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.

Yes, you read that right. Eighteen hundred Mesa County school children are food insecure every week.

Corruption, Crime and Self-Congratulations

Mesa County Republicans have also given rise to a long string of embarrassing and corrupt public officials, many of whom keep getting recycled over and over. A few examples:

In 2013, the FBI raided the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority to investigate apparent fraud and corruption. Gregg Palmer, owner of Brown’s Shoe Fit on Main Street and a former mayor of Grand Junction, served on the Airport Board during the time the FBI is investigating for fraud. Despite this, he ran for Mesa County Commissioner last year.

The local Republican party’s favored candidate for Sheriff this year, State Senator Steve King, was forced to withdraw from the race after he was charged with three felonies and two misdemeanors for falsifying time cards at the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department where he worked, and failing to report income as is required for state legislators.

Former Grand Junction City Councilman Rick Brainard

Former Grand Junction City Councilman Rick Brainard

Rick Brainard (R), backed by the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce (R), was elected to Grand Junction City Council in April, 2013, but got arrested two days later for assaulting his girlfriend. After the “No Brainard Recall Committee” formed, marched on City Hall, protested, showed up at city council meetings and started organizing a recall election, Brainard pled guilty to the charges, stepped down from Council and left the state in disgrace. Three Republican members of the seven member City Council then construed themselves a majority (do the math), and appointed Brainard’s replacement: a man who has a DUI arrest on his record (pdf) with a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit, which puts him in the category of a “persistent drunk driver.”

Our former Congressional representative, Scott McInnis, had Congress rename a nearby national conservation area in his own honor. Overnight, Congress suspended the rule that prohibits congressmen from naming public works after themselves, and the name of the area was quietly changed from “Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area” to the self-congratulatory “McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area,” without seeking input from anyone in Colorado. To this day, western Colorado has the only national conservation area in the country named after a person instead of a geographic feature. McInnis ran for governor in 2010, but had to withdraw from the race amid charges he plagiarized a series of essays that a foundation paid him $300,000 to write. He apologized to the public and paid the money back to the foundation. McInnis is now running for Mesa County Commissioner.

Nice, huh?

There’s lots more. But since your time is limited, if you want even more information on the long string of disappointing candidates that Mesa County’s dominant political party has fed us, just use the Google search terms provided below. They are specially formulated to turn up the most pertinent information highest in the search results. No need to include the information in the square brackets in your search — it just lets you know their elected positions.:

“Janet Rowland” bestiality  [Mesa County Commissioner]
“Craig Meis” ticket fix  [Mesa County Commissioner]
“Jared Wright” loaded handgun  [State Representative]
“Jared Wright” fired
“Sam Susuras” mystery bill  [Grand Junction Mayor]
“Laura Bradford” DUI traffic stop gun  [State Representative]
“Rose Pugliese” global warming [Mesa County Commissioner]

Former Congressman Scott McInnis's reputation was tarnished by a plagiarism scandal in 2010.

Former Congressman Scott McInnis’s reputation was tarnished by a plagiarism scandal in 2010.

This isn’t all of it by a long shot. There’s so much more, but this gives you an idea of what Mesa County has been laboring under for the last several decades.

So with so many people running, how do you know who to vote for?

It’s pretty easy.

Vote Against the Candidates with Huge Signs

We’ll make things simple. All you really need to know about Mesa County politics is that the candidates with the biggest political signs are the people to vote against.

Yes, against.

These are the folks who are backed by the money bags, not by your neighbors and co-workers. They get groomed (poorly) and foisted into power by the wealthy but completely inept Mesa County Republican Party, whose failure rate for elected officials is now now exceeds that of any other county in the state and whose embarrassment index has blown the lid off any other Colorado community.

So go forth and vote in November without hesitation. Now you how to vote to give people in our area a better shot at a decent economy and a better life. Vote for the people with small signs and help make the changes we so badly need to finally turn Mesa County’s long-sinking fortunes around.

