Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Will EPA drop its Clean Water Act lawsuit against Colorado Springs?

Posted By on Wed, May 9, 2018 at 12:44 PM

Storm drains in waterways in Colorado Springs require ongoing maintenance. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • Storm drains in waterways in Colorado Springs require ongoing maintenance.
In the Independent's latest issue, we report that litigants in the EPA lawsuit against the city have expressed concern the federal agency might be willing to dump the case.

In a March 26 letter to the EPA, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and two other agencies that have intervened in the case note that downstream communities and farmers "have borne the brunt of the City of Colorado Springs' years of noncompliance" with the Clean Water Act and its stormwater discharge permit, as well as the Colorado Water Quality Control Act.

The intervenors are Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

This noncompliance takes the form of:

• Continuing failure to require installation of permanent stormwater controls for several large areas of new development and redevelopment, resulting in significant ongoing untreated runoff. This includes granting of waivers for controls to large developments of single family homes and "grandfathering" new developments using more lenient and outdated standards for pollution control requirements.

• Continued failure to accept responsibility for ensuring the operation andmaintenance of all permanent water quality controls required by the city's discharge permit, allowing structures to fall into disrepair.

• Systemic failure to implement required controls to reduce runoff and pollution from new development and redevelopment.

• Continuing failure to require design, installation, and maintenance of pollution controls at active construction sites. "The City is still not conducting inspections correctly or following up to correct deficiencies when identified," the letter says.

Read the letter here:
In its 2017 report on compliance with the drainage permit, the city showed it's stepped up inspections of job sites, though it hasn't imposed any monetary penalties.

The city declined to comment on the matter, but as the story notes, EPA Director Scott Pruitt met with builders and developers in Colorado Springs last fall.

Jay Winner, executive director of the Lower Arkansas District who signed the letter, tells the Indy that the city's longstanding neglect of its storm drainage system doesn't engender much trust.

"There’s not a lot of faith there," says Winner. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. We just want something in place that will last forever."

The most recent filing in the lawsuit is the setting of a pretrial conference for May 31.

In this week's edition, we also report the city's plans for imposing stormwater fees approved by voters in November 2017.
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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

El Paso County Sheriff's Office adopts program to identify mental health issues

Posted By on Tue, May 8, 2018 at 4:32 PM

Sheriff Elder wants to reduce the population in his jail of people with mental issues. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Sheriff Elder wants to reduce the population in his jail of people with mental issues.
If someone with a mental disorder is having a bad day, they could easily wind up in jail, because when they act out, the default action has been to arrest them.

But now, thanks to a state grant for $1.8 million over five years, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office will have a trained mental health professional on calls that involve subjects with mental health issues.

That could eventually reduce the burgeoning Criminal Justice Center population, which today includes 900 inmates — roughly 60 percent of those incarcerated — who suffer from some type of mental problem, says Sheriff Bill Elder.

Elder called a news conference on May 8 to announce the grant program, which will be carried out under a partnership with UCHealth Memorial Hospital, officials said.

"It brings a continuity of care to the community like we've never seen," Elder said.

Deputy John Hammond, who's worked on setting up the program, said the department receives one to two calls per shift that would qualify for intervention by a trained professional. And Lt. J.D. Ross, who's also working on the program, said the department received about 1,600 calls in 2017 that were mental health related.

Commander Clif Northam said a professional won't be available 24/7, but rather the program will begin with a person available for four 10-hour shifts per week.

Stephanie Gangemi, a licensed clinical social worker, has been hired to provide ride-along services when calls warrant her presence.

"Our goal is to reduce our average daily population [in the jail]," Elder said. "Our goal is to get better treatment for the community. If we could get 100 fewer in the jail, that's a win."

The program is one of eight in the state funded by the Colorado Department of Human Services.
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Pueblo Chieftain to be bought by GateHouse, largest newspaper owner in nation

Posted By on Tue, May 8, 2018 at 4:31 PM

  • File photo
The Pueblo Chieftain will be purchased by GateHouse Media, ending the long-time ownership by the Rawlings family.

Earlier today, NPR aired a segment about GateHouse's track record elsewhere in the country. Here's the intro to that report:
Roughly 2,000 newspapers have closed or merged across the United States in the last 15 years - 2,000 - which makes the newspaper buying spree of New York-based hedge fund GateHouse Media all the more surprising. It is now the largest newspaper owner in this country, although some warn that its business model is damaging to journalism.
The long-awaited decision was announced via email by the Chieftain. Click to the next page to read the news release in its entirety.

