In case you don’t have time to research the eight candidates running for City Council in the April 6th election, I’ve done the research and condensed it down to a couple of paragraphs about each candidate to help you make an educated choice. I drew on the sources of information that are most accessible to most voters, including the candidates’ campaign and personal websites, their campaign and personal social media accounts (the links to which the City conveniently provides on their Elections Information page). I also researched news reports, published articles and past blogs I’ve done about them, if any, and investigated some of the claims the candidates made on their websites about what groups and organizations they belonged to. I also attended the Western Colorado Alliance (WCA) online candidate forum held on February 24th, and noted which candidates attended and which didn’t.
Here is what I found on each candidate:
District A candidates:
Mark McAllister is a lighting designer at All Phase Electric and a former Second Vice Chair of the Mesa County Republican Party.
Mr. McAllister was the subject of a February 8, 2021 Colorado Times Recorder article titled, “Former GOP official with history of racist Facebook posts is running for council in Grand Junction.” The article highlighted Mr. McAllister’s racist, sexist and homophobic social media posts. One of the posts cited in the article was a meme that compared the face of Black congresswoman Maxine Waters to the face of an alien character in Arnold Schwartzenegger’s 1987 movie Predator. Another meme posted on McAllister’s account showed Trump placing a noose around Barack Obama’s neck. More recent Facebook posts show Mr. McAllister promoting anti-mask ideology, holding mask-free campaign events and spreading misinformation about Covid vaccines. He also likes to post photos of wind turbines on fire.
On his campaign website, McAllister wrote that he was “a member of the Free Foundation Board, a nonprofit organization that teaches financial literacy and free enterprise,” but searches of Google and the Colorado Secretary of State’s nonprofit database turned up only one organization with the name “Free Foundation,” and it was a volunteer group based in Virginia that awards mobility and rehab equipment, like walkers, canes and wheelchairs, to low income and uninsured adults.
On his Facebook page, Mr. McAllister promoted a “Stop the Steal” rally in Grand Junction on January 6th, amplifying Trump’s anti-democratic Big Lie that Trump had actually won the 2020 election, and promoting the ideology that caused the Jan. 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
On February 28, 2021 Mr. McAllister posted photos of two men smiling while displaying dead wolves that were killed in leg hold traps, which are banned in 88 countries because of their extreme cruelty.
Mr. McAllister also posted an article February 5th that reflected his belief that the best way to prevent sexual assaults against women is by teaching women self-defense, without mentioning the need to teach boys not to sexually assault women.
Mr. McAllister did not respond to a questionnaire by the Outdoor Recreation Coalition of the Grand Valley, nor did he participate in the February 24 online Candidate Forum put on by the Western Colorado Alliance. (The group’s next online candidate forum is on March 10 at 6:00 p.m.)
Colorado House Reps. Matt Soper and Janice Rich have endorsed Mr. McAllister.
Rick Taggart is an incumbent City Councilor and former mayor of Grand Junction and who is running for re-election.
Mr. Taggart moved to Grand Junction in the early 1980’s. At that time he was co-owner and CEO of Marmot Mountain Works, a local outdoor clothing and equipment manufacturing company. After Marmot was sold, Mr. Taggart worked as senior Vice President of the international business unit of The Timberland Company, and then became CEO of Swiss Army Brands for 15 years until 2010. He’s been on the Grand Junction Airport Board and currently works at Colorado Mesa University as a lecturer in the Business Department.
Back in 2016, Mr. Taggart was the only city council member who actually responded to emails from citizens inquiring about legalizing marijuana sales in the City, and even though he did not agree with it, Taggart actually sat down to discuss the issue with constituents over a cup of coffee.
On Friday, October, 21 2017, in a conversation over coffee with KeepNorth4Ever organizer Mackenzie Dodge, 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 its public hearing and 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 of North Avenue back in 2017. But the current system, Taggart noted, seems designed more to limit public comment than solicit it, and causes ordinances to be rushed through without adequate input from the public.
This was a great epiphany by Mr. Taggart, but he never pursued changing the City’s system for enacting ordinances.
