Category: Economics

What is the Mesa County Federal Mineral Lease District, and Why Should We Care About it?

A guest post by Janet Johnson

Mesa County’s Federal Mineral Lease District is a huge slush fund that’s supposed to go towards helping areas of the county negatively affected by the oil and gas industry. But instead, most of the money has been getting funneled to Colorado Mesa University and projects that benefit the oil and gas industry itself.

On February 6, Colorado House Representative Yeulin Willett introduced HB-1152 in the Colorado legislature, a bill titled “Federal Mineral Lease District (FMLD) Investment Authority.” The bill certainly does “open an important conversation,” as the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel suggested in its February 2, 2017 op-ed on the subject.

Willett’s bill seeks to give counties “investment authority,” which would allow them to withhold some of the money the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) gives to Federal Mineral Lease Districts and invest it in a permanent fund. This request for and composition of the bill originated with the Mesa County FMLD. The other counties in Colorado that have Federal Mineral Lease Districts are Garfield and Weld County.

Another Reason G.J. Needs a Recreation Center: The Skyline Warehouse

Skyline Warehouse: easy to miss if you’re driving on Highway 6 & 50

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a kids’ indoor soccer game at the Skyline indoor sports facility at 2522 Highway 6 & 50.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, Skyline is an old warehouse that in 2011 was repurposed into an indoor sports facility. It is located behind the Auto Zone on Highway 6& 50, just west of Sam’s Club.

The Skyline Warehouse definitely serves a need in western Colorado. Its indoor batting cages and soccer field keep kids active in sports throughout the winter without their having to be out in the cold and the snow. It’s a wonderful thing for kids and parents alike to have a warm, indoor place to play sports in winter.

Putting Grand Junction’s Costco Rumors to Rest

Costco Warehouse Store – Sam’s Club is the major obstacle to Grand Junction getting a Costco

For years western slope residents have been hoping and wishing that a Costco warehouse store would open in Grand Junction.

Around 2010, rumors started circulating that Costco was considering locating a new store in Grand Junction. People even started proposing possible locations for the new store in the Daily Sentinel’s letters-to-the-editor column.

But Costco never came to Grand Junction, and to this day rumors continue to abound about why the area was passed up.

People blamed the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce for chasing Costco away, saying the Chamber wanted to keep the wage scale low here, and Costco would upend our area’s low-wage apple cart. Costco is known for it’s generous wage and benefits packages, paying a starting salary of around $17/hour, or $45,000/year, and offering employees medical insurance, retirement and more.

Others claim Costco rejected Grand Junction because of our notoriously underfunded District 51 schools. 

None of these are true.

Cattle Left to Fend for Themselves on Public Lands

Desperately thirsty cattle on BLM land clamber down into the Grand Valley Canal and break the ice on the few remaining puddles to get water.

Western cattle ranchers often rail against federal government control of public lands, but aren’t averse to taking taxpayer-funded handouts whenever they can get them. Indeed, even famously insurgent Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy took help from a taxpayer-funded public defender after being arrested on 16 charges of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States.

Survey: G.J. Chamber Members Don’t Support the Chamber’s Political Meddling

The G.J. Chamber gets unfavorable reviews from members on its political involvement

The G.J. Chamber gets unfavorable reviews from members on its political involvement

The website of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce says “We take the lead in shaping laws that affect business on the western slope,” but according to a new chamber survey, only a tiny fraction of its members seem to think the chamber should be meddling in government affairs at all.

On October 12, the chamber sent out a survey to its approximately 1,500 member businesses. Only 15 percent of its members responded to it.

One question on the survey asked whether “being the voice of business with government” should be a priority for the chamber. Only 39 percent of the small percentage of business owners who responded said “yes,” showing very few chamber members think the chamber should meddle in government at all. What’s more, fewer than half the respondents (48%) thought the chamber’s Government Affairs committee was even beneficial. According to the survey, only 67 of the chamber’s estimated total 1,500 member businesses said they joined the chamber “to have a stronger voice with government.” When asked about the most important issue business owners face today, not even 5 percent answered that the political environment was important to them.

