“I don’t understand why we always want to talk about ‘growth.’ Why is success measured in growth? […] Growth is not what Grand Junction wants,” Randy Emmons, owner of Randy’s Southside Diner, said Wednesday at the Grand Junction City Council meeting.

Yes, it seems Grand Junction has made it loud and clear that any sort of action that may pull Grand Junction toward the future will be met with kicking and screaming. The Grand Junction City Council decided last week that they will write up a resolution rescinding their August decision changing North Avenue to University Boulevard and on Nov. 1, they are expected to pass it.

What began as the city government’s symbolic gesture of thank-you toward Colorado Mesa University, one of Mesa County’s top 10 largest employers that has an estimated $447.5 million annual impact on the region, has ended with another symbolic gesture, one that points toward the door.

The “Keep North 4Ever” movement began as a campaign to raise concerns of North Avenue businesses has ended with a conspiracy-fueled mob of angry citizens hell-bent on takin’ down the man. They have shirts, they have signs, they have petitions and it seems like they have a lot of free time on their hands.

Community engagement has been what Grand Junction desperately needs, but instead of that energy being directed towards providing better resources for Grand Junction schools or fixing a crumbling infrastructure, they have decided it should be spent harassing the city council about the naming of a street.

Alec Williams | The Criterion
Jeffrey Hurd of the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce speaks to the city council and members of the community.

University Boulevard was obviously not going to fix Grand Junction’s problems. The change was not expected to fix an aging town; however, it was expected to attract higher quality students whose passion and possible community engagement could help draw the city into the present.

Grand Junction is in desperate need of an industry, and despite a consistent input of freshmen and output of graduates, the CMU students typically do not stay in this town.

And why would they?

Grand Junction has the look and feel of a town the rest of the state forgot about. Had University Boulevard come into effect, it could have signaled to business owners or owners-to-be that Grand Junction is a sustainable area for growth, with an economy solidly (and rather safely) tied to the presence of a university.

College students are good for the economy. Despite the “starving college student” trope, CMU students have more disposable income than working adults. Whether or not Grand Junction wants to be a college town or not, there’s no way to argue with the fact that colleges not only bring employment opportunities and create thousands of potential professionals each year upon graduation, but they also draw thousands of students who come to the city with money to spend.

“I think you need to think about whether you want that little town to stay a little town, or if you want those jobs for your kids and grandchildren, and if you do, get behind it,” Roger Sollenberger, a Grand Junction resident of 25 years, said at that same recent city council meeting.

Grand Junction, however, has made it incredibly clear it has no interest in being a college town. Some may say that they have no ill will toward the university, but some are more candid and will express their ill feelings toward the college and its administrators.

Posts on the “Save North Avenue” Facebook page include not just dates of potential demonstrations, but a large amount of conspiracy-based photoshop work, including one of CMU President Tim Foster wearing a crown, and another of CMU in the center of a black hole into which tax dollars disappear. The posts are aggressive and one-sided but seem to reflect the overall tone the campaign has taken in recent weeks.

“Their potential campaign success has been based on a great deal of misinformation and harassment in the form of nasty, vicious phone calls, emails, letters, mostly anonymous, name-calling, intimidation and threats,” Roger’s wife, Sharon Sollenberger, said.

The Criterion is no stranger to this group’s harassment. When one of The Criterion’s editors reached out to their group for a possible story, they began a conspiracy-fueled witch hunt because they believed she was not who she said she was.

A group of grown adults began calling The Criterion phones, searching for the editor on Facebook, CMU’s email list and scanning The Criterion website. This process led them to leave aggressive comments on a staff writer’s story. The group also tracked the writer down and messaged her personally on her own Facebook account.

It seems hard to believe this statement is necessary, but these grown adults were harassing students, one of whom was just a staff writer.

Could this all simply be about a street? About business rights? Or does it represent a growing division between CMU and Grand Junction? About an older generation of citizens who want to revisit their glory days “cruising” North Avenue as teenagers? No matter what their intention, they’ve grown to become a dangerous force that will convince students to not stay in this town and contribute to the workforce.

They have convinced us.

With all that in mind, it seems it is in the council’s best interest to rescind their decision. This is not a battle worth fighting, and all it has done is unearth a lurking grudge.

