Tag: Grassroots advocacy

Want to See Marijuana Commerce Back in Grand Junction? Sign the Petition for a Ballot Measure

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-7-47-02-pmWant to see retail marijuana back in Grand Junction?

Well, so do a lot of other people.

The nonprofit group GJCAN (for “Cannabis Access Now”) is circulating an official petition to get retail marijuana back in the City of Grand Junction. GJCAN is comprised of people who owned the former medical marijuana shops that the City shut down in 2011, as well as caregivers, agriculture suppliers, agricultural students and others who just want to see some much-needed economic growth finally come to Grand Junction.

GJCAN hired an attorney to help them draft the proposed ordinance and the group met with the City Attorney and City Clerk when  formulating the ordinance to assure they were doing everything correctly. GJCAN currently has about 50 people circulating petitions city wide.

Cidney Fisk Meets Madeleine Albright, and is a Featured Speaker at Freethought Day in Sacramento

Cidney Fisk was one of a small group of DU students who were privileged to meet and be able to converse at length with former U.S. Secretary of State Madelyn Albright on October 12

Former Delta High School student Cidney Fisk (second from right) was one of a small group of DU students who were privileged to meet and  converse at length with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on October 12

So far in her freshman year at Denver University, Cidney Fisk, the “A” student who was slapped with a slew of Fs by her Delta High School student government teacher after she publicly criticized the school district for its illegal Christian proselytizing and disproportionate funding of athletics over academics, has met former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and is a featured speaker at California Freethought Day in Sacramento, today, October 16, 2016. Albright was the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State. Freethought Day organizers are footing the bill to bring Cidney to Sacramento for the event, and are paying her an honorarium for speaking. The theme of this year’s Freethought Day is #SecularPride.

Community Rights Ballot Initiative Coming Back in 2016

Screen shot 2015-08-19 at 12.12.12 PMColoradans for Community Rights (CCR) is gearing up to once again put a Community Rights initiative on the 2016 state-wide ballot.

A Community Rights amendment doesn’t ban anything. Instead, the measure establishes that communities in Colorado have a definitive right to local self-government. That is, the new law would give people, not corporations, the dominant authority to decide how to best protect health, safety and welfare in their own communities and surrounding natural environments. Basically, the measure would allow communities to decide, free from corporate or state interference, whether to allow corporate projects that could negatively impact their safe and healthy environments.

What does this measure mean to citizens on the western slope?

The Community Rights Amendment would, for example, give Mesa County residents living around Alanco’s stinky Deer Creek frackwater ponds the right to disallow this land use in their area. It would also give Paonia residents the right to keep drilling and fracking activities away from their schools, residential areas and organic farming districts. Corporations and their trade groups could no longer sue communities over decisions to keep dangerous or noxious industrial activities out of their area. The amendment would also prevent corporations from suing communities that vote to enact living wages, or ban GMOs (genetically modified organisms), for example.

On August 17, CCR submitted the official ballot language for the 2016 Colorado Community Rights Amendment to the Colorado Legislative Council. The ballot measure is very short, only about 200 words. After the ballot language is approved, CCR will organize a state-wide campaign to gather the number of signatures necessary to qualify the measure for the November 2016 statewide ballot.

CCR tried to get a Community Rights measure on the 2014 statewide ballot, but legal challenges by corporations opposed to the measure succeeded in delaying the signature-gathering phase of the effort until it was too late. This time, CCR has started work early enough that they will have a better shot at getting the measure on the ballot and passing it.

Efforts to pass Community Rights Initiatives are also ongoing in New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington.

G.J. Chamber Opposes Local Businesses Again, Appears to Be Losing Influence

Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke, who turned the G.J. Chamber into a branch of the Tea Party (Photo Credit: YouTube)

Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke, who turned the G.J. Chamber into a branch of the Tea Party (Photo Credit: YouTube)

In its 2015 Voter Guide, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce urged voters to approve Referred Measure 2B, which would have authorized the City to take on millions in debt to extend the Riverside Parkway along 25 Road. Almost all businesses on 25 Road strongly opposed the measure, saying the City blindsided them by failing to let them know measure even existed until it was safely scheduled to go on the ballot. The business owners opposed 2B because it would have let the city seize land fronting their businesses, and harmed their businesses by subjecting the road to an extended construction period. Curiously, the measure also would have zig-zagged the Parkway through existing business and residential areas instead of building it according to the original plan, which simply extends the existing Parkway route further west down River Road to 24 Road.

