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Bringing the Thunder

csu“Pack Attack! We are the Thunderwolves! Always ready to fight, we’ve got you in our sight. We’re on the loose, we’re on the prowl! You better watch out, here us howl! Thunderwolves are a pack! Lightning strikes, we attack! HOWL! Go, fight win!” The chant that that the CSU-Pueblo Thunderwolves Marching Band and crowd members roar as their hometown football team courses up and down the football field; this is the chant of a team who finished with a perfect 11-0 record, and climbed as high as first place in NCAA Division II football. Feats like this are unimaginable for many teams, but the 2011 football season brought an air of change to the CSU-Pueblo campus for football fans, faculty, administration, and students alike.

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Now that the team touts its undefeated Division II record, football fans can be sure that Head Defense Coordinator, Coach Hunter Hughes, feels the rush of the whirlwind that accompanied the rise to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championship Game. When I spoke with Coach Hughes, he said a lot of the success over the past few weeks is owed to the initial core of this year’s graduating seniors. “They’ve really excelled in bringing the team together and keeping it close-knit,” says Coach Hughes of the four-year football veterans.

This is the first set of four-year football players that the program will see graduate, and Hughes knows that with this change comes an uncertainty about the future of the team, but he combats this by saying, “We’ve got a great group of student athletes that’ll come in and take over the reins.” Coach Hughes shares the vision with so many who support the football program and says that one of the most important aspects of a CSU-Pueblo football team member is that of character. Hughes remarks, “It’s one of the first things that I look for when I recruit. I can teach the plays on the field, but I can’t teach character.” The program has generated an increasing amount of respect over the past few years, and Hughes works to remind the community that “there’s something good going on up here, and it isn’t all just football…it’s only going to get better.”

Director of Athletics, Joe Folda, who’s been with the university for the past twenty-five years, serving eighteen of those years as the Head Coach of the Men’s Basketball team, echoes Coach Hughes’ words of support by stating, “I’m biased to our football staff…I think they do a great job with our kids. I would say that’s something that’s a cut above some of the schools in our region, if not all of them.” Talking with Folda it’s obvious he feels that good sportsmanship is key to the success that the team has increasingly experienced over the past three years, and he says that one of his goals as the team progresses isn’t necessarily a competitive one. What remains important to him, trophies or not, is that the community and the University “continue to see our kids compete as they have…they’ve come out and competed in a first-class way.”

Folda comments that had players probably “wouldn’t have received the tremendous fan support and excitement around the football program had they played elsewhere [in our region].” Folda shares that “sustaining that [momentum] over the next four or five years” will allow CSU-Pueblo to continue to celebrate the already-lofty standards that the team has set for itself. He remarks, “One of our goals was to establish ourselves as one of the top D[ivision] II schools in the country,” and with an undefeated winning streak, the Thunderwolves did just that.

These feelings of pride and support don’t stop with the staff and administration. Freshman Music Education major, Siana Bobst, represents the pride and excitement that backs the team every time they take the field. As a member of the Thunderwolf Marching Band, Bobst states that the members “bleed colors… we bleed the red and the blue.” The band acts as an integral part of the support for the team, playing pep songs like “Rockin’ Robin,” “Hey Baby,” and “Soak Up the Sun” to pump up the patrons and to drive the football players’ spirits throughout the game. Bobst makes “a point to congratulate and thank players both on and off the field. I feel like with [the team] being a dimension of the school’s face, they’ll bring in a lot of incoming freshmen…we’ve won the RMAC, we’re still undefeated…parents and kids are watching that.” Bobst, like many other students, finds a lot of pride in her school. “I’m proud to be a Thunderwolf,” she says with a smile.

The University has transitioned from a largely commuter school to one that now houses a top-of-the-line recreation center and sports arena opened in 2008, three recently-constructed residence halls as of 2010, and a state-of-the-art Library and Academic Resources Center remodeled in 2011. The beautification and improvement of the campus ushered in a spike in enrollment in 2009 – the largest spike that the University had seen in twenty-five years.

With all of this talk of enrollment increase, campus improvement, and enthusiasm over the prospects for the upcoming years at CSU-Pueblo, the Friends of Football took a chance when they saw the possibility for success in a return of the CSU-Pueblo football program that had been absent from the campus for twenty-three years. The booster group that raised $13.6 million dollars to bring football back to the University and to build the existing facilities celebrated with the inaugural home game in the Neta and Eddie DeRose Thunderbowl Stadium on September 6, 2008, and is surely celebrating the great accomplishments of the hometown team today.

