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The Capitol is set to hire an independent human resources person in the wake of numerous harassment allegations. It’s not yet clear what role the new HR person would play, but it may take any formal complaints or investigations out of the hands of legislative leadership.

Andrea Chalfin / 91.5 KRCC

UPDATE: As of mid-day Monday, 12/18/17, the city had removed the frame.

ORIGINAL STORY--FRIDAY 12/15/17: A newly-installed structure at Garden of the Gods has local outdoor enthusiasts crying foul. In a widely shared post on Facebook, the outdoor adventure non-profit UpaDowna brought the frame to the attention of its followers, many of whom have described the structure as “ugly” and a blight on the natural beauty of the park. 

Steve Lebsock, the state representative accused of sexual misconduct, has again gone on the offensive, this time to say that he's taken a lie detector test that clears him of any wrongdoing. A fellow Democrat, Rep. Faith Winter, is among two women to file formal complaints alleging sexual harassment against Lebsock, who is also campaigning to be Colorado's next treasurer. Lebsock has repeatedly said he deserves the chance to face his accuser and took the test because he said the complaint process is progressing too slowly.

“After waiting 26 days waiting to hear from the fact finder, I decided to get my story out,” said Lebsock at a press conference he arranged near his office across the street from the Capitol Thursday. “All of the allegations are false and I am willing to do a polygraph on all the false allegations.”

Three lawmakers face formal complaints at the state Capitol alleging sexual harassment. We went to the districts these lawmakers represent to see what their constituents think about the situation. The overall message: sexual harassment shouldn’t be tolerated and there should be consequences should the allegations be proven true.

Kathy Ochsner is a 73-year-old retired secretary who lives in Centennial, south of Denver.

“I think we need to send the message that this is not OK,” she said. “This is not part of the workplace.”

There’s the allegation of a lawmaker who suggested sexual acts and tried to force a colleague to go home with him. Another allegedly grabbed and slapped an aide’s buttocks as she walked in the Capitol. Another claim: A senator would regularly leer, comment on an intern’s clothes and linger, touching her shoulder.

So far, our reporting has prompted four women to file formal sexual harassment complaints against three lawmakers at the state legislature. Just two of those women – Rep. Faith Winter and former lobbyist Holly Tarry – have gone public, willing to be named in their claims against Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat running for state treasurer. Lebsock has denied any wrongdoing. He has refused calls to resign by top leaders in his own party. 

[Update 12/14/17 1:15 p.m.] No charges will be filed against Rep. Lori Saine. The news was announced Dec. 14 by the Boulder district attorney’s office. The case was passed to Boulder because Denver’s district attorney Beth McCann worked closely with Saine when they were both state lawmakers. The Boulder district attorney’s office says Saine “totally forgot the firearm was in her purse and no criminal case against Ms. Saine can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.” 

Robert F. Bukaty / AP

For the second time in five years, the El Paso County Board of Health has put the brakes on a plan to create a syringe exchange program. The decision came at the end of an impassioned, three-hour-long meeting Monday morning, where concerned citizens, healthcare providers, and others voiced both support for and opposition to the plan.

A state lawmaker has drafted legislation to remove Rep. Steve Lebsock from office as Lebosck has refused calls for his resignation. It sets the stage for a battle, as allegations of sexual harassment continue at the Colorado Capitol. Lebsock is a Democrat running for state treasurer.

Rep. Matt Gray, also a Democrat, said he will introduce a resolution when lawmakers return to the legislature in January. Gray said he believes the accounts of the women who first accused Lebsock in our stories last month. 

Another woman has decided to file a formal complaint alleging sexual harassment by a lawmaker at Colorado’s Capitol. The former legislative intern alleges that Sen. Jack Tate regularly leered at her and nudged her, making inappropriate comments during the 2017 legislative session.

That raises the number of formal complaints against lawmakers to four. Earlier this month, we reported that Rep. Faith Winter and former lobbyist Holly Tarry filed complaints against Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat, alleging unwanted sexual advances and vulgar and inappropriate discussions.

A former legislative aide has filed a sexual harassment complaint against Republican state Sen. Randy Baumgardner for inappropriately touching her. 