Mr. Taggart has few social media posts and his social media contains nothing controversial or offensive. He makes no mention of his religion on his campaign pages, nor does he appear to have any overt political bent towards one side or the other. His simple campaign website sticks to touting his experience in business and on City Council, and suggests he is the best candidate to help Grand Junction recover from the pandemic.
Mr. Taggart did attend the February 24 WCA Candidate Forum, and he did fill out the Outdoor Recreation Coalition’s questionnaire. Mr. Taggart does not list any endorsements.
District D candidates:
Greg Haitz is a chiropractor who promotes fat loss programs and nutritional supplements on his business website. On his personal Facebook page, he has Bible quotes and promotes CBD, and he touts his religious faith and belief in God on his campaign website as well.
Dr. Haitz has posted patently false information on Facebook. One of his posts was removed by Facebook because it spread the outright lie that wearing face masks harm children.
Dr. Haitz’s positions on issues regarding the coronavirus pandemic appear superficial and indicate that he is either unable or unwilling consider important nuance when making decisions. For example, on his campaign page Dr. Haitz decries how big grocery stores like WalMart were allowed to stay open early in the pandemic while restaurants were forced to stop indoor dining. This complaint indicates Dr. Haitz has a dangerous lack of understanding of the circumstances that contribute to a communicable, deadly virus spreading like wildfire in the larger community. Dr. Haitz failed to consider that restaurants are enclosed spaces in which large numbers of maskless people routinely gather in close proximity while talking, laughing, drinking and eating — the exact circumstances well known to spread the virus exponentially — and contrast them with grocery stores, in which people can wear masks the entire time they are shopping, and that have far more room for customers to physically distance from one another. Haitz also fails to consider that grocery stores had to remain open so people could buy food to eat while they were sheltering at home, and he did not acknowledge that people spend far less time inside grocery stores than in restaurants.
That Dr. Haitz was unable to recognize these important distinctions or see any nuance at all in this issue shows he lacks the ability to consider the entire range of important aspects of a problem before arriving at a conclusion. This will pose serious deficit if he becomes an elected official, especially during a pandemic, since he is likely to push for actions that violate well-established scientific conclusions and make it far harder for our area to recover from the pandemic.
Dr. Haitz has an endorsement on his campaign page by Jason Marsh, Associate Youth Pastor of Life Community Church. Dr. Haitz posted the following quote from Marsh:
“We need solid, Jesus-following business-minded people to direct local public policy.”
The fact that Dr. Haitz displayed this comment indicates Dr. Haitz shares Mr. Marsh’s lack of recognition of the clear boundaries between religion and government, and that Dr. Haitz may be moved to try to inappropriately mingle the two if he is elected.
Dr. Haitz did not attend the Feb. 24 Western Colorado Alliance online Candidate Forum, nor did he answer the questionnaire form the Outdoor Recreation Coalition of the Grand Valley.
Dennis Simpson is a recently-retired Certified Public Accountant who has been a CPA for 40 years. He previously was head of the finance department of Durango School District 9R. He has a strong knowledge of institutional accounting and on February 1, 2018 he established a Facebook group called “Transparency in Mesa County” to give people his take on issues like City and County budget priorities, spending, the City’s land leases, funding of private businesses, shielding of documents from taxpayers, the hiring and firing of city and county employees, and other issues. Mr. Simpson makes documents available to the public that he obtains from the City and County through Colorado Open Records Act requests, like internal emails, budgets, reports, etc., on which he bases his conclusions about the City’s financial activities. Mr. Simpson has sued the City to get them to comply with campaign finance laws.
Mr. Simpson is keenly concerned with how the City manages its financial difficulties during the pandemic. He has spent his own time and money to advocate on behalf of taxpayers, and he strives to make taxpayers aware of their rights and help people see the importance in otherwise extraordinarily dull documents, like budgets and spreadsheets. He has a full understanding of state and local laws that guide and restrict government actions. Mr. Simpson follows City Council closely, knows the City Charter well — probably better than anyone else running for Council — and he closely watches how the City and County manage their budgets. He has irked elected officials by consistently paying such close attention to what they do, and explaining to large numbers of people what he sees them doing wrong.