The Star-Journal Publishing Corp. of Pueblo, Colo., announced Tuesday that it has reached an agreement to sell The Pueblo Chieftain newspaper to GateHouse Media, one of the largest publishers of locally based media in the United States.
Both parties anticipate the sale to be concluded within about 30 days.
GateHouse publishes more than 560 community papers, including 124 daily newspapers, along with over 485 affiliated websites, which reach more than 22 million people each week. GateHouse publications can be found in 38 states and 565 markets.
Terms of the sale were not disclosed.
Jane Rawlings, president of the Star-Journal Publishing Corp. and publisher of The Pueblo Chieftain, said she and her board of directors spent months studying prospective buyers to find the right owner for the 150-year-old Chieftain – the oldest daily newspaper in Colorado and an institution that has played a key role in supporting and leading the community throughout the years.
Rawlings took control of The Pueblo Chieftain in October 2016. In March 2017, her father, Robert Hoag Rawlings, owner, publisher and editor of the newspaper for decades, passed away.
“It was my dad’s wish that The Chieftain would be sold upon his death, with proceeds to be placed in the Rawlings Foundation and that those funds would be used for the betterment of Pueblo and Southern Colorado,” Rawlings said.
Jason Taylor, president of Western U.S. Publishing Operations for GateHouse Media, was in Pueblo on Tuesday for the official announcement, meeting with Chieftain executives and other staff members. Other GateHouse executives in attendance were: Jay Fogarty, Vice President of Strategy and Involvement; Jesse Shockley, Regional Vice President GateHouse; Michelle Smith, Vice President of Strategy GateHouse West; and Joy Osborne, Regional Human Resources Director GateHouse.
Taylor said his company is proud to be the new owner of the historic and iconic Chieftain.
“We are honored that the Rawlings family has chosen us to continue the stewardship of this great community newspaper for years to come,” Taylor said.
Taylor said that GateHouse will be an extremely active partner with the Pueblo community. He cited the company’s dedication to enhancing local news content and providing more opportunities for advertisers to grow their businesses.
Taylor also serves as President of GateHouse Live, the company’s experiential marketing division. GateHouse Live produces expos and other events in cities throughout the country, and Taylor said the company is excited by the opportunity to produce numerous top-quality events in Pueblo and surrounding communities.
“GateHouse looks forward to leveraging our national resources to support the community that will enhance quality of life and help create a stronger community,” Taylor said.
Rawlings said it was important that the new owner of The Chieftain be a company committed to carrying on the legacy of owners and publishers Frank Hoag Sr., Frank Hoag Jr., her father and herself – to fight for water, for community projects, to put a spotlight on government and to celebrate the citizens, businesses and institutions that make Pueblo and Southern Colorado unique.
“My committee and I were excited to meet with GateHouse executives, who demonstrated their clear commitment to producing an outstanding local news report and to leave the opinion side of the newspaper – editorials, endorsements, etc. – under local control,” Rawlings said.
In a statement on its website, Gatehouse Media says its “mission is to deliver high quality and trusted journalism, products and services that enrich the communities we serve — our readers, commercial partners, employees and investors.”
Taylor echoed those statements in visiting with the staff.
The Chieftain roots go back to June 1, 1868, when Dr. Michael Beshoar established a weekly newspaper, The Colorado Chieftain.

A businessman hired by the Star-Journal by the name of Frank Hoag would change the newspaper – and Pueblo – forever. By 1918, Hoag had worked his way up in the newspaper ranks and purchased the paper. The Star-Journal Publishing Corp. was born.

Eventually, Hoag bought The Colorado Chieftain, and it became The Pueblo Chieftain. Through the 20th century and beyond, Hoag, his son Frank Hoag Jr., Hoag Sr.’s grandson, Robert Hoag Rawlings, and Rawlings’ daughter, Jane Rawlings would leave an indelible imprint on the Pueblo and Southern Colorado communities.

The Pueblo Chieftain always has been much more than a source for entertainment and information. It has been a force for good, a force for Pueblo’s progress.

From helping the community get through the Depression and the World War II years, to landing important institutions such as a college, state fair and state hospital, the newspaper’s owners through the years fought to protect Pueblo’s water, to promote economic development, to endorse many community improvements such as school bond issues and the construction of the Pueblo Dam and the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo.

The Pueblo Chieftain has won thousands of awards through the years for its advertising and editorial excellence, including more than 60 state and regional awards in the most recent 2017 journalism contests.

The newspaper’s staff members have held numerous leadership roles in the community and have volunteered countless hours to serve the community by helping nonprofit organizations and through involvement in community events.

This is a tradition that GateHouse vows to continue. A standard of the company is community involvement and local control over the newspaper’s content, but with the added advantage of the training and expertise of one of the nation’s leading news publishers.

“Gatehouse is extremely excited to welcome The Chieftain and the Pueblo community into the GateHouse family and to serve the community for many decades to come,” Taylor said.

(Note: As the sale still is to be completed, there will be no further comment at this time.)

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Monday, May 7, 2018

Chaffee County Republicans hit with campaign finance complaint

Posted By on Mon, May 7, 2018 at 4:53 PM

  • Donkey Hotey

The Republican Party of Chaffee County has some campaign finance problems, according to a complaint filed by the Chaffee County Democratic Party regarding the GOP's campaign finance report filed last year.

