Bilateral agreement brings Russians here
Colorado Springs soon will be invaded by Russian soldiers — a whole 20 of them.
Lt. Col. Steve Osterholzer, public affairs officer with the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, says he's been receiving a lot of interesting phone calls since an online news service, EU Times, incorrectly reported that Russian troops would be taking part in alarming exercises on American soil, such as "taking and holding" Denver International Airport.
"Ninety-nine percent of it is inaccurate," Osterholzer says of the article, which has inspired a glut of anti-globalist conspiracy-mongering. "The 1 percent that is accurate is that, yes, some Russian soldiers are coming to do some training with us as part of the bilateral agreement."
That agreement, signed last year, will focus on counterterrorism efforts, he says: "Counter-terrorism isn't an isolated fight. It is a worldwide fight in which we need to work together."
At the end of May, 20 Russian soldiers will take part in basic training exercises for about two weeks at Fort Carson. They'll spend a day at the shooting range, familiarizing themselves with common weapons. Being from an airborne recon platoon, they will go for a jump. They will train in communications and medical evacuation, and engage in some mountaineering exercises.
"It's very basic training, and it's done in the name of building relationships," Osterholzer says. "And all of the stuff we are doing is unclassified."
Like any foreign-exchange program, American soldiers also will visit Russia, but details have yet to be worked out on that. — CH
Blaha rips 'earmarks'
Robert Blaha's campaign for Congress has set its sights on incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn's previous earmarks. In an attack launched Monday with radio and TV ads, Blaha, who's challenging Lamborn in the Republican primary for Colorado's 5th District, points to the "millions in taxpayer dollars that Lamborn funneled to some of his biggest campaign contributors."
The ads point to a 2011 Gazette article about millions of dollars Lamborn secured for specific projects run by companies that gave to his campaign war chest between the 2008 and 2010 fiscal years.
Lamborn, through spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen, responded by calling Blaha ignorant of the way Washington works. And naturally, she pointed out that Lamborn has since come out publicly against earmarks.
"When Congressman Lamborn and Republicans regained the Majority in the House last January, one of the first things they did was ban earmarks," Mortensen says by e-mail, adding, "Lamborn and his Republican colleagues led the way in abandoning the practice of earmarks as a result of the widespread abuse of earmarks that Lamborn, and many in the public, found so offensive." — CH
Williams, Gessler at odds
They might be fellow Republicans, but that isn't stopping Secretary of State Scott Gessler and El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams from having to settle a disagreement in court.
Williams' office announced Monday that he found a way to save the county, and its taxpayers, a cool 60 grand — by canceling some of the upcoming primary elections. Not all of them, just the uncontested ones.
So, if you're a Democrat or a member of the American Constitution party, you wouldn't receive a ballot for the June 26 primary. As Williams sees it, paying to send out ballots in uncontested races is a waste of money.
Gessler's office disagrees, saying that allowing one party to have a primary and not others would give an unfair advantage of those candidates benefiting from the name recognition of being on a ballot, even without opposition.
The issue has to be resolved before ballots go out to military voters overseas in a week or so. Media reports say Gessler's office will ask a court for a ruling. — CH
Million-dollar melee at MHS
Disagreement over a $1.15 million severance package for Memorial Health System CEO Dr. Larry McEvoy was expected to boil over Tuesday afternoon at a City Council special session. Some Councilors went into the meeting vowing to oust the Memorial board of trustees who approved the package, and hoping to undo the deal.
But trustee chair James Moore said the board and McEvoy had a legally binding contract, raising questions about whether the latter would be possible.
McEvoy has been at the center of controversy for more than a year, as the city's sought to distance itself from Memorial while preserving it as a community asset. McEvoy and a Council-appointed Memorial Commission called for creating an independent nonprofit, but Council in January backed a lease with the Denver-based University of Colorado Health. The lease, under negotiation, is to be submitted to voters for approval in August.
McEvoy, whose last day is Friday, says the 18-month severance deal is in line with industry standards and Memorial policies, and followed his and the board's mutual agreement that "this organization is better without me."
Mike Scialdone, Memorial's chief financial officer, will serve as interim CEO. His $398,000 pay will be increased by 20 percent while in the role.
For updates on this story, check csindy.com. — PZ
Council scraps meetings
There won't be enough City Councilors in town to conduct two meetings in early May.
The reason: City Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin and Councilors Lisa Czelatdko, Brandy Williams and Val Snider are traveling to Portland, Ore., from May 7 through 10, on a trip sponsored by the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and EDC. Council President Scott Hente will be absent on other business.
With five of nine Councilors gone, meetings scheduled for May 7 and 8 have been canceled. Regular meetings will resume May 21 and 22.
Martin says canceling the meetings is worth it. She's participated in two other such Chamber trips in the past, and says, "learning from other cities' success really is valuable." Some, however, are more skeptical, deriding the taxpayer-funded outings as "junkets." — JAS
Compiled by Chet Hardin, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.