Category: Democracy

Canal Roads and Conflicting Policies

A purposely-built pedestrian path in the Summer Hill subdivision north of town leads walkers onto the Grand Valley Highline canal bank maintenance roads for a stroll, even though the canal roads are supposedly "no trespassing" zones. Despite the "no trespassing" status, no one has been  cited for walking on the canal banks in at least 28 years.  Former Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said that reports of people walking on the valley's canal banks roads are the "lowest possible priority" misdemeanor to area law enforcement authorities

A landscaped foot path in the Summer Hill subdivision north of town leads walkers onto the beautiful Grand Valley Highline Canal bank maintenance roads for a stroll, even though these roads are supposedly “no trespassing” zones. Not one person has been cited for walking on the canal banks in almost three decades, however. Former Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said he knows of no one who has ever been prosecuted for walking on the canal roads, and that violations of the canal bank “no trespassing” rule are the “lowest possible priority” misdemeanor for area law enforcement authorities.

Sheriff Candidate Mike Harlow: The Ugliest Face of Mesa County

Mesa County Sheriff write-in candidate Mike Harlow

Mesa County Sheriff write-in candidate Mike Harlow

It’s no surprise that Mesa County’s tea party faction endorsed custom holster-maker and write-in candidate Mike Harlow for sheriff.

What is a surprise, though, and a huge embarrassment for Mesa County citizens, is that Harlow got the endorsement of anyone at all.

Harlow’s smugness and extreme hate-filled views reveal one thing: he is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.

If his writings are any indication, contempt and hostility ooze from Harlow’s every pore.

Retail Marijuana Boosts Businesses in Carbondale

Colorado's new marijuana economy is bringing big benefits to towns that embrace it.

Colorado’s new marijuana economy is benefitting towns that embrace it.

Carbondale is one of the few towns on Colorado’s western slope that started selling retail recreational marijuana on January 1, 2014. Only one marijuana shop opened in Carbondale, The Doctor’s Garden, but that one store is boosting the fortunes of other businesses throughout the town. A grocery store across the street from the Doctor’s Garden reports a definite increase in the number of people in town after marijuana became available, and says sales of snacks and drinks increased markedly. New people are also coming to town from other resort towns, like Aspen and Vail, and people are even coming from outside the contiguous U.S., to buy marijuana at the Doctor’s Garden. When the X-Games were ongoing in Aspen last winter, the Carbondale chamber of commerce got a call from an out-of-state ski club seeking to bring 450 people to Carbondale, specifically to go the Doctor’s Garden. Tourists going out of their way to patronize the marijuana shop also patronize other businesses in the course of doing so. Coffee bars report increased business and a local pizza shop, Peppino’s Pizza, reported gaining plenty of new customers after marijuana went on sale last January. Business owners say the demographics of the new visitors are not the “stoner” or younger, slacker-type crowd they expected, but 50-something people, which one business owner described as “an older, normal clientele.”

Source: Colorado Independent, February 5, 2014

National Park Designation Boosts Economic Fortune of California Town

The spire at Pinnacles National Park reflects on a calm reservoir below it. (Photo: NPS.gov)

The spire at Pinnacles National Park reflects on a calm reservoir below it. (Photo: NPS.gov)

Some fearful “old-guard” folks in Grand Junction are trembling in their boots at the prospect of the Colorado National Monument being upgraded to a national park, but if the experience of Soledad, California is an indicator, national park status confers a significant bump in the local economies of small towns situated near them.

In the year and a half since the Pinnacles National Monument near Soledad, California was designated the nation’s 59th national park in February, 2013, Soledad has seen its sales tax receipts jump 11 percent. Nearby restaurants report that signage posted on the routes to the new national park is bringing in more customers.

Pinnacles National Park has also seen a jump in admission fees over when it was a national monument, and the park’s book store has experienced record sales.

Park designation has brightened the economic outlook for Soledad, which previously struggled with a limited economic base.

Prior to the national park designation, Soledad’s economy was based almost solely on agriculture and the presence of a state prison. The national park designation has opened up a whole new area of clean, sustainable economic productivity for the town.

