Friday, April 27, 2012

Crowning, Food, and Tea

I'm a little teapot, short and . . . well, you know the drill.
During a recent panning expedition atop Pikes Peak, I was forced to reflect on the many tourists staggering about in thin air just before they burst, like balloons in a vacuum, through the doors of the train that waits at the end of the line. My aluminum expedition clothing generally has that effect on tourists, especially in bright sunlight.

Encouraged by their bursting, I decided to look around for inspiration of my own. My eye fell on the little town considerably below and slightly east-northeast of the summit, which slowed my inspiration on account of having to hike all the way down to retrieve my eye. If you've ever heard it said that inspiration is 9% polypropylene and 13% yerba mate, that's why.

After regaining my composure on a nearby rooftop, I burst into song. Taking into account my vantage pointstill above but now slightly north-southwest of the little town of Manitoumy outburst came as no surprise. Had it come, instead, as a quavering falsetto, I would have been forced to consider it a sign that I wasn't meant for singing, but it didn't.

O Manitou
Oy Manitou
God shed her grace on thee
And crown thy brood
With healthful food
And pots of roibos tea.
In case you wonder what happened to the drum solo, I would simply indicate that, where weight is the consideration, a harmonica is always the better choice.

Interesting Points from This Week's Task Force Meeting

We had a pretty good turnout of people who hang out down at Soda Springs Park on Wednesday. Some interesting things were said, so I took notes and will share those notes with you here.

-A local named Justin Bailey came up with the idea of turning the triangle planter into a 3-way bench. At first thought, Steve Wood from Concrete Couch figured it would be too small. Adam Withrow, a writer for Manitou Springs Street News and local construction worker, asked about the dimensions, which got Steve to think a little more about it and offer up the idea to bring chairs down and see if we could make it work.

-Adam Withrow pointed out that the whole area concerned during these meetings happens to be our version of a town square. You meet people, get word on the street, find work, etc. "We should find a way to nurture our town square," instead of trying to eliminate it.

-Steve Wood talked about how, in 20+ years of living here, he never really felt the "gauntlet" (a word used commonly to describe the bridge area in front of the Mate Factor, because it is often hard to get through with all the people). He mentioned that after a while, though, he started hearing more people saying they were scared or disturbed by the goings-on down at the park. I, Amanda Lane, mentioned that it was because of the problem bums who were drunk on the street at 9am, demanding food and clothes and spare change from any poor soul walking by, that caused that. Those people are gone now, so we need to help people to understand that what they are afraid of is no longer there.

-Matt Carpenter, City Council Ward 3 and Mayor Pro-tem, talked about how he was scared to bring his daughter to the park and he saw "a drug deal go down ... with a pipe, a guy named Monkey climbing the poles and people all over the place climbing on the rails of the pavilion." Some of the people who were also at the park on the day he spoke of came to the table with their own opinions and common sense and shot holes in Matt's words. Matt Carpenter was asked repeatedly by a number of participants to be respectful.

-Jan Johnson from PARAB has lived here since 1996 and spoke about how it does take a village to make a place safe. She applauds regulars of the park for setting the tone, as far as respect and behavior. She can see that people who care about Soda Springs Park are trying really hard to make it a really nice place to spend time. She does feel that some environmental changes, such as moving benches or eliminating rails, etc. would be a great idea.

-Chris Nason, a street minister, spoke about how he and some member of his church have brought lemonade and cookies during the summers and hot cocoa and cookies during the winters to Soda Springs Park. They just finished their third winter. He said that all they do is hand out cookies and lemonade (or cocoa) and talk to people who wish to talk to them. They have only had 2 negative encounters in these 3 years, which was amazing to him, as he had done similar things in bigger cities. Most of the park occupants were very respectful, though he noted that he was also very respectful to them. He suggested that respect bred respect (hm, who knew?).

-I mentioned that, if anybody took a look at the plan for the park, there would be less to talk about. Many of the so-called problems that we are facing will be entirely eliminated once the plan is executed (See the attached photo of the plan).

-We agreed the next meeting should be a potluck at Soda Springs Park. So bring something good to eat and come down for an evening at the park on Wednesday, May 9, 2012. We will start the meeting at 5pm.


Manitou Springs Soda Springs Park
Come one, come all, but most of all, respect.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Task Force Progress

Democracy is amazing.  The system of government that we live in right now is one of the greatest social experiments in human history, and what makes it so cool is that we're still experimenting to this day.  What makes people frustrated is that we tend to feel that we are under this system instead of a part of it.  A little participation by a group of residents can turn the tide, though, and if we come together, we can think of the city government as "us" instead of "them."

We're getting to the point where it doesn't matter what started the Soda Springs Park Safety Task Force, we're helping to shape the outcome.

It is very important that people continue to participate in this process, and some of the newcomers last night brought us to a level that we hadn't even approached up until then.  One person has one voice, no matter who they are.  If you find yourself being bullied into submission, bring your friends.  The more witnesses there are, the more democratic the process can be.  Non-participation has become the culture, and as a result, processes that are legally open to the public tend to be carried out by small groups of people with narrow agendas.

The meeting started off as they always do:  a reading of the norms of the meeting followed by an introduction of the people on the panel.  The demographics in the meeting last night were much more diverse than in meetings gone by.  After the introductions, we started to head into the agenda.  This involved questions about what we're going to do about the triangle shaped planter in front of the Mate Factor.  After kicking around a few suggestions, one of the newcomers to the meeting brought up an interesting point.  The area in front of the Mate Factor is not the park.  He wondered out loud to the committee what we were really trying to accomplish.

To begin with, this set off the usual round of explanations that amounted to little more than empty political rhetoric.  They were basically using the language that framed the issue as a crackdown to try to say that that was not the purpose.  The newcomer kept digging, and what ensued what a wonderful conversation about the real state of affairs at Soda Springs Park circa 2012.  We talked about self-policing, and we talked about how we are actively working to ingrain that into our culture.

We also talked about how our new police chief is cool enough to be fully accepted by all walks of the community.  If we welcome him with open arms and help him really get to know our community, then he can offer a directive that can guide our police department in the right direction. 

