Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Air Force Academy shows improvement in wash-out rate

Posted By on Tue, May 22, 2018 at 5:24 PM

  • U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan
On May 23, 984 Air Force Academy cadets will become second lieutenants as the Thunderbirds zoom overhead.

Tucked into a statistical rundown of the Class of 2018 provided by the Academy is a figure that bodes well for the school. According to the Academy, only 18.4 percent, or 222, of those who entered the Academy four years ago with this class washed out. That's a significant improvement over years past.

The last time the Independent looked at this in late 2016, the wash-out rates were well over 20 percent.

You can revisit that report here.

Here are some fun facts about this year's graduating class provided by the Academy:
– 1,498 were offered appointments to the Academy

– 1,206 men and women were inducted into the Academy, including 14 international cadets

– There were 942 men (78.1 percent) and 264 women (21.9 percent) in the class

– There were 323 (26.8 percent) minorities

– There were 585 (48.5 percent) cadets who were potentially pilot qualified

– The average high school GPA for the Class of 2018 was 3.85

– The average SAT score was 633 verbal and 663 math

-The average ACT score was 30 English, 30 reading, 30 math and 30 science reasoning

Scheduled to Graduate:

Scheduled to graduate are 984 cadets, including 13 international cadets.

– 772 men (78 percent) and 212 women (22 percent)

– 273 minorities (28 percent) of the class. Seventy-seven cadets are African-American, 105 are Hispanic, 65 are Asian, 13 are Pacific Islanders and 13 are Native American, not including the international cadets.

– 711 cadets are not minorities

– The 13 international cadets are from Kazakhstan, Gaban, Malaysia, Moldovia, Pakistan, The Republic of Korea, Romania, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates

– 142 graduates attended the Air Force Academy Preparatory School

– 45 graduates were previously enlisted Airmen

– The average cumulative GPA for the graduating class was 3.07

– The attrition rate is 209 cadets (18 percent)

– 54 graduates have brothers or sisters who have graduated from the Academy

– 58 graduates are second-generation graduates. Six cadets’ parents are both graduates of the Academy.
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Thursday, May 17, 2018

North Cheyenne Cañon plan challenged, appeal to be heard by Council

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2018 at 4:45 PM

The South Cheyenne Creek in North Cheyenne Cañon Park is dry and has been for a few months. Opponents of the park's master plan take issue with the possibility of redirecting the creek. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The South Cheyenne Creek in North Cheyenne Cañon Park is dry and has been for a few months. Opponents of the park's master plan take issue with the possibility of redirecting the creek.
On May 17, former El Paso County Commissioner Jim Bensberg paid the required $176 fee to appeal the city's Parks Advisory Board's approval of a new master plan for the North Cheyenne Cañon Park.

Bensberg and the Cheyenne Cañon Conservationists, a loose-knit group started in 2010, contend the master plan sets new policy without relying on the judgment of elected officials on City Council. Under the current set up, parks master plans aren't reviewed by Council, only the Parks Advisory Board.

The parks board approved the master plan on May 10 after an hours-long public meeting at which dozens of supporters of the plan, including Broadmoor employees, spoke in favor of it.
One of many picnic areas in North Cheyenne Cañon Park. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • One of many picnic areas in North Cheyenne Cañon Park.
Bensberg and others contend The Broadmoor, owner of Seven Falls on the park's west side, stands to gain from components of the master plan that would allow the city to reroute the south creek, shut roads in the vicinity of Seven Falls and take other steps to sanitize the natural character of the park and turn it into a "Disneyland" attraction.

Referring to a picnic area west of the Starsmore Center where gatherings such as weddings and receptions are frequently held, Bensberg says, "They want to bulldoze that area for a parking lot."

"We don't believe the problems city staff has outlined can justify these draconian measures they're taking," he says.

Opponents of the master plan also are against lumping the north and south sections of the park together into one master plan when, as Bensberg says, they represent two different ecosystems.

The south creek has been dry for months, and has been dry more often than not in recent years. Bensberg says City Council should explain why that is — suggesting that some of the water may be being syphoned off for other purposes. The Independent asked Colorado Springs Utilities about the lack of flow in the south creek and got this explanation via email:
There is no minimum streamflow requirement on South Cheyenne Creek. CSU entered into an agreement with the Cheyenne Creek Metro Park & Water District back in 1993 to bypass 1 cfs on North Cheyenne Creek between April 1 and October 31. Our Raw Water Ops staff monitors that flow daily.
Kent Obee, leader of Save Cheyenne, a nonprofit formed to oppose the city's 2016 deal to trade 186-acre Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor, says his group, too, is opposed to the master plan.

