read the website.

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

CU regents OK funding for UCCS sports medicine center

Posted By on Thu, Jun 15, 2017 at 3:58 PM

COURTESY UCCS
  • Courtesy UCCS
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs announced Thursday that the CU Board of Regents approved $61.425 million for the William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center on the UCCS campus.

The center is one of four projects included in the Springs' City for Champions tourism venture for which the city was awarded $120.5 million over 30 years in 2013 in state sales tax rebates. The others are a downtown stadium, downtown Olympic Museum and Air Force Academy visitors center.

The regents' action came during a meeting held at UCCS.

From the news release:
Pending approval from a Legislative committee in late June, UCCS will hire a design-build team for the project and begin construction in July 2018. The building is expected to open in December 2019.
The UCCS sports medicine and performance center is named for Bill Hybl, longtime CEO of the El Pomar Foundation and former president of the U.S. Olympic Committee - COURTESY UCCS
  • Courtesy UCCS
  • The UCCS sports medicine and performance center is named for Bill Hybl, longtime CEO of the El Pomar Foundation and former president of the U.S. Olympic Committee
“We’re very pleased to have this vote of confidence from the Regents for the William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center,” said Chancellor Venkat Reddy. “The center will help solidify UCCS and Colorado Springs as key players in the fast-growing health and wellness arena. And with its state-of-the-art facilities, staff and programs, the Hybl center will prove to be a destination for students, faculty and health-care consumers.”

UCCS is partnering with Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, part of Centura Health, on the project. Penrose-St Francis will be responsible for the Hybl center’s medical and performance clinics, while UCCS will run all academic research and instruction in the facility, as well as provide leadership and some staffing to the performance clinics.

The Hybl center will be located north of the UCCS Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences on the east side of North Nevada Avenue, situated along Eagle Rock Road. The Hybl center will be across Eagle Rock Road from the university’s Ent Center for the Arts, which is under construction and expected to open in early 2018.

Plans for the Hybl center call for a 104,000-square-foot building, roughly 18,000 square feet larger than the Ent Center for the Arts. The Hybl center building will cost $61.425 million, with another $3.5 million in infrastructure spending.

The Hybl center is a City for Champions project, intended in part to draw tourists to the Pikes Peak region. As such, some funding for the Hybl center will come from state sales tax increases. Under City for Champions requirements, the building had to be at least 72,000 square feet. UCCS and Penrose-St. Francis created a 104,000-square-foot facility to accommodate research, classroom and clinic space.

The Hybl center will offer a variety of clinical services, including orthopedic sports medicine, primary care sports medicine, physical therapy and rehabilitation, occupational therapy, athletic training, pain management, imaging, body composition and bone health services, performance training, occupational and tactical scenario training and altitude training.

The Hybl center also will support a host of UCCS academic programs, including the new exercise science degree program, which is expected to grow to 1,000 students. Enrollment in that degree program is a year ahead of projections and drawing interest from in-state and out-of-state students. Other academic instruction and research areas supported by the building include human anatomy; exercise, cardiovascular and muscle physiology; sports nutrition; body composition and bone health; and clinical outcomes.

The Hybl center will feature three Centers of Distinction:

The Center for Tactical and Occupational Performance, which will provide services to such occupations as military, police officers, firefighters and others.
The Center for Athletes and Active Individuals with Physical Disabilities, which will serve wounded military service members, para-athletes and others with disabilities.
The Environmental Health and Performance Center, which will address demands that athletes, members of the military and others face, including extreme temperatures, humidity, low oxygen and others.
“We are planning a one-of-a-kind building where clinics, academics and research collide to provide an interprofessional approach to develop future healthcare providers,” said Jackie Berning, professor and chair, UCCS Health Sciences Department.

The Hybl center will be the fourth new UCCS project to be built along North Nevada Avenue. In addition to the 92,000-square-foot Ent Center for the Arts, a new baseball field and indoor track and field facility are expected to be constructed north of the Ent Center for the Arts.

The Hybl center is named after William J. Hybl, reflecting the longtime support of El Pomar Foundation as well as its support of the university’s efforts to redevelop North Nevada Avenue. Hybl is El Pomar’s chairman and chief executive officer as well as chairman of the United States Olympic Endowment.

