Category: Poverty

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.

Colorado Mountain College on Energy Expo: “We are not hosts of the event”

CMCRachel Pokrandt, Dean of the Rifle Campus of Colorado Mountain College (CMC), says she didn’t know anything about the Energy Expo’s speaker program and the school is not a host of the event, despite being listed as a host on the event’s promotional materials.

“We never agreed to be a host” of the event, Pokrandt said. She says the event organizers “Really did represent us quite horribly.”

Pokrandt says CMC just has a small booth at the event, which they have rented annually for the past 10 years, to educate people about their solar, biofuels and other programs.

“We don’t want to be connected with that type of speaker,” Pokrandt said, referring to Energy Expo speaker John L. Casey, who speaks on the topic of climate science despite having no degrees in climatology and never having published any peer-reviewed research on the subject. His talks typically start out with charts, statistics and scientific claims, but by the end of his talks, he devolves into fearmongering and racist statements.

Videos posted online of Casey’s talks show him speaking before tea party groups. He says anthropogenic climate change is a scientific fraud perpetrated by the U.S. government and the United Nations. He says global warming is over, that sun entered a period of “hibernation” in 2007 and the earth is now entering a prolonged period of cooling that will lead to an increase in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Casey further says this cold phase will cause the world’s food supply to diminish and people will need to lay in a year’s supply of food and be ready to flee to the countryside and defend their food stores from urban minorities who, he says, will start beating and murdering people to get their food supplies — after government food stamp programs can no longer sustain them.

Pokrandt said that in the past, the Energy Expo and Forum has been “fairly level” in regard to balance in the types of speakers they’ve had, and between renewable and non-renewable types of energy, but that unfortunately due to the circumstances this year, CMC may have to withdraw its involvement from the event in the future.

 

WCAF Says “Help Hungry Kids this Halloween”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Send donations to

Kids Aid

P.O. Box 2569

Grand Junction, CO 81502

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

All You Need to Know About Mesa County Politics, All in One Place

In Mesa County, things are little backwards. The candidates are the biggest signs are the ones NOT to vote for.

Mesa County rule of thumb: Vote AGAINST the candidates with the biggest, most professionally-made signs

Have you been so busy trying to make ends meet, putting food on the table and raising your kids that you haven’t had time to bone up on local politics? There’s an election is coming up this November. How will you know who to vote for?

It’s simple.

The one thing you need to know is that the same party has been in charge of everything here for decades: the Mesa County Republican Party, which some call the “Old Guard Republican Establishment” (OGRE). They’ve had a lock on local elected offices for a very long time.

So have they done a good job? Judge for yourself:

1) Mesa County’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in the state;

2) Our local wages are among the very lowest in the state;

3) 13.4 percent of people in our area live below federal poverty level ($23,550 for a family of four),

4) Our suicide rate is among the highest in the U.S.;

5) Mesa County was the drunkest county in Colorado in 2013 (based on the average blood alcohol concentration for arrested drunk drivers);

6) Forty one percent of School District 51 students qualify for free and reduced-cost lunches at school, and Kids Aid, an area nonprofit that provides backpacks of food to hungry students so they can get through the weekends without starving, sends 1,800 District 51 students home with backpacks full of non-perishable food home each WEEK.

Yes, you read that right. Eighteen hundred Mesa County school children are food insecure every week.

Chamber Supports Amendment 68, Takes Mesa County Down Another Primrose Path

Dunce capThe Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce apparently loves some vices, but not others, and the “sins” the chamber backs don’t seem to match the desires of Mesa County citizens. Once again the chamber adds to its long list of disastrous political moves and fails to consider the big picture in their election-year endorsements.

The chamber recently announced it supports Amendment 68, which will pave the way for horse racing and large-scale video lottery terminals in Mesa County. Amendment 68 requires 34 percent of the gambling proceeds go to support schools.

Diane Schwenke, president of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, said whether or not the local community wants gambling was the most important criteria for their support.

“As long as it’s up to the local residents, the local leadership,” she said. “That’s of paramount importance to us.”

But the chamber doesn’t really care about what the local residents think.

CO Rep. Ray Scott Throws Women and Kids Under the Bus

Colorado Rep. Ray Scott poses with a fancy car while Mesa County's poorest women and children go without health insurance

Colorado Rep. Ray Scott proudly poses with a hot sports car while Mesa County’s poorest women and children go without health insurance

Colorado House Rep. Ray Scott may love fetuses, but he doesn’t care much about women and apparently doesn’t think much of kids, either.

