U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

The Grand Junction Report: Issues of Equality in the Mesa Valley

Chapter 3

Summary of the Grand Junction Forum

The Colorado Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights convened its public forum on civil rights issues in Grand Junction and western Colorado on May 7 8, 2001. This chapter will highlight selected information provided by the presenters.

Community Leadership Panel

Dan Robinson, Member of the Mesa County School Board and Director of the Grand Mesa Youth Services Center

Dan Robinson observed that the civil rights forum was of some historic significance, observing that nearly everyone in the room had a grandparent or great grandparent who was an immigrant. Most of them were laborers and people of little education and would not have had this opportunity to address issues of human relations. He noted that there has been great advancement in the achievement of civil rights in the past 100 years. In Grand Junction, there has been a female and a gay mayor, as well as a Hispanic female, and most recently, an African American elected to city council. While noting progress, Mr. Robinson quoted Robert Frost by saying, We still have miles to go before we sleep and a lot of promises to keep.

The door to opportunity is through education, he observed, and sadly, in Mesa County, many young people can only peek through the keyhole of that door to see what opportunities might exist. He recalled a recent school board meeting where it was reported that more than 600 students were being lost between ninth grade and high school graduation. Estimates were that half of these were Hispanics typically from low-income households. Mr. Robinson called this loss heartbreaking and a disappearance of the hopes and dreams that most young people enter school with. He then cited a gap of up to 30 percent in the third-grade achievement scores between Anglos and Hispanics. It is not surprising, he continued, that the so-called low-performing schools have the poorest children in the county in them.

Mr. Robinson told the Committee that the Mesa County school district is the 10th largest in the state, yet is the most poorly funded. He added that Colorado remains one of four states with the lowest overall school funding.

He then shared with the Committee statistics reflecting the region's rapid growth, noting that most people are employed in lower-paying service and retail jobs, and that the per capita income is considerably lower in Mesa County than in Colorado as a whole.

Mr. Robinson told the Committee that poor people are not afforded the same degree of protection of their civil rights as those with greater economic means. He said that poor people's civil rights are always compromised, and observed that as a white male, he is afforded certain privileges that do not extend to a black man or Hispanic man or an immigrant with limited-English ability. The discrimination, he observed, is not blatant but subtle and difficult to address.

Mr. Robinson concluded that Mesa County is a wonderful community and cited the hugely successful Cinco de Mayo festival as a testament to the celebration of diversity. He talked about how the community had come together to rebound from the oil shale bust experienced in the 1980s. Once again stressing the link between education and economic success and civil rights, he pondered:

In an era when we can project through computer models all sorts of trends statistically . . . you would think we could apply a similar model to addressing human rights and human relations issues.

When a citizen is arrested at a town council meeting (in Palisade) for not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance . . . when a group of developmentally disabled citizens are not allowed to move into a group home without criticism . . . when half the Chicanos don't graduate from high school; when the gap widens between Anglo and Hispanic students on test scores, when almost all the kids doing poorly in school are also poor kids economically, we need to stand and take notice.

He was emphatic in telling the Committee that the focus in Mesa County needs to be on educating poor kids. That has to be our priority, he said.

In response to Committee questions, Mr. Robinson stated that he knows of only one minority person who has ever served on the school board and that the participation of minorities in the political process is very low. He also said the school district is not competing effectively for qualified Hispanic teachers. Part of the problem lies with noncompetitive salaries; however, he conceded that other strategies such as using the Home Grown Teachers program also need to be aggressively pursued.

Mr. Robinson emphasized that the priority for the school board at this time is to address the achievement gap.[1]

Dolores Pitman, Educational Diversity Expert and Representative of the Latin-Anglo Alliance Foundation

Dolores Pitman began by telling the Committee that Grand Junction is clearly divided along class and race lines in all aspects: housing, employment, education, judicial, health care . . . city and county services. She told the Committee that certain areas of the community receive more services and resources than others and that the underserved areas are predominantly minority and low income. She gave as an example: the Riverside neighborhood, which is separated by physical barriers, including railroad tracks, a river, and a thoroughfare. She did note that this community is finally getting some attention after years of neglect.

Ms. Pitman stated that decisions in the area are largely made by white males, with little input by minorities. White females have fared better than minorities, she added, in decision-making positions. The community has a long history of control and decision making by . . . the good-old-boy network. With few exceptions, she noted, minorities are absent from boards, councils, commissions, and committees throughout the Mesa Valley. She told the Committee that Realtors play an important role in determining where new residents live and what schools their children attend. She reinforced Mr. Robinson's view that Hispanics have a high dropout rate in public schools. At the same time, she continued, minorities also have low enrollment rates at Mesa State College (in Grand Junction) and other institutions of higher learning.

Ms. Pitman told the Committee that she has seen and experienced inequities in hiring, promotions, and retentions in many agencies, including education, the judicial system, and larger business concerns. She further said that few agencies have bilingual personnel, primarily human service agencies. This makes it difficult for limited-English residents to access needed services.

Ms. Pitman addressed a variety of other civil rights concerns in the Mesa Valley. She noted that migrant farm workers provide essential services yet face discrimination and cannot afford housing; minority youth are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and lack opportunities for recreational and extracurricular educational activities; and discriminatory treatment is common in stores, where minorities are either closely followed or ignored. While many forms of discrimination are subtle, she said, there are examples of blatant bigotry such as the recent spate of hate material distributed on the campus of the local college.

Ms. Pitman concluded by telling the Committee that there is limited meaningful, continuing interactions across racial groups, and this results in misunderstandings, misperceptions, and miscommunication. She has observed at least three phenomena that will have an impact on race relations in the region: increasing diversity including high numbers of immigrants, primarily from Mexico; an influx of newcomers from areas that are used to interacting with diverse groups and support multiculturalism (including support for a new dual-language school); and another group of newcomers who have left large urban communities and are attracted to communities with fewer minorities (typical of white flight). However, she noted, We are here and we are growing.

On questioning by members of the Committee, Ms. Pitman said she was disheartened by the fact that while there are approximately 35 schools in the district, there is only one minority principal and two minority assistant principals.

With respect to closing the achievement gap, she expressed concern that until we get to the core of the very difficult discussions that center around the impact of race, class, gender bias and their impact on teaching and learning, the gaps will continue. She did express encouragement that the new superintendent has committed to placing more resources into schools with high poverty and low achievement levels.

On the subject of increasing diversity in the political process and in decision-making positions, she challenged institutions that talk about wanting to diversify their staffs or boards by asking, What are their actions that support this? Oftentimes, she elaborated, their actions aren't congruent with what they say they want to do in terms of diversifying. Outreach, mentoring, support, and sharing information about rules and how things work are required to make this effort succeed, she observed.[2]

Panel of Local Elected Officials

Doralyn Genova, Member of the Mesa County Commission

Commissioner Doralyn Genova began by telling the Committee that Mesa County does not have a great ethnic mix. Ninety percent of the population is white, she said, although during the summer there is an influx of farm workers that come to harvest the crops that are very important to our community. Ms. Genova stated that the commissioners are committed to a level playing field for all the county's citizens, whether they're temporary or otherwise. She commented that the commission has become aware of a financial gap between the haves and have-nots and is working hard to bring up the lower salaries so that everyone has a fair deal. She also told the Committee that the commission is working with the Mesa County Economic Commission to attract businesses to the area that support a wage level of approximately $10 per hour, which we feel is very, very important for our workforce.

The commissioner noted that the county's personnel policies provide a grievance procedure for employee complaints of civil rights violations, and that these protections are built into all federal, state, and other intergovernmental contracts.

Ms. Genova told the Committee that her family had a cross burned in front of their home during World War I, because their name was Brodak and some people thought they were German. Researching county archives, she also found that the board of commissioners had passed a law forbidding anyone to speak German in the courthouse during that time.