The chief complaint, he says, is the inclusion in the plan of the possibilities for shuttle buses, traffic restrictions and closing off the remaining south canyon loop, which they say could lead to converting Mesa Avenue into a Broadmoor-shuttles-only road. The Broadmoor takes hotel guests and anyone who pays to visit Seven Falls to the attraction via bus.

"They would literally tear up and revegetate the south canyon road," Obee says. "We thought that was one clearly catering to The Broadmoor." He adds the loop draws crowds of people who picnic at pullouts.

Though city officials say those are only possibilities to be determined later, Obee is suspicious.

"We would call it the camel's nose under the tent," he says, explaining that he suspects that  items in the master plan (often described simply as possibilities) will simply be rubber-stamped by the board later on.

Another sticking point is the inclusion in the plan of marketing efforts. "Too much in the plan is marketing, and this park belongs to the citizens, not the tourists," Obee says, citing a column that appeared in this week's Independent. "Too much in the plan is marketing to bring more people in, when frankly, that's the last thing on earth we need."

Council could hear the appeal on June 12, unless Bensberg seeks to delay the hearing due to Council members not being able to attend. He says he wants the entire Council to hear the matter.
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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

ESM forced to end WISH House program for homeless women

Posted By on Wed, May 16, 2018 at 9:42 AM

The WISH House program provided transitional housing for up to 16 single women at one time. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • The WISH House program provided transitional housing for up to 16 single women at one time.

Ecumenical Social Services, a nonprofit serving the homeless population in downtown Colorado Springs, announced May 16 that a lack of federal funding would force it to close WISH House, its transitional housing program for women.

We wrote about the WISH House this week.

Through the WISH House program, ESM housed up to 16 single women at one time, where they lived in four-bed rooms and could use a kitchen, TV room and computer room. The women were required to work, volunteer or attend job training during the day. ESM worked with the women to identify the “root cause” of their homelessness, and provided services such as financial advice to help them become self-sufficient.

Since the program was founded in April of 2017 with the support of a $100,000 federal community-service block grant, it has served more than 38 women, according to a press release. That funding is no longer available.

“While some went the full term with this program and now live self-sufficiently, some only stayed for a short while to best meet their personal needs,” the announcement read. “We cherished our time with all of them and have sent them all out the doors with our best wishes.”

ESM will continue to serve the homeless community with laundry services, showers and food assistance, according to the release.

“Last year, ESMs day-time programs served 70,000 people,” the release read. “Nearly 10,000 showers were taken, more than 4,000 loads of laundry were cleaned, and the number of people who received food assistance increased by 17% over the previous year.

“ESMs day-time services will remain open, but are in need of funding support due to the overwhelming demand for our services.”

The homeless population in El Paso County increased by 9.6 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to data from the Point-in-Time count released May 10. Females (adults and children) made up about 35 percent of the total homeless population in El Paso County this year.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Quad Innovation Partnership students research ways to save Venetucci Farm

Posted By on Tue, May 15, 2018 at 5:02 PM

  • File photo

Pikes Peak Community Foundation has something new in the works for its Venetucci Farm, which has been plagued by financial problems since its water was ruled unsafe for human consumption in 2016.

The foundation is joining forces with the Quad Innovation Partnership, a collaboration between four local universities, to develop new solutions for maintaining the beloved farm’s role in the community. Student research teams in the Quad program will lead the effort starting this summer and continuing through the spring 2019 semester.

The students hail from Colorado College, Pikes Peak Community College, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy. They comprise two research teams of three to five students each, and come from a variety of academic areas — including public affairs, economics and philosophy. Some will be graduate students; others undergraduates, said Jake Eichengreen, Quad’s executive director.

“Jake’s program is a really good resource for bringing in a lot of good community voices,” said Samuel Clark, director of philanthropy for PPCF. “Especially the voices of young, entrepreneurially-minded individuals that are engaged with the community.”

