GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Supporters of Mayor Pro Tem and City Council candidate Laura Luke gathered outside Roasted Espresso and Subs in downtown Grand Junction Wednesday where Luke warned of a possible "monopolization" of City Council by the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce.
The four candidates, recently endorsed by the GJ Chamber, were "pre-selected" by its board for their loyalty to Chamber business interest and would not represent the community at large, Luke said.
"The Chamber publicly stated at its annual chamber banquet at Two Rivers that they were making it their mission to infiltrate chamber members into every level of government, from the state level to clear down to the local council level," Luke said. "That places a strong imbalance of their interest over the comprehensive interest of all community members."
Fellow current council members Jim Doody and Bennett Boeschenstein attended the gathering to lend their support to Luke.
"The April 2 election is really important for the city," Doody said. "Laura was appointed two years ago. She'd like to continue for another four years and continue the good work she's been doing.
"I've been hearing that the Chamber has put together a team to overturn the council and put (new members) in its pocket."
Fellow City Council candidate Robert Noble also spoke briefly outside Roasted, at the corner of Fifth and Colorado Avenue. Noble and Luke are not competing with each other. Noble is running against Harry Butler and Duncan McArthur in District E, while Luke is competing with Martin Chazen and Bonnie Beckstein for the District D seat.
"The Chamber has an idea it's going to take over city government," Noble said. "It is pushing its agenda that (their) best interest is everybody's best interest. They're forgetting about the ordinary voter who funds a lot of the city."
Betsy Bair, government affairs manager for the GJ Chamber, responded in an email: "The Chamber has made no secret of our mission to be the voice of business. We represent 1,000 businesses and over 37,000 employees. It is the responsibility of the Chamber to have a relationship with all levels of government, and yes, we will try to influence decisions made by governmental bodies.
"It is in the best interest of our members for there to be a positive business climate in the city, the state and the county."
Luke also took issue with her opponent Chazen who has claimed City Council raided its reserve fund to meet its budget.
In fact, once city auditors finalized an analysis of the 2012 budget, it will find Council came under budget for the year, not over, said Luke, who has a Master's degree in business administration.