Category: Worker advocacy

Long Ballot? Don’t Worry. Use AnneLandmanBlog Voter Guide!

The entire November ballot is in today's Daily Sentinel, and it takes up 6 pages of fine print, like these two.

The entire November ballot is in today’s Daily Sentinel, and it takes up 6 pages of fine print, like these two.

Ballots were mailed today in Mesa County, and it’s a long one. The Daily Sentinel has published the entire November ballot in today’s paper, and it takes up six full pages of the paper, in fine print.

If you are worried about all the time it’s going to take to figure out how to vote on all this stuff, worry no more. We’ve done the research for you! We’ve looked into where the big money and corporate influence are coming from on all the issues, and how wealthy corporations are using ballot initiatives to try to trick you out of your rights, and weaken your influence and your ability to protect yourself and your families from their activities. We’ve looked at the ins and outs of all the issues, what’s fair and what’s not, and figured out how people can cast votes in their own interest.

Just go to AnneLandmanBlog Voter Guide 2016 to see the recommended votes on the local, state and federal candidates and ballot issues. The rationale for the votes is toward the bottom of the post.

Happy voting, and remember, after this you can mute all those annoying election TV ads!

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

illegal_petes

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

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

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

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.

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.

DeBeque’s Economy Booms While Grand Junction’s Languishes

Legalized marijuana in Colorado and Washington state may open the door to a new kind of tourism.

The new marijuana economy is helping Colorado towns boom — but not Grand Junction

The little town of DeBeque, population 500, in Mesa County, Colorado, which voted to start selling retail recreational marijuana in 2014, is basking in the financial glow of its decision.

Marijuana sales taxes are now generating more revenue for the town than all the other retail establishments and oil and gas industry impact fees combined.

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.

  

The Best Home Health Caregiver in Grand Junction is Available to Help

CaregiverDo you have an elderly parent who needs help around the house cooking, cleaning, shopping and taking medications? Are you struggling to keep a disabled friend in his or her own home? Are you an older person yourself in need of help around the house so you can stay out of a nursing home or institution?

If so, you’re in luck, because the best freelance home health provider in Grand Junction is now available to help.

Sharon Schultz is the freelance home health care giver I hired to take care of my elderly mom full time in 2012. She came highly recommended to me by a friend who employed her for three years to take care of her own mom. I was so lucky Sharon was available just at the time when my Mom started needing extra help. Sharon was Mom’s caregiver and companion for three years, until she died last June 10. Sharon is truly the best caregiver you could ever find, and we were endlessly impressed with her.

Sharon is a skilled and patient memory care specialist who worked for many years in institutional settings locally, but who wanted to provide better care to her charges than she was able to do in an institution. The best way she could do that, she found, was to work on a freelance basis, so that is what she does.

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.

36 Great Things Labor Unions Have Done for Americans

I places where lots of workers belong to labor unions thrive, the number of people in the middle class increases

In areas where a high number of workers belong to labor unions, the number of people in the middle class increases. In places like Mesa County where there are few and weak unions, wages stay low and more people live in poverty.

 

Did you know that labor unions made the following 36 things possible?

  1. Weekends without work
  2. All of your breaks at work, including your lunch breaks
  3. Paid vacation
  4. Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  5. Sick leave
  6. Social Security
  7. Minimum wage
  8. Civil Rights Act, Title VII, which prohibits employer discrimination
  9. 8-hour work day
  10. Overtime pay
  11. Child labor laws
  12. Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
  13. The 40-hour work week
  14. Workers’ compensation (workers’ comp)
  15. Unemployment insurance
  16. Pensions
  17. Workplace safety standards and regulations
  18. Employer health care insurance
  19. Collective bargaining rights for employees
  20. Wrongful termination laws
  21. Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
  22. Whistleblower protection laws
  23. Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA), which prohibits employers from using a lie detector test on an employee
  24. Veteran’s Employment and Training Services (VETS)
  25. Compensation increases and evaluations (raises)
  26. Sexual harassment laws
  27. Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.
  28. Holiday pay
  29. Employer dental, life, and vision insurance
  30. Privacy rights
  31. Pregnancy and parental leave
  32. Military leave
  33. The right to strike
  34. Public education for children
  35. Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011, which require employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work
  36. Laws ending sweatshops in the United States

