Candidates for the contested seats on the Grand Junction City Council are all starting to sound the same. Kim Kerk supports “property owners rights” and a “business friendly community.” Duncan McArthur is for “private property rights” and the “small business owner.” They sound just the same, don’t they? Dennis Simpson says he’s a “fiscal conservative,” and McArthur is for “fiscal responsibility,” but aren’t these the same thing? Basically, it translates to more belt-tightening for our community.
It’s like listening to a broken record. And it’s folly for voters to listen to them.
Business owners and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce wield outsized influence in Grand Junction, and they’ve shown citizens time and again that believing anything they say or do at election time is completely absurd.
The chamber portrays itself as the single most important political voice in town because it represents businesses, but only a fraction of area businesses even belong to the chamber and, according to the chamber’s membership list, many of their members are from clear outside of the area. The G.J. Chamber has members in Denver, Arvada, Lakewood, Greenwood Village, Centennial, Glenwood Springs, Moab, Utah, Reno, Nevada, Houston, Texas, and even Washington, D.C…. Why should any company based on the front range or another state have any say over Grand Junction’s issues or candidates?
What’s more, valuing businesses more highly than ordinary, hard-working city residents has cost this city dearly and set us far behind smaller western slope towns. For years, maybe even decades, Grand Junction citizens have been craving a public recreation center, like the ones the cities of Fruita, Delta, Montrose and Durango have already built for their citizens. Over and over, our City Council has denied residents this same wonderful amenity based on an unproven premise that building such a facility might possibly be detrimental to less than a handful of private businesses in town, like gyms and athletic clubs. A couple of businesses vs. tens of thousands of citizens who could benefit from such a facility. Why are city residents always the losers in this kind of issue?
Haven’t Grand Junction residents sacrificed their quality of life on the altar of almighty private business long enough?
Businesses and the Chamber: Unreliable Voices at Election time
Moreover, neither the chamber nor private businesses have proven reliable proponents on issues. The chamber has gone to bat for private businesses at election time before, only to be outed as lying.
Remember Referred Measure A in the April, 2013 election? It asked voters to uphold light industrial zoning by the Colorado River so Brady Trucking, a private business, could expand its operations there. The chamber promised voters that if they passed the measure, Brady Trucking would bring a slew of new jobs to town averaging $70,000 a year and build a walking and biking trail on a 50-foot wide easement along the river, as well as fencing and landscaping. Chamber President Diane Schwenke said, “This is an issue where the voters can support good jobs and development of trails.”
Voters listened to the chamber and duly passed the measure, and now, two years later, the site is still untouched. No trails were ever built, and no additional jobs ever brought to the area.
The vaunted voice of business spoke to citizens and told them the best thing to do, and it was all a lie.
Remember the infamous 2013 chamber-backed city council candidate Rick Brainard, and what a debacle he was to the City?
After these kinds of recommendations and lies, should voters really listen to the chamber again about which candidates and issues to back in local elections?
There are plenty of important people in Grand Junction besides owners of businesses and private property, yet in every election cycle, council candidates ignore them. What about retirees, students, children, mentally and physically disabled, nonprofit workers, retail workers, landscape workers, day care workers, restaurant workers, teachers, government employees and volunteers, to name a few?
Don’t these people matter? Why are they perpetually invisible to local candidates for public office?Why are none of these groups considered a viable constituency worth pursuing?
Arguably, these citizens are the real lifeblood of the area. They earn the money that gets spent at local businesses. Without these people as customers, local businesses would die. But who fights for THEIR best interests?
No one, so far.
It’s far beyond time for council candidates to acknowledge that there are many voters in town with needs besides private property owners, business owners and people who want more belt-tightening by City Council. There are plenty of business-friendly tightwads on Council already. What we need now are candidates who care about average, hard-working Grand Junction residents, many of whom live on the edge, have difficulty feeding their kids, making ends meet and affording medical and dental care. We need council candidates who will vow to support these people’s interests and needs if elected to Council.