The issue, which was once a portend of Grand Junction’s potential to progress, has now revealed a Western Colorado town wishing for the ordinary, striving for indifference and hoping for a time gone by.

Correction, Oct. 23: Randy Emmons’ name was incorrectly printed. 

12 COMMENTS

  1. I am a graduate of Mesa State, a business owner, and have lived here almost all of my life. I am sorry that anyone harassed a member of the Criterion. Most people want growth, but it needs to be responsible and well thought out. Not a PR plan.

    However, you cannot prove the following events/results would happen if you rename North Avenue to University Blvd.:

    1. Students choose an institution of higher learning because of a street name change
    2. Graduates would stay here because of a street name change
    3. Businesses would grow because of a street name change
    4. There is no evidence of what was presented to the City Council for the street name change by Mr. Lucero

    The ROI comes from actually listening to constituents, which the City Council and Chamber of Commerce have not. ROI comes from actually rebuilding and investing in the street and businesses – not paying homage to a university. It comes from bringing in businesses that will raise the income and provide stable jobs instead of service jobs – manufacturing, technology, etc.

    The city budgets $1,000,000 each year to give to CMU when this money could go towards rebuilding North Avenue, an aging infrastructure, a Boys and Girls Club, and actually holding to their commitments to the retired City employees and not pulling the plug on their health benefits. Or, maybe actually finishing Horizon Drive.

    This was not an attack on CMU students. It was an organized resistance to City Council’s inability to listen to their constituents. Several years ago the residents voiced a strong opposition to changing North Avenue to University Blvd.

    This was the democratic process.

    • Thank you Kyle Sheldon-Chadler for your accurate response.

      There are many local college graduates who have REMAINED and built successful careers here in the Greater Grand Valley. Please, Criterion writers, do your homework before you attack the residents of Grand Junction. As a former Features Editor for the Criterion I understand the value of KNOWING researched facts about what you’re writing about.

      Dona Ramsey ’93 MSC Graduate, Retried D51 Educator, Retired Bureau of Education National Staff Development Leader

  2. Maybe the Crite editors should get the writers some better facts. The staff writer goes by a name other than her legal name, asked for a forum to discuss the name change and when it was proven that she was a new writer for the Crite, she was asked to cover a story showing what the KeepNorth4Ever group was about. She was promptly criticized and chastised and asked to remove herself from the group, not by the group but by her editor. In addition, many media outlets, including the Crite, continue to associate the Save North Avenue group with the KeepNorth4Ever group, which is as far from the same objective as two entities can be. When another staff writer was invited to discuss her article and statements made about the name change initiative, she was also shot down by her editor. So it seems to me, CMU or Crite staff or a combination thereof, have determined to put false statements and inaccurate reporting above educating college students on truth in reporting and getting ALL facts possible before going to press.

  3. This article was obviously written by someone who is fairly inexperienced about the bigger political picture in Grand Junction. This didn’t take into account things like the overbearing influence of the Grand Junction area Chamber of Commerce and the deep resentment people have for it, the entrenched good old-boy network and political and economic cronyism that dominate town — and CMU — and how sick and tired city residents are of this situation.. It didn’t take into account that these proposed “solutions” and “big ideas” in Grand Junction always come from the top down, from the entrenched people already in power, and rarely if ever do these folks ask the people who actually live and work here what they would like to see happen in town. It doesn’t take into account that these proposed projects are not accompanied by any real evidence that they will actually solve the problems the chamber and others claim they will solve.

  4. I was at the this meeting and sitting 6 feet away from the lecture from which the Sollenbergers as the 1st and 2nd commentators spoke, talk about intimidation Mr. Sollenberger glared directly at me as if I were pahria. When he slapped his hand on the lecturn as I was looking down he scared the crap out of me, I was surprised the young police officer standing in back of the room did not immediately escort him out because of his angry tone and aggressive behavior.

    • Isn’t it convenient that their extremely angry tone is not mentioned in this article? This article is so one sided and twisted that I don’t know how anyone could take any of it seriously. We keep getting accused of harassment and threatening people. We can’t control every person but I know that most would not behave like that. I even got up there and thanked the Sollenbergers for being able to address a crowd that they know is against what they were going to say. I did that even though I was not impressed with their attitude or what they said. I even offered ideas to Mr. Hurd on ways to promote the college, for which he has thanked me. But we are just such an angry mob. Sorry I went on so long!

