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Erin PraterErin PraterAugust 23, 201716min2370
Laura Ettinger poses for a portrait outside of Create Cafe, which she owns, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in Manitou Springs. Ettinger, an independent, is appalled by President Trump. (Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette)

For yoga instructor Jess Saffer and the other happy hippies of Manitou Springs, last year’s presidential election was an emotional body blow — intense, raw and visceral.

“It felt like heartbreak,” said Saffer, 28, of the moment she learned that Trump had taken the lead.

Nine months in, a siege mentality has taken hold in this quaint, funky tourist town nestled at the foot of Pikes Peak.

That’s because Manitou, known for its ancient healing waters and carefree vibe, is a blue dot in a sea of red. Though surrounding Colorado Springs is one of the most conservative cities in the state, Manitou, affectionately known as “Hippie Mayberry,” is one of the most liberal.

Here you’ll find locals who greet visitors like longtime friends, passersby who almost always spare change for beggars, and the area’s only retail pot shops.

And you’ll find Never Trumpers — those who voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein — anyone, anything but Trump — in spades.

What’s a Never Trumper living in the heart of Trump Country to do? Now that the initial shock of Trump’s victory has subsided, just how are Manitoids coping?

Some are displeased but dismissive, determined not to let national politics influence their highly individualized ways of life.

Others are trying on a newfound activism. Still others are trying to live more deliberate lives in which small acts of kindness play a bigger, more meaningful role — determined to fight what they perceive as a hateful regime with an old hippie weapon: love.

 

Yoga instructor Jessi Saffer eats a salad at Create Cafe Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in Manitou Springs. Although Saffer is disappointed in her fellow Coloradans who voted for Trump, she tries to spread kindness with everyone. (Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette)

Hurricane Trump
The morning after the election, Saffer began the process of coping with “severe disappointment in multiple people” — not just the broad swath of Trump voters across the nation, but “fellow Coloradans.”

She began to see the man in the truck next to her with the “drain the swamp” bumper sticker, the woman on the street with the red embroidered Make America Great Again trucker’s hat, as people who had betrayed her — and the nation — deeply.

“I’ll think, ‘Oh, you’re one of those,’” she said. “I’m pretty biased. But I’m not mean to them. It just blows my mind.”
Saffer has channeled her emotions into advocacy. She “resisted” by participating in a local protest and signing multiple petitions against laws Trump wants passed.

Many locals are adjusting to the new normal by leaning on each other.

“Manitou is a place full of community activists, people who want to move things forward in a positive way,” said Laura Ettinger, co-owner of Create Café, as the afternoon rush slowed to a trickle.

The cafe serves up unique options like zucchini noodles, lavender-honey beer and Manitou Lemonade made with water from a nearby spring. It features a “pay it forward pot” that funds the meals of hungry patrons with empty pockets.

She recalls the morning after Election Day in Manitou as brimming with despair.

“People were mourning,” said Ettinger, 54. “It was a sense of depression, of ‘we are in trouble now,’ of disbelief.”

But time marches on, and there’s work to do.

Trump can keep tweeting, if he must, Ettinger said, but she has mouths to feed — regardless of ability to pay.

“Nobody gets turned away,” she insisted.

“People in Manitou are going to take care of their people. We all have to deal with the national-level stuff, but really, when it comes down to change happening, it’s going to be at the local level.”

If there’s any place for a liberal to weather Hurricane Trump, “this would be it.”

 

Dave Cutshaw (right) sells whittled sticks Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in Manitou Springs. This liberal hippie town of 5,000 tucked in the foothills of the red-leaning El Paso County swung blue in the last presidential election. (Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette)

‘Hippie Mayberry’
Manitou Springs is a political phenomenon as much as it is a cultural one.

The predominately white municipality of roughly 5,000 is bereft of the diversity one might associate with a city so blue.

Much like Mayberry might, Manitou features fishing holes, effervescent springs and old-fashioned ice cream parlors.

There’s a penny arcade, a singular high school and nary a big box store in sight.

But Mayberry doesn’t host an annual coffin race down Main Street.

Mayberry’s gift shops don’t sell “The Nightmare Before Christmas” tree ornaments, cashew cheese, spring-water popsicles and “Bliss Booch” kombucha.

