Drinking Liberally hosts Mesa County Clerk Bobbie Gross & D-51 School Board candidate Darren Cook

Drinking Liberally is a non-partisan social group that holds get-togethers in town at food and drink establishments while hosting guest speakers. The event focuses on protection of our civil liberties, like freedom from government and corporate overreach (for example denying workers the right to organize, denying women the right to access abortions and preventing transgender people access to medical care). On Tuesday, May 23, the event was held at Edgewater Brewery at 905 Struthers, by the Colorado River.

The packed crowd included notable conservatives like Tom Keenan and Cindy Ficklin, members of the far right wing group, Stand for the Constitution. The event featured two Speakers: newly-elected Mesa County Clerk Bobbie Gross and Darren Cook, former longtime D-51 teacher who is running for D-51 School Board.

Update for the community from Mesa County Clerk Bobbie Gross:

Stand for the Constitution member Tom Keenan, who advocates against people attending college,, attends Drinking Liberally at Edgewater Brewery, May 23, 2023

— The Mesa County Department of Motor Vehicles has extended its hours and now has three offices: the downtown office at 200 S. Spruce St., open 8:00 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Mon-Fri, the Clifton office at 3225 I-70 Business Loop open Mon-Fri from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., and the Fruita office at 325 E.  Aspen, open Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

— The Colorado Department of Revenue (DOR) is where people get drivers licenses, and the DOR now has a mobile unit that goes to outlying areas of the county, like Collbran and Gateway, to make it easier for people to renew their drivers licenses.

— The Clerk’s office has gotten a recording grant to pay for digitizing records. They have gotten the first half of the grant and will be applying for the second half, to pay for digitizing historic records.

— As of yesterday, Mesa County has 109,704 active voters: 15,298 registered Democrats, 40,606 registered Republicans, 51,522 Unaffiliated voters and 2,224 other voters.

Central High School won the Eliza Pickrell Routt Award from the Colorado Secretary of State, for having the most seniors in the state registered to vote (95%).

— The Clerk’s Office had an open house recently that went so well that instead of lasting one hour, it lasted 3 hours because of high interest. The next open house is planned for Saturday, August 5 from 10:00 a.m. – 12 noon, and there will be another in October, after new processes are in place for elections.

— Central High School won a prestigious award from the Colorado Secretary of State, the Eliza Pickrell Routt Award, named after Eliza Pickrell Routt, the first woman registered to vote in Colorado after the stated passed women’s suffrage in 1893. Eliza was Colorado’s first First Lady . Her husband was John Routt, who was Colorado’s first governor, elected in 1876. Eliza Routt dedicated herself to equal rights for women and the passage of women’s suffrage, and she helped Colorado become the second state in the union to allow women to vote. In honor of her commitment to making women’s suffrage a reality, Eliza Routt become the first woman registered to vote in Colorado. The Eliza Pickrell Routt Award is given to the high school in the state that has the highest number of seniors registered to vote over 85%. Central won the award for having 95% of seniors registered to vote.

— The Clerk’s office has cameras on ballot drop boxes 24/7 during elections, and the video is viewable online.

— Bobbie said a bill in the legislature, SB23-301, would have required that presidential primary election in Colorado be carried out using ranked choice voting. Ranked choice voting is also called “instant runoff voting.” It allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. Matt Soper was a prime sponsor of the bill in the Colorado House.  The bill did not pass this year, and Bobbie said she opposed it because it would have started too soon (in 2024), and would have pertained only to ballots of overseas members of the military at first, and she opposes people being treated differently during an election. Bobbie feels strongly all voters should be treated the same. The bill may become a ballot initiative.

You can watch of video of Bobbie Gross’s entire talk here.

Darren Cook

Darren Cook is a product of District 51 schools, having attended schools within the district all the way up through high school. He got a Bachelors degree in accounting, but decided his true calling was teaching, and  changed his career to become a teacher. He was a middle school teacher of social studies in D-51 for over 20 years, and served for 17 years with the Mesa Valley Education Association, so Darren is well-versed all facets of District 51.

