Tuesday, October 29, 2019

7 stories making headlines this week

Posted By on Tue, Oct 29, 2019 at 5:43 PM

ALISSA SMITH
  • Alissa Smith

On Oct. 26, the community celebrated the official dedication of a new statue of Fannie Mae Duncan, late founder of the now-defunct Cotton Club jazz venue, outside Studio Bee at the Pikes Peak Center. Famous for her motto “everybody welcome,” Duncan became a local legend in the '50s and '60s, and her legacy has lived on. The sculpture dedication was followed by a free music festival, in true Cotton Club spirit.

The North America & Caribbean Handball Confederation will locate its headquarters in Colorado Springs.

The city opened its first dedicated downhill mountain bike trails —Almond Butter and Rattle Rocks — on Oct. 22 in Ute Valley Park.

The 8,910-acre Decker fire south of Salida was said to be 100 percent contained on Oct. 24.

The city’s five-year 2C road tax program finished the season with 177 paved lane miles, bringing the four-year total to 854 miles. The Nov. 5 ballot includes a renewal of 2C for another five years.

The I-25 Wrong Way Prevention Project, aiming to install about 2,500 “wrong way” road signs along the interstate, has completed work in Las Animas, Huerfano and Pueblo counties, and will soon complete work in El Paso County.

HHMI TANGLED BANK STUDIOS
  • HHMI Tangled Bank Studios

Dr. Ian Miller, left, director of earth and space sciences and curator of paleobotany at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and Dr. Tyler Lyson, curator of vertebrate paleontology, look for fossil concretions at Corral Bluffs open space in northeast Colorado Springs. The scientists have discovered a trove of plant and animal fossils that document the rise of mammals following the destruction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. 

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Colorado Springs Utilities asking for bigger budget

Posted By on Tue, Oct 29, 2019 at 5:42 PM

COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities

Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Aram Benyamin proposed a 2020 budget of $954.4 million, which is $17.9 million higher than the current year’s budget.

The increase stems from rising fuel and purchased power costs and a larger transfer to the city — $36.1 million, 7.3 percent more than this year’s $33.7 million — in “surplus” revenue, which was formerly labeled a payment in lieu of taxes. Council is slated to approve the budget on Nov. 12.

On Oct. 22, Council voted 8-0, with Wayne Williams absent, to raise electric and natural gas rates. Effective Nov. 1, the rate hikes add $1.80 a month to a typical residential customer’s bill, $35.42 to a commercial bill, and $422.24 to an industrial bill.

Utilities plans water and wastewater rate increases, effective Jan. 1, that would drive up the typical residential bill by $5.71 a month, a commercial bill by $7.90, and an industrial bill by $99.55.

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Air Force Academy Visitors Center project advances

Posted By on Tue, Oct 29, 2019 at 5:40 PM

A rendering of the visitor center project and accompanying buildings. - COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
  • A rendering of the visitor center project and accompanying buildings.

On Oct. 22, City Council took a series of steps to push forward on the Air Force Academy Visitors Center project — part of the City for Champions development package. It is being partially funded with state tax money via the Regional Tourism Act.

Council approved which properties will be included in the 57-acre project at the Academy’s north entrance, which will include retail, office and commercial space, a hotel and the center itself.

Blue and Silver Development Partners LLC is building the project in cooperation with the Academy and won Council approval to issue up to $80 million in debt to fund the business improvement district. According to its 2020 plan, the district will levy up to 50 mills in property taxes for debt service and 10 mills for operations and maintenance. It also plans to impose a public improvement fee of 3 percent on retail sales and 2 percent on lodging.

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Fine Arts Center at Colorado College nets major grant

Posted By on Tue, Oct 29, 2019 at 5:38 PM

COURTESY COLORADO COLLEGE
  • Courtesy Colorado College

The Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal grant-making agency, has awarded a total of $21,726,676 in grants to 130 projects nationwide, including a $243,000 grant to our own Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. 

The FAC announced Oct. 22 that the grant will be used “in support of a long-term project to improve the documentation, preservation and accessibility of its collection of Native American, Hispanic, Spanish Colonial and 20th century American art.” The grant should cover the digitization of 3,000 pieces from the FAC’s permanent collection, to share with the public through a portal on the center’s website. 

