Tuesday, March 5, 2019

City campaign roundup: Political ads hit TV airwaves

Posted By on Tue, Mar 5, 2019 at 5:55 PM

Terry Martinez, seeking a City Council seat, wants to reach voters through their televisions. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Terry Martinez, seeking a City Council seat, wants to reach voters through their televisions.
Don't you just love campaign season, when political ads flood your TV during your favorite programs? 

Me neither.

But according to filings by two local TV stations, voters can expect to be blasted with ads in the weeks ahead as we approach the April 2 city election.

City Council candidate Terry Martinez made an agreement March 4 for an undetermined number of 15- and 30-second spots for five weeks on KOAA Channel 5. He's the only candidate so far to buy time on that station. He also has a contract with KKTV for $1,865 worth of ads to run the week of March 4 to 10.

Citizens Against Public Safety Unions, a committee formed by the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC which opposes Issue 1, the firefighters' collective bargaining measure, has agreed to pay thousands of dollars.

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While its contract with KOAA doesn't give details, the committee has agreed to pay KKTV $91,930 for 30-second spots from March 5 through April 1. The ads will air during news programs in the morning, during The Price is Right game show in the late morning, during Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy in the evenings, and amid both the evening newscast and late night news report.

Those ads will duel with half-minute spots placed by Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs, a committee that supports Issue 1. But the "vote yes" group is spending only $24,060 with KKTV to run ads during similar time slots as the "vote no" group, and only from March 4 to 24.

Both committees also have placed ads with KOAA, but the agreements aren't detailed as to how much will be spent and how many ads will run.

So far, no candidates or issue committees have bought air time with KRDO TV and Fox21News.
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Fisher's Peak in Trinidad will open to the public, thanks to land purchase

Posted By on Tue, Mar 5, 2019 at 5:52 PM

Crazy French Ranch, which contains Fisher's Peak, is a 30-square-mile area south of Trinidad. - COURTESY OF THE NATURE CONSERVANCY/LAURYN WACHS
  • Courtesy of The Nature Conservancy/Lauryn Wachs
  • Crazy French Ranch, which contains Fisher's Peak, is a 30-square-mile area south of Trinidad.

Just east of Interstate 25, a few miles north of the New Mexico border, 9,600-foot-tall Fisher's Peak is a hidden gem in plain sight.

The Trinidad landmark has long been closed to the public. But thanks to a land purchase completed Feb. 28, the peak and the ranch it sits on will open for as-yet-undefined public use within a few years.

The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land, two nonprofit organizations focused on conservation and land access, bought Crazy French Ranch and will spend the next two years or so working with the city of Trinidad, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado, and Trinidad State Junior College to develop a management plan for the peak-containing property. That could include opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and education, says Matthew Moorhead, director of business development and strategic partnerships for The Nature Conservancy.

"We can make sure that this is a well-managed, a properly-managed natural area that protects everything living there that makes it special," Moorhead says. "At the very same time ... we’re able to provide for the kind of public recreational access that’s going to bring a cultural and economic and educational value to the citizens of Trinidad, Las Animas County and Colorado."

Great Outdoors Colorado — which invests a portion of state lottery proceeds into state parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces — has awarded a $7.5 million grant for the Fisher's Peak Project, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife has pledged an additional $7 million.

After the management plan and financing is in place, the two nonprofits will turn over the property to a local or state entity, such as Colorado Parks and Wildlife or the city of Trinidad, Moorhead says.

The project could have widespread appeal to Coloradans who might not otherwise visit Trinidad. Colorado College's 2019 State of the Rockies poll showed 90 percent of Coloradans believe the outdoor recreation economy is important to the future of their state and the Western U.S. And the town doesn't have other recreation opportunities nearby that compare with what Fisher's Peak offers, Moorhead says.

In fact, he adds, the only way the public can currently access the state land adjacent to Fisher's Peak is by first crossing into New Mexico and undertaking a difficult hike.

“The ranch embodies the amazing history of this area, we look forward to conserving that for future generations,” Trinidad Mayor Phil Rico was quoted in a statement from The Nature Conservancy. “We are also excited about the economic opportunities that public lands and recreation can bring to our community.”
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Monday, March 4, 2019

Firefighters endorse challenger John Pitchford in mayor's race

Posted By on Mon, Mar 4, 2019 at 12:09 PM

John Pitchford wins firefighters' endorsement in mayor's race. - JONATHAN BETZ PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Jonathan Betz Photography
  • John Pitchford wins firefighters' endorsement in mayor's race.
The Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters has endorsed challenger John Pitchford for mayor, a dramatic move in an election in which Mayor John Suthers signed a fundraising letter on behalf of a political action committee that opposes the firefighters' collective bargaining measure, which also is on the ballot.

The April 2 election will decide the bargaining question, known as Issue 1, which bars firefighters from striking, and seat a mayor and three at-large City Council members.

Seeking his second term, Suthers is campaigning against Issue 1, which was submitted to voters after firefighters collected thousands of signatures to force it onto the ballot.

The "vote no" committee, called Citizens Against Public Employee Unions, was co-founded by Suthers and the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC. The PAC has raised $219,215, including $30,500 from the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, and spent $39,699, according to the most recent finance report filed Feb. 27.

Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs has raised $316,025, mostly from firefighters via the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), and spent $234,772, including petitioning costs.

Firefighters have said they want a seat at the table to secure funding for equipment and staffing, which hasn't caught up since the 2008 recession. There are fewer front line firefighters in Colorado Springs today than before the recession. As the Independent has reported, firefighters have seen response times suffer and its fleet of fire apparatus age, including an incident in which firefighters were gassed with exhaust, although Suthers has added several new engines and trucks in the last year and plans to add more.

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Pitchford, a retired dentist and career Army officer, said he is "proud" to received the firefighters' endorsement. In a statement, he said:
I have visited with many of our city employees and heard the same story over and over. Mayor Suthers “will not listen to our concerns,” “our voices are not heard” and “Mayor Suthers will not negotiate in good faith.” When it comes to public safety it is absolutely vital that this city be led by a mayor who will listen to the public safety concerns of our firefighters, police officers and be available to work in good faith with all of our employees.

