HOFFMAN: ‘Gang of 4’ now in control of city council
Free Press Weekly Opinion Columnist
May 6 was not nearly as eventful for Rick Brainard as it could have been. His attorney obtained an extension of his initial court appearance. After the extension was granted, rumors immediately began to swirl that a plea bargain has been reached, and Brainard did not want to cop a plea just minutes before his swearing in as a new Grand Junction city councilor.
At the swearing-in ceremony for the new councilors, Martin Chazen, Phyllis Norris, Rick Brainard and Harry Butler, there was an obvious police presence. The officers were directed to deploy toward the rear of the city council chambers and attempt to be inconspicuous; they succeeded. Any added security was not required as the peaceful protestors in attendance were not disruptive and greatly outnumbered by an enthusiastic group who applauded loudly as Brainard was sworn in.
The protestors, who perhaps amounted to one-fifth of the total audience, rose and turned their back as Brainard was sworn in. There were a few hardly noticeable boos from the crowd. Upon Brainard’s completion of his oath, the protestors left the chambers. It seemed as though their departure was an affront to and repudiation of the new council as a whole. Given the background of the last election along with Brainard’s trouble since, it would appear there may be some ongoing challenge to the new council.
After the swearing-in ceremony, the councilors broke with tradition and immediately held a special council meeting. Absent were Councilors Jim Doody and Bennett Boeschenstein, both reportedly were out of town. The new “gang of four” proved their clear intention of ruling Grand Junction in the manner they see fit bereft of any support from Doody, Butler or Boeschenstein. At that meeting, Susuras was named mayor and Chazen mayor pro tem.
The outgoing city council, which included three members defeated for re-election by Chamber-endorsed candidates, voiced their displeasure with our local Chamber of Commerce. In an impetuous and childish act they voted to end City funding of the Chamber. It was exactly the right thing to do!
The Chamber has admittedly become parent to a secret organization which can raise funds to influence local political elections. They do not need to tell us who gave them the money. They do not need to tell us how much money was donated. They do not need to tell us how the money was spent. Under the circumstances it would be inappropriate for City Council to expend funds in support of such an organization. The Chamber has abandoned its thinly disguised veneer as a business organization and adopted one as a political group.
While the political direction the Chamber has taken may be in accordance with local political thought, that does not justify continued support. Sam Susuras promised that the first course of action of the new council would be to reinstate membership with the Chamber. He was as good as his word when the new council voted to reinstate City membership with the Chamber along with a $6,000 annual contribution.
The vote to reinstate membership was clearly discussed and agreed upon prior to both the swearing-in and the meeting. It was included on the agenda as “Other Business” as if the incoming Council was attempting to disguise their plans and intent. With the vote, Chazen, Brainard, Norris and Susuras acknowledged their allegiance to those who created them. All, but especially Sam, have huge conflicts of interest and should have recused themselves from such a vote. Their actions have created a hostile environment not only among councilors but also with the citizens of Grand Junction.
The protestors have promised a recall effort for Brainard at the earliest possible date. Such an election would cost taxpayers $45,000. Should Brainard resign, councilors will cite that cost as reason not to hold a special election and attempt to provide us a handpicked replacement. By resignation or recall we deserve the opportunity to vote once again and not have the secret society formerly known as the GJ Chamber of Commerce dictate our choices.
Jim Hoffman is a local Realtor and investor who, when not working, loves skiing, camping and fishing (in season). He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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