“The project focuses on key parts of the museum’s mission: the preservation of historic and cultural data for future generations and the creation of expansive networks of knowledge. I am grateful to the IMLS for their support of this ongoing work,” said FAC museum director Rebecca Tucker in a press release. 

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Census opens shop in Southeast Colorado Springs

Posted By on Tue, Oct 29, 2019 at 5:36 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com

The Pikes Peak Area Complete Count Committee has opened the Southern Region Census Office at 3015 S. Academy Blvd.

The committee, chaired by former City Councilor Merv Bennett, will coordinate local efforts to count every person living in El Paso and Teller counties as part of the constitutionally required Census conducted every 10 years. Census data dictates the number of U.S. House seats in each state, as well as levels of federal funding for roads, schools and other public services.

Meantime, the U.S. Census Bureau has been holding hiring events throughout Colorado as part of its goal to hire 500,000 Census takers across the country. 

Editor's note: This post was updated to correct a typo in the Census Office address.
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Don’t forget to vote in the Nov. 5 election

Posted By on Tue, Oct 29, 2019 at 5:34 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com

Find out how to register and get a ballot at elpasoco.com/election. The Indy’s editorial board offers these endorsements:

Vote yes on Issue 2B, retention of revenue for Colorado Springs parks and recreation.

Vote yes on Issue 2C, Colorado Springs’ extension of a sales tax for five years to fund road improvements.

It recommends either candidate for Manitou Springs mayor, Alan Delwiche or John Graham.

Vote yes on Issue 2E, transfer of leftover funds to Manitou Springs’ downtown improvements.

Vote yes on Issue 2D, a 0.3 percent sales tax in Manitou Springs to support arts, culture and heritage.

Vote yes on 4A, Lewis-Palmer School District 38’s proposed $28.985 million bond issue to build an elementary school.

Vote yes on state Proposition CC, to retain Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights refunds for transportation and education.

Vote for Prop DD, legalizing and taxing sports betting for water.

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Colorado Democrats' public land bill up for vote in U.S. House this week

Posted By on Tue, Oct 29, 2019 at 9:29 AM

Thompson Divide. - JON MULLEN, COURTESY OF THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • JON MULLEN, COURTESY OF THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • Thompson Divide.

——-UPDATE WEDNESDAY, OCT. 30——-

The White House issued a statement saying that if the CORE Act were “presented to the president in its current form, his advisers would recommend that he veto it," the Colorado Sun reports.

——-ORIGINAL POST TUESDAY, OCT. 29——-

House lawmakers could soon weigh in on a bill that would add protections for 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado.

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, or CORE Act — sponsored by Colorado Democrats Rep. Joe Neguse and Sen. Michael Bennet — would create about 73,000 acres of new wilderness areas, preserve nearly 80,000 acres for outdoor recreation, and prohibit oil and gas development on 200,000 acres of public land in the Thompson Divide. The 84-page bill was placed on the House calendar for a vote the week of Oct. 28.


It unites and builds upon four bills spearheaded by Bennet and other Colorado legislators, including now-Gov. Jared Polis and former Rep. John Salazar, in previous years.

If the CORE Act wins House approval, and later makes it through the Senate, the bill would be the first statewide Colorado wilderness legislation to become law in more than a decade, Neguse's office notes in a statement.

“From Gunnison to Carbondale, to Eagle and Summit Counties, and so many other communities across our state, Coloradans have been waiting for over 10 years for Congress to act to preserve the lands they love," Neguse is quoted as saying. "I’m excited to lead on this legislation on the House floor that was written by Coloradans to conserve Colorado; and look forward to next week’s floor proceedings."

