Friday, April 20, 2018

Nor'wood pledges "Vision Plan" for public spaces in Banning Lewis Ranch

Posted By on Fri, Apr 20, 2018 at 1:27 PM

Undeveloped Banning Lewis Ranch, east of Colorado Springs, has been annexed for 30 years but not much has happened. Mayor John Suthers wants to change the agreement to motivate developers to build homes and businesses, rather than see that development leap frog into El Paso County. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Undeveloped Banning Lewis Ranch, east of Colorado Springs, has been annexed for 30 years but not much has happened. Mayor John Suthers wants to change the agreement to motivate developers to build homes and businesses, rather than see that development leap frog into El Paso County.
Controversy over the amended annexation agreement for Banning Lewis Ranch has given rise to a resolution, which is non-binding, that would "recognize the unique natural characteristics" within the ranch.

The resolution is on tap for consideration by City Council at its April 23 meeting, and approval at the April 24 meeting, along with the annexation agreement itself.

The resolution states that Council "finds there is significant community interest in preservation of certain areas of that part of the City of Colorado Springs commonly referred to as the Banning Lewis Ranch, particularly in the vicinity of the Corral Bluffs Open Space and Jimmy Camp Creek Regional Park noted within the Park System Master Plan...."

It also states that the owner of most of the ranch, Nor'wood Development Group, "Has acknowledged its desire to create a meaningful open space system that improves connectivity of existing City-owned parks, trails, and open space, provides multi-use trail access, integrates into future development patters, and protects sensitive landscapes and creek corridors."

The resolution goes on to say Nor'wood agrees to invite Council reps to participate in a planning effort that would yield a "Vision Plan" for the property.

Read the resolution here:
The resolution materialized after an April 11 meeting for public comment at which at least a dozen residents expressed concern about the lack of public open space, parks and trails built into the new annexation agreement.
Bill Koerner, with the Corral Bluffs Alliance, calls the resolution "a good step" and hopes the city follows up.

"We do need to do some visioning. We need to understand the resources, how Banning Lewis is going to develop and the time frame," he tells the Independent. But he's concerned there's no explicit timeline for the vision plan.

"We've got to start on it now," he says.

With the city's Trails, Open Space and Tops sales tax expiring in 2025, and the possibility of a renewal ballot measure in 2019 or 2021, Koerner wonders if certain areas of the ranch could become the poster child for passage of an extension of the tax.

"Nor'wood is a good partner," he adds, but says he wants to see some specific dates for getting the vision plan under way and completed.

Nor'wood has expressed interest in selling portions of the ranch to the city for open space and said when it purchased the property in 2014 for $28 million:

Nor’wood Development Group is pleased to announce that after careful consideration and much due diligence, the purchase of the Banning Lewis Ranch has been finalized. As a locally owned multi-generational business operating in the Pikes Peak Region for more than 40 years, we consider it a privilege to be the stewards of this great community asset and will ensure that the property’s long term potential is discovered and achieved. Responsible development, recreation and conservation will be foundational principles of the vision for Banning Lewis Ranch, which will take decades to fully realize.

We have previously outlined and restate our commitment to promote the stewardship of environmental resources, quality neighborhood and commercial design, support efficient public services and facilities, leverage opportunities for the long-term viability of our local Air Force installations, protect the property’s world-renown natural formations with a signature conservation effort, and encourage meaningful outdoor educational and recreational opportunities.

We will continue and expand our work with a knowledgeable and experienced team of local and national professionals, municipal leaders, conservationist, community stakeholders and citizens to develop land use and development strategies for the property. We look forward to sharing periodic updates, timelines and additional details when appropriate. 

Not everyone was thrilled with the resolution. Sustainable growth advocate Dave Gardner tells the Indy via email the measure seems "worthless."

"Looks like a resolution to somehow appease open space advocates and get them to back off on Banning Lewis Ranch. But this resolution is worthless," he says. "It is just words and vague promises. No guarantees at all. I will be sorely disappointed if this is all it takes for open space advocates to accept the current BLR amendment. We need to set the bar higher!"

