Last week the El Pomar Foundation assembled a press conference at City Hall on behalf of the elected Mayor of Colorado Springs, Mary Lou Makepeace. The press conference, El Pomar's third in as many weeks, was to announce the foundation's newly-formed Commission on Homelessness in Southern Colorado.
The committee was formed after El Pomar withdrew funds from the controversial one-stop shopping homeless mall in the Mill Street neighborhood, the Montgomery Center, southwest of downtown. However, the foundation is applying the term "Southern Colorado" very loosely with regard to the makeup of its initial executive committee; all of the announced members live and work in Colorado Springs. They include Makepeace and Tony Koren, vice president of programs of El Pomar, who will co-chair the committee. County Commissioner Ed Jones, Red Cross board chair Sarah Jack, Catholic Charities executive director Krzys Myszkowski, Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Will Temby, and Jan Doran, the president of the Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO) round out the committee.
With the possible exceptions of Doran (who worked closely with Mill Street neighbors in their quest to keep the mega-shelter out) and Myszkowski (who heads a service agency for the poor) we're unclear exactly what qualifications vaulted the rest of these individuals into taking leadership positions.
Let's take Makepeace, for starters. The mayor has not exactly endeared herself to the low-income or homeless communities of Colorado Springs. In fact, two years ago she spearheaded efforts to ban homeless people from seeking assistance on the sides of highway on and off ramps.
And then there's Sarah Jack, the paid lobbyist for the Colorado Springs Home Builders Association which has been targeted by homeless activists for not building residential projects that low income people can afford to rent or buy.
Or how about Ed Jones? During his two terms on the commission, Jones has never identified homelessness as his issue, his passion or his area of expertise. But the avowed Republican is running for the state senate next year, so maybe the assignment would look good on his campaign brochures.
We have no idea what homeless expertise Temby or Koren will bring to the table except for a lifetime assurance that neither will ever be homeless.
We wish the group well in their quest to conquer homelessness and figure out the best way to offer services not just in Colorado Springs, but Pueblo, Walsenburg, La Veta, Rocky Ford and the vast landmass between here and the New Mexico and Kansas borders. Still, we can't help but wish that El Pomar had shown more savvy by seeking out the expertise of people who have actually been in the trenches with the homeless -- like local activists Matt Parkhouse or Steve Handen.
It looks like Carl Kabat, the Catholic priest who was arrested for climbing a fence and praying for peace at the Minuteman Missile silo site in northeastern Colorado, is going back to jail for a year. And protesters, including Colorado Springs peace activists, are expected to agitate outside the Denver federal courthouse as Kabat is sentenced today, July 12.
Kabat is the co-founder of the Plowshares international anti-nuke peace movement and has spent more time in jail for nuclear protesting than any American. He is also the inspiration of one-man play, entitled A Clown, A Hammer, A Bomb, And God, which details his involvement in the anti-nuke movement.
When he climbed the fence last year, Kabat was wearing his trademark clown outfit and makeup, to show that, in his words, "we are fools and clowns for God and humanity's sake."
Denver attorney Walter Gerash represented Kabat pro-bono, but federal Magistrate Boyd Boland refused his request to present an international law defense to the court. Gerash had hoped to argue that, under the terms of Nuremberg, citizens are protected for protesting weapons of mass destruction which can be used to commit genocide. Boland's refusal to allow the argument left Amnesty International board director Francis Boyle flabbergasted and denouncing the magistrate for running a "kangaroo court."
In the 1980s and 1990s, Kabat was jailed for breaching a Minuteman II missile site in North Dakota and for damaging a Minuteman Missile silo lid in Missouri. He has also spent time in the pokey for pouring blood on the pillars of the White House and on the Pentagon.
"I'm one little me and I do what I do, what else can I do?" Kabat said after his arrest last year. "Anyone else who's got an answer, fine. As for me, I sing and I dance, and I hope."