Venetucci Farm’s recent problems started in May of 2016, when the farm’s well water was considered unsafe under new EPA regulations. The water had been polluted by Peterson Air Force Base’s use of a fire fighting foam that contained perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs.

Before farmers and local legends Bambi and Nick Venetucci died, they left their family farm to the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, which had a broader, grassroots community mission at the time. They intended for the farm to remain a community fixture.

But when water troubles arose, PPCF’s new CEO, Gary Butterworth, exercised an abundance of caution, suspending produce sales mid-season despite protest from some community members that the food was still safe to eat. The water itself, which had accounted for over half of the farm’s revenue, could also no longer be sold.

The financial turmoil that followed has left the farm’s future in question. Funding could come in the form of a reimbursement payment from the Air Force, which would allow for a water treatment facility to filter the groundwater. In the meantime, lacking revenue from the well water and produce sales, PPCF laid off longtime farm managers Susan Gordon and Patrick Hamilton.

PPCF is optimistic that the new partnership with the Quad will open new doors.

“I think that we just have the right people and sort of the right kind of voice and energy to work with on this process,” Clark said.

Ideally, the research efforts will result in a request for proposal (issued by the foundation, which owns the farm) to community organizations to implement some of the strategies the students will develop.

“Using that information from what the Quad teams discover, we can then package it and send it out to organizations to say, now that we understand what the opportunities are, who and how would we be able to take those opportunities,” Clark said.

Eichengreen emphasized the Quad’s enthusiasm about the upcoming project.

“I’m a Colorado Springs native and I grew up getting pumpkins from Venetucci Farm,” Eichengreen said. “Many of the fellow staff and students that I work with have similar connections to Colorado Springs and the community, and we’re just committed to doing this right.”

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PPCC cyber defense program receives designation

Posted By on Tue, May 15, 2018 at 1:36 PM

Students train at Boecore, a local aerospace and defense engineering firm involved in cyber security. - HELEN ROBINSON
  • Helen Robinson
  • Students train at Boecore, a local aerospace and defense engineering firm involved in cyber security.

Pikes Peak Community College’s cyber defense program received official designation from the National Security Agency, the college announced in a statement May 15.

The community college is now a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Two-Year Education (CAE-2Y). That label means the school will “receive formal recognition from the U.S. Government as well as opportunities for prestige and publicity for their role in securing our Nation's information systems,” according to the NSA’s website.

“Because of this designation's national visibility, PPCC students who graduate from these programs are recognized by employers as having the broad cyber skills needed in industries around the globe,” PPCC’s statement said, adding that the school will now be eligible for more academic and workforce development grants in cybersecurity.

Currently, PPCC’s Cyber Defense Center offers a cybersecurity certificate as part of its Computer Networking Technology degree. The school also has noncredit workforce development courses in cybersecurity.

PPCC joins the Air Force Academy, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado Technical University, and Pueblo and Red Rocks community colleges as a designated school, according to the statement.

In other recent cyber-news: The National Cybersecurity Center in Colorado Springs, which opened in January on North Nevada Avenue, evolved from Gov. Hickenlooper’s vision of the city as the “cybersecurity capital of the nation.” The center is partnering with startup accelerators in an effort to bring cybersecurity jobs to the Pikes Peak Region.

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Russians planted local "driving while black" case in Facebook ads

Posted By on Tue, May 15, 2018 at 12:12 PM

Ryan Brown accused the CSPD of stopping him and his brother for "driving while black." - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Ryan Brown accused the CSPD of stopping him and his brother for "driving while black."
A local case of racial profiling was used by the Russians to sow division among Americans in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, according to an extensive report by USA Today that looked at all 3,517 Facebook ads used by Russians.

From the USA Today story:
The Russian company charged with orchestrating a wide-ranging effort to meddle in the 2016 presidential election overwhelmingly focused its barrage of social media advertising on what is arguably America’s rawest political division: race.

The roughly 3,500 Facebook ads were created by the Russian-based Internet Research Agency, which is at the center of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s February indictment of 13 Russians and three companies seeking to influence the election.

While some ads focused on topics as banal as business promotion or Pokémon, the company consistently promoted ads designed to inflame race-related tensions. Some dealt with race directly; others dealt with issues fraught with racial and religious baggage such as ads focused on protests over policing, the debate over a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico and relationships with the Muslim community.