The Worst Case of Juror Abuse in the U.S. is Right Here in Grand Junction

ServeWithFearMarilyn Charlesworth of Grand Junction, Colorado, has started a GoFundMe campaign asking for help to pay the mounting legal fees arising from her jury service of 11 years ago.

Charlesworth is the victim of the worst case of juror abuse in American history. It has dragged on for eleven years now past the time of her jury service, and has utterly ruined the life of a woman who responded to a jury summons she got in the mail, as all American citizens are required to do by law as part of their citizenship.

What is juror abuse?

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.

State Sen. Ray Scott Votes to Kill Economic Assistance Bill for Rural Communities

House Rep Ray Scott (R) voted on 2/3/15 to kill a bill to provide economic help to rural Colorado communities that get hit with devastating economic events that cause mass layoffs.

House Rep Ray Scott (R) voted on 2/3/15 to kill a bill to provide economic help to rural Colorado communities that get hit with devastating economic events that cause mass layoffs.

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.

It’s Time to End GOP Rule in Mesa County

GOPIndistressDo you plan to vote for Republican incumbents and the same Mesa County politicians we’ve had in office before?

Think again.

Mesa County’s long reliance on the local GOP has led it to disaster.

Just look at the Mesa County GOP’s record:

1) Our unemployment rate has long remained among the highest in the state;

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

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

4) Mesa County’s suicide rate is among the highest in the U.S.;

5) Mesa County is the drunkest county in the state 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, the 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 every WEEK.

Yes, you read that right. Eighteen hundred Mesa County school children are food insecure every WEEK. Have you heard a single local GOP elected official mention this state of affairs? No.

Study: Daughters Bear Biggest Burden of Caring for Aging Parents

WheelchairA new research paper shows that daughters spend more than twice as much time caring for their elderly parents than sons, and when daughters are in the picture, sons tend to reduce what little caregiving efforts they make and leave the burden to the sisters.  The study, titled “When Gender Trumps Everything: The Division of Parent Care among Siblings,” will be presented today at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

The study found that daughters provide an average of 12.3 hours of care to elderly parents per month, compared to just 5.6 hours of care provided by sons.

The study’s author, Princeton sociology doctoral candidate Angelina Grigoryeva, concluded that by pushing most of the duties of caring for aging parents onto their sisters, brothers also shift the financial burden and physical and mental stress of providing that care onto their sisters.

Grigoryeva’s research found that women tend to base how much time they spend caring for elderly parents on competing concerns, like how much time they need to devote to their own families and careers, while men base the the amount of caregiving time they spend on whether or not they have a sister or sisters who can handle those responsibilities.

National Park Designation Boosts Economic Fortune of California Town

The spire at Pinnacles National Park reflects on a calm reservoir below it. (Photo: NPS.gov)

The spire at Pinnacles National Park reflects on a calm reservoir below it. (Photo: NPS.gov)

Some fearful “old-guard” folks in Grand Junction are trembling in their boots at the prospect of the Colorado National Monument being upgraded to a national park, but if the experience of Soledad, California is an indicator, national park status confers a significant bump in the local economies of small towns situated near them.

In the year and a half since the Pinnacles National Monument near Soledad, California was designated the nation’s 59th national park in February, 2013, Soledad has seen its sales tax receipts jump 11 percent. Nearby restaurants report that signage posted on the routes to the new national park is bringing in more customers.

Pinnacles National Park has also seen a jump in admission fees over when it was a national monument, and the park’s book store has experienced record sales.

Park designation has brightened the economic outlook for Soledad, which previously struggled with a limited economic base.

