Local business owners want “a Chamber for the rest of us”

Shawn Carr, owner of G.J. Computer Center

Two small business owners in Grand Junction are fed up and ready to start a new organization that will do what they thought the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce was supposed to do: boost small local businesses and improve life in town for those struggling at the lower end of the income scale.

Shawn Carr, a technology specialist who owns GJ Computer Center, and Billy Jacobs, owner of XZRT Gaming on Orchard Mesa, say the Grand Junction Area Chamber falls far short of providing local small businesses what they really need.

To illustrate this, Shawn tells how he recently attended a Chamber event  billed as a way for businesses to promote themselves to other businesses. He brought a pocket full of business cards to the event, but when he got there found every booth but one represented a national or international conglomerate based outside of town. He ended up handing out only one business card, and walked away thinking it’s time someone did better than this.

G.J. Chamber just isn’t doing the job

Photo of 2013 Chamber Board meeting at a lodge in Utah, printed in the Daily Sentinel.

It’s well known that the Grand Junction Area Chamber gives only lip service to serving small businesses. In addition to the example Shawn gave above, there are plenty of other examples showing this is consistently the case:

  • In it’s regular Monday full-page ad the November 25, 2013 issue of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Chamber boasted it had held its 2013 “annual Chamber Board Advance” meeting at the “beautiful Red Cliffs Lodge” in Moab, Utah — a resort not just out of town, but clear out of the state.
  • In 2014, the Chamber added a new “Save Local Now” page to it’s web site, but hired an out-of-state web developer to create the page, even though there are many professional web developers in town who would have loved the opportunity to design it.
  • Billy Jacobs, owner of XZRT Gaming

    The Chamber openly encourages people to shop at big box stores that funnel local dollars out of town, and follows it’s own advice: When it needs gift baskets, the G.J. Chamber shops at Hobby Lobby instead of the smaller, locally-owned gift and craft stores.

  • In 2015, the Chamber urged voters to approve Referred Measure 2B, which would have extended the Riverside Parkway along 25 Road. Almost all businesses on 25 Road strongly opposed the measure, saying the City blindsided them by failing to let them know measure even existed until it was safely scheduled to go on the ballot. The business owners also opposed 2B because it would have let the city seize land fronting their businesses, and subjected 25 Road to an extended construction period, harming their businesses. Still, the G.J. Chamber supported the measure.
  • In 2016, the Chamber admitted it had never even considered helping to get legal retail marijuana businesses established in town, even though Colorado’s new marijuana economy by this time had a solid track record of creating high-paying jobs and boosting local economies across the state. Where it’s become established, retail marijuana business has also created a host of ancillary businesses in areas like agricultural equipment sales, security companies, professional jobs in the bookkeeping, accounting and legal areas, and in tourism-related jobs. But it never occurred to the chamber to encourage such economic expansion here.
  • In 2017, the Chamber’s spearheaded a disastrous effort to change the name of North Avenue to “University Boulevard,” which, had citizens not driven it down in flames, would have cost business owners on North Avenue a fortune and created logistical problems for them that would have taken years to resolve.

All these and many other things the G.J. Chamber has done over the years, Billy and Shawn say, show the chamber doesn’t really care at all about small, locally-owned businesses and the realities they face. They say the G.J.Chamber is just a political handmaiden to a few bigger, well-off businesses in town who agree with it politically, and say it consistently fails to act in the interests of individual entrepreneurs in town who are struggling to make their small businesses thrive. They also are upset that the chamber hasn’t done anything to help people who are working for extremely low wages.

“We want an organization that will actually listen to small business owners about what would actually help them, and then carry through with that,” Shawn says.

Shawn and Billy say their new organization would host events that really do showcase local small businesses, and not national conglomerates. They want a monthly newsletter that will spotlight local small businesses, and that will provide opportunities for business owners to promote their goods and services to other businesses.

They also see a community with loads of potential, but that is greatly lacking, and suffering from a stark geographic divide.

East vs. West?

Shawn and Billy note that “All the money for improvement has flowed to the west side of Grand Junction. They put tons of money into rebuilding First Street, Seventh Street and the west end of North Avenue, but the east side of town is suffering. I can understand neglecting Clifton because it’s outside the City, but Orchard Mesa is INSIDE the city and we STILL have no sidewalks,” they say. “The east end of North Avenue is also still neglected. There are no sidewalks in that area and that part of town is losing businesses,” Shawn says.

