Monday, November 11, 2019

Veterans Day marks 101st year after World War I ended

Posted By on Mon, Nov 11, 2019 at 12:03 PM

This area at the city's Evergreen Cemetery is reserved for veterans whose service dates to World War I. The morning of Veterans Day, a retired Air Force member visited every grave to pay his respects to each one of the fallen. - PHOTOS BY PAM ZUBECK
  • Photos by Pam Zubeck
  • This area at the city's Evergreen Cemetery is reserved for veterans whose service dates to World War I. The morning of Veterans Day, a retired Air Force member visited every grave to pay his respects to each one of the fallen.
Military service is engrained in the American experience, spanning generations. Since World War I, hardly a generation has passed without the nation being involved in war and calling upon its citizens to defend freedom and liberty.

An honored gravesite at Memorial Gardens cemetery in Colorado Springs.
  • An honored gravesite at Memorial Gardens cemetery in Colorado Springs.
In my family, my dad's brother, my Uncle John, served in North Africa and Italy during World War II. He saw a lot of action and was awarded two Purple Hearts. Yet, his letters home didn't mention the bullets flying and the bodies falling. Rather, he talked about what movie had been brought in for the soldiers to watch and the food.

This Veterans Day is a special one, commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the first Veterans Day, or Armistice Day, as it was known originally, to mark the end of World War I. The war ended in 1918, and the first Veterans Day was held the following year, with a moment of silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

For the people of Colorado Springs, home to five military installations, Veterans Day has a special meaning, and many restaurants and other businesses are saying thanks by giving discounts to vets.

If you want to check out some history of Armistice Day, go here.

According to history.com, here's how the holiday was converted to Veterans Day:
In 1954, after lobbying efforts by veterans’ service organizations, the 83rd U.S. Congress amended the 1938 act that had made Armistice Day a holiday, striking the word “Armistice” in favor of “Veterans.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation on June 1, 1954. From then on, November 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
The holiday's complete history is here.
Another view of the Evergreen Cemetery veterans burial plot.
  • Another view of the Evergreen Cemetery veterans burial plot.
 
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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Manitou Springs arts and cultural tax edges to victory by three votes

Posted By on Thu, Nov 7, 2019 at 4:36 PM

BRYCE CRAWFORD/FILE PHOTO
  • Bryce Crawford/file photo
Natalie Johnson, Manitou Art Center executive director, found out what a difference a couple of days can make, especially with election results.

The day after the election, Nov. 6, early unofficial results showed the Manitou Springs Arts, Culture and Heritage (MACH) sales tax measure had been defeated.

But on Thursday, Nov. 7, El Paso County released the final unofficial results showing the tax, which would raise $400,000 a year, passed by a mere three votes.

"We're feeling very hopeful," Johnson says, noting the county will canvass the vote later this month.

If the vote spread remains tight, within a half a percentage point, an automatic recount will be triggered.

When the results came in on election night, Johnson felt saddened, she says. "You can't help but feel it was a loss for the community. Then there's my personal feelings just knowing I've spent 60 to 80 hours a week working toward these things, and feeling the community didn't think it was important, that all my work didn't matter."

But now, when it looks like the measure was adopted after all, she's eager to show the community why it's a smart move to invest in the Carnegie Building, Miramont Castle, Manitou Art Center, Manitou Springs Heritage Center and Hiawatha Gardens property.

"We're going to have to do our best to make everyone proud and feel it was worth it," she says.

In another reversal, Fran Carrick appeared to have won a Fountain City Council seat on election night by a mere two votes, but the final unofficial results show her losing by 89 votes to Detra Duncan.

Still outstanding, however, are military and overseas ballots that needed to be postmarked by Nov. 5 and received by Nov. 13. So stay tuned.
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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Cigarette, vaping taxes pass in several Colorado cities and counties

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2019 at 3:35 PM

Cities and counties on the Western Slope passed new taxes on nicotine products. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • Cities and counties on the Western Slope passed new taxes on nicotine products.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed a bill allowing cities and counties to impose their own taxes on nicotine products without losing out on their share of proceeds from a state tobacco tax.

So, this fall, local governments across the state jumped at the chance to ask voters whether the government could collect new taxes, ostensibly aimed at curbing teen vaping.

Voters approved the measures by sweeping margins.

As part of their respective ballot initiatives, Crested Butte, Vail, New Castle and Glenwood Springs will impose a tax between $3 and $4 per pack of cigarettes, and a 40 percent tax on nicotine products other than cigarettes.

