Category: Children

More Info Surfaces on Delta County School District’s Promotion of Religious Ideology

Shelly Donahue, an abstinence-only teacher from Elevate Youth, a religious ministry based in Plano, Texas, who was hired to give trainings to Delta County School District Students last October

Shelly Donahue, an abstinence-only teacher from Elevate Youth, a religious ministry based in Plano, Texas, who was hired to give trainings to Delta County School District Students last October. The sole funder of the program was a religious ministry.

News about the pending distribution of atheist and Satanic literature in Delta County schools April 1 is encouraging more students, parents and even teachers to come forward with information about what they say is a persistent pattern of state/church violations, religiously-based discrimination and even outright bigotry, harassment and demeaning of atheist and non-believing students occurring within the Delta County School system.

Parents from Delta County contacted Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) Tuesday morning (3/22/16) to alert the group to what they feel is pervasive Christian proselytizing occurring in Delta County Schools. They say they and their child have suffered to a great extent from the school district’s persistent embrace of religious promotion.

Delta County School District Gives Thumbs-Up to Handing Out Atheist and Satanic Literature to Students

Brochure to be distributed to Delta County High School students on April 1

Brochure to be distributed to Delta County High School students on April 1

The Delta County School District (DCSD) has approved the distribution of atheistic, secular and Satanic literature to middle and high school students throughout Delta County on April 1, 2016, and will carry out the literature distribution on behalf of the groups who have applied to do it.

Groups Seek to Distribute Atheist and Satanic Literature to Delta Middle School Students

The Satanic Temple's Children's BIG BOOK of Activities

The Satanic Temple’s Children’s BIG BOOK of Activities

A locally-produced brochure about atheism called “It’s Okay to Not Believe in God” (pdf), the Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities and other literature critical of the Bible and Christianity will be distributed to Delta Middle School (DMS) students if the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) gets their way.

Three groups — the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers and the Satanic Temple — have all submitted literature to Delta public schools for approval for distribution in an effort to get Delta County Schools to stop distributing Gideon Bibles to students during class time.

Target Apologizes for Phallic Star Wars Toys

Facebook post about Target's phallic Star Wars towys

Facebook post about Target’s phallic Star Wars towys

Target Stores apologized to a customer who noticed some rather phallic Star Wars toys in her local store.

A woman named Joni Jones from Indiana sent a note to Target last week on the retail chain’s Facebook page along with photos she took of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” pool toys she found for sale in the store.

More Proselytizing Reported in District 51 Schools

Proselytize definition

Yet another incident of inappropriate proselytizing was reported in a District 51 school late last month. The parties spent the last few weeks working to resolve it. An update was just recently available. Following is a description of what happened.

On December 31, the father of a Lincoln Orchard Mesa (LOM) Elementary student contacted Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF), a western slope group that advocates for separation of church and state, about an inappropriate incident of proselytizing involving his child that occurred at LOM on November 20.  The student is 8 years old and in the 3rd grade.

According to the parent and child, here is what took place:

LOM students were taking their regularly-scheduled lunch break in their school’s lunchroom on Friday, November 20, 2016.  The student at the center of the incident was sitting at a table chatting with friends in the lunchroom, as was usual for kids at lunch. During the conversation, the student shared with her friends that she did not believe in God. A friend who heard the comment immediately went to a nearby lunchroom assistant named Jody Payne and told her that her friend did not believe in God. Ms. Payne went over to the table and told the student, in front of her friends, that “God created everything” that she “needed to, and should believe in God.”

Teacher Reports Walking in on Bible Study Session in a GJHS Classroom

GJXCFRONTA teacher reported to Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) that she accidentally stumbled into a Bible study group being held at Grand Junction High School on Tuesday, January 12 during lunchtime in an Advanced Placement (AP) English classroom. The teacher who walked in on the group was looking for a microwave oven to heat up lunch.

According to the teacher who walked in on the prayer group, the English teacher whose room it was in was present at the study session and sat, without interacting, while a younger man was talking. The identity of the younger man who was speaking was unclear, and it is unknown if he was a teacher, an older student, or from off campus. The Bible study session was being held in a room in the northern-most block of classrooms to the east of the main building, in the part of school that holds language arts and some science class rooms.

Teachers Cannot Lead, Organize, or Participate in Prayer with Students

The U.S. Department of Education Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, states that under the law, teachers cannot lead or organize prayers, or participate with students in prayers on school grounds during school time.

Rep. Yeulin Willett: Let Those Ladies Wear Pink!

Rep. Willett -- What world is he living in? It ain't Mesa County any more!

Photo Credit: Facebook

Things aren’t going too well for folks here in Mesa County, but you wouldn’t know it from what Colorado House Representative Yeulin Willett is up to.