Focus on the Bright Spots in the Election

sunrise-sunset-sun-calculatorHalf the country woke up this morning despondent, demoralized and in utter dread of what a Trump presidency will mean to this country. We’ve never had a president before who confessed on video to sexually assaulting women and who is endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. We’re about to find out what that’s like, but everyone — including conservatives — might end up being surprised by what Trump will actually do while he’s in office, since he earned a 76 to a 91% lie rate for everything he said while on the campaign trail. The New York Times even dubbed him “Lord of the Lies.” If it was the right wing’s goal to throw a molotov cocktail into the government of the country they supposedly love so much, then they succeeded.

Want to See Marijuana Commerce Back in Grand Junction? Sign the Petition for a Ballot Measure

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-7-47-02-pmWant to see retail marijuana back in Grand Junction?

Well, so do a lot of other people.

The nonprofit group GJCAN (for “Cannabis Access Now”) is circulating an official petition to get retail marijuana back in the City of Grand Junction. GJCAN is comprised of people who owned the former medical marijuana shops that the City shut down in 2011, as well as caregivers, agriculture suppliers, agricultural students and others who just want to see some much-needed economic growth finally come to Grand Junction.

GJCAN hired an attorney to help them draft the proposed ordinance and the group met with the City Attorney and City Clerk when  formulating the ordinance to assure they were doing everything correctly. GJCAN currently has about 50 people circulating petitions city wide.

G. J. Chamber “Hasn’t Even Considered” Marijuana as a Way to Boost the Local Economy

CLUELESS - Diane Schwenke attending a meeting at Main Street Bagels this morning

Diane Schwenke attending a meeting at Main Street Bagels this morning

Diane Schwenke, the CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, said at a meeting at Main Street Bagels this morning that the chamber’s board hasn’t even discussed or considered the possibility of bringing retail marijuana commerce to Grand Junction as a way to boost the local economy.

Schwenke made the statement after being asked about the chamber’s position on retail marijuana, which over the last two years has proven to be one of the biggest economic drivers in elsewhere in the state.

What’s Really Going On Inside Mesa County Government? Here’s a Hint: It’s Pretty Bad.

Rose Pugliese, one of the sitting county commissioners responsible for ongoing discontent among County employees

Rose Pugliese, one of the sitting county commissioners responsible for a high level of discontent among Mesa County employees

The following is a guest column from the August 28, 2016 issue of the Daily Sentinel that many people may have overlooked. The author is the operations manager for the elections division of Mesa County. She describes how the County treats its employees. I am reposting it here because many people probably missed it, and county residents need to know about the poor management of county under our current county commissioners.

Hundreds of Business Owners Go Public with Support for Amendment 70, the Minimum Wage Increase

illegal_petes

The owner of Illegal Pete’s, a Colorado-based restaurant chain with 8 stores, reports that after raising wages, employee turnover dropped markedly. The owner credits his employees with making his business one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in the country.

Business owners across the state are lining up to support Amendment 70, which would raise Colorado’s minimum wage to $12.00 and hour by 2020. Many of these owners voluntarily raised their own employees’ wages and are telling the public about the impacts it has had on their businesses.

They report positive economic results that directly contradict the predictions advanced by groups opposing the measure, like the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

Grand Junction Chamber Drops its Longstanding Support for Scott Tipton

House Rep. Scott Tipton (R), formerly a favorite of the tea-party leaning Grand Junction Area Chamber, has failed to win the chamber's endorsement for re-election this year

House Rep. Scott Tipton (R), formerly a favorite of the tea-party leaning Grand Junction Area Chamber, has failed to win the chamber’s endorsement for re-election this year

In a subtle but stunning rebuke, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce has quietly declined to endorse Scott Tipton (R) in his bid this year to win re-election as Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District’s House Representative. In its 2016 Voter Guide (PDF), the chamber endorses candidates in other races, but for the first time it does not endorse Tipton.

The chamber has endorsed Tipton ever since he first ran for Congress in 2010, and maintained its support of the tea party favorite throughout the years, until now.

