Correction: Editorial Rdp story
In a July 17 roundup of editorials, an editorial in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel misattributed a quote. The speaker was Jennifer Rokola of the Center for Western Priorities, not Erin Riccio of Conservation Colorado.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Colorado Editorial Roundup
A roundup of newspaper editorials from around Colorado
By The Associated Press
The Daily Sentinel, July 17, on the Bureau of Land Management moving to Grand Junction:
The BLM is coming to Grand Junction. Now what?
When we first contemplated the impact of this move, we imagined the entire Washington, D.C. operation — some 300 federal workers — being transplanted en masse to a campus setting somewhere in the Grand Valley.
That’s not how this is going down. The BLM is moving its top brass, 27 senior-level officials, to Grand Junction, but twice that many workers are moving to Lakewood. Other BLM employees are headed to other Western states.
A day after feeling like this was a game-changer for Grand Junction, the letdown is palpable. We’re stuck between feeling grateful that Grand Junction will be known as the BLM’s Western Headquarters and frustrated that such a distinction has been hollowed out to its barest impact.
Pardon the cynicism, but this community comes by it honestly. From the Colony Oil Shale project to Jordan Cove, we’re used to seeing exciting developments fizzle around here. That’s how the Interior Department’s reorganization feels at the moment.
It doesn’t help that much of the rest of the country thinks that this is a thinly veiled attempt to dismantle any conservation-oriented aspects of the agency in service to President Trump’s energy dominance agenda.
“Secretary Bernhardt is asking families to uproot their lives in a matter of months or possibly lose their jobs, all for a PR stunt,” Erin Riccio, Western Slope field organizer with Conservation Colorado, said in a statement Tuesday. “It’s yet another cynical attempt to drain the Interior Department of expertise and career leadership. Our public lands deserve an agency that is effectively coordinating with the Interior Department more broadly, and with Congress.”
“Secretary Bernhardt is asking families to uproot their lives in a matter of months or possibly lose their jobs, all for a PR stunt,” Jennifer Rokola, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, said in a statement Tuesday. “It’s yet another cynical attempt to drain the Interior Department of expertise and career leadership. Our public lands deserve an agency that is effectively coordinating with the Interior Department more broadly, and with Congress.”
That seems to be the prevailing attitude among conservation groups and environmentalists. But we still think the idea is solid — that public land managers shouldn’t be absentee landlords. They should live among the people affected by the impact of their decisions.
We may have hoped for more in terms of sheer numbers of employees relocating to the Grand Valley, but with the highest-ranking ones in our midst, the potential for growth is good. If this is to be the apex of power of the BLM’s hierarchy, it will attract people both inside and outside of the federal government who may find it advantageous to be within the BLM’s orbit.
In that vein, perhaps we’ll come to see this as an important first step toward something bigger. Maybe all the hype proves to be true — that Grand Junction is the nexus of everything the BLM does — and the agency begins to recognize the benefits of having more top decision-makers here.
It probably would have been a stretch to accommodate 300 Washington, D.C. transplants all at once, anyway. So maybe we should be grateful for the chance to start small.
Disappointments aside, there’s still no doubt that this is an economic development coup of the highest magnitude. It’s one more component of a diversified economy. It’s also an opportunity to plan for the growth that should come from having a federal headquarters in our town, in addition to all the other opportunities that are arising.
Sentinel Colorado, July 16, on reaction to the protest at an Aurora immigration detention facility:
Aurora Councilman Dave Gruber brought the city’s legislative body to a new low Monday night by theatrically breeching meeting protocol in an attempt to publicly smear three fellow lawmakers over a recent immigration prison protest.
It was a spiteful and shameless stunt that warrants a sharp rebuke from the city council and a public apology not only to the three council members he viciously slandered, but to the residents of Aurora.
The bizarre scene capped several days of local controversy stemming from a Friday night protest at the GEO immigration prison in north Aurora. Protests and vigils have been held there for years in an effort to draw attention to what critics say is poor and inhumane treatment of immigrants detained inside the privately run facility. On Friday, the protest was likely the largest ever, attracting about 2,000 people as part of a nationwide series of rallies coordinated by Lights for Liberty.
The peaceful Aurora protest was marred by a few miscreant combatants who trespassed onto the front of the GEO prison. They lowered American and Colorado flags from the facility and replaced them with a Mexico flag and “Thin Blue Line” banner flown upside down and spray-painted with anti-police graffiti. The vandals also ineptly tried to burn the flags they removed from the facility.
It was a stupid and vulgar stunt that event organizers wisely immediately denounced and made clear they had neither encouraged nor approved of.