Now Soledad is gearing up to capitalize even more on the good fortune of having a national park in its back yard. The city is welcoming the diversification of its economic base and all the benefits it confers.

This summer, Soledad will open up a brand new visitor center downtown to enlighten tourists going to the park about other nearby offerings, like wineries, vineyards and specialty restaurants.

Grand Junction is poised to experience the same type of boost to its economic fortune as legislators consider bringing a bill to upgrade the Colorado National Monument to a national park.

 

Source: KAZU 90.3, June 25, 2014, National Park Status Boosts Tourism and Hopes

The Crucial History Lesson Behind CO Ballot Initiative #75: the “Community Rights Amendment”

SummitvilleSuperfund

Colorado citizens learned their lesson from the Summitville Mine Disaster of 1992-93, but the state courts and legislature did not, and have repeatedly invalidated local laws that communities enact to protect their citizens from hazardous business pursuits.

Colorado citizens are now gathering signatures to get Ballot Initiative #75, a groundbreaking constitutional amendment, onto the state wide ballot in November.

Business interests have called Initiative #75, also known as the “Right to Local Self-Government” or the “Community Rights Amendment,” an “anti-fracking” initiative, but the measure confers more protection on Colorado citizens than just an anti-fracking initiative, and there are some very solid recent history lessons that are driving Colorado citizens to push for this initiative.

One of them is the Summitville Mine Disaster of 1992-1993.

The Summitville Mine, operated by the Summitville Consolidated Mining Corporation, Inc. (SCMCI), was an open-pit gold and silver mine located in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, about 40 miles west of Alamosa.  SCMCI used a cyanide heap leaching technique to extract gold and silver. The process involved excavating ore from the mountain, then crushing it and placing it onto a 1,235 acre open leach pad lined with clay and synthetic material. The company then poured a sodium cyanide solution over the crushed ore to leach out gold and silver. The contaminated water was collected and held in leach ponds on the mine property.

Sodium cyanide is highly toxic, and among the most rapidly-acting of all poisons.

Benita Phillips to Run for Mesa County Sheriff

Benita Phillips and her husband are residents of Palisade.

Benita Phillips and her husband are residents of Palisade.

Benita Phillips, 61, a local retired Registered Nurse, will announce her intent to run for Mesa County Sheriff as a write-in candidate on Saturday, May 3 at the Cinco de Mayo celebrations in downtown Grand Junction.

Phillips got her BSN from the Intercollegiate Center for Nursing Education in Spokane, Washington in 1975.  She has been married for 39 years to Tom Phillips, a chemical engineer from the University of Washington.  Benita and Tom have two daughters.

Phillips has in-depth experience with analyzing, planning, implementing and evaluating policy, processes and procedures. She has dealt with budgets, administrative and human resource duties, works well with multi-national and multi-cultural individuals, and has supervised large numbers of professional nurses using team-building models. Benita has worked intensely in the community for years, promoting public interaction between the community and government entities to reach common goals of a safe and healthy community.

Phillips believes the Mesa County Sheriff position, a predominately administrative and policy position, can be filled by a long term citizen who appreciates the special bond between a Sheriff department and the public it honors with service and protection.

Colorado GMO Labeling Law Heading for Signature-Gathering Phase

GMORightToKnowColorado Ballot Initiative #48, the “Colorado Right to Know Act,” would require food manufacturers to include the words “Produced with Genetic Engineering” on the packaging of any products that contain genetically-modified organisms. If foods containing these organisms and are not properly labeled, they will be considered “misbranded.”

Federal law currently does not require foods containing genetically-modified ingredients to be labeled, so consumers unaware whether their food contains these organisms and unable to make an informed choice about consuming them.

The measure survived a Colorado Supreme Court challenge by biotech, pesticide and conventional grocery interests, which disputed the title, the “Colorado Right to Know Act,” as unfair, inaccurate, confusing and misleading.

Proponents of the measure will not start collecting signatures to get the measure on the November, 2014 ballot. If it passes, the law will go into effect on July 1, 2016, and would not apply to food or drink for animals, chewing gum, alcoholic beverages, restaurant or food freshly-prepared for consumption or medically-prescribed foods.

