Printed Letters: Oct. 2, 2016

Commissioners misled public about building
The Daily Sentinel has reported multiple times recently on comments that Mesa County commissioners, principally John Justman, have made regarding the 750 Main St. project (former county administration building) and their support for it.

As the owner of the building, I would like to clarify the support I have received from the commissioners, as I feel they have been misleading the public.

The building sat vacant for four years, time that the county could have developed the building into a place to attract entrepreneurs. During the purchase of the building I provided an offer, which was immediately rejected without a counter offer. Once an agreed price was negotiated, the commissioners required a clause that stated if a higher offer was presented they could accept that offer despite being under contract with me. This did not seem supportive of the vision I shared with them for redevelopment in downtown. The building was purchased at market value despite Commissioner Scott McInnis declaring it was a “huge bargain.” Other commissioner candidates have requested to use the project for their own campaigns, which I have denied.

I have not requested or received financial support from the county or city for this redevelopment. All costs are by my company alone, a software startup based here in Grand Junction. I am fortunate to work with local contractors, craftsman, and businesses to stimulate the valley economy with this project. Although I appreciate the commissioners’ words in support of economic diversity, I hope we elect commissioners that do more than take credit for others’ work. We need leaders in this valley who have a vision and take progressive action to grow our economy in parallel with businesses that are willing to take risks here. This is something that we have lacked for too long in the Grand Valley.

Grand Junction

Problem arises from those who burn simply for convenience

Thank you to the Sentinel’s Gabrielle Porter, who covered Monday evening’s public forum on air quality, sponsored by Citizens for Clean Air and the League of Women Voters of Mesa County. I hope those in attendance at the forum would agree that it was an informative discussion and an opportunity to learn how some farmers handle agricultural waste such as tree trimmings without burning while for others, burning responsibly is perhaps the only option for large acreages of alfalfa and grass seed.

I’d like to make a few distinctions in the story as reported and how I understand it. First, the Grand Junction City Council draft ordinance under discussion does not propose a ban on agricultural burning. Nor is Citizens for Clean Air advocating for a ban on “ag” burning. The City of Grand Junction ban under discussion was non-farm, residential outdoor burning within the city limits. As the article mentions, there are healthier alternatives available.

The purpose of the forum discussion on agricultural burning was to hear from farmers who have had great results by disposing of their organic waste using methods other than burning. We also heard from responsible farmers who burn. They are not the problem. The problem appears to come from farmers and urban dwellers who burn simply because it’s convenient.

What is clear is there are people in our valley, both urban and rural, who are burning without consideration for the 17,800 residents in the Grand Valley, including children, whose asthma and other respiratory ailments are exacerbated when smoke and other pollutants consume our air (American Lung Association). Such burning is no longer acceptable in a county of nearly 150,000 people. Thank you to those who shared their expertise; we hope this much-needed conversation continues.

Citizens for Clean Air
Grand Junction

Roundabout incorporates noteworthy design elements
I was disappointed to learn that the city of Grand Junction’s engineers were not primary in the design of the proposed roundabout on Highway 340. Granted, the roundabout at 12th and Horizon will never, and should never, be entered into an engineering hall of fame. But as the city built roundabouts moving west on G Road they improved.

The roundabout on 23 Road and G Road incorporates several design elements that are noteworthy. The open view in the center allows drivers to get the “big picture” of traffic flow. On two occasions, at the 24 Road and I-70 roundabouts, I have witnessed confused drivers start down the off ramps and get halfway down before they realized their mistake and backed up. A friend was driving eastbound on I-70 one day when a vehicle did make it down the off ramp. That vehicle missed him, but hit a truck head on. A fatality resulted.

At 23 and G Road, the apron to the center is of minimal slope and the driving lane is of consistent radius. This reduces disorientation and confusion that some drivers get. The mountable curbs and usable apron negate the damaging effects of the AASHTO W.B. 67 design standard. The city’s Lee Cooper applied common sense when designing the roundabout. This design is superior to others being used, and can be expanded to meet high traffic demands. Safety, highway users, and taxpayers would benefit if this design were adopted statewide.


Former DDA board member takes issue with editorial
As a board member of the Grand Junction Downtown Development Authority until June of this year, I must take issue with your editorial of Sept. 27, “City Council needs to discuss designee votes.”

I was on the board when the vote was taken to financially support the amphitheater phase of the Las Colonias project. The motion was unambiguous that the city must obtain full funding of the project for the DDA’s funds to be given. At the Sept. 22 meeting of the DDA board (which I did not attend), it was reportedly revealed that the bids for the project were over the estimates previously presented to the board and that full funding was not achieved. Apparently there followed some spirited discussion among board members on how to proceed with the DDA’s funding, as I would expect knowing the wording of the motion and the makeup of the board. To imply that some board members were attempting to “attach strings retroactively” is simply untrue; rather it was an attempt to ensure that the intent of the original motion was followed. To further characterize some board members as “disgruntled” for voicing dissenting opinions does a great disservice to the dedicated volunteer citizens who make up the board. These people are responsible for making sound fiscal decisions with district taxpayer funds and take that responsibility very seriously.