Rep. Willett is sponsoring a bill to make it legal for women to wear pink when hunting.

Yes, isn’t that just so wonderful of him to consider what the little ladies would prefer to wear in the woods?

In the mean time, more Mesa County residents than ever are living in poverty, falling into homelessness and freezing in the cold, working at low-paying jobs, more District 51 kids than ever are going hungry and more of our citizens are committing suicide.

Delta County School District Superintendent Brushes off Legal, Policy Violations in Bible Handout

Delta County School District Superintendent Caryn Gibson (Photo Credit: Western Colorado Community Foundation)

Delta County School District Superintendent Caryn Gibson (Photo Credit: Western Colorado Community Foundation)

After being informed that a Gideon Bible hand-out in Delta Middle School library during class time on December 18, 2015 violated U.S. laws guaranteeing separation of church and state,  violated the School District’s policy governing the distribution of non-curricular literature in multiple ways and caused students who did not take bibles to be bullied and harassed, Delta County School District Superintendent Caryn Gibson responded by saying:

“Hello

Thank you for your concern and email.  Delta County School District honors the separation of Church and State.  The Gideon Bibles were left on a table and optional for 6th grade students to take.  No staff members distributed the non-curricular materials at anytime.  Attached is the Delta County School District policy on non-curricular material.  

Caryn Gibson

Superintendent

Delta County Public Schools 50J

(p) 970-874-4438

cgibson@deltaschools.com

DMSDistribution-Posting-of-Noncurricular-Materials

That was it.

No acknowledgement that the school district’s own policy was violated, no acknowledgement that constitutional law was violated.

Zip.

Clear Violations of School Policy, No Acknowledgement by District

It is unconstitutional for public school districts to allow bibles to be distributed in classrooms during the school day. American courts have uniformly held that distributing bibles to students at public schools during instructional time is prohibited, and school officials like teachers and administrators cannot facilitate the bible handouts. At Delta Middle School, social studies teacher Michael Long took his class to the library during their regular class period, told the students there were bibles on a table by the library door, and they could take one if they wanted. The event gave the appearance that the school endorses Christianity above other religions.

Under the law, Gideons can only distribute religious literature off campus, on municipally-owned public sidewalks well off school grounds.

In addition, the DMS bible giveaway violated the District’s own literature distribution policy in not one, but in four different ways

1. District policy states (pdf) that any “printed non-curricular material” cannot be distributed in “any classroom of any building when being occupied by a regularly-scheduled class.” The reporting student’s class was held in the school library on 12/18 so the class could do research. The library was the students’ classroom that day, during regularly-scheduled class time. Moreover, this wasn’t the only class held in the library that day, or the only class in which bibles were foisted upon the students.

2. District policy states “Distribution [of non-curricular materials, like bibles] may be made 1/2 hour before school and/or during regularly scheduled lunch periods…..Any other times during the school day are considered to be disruptive of normal school activities.” [Italicized emphasis added.] This student’s social studies class was held in the library at 9:40 a.m., as was previously pointed out to the superintendent, during normal school hours. More than one teacher brought their class to the library during school hours that same day.

3. Delta School District policy also states “Students may not be used as the agents for distribution of such materials without the written consent of the student’s parents.” Mr. Long’s social studies students became agents for the Gideons’ distribution when they started pressuring other students to take a bible. No written consent was solicited from the parents of these students regarding solicitation of bibles.

4. District Policy states “No student may in any way be compelled or coerced to accept any materials being distributed by any person distributing such materials or any school official.” Both Mr. Long and some of his social studies students pressured the reporting student to take a bible. Another element of the policy states teachers can not endorse the literature.  Mr. Long endorsed the bible distribution when he told students “There’s bibles and they are free if you want one.” 

How can the Delta School District ignore these violations of their own policy, and even more importantly, why are they failing to acknowledge and remedy them?

Update – 3/23/16 – The Delta County School District only finally acknowledged that the Gideon Bible giveaway in the Delta Middle School library violated of their own policy (pdf) after the school district’s attorney was contacted by a staff attorney from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) based in Madison, Wisconsin. When FFRF asked that the Gideons be banned from further literature distribution in accordance with school policy (which permits revoking literature distribution privileges for policy violators), the school district attorney, Aaron Clay, refused, blaming the violations of policy on school personnel rather than on the Gideons.

Delta Middle School Pushes Bibles on Students During Class

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 8.17.32 PM

Delta Middle School Principal Jennifer Lohrberg

The parent of a Delta County, Colorado middle school student is reporting some of the most overt violations of separation of church and state yet discovered to be occurring in western slope public schools.