Crested Butte and Vail will tax $3 per pack, New Castle will tax $3.20 per pack and Glenwood Springs $4 per pack. Boulder, which has already banned flavored vaping products, approved a 40 percent tax on e-cigarette products.

Voters in Eagle, Summit and Pitkin counties also approved a nicotine tax mirroring the one passed in Glenwood Springs. Those counties' teen vaping rates are among the highest in the state, according to the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey.

That survey showed 27 percent of Colorado teens vape, the highest statewide rate in the country.

The new taxes come on the heels of a nationwide outbreak of a mysterious vaping-related illness that has claimed the lives of 37 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had logged more than 1,800 total cases as of Oct. 29.

Colorado has seen 11 cases of the vaping-related illness, according to the state Department of Public Health and Environment.

Out of the 1,364 patients nationwide for which the CDC has data on age and sex:
  • 70 percent are male.
  • The median age is 24, and ages range from 13 to 75 years.
  • 79 percent of patients are under 35 years old.
States reporting 100 or more cases include California, Utah, Texas and Illinois.

The CDC reports that most people affected by the outbreak reported vaping products that contained THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. However, the CDC has not determined a cause of the illness.

Instead, the agency continues encouraging the millions of Americans who vape to stop vaping, though it has issued some new advice recently:
  • "If you are an adult using e-cigarettes, or vaping, products, to quit smoking, do not return to smoking cigarettes. Adults addicted to nicotine using e-cigarettes should weigh all risks and benefits and consider utilizing FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapies."
  • "If people continue to use an e-cigarette, or vaping, product, carefully monitor yourself for symptoms and see a healthcare provider immediately if you develop symptoms like those reported in this outbreak."
The CDC urges people not to buy black market vaping products, or modify products in ways not intended by the manufacturer.
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City proposes incentive for company it will not name

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2019 at 3:32 PM

BY PAM ZUBECK
  • By Pam Zubeck
Welcome to the stealthy world of economic development incentives where deals are made without the public knowing who's getting the city's money.

For a mere $14,310 in sales and use tax breaks, the city of Colorado Springs hopes to reap a tax benefit of $1.25 million over four years from a company whose identity it's keeping secret.

Given the code name Project Beach, the company is described in agenda materials for City Council's Nov. 7 meeting as "a rapidly growing communications technology company that makes it easy for businesses to build relationships with customers through videos in email, text, and social media."

The city goes on to say Project Beach operates in 40 countries and sends more than 126 million minutes of video through its products annually.

When asked for more information, city spokesperson Kim Melchor told us by email, "Project Beach is confidential at this time. We will be glad to obtain and provide additional information once this is no longer a confidential project. Currently all of the information is included with the City Council Agenda Item."

Even Council is being kept in the dark. We asked Councilor Andy Pico about Project Beach, and he says via email, "... code names are used for potential projects that are in consideration and not firm. So in order to protect confidentiality of potential companies before they make decision and public disclosure, they are code named. And no, I do not know who it is."

Regardless, Mayor John Suthers wants Council to approve rebates on sales tax and use tax related to expanding the company's headquarters from 18,700 to 28,700 square feet, which the city says would total $14,310.

That expansion will bring new employees, but how many isn't clear. The agenda backup says Project Beach employs 121 people company-wide and plans to hire an additional 186 in the next four years. Of those 40 would be relocated here.

"With creation of these new full-time jobs, Project Beach desires to invest in business personal property, including communications equipment, and construction materials for its facilities expansion," the agenda materials say.

According to the Dec. 20, 2018, meeting minutes of the Colorado Economic Development Commission, the state granted an incentive of $293,660 to "Project Beach," or $1,372 for each of 214 new full-time equivalent jobs the employer plans to create over a five-year period.

That presentation stated that Project Beach needed to "nearly triple" its workforce by adding 250 jobs by the end of 2024.

"This incentive is contingent upon the creation of up to 214 net new full-time jobs at a minimum average annual wage of $48,100, 100% of El Paso County’s AAW [average annual wage], in support of this project," the minutes say.

Pico didn't know whether the state incentive was directed at the same company, but the city's economic development official Bob Cope attended that meeting.

The city's agenda materials assert that Project Beach's 186 new hires will be paid an average of  $82,642 a year.