Among the bill's objectives:

• Create three new wilderness areas in the Tenmile Range west of Breckenridge, Hoosier Ridge south of Breckenridge, and Williams Fork Mountains north of Silverthorne. (Public lands designated as "wilderness areas" receive the federal government's highest protection from human impact, making them prime places for outdoor recreation.)
• Designate the 29,000-acre area surrounding Camp Hale, where Army troops trained in skiing and mountaineering during World War II, as the first ever National Historic Landscape.
• Create new wilderness areas and expand others in the San Juan Mountains.
• Prohibit future oil and gas development on 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide near Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, while preserving existing property rights.
• Formally establish the boundaries of the Curecanti National Recreation Area, which includes three reservoirs on the Gunnison River. (Though the National Park Service has co-managed this area since 1965, it has never been legislatively established by Congress.)

Though Bennet has said he worked with a wide range of rural stakeholders in crafting the CORE Act, it remains to be seen whether Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate will jump on board in support. Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner has not signed on as a cosponsor.

In the Democrat-led House, three Colorado Democrats have signed on as cosponsors: Reps. Ed Perlmutter, Diana DeGette and Jason Crow.
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Friday, October 25, 2019

Push could pull cannabis clubs from legal limbo

Posted By on Fri, Oct 25, 2019 at 10:03 AM

By Jeanne Davant

Marijuana advocates are working with members of Colorado Springs City Council to craft an ordinance that could remove cannabis clubs from their current legal limbo.
The now defunct Lazy Lion marijuana club. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The now defunct Lazy Lion marijuana club.

Colorado Springs’ two cannabis social consumption clubs allow users to bring in pot and consume it on the premises. The council in 2016 required club owners to apply annually for special licenses until March 22, 2024, when they would have to close permanently.

But the passage by the state legislature of HB19-1230, which authorizes marijuana “hospitality spaces,” provides a more sustainable business model these clubs could adopt if the council approves it, says Jason Warf, executive director of the Southern Colorado Cannabis Council.

There have been as many as 15 cannabis clubs in Colorado Springs; Studio A64 and the Speakeasy Vape Lounge and Cannabis Club are the only two that remain.

The state legislation permits licensed hospitality spaces to sell small quantities of cannabis products for consumption onsite by patrons. Besides the cannabis clubs, restaurants and other businesses could license part of their premises for marijuana consumption — if the council opts in and creates the city’s own hospitality space license.

That would have to happen by the end of this year, Warf says.

“I would say [the chances are] pretty good,” he says. “I’m personally working with city council on the issue, and it’s been an ongoing discussion for a few months now. It’s just a matter of figuring out what works best.”

Warf would not name the councilors he’s been working with but says, “We’d like to bring something to the table that’s palatable for every council member. We’re adding ongoing meetings to get it ready, and we’d like to see it in the next month.”

The effort will likely face opposition from Mayor John Suthers, who has been outspoken in his disapproval of these clubs.

“It would take a dramatic change of direction by the council” to approve a hospitality space ordinance, Suthers told the Business Journal in May. “You’re talking to someone who thinks it’s a very good situation that we do not have marijuana consumption clubs and have people out on the streets driving and all that sort of thing.”

HB19-1230 was one of more than a dozen cannabis-related bills the legislature passed during the 2019 session.

One of them, HB19-1090, Publicly Licensed Marijuana Companies, could have a big impact on the cannabis industry.

This bill allows greater investment flexibility in marijuana businesses and eases access to capital for the majority of the industry.

It repealed a provision of state law that prohibits publicly traded corporations from holding a marijuana license and creates new ownership concepts of controlling beneficial owners, indirect financial interest holders and passive beneficial owners.

“There aren’t really any hands-on marijuana companies that are traded publicly in the United States, but there are a boatload of them in Canada,” cannabis business consultant and attorney Charles Houghton says. “That was a real big step in allowing that kind of capital infusion in Colorado, which up to now had been unavailable to Colorado operators.”

SB19-218, Sunset Medical Marijuana Program, and SB19-224, Sunset Regulated Marijuana, merged and revamped the two sets of regulations for medical and recreational marijuana facilities that sunsetted this year.

“It should streamline the system a little bit and make it easier for people that are in the industry to be compliant and to understand the regulations, because there’s now there’s only one set,” Houghton says.

One of the biggest changes is that medical marijuana centers are no longer required to grow 70 percent of the product they sell.

