For this article, I drew from publicly available sources, including the candidates’ own websites and social media accounts, newspaper articles, the candidates’ financial disclosure statements filed with the City of Grand Junction, background-checks done on TruthFinder.com, and public records requests to the Grand Junction Police Department (GJPD) for records of any contact the candidates had with local law enforcement agencies. I felt the law enforcement piece was necessary after seeing Mesa County voters elect people to public office who were later involved in theft, falsifying time cards, embezzlement, assault, plagiarism, DUI, double-dipping, election tampering and other offenses.
These City Council candidates are asking voters to hire them for a job. City taxpayers pay their salaries. The candidates should be background-checked.
I do not discuss candidates who are running unopposed.
The analyses in this article are my own, based on my four decades of Mesa County observing local politics, and my observations and personal involvement in local land use, energy, environmental, health care and political issues.
District A candidates: Sandra Weckerly, Cody Kennedy and Jamie Porta:
Sandra Weckerly owns and operates Mama Ree’s Pizza & Brewhouse at 7th Street and North Ave., which opened in June, 2022, as well as two other businesses she doesn’t mention on her campaign website.
Even though City Council races are supposed to be non-partisan, Weckerly has been openly endorsed by the Mesa County Republican Party.
Weckerly’s campaign website emphasizes primarily policy positions that would benefit business owners and land developers, without mentioning that she and her husband David also own the Redlands Mesa Golf Course, the Ocotillo Restaurant, and the Lofts on Grand, a $17 million, 78-unit apartment complex currently under construction between 9th and 10th Streets on Grand Ave. that is receiving a $13 million federal subsidy from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Weckerlys also own at least 28 undeveloped residential lots on the Redlands, and several rental properties, so are also landlords and land developers. That explains why one of Wecklery’s major policy goals is cutting or eliminating the City’s development impact fees.
Impact fees fund the infrastructure required by new developments, including new roads, drainage, water and sewer lines, street lighting, additional parks and trails, school construction, traffic upgrades, and other costly infrastructure. Developers dislike impact fees because they force them to pay some the cost of these expensive infrastructure additions. Without impact fees, the entire cost of these items would fall entirely on taxpayers. When development has to fund some of the costs of the required additional infrastructure, it saves taxpayers money. The problem is, it reduces the amount of profits developers can derive from building their developments, and that’s why they don’t like them
Weckerly blames impact fees for the current short supply of housing in Grand Junction. She does not mention on her campaign website, though, that in January, she and her husband applied for short-term vacation rental permits on 10 residentially-zoned properties they own on the Redlands. The problem is that to get a short term rental (STR) permit, a dwelling must pass an inspection, which infers that the dwelling must be built first. The Weckerlys submitted these applications on undeveloped parcels with no dwellings on them. They apparently failed to read the city’s online instructions for applying for short-term rental permits, which explains that each unit must be inspected, and obviously built, before an STR permit can be issued. (pdf)
Beyond this failure to do this basic due diligence, some people argue that short term vacation rentals exacerbate a city’s housing shortage by decreasing the supply of long-term housing available for permanent residents.(pdf) So at the same time Weckerly is seeking multiple short term rental permits on properties they own, she is telling the public she wants to increase the amount of available long term housing for workers in town.
You could hardly find a more obvious contradiction, but first you have to be able to spot it.
Weckerly’s campaign website lacks an “Issues” page with any discussion of current hot topics, like the proposed G.J. Community Recreation Center, the City’s long delay in rolling out retail cannabis, the City’s homelessness crisis or the future of the Orchard Mesa Pool.
Weckerly says she wants to promote “responsible development,” but gives no details about what she believes “responsible development” consists of.
Her goal of eliminating impact fees is the opposite of responsible development, because impact fees assure developers help pay for the new infrastructure their developments need, so taxpayers don’t get stuck with the entire bill for these costs while developers pocket all profits from their development. (This is called “socializing the costs, while privatizing the profits.”) Weckerly seems to be hoping voters won’t understand how this works, and that she might be able to get on Council and pass policies that socialize more of the costs of development while allowing developers to keep more of their profits.
And therein lies the danger of putting developers on City Council at all.
