Printed Letters: August 10, 2017
Sales tax increase could help address crime
Crime is a growing problem in our community. And while many factors contribute to an increase in the crime rate, a lack of police on the street and an underfunded District Attorney’s Office are certainly major parts of the equation. Addressing these shortfalls is a key component to a solution.
As property and violent crime have increased in Mesa County at a far faster rate than neighboring counties, our Sheriff’s Office has been stretched unacceptably thin. The number of police per capita in the county is far below the rate maintained by many other counties in the state, most of which are not plagued by our rising crime rate. A minimal sales tax increase of just 37 cents on a $100 purchase would allow the sheriff to hire enough deputies, and give those officers the support and resources they need to actually stop crime, and not just react after crimes are committed.
The District Attorney’s Office may be in even worse shape than our Sheriff’s Office in terms of adequate funding. Not only is the DA’s office understaffed — it has fewer attorneys than comparable judicial districts — but operates with about half the support staff (investigators, victim advocates and the like) of those districts. Furthermore, Mesa is the only county of its size to see the public defender’s office better funded than its DA. The public defender has roughly the same sized staff as the DA. It needs to be remembered that the DA’s office handles every criminal case in the county — the public defender handles only a fraction. This imbalance tips the scales of justice in favor of the criminal, at the expense of the victim.
A sales tax is the fairest tax that can be levied given that our public safety agencies are used by more than just property owners, but by visitors as well. A modest 0.37 percent increase is a small price to share to give our cops and prosecutors a fighting chance.
Whitewater energy proposal threatens valley’s watershed
For 54 years, my family has lived, worked, and raised cattle on upper Whitewater Creek Road where our ranch is located. Usually, the only real problems we had to worry about were paying the mortgage, property taxes, and how much snow would fall each year to provide the water we use to irrigate our fields, water the livestock and raise crops. Most folks not familiar with the area would be surprised to know that we have excellent soil and just enough water to raise every vegetable and flower that can be grown in Mesa County.
Now, however, the most concerning problem is underground. Fram LLC is proposing to develop 108 oil wells in the Whitewater area between Palisade and Highway 50 along the base of the Grand Mesa. This area is watershed for not just ranchers like me, but for all of Grand Junction. The watershed does not stop at the top of the Grand Mesa. Rather, it extends well down into the high mesas and valleys, entering Whitewater Basin and all the way down to Highway 50. The creeks in this area run year round and there are also springs that I rely on for water for my ranch. What would happen if any of these were contaminated? Fram plans to use hydraulic fracturing technology to drill directionally. They will cement the top of the hole, but you can’t control where the chemicals go underground.
One of the proposed well sites is on private land, my land, developing federal minerals, creating a split estate situation. Under state law, I can only comply with this proposal. However, I can raise my concerns with the BLM and the city of Grand Junction. I ask you to do the same, as people who rely on this watershed for your drinking water and as taxpayers. I understand that this proposal will bring some jobs to the county. However, water is the most important resource we have, without it every other industry in the valley would not survive. We must hold this project to the highest standards possible to protect it.
Riverfront Trail should be made safe corridor for cyclists
With great interest I have been reading in this newspaper numerous proposals and developments regarding bicycle transportation in the Grand Valley. As a long-time cyclist and resident of the Grand Valley, I, too, am very glad that we are developing the Colorado Riverfront into a recreation zone and are planning for better urban trails. However, I must note that the Colorado Riverfront Trail presents safety hazards to users and that the users and government agencies involved seem relatively uninterested in making this a real corridor for bicycles.
I understand that this is a multiuse trail, but if a bicyclist hits a pedestrian or dog everyone is going to get hurt. Having been working on this for several years and trying to get the attention of the Colorado Riverfront Commission and the city, I have come to the conclusion that the government agencies involved just don’t get it, especially in Las Colonias Park. Long gone are the days when it was safe to ride your bicycle down Patterson Road to the mall. Long gone are the days when it was safe to go from Fruitvale to the Colorado National Monument on the I-70 business loop. And nobody in their right mind is really going to ride the Riverside Parkway on a bicycle, whether it’s marked as a bicycle route or not.
Rude and thoughtless pedestrians, bicyclists riding two or three abreast, sometimes on the wrong side of the road, dogs running around without a leash: these are all things that I have frequently witnessed since I moved back to the Grand Valley three years ago. As we are talking about building new urban trails and about increasing traffic on them, I hope all users, the Colorado Riverfront Commission, and the city of Grand Junction will start to take safety on these trails a little more seriously.
Imagine you are driving your car down North Avenue and a pedestrian just jumps out in the road right in front of you and you have to slam on the brakes to keep from hitting them. You could call the police and they might get a ticket for jaywalking. But if somebody does that to a bicyclist riding to work on the trail, the police don’t really care. That’s a double standard that I believe needs to end. A commuter or recreationalist on one of these urban trails should also have the right of relatively unimpeded travel. I and other cyclists in this area are firmly committed to this vision, and we hope that all will see that it’s the way of the future.
County has failed to vote on bright future for D51 students
Megan Fromm’s searing indictment of Mesa County voters in a recent Denver Post op-ed for not approving any money since 2004 for school infrastructure hits the nail on the head. She states that an entire K-12 generation has not seen any money spent on schools and that these voters have abandoned any effort to provide any kind of a bright future for District 51 students.
It’s appalling that teachers in this district should have to pay money out of their own pocket for school supplies, work in buildings with crumbling infrastructure, use District 51 textbooks that are woefully out of date or host financial campaigns like “Stuff the Bus” at the mall, which shouldn’t even be necessary.
Mesa County voters, according to Fromm, “have not just tightened our wallets but they have cut off our nose to spite our face.” These voters have been brainwashed by the talking heads in the conservative media into not paying for anything worthwhile, even something as important as the future of our young students. They have been brainwashed way beyond common sense to believe that the citizens of this great country should only vote for an ongoing austerity program.
Mesa County voters’ mantra these days is “Made America Crappy Again!” That about sums it up.
There is no universality in this country regarding religion
I salute the editors of the Sentinel for including the article by Councilwoman Smith in the Sunday paper. I think most of us could agree that that is one of the most important rights we have as citizens of the United States. We can have opinions and they can be freely expressed publicly.
Having said that, I’m disappointed in her opinions regarding an opening prayer at council meetings. She seems to start from the proposition that there is universality in beliefs of a Creator and a God by the people of the country.
That is precisely the point of the inclusion in our Constitution that there will be no establishment whatsoever of a nationally sanctioned religion nor allowance for government to let religion impinge in any way on the activities of government. There is no universality in this country regarding anything with religious beliefs. There isn’t. The founders realized that at the time that the Constitution was drafted and endorsed and the nature of beliefs in our country today is even more divided. We are probably now the most diverse country on the face of the planet and keeping any religious “beliefs” out of government activities of any kind is more important here than any place else.
This is a time in the history of our country that some say we are more divided than we have ever been. That may or may not be true. Religion exists for many reasons but politics and religion address many of the same things — how we should treat others, how we should behave, what has merit and should be rewarded, and on and on.
Consideration for the beliefs of others that do not harm in any way those of others should be the primary focus of both politics and religion.
Is it? Ms. Smith starts the conversation seemingly with some ground rules. Are they necessary?