This has been a legendary season for the Thunderwolves, who made greater strides than ever before in the history of CSU-Pueblo football. Such an accomplishment makes it a big deal for a football community like Pueblo. Bridging the gap between Pueblo and “the school on the hill” makes a huge impact on the strength of the community and creates an atmosphere of camaraderie and excitement amongst the students and football fans that can’t be found anywhere else other than Pueblo.

In just the short time that the team has returned to campus, the players, fans, coaches, students, and supporters alike have cultivated a sense of support and spirit that had been absent from the campus for too long. The difference being that this year, the spirit has grown stronger and will continue to do so. It is through their hard work, strength, dedication, and perseverance that the coaches, players, and supporters reach the top tier of excellence that is second-to-none in the Southern Colorado region. All that’s left to do is to continue to show Colorado and the nation who the Thunderwolves are. We are the never-fearing Pack!

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The #WhatNow of #MeToo for the #COLeg

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AP Photo/David Zalubowski

When several lawmakers, lobbyists and staff at the state Legislature came forward this fall to allege they were victims of sexual harassment by lawmakers, two big questions followed: how often does this happen? What can be done to prevent more cases?

Reporters have asked state officials the first question repeatedly, returning to readers with little response from the state. The latter prompted a conversation from leadership, but as for what’s next—how the allegations, formal complaints, and legislature’s response—will impact politics under the gold dome and whether women will feel any safer is to be determined.

So far, top state lawmakers have decided to hire a human resources officer—who would be independent from the legislature—to be a contact person when incidents involving sexual harassment are brought forward. Now, leadership is tasked with handling and investigating such claims.

The group also decided to hire an independent consultant to review the legislature’s sexual harassment policy, and lawmakers, staff, and aides will undergo another round of sexual harassment training this year. Typically, those working at the Legislature are only required to go through training every two years.

Those changes are a good start, said Erin Hottenstein, executive director of Colorado 50/50, an organization that aims to get more women in public office. But the legislature stopped short of changing any current policies. And Colorado 50/50 called for an entire overhaul.

“I’m very pleased that there was a recognition that the policy needs to be improved,” Hottenstein said.

But there weren’t any specific recommendations regarding transparency, which Hottenstein said is significant in looking at what happens next.

Lawmakers and staff said they couldn’t disclose how many sexual harassment claims that leadership in each chamber have received because they were personnel issues.

“I think there’s a way to be transparent and safe,” Hottenstein said. “There should be a high- level summary document that shows on a certain date a sexual harassment complaint was made and who it was against and a date of a deposition and what the result was.”

Hottenstein said transparency becomes crucial in these cases because it leads to accountability and the public’s right to know what actions the people elected to office are taking.

In October, Pueblo Rep. Daneya Esgar broke her silence posting on Facebook that she was no stranger to sexual harassment and experienced it just a week earlier with a colleague she works with regularly as a lawmaker. The post was part of the #MeToo movement after a New York Times expose highlighted the stories of several women who said they’d been sexually harassed or assaulted by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Then, a flood of other allegations were brought to the surface in Colorado politics. Rep. Faith Winter said fellow House member Steve Lebsock had harassed her at a legislative party in 2016. Winter and a lobbyist say they filed formal complaints against Lebsock.

An intern said Sen. Randy Baumgardner harassed her with sexually suggestive comments. The same went for Sen. Jack Tate of Centennial, who was accused of telling an intern that if she wanted to get ahead in her career, he could help.

Rep. Paul Rosenthal, who is openly gay, allegedly groped a man and used his seat to try and get a date with another.

But the case between Lebsock and Winter gained the most attention, even prompting Lebsock to take a polygraph test, which the administrator says he passed, to prove his innocence. Lebsock has hinted that the entire incident may be a case of dirty politics, alleging that Winter is the one lying.

When several lawmakers were asked if the case would mean a splintered Democratic party in the House, they were unsure, but optimistic about the session.

Still, there haven’t been any resignations over the allegations, though several, including leadership and editorial boards from across the state, said these legislators should step down from their seat. Some even called for House Speaker Crisanta Duran to step down from her position because she promoted Lebsock to a chairmanship despite knowing there was an incident between him and Winter.

The transparency piece has yet to be addressed by state lawmakers, and it’s unclear whether any policy or legislative changes will address that in the coming months. But for what it’s worth, the women who have broken their silence about sexual harassment in the Legislature are supportive of the changes leadership has discussed.