  5. I really do not know about any harassment to any CMU student or organization, so I don’t have a comment on this, but I went to CMU when it was Mesa State for 4 years and the college has probably tripled (or more) since I was a student in the mid/late 90s (this wasn’t that long ago). If there is a problem with school funding, then how are they able to increase the footprint of the college literally by blocks? Why is our county and city still giving them funds? Last night, Tim Foster was asking for even MORE funds?? Get funds from alumni, fees and other sources (ads, etc).

    I am also a business owner on North Avenue and nobody ever asked our opinion on a name change. We were told it was probably going to happen, got a bit angry, then we were told it was going to happen. The Keep North 4Ever people came to our office asking for a list of costs for us. They didn’t rabble rouse in any way or invite us to do anything untoward to any person or institution. If someone could actually state how the name of a street increases income for a town, I would really enjoy hearing and seeing the proof. Denver has University Blvd and I have driven it many times (I used to live near there). It doesn’t make me want to shop there or invest there any more than I would driving Colfax. In fact, there are small shops there and the traffic lanes are more tight, but the kinds of businesses are very similar to North Avenue.

    Our City and County do not seem to want to bring in businesses that could actually make people want to stay here. Something as simple as begging Southwest Airlines to come to Grand Junction would radically decrease flight costs and more people would come and go from here to Denver and Salt Lake City. Currently, flights are between $500-$700 to Denver and around $200-$400 to Salt Lake (economy). Make travel cheaper and people can come/go easier which would allow students to stay in Mesa County and visit their families cheaper. This also gives tourists more of a reason to come. This leads to more income for the city/county. It will also lead to more interesting things to do which will increase tourism. Currently, people need to go to Denver or Salt Lake City to get any culture or night life as there really isn’t much of this here.