This year, no endorsement. Zero. Zip.

Why We Need to Question the Chamber’s “Experts”

Diane Schwenke of the Grand Junction Chamber quotes a statistic by Erc Fruits, a freelance, pay-for-play economic consultant who works out of his home in Portland, Oregon, producing reports that meet the needs of his paymasters

Diane Schwenke of the Grand Junction Chamber quotes a statistic by Eric Fruits, a freelance, pay-for-play economic consultant who works out of his home in Portland, Oregon, producing reports that meet the needs of his paymasters

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce is working hard to defeat Amendment 70, which would raise Colorado’s minimum wage to $12 and hour by 2020. Part of its opposition involves chamber president Diane Schwenke running TV ads against the measure in which the chamber claims “90,000 Colorado jobs” would be lost if the measure passes.

Who is “Dr. Fruits”?

The chamber’s “90,000-jobs-lost” figure comes from “Eric Fruits,” of “Economics International Corps.” Fruits is a part time economic consultant who works out of his home and also works part time as an adjunct professor at Portland State University (PSU).

Adjunct professors, also called “contingent professors,” are not tenured. They are typically low-paid, part-time contract workers who rank below “assistant” and “associate” professors. Adjuncts typically don’t receive any health insurance or other benefits through their workplace and are often paid less than pet sitters.

Costco vs. Sam’s Club: Busting the G.J. Chamber’s Minimum Wage Myths

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-11-38-08-amColorado’s Amendment 70, if it passes this November, will gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $12.00 an hour by 2020. Some people wonder, if we pay people a higher minimum wage, where will the money come from?

The money comes from either a businesses’ profits, or its debts. But raising the minimum wage doesn’t necessarily mean customers will pay higher prices for goods and services. To the contrary, a number of real-life examples show that rock-bottom pay and benefits don’t necessarily translate into lower prices. In fact, stingy wages often prove even more costly.

G.J. Chamber Runs TV Ads Opposing Increase in Colorado’s Minimum Wage

Diane Schwenke of the Grand Junction Chamber quotes a statistic by Erc Fruits, a freelance, pay-for-play economic consultant who works out of his home in Portland, Oregon, producing reports that meet the needs of his paymasters

Diane Schwenke of the Grand Junction Chamber cites a statistic produced by “Eric Fruits,” a pay-for-play economic consultant who works out of his home in Portland, Oregon producing economic reports that bolster the positions of his big-business paymasters. Fruits’ claim directly contradicts the U.S. Department of Labor regarding the actual effects of increases in the minimum wage.

Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke has been appearing on TV in ads opposing Amendment 70, which would increase in Colorado’s minimum wage to $12 and hour by 2020. The western slope has among the lowest per capita income in the state (pdf), and among the highest rates of homelessness, poverty, suicide and hunger. The ads reinforce the chamber’s longstanding reputation of opposing the best interests of area workers and their families, and continues its long-standing record of lobbying to keep area wages extraordinarily low compared to the rest of the state. The ads also reinforce the chamber’s image as an elite club that lobbies for wealthy business owners and out-of-state member corporations, while neglecting the needs of the rest of the community.

Fruits?

The New Graff Dairy: A Shining New Addition to Town

Graff Dairy 2.0 - worth a trip across town

Graff Dairy 2.0 – worth a trip across town

Graff Dairy, a longtime fixture in town at 581 29 Road, has gotten a complete makeover and is now a fantastic place to stop to get your espresso and ice cream fix.

Graff Dairy 2.0 is clean, spacious and bright, with tables and umbrellas on a nice front lawn where you can sit to eat your ice cream. It also now has a very welcome more sophisticated edge that this town really needs. For example, they offer free water flavored with chunks of fresh watermelon and sprigs of rosemary — a nice flair. Some local stories have reported that their ice cream is the same as it used to be, but it really seems much better than that. The old Graff ice cream seemed little better than ice milk, but the new Graff ice cream seems richer and more flavorful, like it has a higher butterfat content than it used to.