Once again, the chamber’s position on an issue was diametrically opposed to the one held by the very local businesses it claims to represent.

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

Midwife Sounds Alert Over Spike in Stillbirths in Heavily-Drilled Vernal, Utah

Drilling density in the Uintah Basin, where Vernal is located

Drilling density in the Uintah Basin, where Vernal is located

A midwife in Vernal, Utah, has raised a red flag about a spike in the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths in the small town in 2013. The statistic has emerged alongside explosive growth in drilling and fracking in the area. Energy companies have flocked to Vernal in the last few years to develop the massive oil and gas fields that underlie Uintah County.

The midwife, Donna Young,  who has worked in the Vernal area for 19 years, reported delivering the first stillborn baby she’s seen in all her years of practice in May, 2013. Doctors could not determine any reason for the baby’s death.

While visiting the local cemetery where the parents of that baby had buried their dead child, Young noticed other fresh graves of babies who were stillborn or died shortly after birth.

Young started researching local sources of data on stillbirths and neonatal deaths, like obituaries and mortuary records, and found a large spike in the number of infant deaths occurring in Vernal in recent years. She found 11 other incidents in 2013 where Vernal mothers had given birth to stillborn babies, or whose babies died within a few days of being born.

Vernal’s full-time population is only about 9,800.

The rate of neonatal deaths in Vernal has climbed from about equivalent to the national average in 2010, to six times the national average in 2013.

Along with the surge in oil and gas drilling in the Vernal area over the last few years, the winter time air in the Uintah basin, where Vernal sits, has become dense with industrial smog generated by drilling rigs, pipelines, wells and increased traffic.

Untangling Colorado’s Web of Anti-Fracking Ballot Initiatives

NoFrackingColorado voters who try to figure out all the proposed statewide ballot initiatives to regulate drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) are in for a real challenge. So far, fully eleven ballot initiatives have been proposed on the subject, with many of them extremely similar to each other.

It’s tempting to think the oil and gas industry filed some of them to confuse voters and try to pass a watered-down measure, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. So far all of the initiatives filed seem to have been brought by people who truly want more serious regulation of the energy industry, or who are trying to gain an advantage over Colorado’s legal and regulatory regimen, which favors corporate dominance over the desires of residents.

Here’s a rundown on what is known so far about Colorado’s slew of proposed anti-fracking ballot measures.

The Activism Behind CVS’s Cigarette Announcement

CVS touts its apparent new-found interest in people's health

CVS touts its apparent new-found interest in people’s health

CVS Drugstores announced this week that they are finally acting on information the rest of us have known for fifty years: they’re going to stop selling cigarettes because they are addictive and deadly. On February 5, 2014 CVS announced that it would end cigarette sales at its 7,600 stores nationwide by October 1. What CVS didn’t mention was the grassroots efforts behind this move, including the relentless driving force of a human being, Dr. Terence A. Gerace, who carried out an almost four year-long, single-focus, one-man campaign to push CVS to stop selling cigarettes. Dr. Gerace started his campaign in earnest on May 20, 2010. Over the years it has included a web site containing a log and description of every single one of the days he personally stood protesting in front of a busy CVS store in a prominent part of Washington, D.C., a “CVS Sells Poison” Facebook page, a “CVS Sells Poison” YouTube song and video, almost 170 days of personal protest in all kinds of weather at the Washington, D.C. store and some imaginative, hand-made iterations of what Terry though CVS ads could look like if the chain finally went cigarette-free. To his credit, though, Dr. Gerace has turned down offers of publicity for himself now that CVS has finally agreed to stop selling cigarettes, saying the focus should be on the change, and for that he deserves a gold medal.

Some communities understand that it is wrong for pharmacies, which market themselves as interested in peoples’ health, to sell cigarettes. A few enlightened U.S. cities, including San Francisco, Richmond, California, Boston and about 80 other cities in Massachusetts now have ordinances banning pharmacies from selling cigarettes. Canada prohibits pharmacies from selling cigarettes and so does the United Kingdom. In Europe, pharmacies do not sell cigarettes.