“That’s changed the market dynamics a little,” Houghton says. “We’re seeing an increase in wholesale prices. I don’t know if it’s exactly related to that, but I think that medical patients and the industry as a whole are going to be served better by removing that required vertical stack.”
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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Denver scientists make "unprecedented" fossil finds at Corral Bluffs open space

Posted By on Thu, Oct 24, 2019 at 3:02 PM

Dr. Ian Miller, left, curator of paleobotany at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and Dr. Tyler Lyson, the Museum's curator of vertebrate paleontology, look for fossil concretions at the Corral Bluffs open space on Colorado Springs' northeast rim. - PHOTOS AND COMPUTER GENERATING IMAGES BY HHMI TANGLED BANK STUDIOS
  • Photos and computer generating images by HHMI Tangled Bank Studios
  • Dr. Ian Miller, left, curator of paleobotany at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and Dr. Tyler Lyson, the Museum's curator of vertebrate paleontology, look for fossil concretions at the Corral Bluffs open space on Colorado Springs' northeast rim.
Colorado Springs' and El Paso County's Corral Bluffs open space has opened a new world of ancient discoveries for a pair of scientists with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

As the museum said in a release, Dr. Tyler Lyson, curator of vertebrate paleontology and lead author of a Science magazine paper on the discoveries, and Dr. Ian Miller, the Museum’s curator of paleobotany and director of earth and space sciences, led the team that announced the discovery.

The team reveals in striking detail how the world and life recovered after the catastrophic asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. The findings are described in a peer-reviewed scientific paper in Science. It outlines the unprecedented find, which includes thousands of exceptionally preserved animal and plant fossils from the critical first million years after the catastrophe and "shines a revelatory light on how life emerged from Earth’s darkest hour," the release said.
A computer generated image of an ancient Loxolophus mammal taken from the PBS NOVA special, Rise of the Mammals. In this recreation, Loxolophus scavenges for food in the palm dominated forests found within the first 300,000 years after the dinosaur extinction.
  • A computer generated image of an ancient Loxolophus mammal taken from the PBS NOVA special, Rise of the Mammals. In this recreation, Loxolophus scavenges for food in the palm dominated forests found within the first 300,000 years after the dinosaur extinction.
From the release:
In addition to the paper published in Science magazine, the story of the discovery is told in a new documentary, ”Rise of the Mammals,” a NOVA production by HHMI Tangled Bank Studios for WGBH Boston, that will stream online beginning today at (https://www.pbs.org/nova/video/rise-of-the-mammals/) across PBS platforms and mobile apps and will broadcast nationally on PBS Oct. 30 at 9 p.m. EDT/8 p.m. CDT (check local listings).

“Thanks to the expertise, vision and grit of the scientific team, we are gaining a clearer understanding of how our modern world of mammals arose from the ashes of the dinosaurs,” said George Sparks, the Museum’s President and CEO. “We hope that this story inspires people – especially future generations – to follow their curiosity and contemplate the big questions our world presents to us.”

“The course of life on Earth changed radically on a single day 66 million years ago,” said Lyson. “Blasting our planet, an asteroid triggered the extinction of three of every four kinds of living organisms. While it was a really bad time for life on Earth, some things survived, including some of our earliest, earliest ancestors.”

“These fossils tell us about our journey as a species – how we got to be here,” said Dr. Neil Shubin, a paleontologist at the University of Chicago who was not involved in the discovery.
During the summer of 2016, dinosaur-hunter Lyson stopped looking for glinting bits of bone in the Denver Basin and instead zeroed in on egg-shaped rocks called concretions.
A computer image of an ancient Taeniolabis mammal taken from the PBS NOVA special, Rise of the Mammals.
  • A computer image of an ancient Taeniolabis mammal taken from the PBS NOVA special, Rise of the Mammals.
“It was absolutely a light bulb moment. That was the game changer,” he said in the release.

When the concretions were cracked open, Lyson and Miller found skulls of mammals from the early generations of survivors of the mass extinction, the release said, noting that finding a single skull from this era is unusual, but in a single day, the pair found four and more than a dozen in a week. So far, they've found fossils from at least 16 different species of mammal.

