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Firefighters, guns, the Cog, and more from this week's inbox




When you combine an election season with a growing homelessness problem, gun legislation and other hot button issues, there's no telling what'll end up in the Indy inbox.

Editor's note: The following have been submitted by Indy readers, unedited, un-fact-checked, and presented in whole. Join the conversation in the comment section below, or via email to

Vote “YES” on 1 – A Former Fire Chief’s Perspective

On April 2, the voters of Colorado Springs will have an opportunity to vote on a ballot measure that grants the Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Association the right to engage in collective bargaining. As a resident, and the former Colorado Springs Fire Chief, I firmly support their efforts and RESPECTFULLY ask voters to give this measure strong consideration.  I believe that after voters consider all the facts, they will agree with me and vote YES on 1.
Here are some facts that really stand out to me as a former fire service leader in this city:
When I retired in 2008, we had 453 firefighters and ran 45,000 calls a year. Now, the department has 444 firefighters and runs 70,000 calls a year. Firefighters are doing way more with less.

There are currently 7 frontline fire trucks that are older than 17 years. Most fire departments across the nation replace their apparatus every 10-12 years.

The CSFD’s response times are the worst they have been in 10 years. In 2018, the department only met their response time goal of 8 minutes, 84.2% of the time (well below the national average).
The facts are the facts, I reviewed them carefully, they speak for themselves.

Facts aside, here is some background on your local firefighters. The Colorado Springs Firefighters have served the City of Colorado Springs for decades, placing their wellness and lives at risk in providing life safety and property protection services.  The men and women of the association have repeatedly demonstrated their professionalism and dedication.  Members regularly attend and support numerous community events.  Year after year, Colorado Springs Firefighters have been the strongest supporter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA or Jerry’s Kids) in the state of Colorado. 

The Colorado Springs Firefighters’ courage, sense of duty, and competency have been on display at numerous significant fire events, technical rescues, responding to acts of terrorism and medical emergencies.  Their courage, commitment and proficiency are without question. Their work in subzero weather at the at the Castle West Apartments, their courageous stand made during the Waldo Fire and their thousands of responses to members of the community with a medical emergency everyday speak for themselves.

So why then do they now request the right to engage the City, requesting a seat at the table? Recent issues raised regarding response times, the impact of growth and development, staffing, increase in demand for services, adequacy of apparatus and their benefits are significant issues of concern.  In my professional opinion, they have ample reason to request a seat at the table and the right to engage the City in those discussions.

I have given this decision a great deal of thought and consideration.   Bottomline: I respect and trust these firefighters and BELIEVE THEY HAVE EARNED THE RIGHT TO BE HEARD.

I was honored to serve as the Colorado Springs Fire Chief for 14 years.  I could not, would not, have been successful but for the support, effort, and diligence of the men and women of the CSFD.  I trust our firefighters and respectfully urge each and every citizen to listen carefully to these dedicated members and join with me in support and Vote YES for their right to a guaranteed voice in public safety.

There is no lack of transparency with this measure.  I fully understand the firefighters’ interest in advocating for the safety and benefits of their members. But more importantly, they will also advocate for us, the citizens of Colorado Springs, with respect to public safety. Firefighters should have a right to do so.  In the end, the Colorado Springs Firefighters are asking for the community to support their efforts to have a seat at the table. Support your local firefighters…Vote Yes on 1.

— Former Fire Chief Manuel Navarro via John Roy, Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters
  • Matthew Schniper

Pot calling the kettle...

I have been reading with interest about Issue 1, the upcoming ballot measure to grant collective bargaining rights to our firefighters.  I'd like to thank the Chamber of Commerce & EDC for their letter in last week's Independent, especially clarifying their purpose and how their campaign financing is organized.

In reading a description of the Chamber's role, it sounds as if they’re also acting as a "collective bargaining agent"; a term they used to describe the bargaining efforts in Issue 1.  The fire department has employees, who would pay dues, and the "agent" would represent their interests to the city.  Likewise, the Chamber and EDC have members (corporations), who pay fees, and have their business interests represented to the city.  Why do corporations get a bargaining seat at the table and not employees; a place where they can influence the mayor and city council on a myriad of activities, including how the city spends its funds.

Firefighters are one of the most essential organizations in our community.  Some even call them heroes.  Their job is demanding, hazardous, and at times, deadly.  Yet when it comes to satisfying the department’s needs for equipment, resources and personnel, our mayor, with the influence of pro-business interests, wants to deny them an equal voice.

A January article in the Independent reported an increase in response times to emergencies over the past several years.  As our city continues to grow, it will create an ever increasing burden on the CSFD.  This will become especially acute on the east side of the city at Banning Lewis Ranch, where development of 18 thousand plus acres has begun. 