If we can introduce Joe Ribiero to the street scene with the respect he is due, he can issue a directive that helps alleviate our real problems without discriminating against any particular groups of people.  If he gets more experience of the culture firsthand, he will better understand what our real problems are.  We cannot help it that certain things are going to make people uncomfortable, and we have to be smart about what real crime is.  We can't placate every person who complains because some of the complaints are more cultural grievances than criminal concerns.  There is a concerted effort to say that it is a crime to be present in the park if someone is made uncomfortable. 

This only applies, though, if certain people are made uncomfortable.  "The rest of you will have to pay," they say.  By participating in our democracy and getting to know the head of law enforcement, we can ensure that all people are truly represented, not just a vocal minority.

It is a joy to have youth that spend their time outside instead of in front of television or video games.  When there is crime, we should address it.  All in all, though, our problems are more social in nature than criminal.

It is not and can not be a crime to be different.  What happens, though, is that it is possible to pass laws that "different" people commonly break and then urge police officers to enforce them primarily on the target demographics.  On paper, there may be no discrimination, but in practice, a lot of times there really is.  It's easy to say that it is not if a person is outside of the target group, but we are following a social and economic trajectory that is expanding the ranks of the "undesirables."  More and more people are finding themselves in the difficult economic circumstances that make a person make other people feel uncomfortable. 

In this day and age, if your clothes aren't new, clean, and in a certain range of styles, you will make people feel unsafe.  In this town, though, it is OK to be a little gritty.  That means that a certain segment of the population feels unsafe because the rest of us don't follow the dress code. 

Beyond that, though, we strengthened bridges that this task force has helped to build.  A street minister who was present at the meeting said, "We have the nicest bad kids I've ever seen."  He also talked about how in three years ministering at the park, they have only had two negative encounters.  We, for the first time, got to formalize the fact that we've got the same mission:  to transform the culture through respect and positive teaching instead of force and imprisonment.

It is going to interesting to see how all of this goes.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Our New Police Chief, Joe Ribeiro

This evening, we had an informal meeting with Joe Ribeiro, who will begin as Manitou Springs' new Chief of Police in two weeks. He was very low-key and easygoing. In fact, he met us at Soda Springs Park and he just chilled for a couple of hours, without looking for a problem or acting like anything other than a dude who wanted to hang out at the park.

I really liked a lot of what he had to say, including that he will be working to train the police force not to profile. Mr. Ribeiro said that it would be ideal if a police officer could be basically blind when it comes to who they enforce. If a yuppie is doing something against the law, the law will be enforced. If a dirty hippie isn't doing anything wrong, the police officer will say hello and keep walking.


I have to say that if he is true to his word, this is a major improvement in the Manitou Springs Police Department. I spoke with a woman today who is in her 60s and she told me that for as long as she can remember, Manitou Springs has been a laughingstock, as far as police departments go, of the entire county. Police harassment has been rampant for many years and Manitou has been famous for it. If Joe Ribeiro can break that pattern, all of the inhabitants of the town will be much happier and relaxed. No more threats of being tazed if someone says they refuse to be unlawfully searched!

Let's all keep our eyes out and our minds open to a cool Police Chief and report what we find, good or bad. Until he starts his new job, I hope he enjoys his vacation he's planning on taking.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

What Ails Manitou

A common problemHaving been invited to contribute to the new citizen journalism venture you see here, I feel an obligation of sorts to come clean on my reasons—by which I mean agenda—for agreeing to such a thing in the first place. Ordinarily, receiving an invitation indicates a certain commonality of goals; it's tempting to assume that I'm sympathetic to the cause.

I am not. I don’t even live there. In fact, I avoid Manitou like the plague, having seen The Shining and one or two other films that made me laugh and cry at the same time. A long time ago, I got a typewriter because that's what Stephen King was using, but when I saw what happened to Jack Nicholson's character I decided to go back to the computer instead. It isn't smart to retype the same line over and over. That's what copy and paste is for.

Anyway, after reviewing the concerns and solutions outlined on the virtual pages here, I'm left with the same sense of déjà vu I experienced the second time I read this stuff, which may say something about memory loss, though I'm not exactly sure what because my hearing isn't what it used to be either. This brings me back to the point I was trying to make before, which was that hippies have taken over the town. As I recall, the same thing happened in the late sixties, the early seventies, and during the eighties-nineties timeframe, so it isn't difficult to imagine what might have allowed them to gain a foothold during the so-called double-zip-to-zip-eleven period, which may have set the stage for the current rash of sightings in the downtown area.

To be fair, hippies aren't the only problem facing the town right now, which is why everyone in Manitou Springs should be guillotined. This would not only avoid the political suicide that so often results from the appearance of favoritism, but would give Manitou the opportunity to start over with a fresh crop of eight-, six-, and four-legged inhabitants, none of whom would be likely to allow things to get out of control a second time.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

This is What We'll Lose if City Council Bans Unauthorized Use of the Stage

This is Dylan.  He hangs out in town quite a bit, and he just happens to be a great musician.  This is a great song, and a proposed ordinance from Manitou Springs City Council would render this performance illegal.

It is sad to hear that the City of Manitou Springs, Colorado is considering banning unauthorized use of the stage.  That includes playing music.  This is a terrible idea, and I think the community ought to weigh in with their feelings about it.  What kind of a society makes you get a permit to play your guitar in the park?

If you feel the way I do, get involved.  Call your City Councilor and tell them not to support the ban of the use of the stage.

A person should not need a permit to play a song, nor should they need one to sit down.  Under that law, a "habitual offender" would eventually be arrested for any use of the stage.  This puts law enforcement in a really unfair situation as well as the artists themselves.

Why should a cop need to warn someone to stop using a stage?  I'm sure most police officers would rather be fighting crime than fighting art!  Let's promote the art and bring more positive people to the rough and rugged world of Soda Springs.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Letter From Our New Chief of Police

I have come across, by an anonymous source, a letter from the new Chief of Police. Comment with your opinions, dear readers....


"I believe it is important to establish a good precedent with this project.  The ordinances can be two edged swords and we should approach carefully and with an open mind.
 
In one respect, it establishes the community's rules and boundaries for acceptable behavior along with the ability to communicate that to residents and visitors in many ways, signs, flyers, personal conversation, etc.
We need to be clear about what the community expects of the PD.  We are already working to overcome the perception of being heavy handed "enforcers" and do not want to be tasked with "strict enforcement" of extremely minor violations which would further damage our image.
 