The parent’s child attends Delta Middle School (DMS) and reported to her mom on Friday, December 18, that her social studies class went to the school library with their teacher, Mr. Michael Long (michael.long@deltaschools.com). Once in the library, Mr. Long “announced to the class that there were free bibles available” and students “could pick one up off of a table located in the doorway of the library and take it home.” A student who noted this was a violation of separation of church and state in a public school, took a photo of the bibles on the table and sent it via text to her mother, pointing out that the table was located where students had to walk around it to enter and exit the library.

The student who did not take a bible was confronted by her classmates about why she didn’t take one, and they started shaming her for not conforming to Christian beliefs.

After finding out bibles were being distributed during school time with the endorsement of a social studies teacher, an outraged parent contacted DMS Principal Jennifer Lohrberg (jennifer.lohrberg@deltaschools.com) to protest the overt endorsement of Christianity on school property and during school hours. Principal Lohrberg insisted the bible giveaway was all in accordance with school policy, and sent the upset parent a copy of Delta County School District’s policy governing posting and distribution of non-curricular literature. (pdf)

DMS Violates Its Own Literature Distribution Policy, Multiple Times — And Denies It

Gideon Bibles piled on a table at the entrance/exit to the Delta Middle School library December 18, 2015

Gideon Bibles piled on a table at the entrance/exit to the Delta Middle School library December 18, 2015. (Photo credit: DMS student)

One must only read the Delta County School District’s policy, though, to see DMS bible giveaway violated the District’s own literature distribution policy four different ways

Sentinel Highlights Mesa County’s Desperate Economy

Today's Sentinel talks about the desperate state of the local economy

Today’s Sentinel talks about the desperate state of the local economy

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel printed an article about the desperate state of Mesa County’s economy on the front page of its Business section today, written by business writer Greg Ruland.

Titled “Living wage tough to come by,” it describes how financially strained Mesa County families are compared to other families across the state. A study that showed that in Mesa County a family of four would need an annual income of $53,000-$65,000 to fund only the most basic needs of housing, food, health care, transportation, child care, taxes and an emergency fund. Ruland writes that the average wage in Mesa County “falls as much as $20,000 short of what single parents with three children must earn to cover the cost of a family’s basic needs.”

The cost of basic needs in Mesa County has increased over the last decade, but during that time wages in our area have stagnated, leaving Mesa County citizens worse off than ever.

A record number of people in Mesa County now use food stamps, and the number has climbed each year for the last eight years. About 18,500 Mesa County residents now receive government food assistance every month — more than double the number who got food assistance in 2008.

Ruland reports that a single mother working two full-time minimum wage jobs in Mesa County to try and support her family would still have an income low enough to qualify for food stamps.

That’s pretty bad, but not bad enough for the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce to come anywhere close to supporting an increased minimum wage.

Grand Junction Area Chamber: Let Them Eat Cake

Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke, secure in her $134k/yr job

Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke, secure in her $134k/yr job

You’d think the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce would be deeply concerned about this state of affairs, but even in the face of the desperate financial straits of thousands of families in Grand Junction, Diane Schwenke, President of the Grand Junction Chamber, scoffed at the notion that raising the minimum wage (currently $8.23/hour) would benefit local families. In the Sentinel article, she dismisses the notion as “contrary to capitalistic principles,” and suggests that instead government needs to find ways to further lower the cost of basic living necessities, like food and housing. Neither Ruland nor Schwenke mentioned that the federal government already subsidizes a long list of agricultural staples like wheat, corn, soybeans and cotton, and even has a dairy subsidy program that pays farmers whenever milk prices fall below a certain level. In addition to promoting further reliance on government for help, Schwenke, who as always sticks to the same failed ideas she’s backed for decades, added that the quickest way to raise low wages in our area would be to increase oil and gas extraction operations. She sticks to this message despite knowing that disastrous economic fluctuations occur constantly in the oil and gas industry, and that our area’s past of embracing extractive industries like uranium, oil shale, coal, fracking and hazardous waste disposal have wreaked economic, health and environmental havoc on our area’s residents for decades. So why does Ms. Schwenke rely on the same tired, old ideas that have long been proven a bane for our area’s desperate economy?

Weak, barely-legible and ineffective signage attempt to address homelessness and poverty in Grand Junction

Weak, barely-legible and ineffective signage attempt to address homelessness and poverty in Grand Junction

Perhaps it’s because Ms. Schwenke doesn’t need to be concerned with coming up with new ideas to boost Grand Junction’s failing economy. She’s been comfortably entrenched in her position at the Chamber since 1989, even though her activities have brought heavy criticism to the chamber’s untoward political dealings and lip-service programs over the course of her career. The Daily Sentinel reported Ms. Schwenke’s compensation package is $133,930 yearly — about 4.8 times the annual per capita income in Mesa County, and twice Mesa County’s average annual total household income. Ms. Schwenke is obviously free of any concerns about being fired. She doesn’t even seem to need to demonstrate the effectiveness or lack thereof of any economic-related programs at the chamber, either. She doesn’t have to worry about working two jobs or putting food on her own table, so she’s free to repeat tired platitudes about the oil and gas industry being the area’s salvation for as long as she likes. 

