Investigations

City halts new building phase at Gold Hill Mesa, as further soil testing is considered

Despite learning more than three years ago that perhaps dozens of homes in Gold Hill Mesa were slowly sinking, heaving and flooding, city planners and regional building staff allowed development to continue uninterrupted, a Gazette investigation has found.

 

Those red flags — raised in February 2016 — echo warnings that date back decades from experts, engineers and some city staff. From the outset, Gold Hill Mesa raised concerns that it was built on top of a century-old mine tailings pile and would require special attention.

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Colorado Springs City Council action in executive session raises legal questions

In an apparent violation of the state's open meeting laws, the Colorado Springs City Council directed the city attorney to pursue professional sanctions against a Monument clean-air advocate during an executive session, one councilman says.

That decision was made at the recommendation of Mayor John Suthers and City Attorney Wynetta Massey, who were present at the time, said Councilman Bill Murray.

Disabled vet's lawsuit accuses Colorado Springs, neighbors of violating accessibility laws

Rolling his wheelchair to the edge of a six-foot gap in the sidewalk near his home in eastern Colorado Springs, Chris Sweeney grabbed a collapsed "sidewalk out" sign and shoved it under his arm.

He used the improvised crutch to cross the gaping hole and plopped himself back into his wheelchair, which his wife had pushed to the other side.

"This is a big 'f--- you' from the city," Sweeney said.

ON UNSOLID GROUND: Most homeowners still await landslide compensation four years later

Four years after landslides wreaked havoc on hillside neighborhoods in west Colorado Springs, the city has bought out only four of more than two dozen homeowners and demolished only one house, even as it faces a July 16 deadline to spend the entirety of its $5.4 million federal grant or forfeit the remaining money.

 

The city won another $3.9 million grant in March from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but that also has a spending deadline, March 31, 2020.

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Review finds Lawrence police voided city tickets without proper approvals

About 90 municipal court citations were voided by Lawrence police officers without the proper approval from supervisors, and more than 100 other tickets were canceled without going through the required procedures, a review by the Journal-World has found.


The Journal-World several months ago began reviewing how the Lawrence Police Department and Municipal Court void and dismiss tickets ranging from speeding and parking violations to battery and public urination. The review began after former Lawrence police officer Mike Monroe in August of last year lost his final appeal in a court case alleging that the city had improperly fired him for his role in a 2012 ticket-fixing scandal. That scandal involved at least one Lawrence police officer fixing traffic tickets in exchange for valuable Kansas University athletics tickets.

 
 

Political Reporting

Does Colorado need a new way to pick presidents?

Future American presidents should earn their seats through a national popular vote, Colorado Democrats say. And the state’s Republican lawmakers can delay, but not prevent the movement, it seems.

 

The state legislature is on track to join 11 other states and the District of Columbia with the expected passage of Senate Bill 42, proposed by Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette. The bill would change how Colorado's electors -- the people who actually choose our presidents -- cast their votes each four years.

Bill to reshape Colorado oil and gas regulations coming soon, Democrats say

Tighter rules on Colorado oil and gas development struck out at the ballot box in November and at the state Supreme Court in January. Now, Democrats, who control the Legislature, plan to introduce a sweeping bill to redefine the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission’s mission to emphasize public health and safety. The measure also likely would give local governments control of proposed oil and gas permits.

Fundraising supports predictions of blue wave coming in Colorado

This is a good year to be a Democrat running for state and federal offices in Colorado, campaign finance filings show.

“They have a lot more contributions and a lot more enthusiasm than on the Republican side,” said Robert Duffy, a political science professor at Colorado State University.

 

The blue wave anticipated by many political experts and pundits is reflected in Democrats’ fundraising for the Nov. 6 election.

TABOR author Douglas Bruce faces legal threat over decrepit bar

Douglas Bruce’s rap sheet might get longer — if the anti-tax activist loses his battle with a Pennsylvania mayor.

 

Bruce -- a felon, former state representative, author of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and owner of dozens of blighted properties around the country -- could face up to five years in prison if he’s convicted on three of the five municipal citations from Pittston, a small city in northeastern Pennsylvania.

 

Bruce has been cited by code enforcement for a failure to demolish a decrepit old bar he owns on the city’s Main Street.

Community Issue Reporting

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SOUTHEAST: Terry Ragan’s southeast apartment complexes account for more than half of all city code enforcement housing cases

In the 15 years since tenants spoke to The Gazette about conditions at Terry Ragan’s apartment complexes, little has changed.If anything, they’ve gotten worse, according to residents, police and code enforcement.

 

In 2003, after The Gazette ran a series on the crime, gangs, cockroaches, leaky pipes, mold, maintenance complaints and code violations at Ragan’s complexes, the City Council talked about increasing fines and about cracking down on repeat offenders. None of that has been done.

Instead, the cash-strapped city cut code enforcement staff by 20 percent in 2009.

Downtown Colorado Springs power plant could be shuttered early, but at a price

The coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant nestled in the heart of Colorado Springs could be shuttered a decade earlier than its scheduled 2035 closure, but it would come at a higher price.

The Colorado Springs Utilities Board is considering three options for Drake and the possibility of closing it by 2025 or 2030. One of the plant's three power-generating units already has been shut down.

Opportunity zones for Pikes Peak region met with optimism, disappointment, skepticism

The U.S. Treasury Department certified seven opportunity zones in Colorado Springs and one in El Paso County this week, as part of a provision tucked into the tax bill passed by Congress late last year.

 

The zones are meant to attract private investment to areas lagging economically, but, once again, southeast Colorado Springs has been mostly passed over.

Colorado Springs would face difficulty building parks at Banning Lewis Ranch without help from developers

Colorado Springs' cash-strapped Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department could be in even more difficult straits if it is required to provide parks for the 24,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch - unless developers tackle most of the work.


The City Council is considering whether to change a 30-year-old annexation agreement for the ranch. That document has often been blamed for decadeslong stagnation on the sprawling landscape by those who say it is too financially onerous for developers. Revising the agreement could spur development and add billions to the city's economy over the next 30 years.

Colorado Springs mayor having to walk a fine line while campaigning for stormwater fee

By stumping for a Nov. 7 ballot proposal to reinstate stormwater fees in Colorado Springs, Mayor John Suthers may have crossed into an ethical gray area, though he likely didn't break any laws, city and state officials say.


In the past months, Suthers has advocated heavily for the fees, which will appear on El Paso County's ballot as Issue 2A. He has called area voters by phone, hosted question-and-answer sessions and even donated his own money. In the coming weeks, mailboxes will be stuffed and radio ads will carry messages advocating for the fees as part of a campaign managed by the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, said campaign manager Rachel Beck. Already the cause has raised more than $311,000, much of which she credits to Suthers.

 

© 2018 Kayah Swanson