With the strong mayor form of government, the mayor is the CEO of a large business and no business can long endure with a poisonous relationship between management and its employees.
Pitchford also notes that firefighters' concerns don't focus on compensation but rather staffing, equipment and workload.

"Try to imagine your home on fire and the fire truck breaks down on the way to save your home and your life," Pitchford says. "Our firefighters have suffered carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of using firefighting apparatus that is well beyond its replacement age."

Asked about the endorsement, Suthers says via email, "The reality is I’ve worked very hard in the interests of all city employees and that’s reflected in increased compensation. Police and fire in particular have benefited by being brought to market level compensation. But I am steadfastly opposed to unionization of the fire department and that puts me at odds with Local 5."

In a statement, the IAFF Local 5 said:
John Pitchford understands the top priority for government, from federal to local, is guaranteeing the safety of its citizens. His commitment to work with the professionals who provide that safety is non-wavering. He believes that the protection of our community should be immune from political influences. Public safety is not a partisan issue, and impacts each and every one of us equally. Mr. Pitchford supports true collaboration and a team based approach to improving the lives of our citizens. For that reason, the Colorado Springs Professional Fire Fighters proudly endorse the candidacy of John Pitchford for Mayor of Colorado Springs. 
The endorsement, announced March 4, comes without a campaign contribution.

Dave Noblitt, Local 5 spokesman, says via email: "If both sides stand along side each other without exchanging funds, we have not provided anyone any point to make an accusation of donating to expect favors. We both believe that is part of the current problem."

On Feb. 20, Pitchford's campaign gave $2,500 to the Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs campaign, records show, but the PAC refused it, Noblitt says.

Suthers has raised $180,236 for his mayoral run, while Pitchford has brought in $104,314, most of it in a loan from the candidate.

Local 5 also endorsed Terry Martinez and incumbent Bill Murray in the Council race. Those endorsements come with $500 each in campaign money.

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Tony Gioia speaks during a reception March 1. - GIOIA CAMPAIGN
  • Gioia campaign
  • Tony Gioia speaks during a reception March 1.
Tony Gioia was the man of the hour on March 1 at a reception hosted by Walker Schooler District Managers, Steve Schuck, Sen. Bob Gardner, Rep. Larry Liston, political consultants William Mutch and Sarah Jack, and City Councilor Merv Bennett.

Gioia has been endorsed by the HBA and Pikes Peak Association of Realtors. Disclosure: Gioia worked at the Indy for a short time several years ago.

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Forum reminder:

March 7: Council hopefuls discuss environmental issues, hosted by the Independent, Colorado Springs Business Journal, Trails and Open Space Coalition, Colorado College Collaborative for Community Engagement, 6:30 p.m., Packard Hall, Colorado College, 5 W. Cache La Poudre St.

March 9: Candidates forum, hosted by El Pomar Foundation Forum for Civic Advancement, 5:30-7 p.m. followed by a reception, Penrose House Pavilion, 1661 Mesa Ave.

March 21: Council candidates forum, hosted by voters in Precinct 729 (Broadmoor Bluffs), 7-9 p.m., Cheyenne Mountain Elementary School, 5250 Farthing Drive.

March 14: Council Candidate Forum, hosted by the Southeast Express and Citizens Project, 6-7:30 p.m., Sierra High School, 2250 Jet Wing Drive.
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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Suthers poll shows strong support for extending city road tax 2C

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2019 at 12:49 PM

MAGELLAN STRATEGIES
  • Magellan Strategies
A newly released voter poll shows 59 percent of likely voters in the April 2 city election would support renewing the city's 2C road tax at a rate of .57 percent.

That's lower than the first five-year program's tax of .62 percent. Poll respondents were not asked their opinions of renewing the tax at the full .62 percent level, which voters approved in 2015. The 2C measure was expected to raise $50 million a year, but those expectations have been exceeded, leading to the lower tax rate, which would still generate about $55 million annually.

Suthers: Wants the road tax extended. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Suthers: Wants the road tax extended.
The poll, conducted by Magellan Strategies at the expense of Mayor John Suthers' re-election campaign, asked whether respondents supported the tax "with the understanding that the vast majority of the approximately $55 million ... raised per year would be used to improve residential roads."

Suthers tells the Indy a second five-year 2C program would funnel 80 percent of the money into residential roads, some of which haven't been improved in decades.

"If I'm the mayor," Suthers says in an interview, "I'm certainly going to recommend we renew it for five years, with 80 percent going to residential roads. I said early on, I thought it would take 10 years to catch up." The city's road network has suffered from lack of maintenance over many years.

The first 2C program, which began in 2016, focused on arterial and collector streets, with a goal of repaving 1,000 lane miles throughout the city. The city has 5,700 lane miles of roadways, but the majority are residential.

The poll showed that women are warmer to the idea of renewing the tax than men, and that support by Democrats (72 percent) and unaffiliated voters (72 percent) far outweighs Republican support (49 percent).

Looking at results by age group those 65 and older expressed the lowest level of support, at 54 percent, while those 35 to 44 showed the greatest support at 76 percent.

City Council District 2, which covers the city's southwest sector, and District 5, the city's mid section, expressed the most robust support, at 62 percent. The least support was seen in the city's northwest sector, District 1, at 55 percent.

With all that in mind, Suthers says, if re-elected, he hopes to meet with Council in May to hammer out a ballot measure that Council would refer to the November 2019 ballot. The current 2C program, which has spent roughly $150,000 so far, ends Dec. 31, 2020.

If a measure is on El Paso County's November coordinated election, the city would pay about $250,000 of the election's costs.
  
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Kyle Hybl to succeed his father as El Pomar Foundation CEO

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2019 at 11:15 AM

Kyle Hybl: Following in  his father's footsteps. - PHOTOS COURTESY EL POMAR FOUNDATION
  • Photos Courtesy El Pomar Foundation
  • Kyle Hybl: Following in his father's footsteps.
Kyle Hybl will succeed his father, Bill Hybl, as president and CEO of El Pomar Foundation, the benevolent organization announced Feb. 28.

The younger Hybl joined the agency in 2000 as general counsel.

