RICK ON THE ISSUES
Here are the issues I'm hearing from you on problems we've got to solve,
things that will make a difference for GJ families,
and a few of my own thoughts on the kind of leadership
I'd like to see in Colorado.
Colorado crime rates are unacceptable. The Grand Junction crime rate rose 20% from 2019 to 2020, with violent crime up 36%. Consistent policy trends in Colorado have been to discourage jailing and reduce the severity of punishment. Our state’s recidivism rate is now on the top 5 in the nation. The cost of crime to our citizens is significant, both in direct and intangible costs (quality of life). Summary Solution; A review of our crime rates is vital along with an analysis of the impact of recent policy changes in the criminal justice system. Reform of these policies will most likely be needed.
Simultaneously, serving our citizens as a police officer was once a proud profession. The profession has now been demeaned making it difficult to retain and recruit police officers. We need solutions for officer recruitment, retention and training.
TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
CDOT is not responsive to the critical needs of Western Colorado. Glenwood Canyon was closed more than 30 days in 2021, resulting in a significant negative impact to our economy. I-70 continues to deteriorate along with our state highways. Look no further than the condition of North Avenue (Route 6) through our city. CDOT infrastructure priorities are not in sync with the community’s needs.
It's time that an alternative, time efficient route around Glenwood Canyon gets top priority within CDOT. More locally, our residents deserve more genuine listening sessions and opportunities for local input to guide CDOT priorities in the Grand Valley.
The Colorado Public School Finance Act of 1994 is now almost 30 years old. The formula for funding our schools is too complicated and leaves our District 51 underfunded. This formula has numerous factors but starts with student head count. For 2021-2022 the average state funding per student is nearly $9,000, but for Mesa County District 51 the funding per student is $8,500. This leaves us with a staggering $11,000,000 shortfall from the average. Adding insult to injury, the average full-time teacher in Colorado is compensated at $60,600. The average within District 51 is $52,400, leaving us with a serious recruitment and retention problem.
It is time to totally revamp the Finance Act of 1994. It needs to be simplified and we need to get our fair share of the $8B state budget for our students. The state should provide the district with additional funding grants rewarding the district for their focus on instructional and pupil support. 68% of the District’s budget is dedicated to this support as compared to the state average of 58%.