RBC | Brenda Bafus-Williams of Montrose is the institutional memory of the Western Colorado Congress. She has worked for the organization—which prides itself in empowering members to more effectively determine their own future and that of their communities—for more than 32 years. She writes that over her long stint with the outfit, “The idea of changing our name has come up a number of times. Frequently, someone would say, ‘We really ought to get rid of the word Congress in our name.’”
Organization president, Steve Allerton, a retired Grand Junction public school teacher, announced last Friday, “We’ve finally done it. We’re now the Western Colorado Alliance (WCA). We’ve been an alliance for community action all along and now we’re simply re-focusing and re-energizing our effort.”
“The term congress made sense given its definition as an association made up of delegates from constituent groups,” Allerton said, “But it’s also created some confusion. Our updated vision now is for engaged local voices leading communities across Western Colorado that are healthy, just and self-reliant.”
“Our work is largely framed as Homegrown Prosperity,” Allerton said, “Encompassing energy, economic development, economic justice and community health. We continue to be committed to working directly with members who guide our effort on local and regional issues important to them. We will continue to champion landowner rights and protections for our environment, and the need for that work is not going away anytime soon. “
Currently, the Alliance is working to establish a community center in Grand Junction and trying to ensure Western Colorado has the same air quality protections as the Front Range. As examples, the Alliance has facilitated the sale of cottage foods by in-home producers and protected drinking water for Battlement Mesa residents by forcing the relocation of a toxic wastewater injection well.
Alliance staff director Emily Hornback, expressed her excitement last week about the newly rebuilt staff and renewed effort. “We will be doubling down on our outreach efforts in our communities,” she said, “and we will stay true to our community organizing approach. Solutions must be created from the ground-up and led by local people who are affected by the issue. We will always be the ‘roots’ in grassroots organizing.”
The Alliance maintains a presence at the state legislature in Denver with primary staff in Grand Junction and Montrose. Alliance members are scattered across the Western Slope and elsewhere. Affiliated groups currently exist in Garfield, Mesa, Montrose and Ouray Counties. More information can be obtained at the Alliance website: WesternColoradoAlliance.org; or by email, info@WesternColoradoAlliance.org.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure, this writer serves on the board of directors for the Alliance.