The University of Colorado Colorado Springs, located on Austin Bluffs Parkway in Colorado Springs, is one of the fastest-growing universities in Colorado. The university offers 45 bachelor’s, 22 master’s and five doctoral degree programs. UCCS enrolls about 12,000 students on campus annually and another 3,300 in online programs. For more information, visit www.uccs.edu.


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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sessions pinned on medical marijuana before slipping through Senate hearing

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 1:02 PM

FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
While a nation gripped with palace intrigue tuned in to watch another high-ranking government official deliver evasive testimony about election interference, investigation interference and mixed-messaging from the White House, medical marijuana protectionists here in Colorado scrutinized a leaked letter written in May by the man under oath, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Massroots.com, a social platform for cannabis users, obtained the letter from a staffer on the hill and broke the story that Sessions, a "tough-on-crime" and "just-say-no" kind of prosecutor, had asked Congressional leaders to undo federal protections for state-legal medical marijuana businesses.

Read his letter below.

Sessions Asks Congress To Undo Medical Marijuana Protections by tomangell on Scribd


The gist of it is he wants Congress to strike the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice, which Sessions heads, from using federal funds to prevent states "from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana."

As the Washington Post, which independently verified the document, pointed out, Sessions' citing an "historic drug epidemic" as reason to crack down on medical marijuana, still technically a Schedule I drug, of course, is highly misleading. That's because there's a growing body of research showing that opioid overdoses actually decrease in states with medical marijuana available to patients suffering from pain or other ailments. Even the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a federal agency with a conservative stance on weed, acknowledges that.

Rohrabacher-Farr was passed with bipartisan support in 2014 and was re-affirmed by Congress in May of this year. A whopping 94 percent of Americans favor "allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it," according to a recent Quinnipiac Poll. So, if the nation's top law enforcement official were to get his wish and start busting down doors in states like Colorado, it's no stretch to predict where the administration's already low approval ratings would head.


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When is an official autopsy required?

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 11:14 AM

screen_shot_2017-06-14_at_10.32.52_am.png
Part of the Independent's latest cover package explores when autopsies by the El Paso County Coroner's Office are required and when they're not. ("Mystery of death," News)

Specifically, this delineation might advance understanding of those requirements, as provided by the Coroner's Office:
The El Paso County Coroner’s Office investigates all sudden, unexpected, and non-natural deaths, the office says in its annual report. While many natural deaths can be certified by the decedent’s physician, about a third of deaths require further investigation to determine cause and manner of death and ensure public health and safety.

Under Colorado law, the coroner must investigate the following types of deaths:
• Sudden, unexpected, or non-natural
• No physician available to certify the death
• Industrial accidents
• Deaths in the custody of law enforcement or in the care of a public institution
• Deaths due to contagious diseases
• All unexplained deaths

State law does not require autopsies in these circumstances:
• Deaths in nursing homes
• Deaths in hospitals, unless requested by the family to address quality of care or legal concerns.
We also had checked in with the county's Department of Human Services regarding reports of elder abuse. Spokesperson Kristina Iodice reports, "Thus far in 2017, about 26 percent of the allegations are self-neglect. Caretaker neglect is at 25 percent, but a caretaker can be someone in a facility or someone in the adult’s home. Exploitation is about 20 percent. Physical and sexual abuse make up about 13 percent of allegations so far in 2017."

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Law firm chosen for EPA lawsuit has history with Colorado Springs

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 9:30 AM

The city is defending against a lawsuit filed last year by the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act due to neglect of the city's stormwater system. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The city is defending against a lawsuit filed last year by the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act due to neglect of the city's stormwater system.
In this week's Independent, we report the potential cost of the city's legal bill from the EPA lawsuit as $1.9 million. ("City EPA lawsuit costs on the rise," News.)

We'd asked the city how the law firm, Ryley Carlock & Applewhite of Denver, was chosen and received an extensive response for which we didn't have room in the newspaper.

Here's the explanation, as provided by Communications Director Jamie Fabos:
In September of 2014, before the City Attorney's Office adopted outside counsel retention policies, Colorado Springs Utilites retained Ryley Carlock to consult on the SDS project which included Pueblo County 1041 Permit matters and related MS4 (NPDES) permit compliance. Over nearly two years, Ryley Carlock, and its lead attorney, Alan Gilbert, had worked closely with CSU on these SDS 1041 permit issues which involved a great deal of information concerning the City's MS4 stormwater program. Mr. Gilbert gained expertise in the City's MS4 program in that effort. Per the City Attorney's Office Outside Counsel Retention Policy, the existing retention agreement with Ryley Carlock was amended to include legal services related to the then-potential enforcement issues related to the City's stormwater program and MS4 permit. That retention agreement was subsequently amended as the City became aware of the EPA's and State's intended enforcement action and, later, the litigation.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Crags now open to hikers

Posted By on Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 3:21 PM

Beautiful views abound at the Crags. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Beautiful views abound at the Crags.