Besides being a chronic no-show at election-time debates sponsored by the League of Women Voters, in January of 2012 Ray Scott co-sponsored HB1130, a bill titled “Penalties for Violent Offenses Against Fetuses.” The bill’s very title ignores the fact that typically the woman surrounding the fetus would be the primary recipient of any violent acts perpetrated against the fetus. But in Ray Scott’s mind, women matter less than their fetuses.

Ray Scott even supported a fetal personhood amendment in the past. Such proposals are among the ultimate affronts to women, since they are religiously-based efforts that would make it a crime for women to use some forms of contraception, in accordance with Mr. Scott’s own personal religious beliefs.

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.

A Freethinker Halloween

With the rates of obesity and diabetes skyrocketing nationally and the number of kids going hungry in Mesa County at an all time high, it was difficult to think of spending money on candy this Halloween. Last year 54 trick or treaters came to our door, so the candy expenditure on Halloween these days is not insignificant.

Last Halloween I did a test to gauge kids’ interest in candy. I held out two identical bowls to all of our trick or treaters. One had some pretty decent candy in it (chocolate bars and such), and the other was filled with small party favors, like toy cars, sticky frogs, cheap necklaces, etc. (The cost of the party favors was about equal to the cost of the candy, by the way.) The kids preferred the toys to the candy by a ratio of about 3:1. That told me candy wasn’t such a big deal to kids after all.

FDA Drags Feet on Regulating Menthol in Cigarettes

MentholJoe

In the 1980s, R.J. Reynolds used one version of “Joe Camel” to market menthol cigarettes to African Americans (left), and another version (inset, right) to market to caucasian populations.

It’s own Tobacco Products Advisory Scientific Committee (TPASC) concluded in 2011 that menthol cigarettes increase hazards to human health, but even now — fully two and a half years later — the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still dragging its feet in acting on the information. Yielding to pressure from tobacco companies, on September 4, FDA (pdf) delayed deciding what to do about menthol for yet another two months, asking for more public comment. A scientific study commissioned by FDA and published in March of 2011 (pdf) found that cigarette companies add menthol at trace or “subliminal” levels to all cigarettes to manipulate the sensory perception of smoke. FDA’s scientific advisory committee studied the relationships between menthol cigarettes and public health, and concluded that menthol cannot be considered simply a flavoring additive in cigarettes because it has distinct pharmacological actions. It reduces the harshness of smoke and irritation from nicotine — both characteristics that make it easier for kids to start smoking. Menthol also may make it harder for some people to quit, and the evidence suggested use of menthol cigarettes can lower responsiveness to medications. TPSAC concluded that there are no public health benefits of menthol compared to non-menthol cigarettes. TPSAC also found use of menthol cigarettes is highest among minorities, teenagers and low-income populations, and particularly heavy among African-Americans. Cigarette companies have long disproportionately marketed menthol cigarettes to African Americans. A Stanford University School of Medicine study found cigarette companies market mentholated cigarettes in a predatory manner designed to lure African Americans into becoming smokers. They advertise menthol cigarettes more heavily in areas with higher African American populations, and lower the price of menthol cigarettes in stores located near high schools with large African American student populations.

In The UK, Street Parties to Celebrate Thatcher’s Death

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.

Former GOP Officials Admit Use of “Voter ID” to Suppress Democratic Turnout

The Palm Beach Post ran a blockbuster story November 25 in which several former high-up GOP officials admitted that “Voter ID” laws and a law cutting back early voting were GOP tactics aimed at suppressing the Democratic vote in Florida. Former Florida Republican Governor Charlie Crist and Jim Greer, former chair of the Florida Republican Party, both admitted that the GOP’s push to enact “Voter ID” laws out of a purported concern for voter fraud was really a ruse to block Democratic voters from the polls. Greer told the Palm Beach Post, “The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates…It’s done for one reason and one reason only.” Greer said Republican staffers and consultants told him ,”We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us.” Wayne Bertsch, who coordinated campaigns for GOP candidates for local offices, also admitted the reasons GOP officials gave for advancing voter ID laws were bogus. Crist said while he was in office as Florida’s governor, Republican Party leaders contacted him to discuss curtailing early voting hours as a way to suppress turnout among Democratic voters. Crist has since left the GOP and is now an Independent.  Greer has been indicted for using a phony campaign fundraising operation to pocket $200,000. But the Post also found another GOP-affiliated consultant, who asked not to be named who confirmed that the true purpose behind enacting voter ID and a law to cut back on early voting in Florida were meant to suppress Democratic turnout in the general election.