“Look at people who live in the west end of town,” Billy says. “They work 30-40 hours a week and they do fine, but if you live on the east side of town, you’re working 50-60 hours a week and if you don’t have a job on an oil rig, you’re making minimum wage.”

Shawn and Billy also want to make town more livable, functional and attractive, and add improvements that will help lure more businesses here to boost the local economy.

A 1930’s “Reefer Madness” mentality grips most of Grand Junction’s leadership, including the chamber board, blocking economic progress in our area

“We need retail marijuana. We need to open up the irrigation canal banks that run through the valley to biking and walking. We need recreation centers, we need sidewalks in Clifton and Orchard Mesa, and we need to get broadband internet here,” they say, naming just a few of the amenities they say Grand Junction sorely needs.

Grand Junction is “so behind the times”

Billy grew up in Grand Junction, graduated from high school here and then moved elsewhere, working jobs in other states for years. He finally came back to Grand Junction with his family to live a few months ago, and was shocked at what he saw.

“We’re so behind the times here. So much of the money in the valley flows out of it,” he says. “The valley is a closed system. The same winners here keep on winning because they’ve been in power forever. The same folks keep running the same old schemes,” he says. “We want to wrestle the power away from the ‘Good Ole Boys’ and give it back to the people.”

But, they say, “This is so much bigger than just businesses. We need to step up and say ‘Why is it like this here? Why are we so backwards?’ But we can’t change it alone.”

The two are seeking other people who feel the same way they do and who, like them, are interested in starting a new organization that will exist solely to serve small businesses. They propose a working name like “The Grand Valley Small Business Coalition.”

But, Billy says, “What we really need is a chamber for the rest of us.”

If you want to join Shawn Carr and Billy Jacobs’ effort, contact them at at Shawn@gjcomputer.com, or call Shawn’s shop at (970) 256-1925.

The G.J. Sentinel hawks cheap handguns while also wishing readers “a safe and happy holiday”

With ads like these in the local paper, no wonder Grand Junction has such a high suicide rate

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel ran a big ad in it’s Thanksgiving Day paper selling handguns for cheap while on it’s Facebook page it simultaneously wishes readers a “safe and happy holiday.”

Many area residents would consider the ad alone grossly inappropriate in a community that recently reached a record high suicide rate, and which has for years struggled with one of the highest suicide rates in the nation.

In the U.S., the majority of suicides are by gun, and it’s been shown that depression and access to firearms are a deadly combination.

Suicide rates are also higher in places where the rates of gun ownership are higher. A Harvard School of Public Health survey of all 50 U.S. states found a strong link between rates of suicide and firearm ownership. Even Fox News concluded that gun ownership is tied to a threefold increase in suicide risk. The lesson, should we choose to accept it, is that many lives would be saved if gun ownership was less prevalent. 

Not helping

When seen through the lens of all this information, the Daily Sentinel’s ads promoting sales on guns appear thoughtless, offensive and unhelpful at best, and self-serving at worst. We know the paper wants the ad revenue, but does it have to come at the expense of potentially exacerbating the local suicide problem? While we need and value a source of local news and should be glad to have one like the Daily Sentinel, the net effect of the local paper accepting ads like this makes the paper of zero benefit to the local suicide rate, and even puts it into the negative category.

In short, on the western slope, ads like this are more of a public detriment than a service or public benefit of any kind.

The Daily Sentinel cannot at once be sincere in wishing community members a safe holiday while helping market cheap, deadly weapons to households across the valley. It would be more sincere — and appropriate —  for the paper to refuse to run ads for firearms until the rate of gun massacres in the U.S. comes down and the suicide rate in Mesa County drops at least a little bit.  

Trump-linked hate graffiti found at Horizon Drive Safeway

Graffiti left in the restroom at the Horizon Drive Safeway this evening.

An employee at the Horizon Drive Safeway discovered hateful anti-gay graffiti scrawled in the store’s restroom tonight and posted photos of it on social media. The employee discovered the graffiti while changing out of work clothes in the restroom.

One message was “Trump 2020” with a swastika. The other message said “God hates all fags,” also with a swastika.

The vandalism occurred between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. this evening.
Donald Trump’s presidency is fueling divisiveness, emboldening supremacists and radical right wing hate groups and has led to an increase in hateful rhetoric around the country, including in Grand Junction. Trump’s negative comments and punitive policies towards immigrants, transgendered citizens and other minorities are also contributing to an increase in hateful rhetoric directed at these groups.  