For its part, the Grand Junction Economic Partnership referred to this latest devastating report about Mesa County’s abysmal economic status as “a call to action” to recruit higher-paying industries to the area. It’s nice that they seem to care, but like the Chamber, GJEP hasn’t offered any few new ideas about how to do this, either.

Obvious Opportunities Completely Ignored

DenverEconomyIn the mean time, Mesa County families continue to scrape by using food stamps, homeless shelters, the Salvation Army, secondhand stores, food banks and charitable organizations that try to alleviate hunger, like KidsAid, while low-cost, practically-guaranteed effective, obvious new opportunities for economic expansion continue to be completely ignored.

Since recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado in 2012, the new marijuana economy has generated tens of thousands of new high-paying jobs around the state, mostly in mountain towns and on the front range. But not here, because local leaders have banned marijuana-related activity in our area. New marijuana businesses employ tens of thousands of Coloradans as growers, security system installers, lab techs, scientists, agricultural and nursery experts, trimmers and tenders, compliance and quality inspectors, hydroponic equipment sales and experts, agricultural-related sales, accountants, lawyers, blown glass artists, industrial and retail construction companies to build greenhouses and retail stores and specialized distribution systems. While western slope warehouses sit empty, there isn’t enough commercial warehouse space to handle all the new business from the new marijuana economy on the front range. Denver property values are soaring, new houses, condos and shopping malls are being built, while property values in Mesa County are flat or diminishing. The front range’s growth from the new marijuana economy has been so spectacular, television networks are making TV documentaries out of it, drawing more people and investment into the state

But not in Mesa County.

Opportunities to Put Grand Junction on More Maps Passed up

Western slope elected officials also flushed a wonderful opportunity to add Grand Junction to national park maps several years ago after they ditched a massive effort that gained tremendous public, private and business consensus to change the Colorado National Monument into a national park. Keeping the park listed as a national monument keeps tourists driving around Grand Junction looking for a statue or plaque instead of the stunning 28,000 acre area of canyons and stone monoliths that the Monument really is. How many tourists simply stay on I-70 because they think the “monument” is just another statue somewhere? As a national park, the Colorado National Monument could be a much bigger natural tourist attraction. A change of name would be all it would take to give tourists a better idea of what the Colorado National Monument really is. Similarly, tourists don’t know what a “Mcinnis Canyon” is, or why it might be something special to see, because they don’t know what a “McInnis” is. But they would certainly get a much clearer idea of the spectacular scenery they’d encounter if they saw “Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area” on the map instead of “McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area.” If only the more descriptive name referring to the area’s natural features could be restored to western slope maps as well, it could increase the number of people coming to Grand Junction to enjoy more of our outdoor amenities. Changing the names of these areas would only cost a few bucks, and could bring more notoriety and tourist dollars to the area. A cheap and easy fix if there ever was one.

Add a World Class Outdoor Recreational Amenity in Almost Nothing Flat

The maintenance road banks of the Grand Valley Canal System could be a world-class outdoor recreational amenity if a few gates were opened, a few gravel trailheads installed and a few signs put up

The maintenance road banks of the Grand Valley Canal System could be a world-class outdoor recreational amenity if a few gates were opened, a few gravel trailheads installed and a few signs put up

Opening up the Grand Valley’s stunning irrigation canal maintenance banks to non-motorized public recreation would create some of the most fantastically beautiful and accessible strolling, walking, running and mountain biking paths in the U.S. The irrigation canal system and its banks were built by the U.S. government Bureau of Reclamation in the early 1900s as a massive project to help bring settlers to the area by irrigating what would otherwise be arid desert land in the Grand Valley. The canal system criss-crosses the valley from north to south and east to west, and its maintenance banks are a ready-made system of dirt and gravel roadways paralleling some of the most scenic waterways in the western U.S. They run all the way from the spectacular fruit and wine byways in Palisade and East Orchard Mesa, to the beautiful paved riverfront path along the Colorado, from Palisade to the Loma boat put-in. Open a few gates, put in a few gravel parking areas and signage and bingo! The Grand Valley would have a star attraction that would get bicycles off the streets, provide motorless ways to criss-cross the valley, contribute to outdoor recreation and public health and boost tourism. It would also draw outdoor recreationalists who would come and stay in area hotels, dine at area restaurants and shop at local stores. There are already state laws in place protecting private landowners along the banks from liability. More of an effort needs to be made to create this fantastic amenity that lies literally at our feet.