It's doubtful Council will approve the incentive on Nov. 7, because the briefing takes place during a work session, which traditionally does not include official votes.
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State measure CC fails, Colorado Springs tax measures get thumbs up

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2019 at 12:32 PM

Pete Lee: Back to the drawing board on state funding. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Pete Lee: Back to the drawing board on state funding.
The results of the Nov. 5 election in Colorado mean the state won't "start fixing things" any time soon, it appears.

That was the tagline used by backers of Proposition CC, which went down in flames — 55 percent to 45 percent — unlike two local spending measures, which were approved by Colorado Springs voters. More on that later. (El Paso County voters defeated CC by a margin of 62-38.)

CC would have allowed the state to keep money collected in excess of caps imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR). That excess, which could reach billions of dollars over years to come, will continue to be refunded to taxpayers, unless the state seeks voter approval again to retain it.

The CC money, if retained, would have been spent on infrastructure such as transportation, education and higher education.

Sen. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, tells the Indy that so far there's not a fallback plan beyond Gov. Jared Polis' proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which was issued recently and does not include money from the CC retention measure.

"There was optimism [Proposition CC] might pass," he says. "We have not developed an alternative plan. The budget was submitted last week, and it was premised on the idea of existing revenues..., so we are proceeding with a budget that does not include the $300 million that CC would have provided."
Colorado's roads won't get an infusion of cash after voters defeated Proposition CC. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Colorado's roads won't get an infusion of cash after voters defeated Proposition CC.
Given the dire condition of the state's transportation system and the rising $9 billion to $10 billion backlog of projects, Lee says an infusion of cash is needed to fix roads.

"The gas tax hasn't gone up since, what, 1992, which is the primary funding mechanism," he says. "We also are constrained by TABOR and other spending limitations."

The failure of CC, he says, sets up a competition among the state's top priorities: health care, transportation and education. Another demand comes from the criminal justice system, on which the state expects to spend $1 billion next year, he says.

"There's only a limited amount of resources," he says, adding that Democrats will be willing to work with Republicans to find ways to fund those priorities, including discussing a massive bond issue. "I think all options are on the table. I don't think we should preclude anything."

The other state measure, Proposition DD, which directed taxes on sports betting to the state's water plan, edged out a win by the slimmest of margins, 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent, according to unofficial results on the Colorado Secretary of State's website. (El Paso County voters defeated it by a 54-46 margin.)

While supporters contended DD would generate about $27 million toward the state's water plan, Coloradans for Climate Justice said that amount is "tiny" and gives citizens a sense of false security that the state's water needs will be met.

The group said in a statement:
The supporters of Prop DD spent about $2.5 million in this election. We spent zero dollars opposing DD. We opposed DD out of the principle that the public taxpayer should not pay for climate damage to our rivers and water supply caused by fossil fuel corporations. The damage caused to our water supply and economy by climate change will likely be in the billions of dollars. Further, the amount of money DD would raise for the Colorado Water Plan is tiny, and it will likely only replace money that was already allotted for the Colorado Water Plan, not add to it. So let the betting begin, but betting against climate change is a bad bet that only a lousy gambler would make.
The Colorado Sun reports only 36 percent of registered voters in the state cast ballots.

El Paso County voter turnout was the same, but unlike statewide, voters were in a generous mood when it came to Colorado Springs. They handed Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers two victories to continue his undefeated record for several tax and fee measures he's proposed since taking office in 2015.
Mayor Suthers: "Thanks, citizens!" - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mayor Suthers: "Thanks, citizens!"

Measure 2C, approved 65-35, continues the special tax to fund street improvements, but lowers the tax to .57 percent from .62 percent enacted by voters in 2015 for five years. The new tax takes effect Jan. 2, 2021.

Measure 2B, which allows the city to keep $7 million in TABOR excess money to spend on parks, passed by a lesser margin — 57-43. City officials have previously said the money would be spent on various projects, including overhauls of three downtown parks: Alamo Park, Antlers Park and Acacia Park.

Suthers issued this statement:
On behalf of the Council and myself I want to express our gratitude for the confidence and trust the citizens of Colorado Springs have placed in our efforts to improve critical public infrastructure. In 2015 we had an infrastructure deficit of $1.5B – primarily, our roads and stormwater system. We could not have solved the problem without the cooperation of our citizens, but we have secured the citizens’ support and we are solving the problems. And as we predicted, the public investment in our city is being matched by massive private investment.

