Email letters, October 18,  2013

Self-help housing program at risk of losing USDA funding

Housing prices are rising, according to national reports, and that’s good for the economy and homeowners, but it makes finding affordable housing even more of a challenge. At the nonprofit Housing Resources of Western Colorado, we address that challenge in part through “The Mutual Self-Help” housing program – a nationwide program offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and facilitated by nonprofits in rural areas. The program enables prospective homebuyers who are without a down payment, and require an affordable monthly payment, to help build the homes themselves.

The homebuyers are, by definition, hard-working members of our communities – often teachers, nurses, firefighters and veterans, who simply need an alternative way to buy a home. Eighty percent have never owned a home, and if they’re not hard-working, this program is clearly not for them.

We’ve helped build more than 310 self-help homes since 1996 in Mesa County and surrounding areas, and more are under way in Clifton, Fruita and Palisade. Unfortunately, the USDA’s Rural Development programs, including the self-help housing program, are under budget review, and certain communities are at risk of losing access to USDA funds. Ongoing discussions in Congress will determine the future of many USDA programs.

The value of self-help housing extends to the entire community, because home ownership helps stabilize families. That’s why Housing Resources of Western Colorado is pleased to be in the forefront of a new movement called Home Matters® ( It’s a unique national initiative that aims to unite America around the essential role that a home plays as the bedrock for thriving lives, communities and a stronger nation.

The Home Matters initiative means a lot to Mesa County. Home ownership is key to community revitalization, and self-help housing is an essential tool for making home ownership affordable.

Executive Director of Housing Resources of Western Colorado
Grand Junction

Societal takers should go

There are more than 300 million citizens in the country. Which are the ones that really shouldn’t exist? Was it predictable at conception that they would be a burden on the righteous that should legitimately exist? Should they have been aborted or, having been conceived, must they be allowed to be born and join the rest of us who legitimately exist?
Why do we have government? Is it to protect us from each other, those legitimately living in this country and the rest of those living on the planet? Somehow it has become accepted that, to varying degrees, a person living in the country probably should have the availability of clean water and air, although polluters disagree.

Food and a roof over one’s head are usually agreed to be essential but there seems to be significant sentiment that that is true only if one can afford it. Those that have trouble doing so are considered to be among those that really shouldn’t exist.

In addition to clean air and water, food and shelter, some feel that as long as you exist you should practice good health habits, but having done so, you still may have ailments and serious health problems. Health care and support for healthy habits are considered by some to be essential for living, but some also think that is true only if you can afford it at the time of need.

Many seem to feel that anyone not measuring up to being able to economically provide for engaging a private supplier for all of the essentials for living really shouldn’t exist. How do we weed out these takers from our presence? We’ve just seen some of our elected representatives take a stab at forcing the issue. They’ve had at least three years of the availability of an organized way. Luckily, the Mafia way failed. The problem remains. The takers have to go.

Grand Junction

School district leaders must be committed to innovative reforms

Only a reactionary press supporting fearful political candidates would blast out a headline about the horrors of outside money supporting the opposition.

Where’s the story? It’s not illegal. It’s not unethical, and, as a matter fact, it’s common for Democrats like Greg Mikolai, to receive outside money—in his case from the teachers union in Denver. The Sentinel did not run an Armageddonesque headline when D51 School Board incumbent, liberal (registered) Democrat, Greg Mikolai received big union bucks from an outside entity. The Sentinel should question where his loyalties lie.

From Greg Mikolai’s observable behavior, especially in recent Board of Education meetings where he has refused to take a public stand against the billion-dollar plus tax hike in Amendment 66, I cannot help but question whether or not his loyalties have been bought off by the big money from the Front Range.

Despite the harm that Amendment 66 personal tax hikes will cause to families and children throughout the state, Mikolai appears to be in lock-step with the union. Despite the fact that in Mesa County more tax dollars will be transferred to Denver than will be made available for our schools, Mikolai has failed to oppose this money grab. He is more interested in keeping his union donors happy than in creating a plan for the long-term health and economic viability of our schools.

We need leaders committed to the kinds of reforms that will open up innovations and new pathways for our 21st century students to meet the challenges of the future. Mikolai and the teachers unions are committed to “business as usual.” That is simply unsustainable.

Hysterics and hypocrisy from the Sentinel and its pet candidates should be balanced with a calm and open-minded assessment of what will be required to give District 51 students the best education possible.

Grand Junction
When Obamacare bills roll in, they will serve as wake-up call

I agree that compromise shouldn’t be a dirty word, but the tea party says look where it’s gotten us in the past 60 years. Some significant wrongs have been righted, but do we still encourage the individualism and personal responsibility that made us the strongest country in the world? We are concerned about our national debt. The tea party has valid questions and concerns. 

I’m not a card-carrying member of the tea party. Most of them would call me a RINO. I still feel compelled to defend them against their Romneyization. The president’s propaganda machine is making them out to be evil, or at least stupid, to blunt their impact on the House elections in 2014.

The president’s ability to use the media is outstanding. He could make Mr. Rogers look like Black Bart. Compared to him, Republicans are just stupid. Most people don’t like the idea of running up a huge debt, but the president is able to make Republicans out to be radical for trying to bring it under control.

Unlike the tea party, I see Obamacare as a blessing. Once their higher insurance bills come due, with their higher deductibles, people will be ready to listen to new ideas on how to make health care really affordable and responsive to their needs. Obamacare is the wakeup call for the middle class, who won’t get the big subsidies of the working poor. You don’t need to believe me; believe the bills you receive.