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Scott Pruitt's Broadmoor stay funded by HBA

Posted By on Thu, Apr 19, 2018 at 3:51 PM

Scott Pruitt visited Colorado Springs. - GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR
  • Gage Skidmore/Flickr
  • Scott Pruitt visited Colorado Springs.
The Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs cozied up to one of President Trump's most controversial figures, Politico reports, and funded his "luxury hotel stay" at The Broadmoor.

When EPA director Scott Pruitt came for a visit in October 2017, the HBA paid for his Broadmoor room, at $409.12, the story says.

Pruitt has been in hot water over several instances of alleged conflicts of interest and lavish travel spending.

From the story:
“We didn’t pay for his team but we paid for him. That was the agreement when we talked to him,” [HBA executive director Renee] Zentz said. “We just wanted to get him here, we were just so excited to have him.”

The trip's headline event was a Pruitt speech to a local lunch gathering of about 150 people on Oct. 5, Zentz said. But in a stroke of good timing, board members from the National Association of Home Builders, a major lobbying group, were meeting in nearby Santa Fe, N.M., and flew up for the event. NAHB President Jerry Howard hustled in from Washington to moderate Pruitt’s remarks.

The group's invitation describes the event as "a rare opportunity to hear directly from the EPA administration" and "our chance to make sure the concerns of our industry are being listened to."

“It just was an awesome opportunity,” Zentz said. “It was a pretty big feather in our cap locally.”
Politico also reports that builders have lauded the administration's efforts to roll back regulations on clean water and stormwater runoff.

However, it's worth noting that the HBA supported Mayor John Suthers' stormwater fee, which won voter approval last fall and becomes effective in July.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

El Paso County Sheriff's lieutenant has been given six raises under Elder

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 11:32 AM

Sheriff Elder basks in the limelight after taking the oath of office. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Sheriff Elder basks in the limelight after taking the oath of office.
In this week's Independent, we report that several delegates at the GOP assembly on March 24 felt intimidated by El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder or Lt. Bill Huffor, who reportedly screamed at several delegates regarding their votes.

Huffor, who works in detentions, has been a rising star at the department in recent years. He's worked there since 2004, according to employment records obtained by the Indy through an open records request, but after Elder came into office on Dec. 31, 2014, Huffor's career took a leap.

He's received six raises since then, which comprise a 52 percent increase in pay, to his current salary of $97,605.

During the previous 10 years, from 2004 to 2014, Huffor's pay went up by 77 percent, from $36,228, to $64,334. During that time, he had four merit raises. Since Elder became sheriff three years ago, Huffor has had at least three merit-based salary bumps.

It's worth noting that Huffor's wife, Janet, serves as Elder's chief of staff, at an annual salary of $90,986. She's had one raise since she was hired on Jan. 1, 2015, Elder's second day in office.

Here's Lt. Huffor's employment history, as provided by the county's HR department:
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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Memorial Hospital earns Level 1 Trauma Center designation

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2018 at 10:24 AM

Memorial Hospital's emergency department got a new designation: Level 1 Trauma. It's the first outside of the Denver metro area. - COURTESY UCHEALTH-MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
  • Courtesy UCHealth-Memorial Hospital
  • Memorial Hospital's emergency department got a new designation: Level 1 Trauma. It's the first outside of the Denver metro area.

City-owned Memorial Hospital Central, operated under a 40-year lease by UCHealth, has achieved Level 1 Trauma Center status, the first such designation given by state health regulators outside the Denver metro area.

We wrote about the application here and here.

Memorial Central is home to Colorado's busiest emergency department. The designation was finalized on April 16 following a survey and review.

We've asked Penrose-St. Francis Health Services for an update on its application for Level 1 Trauma Center designation and will circle back when we hear something.

Here's the news release from Memorial, including comments from Mayor John Suthers:

The State of Colorado has designated UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central as a Level I Trauma Center, making it one of only four hospitals in the state with the highest classification for trauma care. A Level I distinction recognizes the hospital has the ability to treat severe and complex injuries, giving southern Colorado residents rapid access to top-level emergency and trauma care without having to go to Denver.

The state finalized the designation on April 16 after a survey and review process, and the hospital is the first in southern Colorado to receive the classification.

