This guide presents voters with a citizen’s perspective on a number of upcoming ballot measures, and provides recommendations on which candidates to vote for in the City of Grand Junction’s Municipal election on April 7, 2015. Recommendations are evaluated based on what residents feel is important to their quality of life, safety and welfare, and the best economic interests of our area.
City of Grand Junction Referred Measure 2A: Restoring authority to the City to provide high speed internet and cable television service, either directly or indirectly, with public or private sector partnerships.
Explanation: This ballot measure allows the City to ignore SB 05-152 (pdf), a stupid law passed by the Colorado legislature in 2005 that prohibits municipalities from providing cable TV or telecommunications services, like broadband internet service, in any form to anyone. Fortunately, the law has a loophole that allows municipalities to opt-out of the law as long as they hold an election asking people if they want their city to opt out.
We should opt out.
The City of Grand Junction has its own broadband network in municipal buildings, but under the above-mentioned stupid state law, they can’t offer free wifi to citizens in their buildings even though the network is there. The city’s broadband network even runs into its streetlights, but the because of the stupid state law, the City can’t share the network with citizens. That’s just ridiculous, especially since we already pay for it through our taxes.
Approving this measure would let the City share its network, so people can get free wifi downtown. It will also let cable companies install and repair fiber optic lines during city construction to improve streets.
Since we’re all stuck with Charter Communications for high speed cable broadband internet and Charter has no competitors in this area, we need to opt out of the state law.
Recommended vote on 2A: YES
City of Grand Junction Referred Measure 2B
Explanation: This measure authorizes the city to take on $14.5 million of additional debt to finance more construction on the Westside Beltway project, also known as the Riverside Parkway.
The City wants to continue the Riverside Parkway, starting where it currently ends at 25 Road and the I-70 Business Loop, extending it north up 25 Road to F 1/2 Road, then west to 24 Road, and up 24 Road to I-70. The City wants to finance the project by keeping taxpayer funds that would normally have to be paid back to citizens under the TABOR Act (the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights).
The measure sounds fine at first read, but we recommend a “No” vote on Measure 2B.
Suddenly you can’t breathe inside your own home. Parents rush their asthmatic children to the doctors’ offices and emergency rooms. People at home on oxygen have to leave their homes or head to hospitals for relief. People attending weddings, dining, shopping or otherwise enjoying their Saturdays as normal are forced to leave events early because they feel sick, with sore throats and eyes that are burning and tearing uncontrollably.
Welcome to springtime in Mesa County, where open burning season ruins springtime for thousands of valley residents who have the misfortune of living near a burner. The normally clear, fresh valley air at this time of year gets pumped full of particulates and ash, as a smoky haze casts a pall over the area as residents suffer when neighbors burn their leaves, grass, branches and garbage openly.
Is this legal?
Mesa County in one of the few areas left in the country where people can openly engage in the archaic practice of openly burning debris and freely polluting the air at the expense of their neighbors.
A Great Place to Retire? Think Again
Grand Junction get marketed as a great place to retire, but relocation packets handed out by the Visitors and Convention Bureau and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce don’t tell potential relocatees about the many months each year where for the very small cost of a burn permit, anyone in Mesa County can burn waste piles and inflict suffering on other residents.
Judging from the amount of smoke overtaking the valley, plenty of people are burning this year.
Medical Burn Ban: An Answer?
Smoke from open fires isn’t just smelly, unsightly and uncomfortable. It poses a distinct health hazard to people with reactive lung diseases like asthma and bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or heart disease. Since Grand Junction has the biggest and most advanced medical facilities between Denver and Salt Lake, many people with heart and lung disease settle or retire here, only to discover they suffer for a total of months in the spring and fall seasons when open burning is permitted.
What can be done?
Grand Junction citizens who support keeping Colorado’s ban on large capacity gun magazines far outnumbered those showing up who want to dump the ban at today’s remote hearing on the measure at Colorado Mesa University (CMU).
Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee members in Denver heard remote testimony from western slope residents on SB 175 (pdf) via a video hookup in the West Ballroom at CMU. If enacted, the measure would repeal a law currently in place that prohibits possession of large capacity ammunition magazines. The legislature enacted the current magazine ban after the Aurora Theater massacre on July 20, 2012.