Now THAT would be one giant breath of fresh air.
In a March 24, 2015 editorial, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel argues that “North Avenue needs a modern moniker.” The article cites the town’s extensive modernization and expansion since it’s founding many years ago, and extensive capital improvements, like the airport and interstate highway, as reasons to rename North Avenue to University Avenue — the most frequently suggested new name for the street.
Changing the name of North Avenue is a fine idea, but it’s thinking small.
We need to take collective big deep breath, go a big step further and rename the entire city.
Lots of local features have been renamed in the past few years. We’ve re-named Walker Field Airport, Mesa State College and F Road, all with no ill effects. The new names have even proven to be marked improvements over the old names, eliminating confusion and better representing the amenities they point to.
But let’s face it, folks. Grand Junction has earned some negative baggage. This is reflected in the slew of pejorative nicknames people have given our area: “Grand Junktown,” “Gland Function,” “Spun Junction,” “Meth Junction,” “Tweakerville,” to name a few. Moreover, our town has given rise to a disproportionate number of dysfunctional institutions, embarrassing political scandals and politicians followed state-wide. The Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority’s fraud and graft investigation is one example. Our very own Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce repeatedly taking its own business out of town and even out of state is another. As for embarrassing politicians, the list is long and seems never-ending. Former Mesa county commissioner Janet Rowland publicly equated homosexuality to bestiality on the state-wide TV talk show “Colorado Matters” while running for lieutenant governor in 2006. Our state House Representative, Jared Wright, distinguished himself by leaving a loaded handgun in a legislative hearing room in the state capitol building in 2014. Former State Senator Laura Bradford made headlines by getting arrested for a DUI in Denver. Last year’s favored GOP candidate for Mesa County Sheriff (and former state senator) Steve King pled guilty to charges of embezzlement and dropped out of the race. Former Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis was known for repeatedly trying to bully law enforcement officers out of giving him tickets by threatening them with his vast importance as a county commissioner, a’ la Barney Fife. Rick Brainard, the chamber-backed G.J. city council candidate who was who was arrested for domestic violence four days after being elected in 2013 is another politician who made us want to hide our heads. And current County Commissioner Scott McInnis made headlines in 2010 when he went down in flames after being hit with a plagiarism scandal while running for governor.
There are so many more. The list is truly never-ending.
So wouldn’t it be great to leave all this crappy baggage behind?
Where is that Spot Where the Two Rivers Meet, Anyway?
Beyond all that, it’s pretty clear no one in town really cares about the spot that is the town’s namesake: the junction where the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers meet. There’s no commemorative plaque, monument, interpretive sign, architectural overlook, no parking area or other marker indicating the spot where the rivers meet. There is no street sign pointing tourists to it. Nothing. Zip. Nada.
People just don’t care about the “grand junction.”
Corporations have taught us how to ditch a bad reputation: start fresh with a new name. Philip Morris changed its name to “Altria” to escape its tarnished image as a cigarette maker, and it’s still raking in billions while selling the world’s biggest known deadly product. The Blackwater Worldwide private military company changed its name to “Xe” to ditch its tarnished image after the 2007 Nisour Square massacre in Iraq, then changed its name again in 2011 to “Academi.” Cable TV companies constantly change their names to escape the bad raps they get after they hike their rates and provide customers with terrible service. They wouldn’t pull these name changes if it wasn’t successful in snookering a good portion of the public into believing something has really changed.
It’s time for Grand Junction to change its name, too.
A new name would give our area a fresh start, bring some much-needed positive attention to our town and give it a more modern, updated feel to help counteract the oft-heard opinion that Grand Junction is still languishing in the 1960s. A name change could invigorate citizens and boost local pride and civic participation. It would help us leave behind our inept past and usher in a new era as we finally grows into the 21st century.