Williams has worked in nonpartisan manner

For eight years I watched John Williams work with the people of Gateway to resolve potential conflicts with the development of the Gateway Canyons Resort.  Before Gateway Canyons hired Williams, there was a great deal of conflict in the community and public hearings for the development were lengthy and contentious.

Williams came on board and immediately began listening to the residents to better understand their concerns and to identify potential problems with future projects.  He literally went door to door, taking time to hear the concerns of each resident and worked with them to find a solution. 

Williams was always respectful in his interactions with the residents. He didn’t take their comments personal and tried to see the situation from their perspective.  While some of the residents weren’t happy with all the outcomes, the majority of the residents were, and that was due to the efforts of Williams.

Listening. Working with residents. Seeking win-win solutions. Showing respect. Those are all characteristics that are important in a school board member, and those are the reasons I am supporting Williams for school board. 

I’ve never known Williams to be partisan. In fact, until just recently, I didn’t even know his party affiliation. It never mattered to me, because he was always focused on personal property rights, was pro-business and worked diligently to balance the two.  Williams and I may not agree on everything, but after eight years in office when I look back, I don’t always agree with myself. 

So, if you are looking for a candidate who is in lockstep with 100 percent of your beliefs ... good luck with that.  But, if you want a candidate who is thoughtful, positive, solutions-oriented and who listens to the people, then Williams is that guy.


Don’t do the happy dance quite yet

So, we are supposed to be doing the happy dance because the same folks who put the barricades up   and locked the national parks have reopened them?

Any nation that puts up barricades to keep the nation out /off national park/ public lands is not the nation I served to defend by definition Tyranny.

The man named Jarvis was giving Congress a freaking song and dance. He could NOT cite any Law on which the barricades went up ... It was in their “contingency plan,” but a few years ago he violated public Law by not arresting people who were camping out on the mall.

So, why did the barricades go up? To make the 17 percent shutdown “as painful as possible for the people.” There can be no happy dance when the people are treated worse than slaves on the southern plantations.


Mikolai, Williams, Parrish understand district’s complexities

As the husband of a fourth-grade literacy teacher, the father of two District 51 students, and a public school graduate, I think I’m particularly qualified to comment on the current School Board debate. District 51 is the 12th largest district in Colorado, yet it is the second lowest funded on a per-pupil basis. In the past 4 years the District has cut over $30 million from its budget (a 21% decrease); eliminated dozens of teaching, administrative, and support positions; cut programs; reduced services; decreased teacher benefits and contract days; and increased many fees; all while complying with increasing performance mandates and accountability measures. The point is that District 51 truly is doing more with less.

Certainly there are challenges that need addressed, but first we need to get away from the argument that our schools are failing. Anyone who is willing to make that claim hasn’t spent much time in a school lately and is only fueling an unfounded and anecdotally fed public cynicism. Candidates preaching about “getting back to basics” have a generically appealing message, but it’s a message that displays an obviously deficient understanding of our schools, the extraordinarily demanding profession of teaching and the true challenges that face the district.

Why have a variety of parent-led PTOs, the Mesa Valley Education Association, Save Our Students and Strong Schools/Strong Communities endorsed Mikolai, Williams and Parrish? And, why have The Daily Sentinel and the chamber endorsed Williams and Parrish? It’s not to protect the status quo or to advance a liberal agenda, as some have said.

It is because these candidates have all spent time in our schools and understand that the complexities facing the district can only be tackled by a partnership that values public education and its place in our community. Anything less is a disservice.

Grand Junction


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The milder tone of Dave Kearsley’s latest on-line offering – “When Obamacare bills role in, they will serve as a wake-up call” – reveals that he’s only somewhat chastened by his previous endorsements of extremist “Tea Party” motives and tactics.

The recent “government shutdown” (wasting some $24 billion) and the threat to default (costing $300 billion and 900,000 jobs since first employed as an extortive “negotiating’ ploy in 2011) reaffirm that principled “compromise” is not a “dirty word”.

Rather, “Tea Partiers” mindlessly repudiated “where it’s gotten us in the past 60 years” – mimicking the 1850s.  While Kearsley now grudgingly concedes that “some significant wrongs have been righted” (e.g., the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965), he begs the real question:  why do Republicans still deny the proven efficacy of the collective efforts and bipartisan compromises “that made us the strongest country in the world”?

Initially, “Tea Partiers” (as did then-Senator Obama in 2006) raised “valid questions and concerns” about Republicans (like Reagan and the Bushes) who campaigned as “fiscal conservatives” but then ran-up profligate deficits.  Indeed, the “Tea Party” first arose in opposition to TARP, but – following (only half-“White”) President Obama’s election –  redirected its inchoate anger onto “bailouts”, the Stimulus, and (most virulently) against “ObamaCare”.

As in 2012 (when former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough asked when it had become “the stupid party”), the lie-based Romney-Ryan campaign, and now its conduct in 2013—not President Obama’s “propaganda machine”—self-branded Republicans as fiscally irresponsible social extremists (if not “evil”), thereby “blunting their impact on the House elections in 2014” (as in Virginia now).

Meanwhile, ObamaCare is benefiting both the working poor and the Middle Class, while Kearsely parrots the partisan predictions of Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz.  “You don’t need to believe” them; time will tell.

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