If we view the ordinances as an opportunity to engage people in conversations and help them learn about our community standards, we have an "in" for positive public relations if done right.  The PD can also use the ordinances as a way of legitimately contacting potential troublemakers, drug dealers, and the like since smoking seems to parallel.  Again this must be done with tact and respect for the individual and community.  Onlookers should see an officer (initially) contacting a potential drug dealer with the same tone and respect as he would an unknowing tourist.
 
Ultimately, this is a quality of life issue for the community and makes sense that there are no smoking rules and reasonable hours for use of our parks.  I support the group bringing the ordinance discussion to the Council forum and having further community input.  I am interested in other's views on the matter.
 
On the whole, we also need to view our approach to these issues as a means to completely resolve the issue and not just move it to another part of the City." -Joe Ribeiro, Manitou Springs Chief of Police

Sunday, April 15, 2012

We All Know It, Someone's Gotta Say It.

There has been a deliberate, concentrated effort to turn Manitou Springs, Colorado into Vail Junior, Colorado.

There have been actions, both legislative and economic, to push the current population out of town and replace us with rich, jet-set outsiders.  I wish I could believe that the improvements to the sidewalks and such were done for us, but it is apparent from my recent dealings with the Soda Springs Park Safety Task Force that this is not the case.  These improvements are being done for the people who are slated to replace us.

It's not just lower class people that I'm talking about.  This is going to effect everyone.  If these people have their way, after about the next 18 months, we will be past the point of no return from the yuppietization of Manitou Springs.  This place is set up to be a place where people's "other houses" are.

Let me start somewhere concrete, literally concrete, and try not to wander too far from there.  Did you move to Manitou Springs for this:

Posh curio shops and Custard?

Or did you move to Manitou Springs for this:

Sweeping views?

Historic charm?
The fact is, we knew what this town was when we fell in love with it.  Most of the population of Manitou Springs moved here because they love Manitou, not because they have some dream of bulldozing everything and replacing it with condos.

Unfortunately, because we love this place how it is, a lot of us have trusted our government enough to not even register to vote.

Our trust has been abused.  The current City Council in Manitou Springs has completely collapsed under pressure from developers, and they are now trying to "clean up" the town for their target clientele.

Problems with traffic?

Run out all the poor people!  When I say poor people, I'm including doctors and lawyers.  Make it prohibitively expensive for our current locals and tourists!  Screw these Subarus, we could have Benzes instead!  Just think:  If the "standard" residents are wealthy enough, they will be too busy on vacation to Fiji to clog up our streets.  Not only that, but the square footage that currently houses thousands of people could eventually house a few hundred.

Never mind all of the businesses who have been here for decades!  We can replace them with couture clothing outfits and cigar bars!  Sales tax revenues will probably take a major hit, as the "locals" will prefer to do their shopping worldwide.  Don't worry, though, there will be so much more collected in property tax!

Problems with panhandlers?

Don't worry!  We'll make it illegal to be dirty!  We'll make it illegal to wear tie-dye!  We'll outlaw smoking, and we'll prosecute marijuana like it's crack!  We'll make it illegal to sit on the stage!  That'll keep those "undesirable" people down enough to get them out of sight!  We'll make it illegal to exhibit any signs of counterculture or poverty!  All actions taken to alleviate this problem will criminalize large amounts of both citizens and tourists.

What a great place to live.

With the rezoning of that lot on the 1300 block of Manitou Avenue to commercial, the dominoes are lined up to fall.  That end of the Ave is almost entirely made up of affordable housing.  There may be as much as 5% of the population of Manitou Springs within 5 blocks of that lot.  It should be noted that the zip line that this rezoning was done for will cost $85.00 per ride, or $60.00 for locals.  That is prohibitively expensive for everyone in the neighborhood.

Our current City Council will rubber stamp zoning and building permits for that area, so the commercial speculators will  be here in no time after the zip line opens.  Property values will skyrocket with the speculation, and many of the property owners in the area are already under pressure to "clean it up."

If we don't do something, we can expect the end of Manitou Avenue to go from affordable housing to cookie cutter yuppieland shops.  There are no plans for any affordable housing to replace what is on the chopping block.  Sure, we may see more loft-type development where limited, expensive housing is available above the shops, but current residents of the west end of Manitou Avenue are set to be displaced by commercial development.

A couple of years of this sort of pressure, and we can expect a major demographic shift in the population of Manitou Springs.  The vibrant atmosphere that is created by such a crossroads of cultures will be replaced with the homogeneous, sycophantic plastic world of Everywhere, USA.  The people who live here are not considered because there is already an underclass in Colorado Springs to feed off of, so it is not necessary for there to be working class accommodations in Manitou Springs.

There is a systemic push to bully lower income people into silence.  Many people have directly felt the burn from this, both in sessions of City Council and in its committees and other subsidiary bodies.  Undue pressure is put on the police to harass people who are deemed undesirable, and ordinances are currently in the works to criminalize normal behavior.

If we, the people of Manitou Springs, do not get registered to vote and raise some candidates, we can kiss this place goodbye.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Proposed Ordinance #3

Nice sentiment, but does it cut back crime or piss locals off?
Manitou Springs City Council has proposed three(3) ordinances to the Soda Springs Park Safety Task Force. These ordinances are supposed to make the park safer for everyone, cut down on crime, etc. If the Task Force accepts any of the ordinances, it will then go to Council and they will vote during the next City Council Meeting. Here is the third ordinance that was proposed by Matt Carpenter (Mayor Pro-Tem, City Council Ward 3):




COUNCIL BILL NO. ____

ORDINANCE NO. ____

ORDINANCE

AN ORDINANCE ESTABLISHING HOURS OF USE FOR THE CITY’S PUBLIC
PARKS
______________

WHEREAS, the City Council understands the need to limit the hours of use of the City’s
public parks; and

WHEREAS, limiting the hours of use of the City’s public parks is beneficial to the safety and
welfare of the citizens of the City of Manitou Springs; and

WHEREAS, the City Council desires to revise the hours of use of the City’s public parks.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE
CITY OF MANITOU SPRINGS, COLORADO, THAT:

Section 1:
[Existing Code:
12.24.010 – Use of facilities—Hours prohibited.
Use of playground equipment and other facilities in city parks is prohibited between the
hours of eleven p.m. and six a.m.