The county, she said, was required to build a new jail as a result of civil rights violations. Nonetheless, she concluded that there has been much progress in the last 12 years she has served on the commission with respect to ethnic minorities, the elderly, people with disabilities, and those less fortunate than ourselves. While proud of its accomplishments, she added that the commission would be willing to improve based on suggestions from the public.[3]

Cindy Enos-Martinez, Member of the Grand Junction City Council

Cindy Enos-Martinez, a member of the Grand Junction City Council, began her presentation by acknowledging that civil rights violations occur daily in Grand Junction. People look at Grand Junction as a small town where everything seems to be quiet, but as we all know, there are problems with housing, employment, education, a number of things that people face every day as far as their civil rights and being discriminated against. So it has not gone away, and it will never go away. Elected officials, she added, try to minimize it as much as possible.

Ms. Enos-Martinez recalled that a Minority Action Council was established in the early 1990s to handle discrimination complaints. Not many people came before the city council to complain some because they did not feel they spoke well, others for fear of retaliation. The vast majority of the complaints that came to the Minority Action Council at that time, she told the Committee, dealt with the lack of minorities as teachers and counselors in the school system, and the high minority dropout rate.[4]

Trinidad Silva, Member of the Fruita City Council

Trinidad Silva, a member of the Fruita City Council, recalled that his family moved to the area from New Mexico after the federal government took away their land (now Carson National Forest). They were sheepherders, and because of education, were able to make a good living in Mesa County. He attributed much of his personal success to athletic ability: I was the fastest little Mexican that ever grew up in Mesa County, he said. He also had mentors (coaches and a teacher) for whom he expressed deep gratitude. He first was elected to a four-year term on city council in 1988 and was re-elected for another term in 2000. Hispanics are underrepresented in this valley and always have been. Mr. Silva attributed this to language discrimination. He alleged that most people do not want Mexicans or people from South America or Spain . . . to speak Spanish in this country. Why else are we an English-only state?

Despite this discrimination, he emphasized the patriotism of the Hispanic community, noting that it was the most decorated group in World War II. Most of his family, Mr. Silva told the Committee, has served in the armed services and he has one relative who won the Medal of Honor. In fact, the first Medal of Honor ever won was a Silva, he said proudly.

He concluded by describing a new public transit service that has been established in Mesa Valley to help low-income and disabled people, and others in the community. This is a vital service, he observed, and one that public officials are trying to publicize extensively.[5]

Follow-up Discussion

This panel engaged in a follow-up discussion with members of the Advisory Committee that primarily addressed minority recruitment. Ms. Enos-Martinez observed that the city has minority employees, however, they are largely in the public works area and not in upper management. She told the Committee that in her second term on the council, she intends to address this issue. Both Ms. Genova and Ms. Enos-Martinez described programs available in both the city and county to provide training and continuing formal education for employees seeking upward mobility. Mr. Silva commented that sometimes minorities do not apply for positions for fear of being rejected.

The elected officials all stated that they were unaware of any minority person who has ever been elected to a countywide office in Mesa County. In closing, Ms. Enos-Martinez and Mr. Silva expressed support for the establishment of an official government-sponsored human relations commission. Ms. Enos-Martinez said she would be more than happy to suggest it to the city council; Mr. Silva said, It is something we could really start immediately ; and Ms. Genova stated that she also would have no problem considering such a proposal, possibly working through the human services department.[6]

Steven Ausmus, Executive Director of the Mesa County Economic Development Council

Steven Ausmus described the council as a private, nonprofit organization that recruits employers to the community to provide jobs for local residents. Operating expenses are derived from private sector investors, while incentive packages are funded by local and state governments. Since its inception in 1985, approximately 34 employers have been recruited, providing nearly 1,800 or 1,900 primary jobs and an equivalent number of indirect jobs. Mr. Ausmus stressed that his organization focuses on environmentally clean jobs that require high skill levels. Our whole goal is to raise the earning power of the local wage earner. The businesses that decide to locate in the area with the incentives must agree that 75 percent of the employees will be local hires.[7]

Kelly Arnold, City Manager for the City of Grand Junction

Kelly Arnold had served as city manager of Grand Junction for eight months at the time of the forum. He described the city's affirmative action efforts, saying, We are doing a good job of attempting to reach our affirmative action goals, but . . . we can continue to make improvements. In recruiting new employees, the city is using the Internet to expand its search efforts. Internally, city government is encouraging promotions and transfers to help meet its affirmative action goals. The city government also has an internship program that brings in five to 10 college students, and efforts are made to incorporate them into the organization on a long-term basis. The city has also, for the first time, created a training-coordinator position. Part of the training to be offered will focus on cultural diversity, tolerance-type training. Mr. Arnold noted that the city is recruiting both a new chief of police and community development director. He told the Committee that community input (including minorities) has been sought in this process, especially for the police chief position.[8] The chief must be sensitive to minority issues, he explained. Mr. Arnold stated that he had most recently been city manager in Laramie, Wyoming, and that the unfortunate murder of Matthew Shepard . . . taught me the lessons of diversity, what we need to do to continue to teach tolerance in this community.

An Advisory Committee member pointed out that a report supplied to the members reflected that only 21 Hispanics were employed by the city, of a total of 394 municipal employees. Mr. Arnold responded that he could not specifically identify rates, adding, but I am satisfied we are making a good effort. He concluded by saying that the city council could make the remedying of disparities in employment a priority, and then I am directed to attain it. [9]

Panel of Mesa State College Students

Angelina Otero, Director of the Cultural Diversity Board

Angelina Otero began by relating to the Committee the recent challenge to the Cultural Diversity Board created by the distribution of racist and hate materials on the campus of Mesa State College. The first incident occurred in January and targeted the La Raza Club, an on-campus Hispanic organization. Attached to one of its posters announcing a meeting was a crude depiction of a Mexican with grease running down his face, that had racist comments and stated that Mexicans hated and wanted to kill INS officers. Two weeks later, she continued, many more materials were distributed that targeted the Black Student Alliance. The first piece of literature was a booklet of African American achievements that consisted of four blank papers, implying that African Americans had not achieved anything. During the following two weeks, other derogatory literature was found on campus, including drawings of swastikas with statements that race mixing was genocide. Other posters distributed in school parking lots included warnings for white women on what was on the mind of an African American man at Mesa State College. Some of these things . . . rape, malt liquor, fried chicken, things of that nature, murder, things like that. Ms. Otero told the Committee that this shocked and upset members of the Diversity Board and scared many students, who were in fear of what might happen next.

The Cultural Diversity Board set up a task force to make scheduled rounds of the campus and remove the offensive materials, Ms. Otero told the Committee. They also set up an escort service for those afraid to walk to the library or their car after dark. The situation was discussed with the dean of students and the president of the college, and in consultation with them, the student leaders decided not to publicize these troubling incidents. A campus officer was assigned to work with the Diversity Board. The group decided to promote their organizations instead, and to focus on their efforts to promote cultural awareness. Nonetheless, she continued, since that two-week lesson in Racism 101, we have received two more pieces of colorful literature, one targeted again at the Black Student Alliance, and another inferring that the white race is diminishing, asking for a call of action to help stop race mixing and regain a strong white race.

(Ms. Otero recalled an incident about five years ago where several African American students were walking along North Avenue . . . to watch a high school game . . . and a car full of people drove by, threw things at them, called them the N word, and asked them to leave. Two of the students left the following semester, she said.)