In it, the party claimed to have taken in zero contributions and spent zero funds. But during the nearly one year leading up to the report, the party hosted a Lincoln Day dinner, sponsored several raffles and rented buildings for various functions, the Dems allege.

In that GOP report filed in November to cover the previous year, the GOP failed to report ticket sales to the Lincoln Day dinner, rental of the county fairgrounds facility, a catered dinner in Buena Vista along with room rental and a raffle license application fee, to name a few.

Some of the spending was documented by the Democrats through records obtained through the Colorado Open Records Act, Allen says.

Now, the GOP has filed a new report, which essentially acknowledges that the November 2017 report was inaccurate, because it reports more than $8,000 in contributions and more than $4,400 in spending.

But that report still doesn't accurately reflect the GOP's financial activities, according to Democratic Party first vice chairperson JoAnne Allen, who says there was publicity about GOP members contributing by placing money into a firearm magazine but the Republican Party never reported such income.

The county GOP could face fines in the $9,000 range for violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act, or more, if each expenditure and contribution is treated as a separate infraction at at $50 per day in fines.

But that's not the point, Allen says.

"We're not really doing it for the state to collect a fine," she says in an interview. "Our purpose is to bring transparency to our campaign process and our political process in Chaffee County."

The Dems' complaint was filed on April 27, and the Secretary of State's Office referred the matter to an administrative judge who will hear the matter on May 14.

Officials with Chaffee County Republicans didn't return a phone call and email seeking comment.

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Friday, May 4, 2018

Penrose-St. Francis Health Service rethinking $550 million hospital project

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2018 at 12:35 PM

St. Francis Medical Center at Powers Boulevard and Woodmen Road. - COURTESY CENTURA HEALTH
  • Courtesy Centura Health
  • St. Francis Medical Center at Powers Boulevard and Woodmen Road.
Penrose-St. Francis Health Services is rethinking its proposed high-rise hospital on Fillmore Street just west of Interstate 25, the Colorado Springs Business Journal reports today.

Penrose bought the property last summer and agreed to limit the height to 165 feet for the $550 million medical campus.

The Journal's Helen Robinson reports the reconsideration is part of a new strategic plan process for the health services provider.

From the story:
Penrose-St. Francis Health Services is kicking off a new strategic plan for Colorado Springs, reassessing whether it needs to build the new hospital planned for its Fillmore Street site, completing a $102 million expansion at St. Francis Medical Center, and seeking a new CEO.

It’s a big year.

Interim CEO Brian Erling, appointed after longtime CEO Margaret Sabin stepped down March 16, is at the helm through all the changes. He’s focused on navigating a rapidly evolving health care landscape and working out what Colorado Springs really needs.

That includes taking a hard look at plans for a $550 million medical campus — which would be Penrose-St. Francis’ third hospital in the Springs — and deciding whether to go ahead.

Penrose-St. Francis is still “very interested” in using the 80-acre site at the corner of Fillmore Street and Centennial Boulevard, Erling said, but new plans will unfold based on new information.

“You do have to take a step back and say, ‘Gosh, are you going to spend half a billion dollars and end up with only a handful more beds and a handful more [operating rooms] to meet the community need? Was that really the best use of that much money?’” he said. “So we’re asking those questions — and the answer might be yes, that is a good use of the money, let’s build the hospital over there; it just needs to be a bit bigger.”

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Doug Lamborn foes seek further court consideration

Posted By on Wed, May 2, 2018 at 3:35 PM

Rep. Doug Lamborn: Let the primary campaign get under way. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Rep. Doug Lamborn: Let the primary campaign get under way.


Both appeals by the plaintiffs in the lawsuit regarding Rep. Doug Lamborn's petitions have been denied, prompting them to issue a lengthy statement, which says inpart:

Wayne Williams will endorse voter fraud by certifying Doug Lamborn to the primary ballot.

The legal challenges exhausted, we are exceptionally disappointed in the abject failure of Secretary Williams' decision to place Lamborn back onto the primary ballot to in spite of a state court ruling finding that Lamborn committed petition fraud. It is a shame that in this action, Secretary Williams chooses to ignore the findings of circulator fraud and voter affiliation in his desire to place his good friend Doug Lamborn back on the ballot. The Secretary has made it clear through public comments that his office will prioritize ballot access to any candidate, including those campaigns who clearly broke the law. 
Read the entire statement here:

———————ORIGINAL POST 3:35 P.M. WEDNESDAY, MAY 2, 2018——————-

After U.S. District Court Judge Philip Brimmer issued a ruling on May 1 stating that six-term Rep. Doug Lamborn should be placed on the June 26 Republican primary ballot, those challenging his petitions moved to continue the court challenge.

Read our story about Lamborn's tenure in Congress here.