The crowd showing up to testify on today’s bill wasn’t big, but was remarkable for the fact that gun safety advocates far outnumbered those showing up to support legalizing large capacity ammo magazines. Exactly the opposite had been expected.
Mesa County Commissioner John Justman was one of only two people who supported bringing back large capacity ammo magazines, even though twenty four people had registered to testify for the bill. Nine people showed up to testify in favor of keeping the current ban in place.
In a cultural throwback to a mostly bygone era, anyone in Mesa County can still buy a permit to burn agricultural waste on their property. It’s called “Open Burning Season,” and the ubiquitous plumes of smoke seen — and smelled — throughout the county at this time of year increase the level of particulates in the air and send people with asthma, COPD and heart disease who live near these running to area doctors, hospitals and emergency rooms due to exacerbation of their illnesses.
Open burning is any open, outdoor flame where pollutants from the fire are emitted directly into the surrounding air. This includes the burning of leaves, wood and trash. Open burning doesn’t actually get rid of any waste or garbage. It just sends it into another chemical form that affects the people who breathe the air around the burn. Open burning is a legal way to dispose of one’s waste into the common airshed. It is akin to dumping waste on common public lands. It is very common, but very unhealthy method of disposing of garbage in western Colorado.
Burning waste outdoors — any kind of waste, whether it is agricultural or garbage — is unhealthy, unsafe and unneighborly. It’s also costly. The Grand Junction Fire Department spent over $11,000 responding to out of control fires during the 2013 open burn season. Some of those fires resulted in property damage, to, and people who suffer with breathing illnesses and have to see their doctors or go to emergency rooms due to smoke from open burning incur significant medical bills for treatment and medication.
States that legalize marijuana experience significantly lower death rates from pain medication overdoses, both from prescription painkillers and illicit drugs like heroin, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Authors studied states where medical marijuana laws were fully in effect between 1999 and 2010 and found these states had a 24.8 percent lower average annual death rate from opioid overdoses compared to states without such laws. Authors included all 50 states in the study. The longer the states had their laws in place legalizing medical marijuana, the lower the death rates they experienced from opioid analgesic overdoses.
The use of prescriptions painkillers has increased sharply in the U.S. in recent years. In 2010, doctors prescribed enough painkillers to medicate every American adult every four hours for one month. Prescription drug overdose death rates have more than tripled in the U.S. since 1990. There are now more deaths from prescription pain meds than from cocaine and heroin combined. Every day in the U.S., 100 people die from drug overdoses. Many of these deaths are linked to prescription pain killers.
Marijuana is considered an alternative non-opioid treatment for chronic pain, which is also a major indicator for medical cannabis. The study’s authors conclude that laws making cannabis available may be affecting overdose mortality rates from opioid painkillers.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Center for AIDS research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center.
The Colorado Riverfront Trail is a huge asset to Mesa County citizens’ quality of life. It beckons residents and tourist to run, walk and bike amid the beautiful scenery alongside the river.
But frequently gunfire occurs around parts of the paths located outside City limits. Many times the sound of loud gunfire next to the path has reduced my dog to a quivering, drooling mass of fear. He digs in his toenails, shakes uncontrollably, refuses to walk any more and has to be lifted or dragged away from the area. The gunfire turns an otherwise pleasant, enjoyable time on the path into a nightmare for us and our dog, and cuts short the time we usually reserve for our morning walk. We have to drag the dog back to the car, leave the area and find somewhere else to walk where he — and we — don’t feel threatened.
So many of our riverfront walks have been ruined this way, I start to wonder why we ever go back. I have quietly wondered, too, if my dog is justified in being so frightened, and whether I should be a bit more concerned for my own safety.
Based on what I found out, I absolutely should.
On the Monument View section of trail, about 1/2 mile east of the Walker Wildlife parking area, there are two small, ominous signs — one facing in either direction — that say “Active Hunting Area. Please stay on trail and respect hunter’s rights.” But what, exactly, does this mean to people using the trail? The signs don’t say what to do if gunfire comes your way. They give no assurance you will not be hit by errant gunfire while on the trail. It doesn’t say where the hunters are or in what direction they shoot. It doesn’t give the dates of hunting seasons or point to protective barriers or cover.
Last August, Peggy Tibbetts, a blogger in Silt, Colorado fell seriously ill with a bacterial infection after using the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. Tibbetts has been a member of the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool for 18 years and uses the pool 2-3 times per week. She had never had an adverse incident there, but noted recently that a close friend and her husband had also reported falling ill after using the pool.