That case involved Ryan and Benjamin Brown, which got widespread attention in 2015 after Colorado Springs Police Officers pulled Ryan Brown from a vehicle after a stop made for unknown reasons. The city later settled a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Colorado on the Browns' behalf. The city paid $212,000 and agreed to change some procedures.
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Senators challenge revisions to DoD report removing "climate change"

Posted By on Tue, May 15, 2018 at 10:08 AM

  • mrpbps
The Trump Administration has made a practice of trying to erase science, notably by downplaying, or ignoring altogether, the impact of climate change.

The latest turn on this strategy is a report in the Washington Post that the Department of Defense revised a January vulnerability assessment by removing references to climate change and findings regarding the risks from sea level rise.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, and nearly two dozen fellow lawmakers have called on the administration to release the unpublished draft of the report and explain the omissions.

In a letter to the Pentagon, Bennet and others write:

These are substantive, not stylistic, changes—and it is not the way we expect DoD to conduct business. If DoD is not publishing data that it collects from our installations because they do not fit a particular political narrative, the department is failing to let the science inform its understanding of how changes in the environment may pose a risk to the ability to train our forces, the safety of our facilities and service members, and the long-term readiness of our military.

For all those doubters out there, the Pentagon has issued reports in the past highlighting how climate change impacts national security, such as this DoD statement from 2015, and this article from last fall
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Monday, May 14, 2018

Gov. Hickenlooper signs three bills sponsored by Rep. Pete Lee

Posted By on Mon, May 14, 2018 at 5:19 PM

Rep. Pete Lee - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Rep. Pete Lee
Editor's note: This story lhas been updated to correct the date on which Gov. Hickenlooper signed the bills.

Gov. John Hickenlooper visited Colorado Springs on May 11 to sign three bills into law. They included an extension of a veterans’ career program, a bill to streamline community corrections transition placements, and penalties for retailers selling products with dextromethorphan (such as DayQuil) to children under 18.

Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, was the sponsor on all three bills. Another local legislator, Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, co-sponsored the veterans’ career program bill.

Here’s a rundown:

• HB18-1343: Veterans' Service-to-career Program
Sponsors: Pete Lee, Terri Carver, Kent Lambert, Nancy Todd

This bill continues a statewide program to help veterans, their spouses, and qualified dependents and caregivers find employment. It expands the program to include those actively serving in the military who are within six months of discharge.

• HB18-1251: Community Corrections Transition Placements
Sponsors: Pete Lee, Cole Wist, Daniel Kagan, Bob Gardner

The community corrections system in Colorado provides services to convicted adults who are “halfway in” or “halfway out” of prison. Community corrections, which includes housing and supervision, is either a “last chance” before being sent to prison, or a way for those leaving the criminal justice system to transition back into the community.

This bill requires the Colorado State Board of Parole to submit a list of offenders for community corrections transition placement referrals to the state Department of Corrections, who will choose whether or not to make a referral. Community corrections boards, which then decide whether to accept or reject an offender, must do so through a “structured, research-based decision-making process that combines professional judgment and actuarial risk and needs assessment tools,” according to the bill.

HB18-1307: Limit Access To Products With Dextromethorphan
Sponsors: Jonathan Singer, Pete Lee, Bob Gardner, John Cooke

This bill makes it illegal for a seller, retailer or vendor to sell products containing dextromethorphan — a drug found in such over-the-counter cough suppressants as DayQuil and Robitussin — to children under 18. For the first offense, the seller will receive a written warning; future offenses mean a fine of up to $200.

Dextromethorphan can cause fatal liver injury and cardiovascular problems if consumed in high doses. It has been used as a recreational drug, particularly among teenagers, for its hallucinogenic and dissociative effects at high doses.
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Harrison School District chief to be paid $250K in severance pay

Posted By on Mon, May 14, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Spencer: Will be paid $250,000 in severance pay. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Spencer: Will be paid $250,000 in severance pay.
Harrison School District 2 will pay former superintendent Andre Spencer $250,000 to end his contract agreement. The payment must be made no later than Aug. 30, 2018.

Spencer resigned on May 7, effective immediately, after serving for more than five years. No explanation was given by the district for his sudden and unusual departure shortly before the end of the school year, though Spencer had been looking for other jobs.