Mayberry isn’t home to a South American-inspired tea shop run by a religious sect that claims to serve “the Fruit of the Spirit,” or a pizzeria named Hell’s Kitchen.

“Manitou has long had a reputation for being hippie and liberal,” said Robert Loevy, professor emeritus of political science at Colorado College and co-author of “Colorado Politics and Policy: Governing a Purple State.”

Loevy, who served on the Colorado Reapportionment Commission in 2011, says Manitou is on the western edge of an area voting analysts call “Blue Colorado Springs,” which begins in Manitou and extends eastward through Old Colorado City, downtown Colorado Springs and into Eastern Colorado Springs.

While Boulder and Manitou Springs are both considered quintessential Colorado hippie towns, “they’re completely different places,” Loevy said.

“Boulder has people who are there making a great deal of money in Boulder or Denver,” he said.

Loevy sees Manitou as a different thing altogether — more similar to the strongly Democratic Western Slope ski towns like Keystone, Breckenridge and Vail than its liberal stepsister to the north.

In Colorado’s ski towns “you have a type of person who wants to live a more relaxed mountain lifestyle,” he said.

“They want to be right where the scenery is. They have plenty of money, usually earned somewhere else. They vote strongly Democratic, an important part of why Democrats do so well in elections.

“I see Manitou as fitting more into that pattern because although it’s not a ski town, it’s really close to the mountains.

“The effect of that is like the ski towns: Manitou is Democratic.”

It’s so Democratic, in fact, that Manitou — more precisely, the three precincts that encompass it and parts of El Paso County — swung blue in the last two presidential elections by nearly 2:1, according to data available on the Colorado Secretary of State’s website.

Though Manitou is about as Democratic as they come, it’s a drop in the bucket when compared to the estimated 688,000 residents of El Paso County, which swung red in November.

At a commission meeting he attended, “we spent a long time discussing Manitou Springs, and one of our staff pointed out that we were talking about a very small number of voters — less than 5,000 at the time,” Loevy pointed out.

However minuscule Manitou’s effect on elections outside city limits, its residents are passionate about politics.

Why does it lean so far left?

“That’s a really good question,” Loevy said. “I can’t answer it. I’ve never heard any theories on why Manitou attracts liberals and people likely to vote Democrat.”

 

‘I’m scared, I really am’
“Messy” is coping with the Trump presidency by living how he pleases before the nation goes to “hell in a hand basket” at the hands of Trump.

On a recent Thursday morning, that meant smoking a cigarette and sipping coffee with fellow transients outside The Maté Factor Café, a local bistro run by the offbeat religious group Twelve Tribes.

Two nights prior, 52-year-old Messy — less commonly known by his birth name, Scott Smith — had arrived from Boulder, hoping to catch a hippie gathering before moving on to a festival in Virginia.

“I’m scared, I really am,” said Messy, clad in tie-dye T-shirt and faded overalls, his matted dirty blonde dreads mingling with the voodoo doll necklace resting on his chest.

Just what is there to fear under Trump?

Messy’s not exactly sure. But says he doesn’t trust hateful men.

“People are great, but he wants to build a wall to keep people out,” Messy mused. “Those are the good people, the Mexican people — they’re running from something in their country — poverty, crime. They come over here just to get away from it and to work to make a living. I thought that’s what this country was built on, that people can come over here.

Messy planned to linger in Manitou for a couple days, then hit the road. He adores Manitou — a true hippie down, unlike Boulder, he says — but gets restless.

“I love it here, but I can’t stay in any one place too long.”

 

Dave Cutshaw (right) poses for a portrait while selling whittled sticks Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in Manitou Springs. Cutshaw sees President Trump as a spoiled child. (Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette)

Trump, the petulant child
Dave Cutshaw has more important matters to tend to than worrying too much about Trump — like whittling walking sticks outside of Heavenly Squeeze Juice Bar.

“Donald Trump is just a little kid,” he spat while clearing pulp out of beetle tracks on a tree branch he was readying to stain.

His dog, Sagebrush, rested nearby.

“He had everything he ever wanted, and this is just the ultimate prize.”

Cutshaw recalls Election Night — sitting outside of nearby Camino Real Imports. Hearing the hollers that Trump had won. A man throwing things in his apartment, angrily bemoaning the end of the world.

“I just laughed,” said Cutshaw, 59, who lives off the land outside city limits.