“I’m encouraged to see the direction leadership is taking when it comes to developing new and independent methods of dealing with complaints of sexual harassment at the Capitol,” said Esgar, who still hasn’t named the colleague she said grabbed her thigh at a legislative event earlier this year. “I’m hopeful that new ideas are still being formulated and considered, when it comes to ways to change the culture itself.”

The lawmaker added that a new session will certainly mean new ideas will come to light, “it’s our responsibility to lead the state in changing cultures to help make work environments safe and productive for all employees on every level.”

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20 cities primed on the Amazon wishlist to be its next HQ

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NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon’s second home could be in an already tech-heavy city, such as Boston, New York or Austin, Texas. Or it could be in the Midwest, say, Indianapolis or Columbus, Ohio. Or the company could go outside the U.S. altogether and set up shop in Toronto.

Those six locations, as well as 14 others, made it onto Amazon’s not-so-short shortlist Thursday of places under consideration for the online retailing giant’s second headquarters.

The 20 picks, narrowed down from 238 proposals, are concentrated mostly in the East and the Midwest and include several of the biggest metro areas in the country, such as Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles, the only West Coast city on the list.

The Seattle-based company set off fierce competition last fall when it announced that it was looking for a second home, promising 50,000 jobs and construction spending of more than $5 billion. Many cities drew up elaborate presentations that included rich financial incentives.

The list of finalists highlights a key challenge facing the U.S. economy: Jobs and economic growth are increasingly concentrated in a few large metro areas, mostly on the East and West Coasts and a few places in between, such as Texas.

Nearly all the cities on Amazon’s list already have growing economies, low unemployment and highly educated populations.

“Amazon has picked a bunch of winners,” said Richard Florida, an economic development expert and professor at the University of Toronto who helped develop that city’s bid. “It really reflects winner-take-all urbanism.”

Among those that didn’t make the cut were Detroit, a disappointment for those excited about progress since the city came out of bankruptcy, and Memphis, Tennessee, where the mayor said the city gave it its “best shot.” San Diego also failed to advance.

“Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough,” said Holly Sullivan, who oversees Amazon’s public policy. “All the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity.”

Amazon said it will make a final selection sometime this year.

Besides Austin, another Texas city made the cut: Dallas. In the South, Miami and Atlanta are being considered.

Officials in cities that made the shortlist took the opportunity to further tout their locations, with Philadelphia’s mayor noting “all that Philadelphia has to offer” and officials in and around Pittsburgh citing the region’s “world-class talent pool” and other advantages.

Other contenders among the 20 include Denver; Montgomery County, Maryland; Nashville, Tennessee; Newark, New Jersey; Northern Virginia; and Raleigh, North Carolina.

“It’s a long list for a shortlist,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at job site Indeed.

He said Amazon may use the list to pit the locations against each other and get better tax breaks or other incentives. Two metro areas, New York and Washington, have more than one location on the list, increasing the competition there, he said.

“It’s hard to say whether all these places are in play or Amazon wanted to encourage continued competition,” Kolko said.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether locations would be able to change their proposals or offer better incentives, but said in a statement that it will “work with each of the candidate locations to dive deeper into their proposals.”

State and local governments played up the amenities they think make their locations the best choice. Some pulled off stunts to stand out, such as New York, which lit the Empire State Building in Amazon orange.

Some gimmicks didn’t work: Tucson, Arizona, which sent a 21-foot cactus to Seattle, did not make the list. Neither did Birmingham, Alabama, which installed giant replicas of Amazon’s Dash buttons.

The company had stipulated that it wanted to be near a metropolitan area with more than 1 million people, and nearly all of those on the shortlist have a metro population of at least double that.

Amazon also wanted to be able to attract top technical talent; be within 45 minutes of an international airport; have direct access to mass transit; and be able to expand the headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade.

But Amazon also made it very clear it wanted tax breaks, grants and any other incentives.

Boston’s offer includes $75 million for affordable housing for Amazon employees and others. Before leaving office Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie approved a measure to allow New Jersey to offer up to $5 billion to Amazon. Newark is also proposing $2 billion in tax breaks.

But many of the state and local governments competing for the headquarters have refused to disclose the financial incentives they offered. Of the 20 finalists, 13, including New York, Chicago and Miami, declined requests from The Associated Press to release their applications. Toronto’s mayor said Thursday that the city offered no financial incentives to woo Amazon.

Several said they don’t want their competitors to know what they’re offering, a stance that open-government advocates criticized.

Amazon plans to remain in its sprawling Seattle headquarters, and the second home base will be “a full equal” to it, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has said.