Prior to the national park designation, Soledad’s economy was based almost solely on agriculture and the presence of a state prison. The national park designation has opened up a whole new area of clean, sustainable economic productivity for the town.

Now Soledad is gearing up to capitalize even more on the good fortune of having a national park in its back yard. The city is welcoming the diversification of its economic base and all the benefits it confers.

This summer, Soledad will open up a brand new visitor center downtown to enlighten tourists going to the park about other nearby offerings, like wineries, vineyards and specialty restaurants.

Grand Junction is poised to experience the same type of boost to its economic fortune as legislators consider bringing a bill to upgrade the Colorado National Monument to a national park.

 

Source: KAZU 90.3, June 25, 2014, National Park Status Boosts Tourism and Hopes

“DrillingAhead.com” Gives Inside Look at Problems, Accidents and Worker Behavior in Oil and Gas Field

DrillingAhead.com is a worldwide networking website for employees of the oil and gas field. Rotating news stories on the the site’s front page have headlines like “Fingertip Amputation Hangs Over Chesapeak Energy,” “2 Dead, 9 Injured After Oilfield Explosion Near Orla, Texas,” and “Texas Newspaper Investigation Questions Oilfield Safety; Says 663 Killed in 6 Years.” The latter story discusses the U.S. federal government’s failure to enforce safety standards on drilling rigs.

DrillingAhead.com also lets oil and gas field workers upload videos of what they see  at their worksites. So far workers have uploaded almost 16,000 videos onto the site, with many showing accidents and workers screwing around. One video titled “Directional Drilling Nightmare” shows a drill bit gone awry and surfacing in a nearby field, spewing mud and fluid around the area. Others show workers sleeping on the job, and another shows a gas plant exploding in fire at an unnamed location in Colorado. Another truly incredible video shows drilling rig workers engaging in a pipe-licking contest (video at left), where two men actually try to outdo each other for the length of time they can hold their tongues against an active, circulating vertical section of pipe.

DrillingAhead.com also links to a fascinating Flickr site featuring still photos of “Oilfield Accidents.” Photos show frightened workers clinging desperately to the railing of a severely listing offshore rig, an offshore rig sinking into the water, a truck impaled by oilfield equipment, rigs that have collapsed or caught fire (or both), and rigs completely encased in ice.

DrillingAhead.com gives a detailed inside look at the actual operation of drilling rigs around the world as seen by the workers themselves, and in so doing does plenty to undermine confidence — if there ever was any — in how drilling operations are carried out worldwide.

In fact, DrillingAhead.com provides ample justification to worry mightily about the safety and integrity of oil and gas drilling operations everywhere.

 

Trojan Horse Ag-Gag Bill Introduced in New Hampshire

Chickens in a battery cage  (Wikimedia image)

Chickens in a battery cage (Wikimedia image)

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is sounding alarm bells about a bill introduced in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives that requires people who photograph or make video recordings of cruelty against livestock to report it to police within 24 hours and turn over their unedited video or photos to authorities. So what’s wrong with that? And why does the HSUS oppose it? After all, it sounds like it’s aimed at exposing animal abuse, right? Nope. It’s a particularly tricky form of an industry-crafted “Ag-Gag” bill meant to stifle reporting on animal cruelty in commercial livestock operations. How? When whistleblowers expose cruelty at commercial animal enterprises, a common excuse put forth by business owners is that the abuse was a one-off occurrence or a single event perpetrated by a rogue employee who has, of course, since been fired. People working to expose animal abuse in big agribusiness enterprises have learned that they must document repeated instances of cruelty in order to make a solid case against the company that will hold up in court. Such high-quality evidence is animal advocates’ only leverage to try and stop to the abuse. If people are required to turn over a video recording of a single instance of abuse the same day it was taken, it would make it virtually impossible to document a pattern of abuse to the extent necessary to make a tight enough case to stop it.