Stand for the Constitution figure Cindy Ficklin, who blamed the fact that she got Covid on the federal government,attended Drinking Liberally, May 23, 2023

Darren spoke about civic virtue, or the cultivation of knowledge and habits citizens need to make our society successful. Civic virtue requires putting the needs of the community over one’s personal desires, in order to make society function properly for everyone. Public education, as a common experience that develops common knowledge, is key in cultivating civic virtue.

Horace Mann, the Secretary of the country’s first state board of education, was Darren’s personal hero and worked tirelessly to promote public education in the U.S. that is 1) Free, 2) Universally available, 3) Non-religious, and 4) Administered by teaching professionals.

Darren gave an expert lecture on the societal benefits of public education: how public schools assist in character development, and developing a love of learning for learning’s sake. He discussed how federal laws like “No Child Left Behind” (2002 – which brought in high-stakes testing and punishment for teachers whose classes got low test scores), “Race to the Top” (2009 – which ushered in the Common Core curriculum, grants to charter schools, pay-for-performance and emphasis on teaching reading and math at the expense of science and social studies) took the joy out of education for teachers and students. High stakes testing also did not promote civic virtue, which Darren sees as a problem for society.

Darren spoke about current threats he sees to public education:

  • To get onto a school board, you only need to be a citizen — there are no other qualifications required, despite the importance of the position. No job in the country would hire anyone like this. People need to understand that people on these boards need to have education and experience to understand the ramifications of their decisions.
  • School funding is currently unequal and unfair. Poor areas have poorer schools and rich areas have richer schools because schools are funded by property taxes.
  • We now have lots of non-professional teachers teaching because of teacher shortages.
  • Professional teachers are being vilified;
  • Charter schools work by adverse selection, a system in which certain parties who are better off and have more resources can maximize their outcomes at the expense of all the other people in the system. Charter schools take the kids who display fewer behavioral problems and learning impediments, and use taxpayer funds to accommodate them, while public schools are mandated to serve these children. Charter schools have contributed to the end of mixing common groups and having a common educational experience. People are learning different curriculums and different versions of history. He pointed to the ongoing tragedy of how the new charter school, the Ascent Classical Academy, is a thinly-veiled religious charter school, is opening up as the School Board closes excellent public schools with great track records, like East Middle School.

Overall, Darren lamented that the creativity, fun and joy that drew him into teaching years ago has gone out of the job.

It was a packed crowd at Drinking Liberally, May 23, 2023, at Edgewater Brewery



  8 comments for “Drinking Liberally hosts Mesa County Clerk Bobbie Gross & D-51 School Board candidate Darren Cook

  1. The name “Drinking Liberally” totally undermines their club in my eyes. It’s not worthy of impressionable to believe anything after that.. after all, after drinking liberally how can that be an influence? On the other note, interesting to me and thank you for outlining.

  2. Alice, I don’t know you, and you seem like you genuinely are concerned about education. However, I do question your bona fides, and I do question whether you have any first hand knowledge of public education aside from having attended at school. That said, at this juncture I would recommend listening before positing anymore opinions or assertions primarily because I believe you probably lack evidence. This is really not a partisan issue and Darren cook is doing a really good job of avoiding partisanship. He’s got ample evidence to support his claim that Andrea Haitz and Angela Lima and Will Jones are unqualified to be on the school board. Unless you have really good evidence to counter any of his specific claims you should probably do a little more listening and a lot less talking or typing.

  3. And Darren’s characterization of the teachers’ union postion…paraphrased “we are staying neutral because the board is so damned scary”…is so self serving and undignified no one should take it seriously.

  4. His opinion about the types of students who go to charter schools is debatable. A teacher friend of mine says the kids who go to the charter school in grand junction are kids who don’t hack it in public school.
    Also…no criticism of Juniper Ridge which is a Waldorf school.

    So bottom line, Darren doesn’t like the idea of charter schools. I, myself, have questions about the legal justification…but to run around with hair on fire about a right wing Christian invasion is ludicrous and doesn’t exemplify the rational debate he espouses…and charter schools are legal here so change that!

    But Darren wants a national school system run from Washington. That ought to solve everything.

  5. The next time you call some hapless mesa county republican a liar…I will remember you calling “Liberally Drinking” (with the little dem donkey in the corner of their video)…a non-partisan social club.

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