Strategy 1:
Dusk to Dawn. (Dusk to Dawn has legal meaning and has been used for other
ordinances.)

Strategy 2:
Summer Hours/Winter Hours.]

Section 12.24.010 of the Manitou Springs Municipal Code is hereby repealed and re-
enacted as follows:

12.24.010 – Use of facilities—Hours prohibited.

Use of playground equipment and other facilities in city parks is prohibited between
XXX and XXX [***from XXX to XXX and between XXX and XXX from XXX
to XXX***].

Section 2:

Section 3:

If any article, section, paragraph, sentence, clause or phrase of the ordinance is
held to be unconstitutional or invalid for any reason, such decision shall not affect
the validity or constitutionality of the remaining portion of this ordinance. The
City Council hereby declares that it would have passed this ordinance and each
part or parts hereof irrespective of the fact that any one part or parts be declared
unconstitutional or invalid.

The repeal or modification of any provision of Manitou Springs Municipal Code
by this ordinance shall not release, extinguish, alter, modify or change in whole or

Section 4:

in part any penalty, forfeiture or liability, either civil or criminal, which shall have
been incurred under such provision. Each provision shall be treated and held as
still remaining in force for the purpose of sustaining any and all proper actions,
suits, proceedings and prosecutions for enforcement of the penalty, forfeiture or
liability, as well as for the purpose of sustaining any judgment, decree or order
which can or may be rendered, entered or made in such actions, suits, proceedings
or prosecutions.

This ordinance shall take effect five (5) days after final approval and adoption on
second reading.

Passed on First Reading and Ordered Published this XXX day of XXX, 2012.

/s/ Donna Kast
City Clerk

A Public Hearing on this ordinance will be held at the XXX XXX, 2012 City Council meeting.
The Council Meeting will be held at 7:00 P.M. at City Hall, 606 Manitou Avenue, Manitou
Springs, Colorado.

Ordinance Published: XXX, 2012 (in full).
City’s Official Website and at City Hall

_________________________________________


I'm sorry, but I don't know what smoking cigarettes has to do with cutting back crime and vandalism in Soda Springs Park. This is another law-enforcement nightmare. If locals get cited for smoking in the pavilion or park, those locals will immediately call the police whenever a tourist or rich person lights up a cigarette there. Our police force is needed elsewhere in Manitou Springs - they really don't want to be driving down to Soda Springs Park every 5 minutes for a smoking violation.

Proposed Ordinance #2

Sorry, Charlie.
Manitou Springs City Council has proposed three(3) ordinances to the Soda Springs Park Safety Task Force. These ordinances are supposed to make the park safer for everyone, cut down on crime, etc. If the Task Force accepts any of the ordinances, it will then go to Council and they will vote during the next City Council Meeting. Here is the second ordinance that was proposed by Matt Carpenter (Mayor Pro-Tem, City Council Ward 3):





COUNCIL BILL NO. ____

ORDINANCE NO. ____

ORDINANCE

AN ORDINANCE ESTABLISHING THE MEANS FOR USE OF THE [***PAVILIONS
IN SODA SPRINGS PARK AND MANSIONS PARK ***] or [***STAGE IN SODA
SPRINGS PARK***]
______________

WHEREAS, the City Council is concerned about the ongoing vandalism taking place in the
City Parks; and

WHEREAS, the City Council desires to require a permit to use the [***Pavilions in Soda
Springs Park and Mansion Park***] or [***stage in Soda Springs park***].

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE
CITY OF MANITOU SPRINGS, COLORADO, THAT:

Section 1:
[Existing Code:
None

Strategy 1:
Limit the use of the pavilions in Soda Springs Park and Mansions Park. This is what is
done at America the Beautiful park in Colorado Springs.

Strategy 2:
Limit the use of the stage in Soda Springs Park. This is what is done at Bancroft Park in
Old Colorado City.

Section 12.24.005 of the Manitou Springs Municipal Code is hereby added as
follows:

12.24.005 – Use of facilities—Permit required.
A permit is required in order to use the [***pavilions in Soda Springs Park and Mansions
Park***] or [***stage area in Soda Springs Park***].

Notes: In the case of the pavilions something that states that passing through a pavilion
does not constitute a use or go with time limits like 30 minutes or an hour.

Section 2:

Section 3:

If any article, section, paragraph, sentence, clause or phrase of the ordinance is
held to be unconstitutional or invalid for any reason, such decision shall not affect
the validity or constitutionality of the remaining portion of this ordinance. The
City Council hereby declares that it would have passed this ordinance and each
part or parts hereof irrespective of the fact that any one part or parts be declared
unconstitutional or invalid.

The repeal or modification of any provision of Manitou Springs Municipal Code
by this ordinance shall not release, extinguish, alter, modify or change in whole or

Section 4:

in part any penalty, forfeiture or liability, either civil or criminal, which shall have
been incurred under such provision. Each provision shall be treated and held as
still remaining in force for the purpose of sustaining any and all proper actions,
suits, proceedings and prosecutions for enforcement of the penalty, forfeiture or
liability, as well as for the purpose of sustaining any judgment, decree or order
which can or may be rendered, entered or made in such actions, suits, proceedings
or prosecutions.

This ordinance shall take effect five (5) days after final approval and adoption on
second reading.

Passed on First Reading and Ordered Published this XXX day of XXX, 2012.

/s/ Donna Kast
City Clerk

A Public Hearing on this ordinance will be held at the XXX XXX, 2012 City Council meeting.
The Council Meeting will be held at 7:00 P.M. at City Hall, 606 Manitou Avenue, Manitou
Springs, Colorado.

Ordinance Published: XXX, 2012 (in full).
City’s Official Website and at City Hall


_________________________________________________


My opinion on this one is that if they fence it off, it will make tourists even more uncomfortable - fenced-off areas in a city signal crime. Kids may well just jump the fence and continue to use the facilities or they will just move to somewhere else in town and the task force name will change to go with it. If the city doesn't fence it off, if they just post signs, they will have a "law-enforcement nightmare" as Jack Benson put it on Wednesday night. So I don't think that this ordinance will work for anything - I feel like it will cause more problems, instead.

What is YOUR opinion on this one? Leave a comment and let us know!