The elder Hybl served as president and CEO of El Pomar for 45 years and will remain as chairman of the board, managing the governance and affairs of the board of trustees in partnership with R. Thayer Tutt, Jr., the foundation's vice chairman and chief investment officer, El Pomar said in a release.
The release quoted William Ward, vice chairman, saying:
Since joining the Foundation in 2000, Kyle has established himself as a trusted and talented leader and has demonstrated the strong management skills necessary to lead the organization smoothly into the future. Kyle engages others with skill and grace, makes sound decisions, and demonstrates exceptional integrity. The Trustees place the greatest importance on honoring the intent of our founders, and we are confident that Kyle along with Matt Carpenter, who will succeed Kyle as Chief Operating Officer, will lead the Foundation with a shared vision and commitment to the Penrose legacy. We are excited about the next generation of leaders at El Pomar.
Bill Hybl: Ending 45 years as CEO.
  • Bill Hybl: Ending 45 years as CEO.
Regarding Bill Hybl, Ward said:
The Board of Trustees and El Pomar staff wish to extend our deepest gratitude to Bill Hybl, who has led El Pomar with poise and passion since joining the Foundation 45 years ago. Bill’s commitment to the communities of Colorado and the Penrose legacy established El Pomar as a pillar of the Colorado philanthropic community. With his leadership, the Foundation has distributed over $500 million in grants and built a number of invaluable and innovative programs, networks, and resources that benefit all of Colorado. He has personally and professionally made innovative and enduring contributions by championing many impactful projects. We are thankful for his continuation as Chairman of the Board, and know his legacy as CEO has made a permanent impact on the state of Colorado.

Other promotions and hirings announced by El Pomar:

Matt Carpenter will assume the role of Chief Operating Officer. Matt joined the foundation in 1999 as a participant in the Fellowship program and has since risen to the role of Executive Vice President, overseeing the grants office operations.

Devanie Helman, Vice President, is the director of the Fellowship and is the senior staff member for the North Region and the Sally Beck Fund. She joined the Foundation in 2012 as a participant in the Fellowship program.

Dave Miller, Associate Vice President, oversees the Foundation’s IT operations. He originally joined the Foundation in 2015 as an on-site contract employee, and joined El Pomar full-time in 2016.

Kaitlin Johnson, Associate Vice President, is the deputy director of the Regional Partnerships program and serves as the senior staff member for the High Country and Central Peaks Regions. Kaitlin joined El Pomar in 2015 as a participant in the Fellowship program.

Julia Lawton, Director of Communications, oversees the Foundation’s communications, and represents El Pomar on the Empty Stocking Fund staff. Julia joined El Pomar in 2015 as a participant in the Fellowship program.

Diane Riggenbach, Investment Specialist, came to El Pomar in January 2019 after 13 years with UBS Financial Services.

Eleanor Martinez, Executive Assistant, oversees the administrative duties for the offices of Kyle Hybl and Matt Carpenter. Eleanor joined the Foundation in January 2019. Eleanor previously served in roles at the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC and Colorado Thirty Group.

Samantha Knoll, Assistant Curator of the Penrose Heritage Museum, joined the foundation in December 2018 after completing a degree in anthropology and museum studies at University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

Established by Spencer and Julie Penrose in 1937, El Pomar was started with an initial endowment of $21 million. Today, it's grown to nearly $600 million. El Pomar's mission is to enhance, encourage and promote the current and future well-being of Coloradans.
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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Jill Gaebler apologizes for comment at bike lane debate

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2019 at 2:50 PM

UPDATE:
Suthers emailed us the following statement in response to Gaebler's comment on how he viewed older people moving to Colorado Springs:
Gaebler’s choice of words is unfortunate. What I’m sure she has heard me say is that the current workforce development needs of our high tech companies in Colorado Springs requires us to attract about 4,000 millennials a year to fill software engineering, cybersecurity and other high tech positions. We’re competing with San Fransisco, Boston, Austin, etc. Four years ago we weren’t attracting millennials. Today we are. The retirees moving here cannot fill those workforce needs. I’ve noticed that the bike lane debate is largely a generational one. Many of the older folks contacting me think of us as a retirement community. They don’t seem to understand that to keep really good employers here, we have to be attractive to young people who will fill their jobs. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

——————————ORIGINAL POST 2:50 P.M. WEDNESDAY, FEB. 27, 2019——————————

Jill Gaebler represents District 5. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Jill Gaebler represents District 5.
City Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler, who represents District 5 northeast of downtown, seems to have ruffled some feathers with a comment she made at the Gazette's Battle of the Bike Lanes forum Feb. 25. Gaebler's just issued an apology for the comment, which singled out older people, on her personal Facebook page.

Here's what she said at the forum: "The city of Colorado Springs believes implementing safe bike infrastructure is what is best for this community. It is what is safest for this community, and as the mayor has said many times now, and I will just speak his words, it is important for this city to add 3 to 4,000 35-year-olds every year for the next who knows how many years. Because we need them to be our workforce, to take our tech jobs, take those software designer jobs. The mayor will actually go further and say, I don’t care if one more 65 or older person moves to this city, but I need those 3 to 4,000...I’m not quite done. We need those folks to move to our city, and those folks, those younger folks, want bike amenities."

On Feb. 26, Gaebler posted the following on Facebook:

I want to apologize for my recent statement regarding the workforce needs of Colorado Springs and hope to clarify. To continue the City's successful economic growth we need to attract 4,000 millennials a year to fill medical and high tech jobs (which make up the highest amount of job openings in the City). I was referencing workforce needs for the City and had no intentions of downplaying Colorado Springs as a one of a kind retirement destination.

I helped form the City's Commission on Aging and serve as its City Council Representative; the purpose of the Commission is to provide "ongoing and embedded advocacy for older adults in the municipal government of Colorado Springs." I've made it known throughout my six years on Council that my passions for Colorado Springs are a connected community and an accessible, livable community for all.

The Indy has reached out to Mayor John Suthers for comment and will update if and when he responds.

Unlike Suthers, Gaebler is not up for re-election this year. Her term ends in 2021.
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City Council gives $40 million in tax breaks in hopes of gaining $4 billion in economic impact

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2019 at 9:28 AM

This map shows the two tracts City Council intends to annex into the city limits. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • This map shows the two tracts City Council intends to annex into the city limits.
In a series of votes on Feb. 26, Colorado Springs City Council set in motion development in the north end of the city that officials say will bring a total of more than $4 billion in economic impact in the next 25 years.

