In an op-ed in today’s Daily Sentinel Chamber Board president Jeffrey Hurd cites the success of School District 51 students as key to the chamber’s “CMU 20000” initiative, which seeks ways to increase Colorado Mesa University’s enrollment to 20,000 students to benefit the local economy.
“When CMU20000 launched, 200 business and community leaders identified dozens of ideas to grow CMU and thus our economy. Among other things, we discussed student recruitment ideas, K-12 partnerships (the success of School District 51 students is key to CMU20000), business collaborations, community engagement, and cultivating more top-notch programs that attract talented students and faculty.”
Mr. Hurd clearly believes District 51 students should aspire to higher education, and particularly at CMU.
But in the October 28, 2017 issue of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Thomas Keenan, the chamber-endorsed candidate for school board, expressed the exact opposite opinion from Hurd. Keenan actually stated:
“In today’s world we don’t need to send kids to four-year colleges anymore, we need to get them one-year certificates out there in the industry, where they’re needed.”
So which is it? Does the chamber agree with Keenan that kids shouldn’t attend four-year colleges, or does the chamber encourage District 51 students to pursue higher education at CMU?
Those aren’t the only two choices. There are two other possibilities: 1) The chamber believes higher education is suitable only for students from outside the Grand Valley, or 2) The chamber mistakenly endorsed a disastrous, utterly unfit candidate for school board.
It’s probably the latter.
Understanding the chamber’s endorsements
One thing is abundantly clear by now. The chamber doesn’t evaluate candidates based on qualifications, but rather based on political and religious ideology. The results of this narrow criteria can be disastrous. In 2013, one of their winning candidates, Rick Brainard, got thrown in jail four days after the election for beating up a woman and turning her face black and blue.
Mr. Keenan is a politically conservative, religious person who in every way suits the chamber’s starkly limited criteria for endorsement but who at the same time has demonstrated that he is utterly unsuited to be a school board member. A former D-51 student who attended Palisade High School when Mr. Keenan worked there commented that
Another red flag about his unsuitability is that Keenan could not write a coherent sentence when answering the chamber’s four-question questionnaire for candidates. Here is how he answered Question #4, “Why should members of the Grand Junction Area Chamber vote for you?”:
The lesson is that either the chamber needs switch to using more valid and rational criteria for deciding which candidates they endorse and then take the time to get on the same page with their messaging, or get out of the business of endorsing candidates completely.
It’s clear the latter would be more preferable to just about everyone. Certainly citizens would like to see the chamber be less political, and a November, 2016 survey of the chamber’s own members showed only about 6 percent of chamber members want the chamber meddling in local politics at all.