In an op-ed in today’s Daily Sentinel, the paper blames KeepNorth4Ever — the citizen group lobbying to keep “North Avenue” from becoming “University Boulevard” — for turning the issue into an “imbrolgio,” saying they failed to pay adequate attention to local government. The op-ed also blames KeepNorth4Ever for “sowing division” in the community by their activities.
The paper’s narrow, sour-grapes style viewpoint misses the bigger picture and places blame when instead plaudits are due.
KeepNorth4Ever organizers deserve a standing ovation for their remarkable grassroots organizing ability. They pulled together a huge number of people in a remarkably short amount of time, and pulled off the impossible in our current political climate: they united thousands of people from all sides of the political spectrum — the extreme right to extreme left — behind a single issue, all pulling for one result. For this alone KeepNorth4Ever organizers deserve huge plaudits. But there’s more.
By interacting on the ground with hundreds of North Avenue businesses and promoting these businesses on their Facebook page (which has over 3,800 members) KeepNorth4Ever raised the profile of many smaller businesses on North Avenue that many people never even knew were there. That’s more exposure than the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce has won for small businesses in Grand Junction in the last 30 years, even though networking is one of their primary reasons for being. And KeepNorth4Ever did it without charging the business owners a single cent.
G.J. mayor’s epiphany: the city’s ordinance process has long been flawed
What’s more, the KeepNorth4Ever coalition also exposed a huge problem with the way city has been creating new ordinances.
In a conversation over coffee with KeepNorth4Ever organizer Mackenzie Dodge on Friday, October 21, Dodge reported that Grand Junction Mayor Rick Taggart admitted the City’s system for enacting ordinances has been “broken” for a “long time.” Under the current system, Council holds a workshop on the issue, then has a public hearing and votes on the ordinance. Mayor Taggart said the process should be: Council holds a workshop, then hosts a public discussion, then holds it’s public hearing and a takes a vote.
The corrected system, with a hearing devoted solely to public discussion about the issue at hand, would have given City residents more time, notice and opportunity to comment on the proposed name change. But the current system seems designed more to limit public comment than solicit it, and causes ordinances to be rushed through without adequate input from the public.
KeepNorth4Ever’s activities were the only reason this major flaw in the current system was exposed. Their activities are the only reason why anyone on City Council even recognized it. For that, KeepNorth4Ever and Mayor Taggart both deserve huge props as well.
What’s more, the sole entity in town responsible for creating divisiveness over this issue is the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce. It’s not KeepNorth4Ever, which was forced to react to the proposal after it was rushed through in the current flawed system. Chamber Board President Jeffrey Hurd even admitted as much in public.
Chamber Board Chair Jeffrey Hurd’s apology: a milestone for the chamber
At last Wednesday’s Council meeting, Chamber Board Chairman Jeffrey Hurd actually said aloud to the audience gathered at City Hall Auditorium,
“I’m sorry [the name change proposal] created a rift in the community. That was the opposite of our intention.”
Did you get that?
The Chair of the Grand Junction Chamber’s Board actually apologized to citizens for making a mistake!
That marked the first time the chamber has EVER apologized to City residents for making an expensive, wasteful misstep, erroneous claim or broken promise, and the chamber has made so many of them: promising the Brady Trucking rezone would bring high paying “jobs jobs jobs;” backing Rick Brainard for council in 2013 (Brainard got arrested for assault almost immediately after he was elected); Chamber President Diane Schwenke openly insulting secular citizens on her Facebook page; the chamber backing school board candidates who can’t write a coherent sentence, the chamber failing to consider legal retail marijuana as a possible way to boost the local economy; the chamber basing its political positions on the conclusions of bogus, out-of-state, part-time paid “experts;” the chamber advocating “buy local” while taking its own business out of town; the chamber advocating “green businesses” while cheerleading for extractive energy, and so many more offensive missteps there isn’t room to name them all here.
The momentousness of anyone at the Chamber apologizing to area citizens for taking the wrong course of action and inflaming and dividing City residents can NOT be underestimated. A public apology of this type is a first step toward creating better relations with area residents and working families, which the G.J. chamber sorely needs. For this Mr. Hurd deserves plenty of credit, and the rest of the chamber board needs to take notice of the significance of this action.
One great side effect of the chamber’s name-change debacle is that more voters have become aware of the way the chamber meddles in City politics, and they will from now on be watching more closely than ever what the chamber and the Grand Junction City Council do, and, we hope, weighing in quickly to nip bad ideas in the bud.
Let’s also hope that the recognition of a flawed ordinance-enactment system leads to changes for the better in Grand Junction’s policymaking procedures, and let’s also hope that the local paper starts to see things a little more from the perspective of Grand Junction’s residents than the perspective of the ever-present but deeply-flawed chamber.