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Room to grow

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When construction crews first broke ground on the modern campus of Colorado State University-Pueblo in 1964, they unknowingly started a tradition of expansion that would span the length of a half-century. In nearly every decade since then, the campus has undergone some form of growth.

The university’s newest projects, which include construction of a general classroom building, renovation of the Occhiato University Center and the addition of a soccer and lacrosse complex, are on their way to become a new generation’s contribution to an evolving campus.

But the similarities among these buildings, which are slated to be complete within a few years of each other, are limited to their generational ties. Among funding, maintenance and design, the structures all have a significant set of differences.

The general classroom building will be the first of the three major projects to be finished. The building, which is set to be complete in July, will begin welcoming classes in the fall 2015 semester.

“Right now, it’s about 80 percent complete. They are putting carpet, paint and still doing mechanical, electrical work. But the building is closed in. The exterior is done and they’re doing the site work,” said John Barnosky, director of planning and construction at CSU-Pueblo.

The building, which cost approximately $16.1 million to build, was financed by the Colorado state capital construction fund as an academic building. The university secured this funding after a proposal to the capital development committee was approved.

Capital construction funds only apply to individual projects and according to a university fact sheet, “capital construction appropriations cannot be used for day-to-day operations of the campus.”

“These funds can’t be used for anything but what they’re designated for, by statute,” Barnosky said.

So, basically, that $16.1 million could never have any other purpose but the construction of a new academic building. In the midst of the budget crisis at the university last year, many were left asking why some projects, such as the new building, were moving forward when positions were being cut. The simple answer is this: that money couldn’t have been used for any other purpose.

But, once the new building is up and running it’s up to the physical plant, CSU-Pueblo’s maintenance department, to maintain it as required by the state.

One of the university’s last steps for the general classroom building will be to submit points to the U.S. Green Building Council to see if it qualifies as a LEED Gold building.

“They did a nice job, I will say, on the classroom building. It looks like it belongs here on the campus.” – John Barnosky, director of planning and construction at CSU-Pueblo

“It will take a few months before we know if we’re awarded the points, but the design team is tracking the points and it looks like we’re good for gold,” Barnosky said.

Another ongoing campus project is the soccer and lacrosse building, which was started in April 2014.

The building, along with improvements to the adjacent soccer and lacrosse field, was funded completely by donations from the CSU-Pueblo Foundation’s On the Move campaign. The project cost $2.5 million.

In addition to the funding, local construction companies have donated supplies to help build the structure.

“Some of the major donors that donated material are Summit Brick Company from Pueblo, TNT Electric from Pueblo, KR Swerdfeger Construction from Pueblo and there are many others,” Barnosky said.

The physical plant will also be required to maintain that building once it is completed.

But perhaps the university’s most pressing construction project is renovation of the Occhiato University Center, which was first added to the campus in 1974.

Since it was constructed, the building has only seen minor improvements, all of which were intended to maintain the building, not add to it.

Renovation of the 41-year-old building will be much more complicated than the university’s two other major projects.

“The library and the OUC both have existing asbestos that has to be abated in the materials. It’s not dangerous in its place, but it has to be removed so it isn’t disturbed during the renovation,” Barnosky said. “So, that’s another complication in terms of cost and time that a new building doesn’t have.”

The university center is home to several university offices, a ballroom, the school’s cafeteria and the student health center, as well as many meeting rooms.

“It’s also more complex to relocate places from the existing building while it’s being renovated because you can’t do the abatement or new construction while there are people in there,” Barnosky said.

The renovation, which will cost approximately $30 million, is funded by part of a facility fee that is paid every year by CSU-Pueblo students.

“This amounts to enough facility fee every year to account for a $30 million bond issue, which is the way the OUC is being funded,” Barnosky said. “So, that facility fee that the student government voted on almost four years ago is the major component that provides the major revenue stream to pay off the bonds.”

The CSU-Pueblo Foundation will also be contributing funds to help construct a 200-seat theater in the OUC. While the amount of the donation is still being determined, it will remain separate from $30 million in student facility fees.