Mr. Simpson is generally conservative politically, but has nothing offensive or eyebrow-raising on any of his public social media accounts, and he does not promote or mention religious ideology or affiliation on any of his social media or campaign sites. His campaign website is simple, and it appears all of Mr. Simpson’s efforts are aimed at using his knowledge of institutional finance to enlighten people about what he sees going wrong in local government.
District E candidates:
Jody Green is a construction worker who says on his campaign page that he helped build the Oxbow subdivision, the Postal Annex on Patterson, Ratekin Tower Apartments, Lakeside Apartments and other buildings in Grand Junction. His campaign website indicates he either owns or owned “hundreds of acres on Glade Park,” and that he “considered himself homeless for a time,” but he offers no specifics about his homelessness. Green says he worked with Habitat for Humanity to build his own home, and then volunteered with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for other people. Green writes on social media that he “Works at School of Hard Knocks, University of Life.”
In a February 4, 2021 article in the Daily Sentinel, Green said he is running for City Council because God asked him to.
On his campaign website Green writes that he has volunteered for over 25 years with Mesa County Search and Rescue (MCSAR), but an inquiry to MCSAR to verify this information brought a response from Sergeant Richard Acree of Mesa County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Services and Fire Management that calls Green’s claim into question. In his response, Sergeant Acree wrote:
“I had to ask around to see if anyone knew [Green]. I have been involved in SAR for the Sheriff since 2005 and never heard of him. I heard he was on the ATV team but I do not have any records showing his 25 year involvement. It must have been prior to 2000 but I can’t confirm this without a lot of research.”
Mr. Green also writes on his campaign website that he “served as the President of Citizens Access for Public Lands.” A search of the Colorado Secretary of State’s database shows a nonprofit corporation with that name was formed in 1998 and was “administratively dissolved” in 2004. Its registered agent was Jody Green. The group weighed in on the proposed closing of roads in Mesa and Garfield Counties, but the minutes of a 2005 Garfield County Commissioners meeting (pdf) showed that Green sometimes misunderstood the positions taken by public officials on these issues when he was protesting proposed actions.
Green also states he was a board member of the “Public Lands Access Association,” which does not appear in any Colorado Secretary of State database. The only reference I could find to a group named the “Public Lands Access Association” that wasn’t a Facebook page was a 2014 legal case in Montana about public lands access. The “Public Lands Access Association,” in Green’s context, appears to be a politically right wing Facebook group that posts anti-mask ideology and rips local politicians who follow state orders by public health authorities that are aimed at reining in the pandemic.
Green appears to have very poor writing and spelling skills, as is clear in the descriptions he posted on his profile on LinkedIn:
This level of literacy could be a problem because City Council members often have to read and be able to digest hundreds of pages of documents to be informed enough to do their jobs.
Green did not participate in the Feb. 24th WCA online Candidate Forum, nor did he fill out the Outdoor Recreation Coalition’s questionnaire.
Abe Herman owns a successful small business called the Sukkah Project that provides Jews around the world with “affordable, klutz-proof sukkah kits” — kits used to erect the traditional structures used around the world in the celebration of the Jewish holiday Sukkot. He sells the kits to residential, commercial, educational and institutional customers nationally and internationally. His business is headquartered here in Grand Junction.
Herman is the youngest candidate for Council and is an avid rock climber, skier and outdoorsman. His main concerns are keeping Grand Junction affordable, and assuring local wages allow people to afford decent housing. His campaign social media posts show him doing ride-alongs with the G.J. Fire Department and Police Department, offers information about city council and how to get meeting agendas, and generally follows Mr. Herman as he works to understand, and help others better understand how the City and all its different departments work.
Herman’s personal social media posts mostly highlight his outdoor activities, like mountain biking and climbing, and his participation in local nonprofits with missions aimed at making peoples’ lives better. His social media accounts contain no offensive, eye-brow-raising or extreme political posts that raise any questions about his integrity or would be considered negative or critical of anything. None of Herman’s social media accounts or his campaign website mention religion.