What that new name should be is open to endless possibilities. Maybe we could rename the town after a feature of the area that people really DO care about. For example, people really do value the rivers themselves, as evidenced by the extensive system of riverfront paths and parks we’ve built. We value the wildlife around our rivers, too. We llike watching the river waters rise and fall with the seasons, and people enjoy fishing, rafting and boating on the rivers in summertime. Perhaps a good new name for town would be “Two Rivers.” After all, we already have “Two Rivers Convention Center.” Another possibility is the one more positive nickname town already has, “River City.” Or, because writing two words on envelopes is tiresome, maybe the new name should be a single inspirational word that conjures feelings of beauty, hope or relaxation. “Horizon” would be that kind of name. We already have a Horizon Drive at the entrance to town off I-70. (We’d have to do more to assure pedestrian safety on Horizon Drive if we choose that name, though. We’ll have to do more to assure pedestrian safety on Horizon Drive no matter what!). Spectacular things happen at the horizons: sunrise, sunset, moonrises and gorgeous colors that inspire feelings of appreciation for nature. So “Horizon” would be a fitting and inspirational name for our town.
The Sentinel advocating renaming North Avenue to “University Boulevard” is okay, but if we do it, it would really just be another part of a drawn-out, piecemeal approach to bringing Grand Junction to a whole new level. We need to think bigger and better than that. Town needs a new name that better represents what people really do love about this area: it’s spacious horizons, gorgeous natural landscapes, wonderful rivers and deserts, the vast possibilities for outdoor recreation, the increasing cultural diversity and overall quality of life we all enjoy right right here, in the wonderful town of _____________.
Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis has carefully cultivated an image of being a land conservation maven. Until recently he was a member of the board of Colorado Open Lands, a statewide land trust that holds the largest conservation easement in the state. That group’s mission is to conserve productive farmland and scenic areas of the state through voluntary partnerships with private landowners and federal, state and local agencies. Ostensibly, Mr. McInnis served on this board because he believes in the value of land preservation. As a U.S. Congressman, McInnis so closely linked himself with boosting land conservation that he even got his buddies in Congress to rename a 200,000 acre area public land on the western slope as “McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area,” even though doing so violated a House Rule created specifically to prohibit Congressmen from naming public works or lands after themselves.
Quite an accomplishment for Mr. McInnis.
So if we could presume that anyone on the western slope would be a champion for the value of land conservation, you would think it would be Scott McInnis, right?
Since being elected Mesa County Commissioner just last year, McInnis has suddenly turned skeptical of the value of land conservation, and so far, he hasn’t explained to the public why he’s had such a radical turnabout in his views.
When the Mesa Land Trust asked the Mesa County commissioners earlier this month for a letter supporting a Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant application to put a conservation easement on 22 acres of productive private agricultural land on East Orchard Mesa, McInnis threw on the brakes and denied the request, claiming — of all things — that he needs more time to learn about easements and what they mean for the county’s future.
McInnis is suddenly very concerned that conservation easements might be harmful to Mesa County because they protect land from development in perpetuity. He now suggests open lands only be conserved for just 30 years, instead protecting them in perpetuity for later generations to enjoy.
McInnis’ new stance is a 180-degree flip-flop on land conservation, and has rendered him a complete and total hypocrite on the subject.
Land conservation seemed valuable enough when it meant McInnis could get a federal conservation area name after himself, but now, not so much. The idea that it might be inappropriate for a private landowner to choose to preserve his or her own farmland for future generations is incredible. But if we are to now believe Mr. McInnis, this is what he thinks.
It’s not as though Mesa County citizens had no warning that McInnis would be untrustworthy in public office. His 2014 campaign for commissioner violated several laws and ordinances, his infamous plagiarism scandal while running for governor in 2010 and the subversive way he got federal lands named after him in 2004 in opposition to what Coloradans wanted all made it painfully clear that McInnis was far from being a decent candidate, to put it charitably.
So now that McInnis has suddenly changed his mind and believes land conservation is a bad idea, what happens now?
Maybe he will now be willing to let the name “McInnis Canyons” expire, so the conservation area so mistakenly named after him can revert back to its original name, “Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area.”
