AnneLandmanBlog Voter Guide 2014

September 29, 2014

ALVoterGuideThe November, 2014 elections will be tremendously important in determining whether western Colorado can finally pull out of its negative economic and political spiral, but many people are so busy making a living and caring for their families that they don’t have time to study up on the candidates and issues. So to make things easier for everyone, AnneLandmanBlog is providing this handy voter guide. Here is who we think you should vote for to protect the gains we’ve already made at the state level and to make some badly-needed positive changes here western Colorado:

United States Senator: Mark Udall

House Representative for District 3: Abel Tapia

Colorado Governor/Lieutenant Governor: John Hickenlooper/Joe Garcia

Secretary of State: Joe Neguse

State Treasurer: Betsy Markey

State Board of Education: Henry C. Roman

State Senate, District 7: Claudette Konola

State Representative, District 55: Chris Kennedy

County Commissioner, District 2: Mark N. Williams

County Clerk and Recorder: Jennifer Manzanares

Mesa County Sheriff: Write-in candidate Benita Phillips

Amendment 67 (Fetal personhood): NO

Amendment 68 (Large-scale gambling to fund schools): NO

Proposition 104 (Open meetings for school districts): YES

Proposition 105 (Shall genetically-modified foods be labeled as such?): YES

Referred Measure 2A (Shall the town of Palisade allow retail recreational marijuana shops within the town?): YES

Referred Measure 2B (Should the town of Palisade tax the sale of retail recreational marijuana to benefit the town?): YES

Referred Measure 2C (Should the town of DeBeque tax the sale of retail recreational marijuana to benefit the town?): YES

 

 

Hard-Core Evangelical Christian Group Has its Way with District 51

September 24, 2014
Permission slip sent home for kids to attend evangelical Christian "Good News Club" events at Tope Elementary.

Permission slip sent home for kids to attend evangelical Christian “Good News Club” events at Tope Elementary.

Many Grand Junction-area citizens are wondering how a group like the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), whose mission is converting as many children as possible to Christianity, could hold Bible study classes for elementary school-aged kids in taxpayer-funded public schools in School District 51, which tries hard to avoid endorsing specific religions. The Good News Club (GNC) says it is just trying to improve life for children all across the country.

But critics of GNC argue that the Club is really bad news for kids, because it purposely strives to make them feel guilty and shame them with lesson plans that describe Jesus’ death in vivid terms and tell children they are personally responsible for it.

The website GoodNewsClubs.info, contains direct quotes from from GNC’s lesson materials:

“The Lord Jesus suffered terrible beatings, then He was cruelly nailed to a wooden
cross, where He bled and died…  As Jesus hung on the cross, God punished Him for
your sin and your deceitful heart.” Patriarchs, p35.

“He chose to die for you. As the nails were driven into His hands and feet and His blood flowed out, God was punishing His Son for your sin…. Jesus was willing to die this awful death… After Jesus suffered and died for you, He was buried in a tomb….” Life of Christ, Book 2, p30.

“First you need to agree with God that you are a sinner and are separated from him because of your sin. Be sorry for your sin and ask God to change you…” Paul: God’s Servant, p. 44

The Clubs tell children that they are desperately wicked and “deserve to die.”

This week the CEF’s “Good News Clubs” are starting up at Tope, Broadway, Shelledy, Wingate Elementary schools.

Cheri Taylor, Executive Director of Elementary Schools for District 51, explained how this situation happened.

Taylor says CEF’s effort to bring D-51 elementary school kids into Christianity has created a heated conversation among principles, and it is making them uncomfortable. She explained that D-51 has been under pressure from CEF for at least three years now, and letting them into the schools is the result of the group bringing a lawsuit against D-51.

CEF first asked to hold after school Bible study classes at Shelledy a couple of years ago. Shelledy’s principal refused to allow the club because its religious nature, and the District tries to out of any involvement in religious matters. CEF then sued District 51 for the right to hold their bible study classes at Shelledy. CEF has been very aggressive in bringing legal cases like this to get their conversion clubs into the schools. In 2001, CEF won a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court (Good News Clubs v. Milford Central School). In that case, the Court ruled that schools cannot discriminate against the group because of its religious nature. There is also a 1984 law called the Equal Access Act that says if schools send home outside information with kids, they must either send home everything people ask them to send about outside activities, or nothing at all about these activities.

