In a jaw-dropping political turnabout at Monday’s (2/8/16) Mesa County Commissioner meeting, the county’s farthest ultra-right wing nuts out-right winged the regular right wing nuts, resulting in arch conservative Commissioner Scott Mcinnis strongly defending — yes, defending — all the good the federal government does for Mesa County citizens and our quality of life.
The fireworks started with a discussion of whether Mesa County should accept a $2.1 million grant to build a detention pond in Bosley Wash at the bottom of the Bookcliffs. The wash has been the site of several flash floods in recent years resulting one person getting killed, several private properties being repeatedly covered in mud and silt and massive mudflows pouring over I-70. Bosley Wash endangers a total of 200 properties near the base of the Bookcliffs between Clifton and Palisade.
Ultra conservative Mesa County right wing nut Kevin King spoke to commissioners three times — twice more than any other citizen at the hearing — arguing that the County should not accept federal funds under any circumstances whatsoever, saying doing so would would mean the County Commission would be buying into a communistic redistribution scheme, agreeing that global warming is a reality and selling out “to the psychopaths and criminals in Washington.”
Several persuasive public servants spoke in favor of the project. One was Mesa County Emergency Manager Andrew Martsoff, who pointed to the loss of life and property due to flooding in the wash, and urged the Commissioners to accept the federal funds for the retention pond project. Another was Kristin Winn, a former public information coordinator for the City of Grand Junction, who was present in person at Bosely Wash the day the flood death occurred. Winn said a hard summer rain storm over the Bookcliffs generated a flash flood in Bosley Wash at the bottom of the Bookcliffs that crossed I-70 and caught an unsuspecting elderly couple as they drove on the highway. The rushing water flipped their car over and the couple got caught inside, upside down with their seat belts on, in the rushing flood waters and mud flow. The driver, an 84 year old man, was killed. His 86 year old wife survived.
“If we can prevent any kinds of deaths from flash flooding,” that is the role of government,” Wynn told the commissioners. She urged them to take money to make the Bosley wash area safer.
Death Immaterial to Ideologically Pure Citizen Kevin King
After Winn finished, a frustrated Kevin King strode back to the podium, and told the commissioners,
“OK, Government. How many people are gonna die in Mesa County today? How many? Somebody got an answer? A thousand? You gonna save their lives today? Where does the madness stop here? All of ‘em? Lets admit here you can’t save every life. But to sell yourself all to all these federal agencies that we’re asking to be just gone as conservatives, you’re lining ‘em up at the front door! …It’s just crazy what were doing here. So its like we might as well just go completely communist here and nationalize everything because that’s where this is heading…”
King then started to step away from the podium when Commissioner Mcinnis called him back.
Mcinnis gave Kevin King a verbal redressing, the likes of which we have never heard before:
“I appreciate your concern,” McInnis began. “You put a lot of work in this, but I’m trying to follow your logic. So if we were to follow your logic — and your welcome to correct me if I’m wrong — let me just list the areas where we get federal or state grants, and all of these grants have stipulations with them. Let me just go down the list:
Davis Bacon [NOTE: this is a federal law that requires workers like laborers and mechanics to be paid local prevailing wages on public works projects], so your schools, your libraries, state highway projects, federal highway projects, water projects, irrigation projects, ARM projects…I’m gonna go through this list…If we follow your philosophy and we just shut the valve off on all of these, I want you if you can, to tell me if you were in our shoes, how do you serve these people, Kevin? How do we tell them… I mean how many people a day do we save? So we can’t save ‘em all so we maybe cut a couple of ambulances out because we get federal funding from emergency assistance? Let me go down the list: A hospital. My gosh our hospitals, we have to take…there’s Medicaid money out there, there’s Medicare money out there. There’s federal regulations on the cleanliness, there’s federal regulations on the certifications of doctors, there’s federal regulations on the ambulance drivers, it’s everywhere. Should we just say we’re not gonna comply with any of those? Shut down the hospitals?”
“Let’s go on,” McInnis continued:
“The schools, the school lunch program. It’s outrageous, I happen to agree with you, We have more people employed in Washington, D.C. I mean with a massive building just to plan our school lunches. But’s it’s the fact, we have all kinds of regulations. Should we stop our school lunches? Stop all the certifications and all these kinds of things? And the list goes on…water, drainage, food… Go to the grocery store, look at all of the regulations we have, mostly federal safety… meat inspectors, food inspectors, electricity… and by the way, you’re the beneficiary of all of these and I guess in the purest form, following your logic, you probably don’t use the highways, don’t buy gasoline, don’t go to the hospitals, don’t send you kids to schools, public or private. You know where I’m going with this…”
Kevin: “You know what you sounded like right there commissioner Mcinnis? You sounded like president Obama saying ‘We built the roads’…”
Mcinnis: “Oh, come on…Oil and gas regulations, the list goes on and on…So we talk to the engineers who are experts on Bosley wash, we talk to the emergency management and in my opinion you take look at these grants and it comes to the point of how are we gonna fix it? So tell me those answers, Where are you gonna draw the line on this?”
Kevin King: “We’ve sold out to the psychopaths and criminals in Washington, D.C.!”
“My question is, tell me what you’re gonna shut down. Should we shut down the airport tomorrow? It’s heavy in federal grants, heavy in federal grants…We can’t sustain without federal grants…should we shut the airport down? How about the hospital? So you won’t close the airport tomorrow, right? You agree with me? We’re not gonna close the airport tomorrow, we’re not gonna close the hospital tomorrow…and I think that as these different things come in where we have needs, and we have obligations to protect our citizens as we just heard, we have to balance these out, so I think that’s the responsibility we have.. some of them I think the burden is too much, the balance isn’t there I think that’s the responsibility we have …But to draw a blank statement across the board that we should accept no federal funding much of which you are a beneficiary of, as am I..…if we’re gonna to start doing this, if this county commission from this point on, if we’re going to take the position that no federal grants, no state assistance, anything the county government touches, no outside funding…”
Mr. McInnis’ harsh rebuke highlighted the callousness and even folly of the ultra-pure ideological right wing viewpoint, explaining what is wrong with it at it’s core: it means a few people get to pick who lives and who dies, who gets medical help and who doesn’t, whose property and vehicles merit protection and who must be left to their own devices, and in many cases who eats and who starves.
It was a very rare and refreshing moment in which a typical Mesa County Republican right wing nut elected official publicly praised all the good the federal government does to enhance citizens’ quality of life, and pointed out how we all benefit from the federal government’s largesse — even the most government-hating, ideologically pure wacko right wing nuts, like Kevin King.
Thank you, Commissioner McInnis, for reminding Mesa County citizens about the quality of life we all enjoy here in the Grand Valley, thanks in large part to our federal government. And thanks, too, for finally giving Mesa County’s hardened, harsh right wingers, like Kevin King, a reality to think about.