More from the release:
The Denver Basin site also adds powerful evidence to the idea that the recovery and evolution of plants and animals were intricately linked after the asteroid impact. Combining a remarkable fossil plant record with the discovery of the fossil mammals has allowed the team to link millennia-long warming spells to global events, including massive amounts of volcanism on the Indian subcontinent. These events may have shaped the ecosystems half a world away.
A cranium of a new species of Loxolophus uncovered at the Corral Bluffs fossil site.
  • A cranium of a new species of Loxolophus uncovered at the Corral Bluffs fossil site.
“It was only after the meteor impact wiped out the dinosaurs that mammals explode into the breathtaking diversity of forms we see today,” says Professor Anjali Goswami, a paleobiologist at the Natural History Museum, London, who was not involved in the discovery.

“Our understanding of the asteroid’s aftermath has been spotty,” Lyson explained. “These fossils tell us for the first time how exactly our planet recovered from this global cataclysm.”

Additional collaborators include:
David Krause, James Hagadorn, Antoine Bercovici, Farley Fleming, Ken Weissenburger, Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Stephen Chester, Brooklyn College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY)
William Clyde and Anthony Fuentes, University of New Hampshire
Greg Wilson, University of Washington
Kirk Johnson and Rich Barclay, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
Matthew Butrim, Wesleyan University
Gussie Maccracken, University of Maryland
Ben Lloyd, Colorado College

The Museum worked with the United States Geological Survey’s National Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project to gather high-resolution images.

The NOVA program is slated to air Oct. 30, but check local listings for the exact time or visit pbs.org/nova.

Corral Bluffs is open for scheduled hikes but is not open to the public on a day-to-day basis.
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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Special report blasts Catholic Dioceses in Colorado

Posted By on Wed, Oct 23, 2019 at 12:59 PM

St. Mary's Cathedral in Colorado Springs. - PHOTOS BY PAM ZUBECK
  • Photos by Pam Zubeck
  • St. Mary's Cathedral in Colorado Springs.
Over the last 70 years in Colorado, at least 166 children have been victimized by 43 Roman Catholic priests, with the Catholic Church taking steps to cover up the abuse, moving priests to other parishes where they repeated their crimes, and often failed to report those crimes to authorities as required by law, according to a new report released Oct. 23.

The report further reveals that during those years, at least 127 children were victimized by 22 Roman Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Denver, at least three children were victimized by two Roman Catholic priests in the Diocese of Colorado Springs, and at least 36 children were victimized by 19 Roman Catholic priests in the Diocese of Pueblo.

From the report:
Notably, the data from our review also indicates that historically on average it took 19.5 years before a Colorado Diocese concretely restricted an abusive priest’s authority after receiving an allegation that he was sexually abusing children. (This figure does not even include
the 7 alleged abusers for whom the Colorado Dioceses never put any restriction in place during their lifetimes.) Nearly a hundred children were sexually abused in the interim. However, from the data available to us, it appears in the last 10 years the Colorado Dioceses have immediately suspended the powers of any accused priest pending further investigation.
No cases have been referred to prosecutors, however, because investigators found only one allegation that could be viable for prosecution within the statute of limitations, and that allegation already has been reported to the authorities.

The 263-page report also said that since June 2002, the Denver Archdiocese failed to report 25 of the 39 recorded allegations of clergy child sex abuse that Colorado law required it to report to law enforcement.

Funded by an anonymous donor, the report stems from a seven-month investigation led by Colorado’s former U.S. attorney, Bob Troyer, under an agreement between Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser's Office and the three Catholic dioceses — in Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo.