Other local balloting results, all of which can be found here:

Manitou Springs
• Only 24 votes kept a sales tax increase measure from passing in Manitou Springs. The new money would have funded improvements to Manitou Art Center, Manitou Springs Heritage Center and Miramont Castle, among other projects.
• But voters overwhelming approved, by a 76-24 margin, allowing the city to spend $182,000 from the public facilities fund on downtown projects.
• John Graham defeated Alan Delwiche in the mayor's race by a 52-48 margin.

Colorado Springs School District 11 voters elected incumbent Mary Coleman, Darleen Daniels, Jason Jorgenson and Parth Melpakam to the school board.

Fountain
• Voters defeated a 10-year road tax by a 58-42 margin.
• Only two votes separate third and fourth place finishers in the race for two at-large City Council seats. Richard Applegate won a seat handily, but neighborhood activist Fran Carrick edged out Detra Duncan by only two votes for the other seat. 

Teller County
In Crippler Creek, 54.3 percent of voters elected to recall Timothy Braun, the Cripple Creek-Victor School District president. Mary Bielz, the founder of a Cripple Creek nonprofit, will replace him.

The recall followed efforts by a group called Hear Us: For Better Schools to unseat three school board members who it claimed had violated state statutes and district policies. The other two targeted school board members, Treasurer Dennis Jones and Secretary Tonya Martin, resigned in June.

Schools and fire
While three school districts — Lewis-Palmer 38, Miami Yoder JT60 and Calhan RJ1 — saw debt measures defeated, Tri-lakes Monument and Stratmoor Hills fire protection districts won approval of their tax measures. Two other fire districts, serving Peyton and Hanover, saw tax measures defeated.

As for various marijuana issues across the state, the Colorado Municipal League reports:
BAYNARD WOODS
  • Baynard Woods
• Mead voters said no to medical marijuana businesses and retail marijuana establishments. Center and Loveland’s questions allowing cultivation, manufacturing and testing in addition to sales were also defeated. Loveland voters also turned down a tax on marijuana sales.

• Craig voters approved three marijuana questions: to allow retail sales; to allow cultivation, manufacturing, testing and storage; and a tax on marijuana sales.

• An initiated ordinance passed in Alamosa banning the outdoor growing of personal marijuana and overturning outdoor growing regulations previously adopted by the city council.

• Louisville voters opted to permit retail marijuana cultivation facilities within the city’s industrial zones, as well as the corresponding retail marijuana cultivation facility excise tax.

• A retail marijuana sales tax also passed in Las Animas.
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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

9 stories making headlines this week

Posted By on Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 3:39 PM

ALISSA SMITH
  • Alissa Smith

Artist Byeong Doo Moon traveled all the way from South Korea to repair his beloved sculpture “I Have Been Dreaming to Be a Tree.” The iconic stag, which was vandalized in September, is part of the city’s permanent collection of public art. Authorities suspected someone had attempted to climb the deer’s antlers, thereby damaging one, which was later removed. Through an interpreter, Moon said that he was hurt by the vandalism, but by repairing the sculpture he hopes to heal the wounds it caused. The sculpture returned to its home at the intersection of Colorado and Cascade avenues on Nov. 1.

On Nov. 4, the Pikes Peak Library District cut the ribbon on its newest facility.  Located at 600 Bank St. in Calhan, the Calhan Library will be PPLD’s 15th facility.

Prospect Lake reopened Oct. 30 after a 12-week shutdown due to the presence of blue-green algae.

The Air Force Academy named its airfield for Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. who led the famed African American aviators, the Tuskegee Airmen, in operations over Africa and Europe during World War II.

The Broadmoor World Arena and Pikes Peak Center adopted new security rules, barring large bags, water bottles and outside food and drink. For more, tinyurl.com/PPCSecurity.

Gov. Jared Polis sent his 2020-21 budget to the Joint Budget Committee on Nov. 1, calling for spending 2.9 percent more than this year, or $13.8 billion. For details, tinyurl.com/PolisBudget.

State legislators on the Wildfire Matters Review Committee released several proposed bills. Among them: Expand a grant program for fire mitigation and benefits for firefighters.

A state law that took effect Nov. 1 allows publicly traded corporations to own or invest in cannabis-related businesses.

PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck

To curtail unitentified illegal activity, the city of Colorado Springs began closing gates at night in North Cheyenne Cañon Park beginning on Nov. 4. The gates, near the Starsmore Nature and Visitor Center and the Seven Bridges Trailhead parking lot, will be closed from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

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Courts challenge Trump on immigration

Posted By on Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 3:33 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com

Plaintiffs including the city of Seattle are suing President Donald Trump’s administration over a move to limit fee waivers for lawful permanent residents, or green card holders, applying for citizenship.

Since 2010, the $725 application fee has been waived for people who receive public benefits such as Medicaid and food stamps.

But an upcoming change by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services means those who receive such benefits will no longer automatically be eligible for the fee waiver. Instead, they must earn less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level or “demonstrate financial hardship” in some other way.

The plaintiffs say that change unfairly targets low-income immigrants, while USCIS says it’s necessary to ensure waiver requirements remain the same across states, which use varying income thresholds for public benefits.

Meanwhile, a federal judge temporarily blocked another contentious Trump administration change, which would have required people applying for visas to prove they would have health insurance in the U.S. 

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El Pomar Foundation's Hybl honored

Posted By on Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 3:30 PM

El Pomar Foundation CEO Kyle Hybl
  • El Pomar Foundation CEO Kyle Hybl

El Pomar Foundation CEO Kyle Hybl was honored on Oct. 25 by The Fund for American Studies (TFAS), an educational nonprofit that stresses limited government and free-market economics, with its Alumni Achievement Award.

The award recognized Hybl’s service on the University of Colorado's Board of Regents and his support of TFAS, including recruiting students to the program. Hybl participated in the TFAS D.C. Academic Internship Programs in 1991 and TFAS Prague program in 1993. 

Others who’ve received the award include ABC World News Tonight anchor David Muir and The New York Times bestselling author Mark Levin.

“The experience that The Fund for American Studies is giving to young people is truly extraordinary,” Hybl said in a statement. “Thank you for everything you do for young people and for carrying the banner for freedom’s first principles of democracy, free enterprise and honorable leadership.” 

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New HHS rule would allow discrimination in adoption

Posted By on Tue, Nov 5, 2019 at 3:26 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com

On the first day of National Adoption Month, Nov. 1, the Trump administration proposed a federal regulation that would allow any recipient of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funding to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Notably, this would include adoption and foster care agencies.

Under Obama-era guidlines, recipients of HHS funds cannot refuse their services to women, religious minorities or LGBTQ people while receiving government money.

The HHS announced that it plans to submit this rule proposal to the Office of the Federal Register, at which time the public will have 30 days to offer comment. The department cited religious freedom as its primary motivation in rescinding the 2016 nondiscrimination rule.

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Monday, November 4, 2019

Pueblo man arrested in planned attack on Pueblo synagogue

Posted By on Mon, Nov 4, 2019 at 3:43 PM

Richard Holzer - EL PASO COUNTY
  • El Paso County
  • Richard Holzer
Authorities arrested 27-year-old Richard Holzer on Nov. 1 after a sting operation in which Holzer took delivery of bogus explosives from an undercover FBI agent with the intent of bombing the Temple Emanuel in Pueblo, the government said Nov. 4.

At a news conference on Nov. 4, U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado Jason Dunn told reporters the FBI, Department of Justice and the Pueblo Police Department stopped "what we believe to be an imminent threat of domestic terrorism against a Colorado religious institution.”

“According to the complaint affidavit, Mr. Holzer self-identifies as a skinhead and a white supremacist," he said. "During the investigation, FBI agents became aware of racist, anti-Semitic and threatening statements made by Mr. Holzer on social media. Mr. Holzer repeatedly expressed his hatred of Jewish people and his support of a racial holy war.”

An FBI undercover agent made contact with Holzer on Facebook, after which Holzer sent her buttons with swastikas and told her he used to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

According to the affidavit, Holzer has used several Facebook accounts to promote white supremacy ideology and acts of violence in direct messages and group chats with like-minded people.

Examples:

• On Sept. 3, Holzer told a Facebook user, "I wish the Holocaust really did happen ... they need to die."

• On Aug. 27, he told a Facebook user, "I hate them with a passion. I told this nasty Jew to fuck off or I'll kill him."

• On July 11, he sent a Facebook message saying he was "getting ready to cap people." He included several pictures of him holding guns.

• On July 5, he told a Facebook user, "going to kill some spics ... there's too many here (as expected) lol."

Temple Emanuel serves a small congregation of Jewish families and was constructed in 1900. It's the second oldest synagogue in the state.