The 2001 Supreme Court ruling in Good News Clubs v. Milford Central School meant that there was no way D-51 could possibly win the lawsuit against CEF, so they had to let them into the schools.

Given that history, here is D-51’s current policy, as Cheri explained it:

Each school can make of three choices:

Option #1: They can send home absolutely no information to parents about anything other than District 51. For example, they can send out information about in-school volleyball tryouts, but not about an after-school club like 4-H or Future Farmers of America;

Option #2 They can send out absolutely ALL inside and outside information to parents, as long as it isn’t about anything illegal, or

Option #3: They can make all information from entities both inside and outside the school available in the form of literature on a table in the front office, without taking steps to send information home to parents.

Few schools have chosen the “nothing at all” policy because it eliminates access to information about needed services. Presumably Option #3 isn’t used much, because less District 51 information will get to parents that way.

What all this means is that any group or individual, without regard to topic or ideology, can apply to use school facilities to make any kind of presentation, organize a club or give any kind of instruction they want to kids on school property or in school buildings. The school system picks up the cost of providing the space and utilities. The only limitations are that 1) the program being given must be relevant to the kids’ age and 2) it must not promote illegal activity. All you have to do is reserve a school’s facilities through D-51’s main office, and fill out and sign a contract agreeing to the rules for use of the facility. District 51 MUST let all organizations use their facilities, without discrimination. Permission slips are required for any kind of after-school activity, and D-51 relinquishes all liability for the children’s safety if they attend voluntary meetings organized by a third party after school hours on school grounds. Organizers or presenters of such after-school events do not need to undergo background checks. The District does not have to, and will not, provide security for any kind of potentially controversial presentation or event.

Some additional information we got from District 51 that may be of interest to area citizens:

1) All District 51 students have the right to opt out of having to say the Pledge of Allegiance every day;

2) District 51 has a no-carry policy with regard to firearms;

3) Many teachers who have been fired from District 51 schools get hired by local charter schools.

4) The school district’s overall message is that they try to do the right thing, but they sometimes get caught in the middle, like they have this time. They have no intention to harm any group or individual.

What can be done?

Parents can attend GNC sessions and monitor them for frightening narratives or other problematic content. Parents can also ask to have the Good News Club excluded due to the need to protect the emotional, psychological and intellectual well-being of children. Good News Clubs teach children to reject science, fear critical thinking, and stigmatize non-believers.

The Milford decision does not prevent schools from adopting policies designed to protect children. A model use policy that would allow schools to refuse to host Good News Clubs on legal grounds can be seen here.(pdf)

 

Time to Wind Down Open Burning in Mesa County

September 21, 2014
Spring open burning at G and 26 Roads create a traffic hazard as well as a respiratory hazard for many residents.

Spring open burning at G and 26 Roads created a significant traffic hazard as well as a respiratory hazard for many residents.

It’s another beautiful fall day in Mesa County, but it’s also the time when rabbitbrush, ragweed, juniper and other potent local allergens fill the air with pollen, making fall miserable for thousands of people who suffer from allergies. Add to this mix the clouds of black smoke from open burning that envelope entire neighborhoods, and beautiful fall days turn into days of utter despair for many western Colorado residents.

With a wide variety of retirement housing and the biggest medical center between Denver and Salt Lake, Grand Junction is a mecca for retirees. But many retirees who settle here have some degree of heart or lung disease, making them more susceptible to breathing problems and medical emergencies caused by exposure to smoke from open burning. Even healthy people who have never had a heart or lung diagnosis during their lifetime can count on losing up to 25 percent of their lung function as they age, making them more susceptible to health problems from air pollution.

A surprising number of people in Mesa County have respiratory or cardiac diseases, or use supplemental oxygen at home for heart or lung disease. In 2009, 7.5 percent of Mesa County children ages 1-14 reported having asthma, and 9.4 percent of adults in Mesa County reported having asthma during 2008-2010. In 2011, fully 58 people per 100,000 in Mesa County died from chronic lower respiratory diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and 159 people per 100,000 died from cardiovascular disease. Both of these disease states are exacerbated by exposure to air filled with smoke.