Proposed Ordinance #1

Silly ordinance, it was agreed.
Manitou Springs City Council has proposed three(3) ordinances to the Soda Springs Park Safety Task Force. These ordinances are supposed to make the park safer for everyone, cut down on crime, etc. If the Task Force accepts any of the ordinances, it will then go to Council and they will vote during the next City Council Meeting. Here is the first ordinance that was proposed by Matt Carpenter (Mayor Pro-Tem, City Council Ward 3):






COUNCIL BILL NO. ____

ORDINANCE NO. ____

ORDINANCE AN ORDINANCE ESTABLISHING HOURS OF USE FOR THE CITY’S PUBLIC PARKS ______________

WHEREAS, the City Council understands the need to limit the hours of use of the City’s public parks; and

WHEREAS, limiting the hours of use of the City’s public parks is beneficial to the safety and welfare of the citizens of the City of Manitou Springs; and

WHEREAS, the City Council desires to revise the hours of use of the City’s public parks. NOW,

THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF MANITOU SPRINGS, COLORADO, THAT: Section 1: [Existing Code: 12.24.010 – Use of facilities—Hours prohibited. Use of playground equipment and other facilities in city parks is prohibited between the hours of eleven p.m. and six a.m. Strategy 1: Dusk to Dawn. (Dusk to Dawn has legal meaning and has been used for other ordinances.) Strategy 2: Summer Hours/Winter Hours.] Section 12.24.010 of the Manitou Springs Municipal Code is hereby repealed and re- enacted as follows: 12.24.010 – Use of facilities—Hours prohibited. Use of playground equipment and other facilities in city parks is prohibited between XXX and XXX [***from XXX to XXX and between XXX and XXX from XXX to XXX***]. Section 2: Section 3: If any article, section, paragraph, sentence, clause or phrase of the ordinance is held to be unconstitutional or invalid for any reason, such decision shall not affect the validity or constitutionality of the remaining portion of this ordinance. The City Council hereby declares that it would have passed this ordinance and each part or parts hereof irrespective of the fact that any one part or parts be declared unconstitutional or invalid. The repeal or modification of any provision of Manitou Springs Municipal Code by this ordinance shall not release, extinguish, alter, modify or change in whole or Section 4: in part any penalty, forfeiture or liability, either civil or criminal, which shall have been incurred under such provision. Each provision shall be treated and held as still remaining in force for the purpose of sustaining any and all proper actions, suits, proceedings and prosecutions for enforcement of the penalty, forfeiture or liability, as well as for the purpose of sustaining any judgment, decree or order which can or may be rendered, entered or made in such actions, suits, proceedings or prosecutions. This ordinance shall take effect five (5) days after final approval and adoption on second reading. Passed on First Reading and Ordered Published this XXX day of XXX, 2012. /s/ Donna Kast City Clerk A Public Hearing on this ordinance will be held at the XXX XXX, 2012 City Council meeting. The Council Meeting will be held at 7:00 P.M. at City Hall, 606 Manitou Avenue, Manitou Springs, Colorado. Ordinance Published: XXX, 2012 (in full). City’s Official Website and at City Hall
_________________________________________

All those X's, as well as the "Solutions" are because this is a rough draft. I know what you're probably thinking: "What will changing park hours do? People don't commit crime during certain hours, they will commit crime either during park hours or after park hours, so what will this fix?

We brought that up at the Soda Springs Park Safety Task Force Meeting on Wednesday and the ordinance was thrown out, after a lot of hemming and hawing.

So the park hours will remain as they are.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thoughts on Last Night's Task Force Meeting

The following document is considered the minutes from the Soda Springs Park Safety Task Force meeting.  I find it to be a little sparse for a meeting that lasted an hour and a half.  After the "minutes," I'm going to give my impressions of what is going on in Manitou Springs right now.

Soda Springs Task Force 4/11/12
5pm – opening, revisit of rules and expectations of the meeting, introductions

5:05 – Roger sets agenda for the evening (agenda printed)

5:10 – Ordinances introduced
- Park hours introduced by Matt Carpenter
- Use of Pavilion
- Smoking in pavilions or possibly city parks as a whole
  1. Park Hours
    1. Exact Time verses “Dusk to Dawn”
    2. Reasons for hours explained by Matt
      1. Park needs to be tied to the sound ordinance (7am to 10pm) (current hours are 6 to 11)
      2. People are sleeping in the park
      3. Thought process is to tie to noise ordinance or not do anything
      4. Remove this ordinance from recommendation, leave hours as is
  1. Facility Usage (a lot of discussion)
    1. 2 pavilions and 7 Minute gazebo
    2. Focus on stage area for “off-limits unless in use”
    3. Enforcement will bring up more complaints and use of force
    4. Put this off for discussion until next week.
  1. Smoking in the Park and/or Pavilion
    1. Could we have a designated smoking area at Soda Springs?
    2. Our purpose re-stated is to make the park the most enjoyable to the most people (Laurie)
    3. We are not here to pass ordinances but to make recommendations to the city council
    4. Laurie and Justin will get solid data on the effects of smoking for next meeting
    5. Recommendation to the city council for no smoking in city parks too be considered by city council and the public.
  1. For next week review environmental recommendations for next week. Printed and everyone has one.
Meeting closed at 6:30


To say this first, I apologize, on behalf of the people of Manitou Springs, Colorado, to Jack Benson and Roger Miller.  They are the newly appointed City Administrator and Chief Operating Officer of iManitou, and they are both very cool people.  They are highly qualified, motivated people who have the abilities and experience to help Manitou become the city that we all dream it to be.

I apologize because you have walked into a mess.  I would love to see what you guys could do if you were working with a cooler City Council.  I hate that your talents are being wasted on a crackdown in your early years.  I hope you'll stay with us into the future, and I hope you don't let a few bad apples spoil you on the whole bushel.  If we could revive democracy in this town and bring in a council that represents the spirit that this community is famous for, you two could help us navigate through the mazes that will still lie ahead.

Right now, there is a very bizarre movement happening in Manitou Springs.  This is, in itself, nothing new.  Manitou is full of bizarre movements, gyrations and other wacky activities.  That part of what the place is famous for, and it's part of why a lot of us love to live here.

This movement appears to be a targeted attempt to marginalize a very specific group of people and turn them into criminals.  It's not an attempt to coerce people into committing crimes.  It is an attempt to outlaw what is currently lawful, peaceful behavior.

