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Sustainable Beginnings for the Steel City



Five years ago, as sustainability was emerging as a trend in the marketplace, professors at Colorado State University-Pueblo were looking at ways to integrate it into the curriculum. Their efforts resulted in a minor program in sustainability and today, professors say students are getting hired.

The sustainability trend has spread like a sort of constructive epidemic, landing students jobs almost immediately after gaining experience in the field and providing the university with a rare role in a national sustainability education program.

Sustainability, broadly, is an effort to conserve existing resources and promote their longevity.

“It’s a really broad topic. The easiest way to look at it is as a three-legged stool. So, one leg would represent environment, one leg represents economics, and one leg represents social or cultural community,” said Sarah Spencer-Workman, sustainability education specialist and sustainability minor coordinator at CSU-Pueblo.

“You could be in psychology or sociology and you have to do social sustainability, or you could be in engineering and you have to deal with engineering sustainability technology, or econ and you have to look at concepts and ways you can make the economy more efficient without wasting money.” – Sarah Spencer-Workman, sustainability education specialist and sustainability minor coordinator at CSU-Pueblo

“At all times when you look at sustainability, those legs should be in balance. So, if you take a big chunk out of one, you should balance it back out with another one,” she said.

In the larger community of Pueblo, sustainability has emerged as a trend among businesses.

The word sustainability has been a buzzword among companies the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation has been talking with, said Jack Rink, CEO and President of PEDCO.

“There is a trend that companies want to be known as environmentally friendly,” Rink said. “They want to be socially responsible.”

Rink believes this will lend itself to the sustainability minor students because it is beyond the renewable energy sector.

Rink said PEDCO is talking to a few companies that are considered clean tech because of the way they recycle resources and use energy. But the organization doesn’t often deal with many renewable energy companies because they often don’t create lots of jobs, which is the primary goal of PEDCO. Though, the exception has been the Vestas manufacturing plant south of town.

“You know, Pueblo was built on industry and railroad,” Spencer-Workman said. “In sustainability, there’s a huge industry here that develops clean tech or clean energy if you will. There’s a ton of opportunities. It’s great because industry here has been able to transition in a way that makes sense.”

In Colorado, there are 23,410 jobs in the clean tech industry, and those numbers are growing, according to the Colorado Cleantech Industries Association. Between 2009 and 2014, the industry grew by 22 percent.

Last year, CSU-Pueblo began offering the minor in sustainability to students from all majors. Since its inception, the program’s emphasis has been that it doesn’t have an emphasis, or at least not one any narrower than the broad concept of sustainability.

Peter Olayiwola, a junior economics major working toward a minor in sustainability, said he thinks the minor could apply to everyone.

“You could be in psychology or sociology and you have to do social sustainability, or you could be in engineering and you have to deal with engineering sustainability technology, or econ and you have to look at concepts and ways you can make the economy more efficient without wasting money,” he said. “So, I think it’s beneficial to everyone.”

Spencer-Workman estimated that around 20 students are currently enrolled in the minor. Her goal is an ambitious one: to enroll every CSU-Pueblo student in the program.

“It would be awesome to have all students, of course,” Spencer-Workman said. “It has the capacity to grow as big as we’d like it here on campus.”

As challenging as that may seem, the program has already made its way into the curriculum in more than 100 classes at the university.

“So, at some point in your career here at CSU, you should have touched on sustainability. Math 101 talks about sustainability, psychology and environment talks about sustainability, and there’s bio sustainability, chemistry. Art even has a sustainable class,” Spencer-Workman said.

Spencer-Workman said the minor is relatively straightforward. Only two classes are required of students and the rest are electives that incorporate sustainability concepts.

One of the mandatory classes, senior capstone experience, requires students to research sustainability as it applies to their field of study. Some students in the program have taken the class as a group, each representing a different discipline.

“You know, our hope is eventually that we have a three-person team and you’ve got maybe a chemist, a communications major, and maybe a psychology major and they’re all working on one project together with different parts of sustainability,” Spencer-Workman said.

One elective course offered in the minor is the LEED Lab, a program that was introduced to universities by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2013. When the program was initiated, CSU-Pueblo was one of four universities in the nation to participate. Today, around eight schools participate, according to a CSU-Pueblo document.

