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Citizens seek access to their public officials

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By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) would have gotten an earful on April 21 in Glenwood Springs, had he stopped to chat with protesters outside the Hotel Colorado demanding that he hold Town Hall meetings with constituents rather than restricting himself to private fundraising gatherings with supporters.

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The senator was in town as a guest at a Garfield County Republican Party dinner, meant to raise money for local party candidates.

Gardner, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2015, has not held a Town Hall meeting for constituents during the most recent Congressional recess, which ran from April 10-21, or apparently during previous 2017 recess sessions, according to his critics and his website.

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What he has held, according to his website, have been “tours” on the Western Slope, where he has met with party officials, local government officers, school representatives and, in one case, students at Colorado Mountain College in Rifle.

Attempts to contact Gardner’s offices in Colorado and Washington, D.C., to determine if any Town Hall meetings are scheduled for the future, were not successful as telephone calls and emails were not returned.

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According to a woman helping to set up the Devereaux Room inside the Hotel Colorado for the Gardner event, reporters were not permitted. Tickets to attend the event started at around $50 apiece, according to reports.

Other elected officials, however, including members of the Colorado Congressional delegation at the Colorado State Capitol, have been holding Town Hall meetings with some regularity.

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U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)

Bennet, who last year won his first-ever election bid, by a margin of 49-45 percent, held five Town Hall meetings with constituents in March, according to his staff and information on his website (

Those Town Halls were held in Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Alamosa, Durango and Grand Junction.

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In addition, according to Bennet’s website, the senator’s staff managed a series of some two dozen “listening sessions” concerning the anticipated 2018 Farm Bill. The current Farm Bill was passed in 2014 and will expire in the fall of 2018.

“The farm bill is a fairly comprehensive, multiyear piece of legislation that governs a substantial array of federal farm, food, fiber, forestry, and rural policies and programs under the joint jurisdiction of the House Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Committees on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry,” according to a statement in the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Bennet was appointed to his first term in 2009 when his predecessor, Ken Salazar, was picked by President Barack Obama to be Secretary of the Interior Department. In 2014, he and his staff held a similar series of ‘listening sessions” to gather public input about provisions people wanted included in the bill.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-3rd District)

Tipton ) has represented the 3rd District, which covers most of the Western Slope, since 2010.

According to his staff, he has held three Town Hall meetings this year, in Montrose, Alamosa and at the Pueblo West High School in Pueblo, the largest city in the district.

He is expected to hold more such meetings, though they have not yet been scheduled, according to his office in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner

As noted above, Gardner’s offices did not respond to requests for information about possible future Town Hall meetings in Colorado.

A press release on his website (, however, referred on April 13 to his having recently “concluded a tour of the Western Slope,” though the text of the release referred strictly to meetings between Gardner and various government officials, agricultural organizations and health care agencies.

No mention was made in the release of publicly open Town Hall meetings, beyond occasional “telephone town halls” that do not involve face-to-face meetings with the general public.

Gardner was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, and moved over to the Senate in 2014 when he defeated incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat.

Colorado Rep. Bob Rankin

Rankin (, who represents House Dist. 57 (Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties), typically holds Town Hall-style meetings during the summer months when the state legislature is not in session, according to Joyce Rankin, Bob’s wife, who works as an aide in his office in addition to her service as a member of the State Board of Education.

But, she said, this is the first time the office has received phone calls from constituents seeking information about the dates of future Town Hall meetings.

“This year is really heavy on that,” Joyce Rankin said, although she felt the callers were more interested in making a political point than in the meeting schedule.

“Some of them weren’t even in his district,” she said, adding, “They want a place to protest.”

Rankin, who explained that Bob had been unable to call The Sopris Sun due to the legislative schedule, said his constituent meetings often revolve around individual issues such as health care or education, and predicted that he is likely to hold some in the coming months.

State Sen. Randy Baumgardner

Baumgardner (, who represents Dist. 8 (Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt, Grand, Jackson and Summit counties), did not respond to a request for information about his policy concerning Town Hall meetings.

Published in The Sopris Sun on April 27, 2017. 
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