For decades the tobacco industry has protected the big national chain drug stores against lawsuits brought by people who were sickened by cigarettes bought at their stores through contracts that indemnify the stores against such legal action. After all, the pharmacies know they are selling a deadly product but keep doing it, to the cigarette makers’ great financial advantage. CVS had many such protective contracts with cigarette companies. To see the contracts tobacco companies held with any drug chain, just go to the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library online and enter the search term “indemnify and hold harmless” along with the name of any major drug store chain you like to shop at, like Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, etc. They’re all there, demonstrating that these stores know they are selling a deadly product and choose to do it anyway.

Now that CVS has decided to stop selling cigarettes, the only question left in people’s minds is no longer which national chain drug store will be the first to stop selling cigarettes. It’s which one will be the last.

Denver County Fair Adds New Category: Marijuana

Poster advertising the 2014 Denver County Fair

Poster advertising the 2014 Denver County Fair

In November, 2012, by a vote of 55 to 44 percent, Colorado approved Amendment 64, which legalized recreational use of marijuana. As a result, Colorado is now hosting a booming new pot industry, and this year the Denver County Fair will include a new agricultural category: marijuana. Nine newly-added contests will include judging for highest quality pot plants (done on appearance, not on THC content, and through the submission of photos only), best marijuana-infused brownies and savory foods, best handmade bongs and roach clips, and clothing and fabrics made from hemp. There will also be a joint-rolling competition, done with oregano.

Denver County’s first fair was held in 2011, and with its new-age urban chic culture and little agriculture within its borders, it departs from the typical county fair in notable ways. One of these differences is it’s mission. The Denver County Fair bills itself as 21st century place to share ideas and creativity, celebrate diversity, local culture and intellect. (Yes, intellect at a county fair.) Besides marijuana judging, events include a best tattoo contest, a sopapilla toss, a speed texting competition, a human chicken contest, a Geek Pavilion, speed knitting, the “Corpses and Crowns” Zombie Beauty Pageant, trick pigs, pie on a stick, an X-Treme pancake breakfast with a choice of over 60 different toppings like artichokes and gummy worms. There’s even a drag queen contest.

The National Cannabis Industry Association recently reported that Colorado’s new recreational cannabis industry made “well over $5 million in sales in the first five days” of its operation in January, 2014. The financial boon for the state is leaving marijuana purveyors stuffing their mattresses full of cash, since banks refuse to deal with marijuana-related businesses out of concern that processing money from marijuana sales could put them at risk of incurring federal charges of drug racketeering, since marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

Seven Year Old Fights GMOs in Girl Scout Cookies

Seven year old Alicia Serratos is trying to get Girl Scouts to take GMO ingredients out of their cookies

YOU GO GIRL! Seven year old Alicia Serratos is trying to get Girl Scouts to take the GMO ingredients out of their cookies

Seven year old Alicia Serratos of Orange County, California has been a Girl Scout for almost three years, so when Girl Scout cookie season rolled around, Alicia got excited about the prospect of selling cookies to help raise money for her troop. But then Alicia and her mom read the ingredients on the cookie box and she found she didn’t recognize a lot of them and couldn’t pronounce some of them, either. Since she was six, Alicia has spent time learning about genetically-modified organisms and their dangers, like infertility and tumors. She knew that over 60 countries have either banned GMOs or forced companies to list GMO ingredients on their labels. Alicia recognized some of the ingredients in Girl Scout cookies as GMOs. She got alarmed that she was being asked to sell cookies made with GMOs, and so she wrote to the Girl Scouts and asked them to take GMO ingredient out of their cookies. Alicia also made a YouTube video asking Girl Scouts to remove GMO ingredients from their cookies, and started a petition on Change.org asking Girl Scouts to stop putting GMO ingredients in their cookies. She made YouTube videos showing how to make healthier, non-GMO versions of Thin Mints and Melty Mints, to prove it can be done. Alicia also created her own cookbook, called “Recipes to Grow,” with over 40 recipes for food kids love, all made from organic and non-GMO ingredients. Alicia will be selling her cookbook instead of Girl Scout cookies this year. She plans to donate proceeds from the book to help schools establish organic gardens on their grounds. So far, over 18,800 people have signed Alicia’s petition, and she’s trying to get 25,000 signatures. For its part, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. is resisting efforts to get GMOs out of their cookies and towing the GMO-biotech line. In a response to the growing uproar about GMOs in their cookies, Girls Scouts says, in part:

“It is important to note that there is worldwide scientific support for the safety of currently commercialized ingredients derived from genetically modified agricultural crops. The World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Medical Association all share this assessment. In addition, in the future, GMOs may offer a way to help feed an ever-increasing world population.”