The LEED Lab is an extension of Green Building Council’s organization, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which gives out designations for clean buildings. Spencer-Workman, a LEED Accredited Professional, co-teaches the one-credit lab with construction management professor Daniel Trujillo.

Spencer-Workman and Trujillo started developing the curriculum for the class in December 2013 and it was implemented during the spring 2014 semester. It will be offered again in the spring 2016 semester to all students, including those outside the sustainability minor.

Within the class, students work with LEED accreditation standards for buildings.

When the university was constructing its newest building, the General Classroom Building, two students from the LEED Lab worked with crews to ensure its sustainability.

“One of them worked on the actual material and resource disposal of recycling. So, he made sure the recycling was happening for the construction of this building,” Spencer-Workman said.

Another student worked on the documentation for the LEED building certification process. The building, which is currently going through the approval process, will receive LEED Gold certification, the organization’s second highest clean building ranking.

Experience with the LEED certification process has been in demand at local companies recently and some students have been hired almost immediately.

“What it’s also doing is it’s offering opportunities for the marketplace to come to the campus and look at our students as potential future employees,” Spencer-Workman said.

“So, we had four students out of our last LEED Lab hired directly because of their experience in their class. And those students were hired by a firm to actually do LEED documentation,” she said. “They hadn’t graduated but they were hired.”

Other Colorado local companies have also been working within the sustainability trend.

Spencer-Workman said there are more than 60 cleantech companies in Colorado.

“Here in Pueblo, we have about five or six so there’s quite a number of places students can gravitate towards,” she said, “and I can tell you as part of the minor, we look to develop community partnerships with those companies so that we can bring them in and they can see what our students are doing and our students can learn from them in exchange.”

Vestas has been working with the university. Spencer-Workman said the company regularly looks to hire CSU-Pueblo students.

The minor, in its early stages, has worked to give students a competitive advantage and Spencer-Workman said she thinks that trend will continue.

“Any student who takes the time to do this minor and earn their credits and it will probably catapult themselves 2 to 5 percent higher in the marketplace than their peers in terms of both a success rate as well as kind of an income and pay rate,” she said.

And, as the trend of sustainability has grown, it has made itself applicable to students of all backgrounds.

“What makes the minor so unique is that it’s interdisciplinary. So, any student, any major can be part of this, which is a really great thing and it makes it really valuable I believe,” Spencer-Workman said. “You can do a lot of things with it so it’s really a great place to be right now.”

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The Unknown Road to Pueblo’s Mayor



Between now and Election Day, when the Pueblo voters elect its first mayor, the city is tasked with updating city code, making room for a mayor and the staff that will accompany the new leader and ensuring a smooth transition. How that will happen, though, is largely unknown.

Pueblo City Council hasn’t dictated any audits, created any advisory groups or made any formal reports on how the transition should occur. But council president Chris Nicoll, who said he’s still considering whether to throw his name into the mayoral race, expects the members to make a decision over the spring.

Specifically, Nicoll, who helped lead a failed effort to create a mayor in Pueblo in 2009, said he’d like to see a group of citizens, appointed by the council, make up an advisory council that sees the transition through. Among that body, Nicoll said he’d like to see somebody from the Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, especially as how a mayor will be selected is yet to be determined.

City leaders have options on that front. They’ll have to decide whether to conduct a runoff election, which county clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz said might conflict with requirements for when ballots have to be mailed out, or a ranking system. In that scenario, which Ortiz suggested an option the city could consider, the winner of the election would have the most first and second votes combined.

Nicoll said he envisions that committee being able to dictate to the council what should get done in the eight months leading up to the change, whether that be an audit or hire a consultant.

The Nov. 6 election will be a mile marker for Pueblo city government. The city has held a council-city manager form of government since 1954 and refused to give it up in the past. Voters overwhelmingly said no to a mayor less than a decade ago.

Nick Gradisar, the now-mayoral candidate who pushed for the question to appear on the 2016 ballot, previously told PULP he thinks attitudes of voters have changed. Those who voted “yes” on the measure barely outnumbered the “no” votes.

