Our View: Club commendation

Political group Club 20 should be lauded for showdown with governor

On a sunny August day, underneath a clear blue sky, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter addressed a group of Craig residents at Breeze Street Park. Burdened by criticisms that he was out of touch with issues beyond Denver, Ritter issued his "Colorado Promise."

That is, to lead an administration representing all state residents -- including those on the Western Slope.

It's up to debate whether the new governor has lived up to his campaign pledge thus far. Conspicuously absent from his cabinet appointments have been a fair representation of Western Slope representatives.

While the editorial board is hesitant to criticize Gov. Ritter after a scant 18 days in office, the unequal number of Western Slope-based appointees gives us pause and makes us ask the following questions:

Is this decision, as some believe, evidence that the criticisms against Ritter were accurate -- that the governor is Denver-centric? Is this a slight to the Western Slope? Or is it simply a matter of -- as the governor says -- no Western Slope candidates being either qualified, or willing to accept the job because of the travel burdens a cabinet position would require?

Fortunately for the Western Slope, the political group Club 20 stood up for our area and asked these very questions of the new governor. The club -- a 50-year-old, non-partisan committee of members from 22 Western Slope counties -- brought the issue to light and lobbied for more Western Slope representation.

The editorial board lauds the club for taking the stance it did and for not buckling from their polite but firm position that the new governor needed to show the Western Slope -- through appointment positions -- that he does care about issues on the other side of the Continental Divide.

At first glance, the actions by Club 20 don't appear all that spectacular. Any political group worth its salt is well versed and dialed in to the age-old practice of lobbying.

But, the club not only rang the governor's bell, it knocked on his front door. Each of the public statements issued by the club to the governor came in the weeks leading up to its annual legislative visit to the state Capitol and one of the statements actually came a day before the visit, on Jan. 17.

Certainly, it would have been easier for the club to lodge its criticisms from afar and hope it stirred up enough consideration to bring about actual change. However, Club 20 didn't whine from the cheap seats -- that's not how executive director Reeves Brown chooses to do business.

Brown, by the way, was at the center of the argument, voicing the club's concerns. The editorial board commends Brown for how he handled his responsibilities as both Club 20's primary political operative and spokesman.

The club's efforts perhaps pushed enough buttons and triggered enough debate to cause Ritter to earmark Rifle man Russell George to lead the Department of Transportation.

Brown, like the club at large, acted professional and reasonable in his dealings with the governor and his staff, a refreshing alternative to the normal smear-tactic trappings of professional politics, the editorial board contends.

To its credit, Club 20's leadership has maintained throughout that it fully supports the new governor as he embarks on an ambitious agenda during the next four years. The editorial board feels the same way.

We, like Club 20, find the governor's future vision for our state an attractive prospect and his inauguration day address painted a wonderful picture of what the future could hold. We just hope that future includes us on this side of the mountains.

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