“Earning this Level I designation has taken years of planning and advancements,” said Joel Yuhas, Memorial’s president and CEO. “Memorial has recruited some of the nation’s best trauma surgeons, upgraded our facilities, led important research, and hired excellent subspecialty surgeons to support the trauma program. This preparation, and the Level I designation, will result in more lives being saved.”

Hospital trauma designations are determined according to varying criteria, including medical resources and patient volumes. Key elements required to be a Level 1 trauma center include around-the-clock coverage by trauma surgeons and prompt availability of specialists in orthopedics, neurosurgery and anesthesiology, among others. Such facilities also must be leaders in trauma prevention and education, conduct research and meet volume requirements for treating severely injured patients.

Memorial Central, which houses the state’s busiest emergency department, provided care in 2017 to more than 2,100 trauma patients who met trauma registry inclusion criteria. The majority of trauma cases involve blunt injuries that are often the result of incidents such as motor vehicle crashes, pedestrians or bicyclists hit by vehicles, falls and penetrating trauma.

“Achieving a Level 1 designation is the fulfillment of a promise made to the community when Memorial became part of UCHealth in 2012,” said Dr. Thomas Schroeppel, the hospital’s trauma medical director. “Because of the investments made in the hospital – both in technology and medical expertise – and the expansion of physician training programs through a strong collaboration with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, we are able to ensure southern Coloradans have access to top trauma and surgical critical care services. This is not just an honor for the hospital, but a time of celebration for Colorado Springs and beyond.”

Until now, Colorado’s only Level I trauma centers were located in the metro Denver region, and southern Colorado patients with the most severe injuries might have to fly to Denver for care.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said, “We congratulate UCHealth and Memorial Hospital on this designation. Colorado Springs residents are fortunate to receive care by the high caliber of medical professions serving our community. We appreciate UCHealth’s commitment to the Pikes Peak region and to providing its residents with access to excellent medical care.”

It is the third elite designation Memorial Central’s trauma center has received in 2018. The hospital also was verified as a Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma center by the American College of Surgeons (ACS). The ACS reviewers highlighted the strong collaboration that has been built with Children’s Hospital Colorado that has led UCHealth Memorial to provide exceptional care to children.

“This highest level of trauma care means critically-injured patients stay closer to home, that families can more easily stay or visit them, and that the long process of healing and rehabilitation occurs not miles away, but across the street,” said Dr. David Steinbruner, Memorial Hospital’s chief of staff and an emergency medicine physician.

In January, Memorial Central become the first hospital in southern Colorado to be named a Comprehensive Stroke Center, a classification given to programs that offer the highest and most advanced level of stroke care. As the only hospital in the region with multiple teams of neurosurgeons and neuro-interventional physicians on-call 24/7, Memorial has the unique capabilities to quickly and expertly treat every kind of stroke or brain aneurysm. These advanced capabilities are saving lives and improving outcomes for patients because time is crucial in the treatment of stroke. Getting the best care rapidly can lead to a better recovery.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Denver Post must be owned by Coloradans, local leaders say

Posted By on Thu, Apr 12, 2018 at 12:05 PM

Community leaders in Colorado Springs want to join the effort to rescue The Denver Post from the grips of hedge fund Alden [Global Capital], which owns Digital First Media, which has continually gutted the state's largest newspaper's newsroom. The most recent layoff slashed 30 people from the newsroom.

In the Post's heyday, it had 250 journalists in its newsroom; now it has fewer than 75.

In a news release, Together for Colorado Springs, a civic and activist organization, announced that local leaders have pledged at least $10 million to purchase the newspaper.

T4CS is "rallying residents from across Colorado to join with us to purchase the Denver Post,"  says T4CS chair John Weiss, who is the owner of the Colorado Springs Independent and its sister publications that include the Colorado Springs Business Journal, the Pikes Peak Bulletin and The Transcript. He also holds the contract to publish three local military newspapers under the Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group.

“According to industry reports, the Denver Post is currently profitable,” Weiss said in the release. “But it is not making enough money to satisfy its current, out-of-state, hedge fund owners. Cutting core staff — not just in the newsroom, but in circulation, marketing, accounting, and throughout the paper — will never lead to the journalism Colorado deserves.”

