Council makes it tough to choose: 
civic responsibility or entertainment

What a dilemma. I felt as though I had my mind made up about what needed to happen at the upcoming Grand Junction City Council elections. It was clear a new brace of oxen needed to be yoked to the city wagon to pull it out of the ditch of fiscal irresponsibility.

But then I read last week’s Daily Sentinel story about the March 20 City Council meeting and watched the video. Now I’m torn between civic responsibility and selfishness.

The meeting started off with Mayor Bill Pitts launching into a rambling discussion on the behavior of emergency personnel following the recent natural gas explosion. Apparently, the mayor at some point, had been observing Xcel Energy, fire and police department personnel at work at the scene. This discussion somehow culminated with him leading council members in a round of applause for themselves — somehow including the council in the emergency response effort.

Then, Councilor (and mayor pro-tem, she reminded us) Laura Luke took some time to go on the record and berate a citizen and member of the sinister Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, who had purchased an advertisement to make it pretty clear he wasn’t satisfied with Luke’s representation.

Luke seemed put out by the statement that the man who bought the advertisement was “her worst enemy” and, to some extent I agree. Based on her behavior that night, Luke is her own worst enemy and she shouldn’t allow anyone else to jump to the head of the line.

In the interest of full disclosure, like a lot of people involved with small businesses, I belong to the the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, but I’ve never been shown the secret handshake to be privy to any ominous plots against Luke.

During this escapade, determined Councilor Sam Susuras tried to get the mayor’s attention, since the mayor was running the meeting, to voice objections over what Susaras felt was a political speech during council time.

The mayor handled this by appearing to find an obscure portion of Roberts Rules of Order that allows the chairman to simply ignore someone talking.

When asked by The Daily Sentinel about his lack of attention to Susuras’ objections, Pitts said Susuras is always interrupting and now he just “blocks it out.” To clarify things a bit more he added, “I’m running the meeting. It’s my call as to who talks and when.”

Not to pick nits here, but that’s kind of a cavalier attitude for the person running the meeting. It’s especially true when you asked the council members to appoint you as mayor — a job that pretty much only encompasses signing things and running meetings.

I’m also a little mystified by apparent comments about the incident from the city attorney, who, according to Susuras, said, “If a quorum of councilors objected to Luke’s speech, he would have felt obligated to attempt to stop her.”

How does that work? Do four council members have to leap to their feet at the same time? What happens if the mayor once again decides they don’t get to speak or just blocks them out because they’re always interrupting?

This is found money in the world of political commentary. It’s the kind of concentrated entertainment for political junkies that normal people usually find on the carnival midway or among circus folk.

It’s pretty tough stuff to give up when you’re writing about local politics, and it gets hard to think about losing these folks. However, there are real issues. For instance, a surprising number of people still have their noses out of joint about the council going around the voters in the financing of capital projects.

Others have questions about the “mixed-use development” the Downtown Development Authority wanted to create with the burned out White Hall building we talked about last week.

These are just a couple actual concerns people might want to see addressed, rather than having council members attacking critics from the council bench or engaging in self- congratulation.

I suppose I can’t be selfish. Citizens deserve better than what H.L. Mencken referred to as “a carnival of buncombe.”

Rick Wagner writes more on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.


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