Ms. Otero concluded that despite these people with their moronic drawings, the Cultural Diversity Board continues its efforts to educate the faculty and staff, as well as the entire community, about the importance of cultural diversity.[10]

Brian Williams, President of the Black Student Alliance

Brian Williams told the Committee that in addition to serving on the Cultural Diversity Board, he was also vice president of the martial arts club, a member of the Polynesian club, and a Spanish tutor. In the years that he has been at Mesa State, beginning in 1998, he has seen racist materials, especially in February during Black History Month. In his view, the racist propaganda is directly proportionate to the outreach and effectiveness of the cultural diversity programs. This year, the Black Student Alliance has sponsored many activities and this is the time where this racist literature has come out. At the same time, he added, We have also received more positive feedback from the community.

Mr. Williams said that his experiences at Mesa State have been positive. He has experienced stares on campus, not intended to inflict harm, but because of curiosity . . . some people have never seen a black person before.

He concluded his remarks by suggesting that not asking questions, but instead making assumptions, creates division between people.[11]

Donald Crespin, President of the Native American Council

Donald Crespin told the Committee that he is a lifelong resident of the area, and when he was 6 years old, his family had a cross burned in front of their home. He said that he has been called a spic and a wetback all his life and that he still gets those types of comments.

He stated his belief that members of the community, and not students, distributed the hate materials on campus. He alleged that there are white supremacist organizations active in the community. He recounted his experience working side by side with a card-carrying KKK member as an electrician. I worked with this guy for seven years. Finally, one day he pulled out his card and said: you know, you're the first Mexican I ever got along with. [12]

Follow-up Discussion

After their opening statements, the student leaders engaged in dialogue regarding the racist materials that have been circulated on campus. Ms. Otero said that in her opinion the response to these events has been inadequate. While the Diversity Board agreed with the administration not to publicize the incidents in order to minimize their impact, Ms. Otero told the Committee that similar events at Colorado State University resulted in that institution s president making a strong, public statement denouncing the distribution of racist materials on campus.

Some students at Mesa State had not previously experienced discrimination, and they were afraid. The Diversity Board was asked to stay calm. Ms. Otero said that she felt that the administration should have made a statement to make all students aware of the situation. Mr. Crespin noted that there had been more law enforcement presence on campus since the incidents; however, he described this as a presence instead of a complete investigation.

He also showed the Committee a racist flyer that was attached to a locker and was discovered by a member of the Native American Council, who is also employed as a custodian for the college. Mr. Williams advised the Committee that the administration's attitude was: We'll take care of it. Please don't spread this around. We're on the situation. Please try not to make it worse. Aside from the presence of more officers, he also shared the opinion that no real action . . . was being taken.

In response to Committee questions, the students agreed that Mesa State is a good educational institution, but that there are too few courses offered that deal with issues of race, culture, and ethnicity. Retention is a problem and some students come to the college, do not feel comfortable, and move on. Recruitment of students is often targeted to athletic programs instead of academics. The students also agreed that there are very few minority professors; and that the institution is failing to adequately recruit, hire, and retain faculty members of color.[13]

Panel of Educators

Michael Gallagher, President of Mesa State College

Michael Gallagher delivered a PowerPoint presentation to the Committee that described the history and growth of the college, originally established in 1925. By the mid-1960s the college had an enrollment of 2,000. In 1974, the state legislature added baccalaureate programs to its mission, and enrollment increased to more than 4,000 during the 1980s. The first MBA degree was conferred in 1999. Enrollment in the fall of 2000 was 5,210. In 1999, Mesa State scored the highest point total among all colleges and universities, four-year schools in the state, for the nine Colorado Commission on Higher Education quality indicators, Dr. Gallagher told the Committee. He then described efforts to expand educational opportunities by providing night classes, offering courses in Montrose, and providing distance and off-campus programming. The college targets metropolitan Denver and Las Vegas, Nevada, for special student recruitment activity, in addition to recruiting students throughout Colorado.

The biggest struggle has been budgetary. Mesa State is the fastest growing school in Colorado, according to Dr. Gallagher. However, the college receives the lowest reimbursement of tuition and appropriation in the state, 40 percent below the state average. The average faculty salaries are the lowest in the state, he continued.

Dr. Gallagher stated that while the Hispanic population in Mesa County is 8.4 percent, the college has a 7.2 percent Hispanic enrollment. For all other racial/ethnic categories, the college exceeds the equivalent percentages. Overall, minorities compose between 12 percent and 15.8 percent of enrollment (approximately 200 students do not specify their background, he explained).

Dr. Gallagher described the multicultural activities on campus, including support for the Cultural Diversity Board, made up of student organizations that promote diversity. The institution provides paid scholarships to the board's officers and also allocates office space. Other efforts include financial aid workshops and targeted minority recruitment. Dr. Gallagher expressed satisfaction with the diversity achieved in executive staffing at Mesa State College. However, with regard to the hiring of minority faculty, he noted, We do not have large pools of applicants who are minorities . . . That makes it extremely difficult to recruit minorities.

It is our belief that the way to promote diversity is through education, Dr. Gallagher asserted. Upon questioning, he said that the college's history as a two-year institution has adversely affected its offering of curriculum, which is extremely limited. The lack of financial support (compared with institutions such as the University of Colorado-Boulder) also creates an unfair situation for Mesa State students that needs legislative attention. He took exception to a Committee member's statement that more courses intended to achieve cultural competence, including ethnic studies, might enhance educational outcomes for all students, not just minorities. He responded: I think you're dead wrong if you think you're going to do that with a course in any ethnic studies, because basically what happens in those courses is you have Hispanics taking Hispanic studies, blacks taking black studies. [14] He further said, I would say to you that I think it's far more important to have a strong math department and a strong English department than it is to have a strong ethnic studies department. [15]

Bob Moore, Superintendent of Mesa County Valley School District 51

Bob Moore told the Committee that he is still relatively new to the community and was surprised at the low number of minority students in the district. As he looked at test scores, Mr. Moore realized that we ve got a long way to go, especially with our minority students. Our white students are scoring about twice their scores are about twice as high . . . as our minority students. So that's a tremendous problem. He noted that in Texas, the accountability system is based on the performance of the lowest performing students. If you take care of those kids, all scores are going to accelerate, Mr. Moore observed. He stressed the need for role models in the school system's staffing. While Hispanics make up nearly 13 percent of enrollment, he said, they represent only 4.1 percent of certified teachers. He expressed the most concern with the very top leadership positions, where minorities are not present.

Last year, Mr. Moore continued, 81.7 percent of white students graduated, while only 68 percent of Latinos did so. The dropout rate was 3.5 percent for white students and 4.8 for Latinos. The dropout rate for Native Americans was an alarming 7.9 percent, he added. His major concern focused on the state Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) test scores, where minority students scored really very, very low compared to what our white students are scoring. He stated that our top goal in the school district is to close the achievement gap . . . That's unacceptable to have the wide gaps in achievement that we have now between our white students and our poor kids.

Looking at data for 1999 2000, Mr. Moore said that Hispanics had a 16.9 percent suspension rate and a 17.6 expulsion rate. (Hispanics make up about 12.9 percent of total enrollment.) However, since that time, We ve had an increase in our Latino population in terms of expulsions to 28.7 percent and that's a shift from 16.9 percent last year. He called this an ugly thing.

In special education, blacks are overrepresented, as are Hispanics, although the disparity for Hispanics is less significant. In programs for the gifted, however, Hispanics make up only 6.4 percent of enrollment, less than half of their representation in total enrollment. This is an area that the district will work on, according to Mr. Moore.

He advised the Committee, We have had some threats that were racial in nature . . . I do know of some . . . white students that made threats to minority groups that resulted in expulsion.