I wish I could say I wonder what this is all for, but the writing is on the wall all around us.

We're a small city that is dealing with normal, cyclical problems that all small cities deal with.  The local hang out spot is under fire for a cycle of poor behavior.  This is nothing new in any city of this size, and it is something that always sorts itself out on a cultural level.

In our case, we've all learned to be a little more careful when discerning a "traveler" who is a bum and an actual traveler.  We've learned not to feed the bums, and we've learned to recognize people with histories of aggressive panhandling and harassment.  We've learned to give those characters the cold shoulder, and a lot of them have learned that they are not welcome here anymore.

We also learned how to help those who are struggling get back on their feet.  We got them jobs, got them homes, and got them away from the people who were bringing them down.  Some are now residents, and others still come back and visit the place that saved their lives. 

We all know that summer of 2011 was nowhere near as bummy as the summer of 2010.

We, the people of Manitou Springs, even people who don't know each other at all, ran out that crew of bums together.  Right now, there are none of them here.  We have a few schizophrenics that wander around, and a few elderly people with slight dementia who do the same.  That's all part of life.  It's written about in the histories of every ancient culture on earth, and it is going to be a part of the future.  We will neither medicate or arrest our way out of the onset of mental illness or age. Finding legal "tools" to run people out of town is not the answer.

Not rich, but hardly dangerous.
That brings me to what's troubling me.  I'm worried that a vocal minority is trying to run all of the poor people out of Manitou.  They'd like to see it be a bit more like Vail.  I am a long time resident of Manitou Springs, and I am one because it is affordable for working people to live here.  I always manage to make a decent living, but I don't manage to get rich doing the things I do.  The same goes for a lot of residents of Manitou Springs.

There shouldn't be a financial cut-off for who lives here, but certain developments in the near future are causing pressure to make that happen.  There are economic and legislative moves afoot that will criminalize poverty and make it very expensive to live here.

OK, public opinion question:  Who wants Manitou Avenue to look like the Lofts?  You know which ones I'm talking about.  The pink ones.  Across from the Townhouse.  Do you want this town to be like that?

Let's take a look a small part of this and see if you can see where I'm coming from.  The Cliff House has purchased the Wheeler House, and they are scheduled to essentially demolish it and convert it all into a luxury resort hotel.  Soda Springs Park will now be the front doorstep of the Cliff House.

Certain people feel that the culture of Soda Springs Park will seem unsightly to our (choose your own adjective) new guests.  Our newly appointed executives are more sensitive to local issues than our elected officials.  They are new, educated, impartial, and able to make their own decisions.  They are not entrenched in the Manitou power cliques, so they can see what's going on.  I bet that if their jobs weren't on the line for it, they'd say they see the same thing that I'm seeing.  No real consideration is being taken on the side of the council for the existing culture.    They are not mentioning the Cliff House deal, but instead fanning fear among small groups of vocal and influential people about a major crisis.

 There is no crisis.

The fact is, they are stoking fear about non-existent problems based on a few isolated incidents in order to push an agenda that has nothing to do with public safety.

This has to do with removing the "undesirables" before the rich people show up.

That makes Ptolemy sad.
They are attempting to criminalize sitting on the stage in Soda Springs Park.  This is absurd, and clearly a discriminatory policy targeting alternative hair and clothing styles.  They are attempting to criminalize smoking in all public parks.  Under the guise of safety, they will ban behaviors that are now legal because they know that they are behaviors of people they don't like.

I am not against the Cliff House, nor am I against their clientele.  People have the right to spend their money how they wish.  What I am against is the underhanded attempts by the Manitou Springs City Council's representatives to use fear as a tool to remove people they don't like from town.  I certainly hope the rest of City Council is not on the Matt Carpenter bandwagon, but I'm secretly afraid they are.  Mr. Carpenter likes to use bullying tactics in the public forums to prevent people from speaking.  He tries to silence "undesirable" comments through ad hominem attacks and rudeness.  He wants to intimidate or discredit all opinions that are not like his own, and then say, "The people have spoken."

Manitou Springs Street News will start recording as much of this as we can, so the citizens can see how this man behaves in office.  He invited surrogates to last night's meeting who also attempted to use rudeness to silence intelligent voices.

We don't want this, now, do we?  Or do we?
I have repeatedly heard laws be referred to as "tools" to be used against people they don't like.  Last night, we heard members of City Council ask the Police if it was OK to enforce the law only on certain people.  They don't say it directly, but they try to paint a subtle picture of who they deem arrest worthy.

They were talking about park hours, and what they wanted was to shorten the park hours, but only for certain people.  They were trying to find ways to get away with things that them or their friends might do while getting their targeted people arrested.  Legal for me, but not for you.  WHAAAT??

They were asking law enforcement to make holes in the law for themselves and their friends.

I applaud Mr. Benson, the City Administrator, for speaking some reason to these people when they refused to listen to my own.  He explained that this creates a law enforcement nightmare.  Arrests go up, reported crimes go up, and complaints go up, too.  Nothing is solved.  So what is the law for again?

I also applaud the Manitou Springs Police Department for their level of professionalism through all of this.  The city owes you guys an apology as well.  A lot of people do.  Sgt. Gillis explained how officer discretion works, and how no amount of pressure can make that logic go away.  They don't have time to be evaluating all of the little nuances that these people are asking for so that the targeted group can be arrested.  The Police Department is understaffed as it is.  We need to give these guys a break and deal with this in a civil manner.  There was a murder recently in this town, and I'm much more worried about a murderer than I am a skateboarder.

Sorry Jack, sorry Roger, that your first assignment was this debacle.  You two are solid people, and I hope your reputations are not stained by this.  I hope that you don't get stuck with "crack down" resumes and have to do this to people again.

On the lighter side, Summer Concert Series comin' up! And we don't mean the Little London Winds!





Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My Suggestions to the Soda Springs Park Safety Task Force.

Citizen Strategy Recommendations for Perennial Issues in Manitou Springs, CO.



First, admit that this is a town-wide issue.  We had a murder on El Paso, and we are constantly hearing about car break-ins on Crystal Park Blvd.  Incidence of crime is by no means centered around the park.