  6. Author, none of your suppositions are provable to be profitable from a Grand Junction point of view.
    • Diane Schwenke (Chamber of Commerce) years ago was against growth too back in the day, sending some businesses away from our “tiny” lil o’l heck-dag-nabbed town.
    • Mayor Taggert said over coffee last week that the City Council had nothing to do with renaming North Avenue to University Blvd. yet you state, “What began as the city government’s symbolic gesture of thank-you toward Colorado Mesa University…” Mayor Taggert to Mackenzie Dodge (10/21/17)* “It was explained that the North Avenue Name Change was never proposed by City Council, it was endorsed by CMU 20K, the Chamber & the North Avenue Owners Association.” Gathering more “facts,” CMU 20K is the Chamber of Commerce, with CMU [proper] blessings on it.
    • Miss guided information, and myths a.k.a. lies were reported to the City Council when they made their decision to approve the name change. visit our site for more citable references to this regard.
    • “…one of Mesa County’s top 10 largest employers that has an estimated $447.5 million annual impact on the region.” Facts be known, CMU spends the money they and you report as impacting our lil cow-punk town, on themselves. Land purchases, raising older homes and rebuilding Dorms, garages and or sport fields. Contactors, grounds staff, Professors and Mayor’s are all a part of the impact CMU has on our lil ill-witted township.
    • “The “Keep North 4Ever” movement began as a campaign to raise concerns of North Avenue businesses has ended with a conspiracy-fueled mob of angry citizens hell-bent on takin’ down the man. They have shirts, they have signs, they have petitions and it seems like they have a lot of free time on their hands.” WOW! Back at-chua! The “KeepNorth4Ever” group had one goal in mind, it’s in their name. As to free time, so, you are picking a fight over “free-time?” Do you consider yourself educated? Sit back, a lot of us do not.
    • “…they have decided it should be spent harassing the city council about the naming of a street.” We are not “harassing” City Council. *Peach Tree True Value will be looking at 12K + if the name change were to go through. Martin Mortuary $20+K, Zora at Satellite Tv, 5 to 6K, others higher, some less. These opportunities to share the costs involved with our City Council members are not statements of harassment but facts. The name change idea was a bad one. Levi Lucero who CMU praises for his efforts was kicked out of more businesses then I can count; his falsifying figures were received as being factual yet the actual cost to the North Avenue businesses are considered fabricated, emotionally driven, and outright lies by the name change proponents. Do you want to talk “Harassment?” Talk to the same North Avenue businesses I have spoken with, (176+) they will tell you how mean the Chamber has been towards them, how Levi took their NO vote of the name change and turned them into Yes’s. Really, you want to take up this fight, best get your gloves and your big girls panties on.
    • “The change was not expected to fix an aging town; however, it was expected to attract higher quality students.” So are you a less quality student? A street name not even the one named “Desire,” has never changed anything. The educated people I know and have known in my life time all went to small town colleges and Universities, the name of a road never got them to the college they went too.
    • “Grand Junction is in desperate need of an industry,” with this I agree, however CMU isn’t it, nor is St. Mary’s. These two institutions have an anchor here but they should not be our main focus of an area industrial leader.
    • “Grand Junction has the look and feel of a town the rest of the state forgot about. Had University Boulevard come into effect, it could have signaled to business owners or owners-to-be that Grand Junction is a sustainable area for growth, with an economy solidly (and rather safely) tied to the presence of a university.” This is conjecture on your part and not a proven position. Proving that we are an “economically solid” community has nothing to do with a street name, and everything to do with how our local government and the process for drawing in and keeping new businesses act. The area of the Mall grew as it had as the land was cheaper out there then it was in town. Not one of the street names in these corridors brought new businesses to our lil backward town the rest of the state has forgotten about.
    • “College students are good for the economy.” That depends on who you ask. ** “In fact, students spend more on text books and gasoline than non-food items in stores.” This reference also brings out that first year students have less of an income than third or forth year students do, so even your quote is wrong. You blanket your position to include all students, which cannot be seen as one grouping as “good for the local economy” when they are not.
    • *** CMU’s Ranking is 24. “Colorado Mesa University is ranked #24 in Regional Colleges West. Schools are ranked according to their performance across a set of widely accepted indicators of excellence.” Why is it that the Graduates of CMU do not stay in our lil o’l forgotten town on the edge of nowhere? It is because the student body is not from here; they go home after graduation, putting behind them their partying, their studying, their tickets and jail time.
    • “Posts on the “Save North Avenue” Facebook page include not just dates of potential demonstrations,” Why is it good for the goose and not the gander? **** “Hundreds of high school and college students rallied all over Colorado to protest President Donald Trump’s decision to roll back a program that would protect immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors.” Just askin.
    • “Their potential campaign success has been based on a great deal of misinformation and harassment in the form of nasty, vicious phone calls, emails, letters, mostly anonymous, name-calling, intimidation and threats,” Roger’s wife, Sharon Sollenberger, said. Hmm, I received a hate email once on our efforts to give factual information on our site to this regard; yet no one from the Crit has stopped by to ask questions. Levi Lucero, I understand doesn’t own a computer, but he is aware of what is being said of him to our regard, and he hasn’t spoken up either if our factual information is in error, nor has the Chamber, CMU Administrators or even the small lil ol group of 4.5 members of the NAOA. I think there are that many, I could be wrong, their site has been down for a couple of weeks so I cannot verify. Sorry.

    It stands to reason that all the groups involved in not wanting the name change to happen are pretty much all solid citizens of Grand Junction. A town that grew up out of the dustbowl we once were into the thriving community we are today. Our world hurts, in every corner the globe this can be see, only lil o’l blind people do not see this. There is always an opportunity for success, like Randy said, “success doesn’t have to be about growth.” Grand Junction has a point of view the proponents of the name change fail to see, but I have already taken up enough of your time, you go figure it out.

    Ref 1 – 5 Available upon request

  7. I would posit that the article was written by a person (or group thereof) who have essentially no “real world” experience and to this point have on their list of accomplishments merely one item and it is of completely insignificant note: “Graduated from High School.” That said, Anne Landman’s comments are thus axiomatically correct.

    Nevertheless, let’s parse the piece in greater depth and begin where after berating those with perspectives at variance with their own, this august group of journalists who clearly believe that they are blessed with obvious expertise in economics as well as business and job creation go on to attack so-called “grown adults.”