The woman alleges that Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs slapped and grabbed her buttocks about four times over a three month period during the 2016 legislative session when she worked at the State Capitol. She alleges that each incident happened inside the Capitol building during her workday, often while she was walking through a corridor next to the Senate Chamber. 

In poll after poll, Americans make it clear: People working together is a good thing.

Collaboration is a lofty goal touted by political and business leaders as a potential way forward on anything from climate change to healthcare to obesity. Drop your weapons, turn your enemies into partners and achieve great things — or so the thinking goes. But collaboration is a concept that sounds great in the abstract and quickly turns messy in practice, with plenty of pitfalls along the way toward a common goal.

Avoiding drawn out fights has always been tough when dealing with water issues in the West.  Collaboration wasn’t always the go-to strategy for environmentalists, political figures and water managers who held competing interests on overtaxed, overdrawn rivers.

But with the Windy Gap Firming Project in northern Colorado’s mountains, old grudges are being put aside in favor of new, collaborative tactics. While some of the West’s oldest enemies are working together, those who feel left behind by all the newfound teamwork aren’t ready to sing "Kumbaya."

Wikimedia Commons - Public Domain

Of all the works of art that have been inspired by or created in Colorado Springs, perhaps none is more famous than the song, "America the Beautiful." It's a patriotic song nearly as recognizable and beloved as the National Anthem itself.

But despite the song’s popularity, the woman behind those famous lyrics is less well known. A new book called Katharine Lee Bates: From Sea to Shining Sea, by author Melinda M. Ponder, examines the life of poet Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote the first draft of "America the Beautiful" while teaching in Colorado Springs in the summer of 1893. Ponder spoke with 91.5 KRCC about how Bates' experience in Colorado Springs shaped her patriotism.

New claims of sexual harassment have been brought up at the Colorado legislature involving Sens. Randy Baumgardner and Jack Tate. Both, in comments to us, strongly deny any wrongdoing, although they refused to answer our specific questions directly.

Megan Creeden, an intern who was 25 at the time, told us she had many uncomfortable encounters with Baumgardner during the 2016 legislative session. She said Baumgardner often pressured her to drink with him in his office and she didn’t want to be with him in his office alone because she didn’t know him.

Arrivo Press Materials

Colorado will soon be home to a test facility for an experimental new high-speed transportation system. The company Arrivo has announced plans to build a test track in the Denver metro area.

Arrivo was created by a co-founder of Hyperloop, and like that company, its system uses magnetic levitation to move passengers at high speeds -- up to 200mph. But where Hyperloop aims to connect multiple cities across hundreds of miles, Arrivo is focused on shortening commutes within a given metro region.

On Tuesday state Rep. Steve Lebsock went on the offensive regarding the sexual harassment allegations against him, claiming he was being blackmailed in an effort to force him to resign his House seat.

“This is a story about blackmail and coercion and extortion, is what this is,” he said.

Update 10-23-17: The Colorado Attorney General's Office has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Deep Green Resistance on behalf of the Colorado River ecosystem. The story has been updated to reflect this development.

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A few months ago Denver civil rights lawyer Jason Flores-Williams had an idea. He’s made a name for himself recently in a class action lawsuit against the city of Denver where he’s representing the city’s homeless people.

“A lot of times I meet with class members, I take them out to dinner because they’re starving,” he said.

While at a Denver Mexican restaurant, the group started talking about homelessness. One of his homeless clients piped up.

“In an off the cuff, offhand comment [he] said, ‘the only thing more homeless than the homeless is nature,’” Flores-Williams recalled.

Gov. John Hickenlooper is calling for the resignation of Rep. Steve Lebsock following allegations he sexually harassed 11 people, including three who are publicly named, one of them a fellow lawmaker. 

"Now that the facts are apparent, he should certainly resign," said Hickenlooper.

A flood of lawmakers are now calling for the resignation for Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat running for state treasurer, in the wake of our reporting on allegations of sexual misconduct.

Meanwhile, a second woman has come forward with additional allegations that raise questions about Lebsock’s behavior at the State Capitol.

