Pooh on the chamber’s voter guide

By now you’ve seen the TV ad by Grand Junction’s Chamber of Commerce CEO Diane Schwenke.  She is not in favor of raising the minimum wage in Colorado. What is amusing is that the source for her claim that 90,000 jobs will be lost in Colorado is an adjunct professor in Portland, Oregon who is so highly regarded as an “expert” that he supplements his income as an Uber driver.

It is not unusual for our chamber to go outside Colorado to find “experts” to agree with them. Most economics experts disagree with Diane Schwenke and Eric Fruits. Early in January 2014, the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that “researches the impact of economic trends and policies on working people” released a letter signed by 600 highly regarded economists urging Congress to increase the minimum wage. Among the signatories to that letter are six Nobel laurates, eight former presidents of the American Economic Association, and eight professors at Colorado universities (CSU and the University of Denver.)

The United States Department of Labor published a document called “Minimum Wage Mythbusters.” In that document a survey of small business owners confirmed that three out of five small-business owners support increasing the minimum wage. They highlight economic research demonstrating that higher wages reduce employee turnover, which reduces training costs. Finally, “Minimum wage increases have little to no negative effect on employment as shown in independent studies from economists across the country.” The Chamber is wrong.

It is not unusual for our Chamber to be wrong. They endorsed Steve King for Colorado Senate, and he ended up as a convicted felon. They endorsed Rick Brainard for City Council and then refused to ask him to step down when police reports indicated that he told investigators that he had to hit his domestic partner because she wouldn’t shut up. His eventual plea was guilty. Yet the Chamber never revoked their support for this man, guilty of domestic abuse.

In addition to being against raising the minimum wage, the Chamber’s 2016 Voter Guide endorses John Justman and Rose Pugliese. Given the Chamber’s track record, can we trust their judgment on candidates?

In the race between Rose Pugliese and Dave Edwards, the Chamber endorsed Pugliese. Edwards, who is an extremely competent and qualified candidate didn’t bother to answer the Chamber’s questionnaire.

Pugliese, on the other hand, has some ethics challenges and a complete lack of vision. The ethics challenge comes from an estate where three sisters, not in agreement, all thought they were being represented by Pugliese. According to Colorado Bar Association Ethics Opinion 68: “A lawyer may not represent opposing parties in negotiations” unless they have previously and substantially agreed.

Pugliese has refused to allow the county to vote on recreational marijuana, which could help the county coffers. Her reasoning is that it might harm pregnant women, just as alcohol and cigarettes do. Yet alcohol and cigarettes are available to adults.

Edwards, currently a trustee for the town of Palisade and mayor pro tem, would support a vote on recreational marijuana. He was a member of Palisade’s government when the city set up rules regarding medical marijuana. He also supports and understands economic development. He is a big thinker, proposing that we work to create a university to train doctors in Mesa County. Edwards is both a CPA and an ethically secure attorney. He understands budgets. He supports an increase in the minimum wage. He supports programs that would help Mesa County citizens rise above the poverty level.

In the race between John Justman and Mel Mulder, the Chamber endorsed Justman. They are as wrong about Justman as they are about Pugliese. Mulder supports a minimum wage, he supports efforts to improve internet speeds, he supports placing recreational marijuana on the ballot. Having been a handy man, he understands blue collar workers.

Both Edwards and Mulder support the Riverfront Trail system. In a recent candidate’s forum, Justman bragged about his support for the trail system. Yet, Justman and Pugliese voted to destroy a decades-old agreement to support the administrative costs of the Riverfront Commission.  They cited a need to balance the budget, but the amount of money they saved won’t even pay for Pugliese’s trip to Oregon and Justman’s and Pugliese’s trips to learn about, and then join the American Lands Council. To be fair, Justman voted to accept GOCO money for trails, Pugliese did not.

Ignore the advice of the Chamber. They are wrong about the impacts of raising the minimum wage. They endorse ethically challenged candidates.

Although Claudette Konola is a Riverfront Commissioner, she is not speaking on behalf of the ccmmission in this commentary. Comment at https://www.facebook.com/konola4colo/


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And let’s not forget when the chamber urged voters in 2013 to vote to rezone the Brady Trucking property by the Las Colonias bridge over the Colorado river back to industrial, saying doing so would create “high paying jobs and trails.”

People voted to rezone, and absolutely nothing happened. None of the promised trails, no jobs, just a crumbling building is still sitting there.

You can’t trust the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce behind a dime turned sideways. You’d have to be nuts to be a member.

The Chamber of Commerce is an oxymoron.  Purported to be the top business leadership in the County, the Chamber is more a Chamber of Horrors then Commerce.  In the decades I have lived in this valley, no progress has been made to diversify the economy.  Some may think that a community such as ours is better off not changing, since it is a little piece of paradise.  Those that have that opinion, are probably retired, well off financially and/or own your home.  Most of Mesa County citizens are not so fortunate. Though this community is generous to the poor…  Why must we have so many poor families?  We are beset with our fear of change which leaves us stagnant.  If this county is to prosper, we have to have leadership willing to make a leap into the future with better business sense then following the lead of the Chamber of ?Commerce?.

Good editorial CK.

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