Sen. Ray Scott Doesn’t Want to Do His Job

State Senator Ray Scott is upset that he must attend a special legislative session being called to fix a serious problem affecting a huge number of Colorado citizens.

 
State Senator Ray Scott doesn’t want to be bothered with having to fix a huge mistake the Colorado legislature made in 2017 that is blocking dozens of entities from getting crucial funds they need to function.

This spring the Colorado Legislature passed Senate Bill 267, a measure that re-wrote the state’s pot tax law and amended a state hospital funding program. But the bill mistakenly blocked dozens of cultural and special districts and the people they serve — including the RTD, the Denver Zoo, Denver Museum and Nature and Science and other public entities — from collecting recreational pot taxes they were receiving before the re-write took effect July 1.

According to House Majority Leader KC Becker of Boulder, “Dozens upon dozens of people reviewed the draft” of the bill, but didn’t catch the error.

It’s is costing so many entities so much crucial money that Governor Hickenlooper called a special session to fix the problem, to start on October 2. 

Colorado State Senator Ray Scott

But State Sen. Ray Scott doesn’t wanna go

In a September 15 Facebook post, Sen. Ray Scott dismissed the special session as “Ill-timed and expensive,” citing not an legitimate news source, but an article by Compass Colorado, a secretive right-wing attack group that doesn’t reveal its funders. It seems Sen. Scott would rather enjoy his time off without being pestered with pesky emergency efforts to fix unexpected problems that negatively affect a huge number of Coloradans. 

But isn’t that what we elect our legislators to do?

By the way, Colorado Senators make $30,000/year plus a per diem.

A Solution to the Palisade Gas Station Sign Dilemma

You’ve seen these signs. They’re big and bright and everyone looks for them on I-70 when they need gas, food or a rest stop.

Palisade residents are gearing up to oppose a 60-foot tall, lit gas station sign that Golden Gate Petroleum, the owners of a proposed 11-pump gas station and convenience store to be built at the Exit 42 offramp in Palisade.

Current town code limits signs to 20 feet in height.  Golden Gate says people on I-70 won’t be able to see a 20 foot sign. The Palisade Town Council has already bent the rules and handed the company a variance to build a 60-foot sign, but they shouldn’t have caved so easily. Their town is really worth the fight.

Dozens of Palisade residents are organizing to appeal the variance to keep what will undoubtedly be a brightly-lit gas station sign at a maximum height of 20 feet.

Palisade’s idyllic rural character and agricultural appeal are at stake. In Colorado, lots of communities with priceless vistas put strict limits on the size, shape, position and brightness of commercial signage to preserve their towns’ character and special vistas, and their town councils don’t cave on their code when asked. Think of towns like Vail, Aspen, Telluride, Eagle and other beautiful mountain communities that guard their vistas and appealing appearance like gold. Palisade should value itself the same way. It’s character and appearance should merit the same protection. Moreover, drivers going through Vail, Eagle and Aspen manage to find gas, grocery stores and restaurants in those towns without any difficulty.

A Solution

Fortunately, there’s a way to solve this problem that should keep everyone happy:

The Town of Palisade can stick to it’s guns on its 20 foot height limit on signage and Golden Gate Petroleum can build it’s gas station and still be able to pull plenty of people off I-70. Golden Gate just has to pay an annual fee of a few hundred dollars to have those big blue highway gas station signs put up on both sides of I-70 well before Palisade letting motorists know gas is available at Exit 42. Those big blue signs, called “Tourist-Oriented Directional Signage,” are put up and maintained by a private company called, Colorado Logos, Inc.,which charges an annual fee for them.

The cost of the sign is based on the typical number of cars that go by Exit 42, and the signs themselves are huge, highly reflective and can’t be missed. Anyone driving on I-70 who needs gas will already be looking for one of these signs.

