Club 19?

So, Gunnison County has decided to bolt from Club 20, ostensibly over the voting system used by the Western Slope advocacy organization.

That’s certainly the county’s right. Nothing says it is required to continue its membership in Club 20. And, even without being a member, Gunnison County will continue to reap benefits from the efforts Club 20 undertakes on a broad variety of issues — from transportation to energy, tourism to water.

Although Club 20 now actually has more than 20 member counties, including some mountain counties just east of the Continental Divide, it was originally formed to represent the 20 counties of Colorado’s Western Slope. Gunnison’s leaving would cut that original number to 19.

The loss of one county won’t ruin Club 20. But if Gunnison’s action signals the start of disintegration in the unified front western Colorado has presented on so many issues over the past half century, it could be devastating for this region.

Don’t get us wrong. We don’t agree with Club 20 on everything. In fact, although this newspaper was among the founding members of Club 20, we have been highly critical of the organization over the years based on some of the positions and actions it has taken.

Even so, we don’t believe that disagreeing over a handful of issues is a good reason to abandon an organization that has been instrumental in communicating this region’s needs and concerns in places like Denver and Washington, D.C.

In a letter this month saying they plan to withdraw from Club 20, the Gunnison County commissioners said they object to the group’s one-member, one-vote policy. That policy gives any individual who pays membership dues the same voting clout as governmental entities, the Gunnison letter said, but the individuals vote only for themselves while government entities must represent all of their constituents.

But there may be more to Gunnison’s departure than that. Club 20 Executive Director Reeves Brown suggested it could be tied to Club 20’s position on energy issues, such as its opposition to a ballot measure this fall that would have increased the severance tax paid by oil and gas producers.

There’s no question that a schism has developed among Club 20 members over gas drilling in this region. But that dispute shouldn’t overshadow all the other issues Club 20 tackles on behalf of the Western Slope.

We hope Gunnison County will reconsider its decision.


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