WCC can remain valuable area voice

Since the early 1980s, when it led a fight against a massive powerline proposal, to its more recent work on natural gas issues, Western Colorado Congress has been able to make an important claim: It is truly a regional grassroots group driven by concerns from residents of the Western Slope, not by agendas formulated in faraway headquarters of national or state groups.

But three decades on, the group is suffering both a financial and an identity crisis. And the two are related.

That was detailed in a Saturday story by The Daily Sentinel’s LeRoy Standish. The organization’s future was discussed at meetings held in Grand Junction over the weekend.

We have sometimes agreed with Western Colorado Congress, and just as often been on opposite sides of issues. But we recognize that the group provides an important service. It offers a voice to people who don’t believe their concerns will be heard without WCC on regional environmental battles.

In some ways, the group has matured over the past three decades. Early on, some members touted the group as a citizens’ alternative to the business-driven Club 20, the Western Slope promotional and lobbying organization. Now, WCC has members who serve on key Club 20 boards and committees.

Other recent activities have served the group poorly. Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca says it is more confrontational now than it was when he served as a state lawmaker from Delta County in the 1990s.

And, while its membership base remains strong, grants from national organizations are becoming more difficult to obtain.

Given those realities, it seems former Grand Junction City Councilman and current WCC member Jim Spehar is right. It is time for the organization to reinvent itself, or at least reassess what its core mission should be.

As it does, members should ask whether they want the group to be involved in local county elections or municipal zoning issues, as it has been in the past, and whether its leaders should engage in verbal sparring with local elected officials, as has also occurred. Or should it focus more on regional conservation issues with a less confrontational approach.

Although we will no doubt continue to disagree with Western Colorado Congress on many issues, we hope the group will weather its current financial and organizational difficulties and remain an important voice for many people on the Western Slope.


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