There is SO much waiting to happen in Mesa County, and it has all been nixed for so long. It’s getting painful to see so many obvious ideas for turning Grand Junction into a destination city shunned, dismissed and ignored as impossible by our same old last-century “leaders.”

Until we overhaul and re-stock the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, Grand Junction Economic Partnership, G.J. City Council and Mesa County Commission and other powerful boards and commissions with an entirely new slate of fresh,open-minded, creative and forward-looking thinkers who really have residents best interests at heart, our area will stay in the same economic death spiral we’ve been in for decades. But keep the same old people in the same positions of power with their same comfortable salaries and solid job security, and we won’t see any new ideas around here in our lifetimes. We’ll keep relying on things like uranium, oil and gas, fracking, creation of more hazardous waste dumps, coal mining and other doomed, last-century industries until Mesa County residents finally decide it’s time for that nonsense to end.

Nevertheless, we owe thanks to Greg Ruland for an excellent article about the continuing problem of Mesa County’s stagnant economy, if not for exploring more ideas about how to improve it.

  

Grudgingly Spending Money on Halloween Candy? Here are Some Candy-Free Alternatives

Few kids suffer from a shortage of candy at Halloween, but lots of Mesa County kids suffer from food insecurity year 'round.

Few kids suffer from a shortage of candy at Halloween, but lots of Mesa County kids suffer from food insecurity year ’round.

Many people think Halloween means handing out candy, candy and more candy. But desperate attempts by local dental offices to reduce the harm candy poses by buying back Halloween sweets by the pound, combined with sharp increases in childhood obesity, diabetes and dangerous nut allergies are all making many people re-think the Halloween candy-fest, and rightly so.

There ARE many items people can hand out on Halloween that are healthier, safer, more useful and even more fun for kids, and that cost about the same as candy.

It Turns Out Kids Love Alternatives

For several years at our house, we did an experiment. We offered trick-or-treaters two different bowls of goodies to choose from. One contained “good” candy, like Hershey bars and Snickers, and the other contained small, party favor-like toys like rubber spiders, Mardi Gras-style necklaces, glow sticks, toy trucks, etc. It turned out the kids took the toys over the candy by about a 3 to 1 ratio. The party items cost about as much as candy, too. You can find them in the party sections of big box stores like Wal Mart, K-Mart and Target, and there are lots of similar fun little items at dollar stores around the valley. Several kids in our family have diabetes, and one has a severe peanut allergy, so knowing the dangers candy can pose to some kids, we decided to stay on the safe side this year and just offer toys instead. The kids seem to love it.

AnneLandmanBlog Voter Guide, November, 2015

ALVoterGuideThis guide offers AnneLandmanBlog’s opinion on upcoming ballot measures and candidates for District 51 School Board, in case you’re wondering who and what to vote for.

Recommendations

Mesa County Valley School District 51 Director for District A (four year term) – Recommended vote: Doug Levinson. 

Mesa Valley School District 51 Director for District B (four year term) – Recommended vote: Paul Pitton

Proposition BB (State-wide measure)- Lets the state keep $52 million of excess marijuana taxes over and above what is allowed by TABOR, and would put it towards public school construction, law enforcement, substance abuse treatment and prevention, youth programs and marijuana education, instead of refunding it to taxpayers (at the rate of approximately $8 per taxpayer).  Recommended vote: YES/FOR

You can see a sample ballot here.

Discussion:

The biggest factor determining AnneLandmanBlog’s choice of school board candidates is that both are endorsed by the Mesa Valley Education Association (MVEA) and the League of Women Voters. The MVEA’s input is particularly important because the organization is made up of teachers, principals, administrators and other employees of District 51. These are the people who are in the schools every day, interacting with students, working with schedules, policies, budgets, building integrity (or lack thereof), testing, curricula and other school-related issues day in and day out. If you want to know what works and what doesn’t in the school district, what schools need and what they don’t, the members of MVEA are the folks to ask.

A Telling Flap over Pitton’s Eligibility

Outgoing board member Ann Tisue (pronounced “Ty-shoo”) recently accused Mr. Pitton of being ineligible to run for the District B seat based on his residency. Her accusation and its aftermath have been quite informative.

It is important to note that Ms. Tisue supports Mr. Pitton’s challenger for the District B seat, Mr. George Rau, incumbent Mr. Jeff Leany, for the District A seat.