Problem solved! The gas station sign will stay within the 20 foot limit, no variance is needed, Palisade keeps its character and doesn’t compromise it’s values or it’s duty to protect the community from unseemly development. Every driver on I-70 will see that gas is available at Exit 42. The annual cost of the highway signs will likely compete quite favorably with the huge expense of putting up and maintaining a big, bright 60 foot sign.  Colorado Logos has a few requirements to qualify for the sign, like the gas station needs to be open 16 hours a day, serve water, have restrooms and be within three miles of the offramp, but the enterprise will probably easily fulfill all these requirements anyway.

Palisade residents can be spared a battle and the town board can be spared a bruising if it values Palisade enough to stick to it’s current, well-thought-out code and help Golden Gate pursue big highway signage instead of the towering, glowing 60-footer they think they need.

Businesses beg city to fix Horizon Drive Deathtrap; City claims “Sorry, no funds”

Matthew Bandelin, struck by a vehicle and killed at age 38 while trying to cross Horizon Drive in January, 2015

The headline article in today’s Daily Sentinel, “No quick fix on Horizon,” tells how for years businesses along Horizon Drive have been begging the City of Grand Junction to make the street safer for pedestrians.

Three pedestrians, all tourists, have been killed by vehicles on Horizon Drive in the last seven years trying to cross the street between the hotels and restaurant establishments. The three victims were all killed within 700 feet of each other. These people lost their lives merely because they visited our town. Many others have been very badly injured crossing Horizon Drive, but lived. The safety problem on Horizon has been well known to the City for a long time, but nothing has been done during all this time to make the street any safer for pedestrians.

CMU Staff and Students Unhappy with School’s Odd, Oppressive Administrative Structure

Tim Foster, President of Colorado Mesa University

Colorado Mesa University staff members are expressing frustration with the school’s unusual, flat administrative structure, which seems strategically designed to eliminate staff input into school operations, and prevent empowerment of the staff on campus.

CMU President Tim Foster over the years has reshaped CMU’s administration to eliminate the normal avenues of communication between staff and administration that most other universities have, employees say. Instead Foster has substituted an odd, flat administrative structure that eliminates staff’s input into school operations and serves as a firewall against opposition to the administration.

How Does CMU’s Administrative Structure Differ from that of Other Universities?

Normally, publicly-funded universities have deans and provosts, but President Foster has eliminated these positions at CMU. Instead there are only vice presidents who answer directly to President Foster and have little connection to teaching staff. This lack of normal university-style faculty governance, CMU staff members say, leaves no one representing the interests of teaching staff to administration, and no route for staff input into school operations.

What are provosts and deans, and why do they matter?

A Provost is a university’s chief officer. Provosts are responsible for areas like academic priorities and affairs, faculty appointments and allocation of resources. Deans have authority over the individual academic units of the school, like the social sciences, economics, math or the nursing department. Deans typically report to the provosts, and the provosts in turn report to the school president. In addition to duties like helping students navigate their roads to graduation, deans oversee the staff of their individual departments. The duties of deans and provosts include taking feedback from faculty members and forwarding their views and information about their needs to upper administration.

Over time, though, CMU President Foster has eliminated deans and provosts, as though they didn’t matter, replacing them instead with a single Vice President of Academic Affairs.

The argument could be made that eliminating deans and provosts saves the school money, but the staff working within this system, and even CMU’s students, say it is costing the school dearly in other ways. Besides leaving teaching staff without faculty governance and representation of their interests, it means CMU assigns zero value to crucial, on-the-ground observations made by staff about the school’s priorities, allocation of school resources and other aspects of CMU’s operation. Without input like this, problems cannot be addressed and the school can’t move forward and improve the way it would under a normal system.

All this creates an extraordinarily frustrated and demoralized teaching staff, who must live with obvious problems they see at the school on a day-to-day basis, with little ability to address them.

