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OPINION: Airport investigation an embarrassment for city leaders

Jim Hoffman
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Free Press Weekly Opinion Columnist

Former Mayor Bill Pitts unhappily finds himself redeemed.

Pitts frequently and vocally over the past four years warned us of shenanigans out at the Grand Junction Regional Airport. He warned us as a member of the Airport Authority Board; he warned as a GJ city councilor; he warned us as mayor; and he warned us as a private citizen and pilot. His warnings were ignored by most.

While not speaking to the current situation in which FBI agents showed up at the airport and removed numerous boxes of documents, Pitts merely acknowledges his past warnings that fell on deaf ears. There is no personal pleasure in this bizarre ending of one situation and the curious beginning of another. Pitts finds it impossible to find pleasure in regards to a federal investigation that brings a level of embarrassment and shame to our local community and especially to the GJ City Council and Mesa County Commissioners who have oversight authority at the airport.

Limited information has been released beyond the fact the FBI is investigating “financial fraud.” Denny Granum, Sam Susuras, David Hibberd, Tom Frishe, Rick Wagner, Paul Nelson and Steve Wood are the current Airport Authority Board members and the airport administrator is Rex Tippetts. With the exception of Granum, the board members are new, with limited knowledge of past operations. Previous members of the board who served during the period of time apparently under investigation along with Pitts are Tom Kenyon, Greg Palmer, John Stevens, Denny Granum, Roger Little, Doug Simon, Dan Lacy and Tom Lacroix. Palmer is currently an announced candidate for the Mesa County Commissioner seat held by term-limited Steve Acquafresca.

A virtual veil of secrecy has fallen on the investigation. There have been no follow-up reports given the lack of additional information to report, but there have been tantalizing rumors of significant misappropriation. Reporters trying to contact Tippetts for comment have not succeeded; it has been claimed he is avoiding the media. Heck, this time of year maybe he is just out hunting as are many other locals.

WRIGHT’S RALLYING CRY

State Rep. Jared Wright has announced for re-election! Modesty is not one of his stronger suits as he states he is “pleased to announce my continued fight for our liberty, for our freedom.” Comes close to sounding like the “truth, freedom, and the American Way” rallying cry of none other than Superman. It seems like we could do without his brand of politics and meager accomplishment.

In a Facebook posting he seems to imply that his election is crucial “to our nation’s survival.” He will face opposition from both Republican and Democrat contenders. Perhaps we could use a representative in Denver who finds a way of representing the Grand Valley while forging bonds within the House that shows some level of accomplishment rather than one of bombast and chest thumping.

For those serving in Congress who demand their brethren “stand with the American people,” it would appear that they should recognize what Americans do not want. Among the things Americans do not want is the shameful gridlock that currently exists in Washington. They want a functioning government and they do not want government shutdowns used as a bargaining chip. Americans do not want their brand of take-no-hostages, cling-to-a-principle-at-any-cost style of governance.

The national business community and the National Chamber of Commerce are abandoning the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party in favor of more moderate, less disruptive elements. This has been seen in comment as well as in the concrete as was demonstrated in Virginia and Alabama. Locally, the GJ Chamber of Commerce continues to lean far right. In the D51 School Board election, local voters — Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike — sent a clear message that the local Republican Party and Chamber have exceeded the public’s tolerance of their political agenda.

Jim Hoffman is a local Realtor and investor who, when not working, loves skiing, camping and fishing (in season). He may be reached at freepressjim@gmail.com.


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