Second, understand that homeless and transient people are a symptom of the current economic conditions we all live in.  Local policies will not effect a national crisis unless they are policies that also help alleviate the true crisis:  poverty.  Criminalizing all signs of poverty and developing legal tools to banish the poor from town will not address the issue.

The main trouble that comes around Soda Springs Park and gives it a bad name is in the form of homeless, travelling youth.  Not all homeless youth are part of this problem.  Many are employed and clean-cut, and they blend well into the population.  At the same time, the culture of Manitou allows a person to be unkempt, so dirty clothes or greasy hair are not necessarily signs of homelessness.

This town has already criminalized homelessness to the fullest extent that it can.  A person can be arrested anywhere in city limits for sleeping, whether day or night, for camping.

This town has also already criminalized aggressive panhandling to the fullest extent it can. 

It is not in our best interests to criminalize poverty as well. 

What we are moving toward, in the public perception, is a criminalization of all activities except dining and shopping.  We see a series of economic moves being made that will drive all affordable housing out of Manitou, and we see these laws as a way to mop up any stragglers.

If all activity aside from shopping and dining are banned aside from government sanctioned events, what does that mean?

If the point is to curb the behavior of the "undesirables," who gets to decide who that is?

There are a lot of people that I see as undesirable, but I have no right to tell them they can't live here.  Neither does anyone else.

What we need is clearer communication between the city and its people about what we expect from life in our town.  That said, we also think the city needs to understand that whatever decisions are made here will inadvertently effect a large portion of the citizens of this town.

Matt Carpenter has said directly to me, "I have to deal with people like you, and citizens like this that I represent."

I am a citizen, as are all of the "people like me."  I have lived in or around Manitou for most of the last 24 years.  I spend money at local businesses every day.  There is a portion of my budget called "minimum daily spending" that is devoted entirely to local business.  This is something that a lot of "people like me" do.

 I'm not quite sure who it is he represents, and I know that people out here, even people who are not "like me," would like to know just who he represents.  We'd also like to know just what people are trying to stop here.

What we are going to do centers on a few simultaneous activities.  In order to crack down on something and actually succeed, you need to find positive outlets for some of the percieved problems.

ISSUE 1:  Crowds of young people at Manitou & Ruxton.



    Hold a daytime summer concert series highlighting local musicians and performers.  This will draw the crowd into the pavilion, and the formalized setting and amplified sound will help the tourists understand what is going on.

Public menace or cool scene created by a thriving business?  Almost every person here has a job.
 
    Post signs saying, "Take a hike!" with arrows pointing out some of the awesome trails near the park.  If the kids have a reminder of the beauty in the area, they will go take a walk.  The concerned crew at the park has already been promoting hiking to the kids again.  It is a great place to meet up for adventures, and we need to focus on that and bring it back.  The park really is a social hub, but the turf wars that resulted from the bum wave of 2007-2011 caused a lot of people to stick around the stage to make the bums feel unwelcome so they'd leave.  We're over that now, and we, the users of the park, have a desire to revive the cultural phenomena that had us fall in love with the place to begin with.

    We still feel that it is culturally beneficial to have people "holding it down" at the stage.  It creates a remarkably welcoming setting for people who are brave enough to say, " hello".  At the same time, it keeps the pulse of the town.  We get newsflashes every day just by coming down to the park.  The street news in the park covers everything from global and national politics, health food crazes, local politics and current events, and issues people have like weirdos and bums.

    It would be beneficial for the city to continue the liaison program that Roger Miller has pioneered.  By having such a direct line of communication with a civilian member of city government, we are able to hear the concerns of the city and brainstorm how to get through.  This conversation is the best interaction between a government and its people that I have seen or heard of, and it would be great for it to continue.

ISSUE 2:  Panhandling.



    What we generally do with panhandlers has a lot to do with our individual personalities.  The tendency to say, "Fuck off, bum, get a job!" is strong, but we need to be a little more straightforward when we handle them.  From now on, the central group of concerned citizens is going to actually have talks with the bums and tell them that you can't do that here.

We have a few homeowners that are setting up open-source gardening projects to help these people find constructive activities that require them to stay sober.  When we meet travelling kids who truly want to change their lives, we can bring them into open source gardening projects and test their mettle as workers while training them in marketable, rewarding skills that they can use in the future.

These open source gardening projects are connected with employers in the area, and we can help some of these troubled youths get jobs, houses, and try to beat their addicitons in the process. 

These projects do not pay money, and there's not much guarantee beyond an honest day's work and a full belly.  This helps them stay off the street and keeps them from buying booze.

ISSUE 3:  Obstruction



No Police contact, obvious and prolonged obstruction.
    Moving the benches in the pavilion was a wonderful start, and getting rid of the triangle planter is a great next step.  We do need to take a closer look at what is called "obstruction," though, and realize that just because someone is "undesirable" does not constitute a real obstruction.


    The sidewalk in front of Patsy's is constantly obstructed, yet the law is never enforced there.  I am not suggesting that we start to crack down on Patsy's, I am only suggesting that we be honest with ourselves.  No one has raised any major concerns, yet a true obstruction is present.  Likewise, the Custard Shop often has lines that stretch back to block the sidewalk on busy days, and it is followed immediately by the bottleneck in the sidewalk next to Shoshone spring.

    Remember what the sidewalks were like before they got redone?  This whole City should have gotten daily obstruction tickets for its design.

    We are aware of the concerns of business owners on Ruxton Avenue who feel that business on their street is adversely effected by people hanging out in front of the Mate Factor.  Take a look from a visitor's perspective, though, and you might see something else entrely.

People get ticketed for this, but these are "desirables."
    The drops in business on Ruxton Avenue coincide with the bum wave, but they also coincide with the renewal of the sidewalks throughout downtown.

    We now have a homogeneous "business district" look that stretches from City Hall to Ruxton Avenue.  At Ruxton, the "business district" look goes away.  When you head further west on the Ave or back up Ruxton, it looks to an outsider like the business district is over.  As the improvements continue to the end of the Ave and up Ruxton, business will rebound, and most likely surpass pre-2007 levels.

    This will also be tied to more domestic travel as we come out of the recession.  We've all got to admit that when the bubble burst in 2007-2008, everybody got pinched a little bit.  It took longer than some than it did for others, but soonder or later, we all got our chance to feel it.