The extra space will give the rapidly growing company room to spread out. It had nearly 542,000 employees at the end of September, a 77 percent jump from the year before. Some of that growth came from Amazon’s nearly $14 billion acquisition last year of the Whole Foods grocery chain and its 89,000 employees.

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Associated Press writers Josh Cornfield in Philadelphia, Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island, and Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report. Rugaber contributed from Washington.

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Tourism still booms in Cuba but Trump’s tougher stance hurting private entrepreneurs

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HAVANA (AP) — On a sweltering early summer afternoon in Miami’s Little Havana, President Donald Trump told a cheering Cuban-American crowd that he was rolling back some of Barack Obama’s opening to Cuba in order to starve the island’s military-run economy of U.S. tourism dollars and ratchet up pressure for regime change.

That doesn’t appear to be happening. Travel to Cuba is booming from dozens of countries, including the U.S. And the tourism dollars from big-spending Americans seem to be heading into Cuba’s state sector and away from private business, according to Cuban state figures, experts and private business people themselves.

The government figures show that 2017 was a record year for tourism, with 4.7 million visitors pumping more than $3 billion into the island’s otherwise struggling economy. The number of American travelers rose to 619,000, more than six times the pre-Obama level. But amid the boom — an 18 percent increase over 2016 — owners of private restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts are reporting a sharp drop-off.

“There was an explosion of tourists in the months after President Obama’s detente announcement. They were everywhere!” said Rodolfo Morales, a retired government worker who rents two rooms in his home for about $30 a night. “Since then, it’s fallen off.”

The ultimate destination of American tourism spending in Cuba seems an obscure data point, but it’s highly relevant to a decades-old goal of American foreign policy — encouraging change in Cuba’s single-party, centrally planned system. For more than 50 years, Washington sought to strangle nearly all trade with the island in hopes of spurring economic collapse. Obama changed that policy to one of promoting engagement as a way of strengthening a Cuban private sector that could grow into a middle class empowered to demand reform.

Cuba’s tourism boom began shortly after Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced in December 2014 that their countries would re-establish diplomatic relations and move toward normalization. U.S. cruise ships began docking in the Bay of Havana and U.S. airlines started regular flights to cities across the island. Overall tourism last year was up 56 percent over Cuba’s roughly 3 million visitors in 2014.

While the U.S. prohibits tourism to Cuba, Americans can travel here for specially designated purposes like religious activity or the vaguely defined category of “people-to-people” cultural interaction.

Obama allowed individuals to participate in “people-to-people” activities outside official tour groups. Hundreds of thousands of Americans responded by designing their own Cuban vacations without fear of government penalties. Since Cuba largely steers tour groups to government-run facilities, Americans traveling on their own became a vital market for the island’s private entrepreneurs, hotly desired for their free spending, heavy tipping and a desire to see a “real” Cuba beyond all-inclusive beach resorts and quick stops on tour buses. The surge helped travel-related businesses maintain their role as by far the most successful players in Cuba’s small but growing private sector.

Trump’s new policy re-imposed the required for “people-to-people” travel to take place only in tour groups, which depend largely on Cuban government transportation and guides.

As a result, many private business people are seeing so many fewer Americans that it feels like their numbers are dropping, even though the statistics say otherwise.

“Tourism has grown in Cuba, with the exception of American tourism,” said Nelson Lopez, a private tour guide. “But I’m sure that sometime soon they’ll be back.”

While Trump’s new rules didn’t take effect until November, their announcement in June led to an almost immediate slackening in business from individual Americans, many Cuban entrepreneurs say. The situation was worsened by Hurricane Irma striking Cuba’s northern coast in September and by a Cuban government freeze on new licenses for businesses including restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts. Cuban officials say the freeze was needed to control tax evasion, purchase of stolen state goods and other illegality in the private sector, but it’s had the effect of further restricting private-sector activity in the wake of Trump’s policy change.

Cuban state tourism officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump’s policy changes did not touch flights or cruise ships. Jose Luis Perello, a tourism expert at the University of Havana, said more than 541,000 cruise ship passengers visited Cuba in 2017, compared with 184,000 the previous year. Even as entrepreneurs see fewer American clients, many of those cruise passengers are coming from the United States, he said.

Yunaika Estanque, who runs a three-room bed-and-breakfast overlooking the Bay of Havana, says she has been able to weather a sharp drop in American guests because a British tour agency still sends her clients, but things still aren’t good.

“Without a doubt our best year was 2016, before the Trump presidency,” she said. “I’ve been talking with other bed-and-breakfast owners and they’re in bad shape.”

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