But in doing so, the Council also assigned at least $40 million tax dollars over those 25 years to help those developments along.

The first is a visitors center at the Air Force Academy that's part of the City for Champions — four venues designed to attract out-of-state visitors and subsidized by the use of state sales tax revenue. (The other venues are a sports medicine center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the Olympic Museum under construction downtown, a downtown stadium and a hockey arena at Colorado College. All the venues have been pledged $120.5 million in state sales tax over 30 years.)

Council postponed until March 12 votes on resolutions annexing the roughly 180 acres at the North Gate Boulevard entrance to the Academy to accommodate the development of the visitors center, hotels, office space, restaurants and the like. (Some paperwork wasn't completed to enable a vote on Feb. 26.)

But Council adopted ordinances in favor of the annexation, which paves the way for subsequent votes to make the mega development happen, which city economic development officer Bob Cope says will bring $2.6 billion in economic activity, including 1,700 construction jobs and 1,100 permanent jobs.

The 537,000-square-foot complex known as True North Commons is being developed by Blue & Silver Development Partners, formed in November 2017 by Dan Schnepf, and Schnepf's firm, Matrix Design Group.

While a few citizens expressed concern about the development encroaching on nearby Monument Creek and other environmental issues, Academy officials and others advocated for the development. Developers hope to issue bonds in the second quarter of 2019.

Although not yet approved, the True North Commons project will require an infusion of $23 million over 25 years in public money via tax increment financing (TIF) collected through the urban renewal mechanism. The TIF allows tax revenue created by the development to be pumped into public infrastructure.

Councilors Bill Murray and Yolanda Avila expressed reservations, however. Murray said the Council votes were premature before everything is known, while Avila, who represents the city's southeast sector, noted the city appears to be doing "back bends, somersaults and back flips to make this happen."

"Southeast Colorado Springs has not had one urban renewal project, ever," she noted. "And we have been screaming out for that. We have an affordable housing [shortage] situation here. We’re leaving out communities. Residents in my district will not have transportation to the [Academy] visitors center. It’s not going to be open to them. It’s not affordable. I want to really look at what our whole city needs. I want us to have a visitors center, but not at this cost where the city has to do anything."

But Cope said, "There is only one Air Force Academy, and there will be only one Air Force Academy visitors center, so this is truly unique and extraordinary."

Additional Council votes on the project will take place March 12.

See the Power Point presentation:

The second vote approved $16.2 million in city sales tax revenues over 25 years to Scheels All Sports, which plans to build a 220,000-square-foot store in Interquest Marketplace, also in the north end of the city, on land now owned by Nor'wood Development Group, the region's biggest developer. Councilors Murray and Andy Pico dissented, expressing concern the deal gives Scheels an unfair advantage over competitors and will cannibalize existing retailers' business.

The subsidy comes in the form of a Credit Public Improvement Fee that Scheels will be entitled to keep. The city also agreed to waive half of the city's 2 percent sales tax for 25 years. The deal relies on adoption of a new ordinance to enable such an incentive, never before bestowed by the city on a retailer.

The new mechanism can be used for other existing retailer and hotel expansion projects, as well as new construction.

The city contends Scheels will bring $1.5 billion in economic impact and $53 million in net new city tax revenue over 25 years, and 440 jobs with an average salary of $46,250.

In an email to Council, former Councilor Joel Miller (transparency note: father of Indy reporter Faith Miller), who served from from 2013 to 2015, had this to say, in part:
Exempting businesses from sales tax in City Code is a new chapter of Corporate Welfare and these special deals are unsustainable and an affront on the free market. What does this do to retailers at the Chapel Hills Mall? Sears has just closed and now you’re voting to accelerate the demise of other businesses nearby by drawing customers away from them through special treatment.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

"Battle of the Bike Lanes" draws large, noisy crowd

Posted By on Tue, Feb 26, 2019 at 5:41 PM

About 300 people crowded Studio Bee to hear panelists speak about bike lanes. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • About 300 people crowded Studio Bee to hear panelists speak about bike lanes.

Bike lanes are currently one of the most controversial topics in Colorado Springs, at least in terms of the number of comments and letters-to-the-editor that local media receive on the subject.

So, we stopped by a free public event called "Battle of the Bike Lanes," hosted by the Gazette at the Pikes Peak Center's Studio Bee on Feb. 25. Billed as a "Community Conversation," the event had five panelists debate the pros and cons of the new bike lanes and striping changes that arrived downtown this year. Gazette readers and audience members were invited to submit questions for the panelists to answer.

Around 300 people crowded the room, dozens standing in the back when seats were quickly filled. Bike lane supporters cheered and rang bicycle bells when their ideological counterparts — City Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler, Cory Sutela of Bike Colorado Springs and city traffic engineer Tim Roberts — defended the lanes that have some residents feeling safer and others fretting that their tax money was misused.

Opponents applauded bike-lane skeptics Edward Snyder of Restore Our Roads, and Rick Villa of SaferCC.com, when they challenged the city's traffic priorities.

The Gazette published a recap here, and posted a video of the forum on its Facebook page.

We reached out to Gaebler and Snyder for comment on the event.

"I appreciate the Gazette offered a forum for citizens to speak about why they do or don't support bike infrastructure," Gaebler said via text. "But I'm disappointed they did nothing to find common ground, and instead asked questions that promoted discord and anger. The forum could have brought all of us together and instead it only fueled the fire."

Gaebler said a group of people in the front row "heckled and booed me the entire time."

"There was at least one comment about finding common ground and I am hopeful we can find some agreement toward understanding each other better," she added. "I also think there are ways for the city to work with citizens to get better data that informs how we build our roads to meet the needs of all users."

Don Ward, a KKTV 11 News anchor, doles out questions to the panelists. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Don Ward, a KKTV 11 News anchor, doles out questions to the panelists.


Snyder told the Indy he was grateful for a platform to express his organization's views, but thought that in the end, it may not do much to change the city's way of operating.

"The city has made pretty clear what they think and what they want to do," he said. "They’re not acting in the best interest of either bicyclists or cars, and more importantly they’re ignoring the majority of the public who are actually opposed to (bike lanes) by any measure."