    For some, the only way that they feel the recession is by seeing poor people.  This is unsightly to them, and the impulse is to take action to get this unpleasant fact of reality out of sight.  This can not work for longer than a short while.  As the global economy shifts away from oil, the United States is going to fall from its #1 position, and we are all going to feel a change of status.  Believe it or not, this is most likely going to happen in the next decade, and we will all be affected by it.

    One point to remember is that as long as we have a tourism centered economy, we will have panhandlers.  We should think about diversifying our economy, and there is a coalition of citizens working towards a sound proposal to bring forward to council.  We are envisioning a legislative framework that will enable us to move beyond oil and tourism, and we will bring this forward as the years go by.

    Many people feel as though obstruction is a discriminatory tool that is used to crack down on certain segments of the population.  We have photographic evidence of obstructions being committed by "desirables" that are not prosecuted,ticketed or even warned.  This includes people sitting on the bridge, standing in the roundabout, and even on hands and knees on the street.

    If an "undesirable" does any of these things, they are ticketed, searched, handcuffed, and oftentimes arrested.

    No one is above the law.  If these laws are to stand, they need to be enforced evenly.  If they are not to be enforced evenly, they need to be repealed.  Remember that as lawmakers, you have the equal power and responsibility to protect people's rights as you do to take them away.

ISSUE 4: Graffiti



    Let's look at this in a historical context.  If you register to climb and go up the rocks in the Garden of the Gods, you will find settler graffiti from the 1800's.    It is a piece of history.  It is a human impulse.

    If you go further back, you can see cave paintings done thousands of years ago.  They are archaeological treasures.  They were probably done by teenagers, and their parents were probably pissed.

    It's a human impulse, and it is not going away. 

    Let's find a way to work with it.  The stage stayed unvandalized for a very long time.  At that same time, the Mate Factor used to have a table that all of the graffiti ended up on.  That was destruction of property, but it worked.

    Let's have a few designated graffiti areas.  Post signs that say, "If you want to tag, do it over there"

    If people have a place that they are allowed to tag and they know it, that's where they're going to do it.  The contemporary graffiti artist understands the ephemeral nature of their work, and they know that it will be gone over. 

    As far as the specific incident involving orange spray paint and horrible vilgarity, let's admit that the park was closed, and so was the Mate Factor.  If the Mate was open, there would have been a cooperative, credible witness.

    If the park was open, someone would have seen it and possibly tried to stop it.

    Because it wasn't, no one knows who did it to this day.  There are rumors, but there are rumors about a lot of things in town.  That is hardly actionable intelligence.  If law abiding citizens were allowed to be around, they would have been able to point the finger.  People who hang out at the park were extremely angry.  We would love to know who did it, and we would love to see them brought to justice. 

    There is no code of silence.  If we see a true crime, we report it.  If we see activity that prude moralists disapprove of, however, we don't say anything.  Weirdness should not be punished.  Even if a certain somebody doesn't represent "people like that."

ISSUE 5:  Skateboarding & Bikes in the Pavilion



    This is something that people are starting to feel is a discriminatory policy.  It is similar to the obstruction issue in that it is only enforced against "undesirables".  We often times have mountain bikers come down from Williams' Canyon who ride through the pavilion at high speeds, and they are not ticketed, even if police are on foot patrol. 

The law doesn't say, "If you dress the right way."
    We have photos and videos of "desirables" riding bikes and skateboards in the pavilion with impunity, while "undesirables" can be ticketed for standing next to a skateboard.

    This is discrimination.  It is illegal.  There is no dress code, and no dress code can be enforced by binding law.  Using other "tools" to enforce the dress code is illegal.

    Breaking the law to get one's way is called crime.  There is a mountng body of evidence that systemic discrimination is happening, and we would like to reverse the tide instead of pressing the issues in courts.

    We recommend either evenly enforcing the law, whether or not a person is "desirable", or repealing or softening the law.  One proposition is to open limited bicycling and skateboarding in the pavilion, but to limit grinding and ollieing off the stage.  Another possibility is to develop a mini skate park in the mid town area.  The other skate park is too remote from downtown, and skaters who live in the city center WILL skate there.  If we give them a downtown spot, they will feel like they have a vested interest in the whole thing, and they will behave in a manner that will protect their new-found privilege.  Skateboarding is not a crime, but using a skateboard in a manner that destroys public property is.  We need to find this distinction, or we need to enforce the law equally.

    Again, no one is above the law.  I have had major issues with runners being rude and shoving people out of the way.  I do not want to see running banned, though.  This is the same as skateboarding or riding a bicycle.  If liability is the issue, though, I highly recommend a ban on long distance training.  There are so many marathon trainers at some point that I have a hard time walking down the street.  Some of them are exceedingly rude and condescending, and they hog the trails as though they are their own.

    You can see where this is headed.

    What is the difference?

This is a little long winded, no doubt, and I hope that you read through it enough to understand where this is all coming from.  The first couple meetings of the Task Force were held in violation of the law.  There are many other things that are happening that are violations of both state and federal law, and I think we need to step back from the brink.

We don't have a problem as much as we have a vocal minority with an agenda that does not include a good portion of the citizens of this town.

People have confused their square footage with their percentage of representation in our democracy.  I hope that some on council have the courage to consider everyone.  The number of single unit dwellings in five inner city blocks far outnumbers the number of single unit dwellings in Crystal Hills.  The people have not registered to vote because they were happy with how things are going.  This Task Force has raised more hackles than one might realize.

We all know how certain economic strategies in the right legislative framework can run all of the poor people out of Manitou. 

Keep in mind that you will be running the soul out as well.  The country club atmosphere is full of envy, backstabbing and mistrust.  Those people who you view as first-class citizens view you as second-class.  These economic and legislative moves will cause major demographic shifts, but when they're done, you will be the poor people.

They may consider you the "undesirables."  Using a ratcheting down effect, they  can use the precedents that you are setting now to run you out of town.

Living next door to a rich guy doesn't make you rich. 

Either way, they will be smug and condescending towards you, just a certain legislator is toward us.

As of now, we consider you "people like us".  We don't see a situation of "us" and "them".  It's just us here.  We really hope you can work with us so we can all stay here.

I don't mean saying, "We've all got to make sacrifices," while making policies to target certain people.  That is empty rhetoric, and while it is the neo conservative style these days, we, the "other" people of Manitou Springs, expect better from our elected officials.