Since the OUC is not funded by the state, it exists as a private entity.

“It has to make enough money to operate and create its own revenue. It receives no state money. So, they’re just like a private business out there that has to contract for all the services they need,” Barnosky said.

The 40,000-square-foot building will have two auditoriums that each seat 135 students, six classrooms that will seat 50-75 students, a technology lab, coffee shop and lounge areas. Photo by Dustin Cox

The 40,000-square-foot building will have two auditoriums that each seat 135 students, six classrooms that will seat 50-75 students, a technology lab, coffee shop and lounge areas. Photo by Dustin Cox

So, while the physical plant is not required by the state to maintain the building, it does so on a contract basis. The OUC hires the physical plant to take care of its maintenance, just like a private company would.

“It’s more efficient generally,” Barnosky said. “And then the standards of maintenance and custodial meet the same standards that we have for the academic buildings.”

While the construction process for all of the new projects has been quite different, the buildings are at least required to look the same.

An emphasis on the architecture styles Brutalism and International Style is responsible for the modern appearance of CSU-Pueblo.

Brutalism, which was introduced to the architecture world in mid-1960s, uses boxy concrete shapes to create a harsh, minimalist facade.

International Style was developed in the 1920s, but became more popular in the 60s. It focuses largely on clean geometric shapes that lack any sense of ornamentation.

According to a May 1963 issue of the former campus newspaper, The Arrow, the campus was “in a position to become one of the few colleges in the nation that could be planned with a single architecture style.”

As new facilities are built, CSU-Pueblo’s design review team is tasked with making sure all current design plans stay consistent with those of the past.

The review team, which was mandated by the CSU System Board of Governors to ensure a uniform design, consists of three private sector architects, three private sector planners and Barnosky, who represents the university.

“They did a nice job, I will say, on the classroom building. It looks like it belongs here on the campus,” he said.

The general classroom building will also have an art display, a requirement of the state capital construction fund.

“On the state-funded buildings, we are required to spend 1 percent of the state funds for art in public places,” Barnosky said. “And we will have about $117,000 worth of art, which is selected by a jury.”

As crews wrap up construction on the general classroom building, the renovation of the OUC and completion of the soccer and lacrosse building will become the university’s next priority in terms of construction.

The OUC is required to follow the same design standards as the rest of the academic buildings on campus. Barnosky said the review team is currently in the process ensuring consistency in the building’s early designs.

The soccer and lacrosse building, which belongs to the athletic sector of campus, is required to comply with a separate set of design standards.

“It also complies with the design standards for the athletic and recreation sector down there, like the football building and the baseball complex,” Barnosky said.

Decades from now, this generation’s construction projects will blend with those of the past. But for now, the buildings are distinct tools in following a tradition of growing a campus half a century old.

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Push to legalize marijuana upends governor’s race in New Mexico

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Apodaca on Thursday called for the expansion of New Mexico’s medical marijuana program and for legalization of recreational use, saying the poverty-stricken state is missing out on millions of dollars in tax revenues and jobs that could be spurred by the industry.

Apodaca released his plan solidifying his position as a supporter of legalization as the race for governor heats up.

Apodaca pointed to New Mexico’s history as the first state to allow for research and experimentation with marijuana as a therapeutic drug. It was his father, then-Gov. Jerry Apodaca, who signed that legislation in 1978.

The research program stalled and it wasn’t until 2008 that New Mexico rolled out its medical cannabis program.

“Why are we shooting for being the last to legalize cannabis for adult use?” Apodaca said.

The push for legalization comes as New Mexico’s medical marijuana program has grown exponentially in just the last two years. Producers licensed under the program reported record sales of more than $86 million in 2017 and the number of patients enrolled now tops 50,000.

“We know the medical benefits of it. And we also know the opportunities of legalization for adult use,” Apodaca said, suggesting expansion of the long-standing medical marijuana program along with legalization could result in an estimated $200 million of additional tax revenues for the state.

The state’s largest producer, Ultra Health, announced that it has acquired farmland in southern New Mexico and has plans for what the industry says could be the largest cultivation facility in North America.