Western Slope Workers’ Public Enemy #1: The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. Department of Labor says that in 2014, the Wall Street bonus pool was roughly twice as much as all minimum wage workers' pay

The U.S. Department of Labor says that in 2014, the Wall Street bonus pool was roughly twice as much as all U.S. minimum wage workers’ pay combined

On August 1, 2016 the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce announced its opposition to a ballot initiative to raise Colorado’s minimum wage to $12/hour. The main reason the chamber gives for opposing the higher wage is a claim by Economics International Corporation — a company located in Portland, Oregon — that raising the minimum wage in Colorado will put 90,000 Coloradans out of work, mostly younger people.

Consider the Source

So who is “Economics International Corporation”?

It is a one person consultancy run by a man named Eric Fruits, who hires himself out as an expert witness in economics and statistics. The official registered business location of Economics International Corporation is “4318 NE Royal Court, Portland, Oregon 97213,” a four bedroom, three bathroom home. Fruits is the sole registered officer, agent, president and secretary of the corporation.

Economics International Corp headquarters

The official registered headquarters of the Chamber’s expert on Colorado economic issues, is this 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom house in Portland, Oregon

Fruits specializes in “litigation support” for businesses, meaning he hires himself out to say whatever his paymasters need him to say, much like independent scientists did for the tobacco industry in the 1970s-1990s.

WCAF to Award $4,325 to Student Who Exposed Christian Proselytizing in Delta Public Schools

Cidney Fisk of Delta, Colorado

Cidney Fisk of Delta, Colorado

On Monday, August 15, 2016 Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) will award a $4,325 college scholarship to Cidney Fisk, the newly-graduated Delta High School student who exposed the pervasive Christian proselytizing in Delta County’s public schools. WCAF will hand over the check to Cidney at noon in front of Delta High School in Delta, Colorado.

Cidney is an award-winning, A+ student who excelled in speech and debate, but was punished for her opinions about the school.

The scholarship is WCAF’s largest to date. The group gave a $1,000 gift to the Mesa County Public Library Foundation in July of 2013 to help with construction of the new downtown Central Library, and in spring, 2016 donated $100 to Delta Middle School to help with minor repairs in the girls’ and boys’ restrooms in the school’s cafeteria.

Cidney graduated from Delta High School last May and was outspoken about the school bringing in Christian-based speaker Shelly Donahue, who gave an abstinence-only-before-marriage talk to students. This talk was nominally secular, but contained crucifixes in all the slides and Donahue told the students that having premarital sex “puts

A slide from Shelly Donahue's "WAIT" program shown at Delta High School in October, 2015, containing Christian crosses (crucifixes)

A slide from Shelly Donahue’s “WAIT” program shown at Delta High School in October, 2015, containing Christian crosses (crucifixes)

them further from God.” This talk the only “sex ed” most DHS students ever received from the school district, but it contained none of the state-required information about contraceptives, sexually-transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS or other information the state says public schools must give students if districts choose to teach sex education.

Organized Effort to Undermine Mulder for Commissioner’s Campaign?

Some low-life is stealing Mel Mulder's hand-made campaign signs. Turn them in for a reward!

Some low-life has been stealing Mel Mulder’s hand-made campaign signs. Know who it is? Turn them in for a reward!

The race for Mesa County Commissioner in District 1 is heating up, and someone in Happy Valley is playing dirty.

Some unknown person has been stealing County Commissioner District 1 candidate Mel Mulder’s hand-made campaign signs. Mel, his wife, Vera, their friends and high school students painstakingly hand-made each sign in the summer heat to try to stretch the money Mel has raised for his campaign. Mel has raised about $1,385 so far, a fairly normal amount for a campaign for local office in the Grand Valley. By comparison, the incumbent Commissioner in District 1, John Justman has over $46,000 in his campaign fund, most of which — $31,500 — came from Justman’s own wife, Frances. According to KREX, Justman’s similar-sized, professionally-made signs cost about $500 each. Mel’s hand-made signs cost only about $100 each, showing that Mel knows how to do more with less.