As if the Rick Brainard debacle didn’t offend enough people for the embattled Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, now Chamber president Diane Schwenke has offended the local secular community with an anti-atheist post on her personal Facebook page. Ms. Schwenke says in her post that she finds this nasty joke “just too good not to share,” so I am sharing it with all of my readers.
Is it ever appropriate for the president of a Chamber of Commerce to attack a minority group like this? Is it more politically safe to attack atheists than it is to attack, say, Jews, Mennonites, Latinos or African Americans? To make matters worse, the G.J. Chamber continues to get public funding from the City of Grand Junction, which pays $6,325/year (updated in 2017) to be a member of the chamber at the highest level. A larger screenshot of Diane Schwenke’s Facebook Page with her joke along with her statement of affiliation with the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce can be seen here.
Post on Chamber Director Diane Schwenke’s personal Facebook page takes a dig at atheists
Two views of citizens turning their backs on Brainard at his swearing in ceremony May 6, 2013. Ruth Ehlers is seen in the hot pink jacket in the top photo. (Photo Credit: Demand Rick Brainard Resign Grand Junction Facebook page)
Rick Brainard was elevated to Grand Junction City Council this week amid an unprecedented citizen protest at his swearing in ceremony. As City Clerk Stephanie Tuin read Mr. Brainard his oath of office, 60 percent of the audience stood and turned their backs on him in silent protest — a remarkable showing for a municipal ceremony on a weekday morning in this small, conservative town. Brainard claimed to the media that he was unaware of the protest, but was sweating after the ceremony. In response to a question about the protest from a KKCO Channel 11 news reporter, Brainard responded “You know, it is what it is …My supporters have been steadfast, and I’m grateful for that.” An unidentified Brainard supporter was overheard saying, “All they did was turn their backs. They have a right to do that. I thought they were very civil. Not nearly as obnoxious as I thought they were going to be.”
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Grand Junction citizens protest outside the Chamber of Commerce. The blue sign says “GJ Chamber endorses violence.”
Rick Brainard’s election to the Grand Junction City Council and subsequent arrest for assault and harassment have appalled and galvanized City residents, but it’s also raised awareness of a sea change happening in Grand Junction politics right now that would otherwise have gone little-noticed. City Councilman Tom Kenyon alluded to it when he told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel the day after the election that “This election was very different” from others. “It was very organized,” Kenyon said, “It felt like they were out to get you. They raised a lot of money.”
Kenyon was right. This election was very different from previous local elections. That’s because, thanks to the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, a new group has appeared in town that has vowed to take a “proactive role” in setting local public policy. Translation? That group has vowed to take control of the City of Grand Junction. That group is the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce’s newly-created 501(c)4 political arm, the Western Colorado Business Alliance (WCBA), which exerted its muscle in the last election to seize control of Grand Junction’s City Council.
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Grand Junction citizens march and protest outside the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce
The fortunes of the Grand Junction Colorado Area Chamber of Commerce are sinking this week alongside those of embattled councilman-elect Rick Brainard, an executive at West Star Aviation in Grand Junction, who faces criminal charges for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend during a domestic altercation April 6. Grand Junction Police arrested and charged Mr. Brainard just four days after he won election to the Grand Junction City Council. Appalled citizens have been marching, chanting, holding rallies and organizing phone banks to protest Mr. Brainard assuming his seat on Council. This week outraged citizens picketed the G.J. Chamber, which continues to stand steadfastly behind Mr. Brainard. Just days ago, Mr. Brainard resigned from the Chamber’s board, but the Chamber still backs him. Adding to the Chamber’s woes, this week, the City of Grand Junction voted to yank its $6,000 membership in the Chamber, saying the Chamber has changed from an economic development organization into an overtly political group. As if losing the City’s lucrative membership and being targeted with loud protests by Grand Junction citizens wasn’t enough, this week thieves targeted the Chamber stealing a number of copper backflow devices said to be valued at thousands of dollars. To top it all off, an alternative Chamber of Commerce announced its debut this week in town: the Western Colorado Latino Chamber of Commerce, with dues that are a fraction of the GJ Chamber’s dues, making the Latino Chamber far more accessible to smaller businesses.
Additional coverage: The Daily Sentinel publishes audio of calls from citizens to City Council over the Brainard issue
Embattled Grand Junction, Colorado City-Councilor-Elect Rick Brainard
On Tuesday, April 3, Rick Brainard, Vice President of Business Development at West Star Aviation in Grand Junction, Colorado was celebrating his election to City Council. On Saturday, April 6, he was arrested, put in a yellow jumpsuit and thrown in jail on charges of third degree assault after he admitted to police that he pushed, shoved, and struck his live-in girlfriend in the face. In his police affidavit, Brainard first denied the altercation, then said he had to strike his girlfriend because she “needed to shut her mouth.” That admission has inflamed citizens and last week a hundred people rallied at City Hall demanding Mr. Brainard not take office. Sitting Grand Junction City Council members have sent Mr. Brainard a letter to asking him not to assume office amid his legal flap, saying the case is embarrassing the City. The City is legally powerless to keep Brainard from taking his seat on Council, and despite the public pressure, Brainard has vowed to assume his seat on Council. If he does, citizens have vowed to start a recall effort. The City Clerk estimates a recall would cost the City about $45,000. In the meantime, the matter has gotten coverage across the U.S., including in Denver, San Francisco and Seattle, and an online petition demanding Mr. Brainard’s resignation, titled “Woman-Beating Councilmember Must Go,” has gone viral. As of 3:00 p.m. Sunday, April 21 the petition had 13,731 signatures and the number is growing at the rate of several thousand more a day. Even worse for Mr. Brainard, his mugshot now appears on MugShots.com.