On Nov. 1, the agent provided Holzer with two fake pipe bombs and two bundles containing seven fake sticks of dynamite each. He then said they would carry out the attack at 2:30 or 3 a.m.

After his arrest, Holzer waived his right to remain silent and "admitted that he had been planning to blow up a Synagogue that night with the pipe bombs and dynamite in the motel room," the affidavit says. He called Jews and the synagogue "a cancer" to the community.

Read the affidavit here:

Pueblo Police Chief Troy Davenport also appeared at the news conference and expressed thanks to the federal agencies.

"Pueblo is a diverse community, characterized by inclusiveness," Davenport said. "Pueblo is a safer place today because of the diligent efforts of the Pueblo Police Department, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office."
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Vote now! Election Day is Nov. 5

Posted By on Mon, Nov 4, 2019 at 9:33 AM

Fine a ballot box near you and vote. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY CLERK AND RECORDER'S OFFICE VIA GOOGLE
  • Courtesy El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office via Google
  • Fine a ballot box near you and vote.
Tomorrow, Nov. 5, is Election Day, so hurry your ballot to the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office.

Voters in the Pikes Peak region will decide issues that include taxes for roads, parks funding and two state issues, while also electing a mayor of Manitou Springs and members to various school boards.

From the election office:

All ballots must be returned to the Clerk and Recorder’s Office by 7:00 p.m., Election Day, Tuesday, November 5, to be counted. Postmarked ballots that arrive after the deadline cannot be counted. Please urge citizens to return their voted ballot early in advance of Election Day.

§ There will be 7 Voter Service and Polling Centers open in the county. Voters can use any VSPC in the county. Click here for a list and map of VSPCs and hours of operation.

§ We have added 10 additional secure 24-hour ballot drop boxes totaling 26 throughout the county. All boxes are open until 7:00 p.m. Election Day.

§ Click here for a list and map of all ballot drop box locations.
Results will be released from the Citizens Service Center, located at 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road, starting at 7:15 p.m. for ballots counted through 5 p.m. on Election Day. Updated results will follow at 8 p.m., 8:45 p.m., 9:45 p.m. and 10:45 p.m., although that could change depending on election operations.

Final unofficial results will be released eight days after the election.

To check in on results, click here.

More from the Clerk and Recorder's Office:
Results and the Possibility of a Recount:
• Unofficial election results may change slightly after the final post on election night. Some reasons for that include the fact that military and overseas ballots are afforded extra time for delivery after Election Day, and voters with signature or identification issues have time to resolve their issue. Voters in those categories have eight days after the election to resolve their issue or return their ballot.

• The Clerk’s Office will not “call” a race for a candidate or issue. Certainly some results will not be in doubt, but the Clerk’s Office does not consider results to be official until after the bipartisan canvass board validates the results.

• There is always the possibility of an automatic or requested recount. Under Colorado law, an automatic recount is only triggered when the vote margin between two candidates or an issue is 0.5% of the next closest candidate or issue result. This is not the same as there being a 0.5% margin between two candidates.

• Should an automatic recount seem possible, the Clerk and Recorder’s Office will release additional information about the process, cost, and recount timeframe. 
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Friday, November 1, 2019

CORE Act passes House over Lamborn, Tipton objections

Posted By on Fri, Nov 1, 2019 at 2:18 PM

Proposed Sheep Mountain Special Management Area. - MASON CUMMINGS, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society
  • Proposed Sheep Mountain Special Management Area.

A bill that adds protections for 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado passed the U.S. House on Oct. 31, along mostly partisan lines.

Just five Republicans voted in favor of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act — and Colorado's own GOP representatives weren't among them.

The CORE Act's narrow victory might appear to cast a shadow on its odds of passage in the Republican-controlled Senate, especially given a White House policy statement threatening to veto the legislation, as reported by the Colorado Sun.

But Colorado's Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet — who has worked over the past decade to craft a bill that he says accounts for perspectives across the political spectrum — remains optimistic about the CORE Act's prospects.

"We can't find a similar precedent in the history of America where a president of the United States has reached out to threaten to veto with a bill like this bill," Bennet said on an Oct. 31 press call. "It's never happened. I'm shocked that it happened here, especially when it has such a broad bipartisan consensus of support in Colorado and there's such tremendous support at the local level."

"We're not going to let that dissuade us," he continued. "We're going to continue to work with the Coloradans that have worked so hard over the last decade to get this bill passed."