Part of it, he said, could be attributed to the ways of the north. Denver has a strong mayor. And Colorado Springs is proving the system to be worth the risk, with former Colorado Attorney General John Suthers at the helm.

Perhaps, Gradisar said, Puebloans are also a little tired of little change in the city.

“We’re sort of going backwards while the rest of the state is going forwards, I think it’s hurt us significantly,” he said at a press even before the election.

Either way, a mayor is coming. And it’s a rare occurrence for Colorado.

In fact, “very, very rare,” said Colorado Municipal League Executive Director Sam Mamet. He’s been with the organization that works on the behalf of Colorado municipalities for nearly 40 years. Changing forms of government doesn’t happen often and when it does, it can be challenging.

“It’s not easy at all and I am concerned they don’t have an adequate transition plan in place,” he said. “You just don’t snap your fingers and make it so. There is a transition and it will be a little complicated. It can be done and it will be done because the voters said so.”

Mamet pointed to the rough patch that Colorado Springs endured after it elected its first mayor.

“In the case of Colorado Springs, for the first couple of years it was pretty rocky between mayor and council over prerogatives,” he said. “This will come into play right out of the box for whatever budget the mayor may submit.”

After then-Mayor Steve Bach finished his term in 2015, the “Colorado Springs Gazette” chronicled the only term of the city’s first mayor. While Bach, which the city’s newspaper called a “political neophyte,” sparred with city council and ultimately cost the city on moving policy forward, he also dealt with the natural disasters during his term and the ending of the Great Recession.

Bach couldn’t get money for roads or stormwater. He was criticized when firefighters weren’t deployed to devastating fires fast enough. One former councilwoman told the newspaper that the constant clash between the mayor’s office and council made it hard to maintain a long-term vision for the city — something Pueblo is searching for in a lead lawmaker.

As in Colorado Springs and Denver, Pueblo will have clear, separate governing bodies once a mayor is elected. But Mamet points out that power is already pretty separated in Pueblo. For example: water. In several cities across the state the water department is an extension of city hall. But in Pueblo, the division is governed by a publicly-elected board of five members and gets all of its revenue from its customers.

Mamet wonders how the Board of Waterworks of Pueblo might interact with a mayor and vice versa on the topic that often rises to the surface as a top priority for communities in Colorado and across the West.

“There are potential issues, that’s why a thoughtful transition process is necessary with a very clear legal analysis,” Mamet said.

Pueblo City Attorney Dan Kogovsek said in an email the city charter won’t have to be updated, only the city code, but didn’t offer up any instances that would require council approval. Nicoll said he believes the council will be able to do a majority of that in a few actions.

“There needs to be a thorough legal analysis by the city atty on what should be considered,” Mamet said.

He also agrees with Nicoll that a stakeholders group should be formed and adds that a commission to study the charter would be beneficial, as would the elected civil service commission overseeing personnel policies of the mayor’s office.

Already two months into 2018, Nicoll said he’s confident that the city will be ready to take on a mayor.

“I’m not panicked about it. We have some time,” he said. “It’s just we need to work through this issue.”

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Middle schoolers have a plan to stop rock art tagging in Western Colorado




GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — Arron Buehler’s day in a western Colorado canyon might not have had the Hollywood panache of Ferris Bueller’s day off, but something about seeing Buehler’s name scrawled on the sandstone escarpment gave Chris Joyner pause.

Joyner, spokesman for the Grand Junction Office of the Bureau of Land Management, looked at Buehler’s name — and those of many others emblazoned on rock in a canyon south of Grand Junction — and said that, paradoxically, there might be a reason for hope.

It was just last year that Buehler posted his name, next to Elizabeth, who left her mark in 2017.

Few of the names appeared to be more than a year or two old, and, “That tells me there’s opportunity here,” Joyner said.

The more recent the markings, the more likely the vandals are to be found, and the more likely it is that other methods might discourage younger people from following Arron Buehler’s lead, Joyner said.