Main Source: Care2 Petition Site, Woman Beating Council Member Must Go, April 21, 2013
After the April 8 announcement that former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had died, thousands of UK citizens poured out to spontaneous street parties to celebrate her death. A crowd of about 3,000 people gathered in the rain in Trafalgar Square to a celebrate Thatcher’s demise. Partiers chanted “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie! Dead! Dead! Dead!” Some swigged from big plastic bottles of milk to commemorate Thatcher’s abolishing a program that provided free milk to school children. Her decision to end the milk subsidy earned her the nickname “Thatcher the Milk Snatcher.” Trafalgar Square revelers drank, blew bubbles, sang and danced in a conga line in celebration of Thatcher’s demise. People in Brixton, South London, also turned out to a street party where participants carried signs saying “Rejoice!” and popped champaign bottles. A website, IsThatcherDeadYet.co.uk, now has a huge word “YES” on it and has gotten 235,396 “likes” on FaceBook. In addition to spontaneous street parties, a campaign is underway in the UK to get as many people as possible to download the song “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” from the movie “The Wizard of Oz” to make it the week’s the top-selling track and push it to number one on the UK music charts. The effort seems to be working. By Friday, April 12, Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead had hit number one in the UK ITunes store and rose to number three on the official UK charts. All this put BBC radio is a tough spot, since the radio station usually broadcasts a Top 40 countdown program on Sunday afternoons, in which it plays every song from number 40 on down in its entirety.
Mugshot of Grand Junction City Councilman-elect Rick Brainard
Richard Brainard, one of the newest members of Grand Junction, Colorado, City Council, was arrested early on the morning of April 6 on charges of third-degree assault and harassment after he allegedly got into a physical altercation with his live-in girlfriend. Brainard was just elected to City Council last Tuesday, April 2. Brainard’s girlfriend, Cindy Franzen, told police she dated Brainard for eight months and moved in with him last November. She said a physical altercation occurred in the bedroom, over text messages Brainard received on his phone from his former girlfriend. Franzen says Brainard pushed her into a dresser several times and pulled her hair, and grabbed her face and arms. She said Brainard later hit her in the face with what she believes was an open hand. It is unclear what the alleged incident means for his membership on Grand Junction City Council. He is Vice President of business development for West Star Aviation, Inc., in Grand Junction, and belongs to the G.J. Chamber of Commerce Board. He was also endorsed by the Grand Junction newspaper, the Daily Sentinel.
Main Source: KREX-TV, Grand Junction, April 6, 2013
Republican House Rep. Don Young of Alaska
As Republicans struggle to find a way to increase their appeal to Latino voters and just days after Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus urged Republicans to stop saying “stupid, idiotic things” that contribute to the GOP’s demise, Veteran U.S. House Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) casually injected a racial slur about “wetbacks” into a radio interview on KRBD in Ketchican, Alaska on March 28. While discussing the economy, Young, 79, describing what life was like on his father’s California ranch, said “We used to hire 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”
The word “wetback” is a slur used to denigrate immigrant farm workers, and particularly Mexican or Mexican-American farm workers. The slur drew immediate rebuke from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the GOP leadership struggled to repair the damage. When House Speaker John Boehner demanded Young apologize, Young said he meant no disrespect and was just repeating the language of his youth. He did not, however, include an apology in his statement.
Petition’s suggested attire for members of the House and Senate
A new petition appeared on the Obama administration’s “We the People” web site March 18 asking that members of the Congress and Senate be required to wear the logos of their financial backers on their clothing, NASCAR style. The petition says, “Since most politicians’ campaigns are largely funded by wealthy companies and individuals, it would give voters a better sense of who the candidate they are voting for is actually representing if the company’s logo, or individual’s name, was prominently displayed upon the candidate’s clothing at all public appearances and campaign events. Once elected, the candidate would be required to continue to wear those ‘sponsor’s’ names during all official duties and visits to constituents. The size of a logo or name would vary with the size of a donation. For example, a $1 million dollar contribution would warrant a patch of about 4″ by 8″ on the chest, while a free meal from a lobbyist would be represented by a quarter-sized button. Individual donations under $1000 are exempt.” Some people have commented that the NASCAR-style clothing requirement would break Congress’s dress code, but the code only requires a coat and tie for men and “appropriate” dress for women. Others say members of Congress and the Senate would have to wear floor-length robes, perhaps with trains, to accommodate all of their corporate backers. So far, the Congressmen-in-NASCAR-clothing petition has gathered 9,378 signatures in just four days. The Obama Administration has raised the number of signatures needed to get a response on a petition to100,000 within 30 days, up from 25,000. The petition can be seen (and signed) here.
Main source: Huffington Post, March 20, 2013
American politicians know amazingly little about their constituents’ viewpoints, and tend to believe their constituents are far more conservative than they really are. Political scientists at two major universities surveyed nearly 2,000 candidates for statewide legislative office across the U.S. and uncovered a vast disconnect between what candidates’ believe on political issues, and what constituents in their districts actually believe. The researchers, David E. Broockman of the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley and Christopher Skovron of the Department of Political Science, University of Michigan, compared legislative candidates’ perceptions of mass opinion in their districts on issues like same-sex marriage, universal health care and funding of government programs with actual district-level opinion. They found that politicians are generally fairly wrong about their constituents’ views. Both liberals and conservatives overestimated how conservative their constituents are, but conservatives’ perceptions were exceptionally distorted. Conservative politicians overestimated the conservatism of people in their district by more than 20 percentage points. The study authors write, “For perspective, 20 percentage points is roughly the difference in partisanship between California and Alabama.”
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