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.
The 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.
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.
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.
Benita Phillips, 61, a local retired Registered Nurse, will announce her intent to run for Mesa County Sheriff as a write-in candidate on Saturday, May 3 at the Cinco de Mayo celebrations in downtown Grand Junction.
Phillips got her BSN from the Intercollegiate Center for Nursing Education in Spokane, Washington in 1975. She has been married for 39 years to Tom Phillips, a chemical engineer from the University of Washington. Benita and Tom have two daughters.
Phillips has in-depth experience with analyzing, planning, implementing and evaluating policy, processes and procedures. She has dealt with budgets, administrative and human resource duties, works well with multi-national and multi-cultural individuals, and has supervised large numbers of professional nurses using team-building models. Benita has worked intensely in the community for years, promoting public interaction between the community and government entities to reach common goals of a safe and healthy community.
Phillips believes the Mesa County Sheriff position, a predominately administrative and policy position, can be filled by a long term citizen who appreciates the special bond between a Sheriff department and the public it honors with service and protection.
Colorado Ballot Initiative #48, the “Colorado Right to Know Act,” would require food manufacturers to include the words “Produced with Genetic Engineering” on the packaging of any products that contain genetically-modified organisms. If foods containing these organisms and are not properly labeled, they will be considered “misbranded.”
Federal law currently does not require foods containing genetically-modified ingredients to be labeled, so consumers unaware whether their food contains these organisms and unable to make an informed choice about consuming them.
The measure survived a Colorado Supreme Court challenge by biotech, pesticide and conventional grocery interests, which disputed the title, the “Colorado Right to Know Act,” as unfair, inaccurate, confusing and misleading.
Proponents of the measure will not start collecting signatures to get the measure on the November, 2014 ballot. If it passes, the law will go into effect on July 1, 2016, and would not apply to food or drink for animals, chewing gum, alcoholic beverages, restaurant or food freshly-prepared for consumption or medically-prescribed foods.
Supporters will need 86,105 valid signatures to get the measure on the ballot.
Help out, donate or keep up with the progress of the campaign for the Colorado Right to Know Act at RightToKnowColorado.org.
Think businesses have too many rights over citizens? Then attend a free informational session Tuesday, April 29 in Grand Junction about the groundbreaking Ballot Initiative #75, the “Right to Local Self-Government,” also known as the “Colorado Community Rights Amendment.” Initiative #75 would amend Colorado’s constitution to make the rights of people superior to corporate rights. It is now moving to the petitioning stage, and if it passes, will give local communities “the power to enact local laws establishing, defining, altering, or eliminating the rights, powers, and duties of corporations and other business entities operating or seeking to operate in the community.” Initiative #75 would bar the state from forcing unwanted for-profit corporate projects onto unwilling communities. It would let communities have the final say in whether they want to allow pursuits like hazardous waste dumps, factory farms, fracking, GMO crops, etc., near houses, schools, playgrounds, etc. Communities would be able to make these decisions freely, without the threat of lawsuits by the state or by corporations or their lobbying groups..
What: Informational session on Ballot Initiative #75
When: Tuesday, April 29 at 6:00 p.m.
Where: Mesa County Public Library, Central branch (5th St. and Grand Ave.)
Who: By the ballot initiative’s main listed proponent, Cliff Willmeng, a registered nurse from Lafayette, CO.
The new marijuana economy crept a bit closer to Grand Junction this week, after the citizens of DeBeque, Colorado, just 25 miles east of Grand Junction, voted to approve the sale of retail pot.
DeBeque’s election is an object lesson for everyone who thinks their vote won’t count.
DeBeque has just over 500 residents. Of the 234 ballots sent out, 165 were cast. Of those, 69 were in favor of retail marijuana and 65 against. The measure won by just four votes.
DeBeque’s Town Clerk, Shirley Nichols, reports the election went smoothly, with no questionable ballots.
So, in DeBeque’s case, just four voters indisputably made Colorado history.
Hey, man, but isn’t retail pot illegal in Mesa County?
Amendment 64 legalized recreational use of marijuana throughout the state, but the law allows cities and counties to opt out of permitting retail marijuana commerce within their borders.
In August, 2013, Mesa County’s three Commissioners — Rose Pugliese, John Justman and Steve Aquafresca — unilaterally passed an ordinance banning retail marijuana commerce (pdf) in the county, but the measure only bans retail pot in unincorporated areas of the county. Incorporated cities and towns can make their own choice, so DeBeque, an incorporated town, can do whatever it wants.
And it did.
Interestingly, DeBeque citizens voted down a medical marijuana question in November, 2012. That measure failed by about 13 or 14 votes. So what’s changed since then?