Paul Pitton

Paul Pitton

On October 20, Ms. Tisue made a statement to the media about her discovery that Mr. Pitton lives outside District B, as the area is currently drawn on D-51’s area map.

D-51 changed it’s maps not too long ago, and had an outdated map posted on its website during the time candidates were being recruited to run.

As an existing board member, Ms. Tisue should have known that the District is responsible for certifying and approving candidates to run for open board seats, so any judgement about whether a candidate’s residency renders them eligible or ineligible to run would be theirs. But instead of approaching D-51 about the error first, Ms. Tisue ran to the media and used the information to try to malign Mr. Pitton. In a statement to KKCO-TV News, she sniffed,

“I just have a really hard time understanding how he [Mr. Pitton] couldn’t be more careful. If he’s going to be in control of a $100 million budget with 44 schools, I would expect someone that would be a lot more careful.”

The facts were that Mr. Pitton had fulfilled all of the requirements to become a candidate, and the District had qualified him for the ballot. D-51 employee Terri Wells, who serves as secretary to the Board and is the person who certifies candidates’ eligibility to run for open School Board seats, was responsible for the error, not Mr. Pitton.  Mr. Pitton had played by all the rules.

To his credit, Mr. Pitton has said if he wins, he will sell his house and move his family into District B, as it is currently drawn on the map.

That’s dedication.

Ms. Tisue’s hurry to use District 51’s error to try to tarnish Mr. Pitton and malign his ability to serve as a school board member is instructive more about her character than anything else. By association, it is also likely instructive about the character of the people she backs for school board, namely Mr. Rau and Mr. Leany.

P.S. – If you want to avoid the drama of the residency flap completely, Cindy Enos-Martinez is also a good choice for the District B Seat. She has served on the D-51 School Board before and has been on City Council and served as mayor of Grand Junction.

 

Council Candidates Sound Like Broken Records, Ignore Constituents

It's the same-ole, same-old from Council candidates again this year. Who supports all the other folks?

It’s the same-ole, same-old from Council candidates again this year. Who supports all the other folks in town besides business and property owners?

Candidates for the contested seats on the Grand Junction City Council are all starting to sound the same. Kim Kerk supports “property owners rights” and a “business friendly community.” Duncan McArthur is for “private property rights” and the “small business owner.” They sound just the same, don’t they? Dennis Simpson says he’s a “fiscal conservative,” and McArthur is for “fiscal responsibility,” but aren’t these the same thing? Basically, it’s code for even more belt-tightening for our community.

It’s like listening to a broken record. And it’s folly for voters to listen to them.

Business owners and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce wield outsized influence in Grand Junction, and they’ve shown citizens time and again that believing anything they say or do at election time is completely absurd.

Kim Kerk also supports the same old constituencies. Don't others matter?

Kim Kerk also supports the same old constituencies: private property owners and business owners. Why don’t the rest of us matter?

The chamber portrays itself as the single most important political voice in town because it represents businesses, but only a fraction of area businesses actually belong to the chamber and according to the chamber’s membership list, many of their members are from outside of the area. The “Grand Junction Chamber” has members in Denver, Arvada, Lakewood, Greenwood Village, Centennial, Glenwood Springs, Moab, Utah, Reno, Nevada, Houston, Texas, and even Washington, D.C…. Why should any company based on the front range or another state have any say or lobbying power over Grand Junction’s issues or candidates?

What’s more, valuing businesses more highly than ordinary, hard-working city residents has cost this city dearly and set us far behind smaller western slope towns. For years, maybe even decades, Grand Junction citizens have been craving a public recreation center, like the ones the cities of Fruita, Delta, Montrose and Durango have already built for their citizens. Over and over, our City Council has denied residents this same wonderful amenity based on an unproven premise that building such a facility might possibly be detrimental to less than a handful of private businesses in town, like gyms and athletic clubs. A couple of businesses vs. tens of thousands of citizens who could benefit from such a facility. Why are city residents always the losers in this kind of issue?

Haven’t Grand Junction residents sacrificed their quality of life on the altar of almighty private business long enough?

Businesses and the Chamber: Unreliable Voices at Election time

The chamber promised G.J. voters if they voted to zone this parcel by the river to light industrial, Brady Trucking would bring in a bunch of $70,000/year jobs, and build trails and landscaping by the river. Voters passed the measure, but this is how the site looks today.

The chamber promised G.J. voters in 2013 if they voted to zone this parcel by the river to light industrial, Brady Trucking would bring in a slew of $70,000/year jobs, and build trails and landscaping by the river. Voters passed the measure, but today, two years later, the site remains dilapidated, no jobs were ever created and no trails were ever built.

Moreover, neither the chamber nor private businesses have proven reliable proponents on issues. The chamber has gone to bat for private businesses at election time before, only to be outed as lying.