Furthermore, to categorize City Council member and ex-officio board member Chazen as a potential “one-man wrecking crew” or “single rogue council member” cannot go unchallenged. My experience with Councilor Chazen reflects a dedicated public servant with strong values and opinions with whom I often disagreed but who acted in what he believed were the best interests of the citizens and taxpayers, which I respected. I felt when Chazen was fulfilling his responsibilities as a DDA board member he was representing the DDA and its stakeholders to the best of his ability.

My hope is that the shortfall in funding will be made up with community contributions as was offered at the board meeting in Oct. 2015 and that this phase of the project can proceed. Denigrating DDA board members and City Council members for fulfilling their fiscal responsibilities and voting for what they believe is irresponsible and unnecessary.

Grand Junction

Consider sources in chamber’s anti-Amendment 70 ads
The chamber’s anti-Amendment 70 TV ads say that 90,000 jobs will be lost if the amendment passes, but consider their source for this figure: a guy named Eric Fruits, of “Economics International Corp.” “Economic International Corp” is a one-man consultancy run by Fruits, who aside from being president and chief of the “organization,” is also its secretary and sole proprietor. Fruits works out of his house in Portland, Oregon, specializing in “litigation support,” which means he hires himself out as an expert witness who will say what his corporate paymasters need him to say in court cases and in producing non peer-reviewed reports. Mr. Fruits is the chamber’s sole source for their 90k figure, so the questions the media should be asking are, how much did the chamber pay Mr. Fruits, and why did they have to go clear out of state to find someone who would produce a figure that agreed with their beliefs?

In citing Mr. Fruits, the chamber also chose to completely ignore the opinion of more than 600 professional economists, including seven Nobel Prize winners, who in 2014 signed a letter to President Obama and Congress urging an increase in the federal minimum wage to over $10/hour. The economists stated that academic research in recent years has shown that increasing the minimum wage has little to no effect on the number of jobs, and could actually stimulate the economy as lower wage workers get and spend their additional earnings.

The overwhelming opinion of hundreds of distinguished professional and academic economists should certainly hold more sway than the lonely Mr. Fruits, if the chamber only chose to pay attention to them.

The media should also check out who is behind “Keep Colorado Working,” the organization sponsoring the chamber’s ads. It consists mostly of other chambers of commerce and does not include any organizations that represent the best interests of workers, as you might expect from a group called “Keep Colorado Working.”

Grand Junction


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Sunday’s revelation that Donald Trump has likely paid no federal income taxes since at least 1995 (“Trump lost $916 million in 1995, per tax records”) should come as no real surprise to anyone, and – considered in isolation – is actually “no big deal”, because it merely manifests the extent to which our tax system is “rigged” to favor wealthy scofflaws.

However, when considered in connection with what else we know about
“the Donald”, the report belies many of his base-accepted but false self-promoting pronouncements.  Thus:

First, while claiming to be a “successful businessman”, Trump apparently lost almost $1 billion dollars of his own money (and likely more than that of “other peoples’ money”), but nevertheless benefited from the “financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s” through his multiple business failures and bankruptcies – even while routinely “stiffing” immigrant workers, American tradesmen, and U.S. small businesses.

Second, while claiming to be a generous philanthropist, Trump’s carried-forward losses likely eliminated any tax benefits he might have derived from charitable contributions – which explains why there is no evidence that he has made any significant contributions to any legitimate charities and thus reveals Trump and his surrogates to be pathological liars when asserting that he has
“personally donated millions” (e.g., to “the vets”).

Third, because there is nothing illegal and/or inexplicable about minimizing one’s taxes within the letter of the IRS Code (with or without charitable contributions), Trump’s refusal to release his federal income tax returns becomes even more egregious – arguably reflecting a profound contempt for established political norms and his gullible “base”, while implying other even more suspicious reasons for his refusal to release his returns (which could irrefutably prove his lack of personal integrity and/or document his massive personal indebtedness and business ties to Russian oligarchs and thus to Putin).

Fourth, Trump’s refusal to release his own tax returns (even if actually under IRS audit) justifies more intense scrutiny of the illegally-operated Trump Foundation, which was never certified to solicit tax-deductible contribution from “the public”, but which Trump has unlawfully used as a “slush fund” for personal benefit and to pay business expenses.

Thus, in the aftermath of Trump’s Monday debate embarrassment and ensuing obsession with a Latina Miss Universe, local Republicans have even more reason to reconsider their blind support for the least qualified and most unfit candidate to ever seek our Presidency.

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