How are the children?

Those of us who get weekly updates on the schedule for our county commissioners frequently see meetings posted on one of the county’s initiatives aimed at the younger set. This focus, dubbed “How are the children?” is admirable. Unfortunately, recent events have proven that same question might apply to at least a couple of the folks involved in those discussions: Craig Meis and Janet Rowland.

The answer to that question these days might be “somewhat grumpy and a bit petulant.” All to the detriment of Mesa County government.

I walked into last Tuesday’s news conference just as Meis was beginning his rambling defense of actions surrounding his challenge of a citation received last June for allowing his underage son to operate a wave runner in violation of state regulations. The next hour would have been some of the best entertainment in town if the entire scene hadn’t been so sad.

I suspect there haven’t been so many people on hand for any news conference since Dick Cheney or Barack Obama came to town. The event attracted 50 or 60 interested souls, about 10 percent of them recognized media reporters, a few interested citizens, and most of the rest from various factions having one axe or another to grind.

The first softball, er ... question, came from a high school friend leading a contingent seated right up front in their Meis campaign T-shirts. It went something like this: “Craig, don’t you think you were teaching your son a valuable lesson by exercising your constitutional right to…”  One in the media group suggested rather harshly that perhaps real reporters ought to be asking the questions.

Things went downhill from there.

There was verbal sparring from rival tea party groups, one supporting Meis, the other calling for his resignation, and each claiming supremacy on the local far right.

After Meis said he’d ask the supportive Western Colorado Conservative Alliance and the local GOP to investigate and would abide by their findings, it took about a half second for Mesa County Republican Chairman Chuck Pabst to start toward the front of the room to first say quite firmly that the local GOP wouldn’t be investigating anything and then offer obligatory support for his party’s officeholder.

Notable by their absence were most other elected county GOP officials or upper-echelon county staff. Except of course, for Rowland. The shots of her rolling her eyes, captured by the local television reporter alert enough to turn the camera on the audience, were representative of the body language I saw while seated just to the left of where Rowland was standing prominently in the aisle.

Meis’ citation and the news conference circus are merely a sideshow to what’s really important about the current state of affairs in Mesa County government. As people read in Sunday’s Daily Sentinel editorial, the real issue is whether the wheels are wobbling down at 6th and Rood Avenue.

When many good managers have left voluntarily or been dismissed over the past few years, when replacements are questioning whether they want to climb aboard, when employees post questions that are well past the usual griping that occurs among rank and file in any organization, it makes it all the harder to right the ship and effectively deal with the myriad issues facing Mesa County.

I really wanted to ask Sheriff Stan Hilkey, who was standing in the back of the room, about the idea that any of us might be able to pick a law we deemed to be silly, determine that one size doesn’t fit all and most certainly not us, and then go ahead and violate that law so long as we did so “responsibly.” Cutting through everything else we’ve heard, that’s the essence of the Meis defense. The answer is obvious, at least to most of us.

And then there’s the conspiracy theory advanced by Meis that all this furor is brought about by “fabrication” at the Sentinel and particularly by reporter Paul Shockley, whom he called out by name. That’s foolishness for several reasons and Meis offered no evidence to the contrary.

Perhaps some advice is in order — something along the lines of the personal responsibility Meis, Rowland and their supporters advocate:

“Every damned thing is your own fault if you’re any good.” — Ernest Hemingway, “Green Hills of Africa.”

Former Mesa County Commissioner Jim Spehar will happily move on to another topic next week. Your thoughts are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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