Herman’s website says he is a board member of FOYAN, which stands for Friends of Youth and Nature, an organization in Hotchkiss that works to get kids outside and stimulate their appreciation of nature. It also helps them be more confident, use their imagination more and develop a sense of responsibility. Herman’s affiliation with this group was verified.
Herman has pledged to attend every public event he is invited to.
Here is Abe Herman’s campaign YouTube video:
Herman was under consideration in July of 2019 for appointment to fill the District E seat after Councilman Duncan McArthur resigned from council due to illness. Despite Herman emerging as the clear favorite in the first round of voting by Council members at that time, things turned curiously contentious after council members Duke Wortman and Phyllis Norris went into high gear working to tank the clear majority choice — Herman — and instead push to install Kraig Andrews into the seat.
Abe Herman attended the Feb. 24th WCA online Candidate Forum, filled out the Outdoor Recreation Coalition’s questionnaire and has been endorsed by CMU President Tim Foster, in Mr. Foster’s capacity as a private individual.
District At Large candidates:
Kraig Andrews (yes, “Kraig” is spelled with a “K”) works as a mortgage loan administrator in downtown Grand Junction. He currently occupies the District E seat on City Council, but he has never been elected to the seat. He was appointed to it in 2019, after Duncan McArthur resigned due to illness.
Kraig Andrews is the former chair of the Mesa County Republican Party.
As a stalwart Republican, Andrews was a strong supporter of President Donald J. Trump, who, at the time Andrews was under consideration for an appointment to Council, had made headlines with a series of overtly racist tweets and statements targeting four female congresswomen of color, horrifying Americans on both the left and right, and generating statements of shock and disgust from leaders around the world.
As chair of the Mesa County Republican Party, in October of 2016, Andrews refused to condemn statements Trump made in the Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump bragged that he could sexually harass women all he wanted, and “grab ’em by the pussy, anything…” because he was a celebrity. In a subsequent interview broadcast on KJCT on October 9, 2016, Andrews, when asked about these comments, dismissed them, saying Trump made them “…Ten years ago before he was running for office, in a private conversation. Things that he said were not the greatest, but it was 10 years ago,” Andrews said.
Andrews’ personal social media in recent years has been mostly innocuous and inoffensive, consisting mainly of photos of landscapes and family activities. However, a 2012 Facebook post on his personal account likened the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Stamp program that feeds needy Americans to feeding animals.
City Council member Rick Taggart made the deciding vote that installed Andrews on Council in 2019, despite that Andrews was someone for whom racism, sexism, scapegoating immigrants and fostering hatred among members of our community was perfectly suitable behavior for people holding public office.
Andrews did not attend the Feb. 24th WCA candidate forum, nor did he fill out the Outdoor Recreation Coalition’s questionnaire.
Randall Reitz, Ph.D. is a Marriage and Family Therapist who has held director roles at Marillac Clinic and St. Mary’s Family Medicine Residency. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology from Bringham Young University. Reitz speaks four languages (Spanish, French, Portuguese and English).
When he was the Executive Director of Summit Community Care Clinic, Dr. Reitz expanded the organization from 15 to 45 staff, and oversaw a multi-million dollar budget. He has served as Director of Behavioral Medicine at St. Mary’s Family Medicine Residency since 2008.
Reitz’ personal Twitter account posts are positive, professional, occasionally humorous, and mostly related to his work.
Dr. Reitz’s personal Facebook page indicates he and his wife have hosted several foreign exchange students. There is little to nothing political on his page. His personal posts are about family time, outdoor activities, mountain biking, progress against the pandemic, lifting people up and enjoying life. Dr. Reitz does not promote religion of any kind on his web pages or social media posts. It is notable that his Facebook page has few photos just of himself. Most photos are group shots, some of which include Dr. Reitz.
Dr. Reitz has served on multiple School District 51 committees and has coached youth sports for 19 years.
He likes Eric Clapton and Blondie and has filled in as a DJ on KAFM 88.1.
Dr. Reitz attended the Feb. 24th WCA Candidate Forum and filled out the Outdoor Recreation Coalition’s questionnaire.
He is endorsed by Sister Karen Bland, Executive Director of Grand Valley Catholic Outreach in Grand Junction.