The report names two serial abusers — Father Leonard Abercrombie and Father Harold Robert White.
St. Mary's Cathedral.
  • St. Mary's Cathedral.
The report described White this way:
White was the most prolific known clergy child sex abuser in Colorado history. His sexual abuse of children began before he was ordained in 1960, and it continued for at least 21 years in at least 6 parishes from Denver to Colorado Springs to Sterling to Loveland to Minturn to Aspen. During that time, it is more likely than not he sexually abused at least 63 children. This one priest’s career and the Denver Archdiocese’s management of it present a microcosm of virtually all the failures we found elsewhere in our review of the Colorado Dioceses’ child sex abuse history. The Denver Archdiocese knew from the outset of White’s
career that he was a child sex abuser. When he had sexually abused enough children at a parish that scandal threatened to erupt, the Denver Archdiocese moved him to a new one geographically distant enough that White was not known there. The Denver Archdiocese
repeated this cycle at least 6 times and never once restricted his ministry, or removed him from ministry, or sent him off for genuine psychiatric evaluation and care. 
White was removed from the ministry in 1993 and died in 2006. Abercrombie died in 1994.

In outlining each allegation, again and again the victims were not believed and even punished.

In one case, a young boy told his parish school principal that White had fondled him and was "doing queer things to him." In response, the report says, "The principal grabbed the boy, slammed his head against a blackboard, and told him never to talk about the subject again."
Even after White admitted to some behaviors, the church kept him in positions where he interacted with children for years.

According to the report, White fondled a 15-year-old boy several times and masturbated himself while doing so one of those times in 1963 and 1964 while assigned to St. Mary's High School in Colorado Springs. The boy reported the abuse, which at that time was the 13th report of White sexually abusing children.

The Denver Archdiocese removed White and sent him to treatment at Via Coeli in New Mexico for five months and then assigned him to St. Anthony Parish in Sterling where he continued to abuse children there and elsewhere.

Another St. Mary's student reported being abused by White and was told by church officials, "You'll be fine." He was then expelled.

In 2002 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and required all dioceses to take steps to protect children from sexual abuse.

The Colorado Springs Diocese also created its own Office of Child and Youth Protection and associated programs. For more on this initiative, go to page 170 in the report here.

The report is critical of the programs, calling the audits "little more than surveys" that don't assess how effectively the diocese prevents, investigates and documents clergy child sex abuse allegations.
St. Mary's Cathedral interior.
  • St. Mary's Cathedral interior.
"An effective audit in this area would examine whether the diocese’s processes produce honest and valid determinations that child sex abuse allegations are substantiated or not," the report says. "The current audits do not even attempt that."

The report also says the Springs Diocese's investigative methods fall short, stemming from a lack of experience on the part of investigative team members.
Specifically, investigative team members have intimidated victims during interviews by questioning theirfaith, asked them nothing but leading questions designed to confirm a predetermined conclusion rather than find facts, expressed bias in favor of the diocese, expressed that their goal is to defend the priest and protect the diocese rather than find facts or care for the victim, and threatened victims with dire consequences if they falsely accuse a priest of child sex abuse. This approach to sexual assault victim interviews is extremely ineffective at determining whether the diocese has an abusive priest from whom its children need to be protected.
The local diocese's investigative board also lacked understanding of law enforcement and wasn't sufficiently independent to assure impartial and objective conclusions would be reached.

"Turning these investigations over to an investigative team composed of qualified personnel who have no other obligations within the diocese will place a greater focus on learning the truth, provide better healing for the victims, reduce the opportunity for undue influence and bias, and enhance the credibility of the diocese’s responses," the report said.

The Colorado Springs Diocese also came under fire for a lack of solid record-keeping.

Read Bishop Michael Sheridan's response to the Troyer report, in which he says it's a step toward "hearing of abuse survivors."

The Troyer report makes these recommendations for the Springs Diocese:
1. Create an Office of independent Review to handle investigations.
2. Set up an Office of Child and Youth Protection Improvements to track cases consistently.
3. Audit the performance of its child protection and investigation systems every two years.
4. Improve victim assistance.
5. Change the function of the review board from investigating cases to reviewing independent investigations.
6. Improve personnel training to enhance "personnel’s trust, understanding of, and active engagement with law enforcement as an essential partner in the protection of children from sex abuse."