A land developer who sits on City Council will often face potential conflicts of interest since Council has final say on land development policies. A developer sitting on City Council could benefit personally from reducing or eliminating impact fees, adopting financial incentives for development, lowering the bar for re-zoning and other changes. in land use policy. Any ethical developer who sits on Council should be prepared to recuse him or herself from land development policy decisions from which they could benefit personally, but there is no enforcement for this. It’s only on the honor system. So a council member without integrity could easily skirt an ethical mandate to recuse, to the detriment of the taxpayers.
Weckerly also says she wants to promote public safety, but her website offers no information about what she thinks the current problems are with public safety, or what she wants to improve.
Weckerly currently sits on the City of Grand Junction’s Planning Commission, and is Vice Chair of the Executive Board of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce. Her LinkedIn profile says she was on the Foundation Board of STRIVE social services, but STRIVE’s website does not currently list her on their foundation board, either as an active or emeritus board member.
Weckerly lists three endorsements on her campaign website: 1) District 54 Colorado House Rep. Matt Soper (R), who lied about the location of his residence in order to run for the District 54 seat, lied to constituents about Covid and American history, and most recently posted histrionics regarding guns on social media; 2) State Senator Janice Rich (R-55), and 3) outgoing City Councilor Chuck McDaniel.
Weckerly is also supported by Stand for the Constitution, the far right Mesa County extremist group that promoted Ivermectin and Vitamin C as cures for Covid, and defended accused felon Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters.
Weckerly is also endorsed by sitting City Councilor Dennis Simpson, who in a recent email wrote that “Sandra is a very engaging person who would bring a wealth of talent to the table. She has vast successful experience in the private sector, is an employer in our community, and is familiar with city operations as she currently serves admirably on the Planning Commission.”
A public records request from the GJPD found Sandra Weckerly had no record of contact with local law enforcement authorities.
Cody Kennedy is a retired Grand Junction police officer and detective. There is little information about him on his campaign website. The website says it offers a blog and podcast, but there are no blogs or podcasts available on the site. The only other tab on his website is a 56-second video promoting his candidacy that looks professionally-made with drone shots.
As a police officer 2016, Kennedy was involved in a shooting of a suspect at an apartment complex near the Monument Inn on North Ave. He shot a 20 year old man in the hand after the man brandished what appeared to be a gun. The “gun” turned out to be “a realistic BB gun.” Kennedy was placed on administrative leave for that shooting and was cleared of any charges in the incident by the Mesa County District Attorney. The incident remains logged in the Gun Violence Archive.
Kennedy served on the board of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), “an unrecognized labor organization within the Grand Junction Police Department,” (according to the Daily Sentinel), in 2021 when the FOP brought a class action lawsuit against the City of Grand Junction over alleged mismanagement of the Grand Junction City Employees’ Retiree Health Plan. The lawsuit alleged that money from City employees’ retirement plans that was supposed to be held in a trust and put toward employees’ health expenses after they retired was spent on purposes other than retiree health premiums, and the City never created the promised trust. The City denies the allegations (pdf) and is fighting the lawsuit. To be clear, Kennedy himself did not personally bring the lawsuit against the City, but rather it was brought by the Fraternal Order of Police while Kennedy was an elected member of their board.
Kennedy has promised to recuse himself from any business related to that lawsuit if he gets elected.
Kennedy’s LinkedIn profile says he is a “Real Estate Investor/Property Manager, Community Advocate, Retired Police Detective, Aspiring Peach Farmer.” His biosketch on LinkedIn offers a general résumé. Following is a slightly edited version of that biosketch:
“My name is Cody Kennedy and I am running for the Grand Junction City Council District A seat. ..
In March of 2022, I retired from the Grand Junction Police Department after serving the community of Grand Junction as a law enforcement officer for almost seventeen years. During that time, I functioned as a Patrol Officer, Detective, Street Crimes Unit Officer, SWAT Officer, Defensive & Patrol Tactics Instructor, Corporal, and Field Training Officer. …
I was born and raised in the front range of Colorado, riding horses, playing sports, and learning the family business of cattle feeding. I attended Colorado State University where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Business. While at CSU I met my wonderful wife, Summer. We were married in 1996 and have three amazing daughters, now ages 22, 20, and 17. Our two oldest are attending CSU…
Prior to becoming a police officer, I worked as a commodity trader (Chicago, Memphis, and Washington State) and as a benefits (insurance/investment) specialist for companies across Colorado.