Mr. Moore reminded the Committee that Colorado ranks 49th in the nation in terms of funding for education, and Mesa County Valley District 51 ranks number 178 for funding in Colorado, out of 178 school districts. The needs of the district to close the disparities are significant and the state has a responsibility to ensure at least the minimal resources necessary to meet the new accountability standards, he concluded.[16]

Disability Issues Panel

Nancy Conklin, Center for Independence

Nancy Conklin began by stressing the positive advancements that have been realized under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).[17] In the 11 years since the act was passed, we've seen a lot of improved access, physical, architectural access, and a shift, person by person, business by business, and agency by agency, to greater access and inclusion of people with all types of disabilities. She noted that persons with disabilities are working more and engaging in many activities in the community, including shopping, cultural events, education, and recreation. There is a greater awareness of disability issues and acceptance of people with disabilities, she added.

Rural areas have not done as well in providing access, Ms. Conklin said. Smaller businesses still need education on tax credits and technical assistance to remove barriers. She recalled that when the Mesa Developmental Services tried to put two new group homes in residential neighborhoods, there was resistance, reflecting an attitude of not in my back yard. Attitudes about persons with developmental or mental illness problems still reflect discrimination.

The largest problem affecting the disability community continues to be employment, as some employers are reluctant to hire people with disabilities. It is difficult to document this because most of the time, you don't know why people are not hired for jobs, why they do not get called back for interviews, Ms. Conklin told the Committee. She also noted that people who are deaf do not always receive sign language interpreters, despite the ADA requirement that such service be provided by the business and professional community. Finally, Ms. Conklin has observed a backlash against the ADA: Rather than viewing the ADA as basic civil rights legislation, some business owners see it as another burdensome regulation the federal government is forcing on them, which will ultimately put them out of business. [18]

Melissa Boyette, Western Colorado AIDS Project

Melissa Boyette described her agency's goals of serving persons with HIV/AIDS and also educating the community on this subject. While the client population is small, the geographic area served is very large, she told the Committee. She stated that HIV itself has a stigma attached, but so do behaviors that lead people to become infected with HIV. She observed, Grand Junction is not an easy place to be gay. And because of ignorance about HIV/AIDS, her clients have less access to benefits and are sometimes denied Medicaid and Social Security benefits. In consulting with a lawyer in Denver who works for an HIV legal project, she was advised that the most serious problem affecting people with the disease statewide is employer ignorance and employment discrimination. She also said that those with the disease are subject to much discrimination after they disclose their condition. This is true not only of employers, but also landlords and potential landlords. She concluded her remarks by stating that because treatments are now available that allow victims to survive what used to be considered a fatal disease, no one has quite figured out how to handle these folks. [19]

Joseph O Connor, Colorado West Mental Health

Joseph O Connor works with chronically mentally ill children and adults. He came before the Committee to advocate for two policy changes. The first involves the public school system, which, he advised the Committee, must provide educational services to persons until they reach the age of 21. He recommended that this be changed to age 25, or not be limited at all. In his experience, many clients he sees cannot read or write at age 17, and due to their special needs and circumstances, providing services only to age 21 is insufficient.

The second of his recommendations was for continued support from vocational rehabilitation of the state of Colorado in providing sheltered workshops that allow disabled persons to have more transitional work opportunities. His agency supports two sheltered workshops that provide work for about 35 people. But, he added, state rules are too stringent. They do not allow sufficient opportunities for disabled persons to participate in transitional sheltered work programs. These programs provide sheltered work and job hardening before disabled persons move into mainstream workplaces. State laws need to be liberalized to expand such efforts, Mr. O Connor concluded.[20]

Criminal Justice and Legal Issues Panel

Nick Massaro, State District Judge

Judge Nick Massaro began his remarks by observing that Mesa County, like probably many other jurisdictions in the state and nation, locks up more minorities than other groups. In Mesa County, this means almost exclusively Hispanics, and they are incarcerated in disproportionate rates to their population. Judge Massaro cited a study released in September 2000 that addressed minority overrepresentation in the criminal justice system.[21] The research was made difficult, he told the Committee, because of problems in determining the baseline minority youth population. For example, the census does not provide a precise breakdown of persons aged 10 18, which is the age group targeted by the researchers. The high dropout rate of Hispanics is also not taken into account. The report found declines in minority overrepresentation in the last two years surveyed. (Judge Massaro said that the volunteer group looking at the problem took some solace that its intervention efforts were having a positive impact.) He noted, however, that in the current year the numbers reflect an increase in minority youth overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. And so the disproportion still exists, the judge concluded.

The judge stated that the advisory group addressing the problem had tried to raise the sensitivity of all the agencies that deal with this problem, with varying degrees of success, quite frankly. He also discussed related issues, such as the high correlation between school attendance and delinquency. As Hispanics drop out, they're going to be more disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. So that's certainly a problem that has to be addressed, Judge Massaro told the members of the Committee. He added that the lack of Spanish-speaking therapists to assist victims of domestic violence, combined with the absence of any minority lawyers in either the public defender's office or the district attorney's office, is a significant problem. He said that the probation department has done a good job of attracting minorities, with eight of a total of 19 officers being members of minority groups.

In response to Committee questions, the judge said that while the research study did not address the issue, other studies have indicated that inability of minority youth to hire qualified counsel contributes to the problem. Furthermore, in both the public defender's and district attorney s offices, there has been a history of not putting the best or most seasoned lawyers on juvenile cases. He also emphasized the importance of economics, noting the correlation between poverty and crime.

I have to tell you, the judge stated emphatically, there's not a unified commitment on the part of the community to address this. The interest waxes and wanes. He suggested that more outreach to other sectors of the community was necessary to solving the problem, partly because its such a large elephant.

He told the Committee that when he is sentencing juveniles, he tries to look at many facets of their life, including whether they are in school. If they are not, then it's very much a strike against them. While that should be race neutral, he added, in application it is not because of the high minority dropout rate. He also attributed racism, poverty, parental issues, and education as contributing to the juvenile justice dilemma.[22]

Panel of Attorneys

Andrew Nolan, Colorado Public Defender in Grand Junction

Andrew Nolan began by discussing racial profiling issues. He noted that a 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Whren v. U.S.,[23] has made it more difficult to address this problem. The decision, he related, upheld the right of police officers to make traffic stops regardless of intent, as long as a reasonable officer under the same circumstances could legitimately make a traffic stop and constitutionally detain the person for the purposes of a stop. This has made it easier for officers to stop a person for any traffic violation, even if the underlying intention might be the belief that drugs, weapons, or undocumented aliens might be involved. The stop can then be used to conduct a search, if the circumstances allow. This means that any traffic violation, however minor, can serve as a justifiable basis for a stop. Mr. Nolan alleged that one sheriff's deputy, in particular, is assigned to interdict narcotics on Interstate 70, and that patterns in the stops of this officer include Arizona and California license plates, eastbound traffic only, and a disproportionate number of minorities.[24] In a study of traffic citations filed in county court in October and November 2000, Mr. Nolan told the Committee that of 1,535 cases, this particular officer had filed only three traffic citations. Of the three, two were issued to Hispanics and both consented to a vehicle search. The third citation was issued to a white person, and the court files do not reflect that this individual was asked for consent to search his vehicle. The Supreme Court decision, Mr. Nolan contended, has made it easier for law enforcement officers to engage in racial profiling. He told the Committee that absent a statistical study, however, it would be extremely difficult to prove that minority group members are stopped disproportionately on the highway.[25]

Ed Nugent, Attorney in Private Practice

Ed Nugent advised the Committee that his experience has confirmed the views of Mr. Nolan. He expressed serious concern that persons are detained and their vehicles searched in plain view, and that they are not cited for any offense: They haven't done anything wrong. He also conceded that while, You can see it, you just can't prove it, because that's a whole different issue and a much more difficult issue to attack. He agreed that research is necessary to pursue this issue.

Mr. Nugent told the Committee that as he walked into the meeting room, he thought: If the commissions that study so many other things in our community looked like the people in this room and this commission [Advisory Committee], we might be getting some different answers. We might be getting some different ideas about what is really going on in our community. And, really, that's the problem that we face.