Or, if you’d rather not wait for that to become reality, we can initiate that action right now, so Mesa County citizens can finally end the embarrassment of having a national conservation area in their backyard named after a total hypocrite.
To get moving on fixing the “McInnis Canyons” mistake, click here to sign the petition to Colorado Senator Michael Bennet asking for legislation to revert “McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area” back to its original name, Colorado Canyons National Conservation area.
This guide presents voters with a citizen’s perspective on a number of upcoming ballot measures, and provides recommendations on which candidates to vote for in the City of Grand Junction’s Municipal election on April 7, 2015. Recommendations are evaluated based on what residents feel is important to their quality of life, safety and welfare, and the best economic interests of our area.
City of Grand Junction Referred Measure 2A: Restoring authority to the City to provide high speed internet and cable television service, either directly or indirectly, with public or private sector partnerships.
Explanation: This ballot measure allows the City to ignore SB 05-152 (pdf), a stupid law passed by the Colorado legislature in 2005 that prohibits municipalities from providing cable TV or telecommunications services, like broadband internet service, in any form to anyone. Fortunately, the law has a loophole that allows municipalities to opt-out of the law as long as they hold an election asking people if they want their city to opt out.
We should opt out.
The City of Grand Junction has its own broadband network in municipal buildings, but under the above-mentioned stupid state law, they can’t offer free wifi to citizens in their buildings even though the network is there. The city’s broadband network even runs into its streetlights, but the because of the stupid state law, the City can’t share the network with citizens. That’s just ridiculous, especially since we already pay for it through our taxes.
Approving this measure would let the City share its network, so people can get free wifi downtown. It will also let cable companies install and repair fiber optic lines during city construction to improve streets.
Since we’re all stuck with Charter Communications for high speed cable broadband internet and Charter has no competitors in this area, we need to opt out of the state law.
Recommended vote on 2A: YES
City of Grand Junction Referred Measure 2B
Explanation: This measure authorizes the city to take on $14.5 million of additional debt to finance more construction on the Westside Beltway project, also known as the Riverside Parkway.
The City wants to continue the Riverside Parkway, starting where it currently ends at 25 Road and the I-70 Business Loop, extending it north up 25 Road to F 1/2 Road, then west to 24 Road, and up 24 Road to I-70. The City wants to finance the project by keeping taxpayer funds that would normally have to be paid back to citizens under the TABOR Act (the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights).
The measure sounds fine at first read, but we recommend a “No” vote on Measure 2B.
A concerned member of the Fruita Monument High School community has sought help from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) over a “baccalaureate” ceremony held in the school’s gym last year on May 12, 2014, and possibly over concerns of a similar event occurring this year around graduation time.
A baccalaureate is a religious ceremony held a few days before a school’s official graduation ceremony. Baccalaureates often feature prayers, bible readings, sermons or benedictions, and music. Students may wear their caps and gowns, and readings may be given by school employees.
Because baccalaureates are religious events, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires publicly-funded schools to divorce themselves from any connection to these events. Schools cannot help plan, design or sponsor these ceremonies. School employees cannot participate in organizing such events or appear at them in their official capacities. If school auditoriums or gyms are used for the ceremonies, a private party must rent the venue out for the event. The law requires a complete separation between the school and the baccalaureate in every sense.
Students Who Didn’t Want to Attend Allegedly Threatened
The anonymous complainant reported that FMHS Principal Todd McClaskey, Vice Principal Lee Carleton, and other school staff members helped plan the May, 2014 baccalaureate ceremony at FMHS. They reported that FMHS teachers and administrators spoke in their official capacities at the event, reading bible verses and speaking in general terms about the virtues of being a Christian. FMHS’ choir and orchestra students were required to perform at the baccalaureate, and students who didn’t want to take part in the ceremony were threatened with lower grades and told that if they failed to attend, they would have to perform all of the concert music, solo, in front of the entire class, at a later date.