A growing list of advisors is helping T4CS connect to allies across Colorado. “The Denver Post’s new owners must reflect our state’s diversity — geographically, politically, and demographically,” health care executive Jennifer Furda, a member of the committee and former Business Journal publisher, said in the release.

Attorney and hotelier Perry Sanders and hotel owner John Goede have committed to helping facilitate the purchase of the Post to ensure "open-minded, journalist-driven print and digital news for decades to come," the release said.

“Colorado needs a great statewide paper to keep both elected officials and citizens informed,”  Marcy Morrison said. “When I served as El Paso County Commissioner, State Legislator, Manitou Springs Mayor and Colorado State Insurance Commissioner, my first priority every morning was to read the Denver Post.”

Weiss will speak on the impact of newspaper ownership on newspaper content at the opening session of the Colorado Press Association's meetings this week in Colorado Springs. The panel featuring Weiss and others will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday, April 12, at the Antlers Hotel.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, who recently told Rolling Stone magazine he wished the hedge fund would sell the Post, will give the Friday keynote address at the press association's convention.

If you're interested in helping with the effort, email

Among those serving on an exploratory committee are Alan Gottlieb, former Post reporter and co-founder of Chalkbeat, a nonprofit digital news source covering education; former editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal and Indy and current editor emeritus Ralph Routon;  Morrison; Furda; Deborah Mahan, a bank vice president; contractor Chuck Murphy, Sanders; Jim Stewart, founder of the Springs Black Chamber of Commerce; John Street, founder of Telephone Express and other businesses, and Weiss.
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PPCC Black Student Union to host community discussion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attendees are encouraged to bring questions to the Pikes Peak Community College Centennial Atrium, 5675 S. Academy Blvd. on Friday, April 13, 6 p.m.
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Final Banning Lewis Ranch public meeting attracts scores

Posted By on Thu, Apr 12, 2018 at 10:44 AM

About 40 people attended a meeting Wednesday, April 11, about Banning Lewis Ranch. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • About 40 people attended a meeting Wednesday, April 11, about Banning Lewis Ranch.

About 40 people showed up on April 11 for the final public comment session for the revised Banning Lewis Ranch annexation agreement, which will ease the way for homes and commercial development on about 20,000 acres on the city's east side.

City Council is due to take action on April 24.

At issue is a 1988 annexation agreement that was designed to force development to pay for itself, but is viewed as too demanding by developers. The new agreement changes many of the requirements, including narrowing the city's right of way required for dedication by developers for a proposed Banning Lewis Ranch Parkway, among other changes.

Here's some background.

At the public meeting, about a dozen people spoke, many urging City Council to make arrangements for reservation of open space, parks and trails before the city loses its leverage by approving the agreement, which doesn't contain those specifications.

Susan Davies, executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition, asked Council "one more time" to honor the city's master plan for the property, which contains designation for large swaths of open space.

The point, she said, was to secure far-reaching public spaces so that residents on the east side of the city will have the same amenity afforded those living on the west side, which abuts Pike National Forest, Stratton Open Space, North Cheyenne Canyon and Garden of the Gods.

Lee Milner, long-time open space and parks advocate, pointed out a "fatal flaw" in the revised agreement. "It's based on current standards of service," he said, "and the current standard of service isn't good enough." He noted that police response times, for example, are substandard, and asked why Council is willing to base development of roughly 20 percent of the city on substandard service.

He also asked why the city was willing to give up right of way for Banning Lewis Ranch Parkway when it might, someday, have to purchase the property to widen the road. Keep the right of way, he said, and if it's not needed in 50 years, it could be sold.