    What offense did that latter group dare to commit? Not only are those people “anti-growth” and probably even technophobic Luddites, but they had the ill-manners and temerity to make life a bit difficult for some members of the Criterion staff as a result of the Criterion’s staff of “non-grown adults” (i.e. students) writing articles and penning op-ed’s in favor of the changing of the name of North Avenue to the supposedly economic stimulus-inducing moniker of “University Boulevard.” Plus, apparently the city owes the university the change of name just because. Or something. And “little people” objected.

    “The horror.”

    Who is teaching these “non-grown adults” the craft of journalism? The fact of the matter is that when one writes a story or pens an op-ed replete with the authors name affixed to such, that person becomes a “public figure” along with all the glory and grief associated with that status. If you can’t stand the heat generated in response to what you write then change your major and go find a “safe place” far away from the keyboard. Ask an attorney about the first point and a therapist about the second. I’m certain there are plenty of under-employed psychology graduates working as barristas even in “college towns” willing to provide theraputic counseling to the terminally offended at cut-rate pricing.

    Moreover, who is the copy editor at the Crite? One of the authors? Let’s examine the introduction of paragraph seven as an example: “Grand Junction needs an industry…” So a singular industry combined with an old street with a new name is the solution to all that ails the Grand Valley? Did the non-grown adults have a suggestion for this singular industry that shall serve as the economic savior to the valley and in the process provide full employment to all the graduates from the university, be they bearing parchment detailing their academic accomplishments in the Fine Arts or Mechanical Engineering, Sociology or Women’s Studies, Geology or Nursing? Shall this magical entity also revive the dying local journalism field so that the thin-skinned authors have a place to ply their trade, er, “profession” post-graduation without criticism or ridicule and at a pay scale generous enough to provide wads of “disposable income?”

    Then again, according the the authors reasoning as cited in paragraph ten, from an economic standpoint the absolute worst circumstance that can happen in the valley is the continuation of the now yearly repetition of what has been occuring since the second year after the the college was founded in 1925; the graduation of it’s students. If the main assertion made in that paragraph is indeed true, that being that “college students have more disposable income than working adults”, then by God graduation must come to an end forthwith.

    Of course, the term “disposable income” wasn’t exactly well-defined by the non-grown adults who wrote the piece and not much else was either. If I’m carrying a mortgage of twenty-five hundred a month, paying off a couple of new vehicles along with the insurance requirements, finishing off helping with college tuition for the last of the four kids and all that goes with such, not to mention a thousand a month here and a thousand a month there, the authors claim may well be indeed true. Life. It cost money. At some point you have to earn it, not borrow it from future generations or spend mommy and daddy’s. What I cannot seem to mathematically rectify regarding their argument is that on one hand we have this coterie of students arguing that they have more disposable income than their working adult counterparts but at the same time this generation of non-grown, proto-adult students does little more than complain about their indebtedness while joining/sympathizing with ANTIFA or somehow think that a camp-out on campus will make them “aware” of the plight of the homeless under the Fifth Street bridge and burrowed into the Tamarisk along the river’s banks. Why aren’t you using that so-called “disposable income” to lower the principle on your student loans? Bernie lost.

    Another irksome assertion by the “non-grown adults” who wrote this piece was their use of the term “dangerous force” describing those people who simply disagree with the name-changers, that phrase demonstrating in full just how low the totality of the circumstances have descended. The “campus safe place” people are clearly running the show.

    Now to be clear about this, perhaps some of the opposition as getting at least a bit angry, and why not? Angry doesn’t equate to dangerous even though the psychological programming over the last three to four decades is that a raised voice is akin to a three-round beatdown of a defenseless opponent. That said, if I owned a business on North Avenue and the Chamber, the City and the “University” forced through this name change, I’m thus being forced to spend thousands of dollars on new stationary and address signage, plus I have to get on my website and change that as well. “Time is money” too, kids. Given that the pro-name change cohort is primarily engaged in spending other peoples money, students most certainly included, that might just anger me a great deal. I’d more than liekly raise my voice. The fact of that matter is that the majority of the boosters of this idiocy are either all on the dole to varying degrees (Council, Chamber, University employees) or “students”, not a one of them having any actual direct “skin in the game” on this matter. Their profession or avocation is spending other peoples money and in the process forcing others to spend their own.