CMU is Unlike Other Universities in a Significant Way

A look at the only organizational chart available on CMU’s website confirms that compared to other universities, CMU does in fact have a very minimal administrative structure. The chart below, taken from CMU’s website, depicts CMU’s President as completely disconnected from, and equal to the Board of Trustees. The chart also indicates no apparent oversight of CMU’s President exists:

This simplistic organizational chart is the only one posted on CMU’s website. It shows the school has a very flat administrative structure, with no deans or provosts, no teaching staff representation and no oversight of the school’s President.

 

In contrast, the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) posts nine full pages (pdf) of administrative organizational charts on it’s website. They show the detailed structure of UNC’s numerous administrative branches, like the Office of Academic Affairs, Office of Development and Alumni Relations, Finance and Administration, Internal and External Affairs and more.

According to its organizational charts, UNC has a much richer administrative hierarchy and broader division of duties than CMU. Also, like normal universities, UNC has a Provost, six Deans and a Board of Trustees. The chart clearly shows UNC’s Board of Trustees has direct oversight of the school’s president, Kay Norton:

One of nine pages the University of Northern Colorado posts on it website detailing the school’s administrative hierarchy, which includes a provost and six deans.

 

Unintended Consequences: CMU’s Administrative Structure is Negatively Affecting Students as well as Faculty

An undervalued, oppressed staff leads to a lack of enthusiasm, reduced pride and lack of a spirit of ownership of the school, the effects of which trickle down to students, too, as reflected in an August 28, 2017 editorial in CMU’s student paper The Criterion, titled “CMU is Boring.” The student editorial board, which authored the article, points to CMU’s low freshman retention rate (66%, which is four percent below the national average) as evidence that something is very wrong with the school. Student participation in school activities is noticeably low, they say, and they explore possible reasons. They say CMU suffers from a “lack of personality” which leads students to feel bored and uninvested in the school. This leads to excessive use of alcohol among students. Significantly, the students at the Criterion point to the downtrodden vibe of the oppressed and divided faculty as a significant contributor to the problem:

“Event attendance is not the only factor that contributes to a generally spiritless campus. The lack of unification among faculty members also leads to an environment that feels fractured and disjointed. Though professors can be seen in groups of two or three grabbing coffee or lunch, nothing about the campus design or atmosphere encourages socialization between faculty.

From higher up, CMU professors are supposedly discouraged from affiliating in an attempt to quell unionization attempts. There are no faculty lounges, no faculty events. Largely, they stay in their offices. A divided CMU faculty unintentionally creates a divided CMU student population. This detachment can be seen in areas set aside for student socialization, like The Point, that are under-utilized and do almost nothing to encourage the desired Maverick community.” [Bold emphasis added.]

Thus the opinions of both students and staff are united on this front, and it becomes clear that CMU’s upper management is holding the school back in significant ways. Tim Foster’s restructuring of the staff may have served him well to cement his power at the school and block opposition from staff to what he chooses to do, but it has exacted a severe toll on both students and staff, has brought and continues to bring negative baggage to the school. It may even be contributing to a high level of alcohol use at the school, according to students.

Band Aids Won’t Help This

Changing the name of North Avenue won’t make this deep systemic problem at CMU at better. It clearly comes from the top. CMU President Tim Foster must recognize that there is a serious chance that the demoralization and lack of personality at CMU has resulted from his restructuring of the administration to cement his own power, and that it has served the school very poorly in the long run.

There is a reason that a normal university structure exists: it works for everyone. It gives value to everyone’s input and creates a system that encourages a free exchange of information and opinions about the school and how it it functions. If Foster really cares about CMU’s students and staff and the school’s future, he should consider changing a system that clearly isn’t working for everyone, and in fact has been detrimental to CMU.

CMU deserves a chance to become a truly excellent school, not one that students and teachers want to flee after a semester or two.

 

 

Disclosure: the author is an alumnus of CMU.

 

 

 

Hyper-conservative “ReaganGirl” Marjorie Haun backs tax increase

Local far right winger and gun nut Marjorie Haun takes a liberal stand in support of an increase in the local sales tax

The worm turns.

