El Paso County Commissioner Ed Jones appeared on Boulder-based rock station KBCO recently to brag because he, along with four other commissioners, have named the stretch of Interstate 25 that runs through El Paso County after former President Ronald Reagan.
During the June 20 radio stint, Jones was asked whether he is a Republican. Of course he's a Republican, Jones said. Then, on air, he quipped, "The only thing we let Democrats do down here [in El Paso County] is pay taxes and buy goods."
Ron Bostwick, who produces KBCO's morning show, said they thought it was so funny that Jones' statement was aired twice. "We love someone who takes that kind of stance; so dyed in the wool," Bostwick said.
But Jones' wisecrack irked Monument resident Jim Zerefos, who said he believes in civility in public discourse. "Officials," he insists, "should at least pretend to represent all of their constituents."
"I know El Paso County is heavily Republican, but I still was amazed and disappointed to see an elected official -- who presumably represents all citizens in El Paso County -- completely dismissing a substantial chunk of the population," Zerefos said. "People expect an effort toward bipartisanship and recognition that there are opposing views, and this certainly shows our local elected officials can't even fake the spirit of bipartisanship."
Now it gets even more interesting. Next year Jones will complete his second, $56,601-a-year elected term as commissioner and is widely expected to run to represent State Senate District 11. The senate seat is currently held by Republican Sen. Mary Ellen Epps, who recently has been hospitalized with heart problems and has indicated she will not likely run for another term.
The seat that Jones wants to inherit is, without a doubt, the most politically and racially diverse district in "Republican-owned" El Paso County. In fact, the number of Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters in the central-southeast Colorado Springs district that Jones wants to "represent" is almost equally split, 33/33/33.
Perhaps he would be wise to remember those numbers the next time he goes off bragging on the radio about the indentured Democrats he's got supplying his paycheck every other week.
Just when we (almost) forgot that there's a Congressman who represents El Paso County, and his name is Joel Hefley, he's back in the news. But the Monday, July 1 story about our Congressman in the Gazette was probably the last thing Hefley wanted people to be talking about over their beers and barbeques on the 4th of July holiday.
The story detailed Hefley's extraordinarily light touch as the Chairman of the House Ethics Committee, which is supposed to watchdog ethical wrongdoing in Congress. Misusing campaign funds? Accepting improper gifts from lobbyists? No problem, with Hefley at the helm.
For his part, Hefley was quoted pooh-poohing his critics, saying how hard his job is and that voters are the ultimate judges in political ethics.
We were warned about the inherent problems of relying on Congress to police itself when Hefley was named the new chair of the Ethics Committee early this year. Then, it was the Denver Post reminding us of Hefley's track record. "Corrupt House members can sleep well at night knowing that Joel Hefley is in charge of policing House members," said Gary Ruskin, director of the Congressional Accountability Project, and an outspoken Hefley critic.
But Hefley, a former advocate of term limits who is serving his 7th term in office, still has his friends. The same day the eye-popping Gazette article appeared, the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce announced that the U.S. Chamber will be awarding Hefley with the "Spirit of Enterprise" award, given to members of Congress for key pro-business votes.
Speaking of awards, former state Rep. Marcy Morrison was recently handed a major national award. Even though she's been out of office a year, Morrison was the only recipient -- in Colorado or anywhere else -- of the 2001 American Medical Society's Dr. Nathan Davis Award in the state legislative category. Morrison is being recognized for several heath care bills that she sponsored while in office, including a bill that requires insurers extend coverage for mental health conditions, and her 48-hour bill extending hospital stays for maternity care.
"I'm thrilled about it because for years you know how hard it was for me to get anything through," said Morrison, arguably the most popular El Paso County legislator to come along in years, yet who was targeted as a plague on our region by the religious right.
Morrison will attend a special awards presentation in Washington, DC later this month. And yes, she has accepted the offer to take a turn at the microphone to talk about her achievements. "You'd better believe it."
Once a politician, always a politician.