He then discussed concerns about underrepresentation of minorities in the legal community. Noting the discretionary powers entrusted to the district attorney's office, Mr. Nugent told the Committee that the last person with a Hispanic surname to serve in that office was in 1979. If there's nobody in that office that's ever lived the life or can even understand the life of the people that they're making decisions about, those are, at best, just abstract decisions. [26] In contrast, he noted that the Probation Department has aggressively recruited minority employees, and been successful in doing so.

In conclusion, Mr. Nugent called for equal representation at all levels in the legal system. We don't have it, and we're a long way from it, he observed.

Roberta Nieslanik, Colorado Alternate Defense Counsel Program

Roberta Nieslanik opened her remarks with the observation that in Colorado, a resident can take the driver's license exam in Spanish; however, the learner's booklet is available in English only. She was advised that it was on the Internet in Spanish but noted that this population has the least access to Internet. She further observed that as jury pools are drawn from voter registration and driver's license rosters, minorities do not get called for jury duty in sufficient numbers.

She then told the Committee that pretext stops by law enforcement officers disproportionately affect persons of color. She gave several examples of reasons for these stops: cracked windshields, obstructed windshields, dirty license plates, weaving into bike lanes, following too closely, and insufficient tread on tires. She also said that since there are very few Spanish-speaking law enforcement officers in the community, monolingual Spanish-speaking persons are more likely to give consent for searches.

Ms. Nieslanik described the drug interdiction efforts of law enforcement at the Grand Junction bus terminal. She said that all passengers have been told to get off the bus, and that dogs would then be sent in to sniff the interior and all the luggage for drugs. Sometimes people would be arrested and almost all of them were mules, she observed. All the people affected were persons of color. Ms. Nieslanik alleged that in the past four years, there have been no white persons arrested during drug interdiction activities at the bus depot. By contrast, she said that no similar law enforcement operations are undertaken at the Grand Junction airport or the Amtrak railroad station.[27]

Frank Daniels, District Attorney for Mesa County

Frank Daniels told the Committee that he had been a prosecuting attorney for over 18 years and had served as the district attorney for seven and a half years. He said that his office has a juvenile division that screens all juvenile cases, and some of these are diverted out of the criminal justice system and handled in house. The division handles many cases involving juveniles; however, violent crimes, or those involving weapons, are not diverted. About half of all juvenile cases are diverted, according to Mr. Daniels.

In 1999, his office handled 874 juvenile cases, involving 750 youth, aged 10 to 17. The racial/ethnic breakdown was as follows: blacks, 21; Hispanics, 139; and white non-Hispanics, 586. Of these totals, 14 blacks, 55 Hispanics, and 277 whites were placed in diversion; of those prosecuted, Mr. Daniels continued, were 43 percent of the blacks, 50 percent of the Hispanics, and 47 percent of the white youths. The district attorney told the Committee that these figures reflect fairly even-handed consideration. He concluded by saying that his office makes every attempt to treat everyone fairly in this jurisdiction, regardless of their background, ethnicity [or] race.

When questioned by members of the Committee, Mr. Daniels said that his office has only one attorney of color, one fellow who has American Indian ancestry. Of the office's total staffing of 37, he noted that two persons are Hispanic and two are of American Indian ancestry. He commented that there are very few minority attorneys in the community.

Mr. Daniels was also asked whether his office had been involved in investigating the distribution of hate literature on the campus of Mesa State College. He responded that he had not seen the materials and had not been contacted by the college concerning this matter. He further commented that it would be difficult to prosecute such activity under the state's ethnic intimidation law in the absence of bodily injury or property damage.[28] Upon being shown examples of the materials by Committee members, Mr. Daniels said, That's extraordinarily offensive material, obviously. [29]

Panel of Law Enforcement Officials

Martyn Currie, Acting Chief of Police for the City of Grand Junction

Acting Grand Junction chief of police Martyn Currie provided a brief overview of his department. The police department has 139 positions, 82 of which are sworn officers. The department handles the countywide 911 program, and has a school resource program and a crime lab. We're pretty well versed in delivering a lot of police service, Mr. Currie observed. He told the Committee that the search for a new chief is underway, and that the position should be filled in July or August.

Mr. Currie, in response to information given by another presenter on an earlier panel, told the Advisory Committee that he had checked the records for drug arrests made at the local bus depot from 1999 to the present, and these reflected that there were 20 blacks, 17 Hispanics, and 22 whites arrested during this two and one-half year period. He also noted that the train scheduled through Grand Junction stops for only about 10 15 minutes, which is insufficient time for any type of interdiction effort. At the airport, he said that interdiction efforts are employed at the point of flight origination. Local interdiction efforts have not been successful at the airport, he added.[30]

Riecke Claussen, Sheriff of Mesa County

Mesa County Sheriff Riecke Claussen told the Advisory Committee that patterns of racial bias can sometimes be difficult to identify and address. He cautioned that the solution to the problem will only be obfuscated by mindless demagoguery. After stating that 70 percent of all drugs are coming from Mexico and in many instances being distributed by Mexican drug dealers, Chief Claussen told the Committee that racial profiling is obviously wrong ; however, of equal concern is how an individual is treated by an officer during the contact. He noted that it is insufficient to merely rely on feedback from the minority community to address this problem. Mr. Claussen asserted that law enforcement must be proactive in attempting to assure that officers are not hired who have such bias. These agencies must, in addition to conducting standard testing, ensure the applicants suitability from a psychological perspective. In addition to psychological testing, applicants must take a polygraph test and be subjected to a fairly intense background investigation . . . with the goal of eliminating people with behavioral bias problems.

Mr. Claussen noted that his department has sponsored a 12-week citizen's academy for several years, which provides an opportunity for citizens to receive hands-on training from various law enforcement agencies. He told the Committee that the goal of the academy is to dispel misperceptions about law enforcement methods, which will hopefully counteract some of the sensationalism portrayed by the media and the misinformation spread by those who would be perceived as champions of civil rights.

In response to information presented by a previous presenter, Sheriff Claussen stated that he checked the records for the deputy cited and found that slightly more than 25 percent . . . of the people he contacted were Hispanic on the interstate. [31] The populations for the states that border this highway are over 29 percent Hispanic, he added.[32]

Lowell Richardson, Police Chief of Fruita

Chief Lowell Richardson of Fruita emphasized the value of civilian oversight of law enforcement. In Fruita, the police commission reports directly to the city council and the mayor concerning all police matters, he told the Committee, and this process sustains the credibility of the police commission and its effectiveness to serve the citizens of Fruita. Chief Richardson concluded, The importance of civilian oversight of police departments is another tool that enhances the credibility of a police department, ensuring they operate consistently within their communities. [33]

Michael King, District Commander for the Colorado State Patrol

Commander Michael King discussed the Colorado State Patrol s efforts to recruit more women, whom he acknowledged are underrepresented in the department. There have been excellent results in recruiting from the military, and women's colleges are now being targeted. Mr. King said that he is aware of several states that are under court order for hiring certain percentages of people of different ethnic backgrounds, adding, we absolutely don't want to do that. . . . We would much rather do that on our own and do the very best job we can.

He noted that the chief of his department is an officer of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which has adopted a resolution condemning racial and ethnic profiling. Mr. King then told the Committee of a recent federal court case in Eagle County that involved racial profiling.[34] Of the $2.2 million mandated to be paid by the county, $320,000 was set aside by the federal judge for the purpose of training law enforcement officers in Colorado. The Colorado Police Officers Standards and Training Organization (POST) has put together a training package, and every officer in his department will receive this in the next year. In addition, Mr. King noted that mandatory in-service training has been provided in the last year for all supervisors in the area of racial profiling awareness. In September 2000, Governor Bill Owens issued an executive order mandating the prohibition of racial profiling, Mr. King told the Committee.[35] And legislation recently enacted by the Colorado legislature, referred to as the racial profiling bill, requires the Colorado State Patrol and Denver Police Department to collect data.[36] The problem, said Mr. King, is how to evaluate the extensive data when it becomes available and determine what it means. The bill also requires every law enforcement agency in the state to develop written policy on racial and ethnic profiling. It also mandates that all certified peace officers in the state issue a business card to all persons who are not issued a citation or warning as a result of a contact.