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.

Phillips is also asking appropriate agencies to review and audit the CMU personnel who were involved in King’s hiring and the establishment of his salary. King worked as a coordinator of security at CMU at the same time he also worked at the Sheriff’s office. In July, 2008, CMU (then Mesa State College) awarded King a contract (pdf) to conduct a “security audit” for the campus, with an expected completion date of December 31, 2008. CMU did not solicit any competitive bids for the security audit, and has provided no evidence that the audit was ever completed. King failed to disclose his employment with the Sheriff’s Office to the University, and failed to disclose his employment with CMU to the Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office fired King after an investigation revealed the discrepancies.

Philips is also asking all the other sheriff candidates, if elected, to obtain pertinent information from the FBI regarding the agency’s investigation of the Grand Junction Airport Authority, including records of all of the Airport Authority’s business dealings, purchases, budgets, etc., and give them to the Mesa County District Attorneys office to determine if all the Authority’s dealings and communications were lawful. So far, none of these records have been made public, despite the fact that the Airport Authority has been under federal investigation for fraud for close to a year.

The GOP chose Mesa County Sheriff Department employee Matt Lewis to replace Steve King in the sheriff’s race, but Lewis has a tarnished history with the Sheriff’s office as well. Lewis was named in a 4th Amendment (illegal search and seizure) lawsuit filed in 2010 (pdf), in a case that involved an alleged illegal entry into a home by members of the Sheriff’s Office including Lewis, and the tasing in the neck of a man whom Sheriff’s officers knew at the time was not a suspect in the assault they had been called to investigate. The case was settled out of court in 2013 for an undisclosed sum using public funds.

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.

Scott also appeared inarticulate and ill-informed next to Konola, stumbling over even the most standard GOP red-meat platitudes. He invoked Obamacare, which is federal-level legislation that the Colorado state legislature had nothing to do with, and evidently forgot that the U.S. House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans. Scott said:

We are taxed too much and we spend too much. But you’re gonna hear a whole lot of stuff today about programs and the wondrous things we should be doing, that you’re not going to be able to pay for. We do not have a tax problem. We have a revenue … We have a revenue problem not a tax problem. And a spending problem. We spend too much in the state of Colorado. $2 billion a month is what we spend now.

and,

Shall we say “Obamacare?” Wow. That’s a heck of a good program. The government that we have today, from the federal level to the state level, is basically controlled by Democrats.

Ray Scott

Ray Scott

Scott dodged questions about possible ways to diversify the local economy besides promoting oil and gas, and about how to address domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, ignoring a serious women’s issues, which gained more prominence than ever locally in 2013, after Grand Junction after City Councilman Rick Brainard (R) was arrested and pled guilty to striking his girlfriend in the face. Instead, Scott brought up a failed legislative attempt two years ago to pass “Jessica’s law” about punishment for sex offenders. And Konola hit him with a real zinger near the finish — one for which Scott could not recover — when she pointed out his ineffectiveness as a legislator, saying that while he brags on his website about sponsoring or co-sponsoring “over 140 bills in 2012,”  not one of them ever became law. Scott tried to plead his case later by telling the audience that there is more to being a legislator than just bringing bills, saying that you have to “think outside the box.” But throughout the entire debate, he presented no new or novel ideas that were, in fact, “outside the box.”

For her part, Konola proved she had more detailed knowledge about state affairs and was far more informed than Scott. She discussed the specific conflicting amendments in the Colorado constitution that prevent schools from being adequately funded. She showed she has done her homework while discussing current state water issues, bringing up a series of state-wide water issue roundtables, and pointing out that Ray Scott had walked out on one of them while simultaneously complaining the legislature had had no input at the roundtables. Konola made it clear that she is already actively considering alternative methods of better funding higher education, and also pointed out that throughout her campaign, she has been working to address the needs of everyone in Mesa County, even less politically powerful community members, including the tea party and the GLBT community.