(See our previous reporting for a brief recap or detailed summary of the CORE Act.)

Rep. Doug Lamborn, whose 5th Congressional District includes Colorado Springs, refused to support the bill, arguing on the House floor that it does not take local concerns into account.

"While the goals of the public lands legislation in this bill are certainly admirable and well-intended, and I have great respect for the bill's sponsor...it is clear that this proposal lacks the type of local consensus required for a bill of this scale," Lamborn said on Oct. 30.

He and Rep. Scott Tipton, the Republican representing Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, said some stakeholders and local leaders affected by the CORE Act (the majority of which concerns Tipton's district) didn't feel their voices had been heard by the Democratic legislators crafting the legislation.

"This week alone, we received letters from Montezuma County, Dolores County, Rio Blanco County, Montrose County, Mesa County, all of which have various concerns about the CORE Act today," Tipton said during the debate. (Most of those counties do not contain land impacted by the legislation but are adjacent to an area it protects from future oil and gas development.)

Lamborn and Tipton also said they were concerned that a high-altitude aviation training site for the Army National Guard could be jeopardized by proposed wilderness area expansions included in the bill.

Rep. Joe Neguse, the bill's House sponsor, disputes those characterizations.

"We have yet to receive any opposition from a community in the state of Colorado to a provision of this bill that impacts that community," Neguse says, noting that commissioners in Pitkin, Ouray, San Juan, Eagle, Summit, Gunnison, San Miguel and Garfield counties support the CORE Act, as do several towns and municipalities.

The next step for the CORE Act is a Senate committee hearing.

Bennet says he's already spoken with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, about placing the CORE Act on the committee's hearing schedule. He expects that won't be an obstacle.

A potentially larger hurdle for the CORE Act will be obtaining the support of Colorado's Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who has expressed some hesitation. While the legislation could pass without Gardner's support, such a feat would be tricky given that Republicans control the Senate.

Gardner recently told the Colorado Sun that he hasn't ruled out voting for the CORE Act, but would like to see changes related to water rights and livestock grazing.

Gardner's Democratic challengers for his contested Senate seat next fall have already seized on the possibility of his opposition — apparently counting on Colorado's natural landscapes to pull on voters' heartstrings. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper's Senate campaign, for example, has already launched digital advertisements urging Gardner to support the CORE Act.

“Coloradans need a Senator who will stand up for public lands and listen to local communities,” Hickenlooper said in an Oct. 31 statement. “Now that the CORE Act has passed the House and is heading to the Senate, I am calling on Senator Gardner to join me and Coloradans from across our state in supporting it.”
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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Westside block proposed for facelift

Posted By on Thu, Oct 31, 2019 at 4:23 PM

If you have something to say about the redevelopment of this Westside block, do so before Nov. 8.

An Austin, Texas, firm, Hickory Pass LP, plans to overhaul buildings at 2306 to 2318 W. Colorado Ave. from an "eyesore" into shops, a rooftop restaurant and a "self-improvement center." (One of the buildings used to be home to Junior Achievement, which now is located at 611 N. Weber St., Suite 201.)

There's no plan to enlarge the buildings. Rather, developers plan to create new facades and awnings to "break up the flat facade and give the visual effect of several small storefronts instead of a monolithic brick wall," as it says in the application.

Here's an artist's rendering included with the submittal to the city for a "minor amendment to  non-existent development plan."

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As compared to what the buildings look like now:

PHOTOS BY PAM ZUBECK
  • Photos by Pam Zubeck

The developer plans to upgrade the parking lot in back of the building with new fencing to replace the chain link in use today. Here's what it looks like:

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A sign posted in a window says comments are being received through Nov. 8 and should be directed to Tasha.Brackin@coloradosprings.gov, 719-385-5369.

She says that under city code, decision rests with staff.

We've reached out to the developer with a few questions and will circle back if and when we hear something.

Here's the proposal as submitted to the city:
Meantime, Front Range Barbeque in that same block plans to begin renovations on the restaurant sometime in the next year, as the Indy reported recently. Owner Brian Fortinberry says he will connect the current restaurant to the house next door, add a new kitchen, enclose their patio and more.
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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Trump administration limits fee waiver eligibility for would-be citizens

Posted By on Wed, Oct 30, 2019 at 4:04 PM

USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli. - U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli.
In order to become naturalized U.S. citizens, immigrants must have been lawful permanent residents (green card-holders) for at least five years, speak English and pass a civics test.