The plaintiffs, five El Paso County Republicans, filed an appeal with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals asking for a stay of Brimmer's order and reverse his finding that the state's residency requirement for petition circulators is unconstitutional.

Also, the plaintiffs filed a motion in the existing Colorado Supreme Court case, noting that Brimmer's decision was conditional and not absolute.

"The effect of Judge Brimmer’s order does not vacate the order of the Colorado Supreme Court to remove Lamborn from the ballot, instead it contemplates a state court reviewing the remaining criteria for circulators," plaintiff's spokesman Kyle Fisk tells the Independent in an email.

The group argues that Secretary of State Wayne Williams is "wrongly applying" Brimmer's decision and "choosing to ignore the court findings of circulator fraud and voter affiliation in his attempts to place Lamborn back on the ballot," Fisk says.

Specifically, Fisk notes, Brimmer's decision says Lamborn cannot be placed on the ballot unless he satisfies all other state law requirements, apart from the residency question.

At issue is Lamborn's petition for the 5th Congressional District nomination, which was circulated by several people who the plaintiffs say aren't truly residents of the state, weren't legitimately registered to vote in Colorado and weren't members of the party in Colorado. Circulators must swear to those statements on an affidavit. Here's more background on this case.

"It is undisputed that Lamborn’s circulators committed fraud," Fisk says, noting that two circulators were shown not to be Colorado residents. "Regardless of the constitutionality of that requirement of circulators, their lack of residency proves two things. One, they illegally registered to vote as Republicans, as you must be a resident to register. The judge’s order had nothing to do with a separate state provision requiring, as all states do, that you must be a resident in order to register to vote as a Republican in Colorado. The judge did not rule in any way on the requirement of circulators to be affiliated with the proper party so that qualification still exists. And most importantly, both circulators committed fraud when they lied to the state of Colorado, claiming to be a resident, when in fact, they were proven in court to be residents of Missouri and California."

Fisk asserts that both circulators lied on their affidavits, rendering them invalid.

These are the grounds, he notes, upon which Williams should keep Lamborn's name off the ballot.

"We call on the Secretary of State to properly apply the complete findings of the Colorado Supreme Court and follow the partial ruling by Judge Brimmer and not ignore the Colorado state proceedings on these separate flaws with Lamborn’s signatures that Judge Brimmer, expressly, did not address," he writes.

Lamborn's campaign issued a statement saying, in part, it's time to move on and stop the "legal maneuverings."

"As we have said all along, we believe voters – not lawyers and judges – should decide the outcome of elections," the statement said.

Secretary of State spokesperson Lynn Bartels tells the Indy via email, "We are looking at it [Brimmer's ruling] but at this point Lamborn is on the ballot."

Lamborn faces four primary opponents: El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, State Sen. Owen Hill, former Green Mountain Falls mayor Tyler Stevens and retired Texas judge Bill Rhea.

Stephany Rose Spaulding is the sole Democrat running for the office.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Doug Lamborn ordered onto GOP primary ballot

Posted By on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 4:04 PM

Lamborn is back on the June 26 primary ballot. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Lamborn is back on the June 26 primary ballot.
U.S. District Court Judge Philip Brimmer ruled Tuesday that Rep. Doug Lamborn's name should be placed on the June 26 Republican primary ballot.

But Kyle Fisk, spokesman for the El Paso County Republicans who started the dispute with a lawsuit a couple weeks ago, said they will appeal to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"We are disappointed that a federal judge chose to overrule the unanimous decision of the Colorado Supreme Court as well as overturn the will of the people of Colorado as expressed by their elected representatives," he said via text message to the Indy. "We have filed an immediate appeal to the 10th Circuit. We have also requested that Secretary [of State Wayne] Williams not be allowed to certify the ballot until the 10th Circuit hears the appeal."

Here's some background on the case.

Lamborn's campaign issued this statement:
We are extremely pleased that the judge ruled in our favor and has ensured that Congressman Lamborn’s name will appear on the primary ballot. Consistent with court rulings here in Colorado and around the country, the federal court agreed that the part of Colorado election law that requires petition collectors to be state residents is unconstitutional and unduly infringes on the First Amendment rights of voters and petition circulators.

We believe it is time to move on from this issue, and we hope our opponents will end their legal maneuverings in an effort to disqualify Congressman Lamborn from the Republican primary. As we have said all along, we believe voters – not lawyers and judges – should decide the outcome of elections.

Congressman Lamborn looks forward to continuing this spirited campaign and the opportunity to share his record of bold leadership and working with President Trump to pass his conservative agenda.

Lamborn, of Colorado Springs, faces formidable opposition in the primary. Others who have petitioned onto the ballot are El Paso County commissioner and 2016 U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn; Green Mountain Falls' former mayor Tyler Stevens and retired Texas judge Bill Rhea.

State Sen. Owen Hill won backing from delegates at the Republican assembly to win his primary spot.