When not working, I enjoy spending time with my family, which happens to include a few German Shepherds. We love the Grand Mesa and spend time there when we can. My girls are all musicians so marching band and school concerts also play a big part in what we do with our free time.
I have a passion for residential real estate that I’ve developed over the past 20+ years of owning/managing our pet-friendly rental properties. … I’m also an aspiring peach farmer, hoping to develop a beautiful orchard in the years ahead.”
Kennedy’s campaign website says has as “a leadership role with Grand Valley Resettlement Program – a local nonprofit supporting Afghan refugees making their home in Mesa County.”
He sits on the board of CrimeStoppers.
Sitting Grand Junction City Councilman Abram Herman says of Kennedy, “He’s not only a great guy, but I also think he’s the best fit for City Council, and without a doubt has the best chance to win the race. He has been attending [city council] meetings for over a year now, I’ve spoken with him extensively about policy and ideas, and he is a true moderate, solutions-oriented candidate who is in it for all the right reasons.”
A letter to the editor appeared in the Daily Sentinel on March 3, 2023, from Dennis Burgesser who wrote that he has been an 18-year tenant living in a rental property that Kennedy owns. Burgesser wrote,
“We have been in this home for nearly 18 years and we wouldn’t have stayed here for this long if he was a bad landlord. Cody has been the best landlord you could ask for, and we are proud to call him our friend. … In the past 18 years, we have had one or two occasions where we weren’t able to pay rent for a month, (because of being laid off, or a family emergency). Cody was always more than kind to give us a break and allow us to get caught up. When our oldest daughter got thyroid cancer, Cody came to the hospital to visit her and this tough cop had tears in his eyes.”
Having a tenant endorse you as an excellent landlord is, in my opinion, a mark of good character.
KKCO-TV news reports Cody Kennedy has been endorsed by “local law enforcement,” without naming the specific law enforcement groups that endorsed him.
Kennedy is one of four people running for Council who have been endorsed by the Mesa County Republican Party. They are Diane Schwenke, Greg Haitz, Cody Kennedy and Sandra Weckerly.
A public records request from the GJPD found Cody Kennedy had no record of any adverse contact with local law enforcement authorities.
Cody Kennedy was a ghost on Truthfinder.com — there was zero information about him. A person can opt out of having their information available on Truthfinder by filling out a form.
One thing that’s very clear about Jamie Porta from even a quick look at her public social media postings is that she is a strong advocate for workers in our community.
Porta says she is a “meter man apprentice for XCel Energy.” She’s also a representative of the Western Colorado Trades and Labor Association, a local labor council of the AFL-CIO.
She is a past Executive Board Member and past Vice President of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 111.
“I’ve worked mostly in utilities for the last 20 years, so I’ve been outside with steel-toed boots on freezing my butt off and then melting in the summer heat and I want to focus on making sure that Grand Junction works for the people who keep Grand Junction running.”
In her statement on the City’s website, she says as a utility worker she has come to know every neighborhood in Grand Junction, and
Fairness, dignity and work ethic are important to me as a proud Union member. I value our outdoors and the responsibility to protect it. I’ve been effective on multiple volunteer boards. I will always advocate for the working class and not sell out to developers who turn city blocks into “units” that aren’t affordable. Attainable Homes for first time buyers, young families and seniors create neighborhoods, social networks, safety, and quality of life. I’ll fight for the lifestyle we’ve created and continue to improve it together.
Porta supports the effort to build a community recreation center and would like to see more such centers elsewhere town, like on Orchard Mesa and south downtown around the area of Doug Jones Sawmill.
She feels an urgency to provide housing solutions for Grand Junction’s homeless population, like low income housing (dorm-style housing or inexpensive rooming houses) where adequate shelter can be had for a very affordable rent.
She believes the City needs to do the required maintenance to keep the Orchard Mesa Pool going. “It’s an investment that must be kept up,” she says. “People depend on it to maintain fragile health conditions, and for a social network.”
Porta believes City workers, like police, firefighters and the people who patch potholes and maintain public utilities like the water system, should have higher wages and stronger rights when it comes to overtime and lawsuit protections. “Wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living,” she says.
She’s concerned about the slow pace of licensing cannabis stores.
