Note to readers: this article was written as part of our April Fools' Day package. Enjoy accordingly.
In a move that's likely to bring Colorado Springs renewed national attention, city officials will hold a press conference Friday to unveil their strategy for repurposing parts of local community centers.
Under the new plan, the Deerfield Hills, Hillside, Meadows Park and Westside locations will debut medical methamphetamine dispensaries in early 2011. All four facilities will include on-site meth labs.
Since the city's Jan. 1 Request for Proposals (RFP) submission deadline, applicants' identities have been carefully guarded. But a source within City Council shared documents with the Independent earlier this week confirming that RFPs were submitted by dozens of local institutions, including The Broadmoor, Memorial Hospital and Mr. Biggs Family Fun Center.
The ambitious plan will be administered by the Medical MethaMphetamine Awareness Program (M-M-MAP), which has already released a list of 32 qualifying medical criteria for would-be clients. These include:
• Lower back pain
• Childhood obesity
• Seasonal Affective Disorder
• Gum disease
"Especially in these challenging times, methamphetamine dispensaries offer our city a wide range of benefits with virtually no downside," says Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp. president Mike Kazmierski. Emphasizing that the winning bidders will be required to use locally sourced hydrochloric acid and "the red, white and blue method" of manufacture, Kazmierski has praised M-M-MAP as "the kind of long-range stimulus plan that will get our area's economy back on track.
"It's nice to have something once again that we can promote to the rest of the country as Colorado Springs setting an example for America."
Other civic leaders agree that the program offers another way to "brand" Colorado Springs as a unique destination spot.
Reached at the Dutch Mill Tavern while having lunch Monday, Experience Colorado Springs executive director Terry Sullivan was surprised to hear the news, but quickly shifted into a spirited pitch on behalf of the new initiative: "This will result in at least 20,000 medical meth tourists visiting the Pikes Peak region. These are people who, in many cases, rarely leave their own houses — and now they'll be making our city their No. 1 destination spot."
But not all public figures are in agreement when it comes to the concept and execution of the nascent medical meth program. The highest-profile holdout continues to be Mayor Lionel Rivera.
"As a recreational meth user, I speak from personal experience when I say that the drug has many benefits and very few side-effects," says Rivera. "At the same time, I deeply oppose this program and everything it stands for."
Thousand points of meth
In addition to the announcement, the press conference will feature an extensive PowerPoint presentation by newly appointed director Dave Hughes, a west side activist who also invented the Internet. Community leaders credit Hughes with convincing Woodmen Valley Chapel to scrap its own plans to adopt the Westside center.
Hughes will also do his best to dispel the persistent rumor that City Manager Penny Culbreth-Graft's surprise resignation two weeks ago was a personal protest against City Council's secret measure. While Culbreth-Graft will not appear at the event, Councilwoman Jan Martin is expected to read what she describes as a "heartfelt endorsement" from the outgoing city manager.
One person who has made no secret of his opposition to the program is local meth dealer Robert "Skip" Armin. A former Shakespearean actor who claims to be a direct descendent of Spencer Penrose, Armin insists the government-run program will be engaging in unfair business practices by selling the drug at up to 40 percent below street value.
"I don't dislike competition — I thrive on it — but the government isn't providing us with a level playing field," says Armin, who shares his Manitou Springs bungalow with a feral cat named Sprinkles. "I'm out here trying to make an honest living by consistently providing a quality product that's keeps my clientele coming back again and again. And now what happens?
"This is not the America I grew up in."
Armin has since found an unlikely ally in Doug Bruce, the former House District 15 state representative who now makes his living suing the Colorado Springs city government and renting properties to people who circulate his petitions.
Bruce, who recently credited meth with giving him the courage to kick a newspaper photographer during a 2008 prayer meeting on the floor of the House, has said he'll take the city to court if his own RFP application is turned down.
"Once again, government is undermining the entrepreneurial spirit of people who are working hard to achieve the American dream," says Bruce, whose personal Web site includes a 41-page blog entry detailing how the current plan violates key passages from the U.S. Constitution, the Geneva Convention and the Magna Carta. Bruce says he's pleased that Armin is "on board" for what he expects to be the biggest class-action suit Colorado has ever seen.
The Indy has also learned that the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Air Force Academy have threatened to relocate if they don't get the medical meth contract. But some believe the benefits of medical meth for training purposes would provide a powerful incentive for both organizations to stay put, regardless of where M-M-MAP facilities are located.
As one highly placed Olympics official told the Indy, "Having the lab on site would obviously save everyone valuable training time, but in a worst-case scenario, we could always run a shuttle service between the Training Center and the nearest dispensary."
U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun was not available for comment earlier this week. However, in an interview conducted back in January, he expressed early support for the initiative that's now coming to fruition: "With this program, our athletes will be able to use the drug for training purposes, just as long as it's out of their system by the time they're actually competing."
Blackmun also said that, during his years as a sports and entertainment attorney, he worked closely with people who took meth, cocaine and other narcotics.
"Based on that experience and a recent study conducted by the Nike corporation, it is my belief that pure, safe, affordable crystal meth will enable our athletes to train an extra four hours every day," he said. "That is huge."
Cheap, clean, renewable
In spite of objections from anti-tax advocates, drug dealers and three local chapters of Toastmasters International, M-M-MAP continues to enjoy overwhelming support from the local business community. Richard Skorman, a longtime advocate of medical meth behind the scenes, has expressed hope that his own Poor Richard's emporium would be chosen as one of the dispensaries.
"Cutting-edge research at Pfizer and Eli Lilly will soon make methamphetamines the cheapest, cleanest most renewable form of energy yet developed," notes Skorman. "And besides, who wouldn't want to smoke, snort or even inject meth while enjoying a delicious caramel macchiato, all in a comfortable environment where kids can shop for fun, educational toys right next door?"
Although current zoning regulations restrict meth labs from locating within 150 yards of elementary schools and day care facilities, M-M-MAP still plans to make kids a big part of the program's educational outreach component.
In fact, Friday's press conference will boast the first public appearance of the meth program's "Map-scot," Sniffy the Squirrel.
"I'm telling you, everyone's gonna just love this tweaky little guy," predicts Hughes, who points to the ongoing legacy of anthropomorphic advocacy icons like Smokey Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog.
(According to Hughes, the city has also hired a Denver-based consulting firm to work out licensing deals for a line of doll houses, action figures and car fresheners.)
Sniffy has a more serious side, as well: "He's really our tribute to Sniffy the Sniffasaurus," says Hughes, referring to the Colorado Springs Utilities mascot who perished in a gas explosion last November. "An homage, if you will."
While the law dictates that meth users must be at least 18 years of age to qualify for the program, younger members of the community will be encouraged to take advantage of numerous volunteer opportunities.
Hannah Tooley, who attends North Middle School's International Baccalaureate program, is pleased that M-M-MAP will be part of the school's community service requirement.
"It's better than shelving books at the f***ing library," says the 13-year-old honor student.
All sales taxes collected from the dispensaries will be earmarked for the improvement of roads and bridges.
Additional reporting by Matthew Schniper, Pam Zubeck and J. Apryl Phule.