After an extended period of illness, in October, Tibbetts was diagnosed with an infection of pseudomonas aeroginosa, a bacteria that thrives in wet places, including poorly maintained pools. Externally, it can cause a condition known as “hot tub rash,” The bacteria can survive the elevated temperatures of a hot tub or hot springs. Symptoms of internal infection include inflammation and sepsis. If pseudomonas auruginosa colonizes in major organs like the lungs, liver or kidneys, the resulting infection can be fatal.
On October 24, after receiving her diagnosis, Tibbetts contacted the Garfield County Health Department through their website, told them about her illness and the possible link to the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool and asked them to investigate. On October 28, Tibbetts received an email from Garfield County environmental health specialist Morgan Hill, stating: “[W]e received your website inquiry and are following up on your concern related to pseudomonas at the Glenwood hot springs pool. We will contact you soon with more information.”
On November 4 and 5, the pool had an unannounced closure.
By November 12, the county did not contact Tibbetts, so she contacted them and asked for the lab results regarding bacteria in the hot springs pool. She soon received an email response from GarCo Environmental Health Manager Joshua Williams with the lab results from a hydrologic engineering firm called Zancanella & Associates, which showed the Glenwood Springs Hot Therapy Pool had indeed tested positive for pseudomonas aeruginosa on August 6, 2014, and August 13, 2014. Included with the email was a memorandum from Tom and Tony Zancanella to the county dated October 29, 2014, showing the county had been sitting on those rest results for two weeks, and hadn’t notified either Tibbetts or the public. Correspondence from Zancanella showed the pool hadn’t been tested for pseudomonas before that since 2011.
Updated November 5, 2014
Colorado’s Amendment 67 did not pass, to the relief of most of the state. The measure would have declared unborn human beings as a “person” or a “child” in the Colorado Criminal Code.
It was yet another a personhood measure, but this year Personhood USA, the group pushing these kinds of measures, tried to disguise that fact by calling it the “Brady Amendment,” after a fetus a woman lost in a 2012 drunk driving accident. Naming the measure after a woman’s lost fetus was an attempt to give the measure emotional appeal, because when you can get people to react through emotion, they’ll often bypass their rational thinking.
A fundamentally flawed argument
Coloradans have rejected personhood measures three times now, for good reason. The thinking behind these ballot initiatives is illogical and thus fundamentally flawed.
A fetus is not a person in any legal sense.
Both fertilized eggs and clones represent potential, not actual human beings.
Zygotes, or fertilized eggs, and fetuses lack many of the physical characteristics of human beings. They don’t have brains, skeletons, or internal organs. A fetus cannot engage in human perception or thought. The analogy that fits is that an acorn is not an oak tree and the egg you eat for breakfast is not a chicken.
Fetuses have no social identity, and there is no precedent for giving them such. Names are not legally conferred upon fetuses, only upon babies after birth. The first legal recognition of a person’s existence is their birth certificate. No government on Earth issues “pre-birth certificates.” The government does not issue death certificates for miscarried or aborted fetuses. The government does not issue social security numbers to fetuses, nor does the government confer any rights of citizenship on upon conception.
It’s another beautiful fall day in Mesa County, but it’s also the time when rabbitbrush, ragweed, juniper and other potent local allergens fill the air with pollen, making fall miserable for thousands of people who suffer from allergies. Add to this mix the clouds of black smoke from open burning that envelope entire neighborhoods, and beautiful fall days turn into days of utter despair for many western Colorado residents.
With a wide variety of retirement housing and the biggest medical center between Denver and Salt Lake, Grand Junction is a mecca for retirees. But many retirees who settle here have some degree of heart or lung disease, making them more susceptible to breathing problems and medical emergencies caused by exposure to smoke from open burning. Even healthy people who have never had a heart or lung diagnosis during their lifetime can count on losing up to 25 percent of their lung function as they age, making them more susceptible to health problems from air pollution.
A surprising number of people in Mesa County have respiratory or cardiac diseases, or use supplemental oxygen at home for heart or lung disease. In 2009, 7.5 percent of Mesa County children ages 1-14 reported having asthma, and 9.4 percent of adults in Mesa County reported having asthma during 2008-2010. In 2011, fully 58 people per 100,000 in Mesa County died from chronic lower respiratory diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and 159 people per 100,000 died from cardiovascular disease. Both of these disease states are exacerbated by exposure to air filled with smoke.