Supporters will need 86,105 valid signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

Help out, donate or keep up with the progress of the campaign for the Colorado Right to Know Act at RightToKnowColorado.org.

Untangling Colorado’s Web of Anti-Fracking Ballot Initiatives

NoFrackingColorado voters who try to figure out all the proposed statewide ballot initiatives to regulate drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) are in for a real challenge. So far, fully eleven ballot initiatives have been proposed on the subject, with many of them extremely similar to each other.

It’s tempting to think the oil and gas industry filed some of them to confuse voters and try to pass a watered-down measure, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. So far all of the initiatives filed seem to have been brought by people who truly want more serious regulation of the energy industry, or who are trying to gain an advantage over Colorado’s legal and regulatory regimen, which favors corporate dominance over the desires of residents.

Here’s a rundown on what is known so far about Colorado’s slew of proposed anti-fracking ballot measures.

Colorado Ballot Initiative Puts Rights of People Over Corporate Rights

corporate_logo_flag_new-500x333Think businesses have too many rights over citizens? Then attend a free informational session Tuesday, April 29 in Grand Junction about the groundbreaking Ballot Initiative #75, the “Right to Local Self-Government,” also known as the “Colorado Community Rights Amendment.” Initiative #75 would amend Colorado’s constitution to make the rights of people superior to corporate rights. It is now moving to the petitioning stage, and if it passes, will give local communities “the power to enact local laws establishing, defining, altering, or eliminating the rights, powers, and duties of corporations and other business entities operating or seeking to operate in the community.” Initiative #75 would bar the state from forcing unwanted for-profit corporate projects onto unwilling communities. It would let communities have the final say in whether they want to allow pursuits like hazardous waste dumps, factory farms, fracking, GMO crops, etc., near houses, schools, playgrounds, etc. Communities would be able to make these decisions freely, without the threat of lawsuits by the state or by corporations or their lobbying groups..

What: Informational session on Ballot Initiative #75
When: Tuesday, April 29 at 6:00 p.m.
Where: Mesa County Public Library, Central branch (5th St. and Grand Ave.)
Who: By the ballot initiative’s main listed proponent, Cliff Willmeng, a registered nurse from Lafayette, CO.

Retail Marijuana Coming to DeBeque

DeBequeThe new marijuana economy crept a bit closer to Grand Junction this week, after the citizens of DeBeque, Colorado, just 25 miles east of Grand Junction, voted to approve the sale of retail pot.

DeBeque’s election is an object lesson for everyone who thinks their vote won’t count.

DeBeque has just over 500 residents. Of the 234 ballots sent out, 165 were cast. Of those, 69 were in favor of retail marijuana and 65 against. The measure won by just four votes.

DeBeque’s Town Clerk, Shirley Nichols, reports the election went smoothly, with no questionable ballots.

So, in DeBeque’s case, just four voters indisputably made Colorado history.

Hey, man, but isn’t retail pot illegal in Mesa County?

Amendment 64 legalized recreational use of marijuana throughout the state, but the law allows cities and counties to opt out of permitting retail marijuana commerce within their borders.

In August, 2013, Mesa County’s three Commissioners — Rose Pugliese, John Justman and Steve Aquafresca — unilaterally passed an ordinance banning retail marijuana commerce (pdf) in the county, but the measure only bans retail pot in unincorporated areas of the county. Incorporated cities and towns can make their own choice, so DeBeque, an incorporated town, can do whatever it wants.

And it did.

Interestingly, DeBeque citizens voted down a medical marijuana question in November, 2012. That measure failed by about 13 or 14 votes. So what’s changed since then?

Pot Culture Comes to Grand Junction Despite City and County Bans

Discontent's giant jobbing Bong Guy greets tourists driving into Grand Junction off of I-70B. Art was a creation of their employee Kyle O'Connor.

Discontent’s giant skateboarding, stoned Bong Guy greets tourists driving into Grand Junction off of I-70B. Art was created by their employee Kyle O’Connor.