The property spans nearly one-third of a square mile (81 hectares) in Otero County. It will include 20 acres (8 hectares) of indoor cultivation, 80 acres (32 hectares) of outdoor cannabis fields and another 100 acres (40 hectares) of outdoor hemp fields.

Ultra Health president and CEO Duke Rodriguez said the company is preparing for a future in which New Mexico stands to benefit from expanded medical use and possibly recreational use.

Apodaca’s plan calls for lifting the current limits on the number of plants producers can grow and reducing costly licensing fees.

Other Democratic candidates have been more cautious.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she would work with state lawmakers to ensure there are adequate health, safety and enforcement measures in place. She called for a “thorough analysis” of recreational pot programs in other states as part of that effort.

Lujan Grisham was in charge of the state Health Department when the medical marijuana program began. Aside from the legalization debate, she said supporting producers to create the latest medicines and methods to help patients would help create jobs and expand the industry.

State Sen. Joseph Cervantes, another Democratic candidate, has sponsored unsuccessful legislation to decriminalize possession of small quantities of pot but has said the state is lacking infrastructure and isn’t ready yet to legalize.

Cervantes recently lauded efforts at the local level by the state’s largest city — Albuquerque — to decriminalize possession of small amounts. He said he would do the same as governor and that it would mark a first step.

Republican congressman and gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce expressed reservations about legalization at a forum earlier this month. He said it might create a stumbling block for people trying to climb out of poverty and addiction to other drugs.

“I just don’t see how it fits that we’re going to deal with addiction and yet we’re going to tell people, ‘This one is OK.’ I’ve watched it for a lifetime. I just am very nervous with recreational marijuana,” he said.

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‘For fun’ killing reveals vulnerability for homeless Native Americans in New Mexico

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The morning a homeless man was shot and killed in Albuquerque, police say surveillance videos showed him running down a street before sunrise, and then gunfire flash in the dark.

Native Americans make up only 4 percent of the population, but account for 44 percent of people living on the streets, raising the likelihood they will be victimized when there is an attack on the homeless.

Ronnie Ross, a 50-year-old from the Navajo Nation town of Shiprock, had been shot a dozen times, including once in the forehead and temple, and four times in the back, according to a criminal complaint. Police say the two teenage suspects charged with murder this week apparently shot him “for fun” as they came and went from a hotel party nearby.

The homicide marked the latest in a series of brazen killings and assaults of homeless Native Americans in the city. In Albuquerque, Native Americans make up only 4 percent of the population, but account for 44 percent of people living on the streets, raising the likelihood they will be victimized when there is an attack on the homeless.

A 2014 survey showed 75 percent of homeless Native Americans in Albuquerque had been physically assaulted.

“Just being harassed is part of everyday life, but it’s not as much harassment as it is overgrown bullying,” said Gordon Yawakia, who works at the Albuquerque Indian Center and was once homeless himself. “What do you do when people are against you and then the authorities are against you and you’ve got nobody, you know?”

In 2014, Allison Gorman and Kee Thompson, both Navajo, were beaten to death as they slept in a vacant lot. While authorities did not say the men were targeted because they were Native American, activists disagreed and the deaths spurred the creation of a city task force to address Native American homelessness that now-former Mayor Richard Berry said could set the stage for changes for the population across the Southwest.

Now, Ross’ death is underscoring how difficult it may be to protect and find solutions for the city’s Native American homeless population.

“When I hear a story like this it adds fuel to the fire,” said Dawn Begay, who is the city’s tribal liaison, and works with the homeless through a local nonprofit. “Where we’re headed is a good direction but it has to happen faster.”

Ross’ killing in March came three months after the body of Audra Willis was found decapitated in an area not far from the Sandia Mountains that line the city’s east side. The 39-year-old had come from To’hajiilee, a tiny Navajo community west of Albuquerque, and records show she had multiple addresses during her time in the city, including at the Albuquerque Indian Center.