However, Snyder said he received "a lot of responses" after the panel from people who "finally heard someone express what they’ve been thinking and waiting to hear for some time."

"The public is getting increasingly irritated that the city’s not taking them seriously — the majority opinion or, you know, the data," he added. "I’m not pretending that (the mayor and City Council have) got an easy job, but I do think it could be done a lot more effectively that it’s being done now."

This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Edward Snyder's name.
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AFP steps in to city election, endorsements, websites, and more campaign news

Posted By on Tue, Feb 26, 2019 at 11:18 AM

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
AFP Colorado Springs has filed as an issue committee with the City Clerk to campaign on Issue 1, the measure that would allow firefighters to collectively bargain, but never strike.

Americans for Prosperity is a conservative political advocacy group founded by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch of Kansas.

AFP Colorado Springs filed a campaign finance electronic filing authorization on Feb. 22 in the April 2 city election at which voters also will decide three at-large City Council seats and elect a mayor.

Here's the filing:

The group's first campaign finance report will be due in mid-March, it appears.

Issue 1 is opposed by the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and EDC, which, with Mayor John Suthers, formed a political action committee called Citizens Against Public Employee Unions.

Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs formed to support the measure.

It's not the first time AFP has made a stand in a Springs election. It opposed the stormwater fee in November 2017, but the fee passed anyway.

AFP also opposed the statewide measure in 2016 to raise the minimum wage. Voters didn't listen to the group then, either, and approved Amendment 70, which increased the minimum wage to $9.30 per hour on Jan. 1, 2017, and thereafter by 90 cents per hour annually until it reaches $12 per hour on Jan. 1, 2020.

We've reached out to the AFP to find out more about its campaign and will circle back when we hear from someone.

Athena Roe: Seeking an at-large City Council seat. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Athena Roe: Seeking an at-large City Council seat.
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Endorsements:

The Pikes Peak Association of Realtors has endorsed the following candidates:

Council: Tony Gioia, Tom Strand and Wayne Williams.
“These candidates showed a tremendous understanding of issues that impact the real estate businesses of PPAR members and the quality of life of their clients,” Donna Major, Chairperson of the Board for PPAR, said in a release.

Mayor: John Suthers. “The Mayor has consistently supported issues that positively impact PPAR members and their clients and we look forward to continuing the great partnership that Mayor Suthers has created with the REALTOR® organization,” the group said in a release.

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Candidate websites:

Athena Roe, candidate for an at-large City Council seat, now has a website, which can be found here.

John Pitchford, seeking to unseat Mayor John Suthers, has a new website here.

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Ballots will be mailed between March 8 and 18.

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If you have an item of interest in the campaign for City Council or mayoral seats, or about Issue 1, please let us know at zubeck@csindy.com.
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Friday, February 22, 2019

Fort Carson's privately managed housing isn't safe, residents say

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2019 at 4:09 PM

Balfour Beatty Communities manages family housing on Fort Carson and 54 other installations. - COURTESY OF FORT CARSON
  • Courtesy of Fort Carson
  • Balfour Beatty Communities manages family housing on Fort Carson and 54 other installations.

As horrors apparently common to privately managed military housing — such as mold, rodents and lead paint — move into the national spotlight, dozens of soldiers and their families who live on Fort Carson seized the opportunity to speak up.

At a town hall Feb. 21, where Garrison Commander Col. Brian Wortinger invited those who live on post to share their concerns, soldiers and their spouses expressed frustration with poor conditions and a maintenance team that took hours, days or weeks to respond to potential safety hazards.

"The biggest problem that my family faces in our house is mice. Mice everywhere. Mice all the time," one woman said, adding that she found evidence of the critters in her son's crib and baby food.

"What are you guys going to do to actually rid our homes of these pests? Because they’re disgusting and a huge safety hazard for our families," she finished to applause.

Fort Carson held the town hall the week after Army Secretary Mark Esper announced that he was "deeply troubled" by reports of "deficient conditions in some of our family housing" and had ordered the Department of the Army Inspector General to look into the problems.

That announcement came the same day witnesses at a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing horrified lawmakers with stories of mold, pests, lead paint and resulting health problems. Their stories aren't unique: Survey results released Feb. 13 by the Military Family Advisory Network showed that out of nearly 17,000 respondents, more than half reported a "negative" or "very negative" experience living on military installations.

"Military families are living in dangerous situations with reports of the existence of black
mold, lead paint, faulty wiring, poor water quality, pesticides, and a wide variety of
vermin, insects, and other animals (e.g., bats, skunks, and squirrels) in their homes," the report said. "Families report illnesses with life-long implications caused by poor housing conditions."

The problems are widespread: Survey participants lived in 46 states, in housing managed by 35 different companies. But about half of respondents lived in housing managed by two companies: Lincoln Military Housing and Balfour Beatty Communities, the latter of which counts Fort Carson among the 55 military installations it serves.

At the town hall, representatives of Balfour Beatty were apologetic but offered little variation in their responses to resident complaints, mostly repeating that issues with maintenance and safety shouldn't have occurred, and that the company was changing its procedures to prevent them from recurring. They asked those who raised concerns to speak with them personally after the town hall, and had maintenance teams on hand to address major safety issues that night.

"I agree, sir," said Christy McGrath, Balfour Beatty's community manager, after one man told her it had taken far too long for someone to repair his heater after it stopped working at 3 a.m. one winter night. He wrapped his young children in blankets while waiting for maintenance, which didn't arrive until around noon the next day.

Winter heating outages are classified as "emergencies," McGrath said, and should be addressed within the hour.

"We are putting things in place and bringing in additional resources to make sure that we meet your customer service need in the time frames that we have pushed," she said. "We’re here tonight to hear from you, hear where our blind spots are."

The company plans to hire a residential satisfaction specialist, said Project Director Steve McIntire, and will begin issuing email surveys and following up on work orders to get residents' feedback on services.

The town hall was also streamed on Facebook Live, where it drew hundreds of angry comments.

Col. Wortinger said this meeting would be the first of several addressing immediate problems, and that the garrison would hold them regularly afterwards. Assessment teams will visit neighborhoods in March, he said, to check on potential hazards like asbestos and peeling paint.