Try as they may, the Grand Junction City Council, Mesa County Commissioners and even Diane Cox haven’t been able to stop the pot culture from seeping into Grand Junction. It’s starting to show up everywhere these days, despite city and county-wide bans on retail marijuana commerce.

Roasted Espresso and Subs on 5th Street and Colorado Avenue, the coolest coffee bar in town, now offers to add cannabis seeds to any item for $1.50. Shelled cannabis seeds contain a high amount of protein and nutrients like iron, vitamin B and calcium. Reader’s Digest calls them “super seeds” and says they are a “great source of complete protein and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Cannabis seeds also contain phytosterols, plant-based compounds that help lower cholesterol levels.” The THC content of seeds is almost nonexistent.

Discontent at First Street and North Avenue — a high-visibility location at the west entrance to town — bills itself as a “lifestyle store for the counter-culture” and sells a wide selection of pipes, rolling papers, vaporizers, water pipes and other accessories. The quality of their selection of glass art bongs is so magnificent it’s hard to imagine actually using them to smoke. Discontent also carries skateboarding accessories, Van’s sneakers and clothing for the younger set, but they report their clientele has a wide age range. They had one customer who was 85 years old. (Discontent checks date of birth on customers’ IDs.) Discontent is now sporting a huge picture of a stoned, skateboarding bong-guy with bloodshot eyes on its front window.

Tourists coming in off I-70 stop in at Discontent to ask directions to the Colorado National Monument, but the store manager reports the most frequent question from tourists is “Where are the recreational pot shops?” Unfortunately, Discontent must direct them out of town to Rifle, Ridgway or Carbondale, where retail recreational marijuana stores are permitted, to spend their cash. Discontent has been so successful in its current location that they are planning to open a second store in Glenwood Springs, one of the places that has also allowed retail MJ sales. Locals can only watch helplessly as cash-laden pot tourists drive straight through town without stopping and head to points beyond to spend their money.

New Business Coalition Forms in Colorado to Fight Anti-Fracking Movement

Cross-posted from DeSmogBlog.com
Vital for Colorado's full page "Energy Chaos" ad is aimed at derailing a potential ballot initiative to rein in corporate power over citizens

Vital for Colorado’s full page “Energy Chaos” ads, run in rural areas of the state, are aimed at derailing a potential ballot initiative to rein in corporate power over citizens

A new pro-fracking business coalition called “Vital for Colorado” (VfC) has sprung up to fight the growing grassroots anti-fracking movement in Colorado. VfC’s board chairman and registered agent is Peter T. Moore, a senior partner at the Denver law firm of Polsinelli, P.C., which serves the oil and gas industry. Calls and emails to Peter T. Moore and VfC seeking information on the group’s major funders and legal registration information went unanswered.

Most of VfC’s supporters (pdf) are chambers of commerce in more rural areas of the state, cattle and dairy farmers, trade groups like the Colorado Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association, prominent construction and real estate companies, and oil and gas drilling companies like Encana and Suncor Energy, which is based in Calgary, Alberta, and not in Colorado.
So why has VfC gone to Colorado’s hinterlands to try to drum up support? Because VfC’s best chance to gain support appears to be away from the front range, where so far five front range cities have passed ordinances banning fracking within their limits, a fact that has apparently made a big impression on Colorado businesses.

 

In typical front group fashion, VfC’s website doesn’t list a phone number and only permits email contact through a web form, but the site does give a street address for the group: 4950 S. Yosemite St., F2 #236. Coincidentally this is the same address as the former office of the issue group “No on Measure 2A,” whose registered agent was also Peter T. Moore.

Petition Asks Grand Junction Mayor Sam Susuras to Step Down

Mayor Sam Susuras, who was never elected to office, is the target of a petition asking him to step down.