Mark Haas, director of public relations for the Archdiocese of Denver, told the Colorado Sun the archdiocese is a different place than it was decades ago. “Despicable things happened in our parishes, and at the time there were incredible failures to properly address them,” he said. “We have taken huge steps to address this issue, and the report documents the dramatic decrease in known substantiated allegations.”
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Airbnb proves profitable (and problematic) in Colorado

airbnb_denver.png

Although exotic vacation locales — like Hawaii's island of Oahu, which spans 597 miles — are still popular with the American public, travelers are evidently eager to stay closer to home (and often, in less luxurious accommodations) during a getaway. In fact, many Colorado homeowners have benefitted from the short-term vacation rental boom, raking in millions of dollars in a given season. But area residents have also faced legal issues surrounding their short-term rental properties. Whether this side hustle will continue to be a feasible one for many homeowners remains to be seen.

Since the gig economy has become more normalized in recent years, it's no surprise that Americans are turning to platforms that allow them to bring in extra money. Airbnb is just one of those platforms that's become immensely popular throughout the nation, allowing property owners to rent out their humble (and not-so-humble) abodes for short periods of time to make some cash. Although 96% of millennial investors are interested in real estate investments, these avenues have provided ways for just about anyone to bring in additional income in a relatively passive way by making the most of the real estate they already own.

Despite the fact that only 37,000 homes were built as rental units throughout the nation in 2017, Americans definitely aren't shying away from renting — even in the short term. Rather than stay in a stuffy hotel, many adventurers would rather enjoy the unique experience of an Airbnb booking. It's often a more comfortable and interesting experience, with many homeowners really going the extra mile for their guests. Plus, this option may be considerably more affordable (even though there are trade-offs and risks involved for both parties).

The appeal of Airbnb listings is clear in Colorado, where Airbnb says homeowners raked in an impressive $148.1 million in supplemental income during the 2019 summer season alone. While Denver was the most popular travel destination in the state, others like Colorado Springs, Breckenridge, Boulder, and Estes Park were notable in the number of visitors that various Airbnb listings brought to town. Colorado also became part of Airbnb's "Experiences" feature in 2018, offering more than 200 exciting opportunities for visitors to take part in what makes this state so beloved.

Explained Laura Spanjian, Airbnb's senior policy director for Colorado, in a statement: "The Airbnb community continues generating significant, positive economic impact across Denver. With more guest arrivals this summer than ever before, hosts and small businesses are receiving an economic boost from this expanded tourism economy and the state is receiving additional tax revenue as a result of this growth. As we look ahead to fall, we remain committed to working [with] communities around the state to ensure short-term rentals continue contributing to the Denver economy."

Of course, not everyone is happy about the influx of visitors. Denver homeowners, in particular, have been subjected to harsh regulations regarding short-term rentals. The city enacted new rules in 2016 that required residents to obtain licenses in order to prove their homes that are available on these platforms are their primary residences. The regulations were meant to ensure that residents weren't purchasing secondary homes for the sole purpose of renting out those homes, as officials felt that this practice would decrease the city's housing supply and subsequently raise the price of both rentals and home ownership.

But despite the fact that a recent report found that short-term rentals comprise only 1% of Denver's housing market, the city is now pursuing criminal charges against homeowners who don't comply. As a result, many Denver residents have surrendered their short-term rental licenses for fear of prosecution. While only 93 residents took this action in 2018, the recent crackdown has prompted the surrender of 154 such licenses already this year. In Colorado Springs, complications have arisen pertaining to the enforcement of short-term rental regulations. And in both cities, locals have expressed problems associated with those who book these rentals — and yet, they are generating money that benefits the local economy.

Other cities throughout the nation are experiencing similar conflicting reactions to the growing popularity of short-term rentals. While the outcome may not yet be certain, it's clear that there is a real demand for these setups — and Americans are enthusiastic about the prospect of being able to book and to get others booking.

This branded content was provided by the online marketing firm, HubShout.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

8 stories making headlines this week

Posted By on Tue, Oct 22, 2019 at 4:56 PM

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A federal judge blocked a move by President Donald Trump’s administration to allow expanded drilling, mining and livestock grazing across greater sage-grouse habitat in seven Western states, including Colorado.

Air Force Academy Dean of Faculty Brig. Gen. Linell Letendre assumed command Oct. 17 after the Sept. 13 retirement of Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost.

