Mesa County Commissioners hear concerns re: Club20, officer-involved shootings, economic crisis

GRAND JUNCTION, CO – This morning’s regular administrative hearing of the Mesa County Commissioners saw a handful of local citizens expressing their concerns and anger over recent events, the looming economic crisis, and the upcoming elections.

Club20, which had been scheduled to present during the meeting, had rescheduled due to a conflict. In a personal statement, chair Scott McInnis expressed his surprise that former Governor John Hickenlooper had chosen to opt out of the upcoming Club20-sponsored candidate debate against incumbent US Senator Cory Gardner.

“These Club20 debates are really, really important,” McInnis said. “For a candidate not to show up, it’s very discouraging.”

Commissioner John Justman echoed his disappointment, recalling that Hickenlooper “spent more time here [on the Western Slope] than any other governor I’ve ever seen.”

“I don’t know what his campaign people are thinking to blow [the debate] off and say, ‘We’re not coming at all.'”

During the public comment period, Scott Beilfuss, vice-chair of the Mesa County Democrats and candidate for Colorado House District 55, addressed the commissioners’ criticism of Hickenlooper’s absence at the fall debate, calling out the incumbent Gardner’s own lack of appearances to meet with local constituents.

“Cory Gardner has never appeared in public here to take public comments on things,” Beilfuss said. “To call out Hickenlooper here is the pot calling the kettle black. If they want to be in public and work on things, they need to step up.”

Grand Junction resident Ricky Howie agreed. “I would just like to say that Senator Cory Gardner has not had a town hall for years and years,” she said in her statement. “And I for one feel insulted that in order to hear my senator speak in person, I have to pay a fee for Club20.”

Joanna Gibson used her time in the comment period to respond to a statement that McInnis had made in a previous meeting. McInnis had said that referring to an officer-involved fatality as a “murder” was “defamation.”

“Just by the simple fact that they killed people,” Gibson said, “they committed murder.”

Pooka Campbell (pictured above) of Solidarity Not Charity voiced her deep anxiety over the looming eviction and economic crisis in the wake of the expiration of various government assistance programs.

“We have a lot of people here that do need a little bit of extra help,” she said, her voice tearful. “And I’m dying now. Winter’s coming.”

Campbell said that her organization is seeing an influx of people coming to Grand Junction from out of state with little to no resources, including families, and are adding to the strain felt by local low-income and houseless advocacy and support organizations.

“I really want to see about something for people who are coming into our town who are seeking refuge,” she said.

“Winter’s coming,” she repeated. “if we have this many people in this town, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do Frozen Hobo this year.”