He concluded by telling Committee members that his department is a traffic enforcement agency, and much of its work involves speeding. When a car is clocked speeding, he noted, there is no way of determining what color the person in the car is.[37]

Catherine Malapanes, Supervisory Special Agent for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)

Agent Catherine Malapanes of the INS described the functions of the Grand Junction office, which was expanded as a result of the Quick Response Team program. This program grew out of congressional initiatives to beef up INS presence in many communities. U.S. Representative Scott McInnis (R-CO) was instrumental in this, Ms. Malapanes told the Committee. The two top priorities of the INS and her office are as follows: (1) identifying and removing criminal aliens; and (2) disrupting smuggling operations and the trafficking of aliens. The Quick Response Team program calls for the INS to respond to calls for assistance from other law enforcement agencies. The agent told the Committee that this applies in two situations: (1) when local law enforcement has made an arrest and filed charges (not immigration related); and (2) when local law enforcement conducts a legal stop and has reasonable suspicion that a felony under immigration jurisdiction has occurred. The primary such felonies are alien smuggling and re-entry after deportation.[38]

Scott Weber, Acting Director for Investigations for the INS District Office in Denver

Scott Weber told the Committee, in response to a question, that in the field of law enforcement, it doesn't take long for our agents to learn that there's no physical description for American citizens or for someone who's not a citizen of the United States. He added that INS agents do not key on ethnicity or language. We key on place of birth. That's about the only concrete tool we can use to determine whether someone is a citizen of the United States or not. [39]

Leticia Calzada, Consul General of Mexico in Denver

Consul General Leticia Calzada briefly addressed the Advisory Committee and announced that in the near future, the Mexican Consulate (located in Denver) would be sending a roving consulate to Grand Junction to provide direct services to Mexican citizens. It's my intention to be close to the Mexican communities, she said, and added that the new service was inspired by the many people living and working in rural communities. Ms. Calzada expressed her pride at the recent elections in Mexico that have enforced safe democracy and shared her nation's support and respect for the principles of human rights.[40]

Community Perspectives

The following section summarizes presentations made by numerous community leaders during the course of the two-day forum. They provide a wide range of perspectives that reflect upon race relations in the Mesa Valley. Please note that the Advisory Committee was not in a position to evaluate or verify all the information offered by presenters.

Jose Chavez

Jose Chavez is a parent of two children in the public schools. He chairs a Latino theater group in Grand Junction. Mr. Chavez told the Committee that, in his experience, minorities are not encouraged to play prominent roles in drama presentations in the local schools. Mexicans don t do Shakespeare, he observed. Rather, the few that are selected are relegated to minor parts. Furthermore, he alleged that high school honors programs include instructional staff that have reduced expectations for Latino students, and do not encourage their attainment of high academic goals. Mr. Chavez also commented that he has a child with dyslexia who had difficulty receiving special services at the middle school level, because the schools did not want to spend the necessary funds. Employed as a juvenile parole officer, Mr. Chavez said that reports provided to the courts often recommend that young white offenders be placed on probation, while incarceration is recommended for minorities. Mr. Chavez suggested that cultural bias plays a part in this apparent disparate treatment.

Upon Committee questioning, Mr. Chavez criticized the Advisory Committee for not holding public officials, appearing at the forum earlier, accountable for their responses to questions addressing underrepresentation of minorities in public sector jobs. He alleged that public officials encourage minorities to apply for menial positions, but overlook the need for their representation in positions with authority and decision making.

Mr. Chavez also asserted that the majority often blames minorities for the failure of efforts to improve their status in the community. He noted that with no power to effect change, these efforts are unsuccessful but do not reflect that minority leaders have given up: We have not given up, or we would not be here today, he concluded.[41]

Ed Scott

Ed Scott, an education consultant, was teaching a course at Mesa State College titled the African American Experience. He brought before the Committee a complete Ku Klux Klan outfit, which he said, was obtained from a friend and had been used during cross burnings years ago in Grand Junction. Upon observing the garments, Advisory Committee member Gwen Thomas commented, This meeting shall go down in history. Dr. Scott noted that Einstein s definition of insanity is to continue to do things the same way and expect a different result.

He told the Committee that we must stop the insanity now. He said that when he came to Grand Junction in 1976, the minority dropout rate, or the push out rate, was high, and he said that it has not changed and we are still talking about it. Dr. Scott commented that he is saddened that people who have been oppressed for so long . . . have no desire to fight. He expressed concern that those responsible for institutional leadership are not held accountable. He told the Committee that he was retained by Mesa State College to investigate the racist flyers distributed on that campus. He stated that he does not know where they are coming from, but is concerned that the perpetrators go to the places they are invited to . . . they put the literature on campuses they are invited to. Grand Junction is the ideal place for this kind of activity. [42]

Juanita Trujillo

Juanita Trujillo is the community service coordinator for Mesa County Partners, a program that provides community service opportunities for youth offenders. She expressed concerns that neither the sheriff nor police department has a single African American officer on patrol. More aggressive recruitment is required, she told the Committee. She further observed that minorities are not represented in diversion cases. Youth from prominent families often get more than one chance at diversion, even after having committed several offenses, including significant felonies. Based on a review of her files, she noted that very few minority youths are getting diversion. This needs closer monitoring, she added.

Upon Committee questioning, Ms. Trujillo noted that the minority underrepresentation task force (set up to investigate the juvenile justice system) had little participation by representatives of the district attorney s office. She also said that cultural competency training provided by the police department did not incorporate persons that were known and trusted in the minority community.[43]

Shirley Romero Otero

Shirley Romero Otero, longtime community activist, is the parent of four daughters, two attending Mesa State College, and two in high school. She told the Committee that her passion is youth. She observed that the community has had numerous visits by both state and federal civil rights agencies, and that she was coming forward again to record problems that have been going on for decades, for generations. She started by discussing the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP). This is the program by which public school systems in Colorado will be evaluated for their ability to educate students. If, after four years, students are not obtaining the necessary proficiency, the state will come in and take over our schools, Ms. Otero said. She expressed her concern that this is an effort to promote a school voucher program, which she opined would hurt minority students. Nonetheless, she expressed approval that the schools are now driven by data and that accountability is tied to funding. She noted that juvenile judges have said that prisons are warehoused by our students, and that these young people have low levels of reading ability. The gap, she told the Committee, begins in the third grade, widens in middle school, and by the time students arrive in high school, it is too late. She told the Committee that her observations make clear that minority youth are overrepresented in the justice system, and that while it costs taxpayers $5,000 per student to educate a student, it costs from $40,000 to $60,000 to warehouse these same kids in prisons. She concluded by telling the Committee that these problems are 30 years old and that people who have power . . . and resources are not going to give that up, unless the government steps in, because I don t see the masses of the people coming forward. We have been pacified, we are tired, we no longer know who to turn to . . . yet our children are the ones who are hurting more than anyone else and the only people profiting are those that are building the prison systems.