    The Crite writers, hardly satisfied with their other volleys couldn’t help but hurl another inter-generational slight: “…glory days cruising North Avenue as teenagers.”

    Let’s get serious here, “non-grown adults” – the “cruising” phenomenon was best illustrated in the flick “American Graffiti”, set in the 1950’s. Those folks were born in the mid to late 1930’s and are hobbling into and through their 80’s about now. The short-lived era that cincluded that period was when the “muscle car era” hit its peak from the mid-sixties through the mid-seventies, killed off by the E.P.A. and the insurance companies. “Unleaded gasoline”, compression ratios down to 8.5-1 and a billion a month forced to Allstate and State Farm put the Hot Rod/Cruising interlude right into the grave. With 450 h.p. and 500 foot pounds of torque castrated down to half a nut, that was that for that. Those folks are all well into their sixties and seventies. In fact “Fats Domino” died today, a “rock and roll” pioneer whose music went along for the ride with the derided “cruising” of the 1950’s. Kids, he was 89.

    That is not the cohort that killed off the name change. It was the folks which Anne Landman’s illustrated in her illustrated above. Even a quick trip back to the eighties is clear evidence that the “glory days” (these people must hate Springsteen) you accuse people of allegedly not wishing to disappear due to a “name change” did not exist. Was there any “cruising” in any classic sense on North Avenue during that period? No. Most of the bar scene by then was either out on 12th and Patterson, Horizon Drive or downtown and the remnants of the “hot car era” filled the junkyards down where Riverside Parkway now runs. There was indeed a 3.2 beer bar named “Suds and Sounds” then located in what is now the “Meth Alley” part of North Avenue” near where “Guyton’s Fun Junction” formerly stood which was killed off when 3.2 beer was outlawed and the drinking age upped to 21 across the board, but again, that occured in 1986 and there was no “cruising.”

    The fact of the matter is that people who understand this issue are cognizant of the fact that a name change won’t make a damn bit of difference and the new signage would be nothing but lipstick on a pig and that “pig” is in truth Methford Falls, a city located at the confluence of the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers plagued by a staggering crime rate replete with social maladies that could fill four years of textbooks. It used to be a nice town but sadly, “Jimmy jumped” and Clarence was busy elsewhere.

    The last time the proper heads came together over the socio-economic maladies in the area was indeed in the 1980’s after Exxon et.al. pulled out of the area in 1982. The economy had been focused around one industry and frankly, the “Oil Industry” doesn’t have much of an appeal to the vast majority of college graduates anyway even if graduating with a B.S. degree in the STEM field of Petroleum Engineering is one of the top five highest paying jobs upon graduation available. That said, business leaders got together and started an “Economic Development Council” designed to bring in as many different business in as many different sectors as they could and they were remarkably successful. Due to that groups efforts, when Sunstrand wanted to move to Junction then Mesa College president John Tomlinson worked with them and department heads to craft a curriculum specifically for their needs.They spent time and money recruiting in enterprises in from others states. and within three to five years the patient was off the table and running again. The folks at the Economic Development Council worked their tails off spearheading that effort and indeed produced tangible results, providing for a number of years a quite diverse economic base with a great deal of focus on manufacturing “value-added” products. (Look that up, kids.)

    And what does the valley have now at their rescue? “Leaders” who think that changing a name or two (12th Street to “Maverick Way?” ) will be the cause of economic miracles.

    John Molloy
    Mesa College Class of 1986
    S.B.A. President 1984-1985, Columnist for The Criterion 1985-1986

  8. I would posit that the article was written by a person (or group thereof) who have essentially no “real world” experience and to this point have on their list of accomplishments merely one item and it is of completely insignificant note: “Graduated from High School.” That said, Anne Landman’s comments are thus axiomatically correct.

  9. Oh clickbait titles and your half-assed research disguised as “journalism” – thanks for being openly biased, vilifying one faction, extrapolating extreme views of a minority to an entire group, and ignoring possible solutions presented by both sides. Sigh. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    At least I can see from the comments section people are being more reasonable, nuanced, and discerning than you make it seem. There is a debate happening, and it is being made by the people that care about the local community. Win or lose, we are the people that will face the consequences and are committed to providing a better future for ourselves and our families.

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