Dave Gardner, who's been accused of opposing growth but says he supports sustainable growth, offered his two cents in this letter, which is followed by an outline for the ranch from former city planner Larry Larsen.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

StoryCorps returns to Colorado Springs with Military Voices Initiative

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 1:00 PM

  • Via StoryCorps Facebook page

StoryCorps, a nonprofit that captures and preserves stories of everyday Americans, will return to Colorado Springs to record interviews from April 30 through May 11 at Library 21C, 1175 Chapel Hills Drive. The 12-day stop is co-hosted by 91.5 KRCC and the Pikes Peak Library District. StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative allows veterans, service members and military families to share their stories. "In doing so we honor their voices, amplify their experiences and let them know that we — as a nation — are listening," notes StoryCorps in a release.

Two people can record a conversation with one another about who they are, what they've learned in life and how they want to be remembered, the release said. A StoryCorps facilitator guides them, and a complimentary CD is given to participants at the end of each 40-minute session. A second copy is archived at the Library of Congress.

The mobile booth will record stories weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sign up at 800/850-4406.

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CBI clears El Paso County Sheriff's Office in notary case

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 9:59 AM

Borland: He's sure he didn't order the notaries to notarized signatures they didn't witness because he "would never do that.” - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office
  • Borland: He's sure he didn't order the notaries to notarized signatures they didn't witness because he "would never do that.”
In this week's issue, we report the Colorado Bureau of Investigation has concluded its investigation into the saga of notarizing El Paso County sheriff deputy oaths without the deputies present. It found no basis for criminal charges, despite three people saying they felt the order to notarize the documents without the deputies present for their signatures to be properly witnessed forced the two notaries to violate state notary laws or face retaliation.

After the Independent went to press on April 10, the CBI produced a Feb. 21 letter to District Attorney Dan May sought by the Indy a couple of weeks ago.

In it, CBI director John Camper says agent Jodi Wright interviewed a retired sheriff's lieutenant who witnessed the order, given by sheriff's administrator Larry Borland, and saw it as a threat that "both would be fired, or there would be other repercussions if they did not notarize the commission cards," the letter quotes the lieutenant as saying to Wright.

We use [blank] to indicate redactions in the letter, as follows:

"While it was certainly [blank] opinion that the two men would be fired, or would incur other repercussions, the conversation as related by [blank] does not, in our view, constitute such a threat," Camper wrote.

Borland had earlier told Wright he didn't order the affidavits notarized all in one day in April 2016, and Sheriff Bill Elder said in a Nov. 8, 2017, news conference that the notaries, Rick Dietz and David Mejia, took it upon themselves to do so.

The CBI letter goes on to note that violation of notary laws are "non-criminal in nature" that should be handled by the Colorado Secretary of State's Office.

Which wasn't really the point of this issue. No one is arguing that notary laws were not violated; the issue is why they were violated and who's responsible for those violations and whether some other law could be at play due to the coercion that Dietz, Mejia and the retired lieutenant say they witnessed.

In any event, Camper ends his letter saying, "Additionally, the actions of [blank] do not, in our view, meet the elements of 18-8-404, First degree official misconduct, and 18-8-405, Second degree official misconduct, although we certainly leave that determination to your judgment."

May apparently agrees with Camper; no charges have been filed.

Here are the definitions of the crimes cited by Camper:
(1) A public servant commits first degree official misconduct if, with intent to obtain a benefit for the public servant or another or maliciously to cause harm to another, he or she knowingly:

(a) Commits an act relating to his office but constituting an unauthorized exercise of his official function; or

(b) Refrains from performing a duty imposed upon him by law; or

(c) Violates any statute or lawfully adopted rule or regulation relating to his office.

(2) First degree official misconduct is a class 2 misdemeanor.
(1) A public servant commits second degree official misconduct if he knowingly, arbitrarily, and capriciously:

(a) Refrains from performing a duty imposed upon him by law; or

(b) Violates any statute or lawfully adopted rule or regulation relating to his office.

(2) Second degree official misconduct is a class 1 petty offense.
Here's Camper's letter, followed by the CBI investigation report.

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Judge: Lamborn on ballot. Appeal planned

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 9:39 AM

Walker Stapleton with his family. - STAPLETONFORCOLORADO.COM
  • Walker Stapleton with his family.
Various media are reporting that a judge has allowed Doug Lamborn to stay on the primary ballot despite questions about the signature gatherers for his petitions.

The group of GOP voters that challenged the petitions plan to appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.

