RBC I Club 20, the presumptive “Voice of the Western Slope,” held its spring conference in Grand Junction April 7-8. Representing 22 counties and numerous towns as well as individual and business members, Club 20 was founded in 1953.
The founding force for Club 20 was the need to get the state to better fund the paving and maintenance of then very rural western Colorado roads. The cooperative effort led to the establishment of a priority list for road projects, including an increased western slope emphasis. Today the topic of focus is much the same.
Club 20 recently sent a membership alert about HB 1242, urging active support for this primary transportation funding bill in the legislature. The measure would put on this fall’s ballot a 0.62 percent sales tax increase for a 20-year period (2018-2037) in order to stabilize and better fund highway work by the Colorado Department of Transportation.
The expected increase in revenues for highways is estimated to be $700 million per year. The bill would also eliminate a current road safety surcharge on vehicle registrations, saving Coloradans $75 million on registration fees annually.
The bill is being carried by Senate President Kevin Grantham (R-Colorado Springs), Senate Transportation Committee chair Randy Baumgardner (R-Hot Sulphur Springs), Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) and House Transportation Committee Chair Diane Mitsch Bush (D-Steamboat Springs). According to Club 20, more than 53 percent of Tier One projects to be funded by the increased revenue are in Club 20 territory in addition to more than 34 percent of Tier Two projects.
HB 1242 has passed the House and last week passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee on a 3-2 vote, with Baumgardner joining the two Democrats on the committee in voting for the bill. Those two Democrats were retired teacher Sen. Nancy Todd (Aurora) and former Arvada town council member Sen. Rachel Zenzinger. The Republicans voting against the bill were former Weld County sheriff Sen. John Cooke and Grand Junction businessman Sen. Ray Scott. Scott has said he’s thinking of running for governor in 2018.
In order to improve the bill’s passage in the full senate, Grantham and Baumgardner recommended changes which were adopted by the Transportation Committee. The 0.62 percent increase was reduced to a 0.5 percent increase; $100 million annually from the state’s general fund was committed to the 20 year funding program; and a percentage of annual revenues for highway construction and maintenance of state roads was guaranteed rather than capping the amount at $375 million per year as is currently the case. The bill is now to be heard in the Senate Finance Committee.
The Club 20 executive committee and full board met April 7. That night they held their awards banquet. Among the winners recognized were Chevron USA, John D. Vanderhoof Award for outstanding service and dedication to western Colorado; Harry Peroulis, Lyman Thomas Award for length of service as a Club 20 member; Rep. Bob Rankin, Dan Noble Award for public service as an elected official; and former state senator Tillie Bishop, Grand Junction, Emeritus Award.
Lisa Hatch, Rangely town trustee, is the voting Rio Blanco County Club 20 board member, while Jeff Eskelson of Meeker, and Mike Melneck of Rangely are alternate board members. Hatch and Melneck both participated in the Friday meetings.
The Saturday program was highlighted by appearances and reports from Colorado’s Third District Congressman, Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) and junior U.S. Senator Cory Gardner.
The primary presentation of the day was from Noel Ginsburg, CEO of Intertech Plastics in Denver and founder of CareerWise Colorado. The latter organization provides youth business partnerships. His talk was entitled “Educating Our Future: The Challenge of Aligning Education with Workforce Development and What Educational Models Are Addressing this Conundrum?”
Ginsburg also moderated a luncheon panel discussing “How the State of Colorado and Local School Districts Are Working to Promote Career and Technical Education; Why Should Businesses Invest in Education?” The panel included Diane Schwenke, Executive Director of the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center; Dennis Bailey-Fougnier, vice president of Western Colorado Community College, Colorado Mesa University; Andrew Golike, general manager, CoorsTek in Grand Junction; and Matthew Diers, executive director, Mesa School District 51. The panel agreed on the wisdom and efficacy of the “apprenticeship model.”
Ginsburg announced in December that he had filed to be a 2018 Democratic candidate for governor.
Melneck, CNCC grants administrator and assistant to the president for the last four years, told the Herald Times, “The Club 20 conference overall was excellent and the Saturday luncheon panel underscored the importance of our community college system for career and technical education.” Other Rio Blanco County citizens attending the Club 20 conference were county commissioner Jeff Rector and Western Rio Blanco Metropolitan Recreation District director Tim Webber, both of Rangely.
State Sen. Don Coram (R-Montrose) gave a joint presentation with Colorado’s “Mr. Hemp,” Jason Lauve, entitled “Not Just Another Weed: Hemp Uses and Issues Surrounding Cultivation.” Coram is enthusiastic about hemp potential in Colorado and has sponsored several pieces of legislation to facilitate hemp production. He reported that both the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the Colorado Farm Bureau have impeded his success as both organizations oppose hemp due to its being a federally listed Schedule I (illegal) substance.
Coram, along with some partners in Montrose, are experimenting with hemp cultivation and discussing the establishment of a hemp processing facility for hemp oil near Nucla in western Montrose County.
Maym Cunningham, executive director of the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Trials, and Trudy Burri, Meeker Chamber of Commerce, “manned” a table booth for the sheepdog trials and Meeker town. Among several table booths, Meeker’s was the only town and event entry. Last month Cunningham was named “citizen of the month” by the Meeker Chamber of Commerce.