Porta has new ideas for generating revenue, including learning from our past mistakes and getting out ahead of recently-legalized psilocybin mushroom therapy, and proposing taxes on new businesses that use therapeutic psilocybin. She also thinks the owners of vacant properties should be charged fees or fines for letting their vacant properties get weedy, run down and taken over by squatters.
She also noted that several years ago, people turned down a bond issue to build the new public safety center downtown to house the police and fire departments, but the City managed to get it built despite this, so she believes where there’s a will, there are ways to make things happen.
Running for the District B seat: Jason Nguyen, Greg Haitz and Mike Deuel
Janson Nguyen (pronounced “Win”)
Jason Nguyen is site manager for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Legacy Management for the former Uranium Mill Tailings Remediation site, also known as the new Las Colonias development area. He has held the position since 2010. His office is in charge of monitoring surface and ground water and conducting inspections of the former mill tailings site to assure it continues to comply with federal, state and local environmental laws. He has a B.A. degree in Chemistry and graduated Magna Cum Laude (“with great distinction”) from Truman State University in Missouri. He has also addressed environmental contamination at nuclear waste sites. He supports renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Nguyen has served on the city Urban Trails Committee and the Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan Steering Committee. He has sung in the Western Colorado Chorale and played trumpet in the G.J. Centennial Band.
Nguyen wrote a lengthy comment on GJSpeaks.com on August 16, 2022 about the City’s 2023 proposed budget. It was an intelligent, insightful comment and shows he has given great thought to Grand Junction’s finances, development and future. Here is the comment in full:
Jason Nguyen — Aug 16, 2022 ∙ 8:42am
There are two major themes that I’d like to see emphasized in the budget, which I think are consistent with council priorities. These themes are empowering non-car mobility/reducing car-dependency and increasing housing supply and density. I think these two themes touch on almost all the council priorities either directly or indirectly, and have some synergistic effects which I’ll describe below. Mobility is central to someone’s quality of life in the city but our current system basically only caters to cars, leaving people who want more options with inconvenient, uncomfortable or unsafe alternatives. By empowering alternative forms of transit through better infrastructure we alleviate wear and tear on our roads, we improve air quality and public health, and we enable cheaper mobility which has knock-on economic effects – cars are generally the most expensive form of transit on a cost per mile basis, so if citizens can spend less on mobility, they have more money to spend in other ways. By my estimate, this focus area touches on Mobility & Infrastructure, Economic Development (effectively requiring car ownership/usage is an unnecessary economic burden on the individual, more options is better), Public Safety (our active transit users are the most vulnerable users in our mobility system and are injured and killed at much higher rates than people in cars), and Quality of Life (increasing active mobility options has a lot of individual and community benefits). The second area of great interest to me is housing, particularly the ways in which we can increase housing supply and density. The basic economics of supply/demand tells us that if we are able to increase supply, we should see the cost of housing go down. This is good for our community in that it helps keep people off the streets (Public Safety), helps keep our community affordable (Quality of Life/Economic Development), and increases the livability overall (Quality of Life). Where density comes into play is in making sure what we’re building actually fits the diverse needs of our community. Broadly distributed single-family homes, requiring cars or multiple cars to participate in the community/economy is not a scalable solution community wide. Again here we need more options to better accommodate various economic and life situations. Density also has a good knock on effect for allowing more and cheaper mobility options, further decreasing costs for citizens. At the end of the day, housing should be viewed as a fundamental need for it’s citizens, not an expensive luxury. Thanks for your time!
Nguyen has a vision of Grand Junction as an affordable, livable community and promises to “use data over ideology” to decide what is best for the community before making any decisions on Council. He also wants to support small businesses and first responders.
Nguyen hasn’t posted anything to his Facebook page since September 19, 2017.
A public records request to the GJPD showed Nguyen was the victim of a hit-and-run accident (pdf) in August of 2012.
Greg Haitz is a licensed chiropractor who owns Rimrock Wellness Center at 12th and Patterson. He is currently a Director At Large Alternate for the Colorado Chiropractic Association and second alternate member of the Mesa County Planning Commission. He was the sole applicant for a vacant position on the Planning Commission, and thus won the appointment. He ran for City Council in 2021 and lost. During that campaign, he was one of four right wing candidates who refused to answer a questionnaire put out by the Outdoor Recreation Coalition of the Grand Valley, and refused to attend any candidate forum except those put on by groups that shared his same political ideology. His wife, Andrea Haitz, is currently the President of the District 51 School Board. As such, on issues where the School District and the City overlap, such as funding the Orchard Mesa Pool, the Haitzs have said they would have to recuse themselves.
