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!


  1. Some of us tolerant and understanding folks notice this and think... Fascism?

    1. This is what we get when we let other people decide who runs the city we live in. A small handful of people raise candidates to further their narrow agendas, and the rest of us are too busy worrying how we're going to make ends meet to do anything about it. The majority of the population of this town is not even registered to vote.

      We need to stop letting this happen. If you're not registered to vote, but you already have a driver's license, google colorado voter registration, and it should be the first result.

  2. I think it is an excellent idea to encourage voting.You have to use the system that is being used against you in order to gain control.

    1. I don't think anyone needs to gain control. I think it is more important to give the wider community a political voice right now, and to bridge the miscommunication between generations.

      I just think we need to stop the people who are controlling it right now.