Remember Referred Measure A in the April, 2013 election? It asked voters to uphold light industrial zoning by the Colorado River so Brady Trucking, a private business, could expand its operations there. The chamber promised voters that if they passed the measure, Brady Trucking would bring a slew of new jobs to town averaging $70,000 a year and build a walking and biking trail on a 50-foot wide easement along the river, as well as fencing and landscaping. Chamber President Diane Schwenke said, “This is an issue where the voters can support good jobs and development of trails.”

Oh, really?

Voters listened to the chamber and duly passed the measure, and now, two years later, the site is still untouched. No trails were ever built, and no additional jobs ever brought to the area.

The vaunted chamber, the “voice of business,” spoke and told voters the best thing to do, and it was a lie.

The arrest of Chamber-backed city council candidate Rick Brainard in April, 2013 shocked Grand Junction citizens and embarrassed the entire City.

The arrest of Chamber-backed city council candidate Rick Brainard in April, 2013, for beating up his girlfriend, shocked Grand Junction citizens and embarrassed the entire City.

Remember the infamous 2013 chamber-backed city council candidate, Rick Brainard, and what a debacle he was to the City? Brainard got arrested four days after being elected and appeared on TV news broadcasts in a yellow jumpsuit. He later pled guilty to assault.

After these kinds of terrible candidate endorsements and lies, should voters really listen to the chamber any more about which candidates and issues to back in local elections?

Of course not.

The better idea is to listen to the chamber so you can do the opposite of what they recommend.

There are plenty of good and important people in Grand Junction besides business and private property owners, yet in every election cycle, council candidates ignore them. What about retirees, students, disabled citizens, people who work for salaries like nonprofit workers, retail workers, landscape workers, day care workers, restaurant workers, teachers, government employees and volunteers, to name a few?

Don’t these people matter to candidates and elected officials, once they get into office? Why are none of these groups considered viable constituencies worth pursuing at election time and serving once in office?

Arguably, these citizens are the real lifeblood of our area. Not only do they provide important local services, but they earn the money that gets spent at local businesses. Without these people as customers, local businesses would die. But who fights for THEIR best interests?

No one, so far.

ManBalloonIt’s way beyond time for council candidates to acknowledge that there are many voters in town with needs besides private property owners, business owners and people who want more belt-tightening by City Council. There are plenty of business-friendly tightwads on Council already. What we need at long last are candidates who care about average, hard-working Grand Junction residents, many of whom live on the edge, have difficulty feeding their kids, making ends meet and affording medical and dental care. We need council candidates who will vow to support these people’s interests and needs if elected to Council.

Now THAT would be one giant breath of fresh air.

FFRF: Fruita Monument High School’s Baccalaureate Violates First Amendment

FMHSLogoA concerned member of the Fruita Monument High School community has sought help from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) over a “baccalaureate” ceremony held in the school’s gym last year on May 12, 2014, and possibly over concerns of a similar event occurring this year around graduation time.

A baccalaureate is a religious ceremony held a few days before a school’s official graduation ceremony. Baccalaureates often feature prayers, bible readings, sermons or benedictions, and music. Students may wear their caps and gowns, and readings may be given by school employees.

Because baccalaureates are religious events, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires publicly-funded schools to divorce themselves from any connection to these events. Schools cannot help plan, design or sponsor these ceremonies. School employees cannot participate in organizing such events or appear at them in their official capacities. If school auditoriums or gyms are used for the ceremonies, a private party must rent the venue out for the event. The law requires a complete separation between the school and the baccalaureate in every sense.

Students Who Didn’t Want to Attend Allegedly Threatened

The anonymous complainant reported that FMHS Principal Todd McClaskey, Vice Principal Lee Carleton, and other school staff members helped plan the May, 2014 baccalaureate ceremony at FMHS. They reported that FMHS teachers and administrators spoke in their official capacities at the event, reading bible verses and speaking in general terms about the virtues of being a Christian. FMHS’ choir and orchestra students were required to perform at the baccalaureate, and students who didn’t want to take part in the ceremony were threatened with lower grades and told that if they failed to attend, they would have to perform all of the concert music, solo, in front of the entire class, at a later date.