Open Burning Causes More Problems and Expense than it Solves

Contrary to popular local belief, open burning doesn’t get rid of yard or farm waste. It just changes the waste into another form — smoke — and pumps it into the air for everyone else to deal with. With burn permits ranging from just $5 to $15 per season locally (depending on the jurisdiction) the pricing of burn permits doesn’t come close covering the cost of putting out even one runaway fire caused by careless burning. From the frequent stench of the night time air, it’s also obvious that lots of people aren’t even bothering to buy permits, and instead burn illegally after dark. A obvious move cities can take to cover the cost of putting out out-of-control fires from open burning and reduce the amount of burning taking place would be to simply raise the ridiculously low price of the burn permits — something that hasn’t been done in many years.

Without doubt, Mesa County’s burn seasons are contributing to our area’s growing air pollution problems. In 2006, the Denver Post wrote that the haze in Grand Junction’s air “contains a brew of exhaust-pipe toxins such as formaldehyde, toluene, arsenic and manganese that, on average, are as high as — and sometimes higher than — Denver’s.” This is the case even though “the Denver metro area has 30 times more traffic than Grand Junction and 2.1 million more registered vehicles than Mesa County.  Also, metro Denver has 2.6 million more people than Grand Junction.” If the problem gets worse, Mesa County will soon become an EPA “non-attainment” area, which can lead to residents having to “smog” their cars and participate in other federally-mandated programs to reduce air pollution emissions.

The Old Days are Over

A pall of smoke from open burning hangs in the air over the Grand Valley during last year's fall open burning season

A pall of smoke from open burning hangs in the air over the Grand Valley during last year’s fall open burning season

There was a time when Mesa County was predominantly a rural, agricultural area, and during that time, open burning served a useful purpose. But times have changed. Over the last 30 years, local governments have encouraged residential development in former agricultural areas, and Mesa County has become a much more residential, urbanized area filled with new subdivisions and broader streets. In this context, wood burning and open burning have started posing distinct health and quality-of-life threats for residents.

It’s time to address these threats.

If you are negatively affected by wood burning and open burning in Mesa County and want to join efforts to better regulate or end the practice, come to a public Air Quality Forum, “What’s in our Air?,” tomorrow, Monday, September 22, at 7:00 p.m. Whitman Hall, 248 S. 4th Street in downtown Grand Junction, put on by Citizens for Clean Air and the League of Women Voters.

More Reports of Proselytizing in District 51 Schools

September 19, 2014
This "Hey Kids!!!" poster recruits kids to attend evangelistic Bible classes  at Broadway Elementary.

This “Hey Kids!!!” poster recruiting kids to attend evangelistic Bible classes was photographed at Broadway Elementary.

Grand Junction parents are voicing concern that their children attending District 51 elementary schools are being sent home home with fliers soliciting attendance at Bible study classes held immediately after school on school grounds. The Child Evangelism Fellowship is actively working to recruit young children into to Christianity by promoting “Good News Club” meetings to be held weekly within local public school buildings from about 1:45 to 3:15 p.m. Times apparently vary according to individual school schedules. Parents have reported via a local Facebook group that fliers and posters promoting the religious classes have shown up at Tope, Broadway and Pomona elementary schools.

The mission of the Child Evangelism Fellowship is “to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and establish (disciple) them with the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living.”

Concerned parents say a public school is an inappropriate place to carry out that mission, and grade school-aged kids won’t be able to distinguish between their regular classes and the Bible study classes. Parents also believe such religiously-intensive activities are more appropriately held in a church than a taxpayer-funded public school building. Read more »

All You Need to Know About Mesa County Politics, All in One Place

September 17, 2014
In Mesa County, things are little backwards. The candidates are the biggest signs are the ones NOT to vote for.

Mesa County rule of thumb: Vote AGAINST the candidates with the biggest signs

Have you been so busy trying to make ends meet, putting food on the table and raising your kids that you haven’t had time to bone up on local politics? There’s an election is coming up this November. How will you know who to vote for?

It’s simple.

The one thing you need to know is that the same party has been in charge of everything here for decades: the Mesa County Republican Party, which some call the “Old Guard Republican Establishment” (OGRE). They’ve had a lock on local elected offices for a very long time.