AnneLandmanBlog has obtained video of western slope conservatives meeting at a local restaurant December 20, 2013 to pressure former Palisade Police Chief Carrol Quarles to run against State Senator Steve King for Mesa County Sheriff.* King is the candidate the Mesa County Republican Party has selected to run for Sheriff in the upcoming 2014 election. Quarles was fired from his position as police chief by the town of Palisade in October, 2012.
All three District 51 School Board candidates endorsed by the Mesa County Republican Party — Mike Lowenstein, Patrick Kanda and John Sluder — lost in yesterday’s election, the same three who had also taken financial support from C. Edward McVaney, a front range billionaire and private religious school supporter. The defeat of the GOP/Tea Party slate of candidates in Mesa County was remarkable since historically the area votes overwhelmingly Republican and off-year elections tend to favor Republican candidates. But none of these factors combined were enough to help the local GOP pull off even one win in the race. The Daily Sentinel reported that at an election-night gathering of GOP candidates at the Blue Moon Bar and Grill in downtown Grand Junction, Mike Lowenstein, one of the GOP’s candidates, said simply, “The people have voted and they’ll get what they deserve,” and walked out of the restaurant. The GOP’s big local loss came on the heels of the multi-week federal government shutdown, largely attributed nationally to tea party Republicans’ intransigence over the new Affordable Care Act. By endorsing candidates in a school board race, the Mesa County GOP also tread onto new ground, turning a historically nonpartisan race into a partisan challenge. It is no coincidence that the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce has also become political at the same time the GOP has started weighing in on traditionally nonpartisan races, since there is significant overlap between local GOP leaders and the Chamber, and the two entities often appear to be working together politically. Chambers of commerce in smaller Colorado towns typically remain apolitical to avoid offending any citizens and business owners who may not agree with their views. But the GOP and Chamber’s strategy of weighing in on traditionally non-partisan races seems to be backfiring big time. In addition to the local GOP’s stunning losses in the school board race, the Grand Junction Chamber has faced significant backlash from area citizens and business owners who feel the group has far overstepped its boundaries by becoming highly political.
On October 16, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported that front range billionaire C. Edward McVaney had donated substantial funds to the three local “tea party” candidates in the District 51 School Board race: Patrick Kanda, John Sluder and John Lowenstein. The candidates admitted they didn’t even know who McVaney is, but took the money anyway. Soon after that report, the Sentinel revealed in a follow-up article that McVaney’s money came with strings attached: the candidates were told to spend the funds on the campaign consulting services of Mark Baisley, who also lives and works on the front range. So who is Baisley? He is vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party, and a Republican strategist and PR guy. A post on Baisley’s Facebook page reveals he believes that politics boils down to God versus Democrats, for one thing. But even more interesting to locals should be a post on his page dated September 22, which appears to have been written by Linda Gregory, Chair of the Mesa County Republican Women (McRw).
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican, said on Face the Nation that Republican claims that “Voter ID” laws are necessary to prevent abuse of the voting process are specious. Gen. Powell said there is “nothing documented” to indicate voter fraud is a problem and that “nothing substantiates” the existence of widespread voter fraud or abuse. Gen. Powell said these laws were created to “slow the process down” and make it harder for Hispanics and AFrican-Americans to vote. He said he wanted to give Republicans the benefit of the doubt when they say they want to improve the voting system, “but when they start to say, ‘let’s restrict the number of voting hours or make it harder for students to vote,’ then I have to get a little bit suspicious of it.” Former Secretary Powell had a message for his fellow Republicans: “The country is becoming more diverse. Asian-American, Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans are going to constitute a majority of the population in another generation. You say you want to reach out, you say you want to have a new message, you say you want to see if you can bring some of these voters to the Republican side. This is not the way to do it. The way to do it is to make it easier for them to vote,” Powell said. “…And then give them something to vote for that they can believe in. It’s not enough just to say, we have to have a new message. We have to have a new substance to that new message.” Powell further remarked that the new Republican laws that make it harder for minorities, young people and seniors to vote are “going to backfire” on the party.