Despite the fact that he’s a health care professional, throughout the Covid-19 pandemic Haitz opposed public health interventions aimed at keeping people safe, like masking and vaccines, and encouraged people to remain unvaccinated and resist vaccine mandates in their workplaces, including at hospitals.
During the pandemic, Haitz led the troublesome group “Stop The Mandate GJ” that picketed hospitals during the pandemic promoting anti-vaccine rhetoric and heckled the Mesa County Commissioners relentlessly over vaccine mandates for health care workers, even though the Commissioners had repeatedly told the group they had no control over these mandates.
Like Weckerly, Haitz wants to reduce or eliminate development impact fees, even though these fees assure developers share the financial burden their new developments put on the City by providing infrastructure, like sewers, water lines, fire plugs, new streets and drainage, to their new subdivisions.
Haitz has been endorsed by Rep. Matt Soper and sitting City Council member Dennis Simpson.
Sadly, I’ve long been forced to point out how Greg Haitz uses his chiropractic business to sell snake oil treatments and quack procedures to unsuspecting patients who lack the ability to recognize of this kind of quackery.
During the pandemic, Haitz stoked fear of Covid vaccines to increase sales of his own proprietary-brand supplements that he fraudulently advertised as protective against Covid-19. After he was called out on the deceptive nature of the ad, Haitz scrubbed the fraudulent claims from his website.
But even with that experience under his belt, Haitz is still engaging in charlatanism.
Haitz’s Rimrock Wellness Center website is currently hawking the use of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin for weight loss:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says use of HCG is a “reckless” and “dangerous” way to shed pounds, and says “Many of these popular HCG products claim to ‘reset your metabolism,’ change ‘abnormal eating patterns,’ and shave 20 to 30 pounds in 30 to 40 days.”
Sure enough, Haitz makes these same kinds of bogus claims on his website, saying his HCG program will “re-sculpt your body,” “reprogram” your body,” “reduce cravings and hunger substantially,” “stabilize your blood sugar” and make you look younger.
The FDA says clearly that:
“HCG is not approved for use without a prescription for any purpose. It is not approved for weight loss. In fact, the prescription drug label notes there ‘is no substantial evidence that it increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction, that it causes a more attractive or ‘normal’ distribution of fat, or that it decreases the hunger and discomfort associated with calorie-restricted diets.”
The FDA further warns, “If you have HCG products for weight loss, quit using it, throw it out, and stop following the dieting instructions.”
The Mayo Clinic also warns against using HCG for weight loss, and lists as side effects edema, fatigue, depression, swelling of the breasts in boys and men, and a serious concern for risk of blood clots, or thromboembolism.
The Mayo Clinic adds,
“Companies that sell over-the-counter HCG weight-loss products are breaking the law.”
Beyond this, chiropractors are not on Colorado’s list of Medical Professionals Authorized to Prescribe Medication under Colorado Law.
In 2014 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit (pdf) against the Arizona business HCG Diet Direct, and sought an injunction against them for making the exact same claims about use of HCG for weight loss that Greg Haitz is making right now on his website.
Haitz’s persistence in making fraudulent claims that risk people’s health for profit shows he is willing to put his own profits over the safety and welfare of the community. It also shows he does not truly have the public’s best interests at heart. This indicates he does not deserve a place on City Council, or in local government in any capacity.
Greg Haitz is endorsed for City Council by State Senator Janice Rich.
A public records request to the GJPD returned no law enforcement records for Greg Haitz.
Mike Deuel wrote on his City candidate page: “Resident of Grand Junction since 2004 still finding new treasures in people and outdoor adventures.” He didn’t respond to an email asking where he stands on local issues.
Deuel lists as his business “Mike’s Bikes” on his City financial Disclosure Statement, but no such business with that name is registered in his name in Grand Junction. Another businesses with that same name is registered on the front range, but not to Deuel.