——- ORIGINAL POST, April 10, 4:19 p.m. ——-
The fate of Congressman Doug Lamborn, seeking his seventh term a representative of the Fifth Congressional District, was hanging in the balance at an April 10 evidentiary hearing on a lawsuit. That suit alleged that the signature gatherers responsible for the petitions that qualified Lamborn for the Republican primary ballot were not residents of Colorado — and that therefore many of the signatures weren't valid.

That's a big problem for Lamborn, because he skipped the Fifth Congressional District assembly. If his petition signatures are invalidated he's out of the race.

Lamborn earlier released a statement saying he expected the suit to blow over soon.

9News reported that Walker Stapleton, Colorado treasurer and leading Republican candidate for governor, "filed paperwork in the court case to intervene and have the case against Lamborn dismissed. Why? Because he hired some of the same signature collectors being challenged in the Lamborn case."

So, here's the bombshell: Stapleton has reportedly asked the Colorado Secretary of State to remove his name from the primary ballot, saying that the signature gathering company in question, Colorado Springs-based firm Kennedy Enterprises, lied to him and collected fraudulent signatures. Stapleton now plans to seek a place on the primary ballot through the assembly process.

News Channel 13 reports that Lamborn's hearing is ongoing.

But one would expect that Stapleton's move won't help Lamborn's position.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Where should the city's beloved/loathed stadium go?

Posted By on Tue, Apr 10, 2018 at 11:17 AM

An "artist rendering" of Pikes Peak Municipal Stadium.
  • An "artist rendering" of Pikes Peak Municipal Stadium.
Our April Fool's Day shenanigans are always fun, especially when we entice a little giggle from our readers, but 2018's prank (see next page) got us thinking a little more about the stadium story which, in reality, remains quite controversial.

Talk of a downtown stadium began years ago — though the project has yet to move beyond the early planning stages — but recent headlines have signaled a renewed push to find a location for the proposed complex. Where that location is going to be is the greatest question, and one we can't seem to get an answer to.

So where should the city's beloved/loathed stadium sit?

One Indy reader suggested the top of Pikes Peak, which, looking at the photo above, would make quite a spectacular $2 Tuesday experience, but likely add to the traffic on the peak after the closure of the Cog Railway.

But would that top a prime location at America the Beautiful Park, as a few other readers suggested?
An "artist rendering" of America the Beautiful Municipal Stadium.
  • An "artist rendering" of America the Beautiful Municipal Stadium.

Or, even better, the city could capitalize on the world-famous name of Garden of the Gods.

An "artist rendering" of Garden of the Gods Municipal Stadium.
  • An "artist rendering" of Garden of the Gods Municipal Stadium.

Of course, all kidding aside, a handful of readers see an opportunity to kill two controversial birds with one stone by replacing the Martin Drake Power Plant with the venue.

An "artist rendering" of Martin Drake Municipal Stadium.
  • An "artist rendering" of Martin Drake Municipal Stadium.

And at least one reader called for an infill development in the New South End.

An "artist rendering" of New South End Municipal Stadium.
  • An "artist rendering" of New South End Municipal Stadium.

It also didn't take long for billionaire Phillip Anschutz's name to be attached to the project, as one reader suggested his "backyard." While were not entirely sure if Anschutz has a local address, or where it is, we figured one of his well known local properties would suffice.

An "artist rendering" of the Broadmoor Municipal Stadium.
  • An "artist rendering" of the Broadmoor Municipal Stadium.

Lastly, in an obvious sign of disapproval for the project, the idea of tossing the entire project in the toilet was pitched by another reader.

Keep the recommendations coming! We'll be updating this piece with the most suitable (and whacky) places our readers think a new stadium would best fit until the official word finally comes down.

An artist rendering of Strawberry Field Municipal Stadium.
  • An artist rendering of Strawberry Field Municipal Stadium.
After months of speculation and swirling rumors about the possible location of a downtown stadium, the Independent has learned the preferred site is nowhere near downtown after all.

Rather, it will be built in the meadow of Strawberry Fields open space and will be owned and operated by The Broadmoor resort and hotel. The Broadmoor's owner, billionaire Philip Anschutz, operates the mega entertainment company, AEG, which has a deal with the Broadmoor World Arena.