Source: CBS News, August 25, 2013
Members of Grand Junction, Colorado’s “Rein in the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce” Facebook group have unveiled a new website to educate business owners and the public about citizens’ grievances against the Chamber. The site, GJChamber.info, asserts that many of the G.J. Chamber’s actions have hurt local citizens and businesses, and are contrary to citizens’ interests. The site’s pages have titles like “What’s Wrong with the Chamber?,” “Misguided Priorities,” “Bigotry and Intimidation,” “Overbearing Political Involvement,” “The Brainard Debacle” and “Chambermades.” The site provides links to published articles and other references to substantiate information on the site. The group created the site as one-stop shopping, a single place that local business owners can go to find out exactly why the Chamber has drawn the wrath of so many people and businesses in town. They hope that after perusing the site, Chamber member businesses will better understand the issues and consider leaving the Chamber, and that people who have less knowledge of the controversies surrounding the Chamber will be better informed. The group will also promote the site to new business owners so they can get up to speed on the political furor surrounding the Chamber before deciding to join. The site also contains a directory of non-Chamber businesses, to make it easier for people to choose where they want to shop. There are already over 100 businesses on the list. If non-chamber businesses want to be listed on the new site, or if a current Chamber member quits and wants to be listed, they can contact the group through the website and ask that their business be added to the list.
Grand Junction citizens protested in front of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce yesterday morning. The group, Rein in The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, represents citizens who are angry about the Chamber’s controlling involvement in City politics. In 2012 the G.J. Chamber, under its president, Diane Schwenke, seized control of council after it formed a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization that raked in donations from deep-pocketed business owners and spent historically huge amounts of money to get Chamber-selected candidates elected to city council. Prior to the Chamber’s direct involvement in local politics, no city council candidate had ever spent more than about $3,400 on an election. This year, Chamber-backed candidates spent an average of $11,000 each. A recent feature article in the local paper, the Daily Sentinel, revealed that the G.J. Chamber is spending huge amounts on lobbying compared to similarly-sized chambers around the state, and that at $133,930, G.J. Chamber President Schwenke’s compensation package far exceeds the compensation her peers earn at similar-sized chambers around the state.
Grand Junction citizens breathed a huge sigh of relief yesterday morning after hearing the news that convicted criminal Rick Brainard had formally resigned from the City Council, effective immediately. In his official one-page resignation letter, Brainard said he felt unappreciated, that he is not a violent person, that he became disillusioned with City Council in part because an unnamed Council member had passed an angry note to him filled with underlining and exclamation points, that expressed irritation at how he had voted. Brainard said he has “reconnected” with his former live-in girlfriend, Cindy Franzen, the woman to whom he had given a black eye, that he has “reorganized his priorities around her,” and he speculated that “maybe its time for some new scenery.” TV news cameras showed a large RV parked in the driveway of his home, apparently being loaded up. But Brainard wasn’t done after sending that letter. He also sent a much longer version of his resignation letter to the Grand Junction City Manager, who in turn passed it on to Council. Brainard really spilled his guts in that letter. He named yet another Chamber of Commerce-backed Councilman Marty Chazen as the angry note-writer, and told Mayor Sam Susuras that “Your behavior upset me so much that I am writing this letter today.” Brainard also castigated the press and media over their coverage of his assault and his subsequent events, which he said “lacked integrity,” and then he wrote the following to the citizens organizing to recall him, a group that, incredibly, he referred to as the “Re-Elect Rick Brainard Crowd”:
(To) The Re-Elect Rick Brainard Crowd: You are welcome. But be perfectly clear on this, my
stepping away has NOTHING to do with you. My comments here should be taken to
heart and you should seriously reflect on them as you move forward. You may want to
consider getting some counseling of your own. I have learned a lot about a topic from my
councilors that I knew nothing about previously, I think my counselors Dr. Saul
Tompkins and Patrick Mills for their advice and direction. You guys are wonderful. But
for this group that couches their behavior in the support of Domestic Violence victims.
Yet, when they produce a web site two thing ring very true. First, there is not a single
reference or link to a domestic violence resource. Does that seem odd? It does to me. It
suggests that you have gotten so caught up in being the bully that you forgot your
mission. Second, clearly you have become the bully, just flip through the pages and you
will see that. Again, I suggest you take a little of your own medicine and learn about your
own behaviors and how to best deal with them. Patrick Mills can certainly help if you
need a resource, he is amazing. The bottom line is this, I have reached out to you using
every means I know to do so engaging you to talk to me, actually get to know me and
learn that I agree with your Domestic Violence mission and wanted to use my position on
City Council to be your advocate. But you were not interested, because it diminished the
fun of being the bully. I’m sorry, but the best way for me to take the wind out of your
now poorly directed sails is to take myself away from you and point out to everybody
else how you have lost your way.
It is unclear what Brainard will do next.