“I would be a calm voice not too left or too right, I have live here almost 20 years and would like to work on being a mediator. We need more affordable housing like when I moved here. We need not only financial established retirees but young families to find it affordable to raise their families in Grand Junction.
I feel good about the Orchard Mesa pool refurbishment; if the ballot fails again maybe an outdoor pool without the high maintenances and staffing that exercise equipment and basketball courts.(sic) Maybe another outdoor pool at Grand View park. If the measure fails it will be the third times rejected by the voters; scale back the project.
I like that we didn’t fill in the Orchard Mesa pool with dirt, it has a great location. I like the overall outdoor direction that the City has taken. Housing is our greatest need and the city has been taking the correct measures to rectify.
The new park at Matchett park would be great especially with the 29 road interchange.”
At-Large Candidates: Scott Beilfuss and Diane Schwenke
Scott Beilfuss has a long track record of volunteer involvement in community issues. He has long attended City Council and County Commission meetings on his own time, out of personal interest. He took the Inside Mesa County and G.J. Citizens Academy courses that give citizens an inside, in-person look into the operations of City and County government. He provided a résumé of his extensive community involvement:
- Western Colorado Alliance 2014-present: member and part of the Mesa County Coordinating Group. Work on clean energy, affordable and recycling issues.
- Western Colorado Days of Action 2015-present, Organizer and Event Production
- Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce 2017-present, Legislative Committee Member
- Palisade Chamber of Commerce Member, 2016-present
- Western Colorado Latino Chamber of Commerce Member, 2015-present
- Western Slope Rural Healthcare Alliance, Member 2018-present
- Colorado Senior Lobby Member and local organizer, 2018-present
- Western Slope Council of Recycle Colorado, Member/Organizer
- Conservation Colorado Member
- 2021 Graduate of the G.J. Citizen’s Academy
- 2022 Graduate of Inside Mesa County
- Advocate and member of the Orchard Mesa Save the Pool committee.
- Member and organizer for the Solar United Neighbors coop
- Affordable and accessible local and state healthcare advocate;
- Started a older adult technology learning program recently with Senior Planet, G.J. Senior Center and G.J. Parks and Rec. A strong advocate for improving services and accessibility for older adults here, as they are our fastest growing demographic.
- Supporter of Hispanic Affairs Project, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition and Black Citizens and Friends. Have volunteered for the Child and Migrant Services last year.
Scott also provided a list of what he has advocated for:
- More recreation opportunities in the Redlands,
- “Affordable housing, affordable housing, affordable housing,”
- Bringing food and pharmacy stores to parts of town that are deserts for these items,
- Expanding recycling in G.J.,
- Saving the Orchard Mesa pool,
- Getting better wages and benefits for the Grand Valley Transit workers,
- Making G.J. more sustainable to protect our way of life,
- Preparing the city for a rapidly-growing older adult population,
- More connectivity for trails and bike paths,
- Saving taxpayers money by not giving out excessive and unneeded incentives to big business,
- Passing the cannabis initiative for more jobs and local tax collections for recreation,
- Advocating for faster processing of cannabis licensing,
- Streamlining licensing for small business creation,
- Hiring more police to work the neighborhoods,
- Building a new recreation center and making recreation more accessible in all parts of the valley,
- Reducing traffic in the future and getting ready for ride share/autonomous vehicles,
- Saving the city money by including more clean energy,
- Making Lincoln Park more user-friendly for the community,
- Implementing a water conservation plan in case of severe drought,
- Advocating for more affordable healthcare and better access for everyone,
- Working to support a food hub for local agriculture businesses to have a year round market,
- Providing safe and secure shelter for the homeless – especially homeless children and older adults,
- Licensing and collecting proper taxes from short term rentals,
- Supporting more mental health access for youth,
- Making government more transparent and efficient: “Our government is growing more than our population. We must adapt new technologies to streamline services and to help fill undesirable jobs.”
- “Many people are being priced out of the market but I’d like to help them stay here.”
Beilfuss has been a local leader on the difficult issues of health care, sustainability, cannabis licensing, livable wages, diversity and inclusion, and streamlining licensing and approvals for small business. He says he works to include all voices in coming to solutions everyone can live with, and benefit from. He says,
“Our economy has improved a great deal since we got rid of the one-legged stool focus on fossil fuel extraction. A city should be there for business but also for the workers, the retired, kids, the homeless, schools, non-profits, health care facilities, churches, etc. Being a local government shouldn’t be exclusive to any group – the doors should be open to all and we should show compassion to our citizens.”