Graffiti in the Horizon Drive Safeway restroom

Related post: Grand Junction’s growing hate community

Trump endorses accused child molester Roy Moore for Senate

Newspapers in New York today with stories about Trumps endorsement of accused child molester Roy Moore

In a new low for the country, President Donald Trump has endorsed the denials of Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican senate candidate who has been accused of engaging in sexual misconduct with teenagers. Trump’s endorsement indicates he has elevated the strength of Moore’s denials about the encounters over accounts given by the eight women who stepped forward and graphically described the sexual assaults by Moore they experienced when they were younger and Moore was in his 30s.

Moore made a name for himself as a public Ten Commandments moralizer while he served as Chief Justice for the state of Alabama, but he was twice ejected from his position on the Court for violating federal laws. Despite getting kicked off the bench twice for failing to follow the law and being accused of sexually molesting teenagers, Moore has maintained the support of many Christian conservatives in the state. He now also has the support of President Trump.



What Roy Moore and Grand Junction City Council have in common

Roy Moore

Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican senatorial candidate accused of sexual predation, brings thoughts right back here to Grand Junction, because Moore and Grand Junction have two big things in common.

They are 1) the Ten Commandments, and 2) an eagerness to defy U.S. law.

Moore was twice thrown out of his job as Chief Justice for the state of Alabama for defying U.S. law. After the Supreme Court’s 2015 landmark ruling legalizing gay marriage, Moore ordered the state’s probate court judges not to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples. A commission charged him with violating federal judicial orders and kicked him off the court in 2016. That was the second time Moore was ejected for violating the law.

Roy Moore’s Ten Commandments Tablet in the rotunda of the Alabama state judicial building

The first time Moore got the boot was in 2003, after he refused to remove a 5,280-pound granite Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of Alabama’s state Judicial Building. Moore had ordered the monument placed there himself. In 2003, a federal district court ruled that having the monument on government property blatantly violated the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits government from endorsing any religion. A federal appellate court affirmed the ruling, clearing up any lingering doubts about whether a Ten Commandments tablet on government property violates U.S. law.

The Court ordered Moore to remove the monument, but he refused, stating

“As chief justice of the State of Alabama, I have no intention of removing the monument of the Ten Commandments and the moral foundation of our law. To do so would, in effect, result in the disestablishment of our system of justice in this state.”

Grand Junction refuses to remove its Ten Commandments tablet, too

In 2001, Grand Junction residents sued the City of Grand Junction  (pdf) asking it to remove the Ten Commandments tablet from City Hall’s lawn because it was an impermissible endorsement of religion.

Grand Junction’s “Ten Commandments” tablet in front of City Hall in 2017, with “Big Hunk” candy bars

Five out of seven Grand Junction City Councilors thought, like Roy Moore, that they should fight for the tablet to remain on City Hall property because they were Christian, most City residents were Christian and so Christianity obviously reigned supreme in town, and that’s all that mattered.  But that’s not how our Constitution works, and Council willingly ignored that fact. In the United States, federal law says government at any level can not endorse any religion, no matter who is in the majority in it’s jurisdiction.

Just like Roy Moore, Grand Junction City Council sought to defy the Constitution and get away with it. The City spent $64,000 of taxpayer money to try to disguise the tablet’s message of religious exclusivity by putting it next to the Bill of Rights and the Mayflower compact. In so doing, the City sent a message to the public that it’s okay to violate the law if you have enough money to do it and think your own personal beliefs supersede the law.

It’s a disgraceful message, and not what America or our town are about.

Grand Junction’s effort to keep the Ten Commandments on government property  was spearheaded by our own home-grown religious moralizer at the time, City Councilman Reford Theobold, who felt so strongly about his morality that he broadcasted it by wearing a necktie with the Ten Commandments on it.

Theobold was arrested in 2015 for shoplifting maps and Big Hunk candy bars from Cabela’s at Mesa Mall.

So much for boastful religious morality, and at least the 8th commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.”

Maybe after pulling off his Constitutional violation in 2001 in front of the entire town, Theobold felt he could get away with violating even more laws. After all, that was the message the City had sent. Theobold just took it to heart like any good City resident would.

It’s all a shameful embarrassment and speaks poorly of our town and our elected leaders’ integrity.