The Grand Junction, Colorado Daily Sentinel on July 21 published a scathing expose’ of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce’s recent activities that have citizens in an uproar. The Chamber, once seen locally as a respected and helpful institution, in recent years has started engaging in hard-core political activity, and spending plenty on it. In 2011, the G.J. Chamber spent a whopping $74,000 of members’ money on lobbying expense. The next closest comparable Colorado Chamber of Commerce that spent anything at all on lobbying was the Montrose Chamber, which spent just $2,000. The Sentinel also revealed that G.J. Chamber president Diane Schwenke’s compensation far exceeds that of her counterparts at comparable Colorado chambers. In 2011, Schwenke made $133,930 in salary and benefits. Her next closest counterpart made just $112,477. Most of the other presidents of comparable chambers made well under $100,000/year in combined salary and benefits. The G.J. Chamber’s headlong dive into hyper-political activity has led to a backlash among citizens, who have started boycotting Chamber-member businesses. In many citizens’ eyes, the G.J. Chamber stepped out of bounds after it formed a secretive political group, the Western Colorado Business Alliance, that takes in unlimited money and spends unlimited funds to get Chamber-backed candidates elected to local office. The Chamber did exactly that in the last City-wide election, only to have one of their winning candidates, Rick Brainard, get thrown in jail four days after the election for beating up a woman. Brainard pled guilty to assault on May 17. Throughout his legal travails, Brainard has refused pressure from citizens to resign from Council, and will soon cost City taxpayers $50,000 for a recall effort. Making matters worse, the Chamber continues to back Brainard, making Grand Junction the first city in Colorado to allow a freshly-convicted criminal sit on its Council. Former G.J. Chamber member Harry Griff of the law firm Griff, Larson Laiche & Wright, told the Sentinel he quit the Chamber after being a member for 25 years, calling it “a very, very exclusionary group.” Another business owner, Marilyn Charlesworth, also quit the Chamber over it’s unwelcome political activity, calling it a “little boy’s club.” Other businesses to quit include the CandyTime Shoppe, Pablo’s Pizza and the Hot Tomato in Fruita. New businesses in town are also opting not to join the Chamber due to the firestorm of controversy surrounding the organization. Citizens who are outraged at Chamber activities are boycotting Chamber-member businesses and using Facebook to organize, share strategies and share names of businesses that belong to the Chamber and those that do not, or to name who recently dropped their membership. For its part, the Chamber’s leadership remains completely unapologetic. In response to a question Sentinel reporter Charles Ashby posed about whether the local backlash is having any impact on the Chamber’s decision to get more political in the future, Chamber president Diane Schwenke responded that yes, it’s had an impact, but only to the extent that it will make the Chamber try to become even more effective at its political involvement in the future.
Source: Grand Junction, CO Daily Sentinel, Politics and Business, by Charles Ashby, July 21, 2013 (NOT behind a paywall!)
By any measure, former Grand Junction Mayor Bill Pitts is a stalwart of the community. A licensed private pilot and resident of Grand Junction for over 50 years, Pitts turned down several lucrative promotions offered to him by his former employer, a big security firm that sold safes, in order to move to and stay in Grand Junction. His company offered him a position supervising sales over the entire west coast, and he turned it down. Later he turned down another big opportunity to manage sales over the entire U.S. midwest region from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. “This is the best place in the world to live,” Pitts says. “I’ve been in every state and over 21 countries, and there isn’t any place better than Grand Junction.” Married for over 50 years and a true booster of the community, by his own calculation Mayor Pitts put in 3.2 days per week into doing City business for the paltry sum of $700 a month, and he did every last duty his mayoral position called on him to do, no matter how small. “Anytime someone asked me to do something extra, give a graduation speech or whatever, I did it, no matter what,” Pitts says. Pitts is also a creative guy, having invented six different useful items that are currently on the international market. One is commonly used locally here in western Colorado: those plastic covers with magnetic edges that you slap over swamp cooler vents inside the house in winter to keep out the drafts. Pitts is also an accomplished businessman who began several local businesses from the ground up and sold them off. One is Security Alarm Company, which he sold to former City Councilor Bruce Hill. Pitts also started the campground and RV park at 22 and H Roads. As a realtor and developer, he started the Fountainhead subdivision at G Road at 25 Road. Pitts was also an active dues-paying member of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce for over 44 years. He helped start Dinosaur Days, was active in Chamber Rangers and other Chamber programs. Mr. Pitts is also a lifelong Republican, and in addition to regularly paying membership dues to the Chamber, he also was a regular donor to the Mesa County GOP.
Bill Pitts is the quintessential, dyed-in-the-wool, patriotic, community-loving Republican Grand Junction resident. But at the May 1, 2013 City Council meeting he announced that after 44 years, he was withdrawing his membership in the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce. He also has stopped giving money to the Mesa County GOP.