Beilfuss attends meetings and candidate forums put on by groups of all political persuasions, both left and right, and listens to all points of view. He has attended meetings of Stand for the Constitution. He is about getting away from partisan politics and bullying to find good ideas that can actually solve problems. He says he has worked “to represent the voiceless and work with all groups in town.”
Beilfuss’s only contact with law enforcement was a report he made to the GJPD in 2006 about an abandoned vehicle that was sticking part-way out into the road in the dark in the Ridges. It was listed as a stolen vehicle.
After spending decades as the CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, Diane Schwenke has a long track record in the community, most of which is dismal.
As head of the chamber, Schwenke
- Has consistently opposed the best interests of workers, consumers and families;
- Supported candidates for school board who couldn’t put together a coherent sentence;
- Opposed protecting Colorado residents from the dangers posed by oil and gas drilling and its residual hazards including explosions, fires and contamination of land and water with toxic chemicals;
- In 2013, she recruited and supported Rick Brainard for City Council, who was arrested and charged with 3rd degree assault (pdf) just four days after he was elected. He beat up his girlfriend badly enough to turn half her face black and blue;
- In 2012 Schwenke created the shadowy, “dark money” group, “Western Colorado Business Alliance,” that worked to influence city council races by injecting tens of thousands of dollars into chamber-backed races and funded a billboard thanking racially tone-deaf members of city council “for their service,”
- Schwenke has endorsed felons, embezzlers, double-dippers, assaulters and DUI perpetrators for local office;
- In 2017 she was the driving force behind the unpopular effort to rename North Avenue to “University Boulevard,” an idea that went over like a lead balloon;
- In 2016 she opposed a state-wide $12/hour minimum wage increase, even though Grand Junction workers earn among the lowest wages in the state;
- She supported large-scale gambling in Mesa County (Amendment 68 in 2014), which would have brought a minimum of 2,500 slot machines to Mesa County, turning it into a gambling center bigger than Black Hawk,
Under Schwenke, the Chamber, which claims to support local business, hired an out-of-state web developer to make its website, held its chamber board retreat at an out-of-state resort in Moab, Utah and hired Denver lawyers for its legal business. Schwenke also hired out-of-state economic consultant Eric Fruits, who moonlighted as an Uber driver and worked out of his house, to come up with the figure of 90,000 jobs she claimed in TV ads would supposedly be lost if the $12/hour minimum wage amendment passed. The Amendment passed, and 90k jobs were not lost.
As head of the Chamber, Schwenke pushed an inordinate number of poorly thought-out and unpopular proposals, including:
- The 2013 Brady Trucking rezone, which re-zoned riverfront land along the Colorado back to industrial zoning. Schwenke promised if voters passed the rezone, it would bring in a slew of high-paying jobs and new funding to expand and landscape riverfront trails. Voters passed the measure, but in the years that followed, none of the things she promised ever materialized.
- A proposal for a $134 million events center downtown, that was rejected by about 75% of City voters.
- The “Riverside Parkway Zigzag project,” Referred Measure 2B in 2015, which would have seized property in front of the businesses on 25 Road to create a “westside beltway.” Schwenke supported the measure without first consulting any of the businesses owners on 25 Road, who unanimously opposed the project. The measure was voted down by a margin of 62% to 35%.
The one good thing Diane Schwenke has done in the last 25 years was to urge citizens to wear masks during the pandemic when patronizing businesses, to keep business owners safe and help them keep their doors open.
Other than that, the list of Schwenke’s unpopular proposals, nightmarish political endorsements and opposition to the needs of actual workers in our community is long and sordid. You can read about it in full by entering the search term “Schwenke” in the search box on the home page of this blog. Grab a cup of coffee and set aside a couple of hours to get through it all.
Schwenke’s only contact with law enforcement was a fender-bender at a four-way stop sign (pdf) on the Redlands in June of 2019 in which a witness said the driver of the other car, who was driving a Budget Rental car, was at fault.
City Council Candidates endorsed by the Mesa County Republican Party (screen shot):