We asked Hill for his thoughts in anticipation of the ruling, and he tells us via email on April 30, "Doug Lamborn broke the law. Should Lamborn successful[ly] sue his way on to the ballot, he’ll have to answer to voters for why he needed to shred Colorado election law in the process. I’m eager to continue meeting with voters and I’m not afraid to discuss the tough issues or defend my record. Let’s talk about the issues."

Be sure to check out the Indy's May 2 edition for more about Lamborn's past service and what might lie ahead.

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Family Law Day offers free legal advice, anticipates more than 100 attendees

Posted By on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 1:32 PM

  • Zerbor /

Family law can be incredibly tricky. It's natural for issues like divorce and custody battles to feel intimidating, as relationships, the well-being of children and of entire families are at stake. Moreover, not everyone has the money to seek legal counsel for tough issues, and may find themselves making costly mistakes while wading through complicated legalese.

With this in mind, The 4th Judicial District, the Access to Justice Committee for the 4th Judicial District, The Justice Center, The Family Law Section of the El Paso County Bar Association, and Colorado Legal Services are hosting their second annual Family Law Day for El Paso and Teller Counties.

With free, one-on-one legal advice from local volunteer attorneys and courthouse staff, plus information sessions, these volunteers will help iron out separation agreements, parenting plans, and any questions attendees may have about how to file for divorce or address custody disputes.

According to a press release by the Family Law Day Planning Committee, volunteers last year donated $25,000 worth of their time, and helped more than 100 individuals. An even greater number are expected to utilize this resource in 2018.

Sarah Lipka, the Managing Attorney of the Colorado Springs office of Colorado Legal Services, says: “Navigating through a divorce or custody case can be confusing and sometimes daunting. Family Law Day is intended to provide education, support, and guidance to community members as they face this difficult time in their lives, while also providing members of the legal community in the Pikes Peak region the opportunity to give back to those in need."

The first 50 people through the door will receive a free divorce or custody packet, with all the pleadings and paperwork needed to file a case.

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Colorado Springs is the place for knee and hip replacements

Posted By on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 11:44 AM

A screen shot of one of the pages on the new website.
  • A screen shot of one of the pages on the new website.
You've probably heard of people going to Thailand for cosmetic surgery and to Mexico for bariatric surgery.

Now the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau has launched a campaign to attract people looking to put Colorado Springs on the map for a variety of medical procedures.

"The goal of the site is to hyper-target potential patients in U.S. counties who search key terms that relate to specialized procedures and highlight Colorado Springs as a destination," the CVB says in a release.

The CVB is teaming with Venue Health & Analytics LLC and Penrose-St. Francis Health Services to initiate the website.

The pitch relies on the city's brand, Olympic City USA, noting "Olympic-class care."

The website contains this message from Mayor John Suthers:
As the domestic headquarters of the U.S. Olympic Movement for nearly 40 years, Colorado Springs, Olympic City USA has naturally attracted an incredible talent pool of medical practitioners and sports scientists. That, along with our unrivaled natural beauty, abundance of training grounds and the presence of tens of thousands of amateur and elite athletes, make Colorado Springs the ideal place to get quality care and the inspiration to reach your personal best.
But the website doesn't contain any mention of the city-owned UCHealth Memorial Hospital, nor does it mention the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' planned sports medicine facility due to open in the next couple of years.

From the release:
The site includes a categorized listing of highly rated Colorado Springs healthcare services, information and resources for these consumers. Penrose-St. Francis’ facilities, physicians and high ratings in hip, knee and heart valve replacement, alongside highly desirable visitor amenities, uniquely position Colorado Springs as an ideal choice for away-from-home healthcare.

“As healthcare providers, we have to reach consumers and patients wherever they are, and this partnership is an excellent opportunity to connect platforms,” Chris Valentine, Director of Marketing and Communications for Penrose-St. Francis, said. “We are on a mission to build flourishing communities by providing world-class whole person care and we want to share that mission with everyone, no matter where they are located.”

The site’s SEO marketing will be managed by Venue Health. “We provide destination health and predictive analytic services designed to improve access to higher quality health care services. Our work fosters compelling brand creations that visualizes both medical and tourism data in an industry that is undergoing explosive growth,” says Venue Health CEO Bob Durham.

Considering Colorado Springs and nearby Manitou Springs were founded on medical tourism, the concept isn’t new. Healing mineral waters, ample sunshine and fresh mountain air made the region a popular recovery choice for those suffering from tuberculosis in the late 1800s. “There is a lucrative and untapped market for medical tourism. People are willing to travel to other U.S. destinations, for longer periods of time, for top-quality health care and a beautiful location in which to recover. There’s no better place to do that than right here at the foot of the Rocky Mountains,” says CVB Chief Innovation Officer Amy Long. The partnership aims to fulfill the CVB’s mission to bring more visitors to Colorado Springs at Pikes Peak. 
Part of the city's ploy to draw people seeking health remedies was the slogan "City of Sunshine," which lasted for several decades.
  • Courtesy Pioneers Museum

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Doug Lamborn would collect a pension for life after leaving Congress

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2018 at 5:36 PM

Lamborn might be in the pension line soon. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Lamborn might be in the pension line soon.