Wortinger said that at the request of senior leadership, he would be "personally tracking" health- and safety-related work orders, and asked residents to reach out to him if their issues weren't being solved by Balfour Beatty.
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Scheels All Sports gets $16.2 million incentive offer from Colorado Springs

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2019 at 3:18 PM

Scheels All Sports would build a 220-square-foot store on the city's north side under a deal expected to be approved on Feb. 26. - PHOTOS FROM CITY'S POWER POINT PRESENTATION
  • Photos from city's Power Point presentation
  • Scheels All Sports would build a 220-square-foot store on the city's north side under a deal expected to be approved on Feb. 26.
When it comes to incentives, Colorado Springs usually is a minor player in ponying up money to recruit or retain business and industry.

But now City Council has found a tool that will enable the city to extend its first and biggest direct subsidy to a retail outlet by allowing Scheels All Sports to collect, and keep, a sales tax of $16.2 million over 25 years.

The North Dakota-based company plans to start building a superstore this year on the city’s north side on land now owned by the region’s biggest developer, Nor’wood Development Group.

Council is expected to approve the special tax ordinance and a Scheels agreement on Feb. 26, after the ordinance’s first reading drew a 7-2 vote on Feb.12, with Councilor’s Andy Pico and Bill Murray dissenting.

Pico and Murray oppose the subsidy, which they say would place competitors at a disadvantage to Scheels, which has a track record of exacting tax benefits from cities where they build mega-outlets that feature ferris wheels and aquariums.

The city’s economic development officer Bob Cope says passage of the ordinance would pave the way for similar incentive requests from retailers and hotels for new construction or expansions.
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Scheels was established in 1902 by German immigrant, Frederick Scheels, who opened his first store in Sabin, Minnesota, with his own money. Today, the Scheels company is employee-owned and runs 27 stores in 12 states, several of which have been given taxpayer-funded incentives, according to media reports. Scheels’ practice is to open stores in bedroom communities of larger metropolitan areas.

Scheels opened a store in 2008 in Sparks, Nevada, for example, four miles from Reno, and received at least $36 million in tax incentives. In 2012, it opened a store in Sandy, Utah, 17.5 miles from the Salt Lake City metro area, after winning 25 years worth of property tax breaks, as long as it met employment and sales benchmarks.

In September 2017, Scheels opened a store in Johnstown, 13 miles from Loveland, with the help of $93 million in incentives. Loveland reported in its 2019 budget document a 15.4-percent decline in sales taxes on sporting goods stores in 2018 “due to the opening of Scheels in neighboring Johnstown.”

Some cities have abandoned incentives for retail operations, among them the Reno area.

“We no longer do incentives for retail as that generally cannibalizes business from local businesses at tax payer expense,” says Mike Kazmierski, former economic development officer in Colorado Springs who now serves as the president and CEO of Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, Reno.

Colorado Springs’ deal with Scheels would reduce the city’s sales tax collected by the store from 2 percent to 1 percent, and then authorize Scheels to collect a “credit public improvement tax” of 1 percent for 25 years, valued at $16.2 million. The subsidy is tied to actually building the store.

Cope told Council earlier this month that Scheels’ economic impact would total $1.5 billion over 25 years and that the 220,000-square-foot store would be a “unique and extraordinary retail venue and experience for our citizens.”

Scheels would invest $84 million in land, the building, furniture and equipment and bring in $53 million in net new city tax revenue over 25 years beyond the subsidy. It also would create 400 jobs with an average annual salary of $46,250, and up to 60 percent of sales would come from outside the trade area.
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But some took issue with the last data point, provided by Scheels’ itself in letters to Cope in which Scheels’ CFO said that “40 to 60 percent of the customers that shop in our current store locations come from outside the municipality in which we are located.”

Councilor Bill Murray predicts Scheels would steal business from existing retailers. “This is cannibalizing what we get tax dollars on,” he said at the Feb. 12 Council meeting. “This just adds to the profit [of Scheels] and not to the benefit of what we need to run our city.”

Counselor Andy Pico agreed, saying if at least half of sales come from outside the city, “that implies that half will come from within, and I’m concerned that would be cannibalized from existing businesses. We’re putting them [Scheels] at an unfair competitive advantage. We’re going to give one [tax incentive] here and next door they don’t get one.”

But Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler supported the incentive. “What makes this whole plan unique and a great opportunity for our city is that we will have so many people coming here from outside and we won’t be cannibalizing other stores,” she said.

Councilor Yolanda Avila, who represents the poorest and most diverse southeast sector of the city, also was amenable. She noted after she posted on Facebook that she’d toured a Scheels store, “I got so many thumbs up and hearts. I just got an email from someone who wondered why it wasn’t in southeast. I am very concerned for my district, but I think this works for all of Colorado Springs and ultimately I am in favor of what will support our entire city.”

Better to have Scheels in the city than compete with it, Councilor David Geislinger said.
“One way or the other this company is going to build this facility somewhere in our area,” he said, “and the question is whether we are going to incentivize it being inside Colorado Springs.”

Read the agreement:
Bass Pro Shop, four miles north of the Scheels site, opened in 2013 amid the Polaris Pointe development, charged with using sales and property tax created by the urban renewal area to fund extension of Powers Boulevard to Interstate 25 from where it now ends at Highway 83. The developer, Gary Erickson, isn’t allowed to simply pocket that tax increment.

Erickson didn’t respond to a phone call and email seeking comment, but if business is sucked away from Polaris Pointe, it follows that the tax money available for the Powers extension would be reduced.

Bass Pro and other sporting goods outlets like Dick’s and Big 5 aren’t the only ones that would compete with Scheels, which also sells footwear, home decor, watches, clothing and a variety of other goods.

Nevertheless, Mayor’s Chief of Staff Jeff Greene told Council on Feb. 12, “This is not about picking winners and losers. This is about securing the financial viability of our city going forward.” The city’s biggest source of revenue is sales tax.

But as Councilor Don Knight noted, after passage of the new ordinance, “It will be open to anybody and everybody. It will be hard to say no to the next person.”

Cope acknowledged that, saying, “For a retailer or hospitality opportunity such as this, City Council would have authority to incentivize an existing retailer or an existing hotel.”