Colorado Springs Police are partnering with the Drug Enforcement Administration for a “Drug Take Back Day," which encourages people to turn in unused perscription medication, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 26. For sites, visit takebackday.dea.gov.

In a surprise move, Rep. Doug Lamborn voted with the rest of Colorado’s delegation in the House of Representatives to oppose President Trump’s withdrawal of troops from northern Syria

Under a Colorado Judicial Department program, lawyers will volunteer to provide free legal assistance from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 25, at 270 S. Tejon St.

The Secretary of State’s Office ruled Oct. 18 that an effort to recall State Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, was insufficient. Only four of 13,506 required signatures were submitted.

PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck

On Oct. 15, Colorado Springs launched a two-year effort to plant 18,071 trees across the city with the planting of an Ohio buckeye tree on the grounds of the Pioneers Museum. Mayor John Suthers, second from left, said the city plans several promotions for the Tree Challenge, and city forester Dennis Will, next to Suthers, said the city’s trees are valued at $900 million.

Jill Gaebler - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • Jill Gaebler

Colorado Springs Utilities Board Chairwoman Jill Gaebler, reacting to a study in Geohealth: Two coal-fired  units at Pueblo's Comanche station are scheduled to close by 2025;  Colorado Springs' Martin Drake Power Plant is expected to close in 2035. Closing them now could prevent two to four premature deaths each year. "While there continues to be controversy on whether fossil fuel emissions contribute to climate change, there is absolutely no doubt that these emissions greatly harm our health," Gaebler said.

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Campaign money report

Posted By on Tue, Oct 22, 2019 at 4:43 PM

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Recent campaign finance reports show money is pouring into a “vote yes” committee for the extension of Colorado Springs’ road tax on the Nov. 5 ballot, while district attorney candidates’ donations are fairly evenly matched for the 2020 election.

Road contractors, local developers and construction companies helped “Building COS,” the committee supporting the .57 percent tax for roads, accumulate $135,090. The campaign has spent $90,815, mostly on radio ads and mailers.

The biggest donor, at $50,000, was business activist group Colorado Springs Forward. Work Zone Traffic Control Inc. of Pueblo gave $20,000.

SpringsTaxpayers.com, which opposes the measure, launched a radio ad against 2C but hasn’t yet filed a campaign finance report.

In the DA’s race, El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller and Senior Deputy District Attorney Michael Allen, both Republicans, are vying for an open seat created by DA Dan May, who cannot seek a fourth term. Waller has brought in $35,895, which includes a $10,000 personal loan, while Allen logged in $21,750 in contributions. 

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Trump names campaign donor to commission

Posted By on Tue, Oct 22, 2019 at 4:40 PM

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President Donald Trump chose George Mentz of Colorado Springs to serve on the Commission on Presidential Scholars, which picks the most distinguished high school seniors in the country each year, The Denver Post reports.

Mentz, a lawyer who teaches wealth management online at Texas A&M University School of Law, also writes for Newsmax, which the Post described as a “conservative news outlet ... owned by a Trump confidante.” Mentz has also written several books with a focus on making money, inspired by the Illuminati, a fraternal organization often associated with conspiracy theories and secret societies. Mentz's published works include one book with a subtitle about the “prosperity secret to win with magical spiritual power.”

Mentz has donated to Trump’s campaign and predicted he would win the 2016 election. 

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State likely to ban three vaping additives

Posted By on Tue, Oct 22, 2019 at 4:36 PM

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Following a national outbreak of vaping-related illnesses, the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division is poised to ban three additives from cannabis vaping substances.

The division held a rulemaking hearing Oct. 15 on changes to state rules governing the cannabis industry. Among those: prohibiting manufacturers from including polyethylene glycol, vitamin E acetate and medium chain triglycerides, or MCT oil, in THC-based vaping products.

Nationwide, 78 percent of people with vaping-related illnesses reported vaping THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The additives included in the proposed ban, pending approval by the State Licensing Authority, aren’t normally used in products that you can buy at a dispensary, but have been found in adulterated, black-market vaping substances.

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