Strawberry Fields was traded to The Broadmoor in 2016 in a land swap in which the city received hundreds of acres in rugged open space and trails.

The open space's building envelop, once envisioned as a site for picnic pavilions and horse stables, is about 8.5 acres, more than adequate for a stadium. Lawyer and businessman Perry Sanders, who had previously proposed a stadium for Antlers Park just west of his Antlers Hotel, told the Indy previously that four acres is all that's needed for a stadium.

The real question remains: How will the project be funded? The city expects to received $27.7 million in state sales tax increment funding via the Regional Tourism Act, which also is funding three other projects. Those include the Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' sports medicine center and the Air Force Academy's new Visitors Center.
The stadium has been estimated to cost roughly $93 million, leaving a $65 million gap between state funding and the actual cost.

The Broadmoor couldn't be reached for comment, but sources tell the Indy the resort is proposing to convert a large portion of the 186-acre Strawberry Fields into parking to serve the stadium. Because the open space consists of rolling hills and some rocky outcroppings, the sources say significant excavation will be required. The deal would allow The Broadmoor to retain parking fees, sources say.

The Palmer Land Trust could not be reached for comment on how that new plan squares with requirements contained in its conservation easement for Strawberry Fields, which required that most of the land be open to the public and maintained as open space.

Reached on a Broadmoor golf course for comment, Mayor John Suthers said simply, "April Fools."

Editor's note: In case you didn't get it: This is a joke and none of it is true.
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Colorado Springs rockets to No. 2 on "best places to live" list

Posted By on Tue, Apr 10, 2018 at 6:00 AM

  • Bob Falcone
Colorado Springs ranked No. 2 in U.S. News & World Report's best places to live, climbing from No. 11 last year and bumping Denver from No. 2 to No. 3.

Topping the list was Austin, Texas, its second year in the No. 1 slot.

The news was to be lauded by Mayor John Suthers at a news conference April 10 at America the Beautiful Park.

The Olympic Museum, under construction, is set to open in late 2019. - COURTESY OLYMPIC MUSEUM
  • Courtesy Olympic Museum
  • The Olympic Museum, under construction, is set to open in late 2019.
The publication ranks cities to help readers make informed decisions when choosing where to live.
The rankings evaluate data from the Census Bureau, the FBI, Department of Labor and U.S. News' internal resources. Five indexes are used. They are job market, 20 percent; Value Index, 25 percent, which considers median annual household income and cost of living; quality of life, 30 percent, which includes crime rates, health care quality and availability and education; "desirability," 15 percent; and net migration, 10 percent.

In a news release, U.S. News reported that a booming job market and high quality of life scores pushed Colorado Springs to the No. 2 spot.

See all the rankings here.

Here's what the magazine said about Colorado Springs:

Colorado Springs might not jump off the map as an economic or cultural hub the way larger metro areas like Denver do. But in a quieter, gentler way, Colorado Springs has much to offer, including a low cost of living, a low unemployment rate and a variety of recreation and entertainment options.

Colorado Springs attracts students, professionals and military personnel to the area with a cache of military bases and nationally ranked colleges. Plus, construction in Colorado Springs is booming, with new residences popping up alongside quality schools, parks and cultural attractions.

This area, which is filled with natural wonders of its own, has the additional allure of proximity to ski resorts like Aspen and Vail without the associated steep costs of living and high levels of traffic. And even though its quaint downtown doesn't have a Bloomingdale's or Lord & Taylor, Denver's lineup of storefronts is just an hour's drive away.
Of course, locals know that the Springs has its share of problems to: a lack of affordable housing, skyrocketing housing costs, heavy reliance on military spending, a high suicide rate, a lot of child abuse and domestic violence calls, one of the highest sales tax rates in the state and what some consider an ineffective transit system that doesn't serve the entire city.
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Monday, April 9, 2018