However uncharacteristic, prominent local conservative Marjorie Haun, who bills herself as “ReaganGirl,” has found a tax she likes, and she’s urging others to like it, too — and vote for it.

Haun backs a proposed sales tax increase on the next local ballot that will help support the Mesa County District Attorney’s office and the Mesa County Sheriff Department.

More Social Media Insight Into CO State Senator Ray Scott’s Attitude Toward Constituents

Colorado State Senator Ray Scott

Mesa County resident Claudette Konola ran against Ray Scott for the State Senate District 7 seat in 2014, to keep him from running unopposed. We’ve already seen some of Scott’s contemptuous Facebook and email responses to citizens who disagree with his views. Following are tweets Claudette Konola received from Ray Scott between 2014 and 2016, starting around the time she announced she would be running against him, and ending just after the 2016 election. The tweets are all verbatim. All spelling and grammatical errors are in the originals.

Mesa County citizens submit formal ethics complaint against State Sen. Ray Scott

A federal court ruled July 25, 2017 that an elected official’s Facebook page is a forum for speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and that blocking participants based on their viewpoints violates their right to free speech.

Three Grand Junction residents submitted a formal ethics complaint (pdf) to the state legislature August 15 about Colorado State Senator Ray Scott (R-District 7) for blocking them from his official social media accounts after they criticized his views.

The residents say Scott blocking them from his Facebook and Twitter accounts — which he created in his capacity as a public official to communicate with his constituents — violates their rights guaranteed under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which assure Americans’ freedom of speech and equal protection under the law, respectively. The three also cite the July 25, 2017 federal court ruling in Davidson v. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, a case with circumstances extremely similar to those in Colorado involving Scott, brought by a person who was banned from an elected official’s social media account for just 12 hours after he criticized her elected colleagues. In that case, the Court ruled the “elected official violated the First Amendment by engaging in viewpoint discrimination and banning Plaintiff from a digital forum for criticizing her colleagues in the County government.” The court stated that Supreme Court jurisprudence on the First Amendment is clear and unambiguous: “If it makes anything clear, … it is “that speech may not be disfavored by the government simply because it offends.”

Local Public Discussion Tonight about Charlottesville, Racism and the Difficulties Local Minorities Face, Hosted by Black Lives Matter GJ

Local KKK flier

Are you disgusted and distressed with Donald Trump putting neo-Nazi hate groups on the same moral footing as the people opposing them? Disgusted with the outright bigotry being manifested in our country?

Many local residents are.

As more fliers promoting the KKK turn up around the Grand Valley, racist supremacists cause violence and death in Charlottesville and hate is increasingly manifested more freely even right here in Mesa County, Black Lives Matter-Grand Junction is opening up its monthly meeting to everyone tonight so citizens can air their thoughts on the recent acts of hatred being displayed in Charlottesville and even in our own town.

Donald Trump’s Tweet from Early This Morning (which he quickly deleted)

Early this morning, just days after a white supremacist drove a car into a crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing a woman, President Trump retweeted an image of a Trump train running over a CNN reporter. The image was originally posted by an “alt-right” conspiracy theorist and Trump fan. Trump quickly deleted the post after it sparked criticism as being highly inappropriate just days after the Charlottesville violence.

Here is the tweet Trump sent to his nearly 36 million followers:

Screencaps of Senator Ray Scott’s Rude Responses on Facebook

Ray Scott

Ray Scott

Not only has Colorado State Senator Ray Scott shocked participants on his social media accounts with consistent grammatical and spelling errors and frighteningly superficial knowledge of environmental issues, but he is particularly nasty toward constituents with whom he disagrees politically. That is, before he blocks them from his social media completely, which is against the law.

Scott also often deletes his rudest comments, perhaps realizing too late he’s gone beyond the pale. But this, too, is impermissible because all entries on Senator Scott’s social media — whether they are his own or from citizens — are part of his official public record and as such must be preserved.