Open Burning Causes More Problems and Expense than it Solves
Contrary to popular local belief, open burning doesn’t get rid of yard or farm waste. It just changes the waste into another form — smoke — and pumps it into the air for everyone else to deal with. With burn permits ranging from just $5 to $15 per season locally (depending on the jurisdiction) the pricing of burn permits doesn’t come close covering the cost of putting out even one runaway fire caused by careless burning. From the frequent stench of the night time air, it’s also obvious that lots of people aren’t even bothering to buy permits, and instead burn illegally after dark. An obvious step cities can take to cover the cost of putting out out-of-control fires from open burning and reduce the amount of burning taking place would be to simply raise the ridiculously low price of the burn permits — something that hasn’t been done in many years.
Many Mesa County residents noticed the almost complete lack of local media coverage of the Club 20 debate between the candidates for Colorado’s State Senate District 7, Claudette Konola (D) and Ray Scott (R). The Daily Sentinel offered only one short quote from each candidate, and the local television stations ignored this important debate completely. In the interest of helping western Colorado citizens get adequately informed about the Senate District 7 candidates, we offer a two-part video (credit: Bill Hugenberg) and a transcript of the Senate District 7 candidates’ debate.
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.
Mesa County’s new secular Alcoholics Anonymous group, “We Agnostics,” which started up just a few months ago, has already moved up to better digs. The group now meets at 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday the Veteran’s Art Center at 307 S. 12th Street (at the southwest corner of 12th Street and Ute Ave., in the old Sentinel Printing building). We Agnostics is for recovering alcoholics who prefer an alternative to AA meetings that emphasize religion and use the “higher power” rhetoric commonly encountered in many meetings. As We Agnostics says on their brochure (pdf), “The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.” We Agnostics’ goal is “to assure suffering alcoholics that they can achieve sobriety with the support of A.A. without having to accept anyone else’s beliefs or deny their own.”
In this 2013 video, Colorado House Representative Ray Scott, a climate change denier who represents Colorado’s western slope, argues against increasing the amount of renewable energy required from rural electric co-ops to 20% within the next 6 years. The bill, SB 252, was ultimately signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Scott says “We have better things to do.” and “We’re going too darn far.” Incredibly, he further states,
“I have people in rural Colorado who say ‘You know, I don’t have a problem with renewable energy. I have solar panels on my house, that’s fine.’ But they’re having a hard time getting their mind around fields of solar panels in a field, or wind generation facilities out in the plains that they’ve never seen before. And if we’re really environmentally conscious, why would we want to look at those things? They don’t even make sense to me. I know I’ve driven through places in Utah and California and said, ‘Oh my gosh. All of this just to say we are changing something that we’re not even really sure we’re changing, based on studies that make no sense and the science is not necessarily true?’ “
According to NASA, 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the last century are very likely due to human activities. Most leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.
Some of the current consequences of climate change, according to NASA and a majority of scientists, include loss of sea ice, longer and more severe heat waves, and accelerated sea level rise.
Colorado citizens are now gathering signatures to get Ballot Initiative #75, a groundbreaking constitutional amendment, onto the state wide ballot in November.
Business interests have called Initiative #75, also known as the “Right to Local Self-Government” or the “Community Rights Amendment,” an “anti-fracking” initiative, but the measure confers more protection on Colorado citizens than just an anti-fracking initiative, and there are some very solid recent history lessons that are driving Colorado citizens to push for this initiative.
One of them is the Summitville Mine Disaster of 1992-1993.
The Summitville Mine, operated by the Summitville Consolidated Mining Corporation, Inc. (SCMCI), was an open-pit gold and silver mine located in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, about 40 miles west of Alamosa. SCMCI used a cyanide heap leaching technique to extract gold and silver. The process involved excavating ore from the mountain, then crushing it and placing it onto a 1,235 acre open leach pad lined with clay and synthetic material. The company then poured a sodium cyanide solution over the crushed ore to leach out gold and silver. The contaminated water was collected and held in leach ponds on the mine property.
Sodium cyanide is highly toxic, and among the most rapidly-acting of all poisons.