County withdraws its stake in Club 20

“Not very representative of representative government”

At a meeting on Monday, December 15, the Board of County Commissioners decided to end the county’s involvement in Club 20, an organization composed of county and industry representatives, business groups and individuals from the western slope.



The role of Club 20, which the county has belonged to for at least 10 years, is similar to that of a lobby that makes a case for the interests of communities and businesses throughout the Western Slope.
According to commissioner Paula Swenson, who was the county’s representative to Club 20, the organization has shifted from being community-oriented to focusing on the needs of industry, like oil and gas.
“I think Club 20 is a good organization, particularly for business. But it’s not very representative of representative government,” said Swenson. “When you have a situation like that, then it’s hard for elected officials to participate and say this is what our community wants, when the two are not on the same page.”
With the county’s commitment to the organization ending in January, the question of continued participation was brought up at a joint meeting of Gunnison and Pitkin counties in August, when both counties expressed concern that the voice of the municipalities were being overrun by those in industry.
It was the feeling at the meeting that the trend toward industry holding a majority stake in the Club 20 would only accelerate, and both counties considered pulling out. Pitkin County has not decided how it will proceed, but San Juan County has followed Gunnison’s lead in withdrawing participation.
“The majority rules, but the minority always have their day in court,” said Reeves Brown, executive director of Club 20. “No matter if you pay $100 in dues or $1,000, everybody has one vote and I think that is pretty unique.”
But the dissenting opinion goes no further than the Club 20 discussions and the commissioners have said that unless that minority is represented when the vote is taken to the state capitol, it does nothing to serve the communities whose representatives cast their vote.
“A perfect example of how Club 20 and Gunnison County have parted ways was during the election, when Club 20 voted against Amendment 58 [which would have ended a severance tax credit for mineral extraction companies operating in Colorado] and Gunnison County voted in favor of it. They’re just more business- and industry-oriented,” said Swenson.

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