When it comes to deciphering retirement benefits, things can get a little complicated, and the Independent goofed in reporting that Doug Lamborn was likely under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).

Rather, Lamborn's retirement benefit will be provided through a program called the Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS).

And that means, his benefit is likely to be lower than we originally reported. According to a formula contained in the Congressional Research Service report we cited, his annual pension payment if he leaves Congress after 12 years would come to $35,496.

This payment could be supplemented with a Social Security retirement payment as well, according to the report.

—————-ORIGINAL POST 11:32 A.M. TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2018————————-

As near as we can figure, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, is entitled to a congressional pension of $52,200 a year for life if he leaves office at the end of this term in January 2019, according to formulas outlined in a report by the Congressional Research Service.

That could happen due to a Colorado Supreme Court ruling on April 23 that bumped him off the June 26 Republican primary election ballot. (Lamborn is now challenging Colorado election law in an effort to get added back onto the ballot.)

Of course, it's not simple nor cut and dried, because members of Congress are covered under several plans that have changed over the years.

But assuming Lamborn is covered under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), his minimum benefit would be $52,200, which is adjusted for inflation just as Social Security benefits are, based on his annual pay of $174,000.

That benefit doesn't include Social Security benefits to which he would be entitled; nor does it include the Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS), for which certain members qualify. At 63, Lamborn could take early retirement benefits under Social Security, in which the earliest age for benefits is 62.

Lamborn is an attorney, so he could set up a law practice. Or perhaps he'll be appointed to a government job by President Donald Trump?

The Congressional Research Service report, delivered in December 2017, found:
There were 611 retired Members of Congress receiving federal pensions based fully or in part on their congressional service as of October 1, 2016. Of this number, 335 had retired under CSRS and were receiving an average annual pension of $74,028. A total of 276 Members had retired with service under FERS and were receiving an average annual pension of $41,076 in 2016. 
Read the whole report here:

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Manitou Springs announces water restrictions

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2018 at 11:13 AM

  • Carsten Tolkmit
Manitou Springs is the first in the region to announce water restrictions amid a dry spell that's played a role in several grass fires, including the Mile Marker 117 fire that burned 24 homes from April 17 to 20.

In a release, the city of Manitou said that starting on May 1 these restrictions will apply:
• Outdoor watering shall be restricted to Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays for properties with even-numbered addresses, and to Wednesday, Friday and Sundays for odd-numbered addresses.
• Outdoor watering at properties south of Manitou Avenue, and not having assigned street number addresses shall be restricted to dates allowed for outdoor watering at properties having even-numbered addresses, and properties north of Manitou Avenue, not having assigned street number addresses shall be restricted to dated allowed for outdoor water at properties having odd-numbered addresses.
• Outdoor watering is permitted for a maximum of two hours on a day on which watering is permitted, and such watering is permitted only between the hours of five a.m. to eight a.m. or seven p.m. to ten p.m. (either period, but not both). To maximize irrigation efficiency, area watering shall be limited to twenty minutes per zone or location.
• Outdoor watering for longer than the time allowed, other than at permitted times, or other than on permitted days is prohibited, with the following exceptions:
o Refilling ornamental pools, hot tubs and swimming pools; and,
o Hand watering from a hose equipped with automatic shut-off, so long as it is attended; and,
o Unrestricted drip irrigation; and,
o Watering from a rain barrel or other collection device as allowed by State law.
• Washing cars is allowed under Level One Restrictions only with a hose equipped with a shut-off valve at or adjacent to the nozzle and the shut-off valve must be engaged at all times when the hose is not directed at the vehicle being washed.
• Washing sidewalks awnings, decks, exteriors of buildings and windows during Level One Restrictions is permitted only with a hose equipped with a shut-off valve at or adjacent to the nozzle, and the shut-off valve must be engaged at all times when the hose is not actively in use for washing.
Colorado Springs Utilities has said restrictions aren't likely this summer, as we reported here.

One reason for that might be related to Utilities having three years worth of water in storage, as reported here.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Doug Lamborn promises he'll appeal in effort to get onto primary ballot

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2018 at 5:17 PM

Michael Franciso, left, and Michael Kuhn, one of the plaintiffs that brought the lawsuit to remove Lamborn from the ballot, talk with reporters after the Colorado Supreme Court ruling. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Michael Franciso, left, and Michael Kuhn, one of the plaintiffs that brought the lawsuit to remove Lamborn from the ballot, talk with reporters after the Colorado Supreme Court ruling.

