Category: Poverty

Rep. Tipton votes to cut Medicaid, CHIP

House Rep. Scott Tipton has voted against financial transparency in government, against protecting citizens’ access to health insurance, against working families and to protect wealthy Americans and keep their taxes low. He’s up for re-election this year.

On February 6, 2020 House Rep. Scott Tipton voted in favor of cutting funding for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), federal programs that cover poor children, pregnant women, the elderly and disabled people with health insurance who could not otherwise afford it.

Tipton voted “no” on House Resolution 826 (HR-826), a measure brought by Democrats that condemned Trump’s cuts to the federal safety net programs that protect Americans who have fallen on hard times.

Taking away health insurance

More than one million children have lost Medicaid and CHIP health insurance coverage under President Trump, and over 750,000 adults have lost Medicaid coverage. Trump’s latest budget calls for even more cuts to Medicaid and the and Affordable Care Act, and it includes deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare, while extending tax cuts for wealthy people, despite his promise he would not touch Social Security or Medicare.

City Council may be staring down the barrel of another ACLU lawsuit over criminalizing homelessness

On the same night that Grand Junction City Council will consider adopting an inclusiveness proclamation that says the City “desires to ensure that the human rights of all citizens are protected,” council will also vote on whether to amend city code to ban camping on public property, which will effectively criminalize a homeless population who has nowhere else to go.

That’s the view of the ALCU of Colorado, which has taken a great interest in the proposed change to city code, and considers it another attempt by Grand Junction to target homeless people and criminalize them.

Lessons from the Shutdown

Donald Trump just put America through the longest federal government shutdown in history, single-handedly keeping over 800,000 federal workers from being paid for over a month, hobbling law enforcement agencies and airport security, blocking immigration proceedings, causing delays in airline flights across the country, forcing hundreds of thousands of people into having to make hard decisions between paying their mortgages, buying their medicine or feeding their kids.

In the end, neither Mr. Trump nor the country gained anything at all from this exercise, but we did learn some important lessons from it.

FREE Progressive Family Picnic Sept. 1 features gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis

Be a proud if you support forward-looking, consumer-friendly and environment-friendly polices!

Attend a FREE political event to celebrate the increasing power of liberals and progressives on the western slope! Come to the Progressive Family Picnic on Saturday, September 1 at the Watson Island Amphitheater from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. The event is 100% free, no admission, open to all. It celebrates workers and families, so pack a picnic, and bring your family! Come enjoy the grassy amphitheater behind the Botanical Gardens beside the Colorado River at the end of 7th Street in downtown Grand Junction. There will be free live music and even parking is free. The event is sponsored by Claudette Konola and Kennedy for Colorado.  Chris Kennedy, who is running for State Senate District 7 against Ray Scott, will be there and Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Jared Polis will be there to share his bold ideas for the future and meet western slopers in person.

Tell your friends you’ll meet them there! There’s room for 1,000 people!

Local business owners want “a Chamber for the rest of us”

Shawn Carr, owner of G.J. Computer Center

Two small business owners in Grand Junction are fed up and ready to start a new organization that will do what they thought the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce was supposed to do: boost small local businesses and improve life in town for those struggling at the lower end of the income scale.

Shawn Carr, a technology specialist who owns GJ Computer Center, and Billy Jacobs, owner of XZRT Gaming on Orchard Mesa, say the Grand Junction Area Chamber falls far short of providing local small businesses what they really need.

To illustrate this, Shawn tells how he recently attended a Chamber event  billed as a way for businesses to promote themselves to other businesses. He brought a pocket full of business cards to the event, but when he got there found every booth but one represented a national or international conglomerate based outside of town. He ended up handing out only one business card, and walked away thinking it’s time someone did better than this.

Number of Mesa County Children in Extreme Poverty has Skyrocketed under Republican County Commissioners

The number of children in extreme poverty in Mesa County has skyrocketed under a Republican-dominated Board of Mesa County Commissioners. (FPL= Federal Poverty Level. A family of four is at the federal poverty level if they make an income of $24,600 in 2017. Under 50% of the FPL would be about $12,600/year. (https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines) Chart available (without red annotations) at Colorado Children’s Campaign.

When was the last time a Mesa County Commissioner or a state-level elected official from Mesa County gave a public statement about the skyrocketing number of families and children suffering from extreme poverty in our county, or proposed possible solutions to the problem?

That’s right. Never.

Reality Check: Does Your Political Affiliation Match Your Best Interests?

Here’s a question for Mesa County workers:

When was the last time your political party helped make your life better?

If you can’t think of anything, there’s a reason.

The dominant political party in our area has long been the Republican Party, but if you work for a salary or hourly wage, or have a small business, are registered as a Republican and think the Republican party has your best interests at heart, think again.

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?

An Answer to City Market’s Huge Amount of Food Waste


San Francisco has successfully addressed the problem of excessive food waste from restaurants and grocery stores — of the same type  that we are still seeing here in Grand Junction, specifically with City Market’s tremendous waste of food daily from its hot delis.

A nonprofit organization called Food Runners collects extra hot food from markets and restaurants left over at closing time, and brings it to local foster homes, food pantries and homeless shelters where it feeds hungry people and is greatly appreciated. It’s simple, and there is no liability for the providers of the food.

Why can’t this happen here?

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.

Mesa County Blocks Access to Food Assistance Program, Loses Out on Critical Economic Benefits

Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese, who oversees the county's human services and food assistance programs

Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese, who oversees the county’s human services and food assistance programs

Half of Mesa County residents who are eligible for food stamps get them, while the other half who apply are routinely turned away.

Rose Pugliese, the Mesa County Commissioner who leads the Department of Human Services (DHS) commission in charge of managing food stamp programs in Mesa County, has picked nasty public fights with county DHS management (video) and follows her predecessor, Janet Rowland, in trying to restrict Mesa County residents from participating in federal food assistance programs.

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.

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.

G.J. Chamber Ad Promotes Low — Um, NO Wages

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce's ad in the 7/27 Daily Sentinel

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce’s ad in the 7/27 Daily Sentinel

An ad run by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce in last Monday’s Daily Sentinel featured this headline, designed to make local employers drool. After all, from a business owner’s standpoint, what could be better than employees you don’t have to pay? At one time this was called “slavery,” but let’s not let that little detail sidetrack us.

The ad was about a Mesa County Workforce on-the-job training program in which the Workforce picks up 50-90% of the employees’ wages for a set period of time, so employees can get experience and training. Once you get past the Chamber’s demeaning headline, the program sounds great, but this really seems like entirely the wrong way to promote it. The ad’s headline is a slap to local workers and the thousands of low-wage earners in Mesa County.

Things are hard for working families in Mesa County. A living hourly wage for a family of two working adults and two children in Mesa County is $15.02/hour, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But the average per capita hourly wage in Mesa County is just $12.83/hour. Workers in Mesa County on average earn 85% of what others in the state earn, and almost 15% of Mesa County citizens live below poverty level, compared to 13.2% for the state as a whole. To make things worse, local elected officials reject out of hand new economic opportunities literally laid at our feet — like making the Colorado National Monument into a national park, and participating in the growing and prosperous marijuana industry — that could greatly help lift Mesa County’s long-suffering economy.

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.