Willis’ especially grisly death sent shockwaves through Albuquerque, just as the beatings of Thompson and Gorman had three years earlier.

The two men had been killed on a July 2014 night when authorities say three boys — ages 15, 16 and 18_returned home from a night of drinking and decided to attack them as they slept on a mattress. The men were beaten with a wooden table leg, cinder blocks, and other objects, police said. One young suspect later told authorities that the teens had beaten dozens of homeless people, though apparently none others fatally.

In Ross’ death, the complaint filed against the 15- and 17-year-old suspects does not identify a motive, but says the two teenagers bragged to friends about the shooting.

According to police, friends and acquaintances of the boys — whom The Associated Press is not naming because of their ages — said the suspects had been showing off a gun at the party, and had said to others that they had shot a man. At one point, the younger boy also said to a close friend at the party that he shot a “hobo” in the back.

The boys made one more stop at the scene to find Ross still alive, prompting the older boy to shoot him multiple times, according to the complaint.

“It’s completely disturbing,” said Officer Simon Drobik, an Albuquerque police spokesman, said Tuesday. “They just shot this guy for fun.”

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The Last Castro; Raul retires as Cuban president

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Raul Castro turned over Cuba’s presidency Thursday to a 57-year-old successor he said would hold power until 2031, a plan that would place the state the Castro brothers founded and ruled for 60 years in the hands of a Communist Party official little known to most on the island.

Castro’s 90-minute valedictory speech offered his first clear vision for the nation’s future power structure under new President Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez. Castro said he foresees the white-haired electronics engineer serving two five-year terms as leader of the Cuban government, and taking the helm of the Communist Party, the country’s ultimate authority, when Castro leaves the powerful position in 2021.

“From that point on, I will be just another soldier defending this revolution,” Castro said. The 86-year-old general broke frequently from his prepared remarks to joke and banter with officials on the dais in the National Assembly, saying he looked forward to having more time to travel the country.

In his own half-hour speech to the nation, Diaz-Canel pledged to preserve Cuba’s communist system while gradually reforming the economy and making the government more responsive to the people.

“There’s no space here for a transition that ignores or destroys the legacy of so many years of struggle,” Diaz-Canel said. “For us, it’s totally clear that only the Communist Party of Cuba, the guiding force of society and the state, guarantees the unity of the nation of Cuba.”

Diaz-Canel said he would work to implement a long-term plan laid out by the National Assembly and communist party that would continue allowing the limited growth of private enterprises like restaurants and taxis, while leaving the economy’s most important sectors such as energy, mining, telecommunications, medical services and rum- and cigar-production in the hands of the state.

“The people have given this assembly the mandate to provide continuity to the Cuban Revolution during a crucial, historic moment that will be defined by all that we achieve in the advance of the modernization of our social and economic model,” Diaz-Canel said.

Cubans said they expected their new president to deliver improvements to the island’s economy, which remains stagnant and dominated by inefficient, unproductive state-run enterprises that are unable to provide salaries high enough to cover basic needs. The average monthly pay for state workers is roughly $30 a month, forcing many to steal from their workplaces and depend on remittances from relatives abroad.

“I hope that Diaz-Canel brings prosperity,” said Richard Perez, a souvenir salesman in Old Havana. “I want to see changes, above all economic changes allowing people to have their own businesses, without the state in charge of so many things.”

But in Miami, Cuban-Americans said they didn’t expect much from Diaz-Canel.

“It’s a cosmetic change,” said Wilfredo Allen, a 66-year-old lawyer who left Cuba two years after the Castros’ 1959 revolution. “The reality is that Raul Castro is still controlling the Communist Party. We are very far from having a democratic Cuba.”

After formally taking over from his older brother Fidel in 2008, Raul Castro launched a series of reforms that led to a rapid expansion of Cuba’s private sector and burgeoning use of cellphones and the internet. Cuba today has a vibrant real estate market and one of the world’s fastest-growing airports. Tourism numbers have more than doubled since Castro and President Barack Obama re-established diplomatic relations in 2015, making Cuba a destination for nearly 5 million visitors a year, despite a plunge in relations under the Trump administration.