List of Non-Chamber Member Businesses Grows

shop_local.inddMesa County citizens: Have you had enough of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce’s overbearing political antics, fake programs and bullying and intimidating of citizens? Do you need a pet groomer, mechanic or CPA? Plumber electrician or dentist? Do you want to vote with your wallet and avoid patronizing businesses that belong to the chamber when you do your holiday shopping this year?  Check out the large and growing list of businesses that do not belong to the Chamber now posted at GJChamber.info. It now contains over 500 businesses, the majority of which are truly locally-owned small businesses, so the money you spend at these places will stay in our area, rebound many times over and really help boost our local economy: List of Non-Chamber-Member Businesses

Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce Goes After Protest Website

crosshair-2The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce hired a Denver law firm to write a letter threatening operators of the GJChamber.info website, which was launched on August 20 to protest the Chamber’s involvement in local politics and other behaviors citizens say are disturbing, like bullying and discrimination. Attorney Sabrina C. Stavish of the Denver law firm Sheridan Ross, P.C., in a letter dated September 16, 2013 wrote, “The Chamber respects your First Amendment right to air your grievances in a public forum. However, we believe that the website, www.gjchamber.info, is misleading and confusing to consumers….[Y]our use of the identical name “gjchamber” in your domain name with no additional wording, and the header “THE GRAND JUNCTION AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE” appearing on www.gjchamber.info is misleading and confusing to consumers and is actionable unfair competition under 15 U.S.C.§1125.”

The section of the U.S. Commerce and Trade Code Stavish cites is titled “False designations or origin, false descriptions and dilution forbidden.” It addresses problems like false and misleading promotions, and the misuse of trademarks and service marks for unfair competition. The law also specifies that “any noncommercial use of a mark” is “not actionable.” Commentary and criticism are similarly excluded from the law.  GJChamber.info is a noncommercial protest site and is not used for pecuniary gain, and so is protected under the law. Operators also argue that if someone initially is confused when arriving at the GJChamber.info protest site, once they read it, they will see that it consists of solely of criticism of the Chamber and does not promote the Chamber in any way.

Anne Landman, webmaster of the protest site, said of the letter, “This shows how desperate the Chamber is over protests of its behavior, and provides more evidence backing up claims that the Chamber bullies and tries to intimidate citizens.”

Given they are on safe First Amendment ground with the protest site, GJChamber.info operators declined to act on Ms. Stavish’s requests, but to address concerns about confusion among those visiting the site, they added a colon after the words “Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce” at the top of the home page to help draw visitors to continue reading their criticisms of the organization, and  added a note at the bottom of  their home page stating that it is not the official website of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

 

Grand Junction Citizens Unveil New Anti-Chamber Website

DumpTheChamberMembers 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.

Rick Brainard Resigns, Disses Almost Everyone on the Way Out the Door

Grand Junctin City Councilman Rick Brainard

Grand Junctin City Councilman Rick Brainard

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.

Sentinel Exposes G.J. Chamber of Commerce’s Hubris

Chart from the Daily Sentinel showing GJ Chamber President Diane Schwenke's compensation far outstrips the compensation earned by other comparable chamber presidents around the region

Chart from the Daily Sentinel showing GJ Chamber President Diane Schwenke’s compensation far outstrips the compensation earned by comparable chamber presidents around the region. The same goes for the G.J. Chamber’s lobbying expense.

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!)

Grand Junction’s Bad Rap and What to Do About it

Op-ed

The arrest of G.J. Chamber-backed city council candidate Rick Brainard in April, 2013 shocked Grand Junction citizens and embarrassed the entire City, but could serve as a catalyst for beneficial change, if we want it to

The arrest of G.J. Chamber-backed city council candidate Rick Brainard in April, 2013 shocked Grand Junction citizens and embarrassed the entire City, but could serve as a catalyst for beneficial change, if we want it to

The dilemma of Rick Brainard, the Grand Junction, Colorado city councilman who pled guilty to criminally assaulting a woman just days after he was elected, has deeply embarrassed our City, but it’s not unique. It’s just the latest in a long string of political embarrassments and economic miscalculations that collectively have tarnished the City’s reputation and made us a laughing stock of the state.