They also must pay a $725 application fee — which since 2010 has been waived for people who receive public benefits through Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and Supplemental Security Income.

But an incoming change by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services means those who receive such benefits won't automatically be eligible for the fee waiver. Instead, fee waivers will be limited to those at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, or $25,365 per year for a two-person household. Applicants who successfully "demonstrate financial hardship" in some other way can still qualify.

Immigrant advocacy organizations threatened legal action in response to the move.

“Waivers of the $725 application fee make it possible for thousands of hard-working people to become U.S. citizens,” Anna Gallagher, executive director of Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., said in a statement from her organization. “This change is a roadblock on the path to the American Dream."

CLINIC estimates that 40 percent of people who apply for naturalization currently receive a fee waiver.

In an Oct. 25 statement announcing the change, USCIS argues that the changes were necessary given that income and eligibility requirements for public benefits vary from state to state.

"The revised fee waiver process will improve the integrity of the program and the quality and consistency of fee waiver approvals going forward," USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli is quoted as saying.

The agency estimates that the total dollar amount of fee waivers increased by more than $23 million between 2016 and 2017, from $344.3 million to $367.9 million. Last year, though, USCIS granted $293.5 million worth of waivers. Revenue from application fees accounts for more than 95 percent of the USCIS budget, the statement notes.

Unless activists secure a court injunction to stop the change from taking place, it will go into effect Dec. 2 for anyone applying for naturalization.

Sound familiar? The federal government has recently drawn ire with two other proposals that make it harder for people to upgrade their immigration status and receive public benefits.

A USCIS rule change allowing immigration officials to deny green cards to immigrants deemed likely to use public benefits was recently blocked in federal court. Opponents said it would discourage those in need from applying for nutrition and health care assistance.

Another proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture would mandate that individuals aged 18 to 59 making between 130 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level could no longer receive SNAP benefits. Parents in that income bracket could only receive SNAP benefits if they also qualify for at least $50 in other federal assistance each month.
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Energy Resource Center provides clients with free weatherization services

Posted By on Wed, Oct 30, 2019 at 12:29 PM

When Venus Cenedella called Energy Resource Center to help her insulate her house, “it was like Christmas on steroids in the weatherization department,” she said in a client testimonial video posted on YouTube.

Last summer, the team at ERC replaced the insulation in Cenedella’s attic and crawl space, installed an exhaust fan in her bathroom, replaced her hot water heater and installed weather stripping in her front and back doors.

“Some of that work is just inherently messy,” she writes in an email. “However, the workers were all extraordinarily respectful and consistently went out of their way to minimize any disruption, hanging plastic everywhere when they shot insulation into my walls, etc., and took care of me like I was their family.”

Energy Resource Center, a nonprofit based in downtown Colorado Springs, annually helps around 2,000 clients like Cenedella from four offices across the Front Range and Eastern Plains. The team checks for health and safety issues, and allows residents to cut down on heating costs by making homes more efficient.

Services are completely free for those who meet income guidelines.

A two-person household earning less than $2,818 per month, or $33,820 per year, can receive a free audit to determine what their home needs, as well as free services ranging from new carbon monoxide detectors to furnace replacements. Families that receive public benefits through certain avenues, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, automatically qualify. (Visit erc-co.org for detailed income guidelines.)

Don’t meet the income limits? You can “pay it forward” by hiring Energy Resource Center for weatherization services as you would a private company. That money goes directly toward helping people in need receive the same services for free.

“Our intake manager has been here 27 years, so she knows exactly what to do, how to help people, where to direct them,” says Mike Mazzola, ERC’s development director. “It doesn’t have to be [that] their furnace is broken for us to come out. Their house can be operating, but they’re struggling paying their utility bills.”

By helping people to better insulate their homes and replace old appliances, Mazzola says ERC saves clients an average of 25 percent on their utility bills. (Renters can receive help in addition to homeowners, as long as the landlord consents.)

“Say that’s $50 a month, or $75 a month — that’s the difference between people often, you know, paying for medication or being able to heat their home,” Mazzola says. “It’s that dire of a situation for some people.”

Others who receive help may just need a little extra assistance to safely get through the winter. Mazzola says some people who’ve lived in the same house for a long time may not think about replacing a decades-old water heater or checking for gas leaks, but the free audit can help them identify problems that could become safety hazards.

ERC additionally serves households in the Denver metro area, San Luis Valley and northern Colorado.
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