This debate wasn’t even close. But it did serve the important purpose of showing the community that Ray Scott is just plain out of gas. He’s slow on the take, isn’t able to defend his positions very well, and is very much a last-century thinker. Even the phrase he hoped might save him –“out of the box” — is now pretty retro. All this, along with the local GOP’s proven inability to govern with any distinction here in Mesa County, is making Ray Scott look like a sinking bet for Colorado Senate District 7.

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 »

Congress Suspended Rule to Rename McInnis Canyons

August 27, 2014

In 2004, the U.S.House of Representatives purposely suspended one of its own rules to pass HR 4827, which renamed the 122,000-acre Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area (NCA) in western Colorado after then-sitting Colorado Congressman Scott McInnis, and ironically the rule they suspended was one another Colorado Congressman had lobbied to put in place.

The House of Representatives’ House Rules (pdf) were created to ensure order, reduce corruption in Congress and prevent Congress members from misusing the political process for their own personal gain and glorification. For example, the Rules put a maximum value on gifts members of Congress can accept from lobbyists and prohibit members from accepting reimbursement for transportation, lodging or other trip expenses unless certain specific criteria are met.

Rule XXI, Clause 6 specifically bans House members from naming public structures after themselves. Public structures includes public works and publicly-owned lands like beaches, parks and national forests, so to rename Colorado Canyons NCA after McInnis, Congress had to circumvent the rule. To that end, House members purposely suspended Rule XXI Clause 6, so the McInnis renaming bill could pass. Read more »

Petition: Change the Name of “McInnis Canyons” back to Previous Name

August 24, 2014

NoMcInnisCanyonsA new Change.org petition asks to revert “McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area” back to its original name, “Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area.” The federal land was renamed in 2005 for then-sitting Congressman Scott McInnis. Prior to that time, no federal conservation area was ever named for a person. Under U.S. tradition, they have been named only after geographic features.  The area was also previously known as the Black Ridge Wilderness Study Area, after Black Ridge, the highest point above the Colorado National Monument.

When the change of name happened in 2005 it was a surprise to most Coloradans. It came about after an Oregon congressman mysteriously introduced a bill to change the area’s name to honor McInnis in 2004. The bill’s only co-sponsor was another congressman from California. Coloradans were unaware that the bill had been introduced. Neither of the congressman who sponsored the bill sought the opinion or consensus of Coloradans for the change. No one knows why these two out-of-state Congressmen initiated the change, and Coloradans remain unclear why it happened. Read more »

Study: Daughters Bear Biggest Burden of Caring for Aging Parents

August 19, 2014

WheelchairA new research paper shows that daughters spend more than twice as much time caring for their elderly parents than sons, and when daughters are in the picture, sons tend to reduce what little caregiving efforts they make and leave the burden to the sisters.  The study, titled “When Gender Trumps Everything: The Division of Parent Care among Siblings,” will be presented today at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

The study found that daughters provide an average of 12.3 hours of care to elderly parents per month, compared to just 5.6 hours of care provided by sons.

The study’s author, Princeton sociology doctoral candidate Angelina Grigoryeva, concluded that by pushing most of the duties of caring for aging parents onto their sisters, brothers also shift the financial burden and physical and mental stress of providing that care onto their sisters.

Grigoryeva’s research found that women tend to base how much time they spend caring for elderly parents on competing concerns, like how much time they need to devote to their own families and careers, while men base the the amount of caregiving time they spend on whether or not they have a sister or sisters who can handle those responsibilities. Read more »

Does This Look Small to You?

August 15, 2014
This loaf of challa bread costs $6.40 at Main Street Bagels.

This challa cost $6.40 at Main Street Bagels today. It’s only about 2″ thick.

Got Free Speech?

ThoughtOnBoard™! The dry-erase board that sticks to glass. Endless uses. Just $20. Visa, MC, PayPal. Fast shipping.

`