Colorado Springs to vote on controversial Broadmoor land swap today

Corey Hutchins


NPR calls them “driveway moments”— when you’re listening to something so good you turn off your engine and wait in the driveway until the segment is over. That happened to me this weekend while listening to the monthly KRCC radio documentary “Wish We Were Here: Tales and Investigations from the Shadow of America’s Mountain” by Colorado Springs journalists Noel Black and Jake Brownell.

The program gave all sides a fair hearing on a controversial proposed deal between billionaire Phil Anschutz’ Broadmoor hotel and the City of Colorado Springs— a no-cash exchange for property that’s incited much public debate and frayed relations among the city’s open space advocates.

At the heart of the deal is a beautiful city-owned and city-neglected park called Strawberry Fields, which the Broadmoor wants for horse stables and other commercial use, and will swap for some nearby land it already owns. Supporters of the deal say the Broadmoor is a good corporate neighbor that will take better care of the park than the local city government and keep it open to the public. Opponents think a private takeover of the commons should get a vote from Colorado Springs residents or at least slow down for more public comment. For many in Colorado Springs, this is the first they’ve ever heard of this 189-acre “undeveloped piece of parkland at the southwestern corner of the city.”

The segment, titled “The Fight for Strawberry Fields” did more than create a driveway moment for me, though. It actually led me to go and check out Strawberry Fields, a fairly breathtaking public area about 10 minutes from downtown Colorado Springs. The segment also did a good job with framing, putting the proposed deal in the context of the city’s libertarian personality and historical penchant for relying on gazillioniare patrons — from General Palmer to Spencer Penrose to Phil Anschutz — whose private money made Colorado Springs what it is, and whether that’s the best philosophy going forward for a contemporary growing city.

The city council is set to vote on the land swap proposal today.

Below are some links to help get you up to speed on this deal:

The Denver Post on why this deal is causing outrage. The Colorado Springs Independent’s senior reporter Pam Zubeck’s April 27 cover story, “Philip Anschutz’s influence knows no bounds,” and her piece today about disclosure issues in an editorial on the land-swap in the Anschutz-owned daily newspaper The Gazette. The Sierra Club opposes the deal. Opponents make their final pitch. About appraisals of the propertyGazette editorial: “Public wins in city land trade with The Broadmoor.”

The Denver Post will no longer slow down your computer

This ever happen to you? All of a sudden midday your laptop starts slowing to a crawl, you get the spinning wheel of death and the little fans inside start whirring like trapped hummingbirds. Then it hits you: You forgot to close that last Denver Post tab as soon as you finished reading the story. Welp, Colorado’s largest newspaper has fixed its cluttered, ad vomit, auto-play video, circus-on-acid version of a website with a “faster, cleaner” site powered by WordPress.

One interesting tidbit in the paper’s own write-up on the transformation: More than half of readers come to the site from mobile devices.

USA Today mixes up Colorado and Wyoming on a map, and the Internet just can’t even

Last week, a USA Today story headlined “When Smuggling Colo. Pot, Not Even the Sky’s the Limit” came with a graphic of the United States with arrows leaping out of a western state to points all over the country. That state, however, was not Colorado. It was Wyoming. The designer made a mix up. And when Twitter found out, well, Twitter did what Twitter does.

“Apparently some of the smuggled pot made its way from Colorado to the good people at USA Today,” Tweeted Guitar Guy. “Mapmaker at @USATODAY must have been smoking too much when making this map,” tweeted another. A different reader pointed out the mapmaker also misspelled marijuana.

But this whole #facepalm also led to a local story for The Durango Herald, which tracked down the Natrona County District Attorney in Casper, Wyoming. “I saw that article, and I was wondering if they had the wrong state,” he told the newspaper. “Did they mean Colorado?”

Yeah. They did. Maybe “U.S. Americans” really do need more maps … “and such as“.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post had its own map with a different story about drugs (and booze), and highlighted the right state. But it’s not a good look for Colorado.