Ms. Otero was critical of Mesa State College for not encouraging the training of homegrown teachers and not ensuring cultural competency of future teachers. Mesa State does a very, very poor job in their teacher education program, she concluded. Yet, one-third of the Latino population is under 18 and Latinos represent 12 to 15 percent of student enrollment in the public schools. She also criticized the state of Colorado for not counting tests scores of students who take the CSAP test in Spanish, and do very well. That makes absolutely no sense, she said.[44]

Josephine Dickey

Josephine Dickey, an African American leader, was the first black employee of the public schools and was involved with the NAACP. She told the Committee that parents are failing in their responsibilities to their children and then blaming teachers and the schools for their failures. She added that the many efforts of good decent people are largely overlooked.[45]

Jose Lucero

Jose Lucero is a private Realtor who has been in Grand Junction since 1973. He noted that between 50 and 60 percent of all Spanish-speaking students are dropping out, or being pushed out, of school. He said that it has taken 25 years for a school superintendent to admit to the reality of the alarming dropout rate for minorities. He said it is simple: of the students entering the first grade, 50 percent or less graduate. Mr. Lucero advocated for voucher programs and/or private schools, including dual-language schools. Currently, he said, teachers and parents do not work together to bring about solutions.

Mr. Lucero told the Committee that he recalled a banker telling him that there would never be a Mexican of substance in this community. He also said, The majority of the town still does not hire minorities. Low education and low pay, he said, make it difficult for minorities to qualify for home loans. Affordable housing is a problem, he added. He told the Committee that he has seen much discrimination in employment, housing, and law enforcement. Mr. Lucero affirmed that steering does occur in the real estate industry, and that obtaining financing to purchase homes in certain neighborhoods would be very difficult. Many real estate companies ignore Hispanic clients, who often do not qualify for loans, he added. He also expressed concern with reverse discrimination challenges, which do not equate to what American society has subjected minorities to in this country. [46]

Harry Talbott

Harry Talbott is a fruit grower who also packs and ships Colorado fruit. Mr. Talbott cited a recent report that reflects a 60 percent increase in the Hispanic population in the United States. He cited the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) as responsible for a worsening of the problem of alien workers. [47] The law led to the creation of a documents industry, he alleged, and there are now five to eight million alien workers in the United States, many with invalid documents. The cost in terms of policing the borders and providing services is very high and the IRCA is largely to blame, Mr. Talbott told the Committee. He advocated for a guest-worker program that would ensure that farmers had a dependable workforce, that the workers were legal, and that they would go home and not become part of our welfare system. The temporary workers would have protection and rights and health care and then go back to their families in Mexico. [48]

Christine Mok-Lamme

Christine Mok-Lamme, representing Child and Migrant Services in Palisade, shared with the Committee the plight of migrant farm workers in the region. She cited the need for not only physical, but also mental health care services. Migrant workers suffer from isolation, as they are often separated from their families for nine or 10 months per year, and are also isolated from society as a whole: They live here, we need them to work here, but they don't have a sense of belonging.

Ms. Mok-Lamme said that she is not aware of any government funding for farm worker mental health services. She then discussed the topic of safe journeys, noting that some workers have died of thirst as they walked across the desert, others have been shot at by ranchers, and many have been victims of accidents that claimed lives and caused severe injuries.

She also talked about the lack of basic rights for migrant farm workers. When an undocumented farm worker breaks a law of this country, what kind of rights does he or she have? asked Ms. Mok-Lamme. She asked what it must be like sitting in jail, not knowing the language, not having anyone visit because of fear, and thinking you probably don't have any rights at all. She concluded by telling the Committee that while not undocumented, she too was an immigrant to this country of freedom, beauty, and hope but also a nation that struggled to treat each and every person equally under the law. [49]

Gene Kinsey

Gene Kinsey, former mayor of Grand Junction, had just completed his four-year service as an elected city official. He expressed pride in what he described as the equal distribution of activities and policies throughout the city. Over the past four years, public works and capital development projects have been well distributed throughout the city, neighborhoods are not slighted or favored, and money is put where money is needed. He further noted that the city has spent its federal community development block grants on people, and in a very real way. He also said that the city has supported the concept of community policing, where the police really are a part of the community. [50]

Carlos Pinedo Bonilla

Carlos Pinedo Bonilla chaired the committee that studied the representation of minorities in the juvenile justice system. He spoke of his own personal experiences, noting that at one time his mode of dress called unwanted attention by law enforcement. He also recalled having been targeted for racial slurs, but told the Committee he now believes the community is pretty open. He indicated he has been involved in getting people to register and vote and this effort has received the support of the county clerk.

As chair of the justice committee, he noted with satisfaction that things are changing and issues are being addressed. He stated that there has been a decline in minority representation in the juvenile justice system, and that it is refreshing that these numbers are declining. Mr. Bonilla expressed concern that the school district is providing high school diplomas to students based on just attending, and he fears that those receiving these diplomas will have difficulty securing good employment and will be paid less for having an attendance diploma instead of a performance diploma. He expressed concern that the schools are not making an effort to integrate all students into the mainstream curriculum.[51]

Marilyn Wounded Head

Marilyn Wounded Head is an art professor at Mesa State College. She began her remarks by noting her concern with the headline of an editorial in the local newspaper titled Rights Commission Is on Wrong Warpath (The Daily Sentinel, May 3, 2001). Warpath? she exclaimed.

Professor Wounded Head described her concern with stereotypical attitudes in the public school systems. My daughters have often been referred to as squaws, she related. In classrooms, the clich's of too many chiefs . . . too many Indians, not enough chiefs, were used by teachers. She expressed pride that her daughters were now challenging these offensive comments by their teachers.

She told the Committee that she grew up on an Indian reservation in South Dakota and is familiar with discrimination, hate, and isolation. I'm used to every negative thing that's probably there. She said, Within a native culture, you have to have humor. She concluded by saying that she provides a great deal of information on the Lakota culture and stresses the positive aspects of this culture. She is hopeful that student organizations on the college campus, such as the Native American Council, will be helpful in informing people concerning the many Indian tribes and help to overcome stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes.

Professor Wounded Head told the Committee that she had just been notified of her tenure and promotion to associate professor. She indicated that it took a long time to achieve this, and that some people believe that she was hired only because she is a minority. A certain population always asks me to show my degrees, she commented, and I'm happy to . . . because then they have to sit through . . . all the universities I attended. [52]

Joseph Higgins

Joseph Higgins is director of the Partners Program, a nonprofit agency that provides mentoring services for youth and operates restitution and community service work programs for juvenile offenders. It includes a Minority Family Advocacy project. In working with the Mesa County Overrepresentation Committee, Mr. Higgins heard that minority youth were underserved, lack parental and family support, and do not have bilingual or minority professional staff to assist them. Access to youth employment opportunities did not appear to be equal, and there were insufficient family liaison advocates. The dropout rates for minority youth were high and graduation rates low. As a result of this assessment, the Partners Program began to focus on providing more services to minority families, particularly the Hispanic community. Mr. Higgins told the Committee that they discovered that most youth sent to his program for diversion were white, while minority youth were sent through probation. The minority youth were being filed upon, and the white youth were being diverted . . . so we kind of came to the conclusion . . . maybe we're not giving the kids all equal chances, he observed.

The agency's staff was increased from 12 (including two minorities) to 18, with eight minority bilingual staff members. The agency found it difficult to recruit minority professionals with the necessary college degree, and therefore began hiring persons and assisting them with their higher education goals. We are more culturally competent than we were five years ago, he concluded.

He credits involvement with the Mesa County Minority Overrepresentation project for prompting these changes. Mr. Higgins further stated that they have embarked on an incentive program, wherein the youth set their own goals and have a major say in how they are treated. I think that's really working, he said.