From Rep. Doug Lamborn's campaign spokesperson Dan Bayens:
Today we took action in federal court by filing a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction with the federal court for the District of Colorado in Denver.

We believe that the part of Colorado law that requires petition gatherers to be residents of the state is manifestly unconstitutional, and controlling case decisions here in Colorado and courts around the country have agreed with that assessment. Citizens who either signed the petitions for Congressman Lamborn or who plan to vote in the 5th District in the Republican primary should not be deprived of their rights by an unconstitutional election law.

We are also seeking to keep Congressman Lamborn's name on the ballot while this matter is decided.
This statement then prompted a lengthy statement form five El Paso County Republicans who challenged Lamborn's petition. Spokesperson Kyle Fisk says in an emailed statement:
A coalition of interested parties, including the five plaintiffs from the original suit, as well as various state legislators, will be filing a motion to intervene in this federal lawsuit and defend Colorado law. This group has a vested interest in upholding the law as it clearly complies with the US Constitution and will vigorously work to defend the state statutes in question. It’s a pity that Doug Lamborn refuses to comply with the order of the Colorado Supreme Court, who has the final say in the interpretation and application of state election law. We sincerely wish that one who is charged with writing and passing laws would have more respect for the laws of our state.

Until 2:45 this past Monday afternoon Doug Lamborn had no problem with Colorado law as it stood for decades. In fact, he has declared multiple times that he followed the law. He claimed to have spoken to the company who collected the petitions and was assured that all laws and regulations were followed. We now know that was not the case as proven in Court.

Doug Lamborn has said that courts shouldn’t decide elections. Let us be clear. The Court did not decide an election. The Court determined that Lamborn’s campaign broke the law, committed petition fraud and should not be allowed to appear on the Republican Primary Ballot. That is the role of the judiciary. When you break the rules these are the consequences.

Until 2:45 PM this past Monday Doug Lamborn had said lawsuits shouldn’t determine ballot access. Yet, now that it has been proven that his campaign broke the rules and violated Colorado law he’s changing his mind on the role of lawsuits. Now that he won’t appear on the ballot and is on the outside looking in, we are witnessing a stunning reversal where Mr. Lamborn is now the one asking the Courts to intervene and place him back on the ballot. The inconsistency is staggering.

We believe the requirements for petition circulators is fully constitutional. So does the Colorado Secretary of State, as his office argued in their briefs before both the District Court and Supreme Court in the Kuhn v Williams case. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with Secretary Williams and Attorney General Coffman to defend this unwarranted attack upon the laws of Colorado.


Bill Rhea, a retired judge from Texas who's on the primary ballot for the Republican nomination in the 5th Congressional District, says he believes Lamborn should be placed on the ballot.

In a statement provided to the Indy, Rhea says, in part:
The key issue in that federal court proceeding will be whether circulators are involved in “core political speech” in their activity of collection ballot access petitions. If so, the 10th Circuit precedent, particularly in YOTL v. Savage (2008), almost certainly would control and the incumbent would prevail. “Core political speech” is very clearly involved in the circulation of referendum initiative petitions (which was involved in the YOTL case). I believe it is highly likely that the federal court(s) will also hold that ballot access petitioning will fall into the same category. 
Here's his entire statement:
——————ORIGINAL POST 5:17 P.M. MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2018—————————-

The attorney who brought an action to have Doug Lamborn removed from the primary ballot met with reporters on April 23 to essentially take a victory lap after the Colorado Supreme Court deemed 269 signatures collected by an out-of-state circulator ineligible on Lamborn's petitions.

Michael Francisco told reporters, "In this expedited appeal under section 1-1-113(3), the Supreme Court addresses whether the Colorado Secretary of State may certify incumbent Rep. Doug Lamborn to the 2018 Republican primary ballot for Colorado's 5th Congressional District. Relying soley on the Colorado Election Code, the Supreme Court concludes he may not."

Lamborn released a statement saying, "We are disappointed by the outcome and we believe it was wrongly decided. We are immediately bringing an action in federal court to overturn the part of Colorado law that deprives voters who have petitioned to have Congressman Lamborn on the ballot of their Constitutional rights."

But Francisco said such a federal lawsuit would have to ask the nation's highest court to rule Colorado election law unconstitutional.

"Today, the Supreme Court has unanimously overturned the District Court ruling and declared that Mr. [Ryan] Tipple [a petition circulator] was not a resident of Colorado and, therefore, ineligible to collect petition signatures," Francisco said. "His 269 signatures on behalf of primary candidate Congressman Doug Lamborn have been declared invalid."

He also said Lamborn had the choice to go through the Republican assembly process to gain a spot on the June 26 primary ballot, but instead went the petition route. Digging at Lamborn, Francisco noted, "It's a pity that Mr. Lamborn cares to little about election fraud in our state. The dismissiveness with which Doug Lamborn has treated this case is indicative of the dismissiveness with which he has treated Colorado election law."