Delta Middle School Teacher Pushes Christianity on Students

Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF), which advocates for western Colorado’s secular community, has a form on its website where people can submit violations of the separation of church and state that they observe in western Colorado. On December 10, 2014, the mother of a student who attends Delta Middle School submitted the following information about Christianity being forced on middle school students in Delta, Colorado:

Jime Charlesworth, teacher, Delta Middle School

Jime Charlesworth, teacher, Delta Middle School

A teacher named named Mrs. Charlesworth teaches reading and writing at Delta Middle school. She likes to share her Christian beliefs with the class. One day she told the class non Christians were bad people. A student said that the non Christians were the people who bombed people and she did nothing to correct the conversation. On Friday 11-5-14 all DMS students were forced to watch an 1.5 hour long play about the baby Jesus. My daughter repeatedly asked if she could leave the play because she thought it was inappropriate for school. The teachers would not let her leave. My daughter felt like she was forced to attend a Christian church. My daughter has also been forced to read a book called the witness. She said it has a lot of God stuff in it. I haven’t read it yet. I met with the principal and vice principal of DMS today 12-10-14. I informed them they were violating Church and state rules. They told me the play would never be performed in DMS ever again and the Christian bias would stop. They also assured me my child would treated with respect and would not suffer because I complained. Several hours after my meeting with the principals, my daughter was singled out and yelled at by Mrs. Charlesworth, in front of the entire class. My daughter is being retaliated against for
asserting her rights.

This incident of proselytizing to student in western slope public schools joins numerous others that have been reported, like Fellowship Church’s promotion of its 4640 youth indoctrination center to middle school gym classes, and the promotion of Christian “Good News Clubs” in elementary schools.

Woman and Girls Used as Slave Labor in Irish Laundries Operated by the Catholic Church

Women who were held as slaves in Catholic laundries in Ireland are seeking justice for their imprisonment and abuse

Women who were held as slaves in Catholic laundries in Ireland are seeking justice for their imprisonment and abuse

A BBC investigation has revealed that Irish nuns from the Catholic church took female children out of church-operated state orphanages and used them as unpaid slave labor in church-owned commercial laundry facilities called the Magdalene Laundries. Women and girls made to work in the laundries were held as prisoners and endured significant abuse. The slave laundries existed into the 1980s and did the laundry for restaurants, railway stations, convents and the airport. Some women were held in the laundries for over 50 years.

The Irish Examiner newspaper investigated the finances of religious orders that operated the laundries in 2012 and found they owned assets of $1.9 billion. (Yes, that’s “billion” with a “B.”).

One woman, the main subject in BBC’s report, escaped the laundry, ran to a nearby church for help, got raped by a priest and returned to the laundry. She became pregnant from the rape. The nuns took her baby away from her at birth and gave it up for adoption. The woman was forced to work in the laundry for 14 years. She was finally reunited with her daughter 40 years after her birth. The woman is demanding an apology — just an apology — from the Church.

Source: Demanding justice for women and children abused by Irish nunsBBC News, September 23, 2014

WCAF Says “Help Hungry Kids this Halloween”

Few kids suffer from a shortage of candy at Halloween, but lots of Mesa County kids suffer from food insecurity year 'round.

Few kids suffer from a shortage of candy at Halloween, but lots of Mesa County kids suffer from food insecurity year ’round.

How much money will you spend on Halloween candy this year? And how much good does that really do?

Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers thinks some of that money can do a lot more good if applied to help alleviate hunger in our community.

Sadly, an astonishing number children in our own area suffer from food insecurity.

Mesa County’s poverty level is significantly higher than the state’s as a whole, making life difficult not just for local parents, but for their kids, too. Thirteen percent of Mesa County families live below the federal poverty level, compared to 8.9 percent for the rest of the state.  More than half of the students attending Mesa Valley School District 51 schools qualify for the free and reduced lunch program, and a fairly large number of kids who don’t qualify still go hungry because of poor parental behavior.

This Halloween, Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers, western Colorado’s secular community since 2007, urges people to think differently and consider taking the money you would normally spend on candy, and maybe even just a little more, and donating it to Kids Aid, the local nonprofit that provides backpacks full of non-perishable foods to kids who would otherwise go hungry over the weekends.

Kids Aid currently sends home a phenomenal 1,800 backpacks of food every week to students in all District 51 schools.  The need in our community is very real.

Few kids suffer from a shortage of candy at Halloween, and obesity and diabetes are growing problems for young children. At the same time, many local kids are suffering from a chronic shortage of real, nutritious food.

Four dollars worth of candy money will feed a child for one whole weekend. Sixteen dollars of candy money will feed a child for a month, $48 worth of candy money will feed a child for a quarter and $128 worth of candy money will feed a child for an entire school year.

Few kids need more candy at Halloween, but a lot of kids need more nutritious food.

WCAF urges people to be a “Kids Aid House,” put their candy money to higher use this year, and help turn Halloween in Mesa County into a helping holiday for hungry kids.

Send donations to

Kids Aid

P.O. Box 2569

Grand Junction, CO 81502

…or donate through Kids Aid’s website at KidsAidColorado.org