Mr. Higgins then introduced two young persons who are in the Partners Program, James Torres and Fidel de Arian. Both youths told the Committee that they had benefited greatly by participating in this program and they described some of their activities. Mr. Torres stated, however, that at the high school he attends, we feel lost in our classes, because our teachers don't fully describe the courses or the activities that we're going to do, and that can become a barrier for us. Mr. De Adrian told the Committee that there is a need for more advocates for youth to serve as positive role models. He also alleged that most law enforcement agencies pick on us [Hispanics and black youth] more . . . for whatever reason that they have. Mr. Torres, however, felt that law enforcement had treated minority youth with respect.[53]

Linda Villa

Linda Villa is president of the Riverside Task Force. She told the Committee that she works with many Hispanics that come from Mexico. She served as coordinator for the Catholic Immigration Project during the amnesty program, which she said provided amnesty but very little in the way of services, education, and job opportunities. Ms. Villa expressed sadness that after six generations, her community is still living in poverty. And the education provided to the youth is not the best . . . that there is available. She expanded on this: I don't believe that our kids are failing. I believe that we are failing our children by not providing the support to keep them within our schools. And that's not only the school system, it's got to be parents, community, and our school system. We all have to work together.

Ms. Villa described her efforts to help the Riverside community, a neighborhood she had grown up in. At that time, she noted, it was not a rundown community. But upon returning years later, she found that things were different. The school had been shut down, children were playing in the streets with no supervision, and houses were run down. The city had not maintained the neighborhood. Ms. Villa organized the community and the Riverside Taskforce helped bring about many improvements with the assistance of the city. She continues her work to upgrade, improve, and restore pride back into . . . the neighborhood and families in Riverside, she told the Committee.

Upon questioning, Ms. Villa told the Advisory Committee she had run twice for city council and in both cases lost by a couple of votes. She further said that the Hispanic community wants to get involved, but in the past they just haven't been allowed. [54]

Open Session

Following the scheduled presentations on the agenda, approximately 15 additional persons were given the opportunity to briefly address the Advisory Committee. Many of these individuals addressed specific situations that they considered to be violations of their civil rights. They were offered staff assistance and appropriate referrals to enforcement agencies, where applicable.

However, several persons raised broader concerns about civil rights in Mesa Valley. One person, an insurance agent, commented that the Department of Motor Vehicles does not print the drivers instructional manuals in Spanish; and that immigrants with international driver's licenses who have purchased auto insurance are nevertheless subsequently ticketed (for not having a Colorado license).

Several persons alleged racial profiling, selective enforcement, and disparate treatment by law enforcement agencies. Others raised concerns with inadequate services for people with disabilities and lack of compliance with disability rights laws; lack of affordable housing; discrimination and unfair treatment of migrant workers; discrimination and bigotry against Native Americans; and discrimination and disregard for those in poverty. Several persons expressed concern that various agencies and officials in Grand Junction are insufficiently engaged in addressing issues of poverty, inequality, and discrimination. One individual told the Committee that he is Jewish and in his entire life has never experienced any problems with prejudice or discrimination. He said he was sad to hear the things that were being mentioned . . . by these people who have discussed today their problems. [55]

[1] Colorado Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, community forum, Civil Rights Issues in Grand Junction and Western Colorado, Grand Junction, May 7 8, 2001, transcript (hereafter cited as Transcript of Proceedings), Volume 1, pp. 10 20, 36 46.

[2] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 1, pp. 20 35.

[3] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 1, pp. 47 51, 64.

[4] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 1, pp. 52 54.

[5] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 1, pp. 54 60.

[6] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 1, pp. 65 81.

[7] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 1, pp. 81 90.

[8] Both positions were subsequently filled by white males.

[9] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 401 15.

[10] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 1, pp. 91 95, 124.

[11] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 1, pp. 95 98.

[12] Transcript of Proceedings. Volume 1, pp. 99 101, 116.

[13] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 1, pp. 102 37.

[14] Advisory Committee member Gwendolyn Thomas, a professor at Metropolitan State College in Denver, noted that she has taught Afro-American Literature for about 40 years, and her students in this course have been overwhelmingly white.

[15] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 415 28, 441 51.

[16] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 428 54.

[17] Pub. L. No. 101-336, 104 Stat. 327 (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. 12101 12213 (2001)).

[18] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 1, pp. 138 47.

[19] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 1, pp. 147 64.

[20] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 1, pp. 165 69.

[21] Report on Racial/Ethnic Minority Representation in the Juvenile Justice System in Mesa County, 1993 2000. Grants from the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice led to the formation of an advisory committee that became known as the Mesa County Minority Overrepresentation Committee (MCMOR). One of its major tasks was to collect, analyze, and monitor data indicating trends regarding minority youth in locked facilities and to develop solutions to reduce the disparity. The MCMOR also sponsored cultural training for those involved in detention and commitment decisions. Meetings were held with judges, deputy district attorneys, probation officers, deputy public defenders, and school officials. The group also sponsored a community forum to gather public input. Grant money was also used to hire staff and support multicultural and youth activities. In its report, the Committee recommended improved data collection, finding that ethnicity is not tracked at the state level within the juvenile justice system. It also recommended that more minorities be hired in the Mesa County juvenile justice system, and called for support and prevention services and community-based alternatives to detention and commitment. Acknowledging data problems and some recent reduction in the overrepresentation of minorities in the last two years studied, the report nonetheless concluded, The problem of minority youth being overrepresented in locked facilities still persists in Mesa County.

[22] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 1, pp. 187 201.

[23] Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806 (1996).

[24] See response of Sheriff Riecke Claussen, sheriff of Messa County, on p. 22.

[25] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 1, pp. 202 21.

[26] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 1, pp. 222 30.

[27] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 1, pp. 230 46.

[28] The Colorado Ethnic Intimidation statute, C.R.S. 18-9-121 (2002), provides as follows:

(2) A person commits ethnic intimidation, if, with the intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person s actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin, he or she:

(a)    Knowingly causes bodily injury to another person; or

(b)    By words or conduct, knowingly places another person in fear of imminent lawless action directed at that person or that person's property and such words or conduct are likely to produce bodily injury to that person or damage to that person's property; or

(c)    Knowingly causes damage to or destruction of the property of another person.

(3) Ethnic intimidation as described in paragraph (b) or (c) if subsection (2) of this section is a class 1 misdemeanor. Ethnic intimidation as described in paragraph (a) of subsection (2) of this section is a class 5 felony; except that ethnic intimidation as described in said paragraph (a) is a class 4 felony if the offender is physically aided or abetted by one or more other persons during the commission of the offense.

[29] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 454 68.

[30] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 472 73, 528 31.

[31] This information was provided in response to an allegation made by Andrew Nolan, Colorado public defender (see p. 19). The sheriff's reference is to the specific deputy cited by Mr. Nolan.

[32] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 474 79, 535 36.

[33] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 479 81.

[34] On February 23, 2001, U.S. District Court Judge John Kane gave final approval of a $611,000 racial profiling education and training plan involving the implementation of the decision in Whitfield v. Board of County Commissioners, 837 F. Supp. 338 (D. Colo., 1993). The plan called for some $300,000 to be allocated to the Peace Officer Standards & Training Board for training purposes. For more information, see the press release of February 23, 2001, from the Colorado attorney general at <http://www.ago.state.co.us/PRESREL/presrl2001/prsrl22.stm>.

[35] For more information, see the press release of September 11, 2000, from the Colorado governor at <http://www.state.co. us/owenspress/09-11-00b.htm>

[36] H.B. 01-1114.

[37] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 482 98.

[38] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 498 507.

[39] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 513 15.

[40] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 543 45.

[41] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 258 64, 285 86.

[42] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 264 73, 278 79, 291 92.

[43] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 273 76, 282 84.

[44] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 304 12, 325, 335 37.

[45] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 312 15.

[46] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 315 22, 330 32.

[47] Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, Pub. L. No. 99-603, 100 Stat. 3359 (2001) (codified in scattered sections of 8 U.S.C.)

[48] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 349 63.

[49] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 363 70.

[50] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 370 75.

[51] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 375 81.

[52] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 546 55, 571 72.

[53] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 575 89.

[54] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 556 67.

[55] Transcript of Proceedings, Volume 2, pp. 598 672.