Castro’s moves to open the economy even further have largely been frozen or reversed as soon as they began to generate conspicuous displays of wealth by the new entrepreneurial class in a country officially dedicated to equality among its citizens. Foreign investment remains anemic and the island’s infrastructure is falling deeper into disrepair. The election of President Donald Trump dashed dreams of detente with the U.S., and after two decades of getting Venezuelan subsidies totaling more than $6 billion a year, Cuba’s patron has collapsed economically, with no replacement in the wings.

Castro’s inability or unwillingness to fix Cuba’s structural problems with deep and wide-ranging reforms has many wondering how a successor without Castro’s founding-father credentials will manage the country over the next five or 10 years.

“I want the country to advance,” said Susel Calzado, a 61-year-old economics professor. “We already have a plan laid out.”

Most Cubans have known their new president as an uncharismatic figure who until recently maintained a public profile so low it was virtually nonexistent. Castro’s declaration Thursday that he saw Diaz-Canel in power for more than a decade was likely to resolve much of the uncertainty about the power the new president would wield inside the Cuban system.

“The same thing we’re doing with him, he’ll have to do with his successor,” Castro said. “When his 10 years of service as president of the Council of State and Council of Ministers are over, he’ll have three years as first secretary in order to facilitate the transition. This will help us avoid mistakes by his successor, until (Diaz-Canel) retires to take care of the grandchildren he will have then, if he doesn’t have them already, or his great-grandchildren.”

Cuban state media said Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Diaz-Canel and thanked Castro for the many years of cooperation between the two countries, while Chinese President Xi Jinping also reaffirmed his country’s friendship with Cuba and expressed interest in deeper ties.

At the U.S. State Department, spokeswoman Heather Nauert expressed disappointment at the handover, saying Cuban citizens “had no real power to affect the outcome” of what she called the “undemocratic transition” that brought Diaz-Canal to the presidency.

Vice President Mike Pence tweeted at Castro that the U.S. won’t rest until Cuba “has free & fair elections, political prisoners are released & the people of Cuba are finally free!”

Diaz-Canel said his government would be willing to talk with the United States but rejected all demands for changes in the Cuban system.

With Castro watching from the audience, Diaz-Canel made clear that for the moment he would defer to the man who founded the Cuban communist system along with his brother Fidel. He said he would retain Castro’s cabinet through at least July, when the National Assembly meets again.

“I confirm to this assembly that Raul Castro, as first secretary of the Communist Party, will lead the decisions about the future of the country,” Diaz-Canel said. “Cuba needs him, providing ideas and proposals for the revolutionary cause, orienting and alerting us about any error or deficiency, teaching us, and always ready to confront imperialism.”

Diaz-Canel first gained prominence in central Villa Clara province as the top Communist Party official, a post equivalent to governor. People there describe him as a hard-working, modest-living technocrat dedicated to improving public services. He became higher education minister in 2009 before moving into the vice presidency.

In a video of a Communist Party meeting that inexplicably leaked to the public last year, Diaz-Canel expressed a series of orthodox positions that included somberly pledging to shutter some independent media and labeling some European embassies as outposts of foreign subversion.

But he has also defended academics and bloggers who became targets of hard-liners, leading some to describe him a potential advocate for greater openness in a system intolerant of virtually any criticism or dissent. International observers and Cubans alike will be scrutinizing every move he makes in coming days and weeks.

As in Cuba’s legislative elections, all of the leaders selected Wednesday were picked by a government-appointed commission. Ballots offered only the option of approval or disapproval and candidates generally receive more than 95 percent of the votes in their favor. Diaz-Canel was approved by 604 votes in the 605-member assembly. It was unclear if he had abstained or someone else had declined to endorse him.

The assembly also approved another six vice presidents of the Council of State, Cuba’s highest government body. Only one, 85-year-old Ramiro Valdes, was among the revolutionaries who fought with the Castros in the late 1950s in the eastern Sierra Maestra mountains.

___

Associated Press writer Ben Fox contributed to this report.

 

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