In 2011, Republican State Senator Ray Scott, at the time a freshman in the Colorado House, wrote a funny newsletter for his colleagues he called “Lessons I’ve Learned,” in which he explained what he had learned during his time in the legislature. Among the items Scott wrote,
“Never be in the chamber until after the Pledge.”
“Committees are for spending time in the hall, texting or catching up with family.”
The newsletter earned him the title “Class Clown.”
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
It’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.
A crowd of people rallied outside Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction today to protest Energy Expo speaker John L. Casey, who lectures on climate change but does not have any qualifying degrees or peer-reviewed publications on the subject. Casey is known for pandering to the belief popular among the tea party fringe that global warming is a massive scientific fraud perpetrated by the U.S. government and the United Nations. YouTube videos of Casey speaking before tea party groups in Florida show him to be a fear monger whose talks devolve into race-baiting and instilling fear in his audiences. He warns people to lay in a year’s supply of food to deal with food shortages he predicts will occur in a coming ice age, and tells them to be ready to defend their stored food supplies from urban minorities whom, he says, will try to beat them up and kill them to get it.
Neither Colorado Mesa University President Tim Foster nor Teresa Coons, Executive Director of the John McConnell Math and Science Center, were consulted or informed about the controversial speaker that members of small Expo subcommittee quietly selected to keynote this year’s Club 20 Energy Expo in Grand Junction.
John L. Casey, slated to give the keynote talk at this Friday’s Energy Expo, has alarmed citizens with his extreme fringe views.
In videos of his talks publicly available online, Casey tells audiences that man-made climate change is a scientific fraud perpetrated by the U.S. Government and the United Nations. He says global warming has ended, that in 2007 the sun entered a “hibernation” phase and now we have to prepare for a coming ice age that will devastate our food supply. In a November, 2014 video, Casey predicts dire food shortages worldwide. He urges people to lay in a full year’s supply of food to cope with it, telling people to ignore the expiration dates printed on food containers. He predicts that the diminished food supply will lead to massive social panic and tells his audiences that they need to get ready to defend their food stores from rioters, murderers and thieves. His mission is to “get the message out” about the purported coming devastation.
The Tea Party News Network bills Casey as a “climatologist,” and though he has made a name for himself speaking and writing about climate science, he has no degrees in climatology, nor has he ever published any peer-reviewed research on the topic. He is a favorite speaker of Florida tea party groups, and available videos invariably show him speaking before far-right conservative audiences and talk show hosts.
Foster and Coons are both quick say that their organizations have not contributed any money to the Energy Expo, but neither has stepped up to condemn the invitation of Casey.
Casey was selected to speak by a three person subset the committee that organized the Energy Expo. Members of this committee reportedly are Bonnie Peterson, former chair of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and now Executive Director of the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, Kathy Hall, a former lobbyist for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and George Rossman (who is a woman), a professional event organizer. None of these committee members informed the Expo’s hosts or sponsors about their choices of speakers prior to finalizing the schedule.
There are only two possibilities these women could claim that led to selection of this embarassing speaker: 1) They were fully aware of Casey’s fringe views and lack of credentials, and invited him anyway, or 2) they didn’t properly vet Casey prior to hiring him to keynote the event.
Neither scenario is acceptable.
If the first scenario is true, then these three acting alone pulled the Energy Expo into the tea party political fringe zone without informing the hosts or sponsors whose organizations’ names appear on Expo promotional materials about their choices.
If the second scenario is true, they neglected a duty to vet Mr. Casey by checking out his previous talks, and should be held accountable for this mistake and the shame it has brought to the event.
The event’s biosketch of Casey, whichi says up front that he’s been called a scam artist and a fraud, would seem to indicate scenario #1 is the case, and that Peterson, Hall and Rossman knew exactly what they were doing, and what they were bringing to the Expo by inviting Casey.
Event hosts Colorado Mountain College, CMU and the Math and Science Center, may not have contributed any money to the event, but they have put their credibility as respected educational institutions on the line. By trusting the Expo organizers, they’ve shot themselves in the foot. In exchange for lending their names to the event, the organizers have dragged them into the mud by purposely choosing a wacky, fringe tea party speaker who trades on generating fear to make a name for himself.