Brainard isn’t the first or the only episode that’s dragged down our City’s reputation. His election is just the latest in a long line of bad decisions that have contributed to our town’s inability to be taken seriously.  Grand Junction is known for chasing prosperity in grandiose, short-sighted ways, and getting into big trouble because of it. We earned a place on the list of the biggest nuclear mining disasters in the U.S. after embracing uranium mining in the 1950s and 60s. Grand Junction required a decade-long, $746 million Superfund cleanup (pdf) to remediate the radioactive mess left behind. Then we pursued oil shale development and got slapped for that with the massive, 1982 Black Sunday Exxon Oil Shale bust that devastated town. Now there’s a big push do oil shale all over again, making it look as though people in this area either have an incredibly short collective memory, or aren’t smart enough to learn from previous mistakes.

We have plenty of things to be proud of in Grand Junction: our beautiful Main Street, great walking and biking paths along the river, sunshine and our wide variety of outdoor recreation, a wonderful canal system (that would be a fantastic built- in walking and biking trail system if we could just get out of the last century and bring ourselves to utilize it that way), the Colorado National Monument, the historic Avalon Theater, the Botanical Gardens, lots of wonderful people and thousands of acres of nearby BLM land where you can get away with doing almost anything. But what’s to draw people off the Interstate and get them enjoy it all?

Not our name. 

Saga Drags On as Brainard Assumes Seat on Council

Two views of citizens  turning their backs on Brainard at his swearing in ceremony May 6, 2013.

Two views of citizens turning their backs on Brainard at his swearing in ceremony May 6, 2013. Ruth Ehlers is seen in the hot pink jacket in the top photo. (Photo Credit: Demand Rick Brainard Resign Grand Junction Facebook page)

Rick Brainard was elevated to Grand Junction City Council this week amid an unprecedented citizen protest at his swearing in ceremony. As City Clerk Stephanie Tuin read Mr. Brainard his oath of office, 60 percent of the audience stood and turned their backs on him in silent protest — a remarkable showing for a municipal ceremony on a weekday morning in this small, conservative town. Brainard claimed to the media that he was unaware of the protest, but was sweating after the ceremony. In response to a question about the protest from a KKCO Channel 11 news reporter, Brainard responded “You know, it is what it is …My supporters have been steadfast, and I’m grateful for that.” An unidentified Brainard supporter was overheard saying, “All they did was turn their backs. They have a right to do that. I thought they were very civil. Not nearly as obnoxious as I thought they were going to be.”

Brainard Issue Sparks Fireworks at Council Meeting

Grand Junction City Councilman Sam Susuras, whom citizens  reprimanded for backing Rick Brainard. Rumors have emerged that the Chamber's four newly-elected candidates have met in secret and plan on making Susuras mayor as soon as they are sworn in.

Grand Junction City Councilman Sam Susuras, who may be subject to recall along with Rick Brainard, who was arrested for assault four days after being elected to Council.

As the first civil union in Mesa County was taking place across town in Grand Junction, Colorado, verbal fireworks flew at the last meeting of the sitting Grand Junction City Council.   In a surprise move, Council voted 4-2 to drop the City’s membership in the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, which has continued to support embattled councilman-elect Rick Brainard. Brainard was arrested on charges of third degree assault and harassment after allegedly pushing and hitting his live-in girlfriend in the face just four days after he was elected to office April 2. The arrest has outraged the community and galvanized a  grassroots effort to keep Brainard from taking his seat on Council. In a recent TV interview in his own defense, Mr. Brainard called citizens who oppose him “an uninformed lynch mob,” and insisted he will take his seat despite the charges. His statements further inflamed citizens, who have vowed to recall him as soon as the law permits it. The City has said a recall effort will cost taxpayers $45,000. Citizens against Brainard have conducted rallies and marched outside the Chamber of Commerce building and City Hall wearing black and white “No Brainard” T-shirts and “wife beater” undershirts that say “Domestic Violence is a No-Brainard.” Several businesses vowed to quit the Chamber if Mr. Brainard is sworn in and the Chamber continues to back him. The City of Grand Junction for many years was a “Chairman’s Circle” level member of the Chamber — the most expensive membership the Chamber offers, at a cost to taxpayers of $6,000 per year. Councilman Jim Doody noted that the Chamber has also created a 501-c-4 (lobbying) group specifically for the purpose of influencing local elections, but did not disclose how much it spent influencing the last election.