“It don’t matter. It was a lesser-of-two-evil type thing. They haven’t had a good president in there for years.”
Cutshaw thinks Trump’s blunt nature could come in handy.

Right now the country needs an “asshole president” to turn the ship around, and insolent Trump just might be the man for the job, he posited.

If he isn’t?

It’s no skin off Cutshaw’s back.

“I come down here, make some money, go back in the mountains when I get tired of it all,” he said.

 

That old hippie weapon
Saffer is coping in a very Manitou way: spreading as much love as possible.

She’s doing so because she believes Trump — “pure hate, pure ego, pure negativity” — is its antithesis.

“Just being kind to passing strangers is huge,” said Saffer, who works at a local spa and retreat center.

“In this job specifically, I’m able to create events that bring community members together to focus on what’s important: coming back to unconditional love for everybody ….”

She paused.

“Including Trump,” she added with emphasis.

Really?

“Yeah, really,” she said with a laugh. “It’s hard.”

Just how does a Trump opponent tackle such a task?

“It’s a constant balance of your own thought process, focusing on what’s real and what’s true, which is that we’re all the same — nobody’s better or worse,” she said.

Trump “clearly has his own struggles.”

“If somebody like that can be shown love, possibly they can change.”

Porcelain dishes clinked as Ettinger sat a generous kale salad and a hefty, steaming bowl of parsley-garnished soup in front of Saffer, who smiled gratefully.

One small act of kindness, however trivial, can inspire countless glorious counterfeits, Safer believes.

One hearty, nourishing bowl of soup.

One shy smile to a stranger on the street.

One ice cold glass of Manitou Lemonade.


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusAugust 10, 20173min80
At a time when Americans have lost faith in Congress, most of Colorado’s delegation believes it is working together to get the work of the people done. Five of the seven members of Colorado’s congressional delegation spoke Wednesday to an audience of business leaders in Denver at the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry’s off-year […]

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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJuly 6, 20177min900
State and Denver officials join organizers of the lucrative Outdoor Retailer show on Thursday to announce the show is leaving Utah and moving to Colorado. Some of the move was based on politics in Utah over public lands. (Photo by Peter Marcus/ColoradoPolitics.com)

Calling open public lands the “catalyst” behind the move, state and Denver officials on Thursday formally announced the high-profile Outdoor Retailer show is coming to Colorado.

News of the announcement was reported by Colorado Politics and other outlets on Wednesday, though the pomp and circumstance came on Thursday morning at a news conference with elected leaders, organizers of the trade show, and outdoor recreational industry organizations.

“Our announcement today solidifies Colorado’s place as the leader in the outdoor recreation industry,” said Luis Benitez, director of Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, who was joined by Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

Standing outside in the hot sun near a garden by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, organizers of the massive trade show highlighted three events as part of the package, including the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show, Outdoor Retailer Summer Market and Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.

Estimates call for 85,000 people per year to Denver at the Colorado Convention Center, with an annual direct and indirect economic impact of about $110 million per year. It is the world’s largest trade exhibition for the outdoor retail industry.

The outdoor recreation economy in Colorado already generates about $28 billion in consumer spending every year and supports 229,000 jobs.

The relocation of the show to Denver from Salt Lake City begins in January 2018 with the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show, scheduled for Jan. 25-28, 2018. The Outdoor Retailer Summer Market is scheduled for July 23-26, 2018, and the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market is scheduled for Nov. 8-11, 2018.

Public lands debate fuels move 

State and Denver officials began heavily lobbying for the show to move from Utah to Colorado after some attendees of the event became frustrated with the position Utah leaders have taken on public lands. The show had been in Utah for more than two decades.

Major retailers and attendees of the show began asking for it to move from Salt Lake City after Republicans there called for transferring management of federal public lands over to the state’s authority, which could open up more of it for drilling, grazing or local commerce. Some Republican leaders even called for overturning monument designations in Utah.

“It was clearly a catalyst. For years we’ve been talking about the importance of public lands,” said Hickenlooper, a Democrat.

The governor pointed to U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and Cory Gardner, a Republican, who have both stood up for public lands in Colorado. Gardner, for example, asked Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for a commitment that Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Cortez would not lose its designation.

Organizers of the show, which is owned by California-based Emerald Expositions, pointed to Colorado’s commitment to open public lands, including an action by the legislature last year to create a Public Lands Day. Over 35 percent of the state is public lands.