Club 20 is outing itself as a tea party group, and in so doing joins the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce in shedding any pretense of being politically even-handed. Unfortunately, it looks like the same can now also be said for Colorado Mountain College, Colorado Mesa University and the other hosts and sponsors of the Club 20 Energy Expo and Forum.
Club 20’s annual Energy Expo and Forum is scheduled to be held at Grand Junction’s Two Rivers Convention Center February 27, and the keynote speaker at this year’s event is raising lots of eyebrows.
He is global warming conspiracy theorist John L. Casey.
The Energy Expo is dominated by extractive energy pursuits, like drilling and fracking, but that is nothing new. It is hosted by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce (already a well-established arm of the local tea party), Club 20, Colorado Mesa University, Colorado Mountain College and the John McConnell Math and Science Center.
Given the respect for education and level of intelligence the public expects of at least some of the above sponsors (CMC, CMU and the Math and Science Center), members of the public are left scratching their heads about how such a nutty keynote speaker got selected this year.
On February 3, 2015, recently re-elected Colorado State Senator Ray Scott, voted to kill SB 36 (pdf), a bill that would have provided economic help to rural Colorado communities that suffer devastating economic events like large-scale layoffs or plant closures.
Freshman Sen. Kerry Donovan of Vail introduced SB 36 on January 7, 2015, in large part as a reaction to the devastating closure of the Elk Creek Mine in Somerset (Gunnison County) after a fire struck the mine on October 1, 2013. The fire resulted in 142 mine employees being laid off. The layoffs forced workers to leave the area to find more work, causing a downward economic spiral that put pressure on the area’s housing market and schools.
SB 36 would have provided one-time emergency grants to rural Colorado communities in the wake of such devastating economic events. The grants would have provided funding to help laid off workers get additional job training and help them with finding other employment in the area.
Republican Senate leadership assigned the bill to the State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee, chaired by Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction), known as a “kill committee,” where Senate leadership sends bills they want struck down. Ray Scott dutifully voted against the bill, even though he has claimed to be concerned about area jobs and the bill would have provided much-needed help to rural western Colorado communities like Somerset that get hit with devastating economic events. The bill ultimately was killed in Scott’s committee, even though it had won bipartisan support and the backing of business-related groups.
First Palisade residents reported getting mail-in ballots without Referred Measures 2A and 2B on them. Now other people who live near Palisade but outside the town limits report getting ballots that do have Referred Measures 2A and 2B on them. The measures are only to be voted on by town residents.
Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner blamed the printer for the first screw-up of neglecting to include the two measures on some ballots, even though before commencing a print job a printer offers the customer, who in this case would have been Reiner, a proof to approve to assure accuracy of the final print job. If Reiner did not get a proof of the ballots prior to printing, she definitely should have requested one. When she got the ballots, she should have examined them for accuracy before mailing them. Ms. Reiner apparently did none of these things, but instead passed the blame onto the printer, without saying who it was.
Measure 2A asks Palisade residents if they want to allow retail recreational marijuana sales and cannabis growing facilities within the town limits. Measure 2B asks town residents if retail sales of recreational marijuana within town limits should be taxed.
If voters approve the measures, Palisade would become the first town inside Colorado on I-70 where tourists could legally buy recreational marijuana. The measures have great potential to boost the town’s coffers and local economy in general, as well as increase Palisade’s already considerable agricultural-tourism appeal.
Reiner hasn’t yet said who she blames for residents who don’t live within town limits getting ballots with the two measures on them, but we’ll guess she’ll likely say it wasn’t her.
Update: Sheila Reiner called at 6:15 this evening to say she believes the error occurred with her print vendor in Arizona who appears to have grabbed ballots out of the wrong stock during the stuffing procedure for ballots destined for a particular area of the Palisade outskirts. There is a number printed vertically along the right side of every ballot’s outer envelope, to the right of the address window. Sheila is trying to figure out who got them, and how many are wrong. If you got the wrong ballot, please call the Mesa County Clerk’s office at (970) 244-1662 to tell them your ballot number and let them know.