The mayor had long lobbied, and city council eventually approved, to eliminate most of the annexation requirements of Banning Lewis Ranch in order to begin development.  It would have required developers to pay a fair share for development, including fire stations.  Now that burden rests with the city.  And without equitable representation from the CSFD, it is a foregone conclusion those response times will only continue to worsen.

— James Sheehy

A rose by another name

The one thing that I wish that Bernie and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez would take the time to do is point out how socialism is already and historically woven into our democracy in the interest of general welfare and common good. We just don't call it 'socialism.' (But, a rose by any other name....)

Yet it exists well, providing the military, public education (including state funded universities), social security and medicare, medicaid, all government jobs that include protection agencies (FAA, FDA, FAA the USPS...) - NASA, NOAA, FBI, CIA, NSA, ICE and so on... even Congress. All this from the national level and then down to the local level which includes fire and police protection, the paving of roads and even some municipalities.

Without this educational reminder, too many voters, semantically ingrained, always think complete government take over. Down right Communism.

We have in place and most certainly need both: social programs and responsible capitalism. Both, not either/or. The public needs to get this! Bernie and Alexandria are missing this opportunity. Shame on them for not truly helping the cause.

While many of us like much of their basic intention - especially regarding income inequality, they are full of beans if they think there are enough billionaires to pay for free college and free medical care for all. That kind of fairy tale talk only makes us sound unrealistic. It's pie in the sky stuff that only seems logical to people who believe in the Tooth Fairy.

The truly wealthy can go a long way to helping the costs of both by paying their fair share, but neither college or health care can ever be magically 'free.'

All taxpayers would pick up the tab, as in every other country that offers this, and not just billionaires.

— Micheale Duncan
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez - FACEBOOK
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  • Alexandria Ocasio Cortez

Homelessness is a problem for everyone

There are so many reasons people find themselves homeless. How we approach this problem will define and reflect what kind of city we want to be. Homelessness is not only our problem, but the worlds problem. All eyes are on each of us.

We not only must examine our pocket books, but our heart as well. A healthy economy should be designed to flourish, not just grow! This is what I want our cities development to offer! Make it possible for every individual to flourish! What a shinning example we would make!

With the present economy, homelessness will get worse before it gets better. The City of Colorado Springs can do much better. We’ve been planning for Economic development all the time. If we want our city to flourish, it’s time to plan for People Development and well-being, no matter their situation!

Yes, this will take our ‘tax dollars’ and more. However, if we do not like what we are currently seeing and experiencing...good short and long term planning is a must.

We need to educate the public about homelessness. Personalize their plight and situation more. Understanding that being homeless doesn’t mean your stupid or bad. Let’s make it the Cities business to help our society understand the plight of people who are homeless.

I don’t believe people just say I think I’ll be homeless. Homelessness is something we should not have in our 21st Century world. Our city, state and national governments mis-management is evident and unfortunate. It’s how we got ourselves in this situation. We humans have not thought or acted clearly about our economic practices and the consequences. Now, it’s not only the governments responsibility, but those more fortunate to do something about it. Something immediately and long-term.

People who are homeless are under extreme stress. And, with stress comes anger, frustration and disillusion, loss of hope and trust. Coping, I can’t imagine.

We need social workers and officials to take appropriate time when meeting with an individual. To be calm, kind and compassionate. Explain:

How the City of Colorado Springs wants to help/assist them.

Explaining that SMC is a way station to assist them to a more private and accommodating housing and supportive location.

Provide secure and proper storage for their property; tents, blankets, cooking/eating ware/cloths etc.

Set up a kennel that has inside/outside housing. Just like where you might board your animal. Where people can visit and take care of the animals feeding and exercise. Animals are not a luxury item. They are perhaps the only means to keep them sane and calm in many instances. Furry therapist!

Provide transportation for different service which are needed.

Provide a place to study, relax, use a computer, watch television and unwind. To feel human.
Long term objective:

The Springs Mission Center should perform as a way station for people to transition from.
We need more than one location for people to transition to. The City of Colorado Springs must have land all over the city. I suggest we develop smaller housing in a variety of locations all over the city, making it possible to meet the various needs of individuals; alcohol, drug, emotional or none of those issues. If we want people to fit into our city, we have to create places that do not alienate them.

Housing those with alcohol, drug or emotional issues together is a mistake. We need to identify the different kinds of problems and address them individually.

Adequate storage is a must. How do we determine what’s adequate storage?

Families and their animals need to stay together if they are supportive of one another. Separation multiplies anxiety and distraught.

Vocational training may be needed for some. How do we help people prepare to take care of themselves and re-enter society?

Education. Make it available to both men and women.