The Scheels site, northeast of Interstate 25 and Interquest Parkway near the Great Wolf Lodge, is on land owned by Interquest Marketplace LLC, an entity controlled by Nor’wood Development Group, a huge player in the local development scene.

Not only will Scheels pump tax money into city coffers, it also will help Nor’wood via the developer’s Interquest North Business Improvement District. The district has issued $11.3 million in debt to fund water and sewer lines and other public improvements and repays that debt via a 50-mill property tax, as well as a private 1.25 public improvement fee applied to all sales in the district.

The district is a party to city’s Scheels agreement, which says the district built water and sewer lines and other public improvements “in anticipation of the execution of this Agreement.”
Scheels must get permission of the city and district to transfer the deal to another operator.

We've invited Nor'wood to comment on the Scheels agreement and will update if and when we hear back.

Read the ordinance:
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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Questionnaires and forums keep city election candidates busy

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 10:18 AM

Gordon Klingenschmitt, an at-large City Council member, had a busy day recently along Union Boulevard. His signs were posted on every corner of the intersection at Boulder Avenue, as well as up and down Union. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Gordon Klingenschmitt, an at-large City Council member, had a busy day recently along Union Boulevard. His signs were posted on every corner of the intersection at Boulder Avenue, as well as up and down Union.

Questions, questions, questions.

Candidates competing for three at-large seats on the Colorado Springs City Council and for mayor in the April 2 city election are being asked by numerous groups to answer their questionnaires.

Among those are these groups, with a sample question from each:

Citizens Project — The 2018 point in time survey found over 1500 people experiencing homelessness in our community. What measures could elected leaders take to reduce homelessness and poverty?

Pikes Peak Citizens for Life — Will you protect human life at every stage from fertilization to natural death?

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Springstaxpayers.com — Do you support local Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) dollars for City for Champions projects without a vote of the people? Also, would you support or oppose any new proposals of Certificates of Participation (COPs) for City financed projects?

Colorado Springs Utilities Employee Advocacy Group — What is your vision regarding Colorado Springs maintaining a municipally-owned, best-in-class, four service utility?

Downtown Partnership — As a board member of Colorado Springs Utilities, how would you work toward decommissioning of the Drake Power Plant in a manner that fosters a clean environment and is mindful of existing and prospective businesses and ratepayers?

Pikes Peak Association of Realtors — Do you think we have an affordable housing problem in our community? If so, what is your plan to address it?

And, yes, the Independent also issued questionnaires to candidates — Do developers have too much say in city government? If so, how would you change that?

                                                    ———————————

Forums, forums, forums.

Want to catch the candidates in action? Here are a few forums planned in coming weeks.

Feb. 28:
Mayor and City Council Candidate Forum, hosted by The Avenue.
5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Westside Community Center, 1628 W Bijou St.

March 7:
City Council candidates discuss environmental issues, hosted by the Independent, Colorado Springs Business Journal, Trails and Open Space Coalition, Colorado College Collaborative for Community Engagement.
6:30 p.m. Packard Hall, Colorado College.

March 9:
Municipal Election Debate, El Pomar Foundation Forum for Civic Advancement.
5:30 to 7 p.m. followed by a reception, Penrose House Pavilion, 1661 Mesa Ave.

March 21:
City Council candidates forum, hosted by voters in Precinct 729 (Broadmoor Bluffs).
7 to 9 p.m. Cheyenne Mountain Elementary School, 5250 Farthing Dr.

March 14:
City Council Candidate Forum, hosted by the Southeast Express and Citizens Project.
6-7:30 p.m., Sierra High School, 2250 Jet Wing Dr.

                                                    ———————————

If you have an item of interest about the election, let us know at zubeck@csindy.com.

And please register to vote if you haven't already.
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SAFE Banking Act for marijuana businesses to get another go in Congress

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 10:03 AM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
While they're used to dealing green stuff, most marijuana dispensaries would avoid banking in cash if they could help it. But financial institutions, including banks and lenders, remain dubious about supporting an industry that's illegal under federal law.

Sponsors of the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act say the incoming legislation would make life easier for dispensary owners and employees who constantly have to worry about burglaries, and can't take out loans to grow their businesses or start up new ones.


Last introduced in 2017, the bill would prohibit federal regulators from punishing financial institutions that provide services to cannabis-related businesses and their owners and employees.

Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) and Denny Heck (D-Wash.), along with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), plan to re-introduce the bill at the end of this month, they said at a hearing on Feb. 13.

“Thousands of employees, businesses and communities across this country... have been put at risk because they have been forced to deal in piles of cash while Congress sticks its head in the sand,” Perlmutter said in a written statement following the hearing, which was titled "Challenges and Solutions: Access to Banking Services for Cannabis-Related Businesses."

"The SAFE Banking Act is focused solely on taking cash off the streets and making our communities safer," Perlmutter continued, "and only Congress can take these steps to provide this certainty for businesses and financial institutions across the country.”

Perlmutter and Merkley last introduced the bill in May 2017. Its original cosponsors included five Coloradans: Sens. Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R) in the Senate, and former Rep. Mike Coffman (R), Rep. Diana DeGette (D) and now-Gov. Jared Polis in the House.

While the bill didn't get a full vote in either chamber, the political landscape is somewhat different now.

For one, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who has voiced lukewarm support for cannabis reform, is now the top lawmaker in the House. And weed-hating Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been replaced by William Barr, who told lawmakers he doesn't plan to go after companies who relied on Obama-era guidance protecting them from federal scrutiny on cannabis. (Sessions rescinded that guidance, known as the Cole Memorandum, in January 2018 — reportedly leading some banks and ATM companies to stop serving marijuana businesses for fear of a Justice Department crackdown.)

This year's version of the SAFE Banking Act will also include some revisions, summed up by the National Cannabis Industry Association: "It adds protections for ancillary businesses providing products or services to a cannabis-related legitimate business; specifies how businesses on tribal land could qualify; and requires the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council to develop guidance to help financial institutions lawfully serve cannabis-related legitimate businesses."