Some public officials have fixated on the handful of rogue protesters who stumbled through the clumsy flag desecration. Public outrage has come from Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, a handful of local Twitter and political pundits, and even Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Gruber, however, made his criticism personal, hateful and baseless.
Monday’s city council meeting was packed with residents appearing for legislation regarding the city’s controversial new oil and gas regulator powers. At the beginning of the meeting, Gruber dramatically left the dais and addressed the audience from the floor lectern. It was a stunt contrived to maximize the effect before a packed house with a surprising departure from council protocol.
Gruber denounced the flag-vandalism but then went on to accuse councilwomen Allison Hiltz, Crystal Murillo and Nicole Johnston, who attended the protests, of being complicit and responsible for the vandalism.
“I’ve already seen backpedaling since our council members have discovered how much they have hurt the citizens of Aurora,” Gruber said at the lectern, as reported by Sentinel Colorado reporter Kara Mason. “I can hear arguments saying even though I gave a speech under the desecrated flag, it was not my doing. To this, I remind you that the masked men that attacked our flag were invited participants. They did not simply show up. Our council members were complicit in these acts, and we the veterans hold you accountable.”
It was a contrived and malevolent political stunt that did nothing but embarrass Gruber and the residents of Aurora by cheapening righteous public indignation over the vandals’ bumbling flag desecration.
Not only were Gruber’s allegations against the councilwomen unfounded and unfair, he manipulated the event so that the three women he maligned were unable to respond to his histrionics until about 2 a.m., when the meeting agenda allowed for council comment.
Mayor Bob LeGare shares in the blame and also owes these councilwomen an apology, first for allowing Gruber to hijack the meeting with his grandstanding attack, and for then not correcting the error by allowing the women to address the assaults at the time Gruber made them.
But all of the city council should censure Gruber for his slander, which would easily find him in court if the council members were private citizens.
Gruber desecrated his own position on the council by plotting a petty and puerile stunt over matters of grave concern to everyone in Aurora and the nation.
He has undermined his credibility in being a canny and sensible lawmaker and can no longer serve effectively until he corrects this grievous error.
The Pueblo Chieftain, July 15, on economic benefits of Arkansas River rafting:
Like birds returning to Colorado in springtime, rafters made their return to the Royal Gorge section of the Arkansas River last week. Given the weather forecast for the next few days, the timing couldn’t be much better.
With high temperatures expected to reach or exceed 100 degrees in Pueblo for the next several days, a rafting trip sounds like a great way to cool off. And thanks to somewhat reduced water flows on the Arkansas, it’s now possible to do that a little closer to home.
The Arkansas Headwaters is a 152-mile-long park along the river that includes rapids that range from Class II (moderate) to Class V (extremely difficult). Because of heavy snow melt this spring, the Royal Gorge section of the river between Parkdale and Canon City had been particularly rough.
There was a high water advisory in place for 32 days, from June 8 through July 10. During that time, the companies that offer rafting excursions along the Arkansas voluntarily decided to avoid that stretch of the river. Instead, they took groups on trips further up river to what is known as the Big Horn Sheep section.
Now the waters along the Royal Gorge stretch of the river have calmed down. Sort of. Last Wednesday, the water level was about 3,000 cubic feet per second. That’s still well above 1,730 cubic feet per second, the average for this time of year, but it’s considered safe enough for rafters.
It’s fortunate that the fast-flowing waters didn’t close the river to rafters completely. Because in addition to being a fun pastime, rafting has a major impact on our region’s economy.
According to the annual report compiled for the Colorado River Outfitters Association, the rafting companies along the Upper Arkansas collected nearly $30 million last year. Factoring in other spending by rafters on lodging, food, gasoline and other items, the total payout attributed to the rafting industry was $74 million.
And that’s for a region that stretches all the way from Leadville to Lake Pueblo.
It’s important to keep in mind that spending benefits not only businesses in Canon City, but also many that are in or around Pueblo. Lots of people who are on vacation tend to move around a bit. So a family might spend a day rafting on the Arkansas, then venture into Pueblo for shopping and dinner.
In fact, it would make a lot of sense for businesses in Pueblo to establish cross promotions with those companies in Canon City that offer rafting excursions. How cool would it be, for example, if Brues Alehouse teamed up with an outfitter on coupons that allowed some sort of discounts at both places? (A “spray and suds” special, maybe?)
Perhaps someday an entrepreneur will offer package tours that allow visitors to spend part of the day at points of interest in Pueblo, before shuttling them off for afternoon rafting trips along the Arkansas.
The economic possibilities are as powerful and plentiful as the water currently flowing along the Arkansas.