The severance agreement, obtained by the Independent through an open-records request, also states the district agreed to provide a letter of recommendation for Spencer. Here's that letter:

The board of education further agreed to "reply to any employment inquiry from a potential employer" with this statement:

Had Spencer not resigned, his contract would have run through June 30, 2020, according to the severance agreement, although his actual contract shows the contract was to expire June 30, 2018.

His contract states that if the board unilaterally terminated his contract, it would have to pay him two years salary.

In his resignation letter, Spencer said he planned to spend more time with his family and work on longstanding educational equity projects. The letter also contained a long list of accomplishments during his time at the Harrison District, including increasing the graduation rate from 74 percent to 82.4 percent, and decreasing the drop-out rate to 1 percent from 4.1 percent.
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Thursday, May 10, 2018

NORAD celebrates its 60th — a look inside "America's Fortress"

Posted By on Thu, May 10, 2018 at 6:27 PM

  • Matthew Schniper
NORAD celebrates its 60th this year, and all military parties involved at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station allowed the media "behind the blast doors" for a rare, limited tour on Thursday, May 10.

When I say all parties involved, I mean it quickly gets confusing to say who's toiling inside the mountain, between the U.S. forces on site, Canadian allies, and other unnamed groups (for security reasons). The 721st Mission Support Group is technically who hosted us at the alternate strategic command center; remember that in 2008 Peterson Air Force Base took on the primary command center, as it offers much more space for some 1,200 or so daily workers.

Still, the legacy and lore of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex is what continues to captivate people, many of whom are fond of the facility's role in the 1983 film WarGames.

NORAD and USNORTHCOM stand as the sole binational command center in the world (NORAD being composed of both U.S. and Canadian staff; USNORTHCOM being just U.S. military).

"It's the most secure facility in the world, we like to say," says Steve Rose, 721st Mission Support Group Deputy Director, our tour guide.

Built during the Cold War to withstand a nuclear blast, it's located 2,000 feet deep in Cheyenne Mountain, under solid granite — through a tunnel that's 3/10's of a mile long before it winds its way to 23-ton blast doors. Inside, a connected complex of 15 buildings (none touching the granite) sit on springs to absorb earthquake-like shockwaves, and the buildings are encased in navy-grade steel — "the gold standard for EMP (electromagnetic pulse) criteria."

The government opted to locate the base in Colorado Springs because of its distance inland from the coast, where in theory Soviet subs could be lurking nearby and strike coastal cities with little time for reaction. Here, the doors could be closed within 45 seconds while a missile travelled overland. Fun fact: Rose says originally the military wanted to place the facility under Blodgett Peak, near the Air Force Academy, but its rock was too soft compared to the solid granite. (This base is located just above Fort Carson, instead.)

Royal Canadian Air Force Colonel Travis Morehen, NORAD and USNORTHCOM Command Center Director, explains the multifold role of the facility, which you can also read about in the below fact sheet, as everything from monitoring aircraft over North America to assisting in fighting wildfires and responding to other natural disasters, to detecting missile threats and responding defensively to them. Oh, and don't forget the annual Christmas time tracking of Santa.  "It's impressive when you walk through that tunnel," says Morehen. "It's amazing what we do here."

Or at Peterson. Just the evening prior to our tour, Morehen describes a busy shift — a phone cradled to each ear usually, with a third in the hand of an assistant nearby — during which a flight had to be diverted because an unruly passenger, and, of course, because missiles fired during the current conflict between Israel and Iran in Syria.

"Most Americans are surprised at how involved Canada is in defending the U.S.," he says, describing the command center as "the brain of the human nervous system." Basically, it collects data from international sensor sites and passes it to the command staff for the decisions on what to do in response.

Related to the flight traffic alone, Morehen says a few flights must be intercepted weekly (not physically, but hailed for contact), tending to accidentally stray into restricted air space. Usually, that's around President Trump. The first time as POTUS that Trump visited Mar-a-Lago, a regular haunt to the expense of taxpayers, Morehen recalls something like six to 10 flights having to be hailed and turned around. (Back on 9/11, the call to ground all planes stemmed from NORAD.)

Morehen also wished to clear up confusion around this mountain complex being abandoned or underutilized. Just because it's redundant (not a bad thing for security), it's not idle. It's used during maintenance closures at Peterson, as well as monthly for four or so days to use the systems and familiarize new crew members; and quarterly for 10 to 14 days, for exercises, he says. It's also set in motion annually for training around a "WWIII scenario," during which staff even sleeps on site, as if sealed in for the real thing.