Did a local reporter here make “a punk-ass move”? No. Eyes rolling so hard

Marshall Zelinger of Denver7 is probably sick of me writing about him in this newsletter. He and Dave Burdick should have lunch! But, hey, at least I’m spelling his name right. This time. Anyway, Zelinger went on some guy’s talk radio show this week to discuss his recent investigative reporting on the forged signatures that helped a GOP U.S. Senate primary candidate get on the ballot. While he was on the show a radio host accused him of a “punk-ass move” (starts about 5:45). What did Zelinger do? He’d rung the doorbell of a statewide candidate for national office at 2:45 in the afternoon after multiple attempts at reaching the candidate and his campaign by phone and e-mail. A reporter going to the house of a statewide candidate for national office is “raw intimidation,” this radio host said. He called it “a line I haven’t seen other people cross.” Listen to the interview, though, and it’s pretty clear this radio host just didn’t like Zelinger going to a Republican’s door. He asks him a bunch of times if he’d do the same to Democrats, etc., etc.

Zelinger explains that the candidate in question got on the ballot by petition, which means his campaign paid a company to pay workers to go to the homes of voters, knock on their doors, and get them to sign petitions. But, “That’s total BS,” the radio host insisted. “That is so different than an investigative reporter coming to your house.”

There’s likely a constructive venue to discuss the journalistic ethics of a reporter going to the home of a statewide candidate for national office at 2:45 p.m. (if that’s even a serious question), but this talk radio show was not it.

The Zelinger story just keeps getting crazier, by the way. He finally tracked down the woman who signed those allegedly forged signatures and the name of the dead voter. His video and her reaction is here. Let’s just say there were some choice words and finger gestures for the reporter.

The Online News Association conference is coming to Denver this year

First it was the IRE-NICAR conference for investigative/computer-assisted reporting. Now it’s ONA that has decided to to hold its annual conference in Denver. The Online News Association recently announced about 70 percent of the schedule and a list of speakers for the conference being held Sept. 15-17 at the Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center. ONA is “the world’s largest association of digital journalists,” a membership organization whose mission is “to inspire innovation and excellence among journalists to better serve the public.”

What you missed on the Sunday front pages across Colorado

Did you spend Sunday in waders looking for the elusive pure greenback cutthroat trout and miss what stories made the front pages of Colorado newspapers? Well, here’s your weekly roundup:

The Colorado Springs Gazette ran a front-page feature on the brutal reality of El Paso County not having enough homeless shelter beds in the summertime. Headlined “Behind The Times,” The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel published a piece about textbooks and resources in a local school district being “long overdue for an update.” The Longmont Times-Call had a story about Faith Baptist School (est. 1971) closing because of low enrollment and funding. The Loveland Reporter-Herald localized the rising opiate/opiod epidemic by kicking off a series on the topic. A Fort Collins Coloradoan cover story asked if a proposed county detox center could have prevented a throat slitting. Steamboat Today found a new battleground in Colorado: resistance from mountain town residents to leash laws. In “Push to Shush,” The Boulder Daily Camera ran a piece about mitigating local train noise. With “Taking Justice to Heart,” The Durango Herald ran a feature on schools integrating restorative justice instead of punitive discipline for students. Vail Daily had a story about local graduations featuring, of course, a photo of a valedictorian speech being given in a pair of sunglasses.  A story about a local high schooler winning a state title in a foot race took up the full front page of The Aspen Times. And The Denver Post had an A1 story about what’s missing in Denver sheriff’s department reforms.

POLITICO discovers Denver

POLITICO magazine ran two big stories with a Denver dateline this week. One was a freelance piece by Denver Post City Hall reporter Jon Murray about what the legalized marijuana industry has meant for the poor and minority neighborhoods of Denver. The other, headlined “The Train that Saved Denver,” by contributing editor Colin Woodard of Maine, was about Denver’s light rail network, which used “an unprecedented public-private partnership that combines private funding, local tax dollars and federal grants” in order to do “something no other major metro area has accomplished in the past decade, though a number of cities have tried.”