UPDATE: Ex-Memorial Hospital employee wins nearly $1 million jury verdict

Posted By on Mon, Apr 9, 2018 at 2:10 PM

Memorial Hospital, part of the UCHealth system, was found liable by a jury in a lawsuit filed by a former employee. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Memorial Hospital, part of the UCHealth system, was found liable by a jury in a lawsuit filed by a former employee.
UCHealth spokesperson Dan Weaver provided this statement via email:

UCHealth Memorial is obviously disappointed in the jury’s decision. We maintain that we had an appropriate and legal reason for terminating the employee. UCHealth Memorial is now considering filing an appeal of the verdict or a motion for a new trial.
—-ORIGINAL POST 2:10 P.M. MON., APRIL 9, 2018—

This blog has been updated to correct Beth Falcone's job title.

An El Paso County jury returned the biggest monetary award for compensatory damages in a case of its kind when it awarded nearly $1 million to a former Memorial Hospital nurse sonographer, according to the woman's nurse's attorney, Gary Kramer.

The verdict in favor of Beth Falcone was $148,000 for lost wages and about $800,00 for compensatory damages.

Falcone sued city-owned Memorial Hospital in 2016 after she was fired following complaints she made about how use of and care for medical equipment compromised patient safety.

Read our story at the time found here.

As stated by the lawsuit: "Falcone made multiple good faith reports and disclosures regarding potential threats to patient safety due to improper and/or inconsistent performance and documentation of HLD [high level disinfection] of vaginal ultrasound probes at UCH-MHS." After that, she was terminated.

In a news release, Kramer says, "The jury clearly believed Beth. This verdict sends a strong message to UCHealth and all other health care employees in Colorado. It is rare for an employee's lawsuit to proceed to trial. This case proves that the system works. We believe justice was served."

Read the release here:
We've asked Memorial for a comment and will update if and when we hear something.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Air Force Academy unveils new Visitors Center concept

Posted By on Fri, Apr 6, 2018 at 5:25 PM

  • Photos courtesy Air Force Academy
The Air Force Academy hosted a meeting Friday, April 6, in which it unveiled some artist's renderings of the proposed Air Force Academy Visitors Center, part of the Springs' City for Champions tourism initiative.

Here's an Academy post from Facebook about it:
A major community partnership was announced during today's State of USAFA address. The Air Force is in negotiations to begin development on approximately 57 acres by the Academy's North Gate. The new Visitor's Center will be 35,000 sq ft and is slated to include a theater, exhibits, a merchandise shop, and meeting and support space.
As we reported recently, the Academy had sought bids from contractors to build and run the center.

Responding to Facebook questions, the Academy says the new center will incorporate a Santa Fe Trailhead Center into the project. In response to a critic who questioned spending millions of dollars for the center, the Academy wrote, "These are very valid concerns that the Academy took a hard look at. Respectively, the development itself is a public/private venture. In exchange for the Academy leasing the land, the developer is constructing the Visitor Center at no cost to the Academy."

The proposed lease agreement is between the Air Force and Blue and Silver Development Partners LLC, which got some help from the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners with its proposal. Minutes from the Nov. 30, 2017, BOCC meeting show a unanimous vote to approve a "Comment Letter to Accompany Response to Proposal as requested by Blue and Silver Development Partners, LLC, for a proposal for development of an Air Force Academy Visitor’s Center and surrounding commercial development."

Blue & Silver had been created two days before that, according to Colorado Secretary of State records. It's located at 2435 Research Parkway, and its registered agent is Daniel Schnepf, who is president and CEO of Matrix Design Group.

Here's a blurb from the Academy's website:
The Air Force is in negotiations with a privately-owned company to begin development on approximately 57 acres by the Academy's North Gate.

The proposed lease includes an agreement between the Air Force and Blue and Silver, LLC, to construct a new visitor's center. The new center will increase the visibility and accessibility for the local community and tourists to the Academy.

The development proposal also includes hotels, office and retail space, an indoor skydiving facility, and a Santa Fe Trailhead Center as part of the City for Champions initiative in Colorado Springs.

Construction could begin as early as 2019 if lease negotiations are successful.


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Thursday, April 5, 2018

UPDATE: Doug Lamborn's primary ballot spot in question

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


From the Doug Lamborn campaign:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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