(Denver, CO) A report released today by the Colorado Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights finds that while the Grand Junction and Mesa County region is a "vibrant and dynamic" growth area of the state, it nonetheless faces problems of "racial and ethnic tensions, disparities in education and income," and a pervasive and persistent "socioeconomic divide."

Titled The Grand Junction Report: Issues of Equality in the Mesa Valley, the report is available on the Commission's Web site: /pubs/sac/co0403/main.htm or you can go the PDF version. The report, approved by a unanimous vote of 13 to 0, is based on a 2001 public forum conducted by the Committee in Grand Junction, and subsequent research conducted by the Commission's Rocky Mountain Regional Office in Denver. Hard copies may be obtained by contacting the Rocky Mountain Regional Office, 1700 Broadway, Suite 710, Denver, Colorado 80290 (telephone: (303) 866-1040; fax: (303) 866-1050).

"The gap separating the affluent and those struggling to survive has not narrowed," and persons of color have not been "full participants and beneficiaries of the political, educational, business, and civic institutions" in the region, according to the Advisory Committee.

The two days of public testimony provided a "general perception that minority youth are not being well served in public education and the criminal justice system. Because of poverty, low wages, inadequate housing, health care, and educational attainment (possibly complicated by discrimination) many minority households are not able to provide the climate of support necessary to ensure that their children will not suffer the same adversity in their own lifetimes."

The report summarizes recent employment data for four major institutions: Mesa County; City of Grand Junction; Mesa County Valley School District 51; and Mesa State College. The data demonstrate that minorities were poorly represented in critical positions. For example, minorities made up approximately 5 percent of the full-time teachers in the public schools, despite representing more than 15 percent of total student enrollment. Of a total of 96 tenured faculty members at Mesa State College, only 5 were minorities. Of 87 administrators and professionals in city government, only 2 were minorities. The county employed 172 persons in these categories, of whom only 9 were persons of color.

Despite these disturbing findings, Leo K. Goto, chair of the Committee, observed that "there is much reason for optimism . . . the Committee believes that the human resources and capability exist locally to deal with the problems"; and he called for elected and other community leaders to "accept the challenge and devote their energies to ensuring dramatic reforms and changes."

The Advisory Committee makes six recommendations. It calls on the Mesa County commissioners and Grand Junction city council to establish, without delay, an official human relations commission. It recommends the creation of a diverse task force to address the crisis in educational equality affecting students in the public school system. The Committee suggests a greater leadership role for Mesa State College in promoting multiculturalism and recommends greater minority involvement in the region's criminal justice and law enforcement agencies. It further asks major employers to examine their recruitment and hiring practices to more effectively diversify their workforces at all levels. Finally, it calls on the community to address the urgent needs of migrant farm workers and immigrants, whose labor is so critical to the economic well-being of the region.

In addition to Mr. Goto, a resident of Denver, other members of the committee are Gwendolyn A. Thomas of Aurora; Elizabeth Espinosa Krupa of Avon; Andrea Lord of Boulder; Preston C. White of Colorado Springs; Joseph F. Arcese, Theodore W. Bryant and Vada I. Kyle-Holmes of Denver; Hubert L. Williams of Durango; Patricia A. Sanchez of Fort Collins; Jerry D. Otero of Fruita; Carlos Leal of Greeley; and Luis G. Valerio of Pueblo.

The report was prepared by the Rocky Mountain Regional Office in Denver. John F. Dulles is the Regional Director.

Contact: John F. Dulles (303) 866-1040