So have they done a good job? Judge for yourself:

1) Mesa County’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in the state;

2) Our local wages are among the very lowest in the state;

3) 13.4 percent of people in our area live below federal poverty level ($23,550 for a family of four),

4) Our suicide rate is among the highest in the U.S.;

5) Mesa County was the drunkest county in Colorado in 2013 (based on the average blood alcohol concentration for arrested drunk drivers);

6) Forty one percent of School District 51 students qualify for free and reduced-cost lunches at school, and Kids Aid, an area nonprofit that provides backpacks of food to hungry students so they can get through the weekends without starving, sends 1,800 District 51 students home with backpacks full of non-perishable food home each WEEK. Read more »

Sheriff Candidate Benita Phillips Pledges to Investigate Local Corruption, Asks Other Candidates to do the Same

September 16, 2014
Benita Phillips is Mesa County's only woman candidate for Sheriff. She and her husband live in Palisade.

Benita Phillips is Mesa County’s only woman candidate for Sheriff, running as a write-in. She and her husband live in Palisade.

Benita Phillips, Mesa County’s first female candidate for Sheriff, has pledged — and asked her opponents to pledge — that if elected they will conduct a public investigation into corruption in the Sheriff’s Office, and take steps to prevent future corruption and preferential dealing.

Her challenge comes after the local GOP’s top candidate for sheriff, State Senator Steve King, was charged with three felonies and two misdemeanors for allegedly falsifying time cards while working at the Sheriff’s office, embezzling public property and failing to report all his sources of income — a requirement for state legislators. King stepped down from the race after the charges were made.

Phillips specifically asked all sheriff candidates to pledge to openly review and amend any policy of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office that supports what she calls “a culture of double-dipping.”

State Senator Steve King worked at Colorado Mesa University (CMU) at the same time he worked at the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office. An investigation revealed that he occasionally billed both entities for the same time he worked. Read more »

Ray Scott Tanks Club 20 Debate

September 12, 2014
Ray Scott may be running out of gas in the legislature, after not really getting anywhere anyway

Ray Scott may be running out of gas after several terms in the state legislature, after not really getting anywhere anyway in trying to  pass bills since January, 2011

Things aren’t going very well for poor Ray Scott, the incumbent Republican candidate for Colorado Senate District 7. The senate seat he is after will soon be vacated by longtime Mesa County GOP favorite son, Steve King, who currently is facing multiple misdemeanor and felony charges for theft and failing to report income as required by legislators. King’s fate may not be directly tied to Ray Scott in any way, but it certainly doesn’t help the beleaguered local GOP, which has put forth a truly embarrassing long string of inept and/or discredited candidates for office.

Ray Scott faced off with Democrat Claudette Konola in the recent Club 20 candidate debates, where he took a real hit.

Claudette opened the debate by linking Scott and his party with some of those truly bad candidates, including Steve King and former congressman Scott McInnis, who got his buddies in Congress to name a federal wilderness area named after himself in violation of congress’ House Rules, and who stepped down in disgrace from the 2010 race for governor amid allegations of massive plagiarism.

Scott opened at the debate by saying he probably wouldn’t even have gotten up that morning if it hadn’t have been for the debate. Not exactly the level of enthusiasm an incumbent legislator should project with an election just weeks away. Read more »

CO Senate District 7: Claudette Konola vs. Ray Scott, the Club 20 Debate in Full

September 10, 2014

Many Mesa County residents noticed the almost complete lack of local media coverage of the Club 20 debate between the candidates for Colorado’s State Senate District 7, Claudette Konola (D) and Ray Scott (R). The Daily Sentinel offered only one short quote from each candidate, and the local television stations ignored this important debate completely. In the interest of helping western Colorado citizens get adequately informed about the Senate District 7 candidates, we offer a two-part video (credit: Bill Hugenberg) and a transcript of the Senate District 7 candidates’ debate. Read more »

Chamber Supports Amendment 68, Takes Mesa County Down Another Primrose Path

September 3, 2014

Dunce capThe Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce apparently loves some vices, but not others, and the “sins” the chamber backs don’t seem to match the desires of Mesa County citizens. Once again the chamber adds to its long list of disastrous political moves and fails to consider the big picture in their election-year endorsements.

The chamber recently announced it supports Amendment 68, which will pave the way for horse racing and large-scale video lottery terminals in Mesa County. Amendment 68 requires 34 percent of the gambling proceeds go to support schools.

Diane Schwenke, president of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, said whether or not the local community wants gambling was the most important criteria for their support.

“As long as it’s up to the local residents, the local leadership,” she said. “That’s of paramount importance to us.”

But the chamber doesn’t really care about what the local residents think. Read more »

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