Updated: Nov 14
Jan 23, 2022 Updated Feb 27, 2023
By BERNIE BUESCHER, THEA CHASE, DENNIS KIRTLAND, GEORGE ORBANEK, KIRK RIDER and TIM SARMO
The six of us have known each other a long time. Over the years, we’ve often found ourselves on opposite sides. But today, we agree that we must speak out about a serious threat facing our community.
It must stop before we ruin our democracy. We want to be clear. We are not against principled partisanship from any political party or interest group. We are against any extremism, whether from the left or right. There are numerous examples of each across the country. Here, the threat is from a small, but vocal group of zealots who believe they are above the law. Those supporting or threatening violence do not represent the values of the majority of Mesa County citizens. This is about more than politics. It’s more fundamental. It’s about how people treat each other. Call it decency, civility, respect, or plain good manners. We think it is something worth bringing back.
We believe it is possible to change direction, even now. It will take Republicans, Democrats and independents, working together, to restore our political institutions. And this must include people new to politics working alongside those with experience. This combination is how the best ideas are discovered and developed. Together, we agree that these seven beliefs should guide us in rebuilding politics in western Colorado.
■ We believe that political parties should vigorously compete over values, principles and ideas, but also find common ground to solve problems and pass needed legislation. Gridlock must stop. ■ We believe facts, supported by irrefutable evidence, are the basis for what to believe and how to act. No civilization can endure when its citizens believe there is no such thing as objective facts or truth. ■ We believe no one has a monopoly on the best public policy proposals. The ability to listen and understand both sides of a debate is a prerequisite to finding practical solutions. ■ We believe public interest must come before party interest. This means putting what is right ahead of loyalty to a party or an individual party leader. ■ We believe that problem-solving is more important than fund-raising. Extremists line their pockets then use the funds to amplify division instead of producing solutions. ■ We believe citizens should be free to run for office or volunteer to support the candidate of their choice without being threatened or harassed. Extremism uses intimidation because it cannot stand up to independent, open-minded thinking. ■ We believe it’s time to expect citizens to embrace individual responsibility. Extremists always talk about “freedom,” but never mention the responsibility to the community that comes with it.
These goals might seem out of reach, especially these days. But during tough times, Republicans, Democrats, and independents have pulled together. Examples abound in Mesa County where cooperation and compromise have succeeded in constructing needed amenities, rebuilding infrastructure and diversifying our economy — including the recent passage of the Grand Junction High School bond issue.
Making these beliefs a reality won’t be easy. But doing nothing is not an option. We can see where extremism has brought us and where it is heading. Even if we move the needle toward these goals only part of the way, division and gridlock will begin to give way to sensible debate and cooperation.
Things won’t change without broader public involvement. Don’t wait. Make your voice heard. Hold discussions with four or five friends over coffee. Write letters to the editor. Post your ideas on social media.
Support candidates who embrace these values. Vote. Volunteer. Your voice matters. Together with others, your voice can change minds and turn public opinion. Write us at email@example.com to learn more.
Bernie Buescher is former CEO of West Star Aviation, served two terms in the Colorado General Assembly and went on to become Colorado’s Secretary of State. He is a lifelong Democrat.
Thea Chase is a Palisade trustee, small business owner and consultant, and former director of Grand Junction’s business incubator. She is a former independent candidate for Colorado House District 54 and remains politically independent today.
Dennis Kirtland is a retired Shaw Construction executive and former Grand Junction City Council member. He was a lifelong Republican until 2017, but is now unaffiliated.
George Orbanek is the former editor and publisher of The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (1985-2008). He is a center-right Independent.
Kirk Rider is a retired Grand Junction attorney and Western Slope native. He has been active in local affairs for over 49 years. A longtime Republican, he became unaffiliated in 2016.