“Outdoor recreation and the protection of public lands shouldn’t be politically polarizing. In fact, they are a bipartisan issue,” said Amy Roberts, executive director of the Boulder-based Outdoor Industry Association.

Colorado faces its own debate

Colorado has faced its own political debates over public lands. In the 2015 legislative session, Colorado Republican lawmakers ran an unsuccessful bill to create a study of how the state could help manage federal public lands. In 2016, another unsuccessful Republican bill would have given local and state law enforcement more authority over federally managed lands.

Even the Public Lands Day measure last year in the legislature saw controversy, as Republicans attempted to amend the resolution to include language around state management of federal public lands. Lawmakers ultimately compromised to reach agreement.

Conservationists worry that transferring management of federal public lands to the states would lead to mismanagement or private development on those lands, closing them off for recreational activities.

Pete Maysmith, director of Conservation Colorado, said Colorado has an overall friendlier approach to public lands than what was heard from some Republicans in Utah. Conservation Colorado launched a campaign to woo away the show, including ads in the Salt Lake Tribune and the Desert News.

“They hurt their case (in Utah),” Maysmith said. “The industry made it very clear that that’s not a policy environment or a political environment where they want to have their marquee show. It’s antithetical to what they’re all about – protecting public lands and getting people outdoors.”

But Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, cautioned against taking too hard of a jab at Utah Republicans for a policy position that contributed to losing the lucrative show.

Grantham reminded Democrats that gun control laws passed in Colorado in 2013 caused Magpul Industries, one of the country’s largest producers of ammunition magazines, to leave Colorado. The company last year announced a deal to supply magazines to the Marines, which could have been a boon for Colorado.

“It cuts both ways,” Grantham said. “Beggars can’t be choosers, and we’re glad to have them (the Outdoor Retailer show) here. I would hope the other side would be as willing to change their politics to welcome back in Magpul.”


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJune 26, 20174min680

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear arguments in a case between New Mexico and Colorado stemming from the devastating 2015 Gold King Mine spill.

The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office and the state Environment Department announced last year that it filed a complaint against Colorado with the U.S. Supreme Court. It sought damages and demands that Colorado address problems at draining mines in southwest Colorado.

Former New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn alleged that his water quality researchers rejected assertions from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Colorado environment officials that the Animas River quickly returned to safe pre-event conditions after the August 2015 spill of toxic heavy metals.

Flynn and attorneys for his department at the time suggested that Colorado is liable for the incident, which spilled 3 million gallons of sludge into the Animas in Durango, turning it a mustard yellow color. The spill fouled rivers in three Western states with arsenic, lead and other heavy metals.

The EPA acknowledged fault in the spill, in which sludge flowed into creeks and rivers during restoration work at Gold King. The flow headed into the San Juan River in New Mexico and Utah.

The EPA employed contractors whose work trigged the incident. The agency acknowledged fault, which it said was the result of insufficient planning during excavation work at the entrance to the mine near Silverton. Debris gave way after the EPA team failed to properly assess pressure inside the mine.

“Because it was the EPA and not Colorado that caused the Gold King Mine disaster, I have said from the beginning that New Mexico should not have sued Colorado in the Supreme Court,” Republican Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said in a statement following the Supreme Court’s announcement. “Now that my office has won the Supreme Court case, I hope the conversation can focus on the EPA and its promise to take full responsibility for its actions.”

Colorado officials with the Department of Natural Resources have maintained that its Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety was never on board with the EPA’s restoration plan. But an internal investigation by the EPA determined that the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety agreed to put drainage piping through the entrance of the mine, contributing to the spill.

During the spill, water utilities shut down intake valves and farmers stopped drawing from the rivers as the plume moved downstream.

The Supreme Court was an appropriate venue for the case against Colorado, as it involved two states suing each other. But the high court declined to hear arguments in the case, though it did not issue an opinion explaining the decision. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito said they would let the lawsuit move forward.


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Chris BianchiChris BianchiJune 22, 201721min2460

The quick answer: yes. The real answer: it's complicated. Helped by an influx of transplants drawn to Colorado's liberal marijuana laws, high-tech economy and overall high quality of life, the state, by most metrics, is in a considerable economic boom. That same associated population growth, by the way, likely means ...