The Crags, closed indefinitely by the Pikes Peak Ranger District of the Pike-San Isabel National Forest for tree removal, is open again — at least to hikers.

Here is the full information. Check it out before you head up the the popular trail:

PIKES PEAK RANGER DISTRICT RE-OPENS CRAGS AREA FOR HIKING

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., June 12, 2017…The Pikes Peak Ranger District of the Pike-San Isabel National Forest has re-opened the Crags area and Forest Road 383 for hiking only. The popular Crags Campground in Teller County is expected to open within the next few weeks.

Due to the large number of hazard trees that pose a safety concern to the public, dispersed camping and parking along Forest Road 383 is prohibited. Camping will be allowed only in the developed Crags Campground and parking is allowed only at designated trailheads and within the campground. Visitors are urged to take extra precautions when recreating in the area this summer due to the large number of hazard trees in the vicinity.

The area had been closed for the past six months while a timber contractor removed some of the dead or dying spruce trees in a 12 acre area along a section of Forest Road 383 that had been affected by the spruce bark beetle. By working over the snow with heavy equipment, the contractor was able to reduce impacts to soils.

Additional forest health project and hazard tree removal work was recently accomplished by U.S. Forest Service crews in the Crags Campground and at the three trailheads along Forest Road 383, which provides access for the Crags, Devil’s Playground and the Ring the Peak Trails.

Visitors will continue to notice significant changes over the next few years as more spruce trees succumb to the natural beetle infestation. Additional forest health projects, including timber removal, will necessitate future closures for public safety in the Crags area beginning in the fall of 2017.

For more information, please contact the Pikes Peak Ranger District at (719) 636-1602. Information about alternate camping and recreation areas can also be found on: www.recreation.gov or, the Pike-San Isabel National Forest website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/psicc

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City to recognize Waldo Canyon Fire Commemoration Day on June 26

Posted By on Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 10:03 AM

This photo was shot on June 23 about 7 p.m., abut 7 hours after a thin wisp of smoke appeared, sending firefighters scrambling to the Waldo Canyon area. - ETHAN BEUTE
  • Ethan Beute
  • This photo was shot on June 23 about 7 p.m., abut 7 hours after a thin wisp of smoke appeared, sending firefighters scrambling to the Waldo Canyon area.
This Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the day the Waldo Canyon Fire sent a plume of smoke into the sky west of Colorado Springs, an ill-fated omen of what was to come.

The fire ultimately burned more than 18,000 acres, killed two people and destroyed 347 homes in the Mountain Shadows area when the fire swept into the city on June 26 and sent thousands of residents fleeing the city's northwest sector.

We published this account ("Misfire," Dec. 12, 2012) of what went wrong in the city's attack of the fire, but since then those burned-out areas have recovered and hundreds of new homes have been built to replace those that were destroyed.

Tuesday, City Council will adopt a resolution recognizing June 26 as Waldo Canyon Fire Commemoration Day. The resolution, according to a city news release, "urges all residents and businesses to reflect on the amazing efforts to respond to and recover from the Waldo Canyon Fire of 2012."

The release:
The Resolution also recognizes the recovery efforts that have taken place over the last five years to help Colorado Springs recover from damage caused by the fire and highlights the resiliency of the Colorado Springs community. Below is an overview of actions the City of Colorado Springs has taken since the Waldo Canyon Fire to recover from the fire and prepare for future wildfires.

Wildfire Education and Mitigation Efforts
· The Mitigation Unit has pursued and received millions of dollars in grant funding over the last five years that has gone directly to support vegetation reduction and fuel management, neighborhood chipping, education and outreach efforts. Funding and hard work since the fire has resulted in:
o 7,809 acres mitigated
o 2,304 tons of material removed from the WUI
o Developing relationships and working closely with 112 homeowners associations and community groups to address wildfire risk in the community
· City Forestry mitigated 300 acres of parks property totaling $1.4 million since 2013 to reduce the level of fire danger in City parks and open spaces.