Notes from a week on the political beat from the nonprofit newsroom The Colorado Independent

This week I wondered what county Republican Party chairs across Colorado were making of their messy U.S. Senate primary, so I called a bunch of them and got quite a candid earful. My colleague Marianne Goodland reported on why Colorado’s education commissioner quit after just a few months on the job. Editor Susan Greene had an illuminating piece about one Douglas County family fleeing “Big Brother” school reforms. I wrote about why Colorado’s largest labor group won’t endorse Democrat Michael Bennet for U.S. Senate. Goodland broke the news of excessive campaign contributionsin the U.S. Senate race. Exclusive reporting by The Colorado Independent on Bernie Sanders and Michael Bennet also made it into the UK Guardian this week in a story about how Colorado’s universal healthcare ballot measure is dividing Democrats.

Boulder Weekly calls out “underreporting” of oil-and-gas industry protests

Saying the state’s media underreported or neglected to report on two protests of oil-and-gas interests this week that the paper reported as an evolution toward civil disobedience by anti-fracking community rights activists, Boulder Weekly ran a photo essay of what happened at each.

From the alt-weekly:

Last week, there were two separate actions in Colorado that confirmed this evolution in the movement: one at a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oil and gas lease auction at a Holiday Inn in Lakewood; the other at the proposed site of one of the state’s largest drilling and production operations to date, which is located near Silver Creek Elementary School in Thornton.

The BLM protest on May 12 received a small amount of press coverage. The all-day protest in Thornton on May 14, which included an unpermitted makeshift anti-fracking festival on open space with speakers ranging from author and co-founder Bill McKibben to rapper Jonny 5 of the Flobots and Rep. Joe Salazar (D-Thornton), did not receive any news coverage. This despite the protest culminating in the takeover of the well site after the warnings of 15 police officers dispatched to the location.

Apparently, there were just too many oil-and-gas-are-good-for-you commercials on TV that day for local stations to squeeze in coverage of one of the state’s biggest news stories. The Post and the state’s other chain-owned newspapers were also apparently too busy to send a reporter.

“This underreporting is why Boulder Weekly felt compelled to provide our readers with a photo essay of these two important events,” the paper reported. “We believe they mark a turning point in the battle over oil and gas extraction in the state of Colorado. Civil disobedience now appears to be at the core of the anti-fracking movement, and with the recent Supreme Court ruling, we believe it will likely remain there well into the future.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Should court documents in our state be free on public library computers?

There is only one place in Colorado— the state Supreme Court’s law library in downtown Denver— where someone who is not a lawyer can “look at digital images of civil court documents on file anywhere in the state,” according to Jeffrey Roberts of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

From a recent item by Roberts:

Attorneys who subscribe to [Integrated Colorado Courts E-Filing System] can look up civil court documents on their laptops, but you can’t. You certainly can’t get them on your phone, either. And even though many courthouses around the state have public terminals, those only let you call up civil filings from that particular district. Say you want to look at criminal court documents. You can’t. Not on the terminals at the Supreme Court’s law library, nor on your computer. Not unless the documents concern a high-profile matter like the Aurora theater shooting and the court has elected to post documents on its “cases of interest” web page.

A Colorado lawyer is trying to change this, though, arguing to the Colorado Judicial Branch’s Public Access Committee that anyone should be able to look at Colorado court files for free on computers in Colorado’s public libraries.

One Colorado librarian I spoke with about this says she periodically gets requests from library patrons for these types of documents, which are difficult and expensive to obtain. “I also think there is going to be a greater need for more access to legal resources across the board as the number of people representing themselves in court increases,” she told me.

In a 2014 report on civil legal needs titled “Justice Crisis in Colorado,” one of the findings was that more than 50 percent of all civil litigants here represent themselves in court without a lawyer. That percentage jumps to 76 percent in domestic relations cases.

Now for some news on the local media front from CJR’s United States Project

My colleague Trudy Lieberman wrote about why one local newspaper launched an online section for older readers. Jackie Spinner wrote about how an open data advocate in Chicago is influencing the discussion about the city’s public schools. Susannah Nesmith profiles a newspaper veteran who retuned to journalism at a public radio station. And Deron Lee explains how a reporter’s scoop led to a change in Kansas open records laws.

*This roundup appears a little differently as a published version of a weekly e-mailed newsletter about Colorado local news and media. If you’d like to add your e-mail address for the unabridged versions, please subscribe HERE