Friday, October 14, 2011


As the day winds down from a busy schedule of nonstop meetings this last week, it’s important to reflect on what we’ve learned, heard and asked during the visit to our nation’s capital city with the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce.  Okay, I’m probably just as guilty as the next guy, back in Colorado Springs criticizing the folks back here, while somewhat disconnected and protected from the pressures of DC politics. And it’s evident that as it’s been said, politics are not a spectator sport, especially noticeable here along the Beltway, as another election year approaches.  But the take-aways from the bipartisan relationships we continue to build upon in partnership with the business community and our Congressional leaders, is vital for our regional future; whether it’s having influence over military support, budget, tax and deficit issues, health care policy, small-business concerns, employment, over-regulation, economic development or transportation funding, among others. 

Commissioner Amy Lathen and Sallie Clark
with Congressman Doug Lamborn
The Chamber deserves kudos for a well-organized trip, with multiple tracks which allowed the group of about 70 individuals, representing a diverse group of both small and large businesses, community leaders and elected officials, including Mayor Bach, to ask hard questions and connect with those who cast the votes on the U.S. House and Senate floors and ultimately impact Colorado Springs and El Paso County.   The Chamber should also be credited for making a concerted effort to represent our region by inviting others from Southern Colorado to join the collaborative mission. 

Chamber DC participants heard from elected officials and
government representatives  including U.S. Representatives
Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and Cathy McMorris Rodgers
and Colorado delegation members of House and Senate.
As someone assigned to the Health and Wellness track, my first day was spent visiting with both military and U.S. Olympic Committee representatives to discuss the importance of the Wounded Warrior Games and its potential economic impact on our community as well as issues that are important to hosting more athletic events in Colorado Springs.  We also made a visit to the Department of Health and Human Services and spent part of the day at a think tank called the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), discussing national health care and its future impact on our nation and small business. Not, in this organization’s opinion, a positive one for the future of business in America.

Congressman Scott Tipton with
Commissioner Sallie Clark and
Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach
We were appreciative that Congressman Doug Lamborn hosted the legislative day and were honored to be joined not only by our Colorado delegation members in Congress: U.S. Representatives Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton and U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, but also guest speakers including U.S. Representatives Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and Cathy McMorris Rodgers.  And, staff members from U.S. Representatives Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis also represented their bosses to provide updates from their offices. During the full week of meetings, information on the budget and the Super Committee was shared, this committee being tasked with reducing the debt by approximately $1.2 trillion. In addition, the nation’s military defense outlook, renewable energy, free trade agreements through the Trade Assistance Act and the future of transportation funding were only part of the scheduled Q&A discussions. White House representatives made presentations to our group with topics such as tourism, health care, national export efforts and small business development.  A trip to the Pentagon offered members of our legislative advocacy team to interface with military leaders, an important opportunity to meet face to face and re-enforce local support for our military installations, vital to El Paso County's economic future.  And, breakfast with Major General Joseph Anderson offered an opportunity to meet the man who later this year, will replace Major General David Perkins, Commanding General at Fort Carson.

Meeting at the U.S. Olympic Committee
office in Washington D.C.

Stained glass window
in the House Chapel

Meeting with our Senators and Representatives on their legislative turf gives us the opportunity to discuss our local issues with those who represent us and Colorado as a whole. The importance of this trip is underscored by the fact that county government and El Paso County’s citizens are directly impacted by the decisions made in Washington D.C., specifically as it relates to unfunded mandates, regulations and infrastructure support.  Building relationships among business and government leaders and heading to our nation’s Capitol with one voice, makes a difference regarding eventual legislative decisions on issues that impact our local economy.  And, for our members of Congress, hearing straight talk from folks who live and face financial challenges in the business world every day, can easily be summed up in one word, “priceless”.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Over 35 people gathered on Saturday, October 1, 2011, to build a trail and picnic pad at Rainbow Falls, just west of Manitou Springs. This project is part of many improvements underway at this new El Paso County, Colorado, park and the trail.

Martin Rendleman, 15, led the effort this day as part of his requirement to earn the rank of Eagle in the Boy Scouts of America. Rendleman worked closely with the El Paso County Parks Department, the Manitou Environmental Citizens Action (MECA) Board, the Rainbow Falls Coordinating Committee and Commissioner Sallie Clark to develop the plan for the trail and picnic pad. He then raised over $1,000 in cash and $2,000 of in-kind donations and borrowed equipment to use for the project. C & C Sand, Bestway Disposal and TurfMasters provided discounts or donated items to assist with the Eagle Scout project. The County Parks Department staff is also credited with a tremendous effort in rough cutting the trail and preparing the site for the small army of volunteers who arrived to help on a sunny afternoon.

Members of Boy Scout Troops 268 and 366, the Air Force Academy Jr. ROTC, Colorado Springs Downtown Rotary and many friends came together on Saturday to dig, move rocks, and pound in rebar to build the approximately 80 ft. trail and level the area for the picnic pad. They also assembled and installed a picnic table that was provided by a grant to the County Parks Department.

The Rainbow Falls recreation area has been well known since before the turn of the century when visitors would gather and picnic at the base of the falls on their way up the original Ute Pass road to the west. The area was privately held until recently when it was donated to El Paso County, thanks to many years of persistence from El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark, the MECA board and its founder L'aura Montgomery. Since then, there have been many improvements to the park, including new trails, picnic tables and an expanded parking lot. While Rainbow Falls used to be known as Graffiti Falls, there has been a major effort to restore not only its original name, but to clean up the falls by discouraging graffiti tagging on the rock outcroppings and natural features. The ongoing efforts to restore the falls to their original beauty includes a comprehensive master plan involving community policing and enforcement as well as additional trails, stormwater and erosion improvements.

Many of those who came to help on Saturday had never seen the Falls before and were struck by the beauty and potential of the park. They also enjoyed getting their feet wet by wading in the stream. Most said they planned to come back and enjoy the park, now that they know it's here to enjoy. To see more about the project, there is a short YouTube video at . For more information about Rainbow Falls or how you can help improve and preserve this special park, go to the MECA website at To reach Rainbow Falls, take Highway 24 west to the stoplight at the Cave of Winds exit, turning south onto Serpentine. At the curve, you will see the parking area.