Hot Sheet

Schools top the charts among public priorities in Grand Junction poll

Author: Dan Njegomir - June 16, 2017 - Updated: June 16, 2017

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Source: gjep.org

Probably no surprise that an informal online survey of Grand Junction citizens would point to public schools — specifically, the need to reform K-12 education — as the top priority for locals. Quality education is the bottom line not only for parents but a whole lot of the rest of any community, from homeowners shoring up property values to employers recruiting qualified new hires to economic-development types — like the ones who authored the 2030 VISION poll, conducted last week — seeking to lure new businesses to a community.

What might arch at least one of your eyebrows, though, is that education was the first pick for the plurality of people participating  even when when they could have chosen some other fetching and viable options often associated the their bustling West Slope hub community. From a press release issued this week by survey partner Grand Junction Economic Partnership:

Nearly 400 community members voted on 10 topics that included growing the outdoor recreation and tech industries; developing an arts & culture district; building a community recreation center in Grand Junction, adding more direct flights at the airport; revitalizing North Avenue and Horizon Drive; and improving public safety overall.

OK, not much sexy about building a rec center, but the point is Grand Junction is the opposite of the kind of down-on-its-luck community sometimes associated with worries about fundamental services like public education. It’s at the top of Colorado’s fruit belt and in the middle of the state’s established, growing and respected wine country; it’s increasingly regarded as one of those quality-of-life destinations you see on places-rated lists; it lures empty-nesters with its mild winters and outdoor-rec hipsters as a gateway to Colorado’s natural wonders — including as a mountain-biking Mecca; of course, it offers a higher-learning institution whose status was upgraded a few years ago to Colorado Mesa University. The kind of place that could draw in both tourists and the tech sector, right?

And yet, people’s top concern is improving schools. Though it wasn’t a scientific survey, it’s a reminder of the staying power of education as a policy issue. What will the survey’s sponsors do with the information? Says Kristi Pollard, the economic partnership’s executive director:

“Armed with this information, GJEP and our community partners can prioritize the issues we should champion over the next few years. It’s not a matter of this initiative over that initiative, it is a matter of which one do we tackle first.”

Members of the General Assembly, take heed!

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.