Nine legislators, staffers and lobbyists are alleging that Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat running for state treasurer, harassed, intimidated or made unwanted sexual advances against them. And in response to our reporting, a top Democratic leader is calling on Lebsock to “do the right thing and resign.”

Courtesy of Rocky Mountain Women's Film Institute

 

This weekend marks the 30th anniversary of the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival in Colorado Springs. It’s the longest continuously running women’s film festival in North America. Between Friday night and Sunday, viewers can catch dozens of films at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and in venues across the Colorado College campus.

Jake Brownell / 91.5 KRCC

Tuesday's election in Colorado saw voters across the state weigh in on everything from tax increases to school board and mayoral races. 

In El Paso County, unofficial results show voters embracing a slate of tax increases and spending measures, including a $14.5-million TABOR retention for I-25 and other infrastructure needs, a new fee in Colorado Springs to pay for stormwater projects, and a $42-million tax increase for District 11, Colorado Springs’ largest school district.

A project to create a passenger rail line from Fort Collins to Pueblo – and even further – is still in its early stages. The Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission in charge of the project briefed state lawmakers on Thursday.

Jacob Riger, the vice-chair of the Commission said the group would spend part of next year establishing a preferred route for the line.

Courtesy Darrell Hammond

Former Saturday Night Live cast member Darrell Hammond is the featured speaker at the 9th annual Heroes of Mental Health luncheon, taking place Thursday, November 2. The comedian is perhaps best known for his impressions of Bill Clinton and Sean Connery, and he also played Donald Trump and Al Gore on the sketch program. 

Carole Henson / Wikimedia Creative Commons

The City of Manitou Springs is calling on artists nationwide to submit proposals for a public art installation in the city. The winning proposal will receive up to 15,000 dollars from the city to pay for materials, manufacture, and installation of a durable, 3-dimensional piece of art. 

Andrea Chalfin / 91.5 KRCC

Memorial Park in Colorado Springs is receiving the lion's share of the latest round of grants from the Colorado Springs Health Foundation, with an award of more than $925,000.  The park, just east of downtown, counts Prospect Lake, sports fields, and a cycling velodrome as part of its amenities, and hosts such community events as the hot air balloon Labor Day Lift-Off. 

City of Colorado Springs

 

Great Outdoors Colorado, or GOCO, has awarded $60,750 to Colorado Springs-based conservation group, Palmer Land Trust. The grant will fund efforts to recruit a new generation into the cause of land conservation. 

Jake Brownell / 91.5 KRCC

For the second time in three years, stormwater is on the ballot in Colorado Springs. It's not an issue readily apparent until it rains, when small ponds often fill the streets of the city. It also presents a legal issue with the city's southern neighbor. A proposed fee, backed by the mayor and a majority of city council, would raise money to fund improvements and maintenance on the city's stormwater infrastructure. Proponents hope this effort will succeed where others have failed.

A group of Colorado lawmakers are working to lower health insurance premiums for residents on the individual market created in the wake of the Affordable Care Act. Rates are predicted to rise 34 percent on average next year. There are concerns that healthy people will opt out of coverage and that could cause rates to rise even higher as the insurance risk pool thins out.

Bob Collins, a small business owner and the father of three in Thornton, said the rise will cost him $18,000 to cover his family next year. That’s a significant increase to what he pays now.

Bob Wick, BLM California / BLM Flickr / Creative Commons

New legislation introduced in Congress would place limitations on the Antiquities Act, originally passed in 1906, which allows the President of the United States to designate national monuments. Most recently in Colorado, the Antiquities Act was utilized to preserve Brown's Canyon in the Upper Arkansas River Valley, as well as Chimney Rock and the Canyon of the Ancients, both in southwestern Colorado.

Jake Brownell / 91.5 KRCC

The recent events in Las Vegas have many people wondering what they can do to help address gun violence in this country. For some, it means calling their congressperson or signing petitions. For one man in Colorado Springs, it means offering people a symbolic way to dispose of their firearms. His organization, founded in 2013, is called RAWtools, and it takes unwanted guns and turns them into gardening tools.

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