Mayor Sam Susuras, who was never elected to office, is the target of a petition asking him to step down.

petition is circulating on Change.org asking Grand Junction Mayor Sam Susuras to step down from office immediately. Mr. Susuras became mayor after being appointed to fill a City Council seat in 2010. In 2013, he was chosen as mayor by a minority of three out of seven council members after council made sure the mayoral vote was taken on a day when two council members were absent. Mayor Susuras’ three newly-elected allies on City Council (called “chambermades” for their insider political affiliation with the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce) all voted for him, and then construed a vote of three out of five as a majority, instead of delaying the vote until all seven council members could be in attendance. Mr. Susuras further angered Grand Junction citizens in spring, 2013 after he supported City Councilman Rick Brainard staying on Council. Brainard was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend just four days after he was elected. Brainard outraged citizens when he told police he had to hit his girlfriend because she “needed to shut her mouth.” Mr. Susuras was the only member of Council to openly defend Brainard. Brainard eventually pled guilty to the assault, and was forced out of office in July, 2013 by a grassroots citizen uprising determined to remove him from office. Susuras annoyed Grand Junction citizens again after he blocked an election to replace deceased council member Harry Butler, who died of natural causes on June 2, 2013. Susuras insisted Council appoint a new council member to replace Butler instead of allowing citizens to elect their own council member. Council ended up appointing a man who had a DUI arrest on his record for driving with a blood alcohol content that was twice the normal limit.  Most recently, Susuras referred to members of the G.J. Airport Board who have drawn an FBI investigation for fraud as “visionaries,” and advocated continuing to lie to the federal government about a new building under construction at the airport in order to keep federal funds given to build it. Former airport director Rex Tippets, who was fired amid the fraud investigation, had illicitly portrayed the new building as a terminal, when it is actually a new administration building. The government would help pay to build a new terminal building, but not an administration building. The petition states, “Mr. Susuras, we are outraged, horrified and thoroughly embarrassed by your actions on Council, and we no longer want you as our representative. Please take this vote of ‘no confidence’ to heart and step down from Council immediately.”

G.J. Mayor Rebuked for Openly Backing Fraudulent Use of Federal Funds

Sitting Grand Junction Mayor Sam Susuras reportedly backs the fraudulent designation of a new airport building in order to keep the federal funds that are to be used to complete its construction.

Sitting Grand Junction Mayor Sam Susuras  backs the fraudulent designation of a new airport building in order to keep the federal funding obtained for its construction.

Former Grand Junction Mayor Bill Pitts, speaking during the public comment period at the February 5th City Council meeting, charged current Grand Junction Mayor Sam Susuras with supporting dishonest behavior by former Airport Director Rex Tippets and asked Susuras to voluntary step down from the airport board. Pitts referenced a February 4 article in the Daily Sentinel that said the Grand Junction Airport Board voted to change the designation of a building currently under construction at the airport to reflect its administrative purpose instead of its original designation as a new terminal building. All Airport Board members except Susuras recently concluded that Tippets, who was fired December 17, 2013 amid financial fraud allegations, had purposely mischaracterized the building to federal officials to get funds for construction.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) agreed to fund 65 percent of the $6 million building as long as it would be a new terminal, but would not help fund an administrative building.

Susuras has said the conclusion that Tippetts mischaracterized the building to the FAA is not valid. Susuras also stated his belief that former airport board members who served during the period now under investigation for fraud were “visionaries” for trying to expand the airport.

Pitt’s statement to Council is as follows:

“I’d like to call your attention… to an article in today’s paper of Airport Board hopeful faults panel’s credibility.”

I attended the last Airport Authority meeting — which I’ve been attending quite regularly for several years — and at that meeting there was a discussion about changing the name of a building and returning funds to the government which were obtained, as I understand it, fraudulently.  It is the opinion of our representative to the Authority, Mayor Susuras, that we keep the funds under the false pretenses under which it was received, and I take this as an insult to our community that such representation would made by our City Council that we retain funds from the federal government of several million dollars, that were obtained fraudulently, to change the name of a building, and I suggest that Mayor Susuras step down as the representative of City Council on the airport authority and suggest strongly that the Council appoint somebody to the Authority that can stand up for the credibility of the community which he represents.”

Mayor Susuras, whose term on the Airport Board expires in May, 2014, carried on with the Council meeting as though nothing had been said.

See the video of the meeting here. You can skip directly to the Citizen Comments part of the meeting about eight minutes in to the video, and Mr. Pitts is the only person speaking during the comment period.