View the draft legislation discussed Feb. 13 here.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Homeless deaths: the impact on friends, siblings, parents

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2019 at 4:53 PM

The bus stop where Calvin Reeves was found dead on Jan. 22. - BRYAN OLLER
  • Bryan Oller
  • The bus stop where Calvin Reeves was found dead on Jan. 22.
As the Independent was going to press this week, we heard from Shawna Kemppainen, executive director of Urban Peak, which serves homeless youth.

She had something to add after our interview about the death of Calvin Reeves at a bus stop at Austin Bluffs Parkway and Academy Boulevard.

Her thoughts:
As with each of us, the death of a person who has been homeless affects many others. This person had friends, siblings, parents or children. A young person we work with at Urban Peak discovered their mother dead one morning last year. The mom was living in her car parked not far from our youth shelter, and the young person would go to the car each morning to say hello. As you might imagine, it has taken a deep toll on the youth who is processing all aspects of grief, including guilt. In another instance, a young person surviving outside was hit and killed by a drunk driver. Too old for Urban Peak’s shelter but too afraid to stay at the adult shelters, this youth traveled sidewalks and streets most of the day and night. The day before they died, our street outreach team had helped the youth arrange to get their hearing aids fixed.

Second: People surviving outside face the same illnesses as people who have a traditional roof overhead, but the rates of sickness are much higher and the threat of death greater. Imagine facing the flu or even heart disease when you cannot get enough rest, stay warm and clean, or maintain medications. The conditions of homelessness exacerbate all health challenges. Even when someone exits homelessness, the toll of street life can quickly catch up.
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Space Force: A good thing or a farce?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2019 at 11:50 AM

Don't expect a large influx of money to pour into Peterson Air Force Base after President Trump signed an executive order on Feb. 19 creating the Space Force under the auspices of the Air Force.

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While Peterson Air Force Base hosts Air Force Space Command, an expert in space and military issues says the most obvious impact of the order will be adding a four-star general to oversee the Space Force and, possibly, the creation of new uniforms and insignia.

"I just don’t know how this helps," former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe tells the Independent by phone. "The only thing I’ve been able to land on is it’s a terrific solution, but what is it we’re trying to fix? I don't know what this is going to accomplish."

But others disagree, saying the Space Force might spawn more research and development spending. As reported by Bloomberg Business Week, a Department of Defense report to Congress last  year outlined plans to build a force to defend U.S. interests in space by creating aggressive offensive capabilities. These systems would "degrade, deny, disrupt, destroy, and manipulate adversary capabilities,” according to the report.

From Bloomberg's report:
A Space Force could mean bigger research and development budgets. Some in Congress have called for weapons that could destroy ballistic missiles from space. On a more workaday level, the Space Force would likely take over the job, now performed elsewhere in the Air Force, of tracking the world’s active satellites to make sure they don’t collide with one another or with space debris and to notify owners to reposition their satellites if there’s a possibility of impact.
O'Keefe, who headed NASA from 2001 to 2004 and previous served as Secretary of the Navy, is skeptical a Space Force is necessary.
Sean O'Keefe, former Navy Secretary and head of NASA, is skeptical of whether creating a Space Force will have much effect on national defense. - COURTESY SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY
  • Courtesy Syracuse University
  • Sean O'Keefe, former Navy Secretary and head of NASA, is skeptical of whether creating a Space Force will have much effect on national defense.
"This directive or organizational construct, I don’t know if it helps or hurts or does much of anything other than creating another four-star or another debate in the Pentagon that likes to debate belt buckle sizes," he says. "This has created an interesting organizational realignment at the Pentagon that will consume all the air in the room where they debate where the deck chairs go."

O'Keefe, who now serves as a professor at Syracuse University, said placing the Space Force within the Air Force is better than creating an entirely separate branch of the military. The latter move would have required standing up the bureaucracy, including a Space Force secretary, that accompanies any military branch. "In the end, the question I find interesting is that any time you create those types of structures, they become organisms that will work very hard to protect their own portfolio and strengthen their capacity of having some kind of influence," he says. "I don’t know if that particularly helps in this case."

Of more interest, O'Keefe says, is the Pentagon's intent, also announced Feb. 19, to create U.S. Space Command as a combatant command, like Pacific Command, European Command or Central Command.

"That does speak to operational focus and attention," he says. "That’s something that does put the operational commanders in a position where they will have the capacity to reach into the full array of Department of Defense assets for the deployment of capabilities, whether Army, Navy or Space Force of the Air Force.

Created in 1985 but de-emphasized after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which gave birth to U.S. Northern Command (based at Peterson AFB), U.S. Space Command essentially merged with U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska.

No announcement has been made where U.S. Space Command would be based.

But as for the Space Force, O'Keefe says it's the nation's shot across the bow, so to speak, to countries who have flexed their muscle, such as North Korea and China. But the rising threat of those who would wreak havoc in space isn't necessarily addressed simply by naming a a new division of an existing military branch, he says.

But it does send a signal to adversaries, James Carafano, a military and national security expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation, says in an essay. "It's time for America to think big again," he writes.

From Carafano's August 2018 commentary:
No one doubts that Americans civilians as well as military personnel are heavily dependent on what we have in space. Assets "up there" do everything from make the internet work to detect the flight path of ballistic missiles. Our space-based assets inform our weather forecasts and help guide us to our destinations with GPS.

Just as there is no doubt about our reliance on the things we've put in space, so there is no doubt that these valuable assets are vulnerable to everything from cyber attacks to satellites being shot down by hostile powers. And no serious analyst questions the growing capability of Russia and China to wage war in space.

For Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee's Readiness Subcommittee, a new Space Force sends a message that Trump takes national security seriously.

"President Trump's recognition that space is a war-fighting domain sends a clear message to our adversaries," Lamborn said in a statement. "The Pikes Peak region is already the epicenter of space defense and is prepared to support the president's efforts."

But the idea of taking the military fight into orbit troubles some citizens, among them Bill Sulzman, a peace activist in Colorado Springs.

"The Air Force and the Colorado Air Force complex will be pleased by this development," Sulzman tells the Indy via email. "They did not want a totally separate free standing Space Force. Local Air Force bases will continue to grow robustly. Cha ching! The next big battle will be to see if Cyber War gets a separate branch or if the Air Force gets to keep cyber under their wings going forward. Big money there, too."

Trump's move to create a Space Force must be approved by Congress.
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