There's much more to NORAD than the media's granted access to this go around, including  underground reservoirs that stand ready in case of need. (Otherwise they're on the city's grid regularly.) We're told there's "triple redundancy" in virtually everything on site, from tech systems to fuel sources.

You can read more about the place on this fact sheet as well:
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Parks board approves Strawberry Fields, North Cheyenne Cañon plans

Posted By on Thu, May 10, 2018 at 5:37 PM

A portion of Strawberry Fields open space. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • A portion of Strawberry Fields open space.
Two contentious master plans won approval on May 10 from the city's Parks Advisory Board, but in both cases, a couple of concessions were made.

First, the Strawberry Fields open space plan was unanimously approved, with the caveat added by the board that no ground would be broken toward construction The Broadmoor's picnic pavilion or stable until the court case involving the property ends.

That provision was added after The Broadmoor's CEO Jack Damioli announced the resort could agree to that.

The court case stems from a lawsuit filed by Save Cheyenne, a nonprofit that opposed a land swap approved in May 2016 to trade the open space to The Broadmoor in exchange for other property.

A district judge dismissed the lawsuit, so Save Cheyenne appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which earlier this year sided with the city and The Broadmoor. Save Cheyenne has since asked the state Supreme Court to hear the case and is waiting to hear if the court will do so. If it doesn't, the case is over. If it does hear the case, Save Cheyenne leader Kent Obee says, it means there's an aspect to the case that the court feels is worth review.

Obee called the provision to hold off on construction as "a silver lining" to the master plan's approval. "It's something I think we can live with," he tells the Indy. "It means we won't be seeing bulldozers in the next month or so."

The other master plan, for North Cheyenne Cañon, was approved on a vote of 6-3, the city reported in a news release.

The only concession made by the Parks Board, Obee says, was to change language regarding reducing the number of pullouts from 42 to 12. The new language could lead to closing fewer of them.

Other sticking points were opposition to the possibility of future shuttles, traffic controls and reconfiguring the south side of the canyon.

A motion to delay action for further negotiation with Friends of North Cheyenne Cañon failed.

Obee says opponents are already talking about appealing the masterplan for the canyon to City Council. "There is a procedure for doing that," he says.

Here's the city's news release about the actions:
The City of Colorado Springs’ Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Advisory Board voted to approve two masters plans at its regular meeting on May 10.

Strawberry Hill Master Plan
The parks board voted unanimously to adopt the Strawberry Hill Master Plan.

Public input over the past 2 ½ years helped shape the numerous terms and conditions that ensure continued public access to a new trail network to be built over the next five years and all but the 8.5 acre Building Envelope that will be developed for a picnic facility and small stable area. The Broadmoor will construct the trails and facilities and will be responsible for maintaining the property in accordance with a conservation easement held by The Palmer Land Trust.

Construction on the Strawberry Hill property, phase 1 of the plan and the creation of an erosion control plan will not commence until the completion of the current legal case that has been submitted to the Colorado Supreme Court. Visit www.StrawberryHillMasterPlan.com for more information.

North Cheyenne Cañon Park Master Plan
The new master and management plan for North Cheyenne Cañon Park has been approved by the parks board by a 6-3 vote. The plan will guide use and management of the park for the next 10 to 15 years, providing a framework to accommodate a variety of recreational uses while also taking care of the land, its history and the natural environment.
Some highlights of the North Cheyenne Cañon Master Plan:
• 350+ residents participated in the drafting of the plan
• The park will expand from 19 to 35 miles of trails
• New interpretive programs will be offered
• Recommendation of improved parking and additional trailheads
• Criteria for keeping or removing pullouts
• Recommendation to hire additional seasonal employees

The plan was drafted using public feedback gathered online and during several workshops over the past nine months. It focuses on approximately 1,855 acres of land, including the core park property, as well as the adjacent Cresta and Stratton Forest Open Spaces.

Trail building begins Saturday, June 16 with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (http://www.voc.org) scheduled to coordinate work on the Buffalo Canyon Trail at Helen Hunt Falls. Additional projects are planned for this summer.

Visit www.ColoradoSprings.NCCMasterPlan for more information. 
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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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