Privacy. People need a certain degree of privacy. How do we make sure they have it?
These are a few of my thoughts on solutions. Please feel free to add or give alternative suggestions.

Thanks for listening.

— Gail Black

I love the Cog, but is it worth bringing back?

Like many of us here in Colorado Springs, I’ve been following the news stories about the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, its sudden demise in 2017, and more recent announcements of a planned restoration and reopening slated for 2021.

These latest developments have been greeted glowingly by the local media. But honestly, I’m mixed about the railroad’s return. Let me explain.

Flashback to fifty years ago: When I was in elementary school, I did a term report on cog railroads and built a mountain out of Plaster of Paris, along with a moving model train on a track to help demonstrate the “cog” concept. Decades later, I’ve been told that it was a very memorable presentation! And it has certainly made me appreciative of cog railroads ever since.

I say this to emphasize that I can genuinely understand why some people would want to see the return of the old PP Cog Railway. Yet, I wonder, might there not be a more suitable attraction that we, as a community, could come up with to showcase our amazing backyard?

Rather than re-manufacture a circa 1890’s train, what if instead, this money was put toward building a high-efficiency tramway? Such a “sky tram” could traverse the same footprint as the existing train tracks that run from Manitou Springs to the summit of America’s Mountain.

From both an economic and an environmental-impact perspective, building a tramway would almost certainly be less costly than the $100 million that’s now in play for new tracks and a train.

I’d expect that energy and operational costs for such a tram would be lower, too, as the power source is centralized and its single, main motor could run on electricity, instead of fossil fuels.

Trams are virtually weather proof. Unlike the cog railroad, which has to be closed for several months out of every year due to snow, these trams—and subsequently the Visitor Center, as well—could operate year-round and thus keep many more people employed.

Want more tourists? If my math is correct, a tramway could carry many times more passengers per hour than the train, and cut the total round-trip time to the Visitor Center and back by over a third. Does anyone want to add up the numbers? It seems that just about any way you look at it, a Pikes Peak tramway would offer a more efficient and sustainable business model.

From a rider’s perspective, a sky tram would be inherently more comfortable and offer vastly more spectacular views than a train. There would be no “obstructed vision” seats or noxious diesel fumes to inhale, both of which have been part of the old cog railroad experience.

Finally, from purely a “brand” standpoint, I would think that a modern, quiet sky way would be vastly more appealing and in-keeping with our bright, hip, environmentally-friendly Colorado image—as opposed to a quaint-but-smoky, nicely-restored-but-still-old-technology diesel train.

Nothing against the PP Cog Railroad, per se; but then again, a lot of future public tax dollars have been committed to this private (for-profit) restoration project. Speaking of which, would it not make more sense to fund this with state or municipal bonds—to let the public not only have a say in the matter, but also a share in the wealth?

Ultimately, whatever is built on Pikes Peak will continue to be highly visible to everyone who lives here, and visits here, for the rest of any of our lives. So, as much as the cog train has been a fond, nostalgic part of Colorado Spring’s past, I wonder if together we couldn’t come up with something just a little more visionary for our future.

— John H Gregory
The Cog Railway - FILE PHOTO
  • File Photo
  • The Cog Railway

Commissioners’ Power Grab

The decision of the Commissioners of El Paso County to join a growing number of counties preparing to actively resist policies and procedures created by HB 19-1177 is a dangerous overreach. They have declared themselves judges by making an official assessment of this legislation as unconstitutional, destroying the checks and balances created through separate branches of government. They are clearly communicating their lack of confidence in the judicial and legislative systems of Colorado and the United States of America.

They assert HB 19-1177 lacks due process, but the bill actually sets out standards of evidence, concrete deadlines for hearings and the return of firearms, and provides for the safety of both the individual seeking the assistance of the state to remove weapons and the law enforcement officers carrying out the process. It also includes provisions for charging anyone who makes false claims. If this is truly a fight about due process they would be “[refusing] to appropriate funds, resources, employees, or agencies,” for involuntary Emergency Mental Health Holds, too. The standards are similar, yet one removes weapons while the other physically restrains the individual’s body. Is this what they’re suggesting when they say that addressing mental health issues is the only way to make our community safer from gun violence? It’s fine to incarcerate someone without a hearing, but not to remove lethal weapons from them?

They are ignoring the will of Colorado voters who elected representatives based on their sensible gun regulation platforms and grabbing power not bestowed upon them by the Colorado Constitution. They are ignoring the first words of the Second Amendment- “Well Regulated”- in order to put gun ownership and identity politics before the safety of the community and their duty to enact policies of the state of Colorado. Perhaps when Chairman Waller threatens sitting legislators with a recall election he should consider the ramifications for himself and his fellow County Commissioners.

-Jillian Freeland, El Paso County resident

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