Other Republicans who have qualified for the ballot include El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, state Sen. Owen Hill, retired Texas judge Bill Rhea and former mayor of Green Mountain Falls Tyler Stevens.

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Lamborn does not qualify for the ballot, state supreme court rules

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2018 at 3:43 PM

Six-term U.S. Congressman Doug Lamborn may not be able to run for his seventh term after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that one of his signature gatherers is not a legal resident of the state and invalidated those petition signatures.

Without those signatures, Lamborn lacks the 1,000 valid signatures needed to make the ballot.

The Denver Post reports:

It’s unclear whether Lamborn will challenge the ruling, or whether he could return to the district court level to seek qualification of other signatures that were initially rejected by the secretary of state’s office. The court is allowed to apply a more lenient standard — known as substantial compliance — than the secretary’s office.

——- POST, April 11, 9:39 a.m. ——-
Walker Stapleton with his family. - STAPLETONFORCOLORADO.COM
  • Walker Stapleton with his family.
Various local media are reporting that a judge has allowed Doug Lamborn to stay on the primary ballot despite questions about the signature gatherers for his petitions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Looking for some good local environmental news? Well, too bad.


The average person moves roughly 12 times in their lifetime, but when serious environmental concerns arise, individuals might feel encouraged to pack up their bags and relocate. And, unfortunately, the local environmental news has been less than positive.

Most recently, in a perfect sign of the absurd times, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is in a feud with a Colorado mine. Bizarrely, the mine is accusing the EPA of hurting the environment, not the other way around — let that sink in.

The Denver Post reported this April on the strange tale of Sunnyside Gold Corp. versus the EPA. According to The Post, EPA officials ordered Sunnyside to pay for a study to support a cleanup plan of a superfund site in Southwestern Colorado.

Sunnyside claims the EPA is harming the Animas River by "running a treatment plant below full capacity," which allows mine wastewater to flow into the river. The superfund site also includes the Gold King Mine, which was accidentally flooded with 3 million gallons of wastewater by the EPA in 2015, turning rivers bright yellow. About 3 billion tons of hazardous materials are shipped across the country each year. And while the Gold King Mine produced only a drop in that hazmat bucket, the story drew national attention because of the incident's striking visuals.

For its part, the EPA says Sunnyside officials just want to distract the public from its responsibility to fund cleanup in the area.

Meanwhile, according to Streetsblog Denver, another government agency is drawing ire from Colorado residents. North Denverites are furious with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) over pollution from the I-70 freeway. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 3.3 million deaths per year are attributed to indoor air pollution across the globe. Additionally, 6% of those reported cases were lung cancer. Outdoor pollution, however, is just as dangerous.

CDOT announced its plans to rebuild the elevated stretch of I-70 as a sunken highway with four additional lanes, bringing more traffic and pollution across north Denver.

Pollution from the I-70 freeway is too much of a health hazard for many Swansea, Globeville, and Elyria neighborhood residents. These people are now protesting, calling for CDOT to not make the pollution matters even worse.

"[The project] means a lot more of these particles in the air that are gonna be hurting us," says Davita Sanchez, a 15-year resident of North Denver.

Sanchez and her three children all suffer from asthma, but never experienced issues until she moved into the area.

The neighborhoods affected by the pollution are already some of the most polluted in Denver, with the highest rates of chronic diseases. Ean Tafoya, Colorado Latino Forum Director, even went as far to call the I-70 pollution expansion the city's own version of Flint, Michigan.

"This is the woeful disregard by the government of people who live in neighborhoods who they represent," Tafoya says.

CDOT officials have gone on record stating that the department was not under an obligation to address pollution issues beyond initial examinations. Additionally, CDOT says it already invested $20 million into assisting the Elyria-Swansea pollution situation, but neighborhood residents have said otherwise.

"It's already been happening as a result of 50 years of exposure to this pollution," says attorney Bob Yuhnke. "But the pollution will be worse — that much we know."

Conversely, CDOT officials, alongside officials from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), the Colorado Energy Office, and the Regional Air Quality Council have finalized a plan to spend $68.7 million to cut car and truck pollution in the state by investing in electric-vehicle charging stations.

According to the Denver Business Journal, the plan is for the city to have approximately 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030. For that to happen, however, there needs to be plenty of electric-vehicle infrastructure accommodations.

"Our goal has been for Colorado to use this money to make forward-looking, transformative investments to reduce pollution," says Joe Halso, a Denver-based attorney for the Sierra Club. "This plan takes big steps in that direction. That [$10.3 million] will go a long way to improve the state's infrastructure."

Residents have a right to be upset — pollution is serious business. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 16% of all global deaths in 2015 were linked in some way to outdoor or indoor pollution. For reference, that's much higher than your odds of dying in a natural disaster, which is roughly 1 in 3,500.

"They haven't done enough," says Rey Gallegos, a lifelong North Denver resident.
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Friday, April 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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