Joyner and BLM archaeologist Alissa Leavitt-Reynolds are working in Grand Junction to deal with vandalism on federal lands, whether it be by graffiti artists such as Charley Humpy (who helpfully added, “Remember me” next to his name and yes, the BLM is doing all it can to achieve total recall), drug users ditching evidence in the desert, mayhem by “marksmen” and plain old dumping.

As much as Arron Buehler and a multitude of companions — Brian, Charley, Dizz, Dominique, Kay, Megan, Elizabeth, Jon, Sam and Tosha all seem to be begging for court dates (and Tosha, did you know your name covered an ancient petroglyph?) — Joyner said prosecution ought not be the only response to a growing trend of vandalism and worse on western Colorado’s rocky outcrops and arid landscapes.

Citations for vandalism aren’t tracked by the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes offenses on federal land, so no precise numbers are available.

An Army veteran, Joyner is using his post 9/11 GI Bill funds at Johns-Hopkins University to study ways to divert people from what he terms “dysfunctional visitor behavior.”

“Dysfunctional visitor behavior” has a more authoritative ring than “vandalism” and “littering” and Joyner said he hopes that a scholarly approach can help agencies fend off some of the destructive activity on federal lands before it takes place.

Some of his research suggests that “informed participation in nearby historic and cultural sites” can influence the way many residents perceive those sites, Joyner said.

The students in Ginger DeCavitch’s social studies classes at Mount Garfield Middle School experienced “informed participation” last summer.

DeCavitch took her students into Bangs Canyon to see the mica mine and found the defaced escarpment “as we were stepping over broken beer bottles and charcoal” from fires.

Vandals had used charcoal to scratch names and slogans on the rock, DeCavitch said.

“They call it tagging” and few participants see any issue with defacing the rock, taking selfies and posting them on social media, DeCavitch said.

She contacted the BLM soon afterward to see if her class could help clean up the mess they found.

“They all wanted to go back,” enough that some students hauled 40-pound containers of water down an occasionally difficult trail to help clean the site, DeCavitch said.

Her middle school students sat silent as members of the Southern Ute tribe described how they perceived the canyon and the ancient markings, many of which had been defaced, DeCavitch said.

Far from being discouraged, her students were enthused about tackling the enormity of the defacement, DeCavitch said.

“We have a plan that we’ll be back,” she said.

Introducing young people properly to wild lands is one way to discourage future vandals and dysfunctional visitors.

It’s one “foot-in-the-door” tactic that Joyner hopes land managers take up.

Visitors also can be endowed with a sense of ownership by agreeing with a simple proposition — the idea that one ought not litter on public lands, for instance — and then be brought along to agree with how to visit them appropriately, Joyner said.

It’s part of a human tendency to want to be consistent, he said. People who agree not to litter tend to want to build on that as opposed to act in contradictory fashion, he said.

Even providing a small gift or trinket can engender a sense of responsibility among potential vandals, Joyner said.

Other techniques include the “broken-window” approach — the idea that replacing broken glass as soon as it’s found and thus denying miscreants their moment of victory — isn’t as easy as it might be in other environments, Joyner said.

DeCavitch’s class, for instance, learned that while cleaning up a mess might eliminate an eyesore, it also could erase history.

Her eager middle-schoolers couldn’t go forward with the cleanup until members of the Southern Ute Tribe, headquartered in Duchesne, Utah, approved the plan, DeCavitch said.

While Joyner’s studies have suggested that males 16 to 25 who live within 60 miles of Grand Junction are the likely offenders, one look at the escarpment suggests that young women are more active participants than crime statistics might suggest, Joyner said.

One study suggests that younger people prefer non-coercive approaches, but Joyner said that doesn’t mean the BLM is losing interest in prosecuting vandals and others.

Far from it.

BLM officials routinely contact school officials and consult high school yearbooks to match the names they come across with people who could be prosecuted.

Some miscreants make it easier, posting selfies of themselves with their works. Some even lower the level of difficulty by including hashtags.

The criminal exposure can reach felony levels because of the difficulty and expense of dealing with cleaning up or restoring the markings that date back hundreds of years.

If the malefactors are found, Joyner said, “We don’t write warning tickets.”


Information from: The Daily Sentinel,

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The #WhatNow of #MeToo for the #COLeg



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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