Roy Moore is a disgrace, and so is Reford Theobold. But what are we going to do to fix it?

Reford "Ten Commandments" Theobold

Disgraced former G.J. City Council member Reford Theobold, shown wearing a Ten Commandments tie at a 2006 event

Some Christian evangelicals are now distancing themselves from Roy Moore by pointing out his erroneous interpretation of Christianity. The Atlantic magazine wrote that “Christian support for Roy Moore looks like hypocrisy to the outside world.”  Reverend Laughton Hicks of the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama said November 16 that Moore is “seriously infected with … [a] false Christian religious virus, as are most white males in Alabama.”

In 2001, Grand Junction’s City Council was obviously infected with the same “false Christian religious virus” that currently infects Roy Moore and those who still believe he is fit for office. Moore was wrong to keep the Ten Commandments tablet on public property and lost his job because of it. The only G.J. city council member who urged the City to obey the Constitution in 2001 and remove the Ten Commandments was Gene Kinsey. In return, Kinsey was voted off council in the following election. Kinsey said later he never expected to stay on Council for a long time anyway, and while he personally disliked the idea of having to move the tablet, he knew the City legally needed to move it and it was the right thing to do.

Today, Mr. Kinsey has moved away, but the Ten Commandments tablet still sits in front of City Hall, as a daily reminder that the City of Grand Junction embraced Christian religious superiority in 2001, and continues to do so in 2017.



Rep. Scott Tipton just voted to end many of your tax deductions

Colorado House Rep. Scott Tipton

Republican western slope House Representative Scott Tipton just voted to increase the national debt by more than a trillion dollars and alter the federal tax code in ways that will likely create hardship for many of his constituents. Every Democrat and thirteen Republican House members voted against the bill, but Tipton wasn’t one of them. The vote was a relatively close 226 in favor to 205 against.

Tipton voted to pass HR-1, the Republican “tax reform” bill which ends many of the deductions people have long used to help reduce their taxable income. Here are some of the things the bill will do:

  • Add an estimated $1.4 trillion to the national debt over 10 years
  • Ends the tax deduction for mortgage interest
  • Ends the tax deduction for medical expenses
  • Ends the deduction for alimony payments
  • Ends the deduction for moving expenses
  • Terminates deductions for contributions to medical savings accounts
  • Ends the deduction for expenses incurred to provide access of disabled individuals
  • Repeals the deduction for the cost of professional tax preparation
  • Repeals the deduction for personal casualty loss, e.g. the loss of property due to fire, storm, theft, etc.
  • Eliminates the deduction for state and local income and sales taxes
  • Repeals the student loan interest deduction
  • Cuts taxes on wealthy heirs
  • Makes tax cuts for corporations permanent, while tax cuts for individuals are only temporary

A similar bill is moving in the Senate.

Republicans at every level of government have blood on their hands for U.S. gun massacres

CO Senator Cory Gardner has taken $3.8 million from the NRA and reliably votes against measures to reduce gun violence in the U.S.

Another day, another gun massacre.

Still Republican legislators don’t even lift a finger to address it. “Thoughts and prayers” is their only response, since it holds off action on the insane proliferation of guns in this country, and blocks discussion of what can be done about mass gun violence in the U.S.

There is only one reason why gun massacres are now a common occurrence: America is awash in guns. It’s way too easy to get guns, even extremely dangerous ones, and it has been for far too long. People can  legally amass entire arsenals. The colossal number of guns washing around in the U.S. compared to other countries makes it extremely easy for anyone with even the most petty grievance to use a gun to settle a perceived score by killing people en masse.

And that’s exactly what is happening.

Read the fine print: Republican “tax reform” bill injects religious dogma into the tax code

You don’t typically think of a tax reform bill as a vehicle to push a religious agenda onto the rest of the country, but Trump’s “tax reform” bill does exactly that.

Buried deep inside the Republicans’ proposed “tax reform” bill is a provision conferring rights on “unborn children,” which the bill defines as “a child in utero…a member of the species Homo Sapiens, at any stage of development.” The provision appears on page 93 of the 429-page bill, in a section amending the rules on “529 plans,” which are tax-free investment accounts that allow families to save for a child’s college education. People have long been able to set up 529 plans for children that don’t yet exist, but changing the wording of the law intentionally enshrines recognition of the unborn into federal law, something anti-abortion activists and supporters of fetal “personhood” have long sought to do.

Trump’s tax reform bill is full of tricks