City Expands Emergency Response Training and Building Requirements for Construction in Wildland Urban-Interface
· Since 2012, the City has conducted five wildfire evacuation drills in neighborhoods in the Wildland Urban Interface to give residents first-hand experience of what to expect during an evacuation and how to prepare their family and home.
· The City has conducted 228 training and exercises for City staff and local responding agencies to enhance interoperability during response operations.
· Just six months after the fire, a new Hillside Ignition-Resistant Ordinance was adopted by City Council in January 2013, outlining new requirements for building in the Wildland Urban Interface.
· Wildland training continues to be a high priority pre and post Waldo Canyon Fire as we incorporate partner fire departments to participate in training and exercises which improves interoperability.

Community Resiliency Marked by Significant Rebuilding Efforts in Mountain Shadows and Revegetation of the Burn Scar
· Eighty percent of homes damaged or destroyed in the Waldo Canyon Fire were rebuilt in less than 2 and a half years; today 92 percent, or 316 of the homes lost have been rebuilt or in the process of rebuilding.
· For those rebuilding in Mountain Shadows, plan review and permit fees were waived and inspections were expedited in order to facilitate the recovery process.
· The Waldo Canyon Fire Burn Scar has an estimated 70 percent revegetation rate. All recovery has occurred as a result of millions of dollars in federal, state, and local funding as well as more than 100,000 hours of volunteer work to plant grasses and trees, stabilize mountain slopes, protect against flooding and help people find ways to rebuild their homes.

Work Continues to Mitigate against Flash Flooding as Burn Scar Heals
· Following the fire, the City participated in several multi-agency studies to determine best practices for managing the increased threat for flash flooding resulting from the Waldo Canyon burn scar. In combination with several state and federal mitigation grants, the City of Colorado Springs invested approximately $30 million to construct flood detention and channel stabilization along North and South Douglas creeks and Camp Creek. These efforts will help prevent debris and sediment from entering the City’s storm-water system and reduce flooding concerns in western Colorado Springs

· Planning and design of a large detention pond at the north end of Camp creek in the Garden of the Gods Park is nearing completion with construction anticipated to begin fall 2017. This detention pond will capture sediment and reduce flows downstream in the Camp Creek Basin and reduce the size of the Camp Creek flood plain.

· As part of the City’s intergovernmental agreement with Pueblo, design has begun for a 2018 project that will address the concrete lined channel of Camp Creek along 31st Street to restore a large portion of the concrete channel to a natural vegetated channel which when complete will significantly reduce the floodplain along this corridor.
The Waldo Canyon Fire, which began June 23 and was declared 100 percent contained 17 days later on July 10 burned a total of 18,247 acres and devastated the Colorado Springs community, taking two lives and destroying 347 homes.


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Monday, June 12, 2017

Jared Polis announces gubernatorial run amid the oranges

Posted By on Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 2:00 PM

Rep. Jared Polis meets with well-wishers at a grocery store on Monday during a swing through Colorado Springs to announce his run for governor. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Rep. Jared Polis meets with well-wishers at a grocery store on Monday during a swing through Colorado Springs to announce his run for governor.
Jared Polis, Democratic congressman from Colorado, took a swing along the Front Range Monday to promote his candidacy for governor.

Polis stopped in Colorado Springs at the Save A Lot grocery at 3333 N. Academy Blvd. where media set up in the entry way of the store and Polis talked about the crucial role El Paso County will play in the next election.

Surrounded by produce, Polis told the Independent he is supportive of Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana, and wants to regulate it like alcohol.

"We should continue our leadership role with all the jobs it's created," he said.

Addressing Republicans' efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Polis said he's trying to defend the ACA, because, "It's important we don't allow 20 million Americans to lose health care."

As governor, he said he would look for ways to reduce health care costs to increase access, supports a national single-payer health care system, and is open to looking at that type of proposal at the state level.

Other stops on his current trek included Pueblo, Denver and Boulder.

Polis joins a crowded field of candidates seeking to succeed Democrat John Hickenlooper, who’s barred by term limits from seeking a third term.

Democrats include Rep. Ed Perlmutter, former state Sen. Mike Johnston, former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy and businessman Noel Ginsburg.

Republicans include Mitt Romney’s nephew Doug Robinson, George Brauchler, the prosecutor in the Aurora theater shooting case, and former state legislator Victor Mitchell.

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