Additional coverage: Bill Pitts publicly asks mayor to leave Airport Board, KREX, Feb. 5, 2014

Mesa County Tea Partiers Continue to Battle “Old Guard” GOP Machine

AnneLandmanBlog has obtained video of western slope conservatives meeting at a local restaurant December 20, 2013 to pressure former Palisade Police Chief Carrol Quarles to run against State Senator Steve King for Mesa County Sheriff.*  King is the candidate the Mesa County Republican Party has selected to run for Sheriff in the upcoming 2014 election. Quarles was fired from his position as police chief by the town of Palisade in October, 2012.

Lawsuit Filed Against Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority

Updated December 22, 2013

Gregg Palmer, former mayor of Grand Junction, served on the airport board during the time the FBI is questioning for fraud. Palmer is currently running for Mesa County Commissioner.

Gregg Palmer, owner of Brown’s Shoe Fit on Main Street and a former mayor of Grand Junction, served on the Airport Board during the time the FBI is investigating for fraud. Palmer is currently running for Mesa County Commissioner.

A lawsuit (pdf) was filed against the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority and its former director December 18, 2013, by a former employee of the airport. Former Grand Junction Mayor Bill Pitts, who has knowledge of the case, appeared at a small gathering of local citizens at a bagel shop on Main Street Friday morning, December 20, to talk about the case.

Asked about the fraud at the heart of the case, Pitts explained part of it involves the long, black, electrified security fence constructed on three sides of the airport in 2011. The fence hurt airport-related businesses economically, forcing them to close or relocate. Pitts pointed out that a fault in the fence project is that it exists on only three sides of the airport, leaving an entire two-mile stretch along the north edge of the airport unprotected. When former airport manager Rex Tippets filled out a form required for the fencing project, Pitts said, there were numerous boxes that needed to be checked. One of them asked “Will any of the public be affected by the fence?,” and Tippets answered “No.” Despite how the public was affected by it, Pitts said no public hearing about the fence was ever held.

Mesa County GOP Gets Slapped at the Ballot Box

District 51 GOP school board candidate Mike Lowenstein: ""The people have voted and they'll get what they deserve."

“They’ll get what they deserve…,” said Mesa County GOP school board candidate Mike Lowenstein about voters, after finding out he lost the race. (Photo credit: Mike Lowenstein for School Board, http://mikelowensteinfor51d.com/)

All three District 51 School Board candidates endorsed by the Mesa County Republican Party — Mike Lowenstein, Patrick Kanda and John Sluder — lost in yesterday’s election, the same three who had also taken financial support from C. Edward McVaney, a front range billionaire and private religious school supporter. The defeat of the GOP/Tea Party slate of candidates in Mesa County was remarkable since historically the area votes overwhelmingly Republican and off-year elections tend to favor Republican candidates. But none of these factors combined were enough to help the local GOP pull off even one win in the race. The Daily Sentinel reported that at an election-night gathering of GOP candidates at the Blue Moon Bar and Grill in downtown Grand Junction, Mike Lowenstein, one of the GOP’s candidates, said simply, “The people have voted and they’ll get what they deserve,” and walked out of the restaurant. The GOP’s big local loss came on the heels of the multi-week federal government shutdown, largely attributed nationally to tea party Republicans’ intransigence over the new Affordable Care Act. By endorsing candidates in a school board race, the Mesa County GOP also tread onto new ground, turning a historically nonpartisan race into a partisan challenge. It is no coincidence that the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce has also become political at the same time the GOP has started weighing in on traditionally nonpartisan races, since there is significant overlap between local GOP leaders and the Chamber, and the two entities often appear to be working together politically. Chambers of commerce in smaller Colorado towns typically remain apolitical to avoid offending any citizens and business owners who may not agree with their views. But the GOP and Chamber’s strategy of weighing in on traditionally non-partisan races seems to be backfiring big time. In addition to the local GOP’s stunning losses in the school board race, the Grand Junction Chamber has faced significant backlash from area citizens and business owners who feel the group has far overstepped its boundaries by becoming highly political.