Source: Palm Beach Post, November 25, 2012

 

Chase’s PR Stunt, the “American Giving Awards” is Back Again

NBC’s upcoming feel-good holiday TV program, the “American Giving Awards” to be broadcast on December 8, is nothing more than a highly-orchestrated public relations stunt designed to rain good feelings upon JP Morgan Chase, one of the most reviled U.S. financial institutions and a major contributor to the collapse of the U.S. housing market. Chase was behind the creation of many of the problematic financial products like credit default swaps which almost brought down the global financial system in 2008. Chase has been fined hundreds of million dollars for lying to investors, perpetrating mortgage fraud and engaging in other illegal financial schemes. To further thumb it’s nose at consumers, Chase recently hired an executive to head up the company’s Foreclosure Victims Bureau who the Justice Department concluded helped enable mortgage fraud. To help repair its tarnished image, Chase created the “American Giving Awards,” using a PR company called  Intersport, which boasts that it is an “innovator and leader in the creation of sports and entertainment-based marketing platforms” designed to benefit “global brands.” Actor Gary Sinise and singer Colby Caillat are two of the stars recruited to help draw attention to this televised PR stunt in which JP Morgan Chase gives away millions of dollars to charity.

Walmart Workers Tell the Real Stories of Working at Walmart

Walmart employees have embarked on an effort to bring more respect, better pay and improved working conditions to all Walmart workers. Their group,  Organization United for Respect at Walmart, or OURWalmart, has a website,  ForRespect.org, lists exactly what employees want from Walmart. They want every employee to get a company policy manual and assurance that the company will enforce its policies  equally without discrimination. They want full time work and wages and benefits high enough so they won’t have to depend on government assistance to survive. They seek dependable, predictable work schedules, and affordable health insurance.  Walmart workers report that Walmart has been retaliating against workers who speak out about their low wages, unsafe working conditions and other issues they have with the company, and workers want the freedom to speak their mind without retaliation. OURWalmart also started a second website, WalmartAt50.org, to get a jump on the one-sided spin they expect the company to churn out about their anniversary. The site commemorates Walmart’s 50th anniversary by allowing Walmart “associates” to share stories of how they are treated at work, the difficulties they have in trying to advance within the company and what it’s like to try to live on Walmart’s super-low wages. The site also allows community members and owners of small businesses to post stories about how Walmart has impacted their living standards. Walmart workers and customers alike can share their stories on the site, and can upload photos. The site maintains that Walmart’s business model has dragged down the middle class and been bad for America. Their slogan is “Change Walmart to Rebuild America.” The site says that the “America Walmart helped to create isn’t working for most of us.”

Poor and Uninsured in Texas? Tough Luck, Says Gov. Rick Perry

Texas Governor Rick Perry

Texas is number one in the country for people without health insurance. Fully one quarter of Texans have no health insurance at all. Another 26% are on Medicaid, Medicare or other public assistance programs that provide help to get health care, according to the Texas Medical Association. The poverty rate in Texas is also high. Twenty-one percent of adults, 17% of the elderly and 34% of  Texas’ children live in poverty.  Despite these dire circumstances, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is refusing an offer from the federal government to expand Medicaid, even though the feds will pick up 100% of the cost for the first three years. The reimbursement rate will drop to 90 percent after that. The offer is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” a slate of changes to health insurance enacted in the U.S. that Gov. Perry and some other Republican governors dislike. Last July, Perry wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last July (pdf) in which he called the offer to expand Medicaid a “gun to the head” of his state. He called the Affordable Care Act a “power grab,” and reiterated that statement in a November 18 blog post on his  personal website. By refusing to accept the federal assistance to expand Medicaid, Gov. Perry is turning down $164 billion that would go to help insure the poorest Texas citizens. The assistance would also stimulate Texas’ economy.  An analysis by the Center for Public Priorities, a think tank based in Austin, found that every federal dollar the state would spend on Medicaid assistance would return $1.29 in “dynamic state government revenue” over the first ten years of expansion, since Medicaid expenditures generate economic activity while creating a healthier, more productive population.