Democrats gathered at Heritage Hall in Hotchkiss for their annual First Amendment dinner on Saturday, April 21. There was great food to enjoy provided by Pine Cone Catering of Montrose and guest speakers provided great food for thought and consideration. Finding respect for divergent viewpoints in our divisive nation is challenging. That's because the stakes for our country are so high. Guest speakers spoke on how vital the First Amendment is to maintain a healthy democracy.
Delta Dems chair David Jacobson introduced the first speaker, Cidney Fisk, who came by way of a letter read by her father, Robert Fisk. Cidney could not attend the dinner due to time-consuming midterm studies. "I was ecstatic to hear that the dinner this year is honoring the First Amendment. I truly believe that the freedoms granted to us and protected by this amendment were drafted first not only because they are extremely important but because they are a prerequisite to all other rights. If one couldn't express that women ought to have the right to vote, there would be no 19th Amendment. If one could not protest inequalities, how would we have the 13th Amendment?" Cidney continued, "It's hard to make the importance of the First Amendment into a short speech, but it was important for me to voice my admiration for it because I have been using it as a protection of my unpopular speech and without it I could have never pointed out injustices."
Cidney Fisk, a 2016 graduate from Delta High School, ran afoul of some teachers and counselors when she spoke out on financial expenditures that she felt favored sports rather than academics, Christian-based sex education in violation of the separation of church and state laws, and the fact she is an atheist. Her outspokenness led to a loss of some traditional scholarship funding. Some of that loss was made up by donations from those who supported her right to free speech. She received a $4,325 check from Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers. In September 2016, she filed a federal lawsuit against Delta County Joint School District No. 50 for violating her right to free speech. She now attends college in Denver.
Other speakers included Dick Gilmore, Democratic candidate for District 1 county commissioner. David Jacobson reminded voters that those who live outside the district can vote in the upcoming commissioner election. Stacey Lowe gave her reasons for running for county clerk. Julie McCluskie shared about her candidacy for Colorado House District 61. Representative Millie Hamner spoke about legislation in the state house and encouraged support for McCluskie. Hamner is term limited this year and is looking forward to moving on to other non-political pursuits.
Two keynote speakers were invited. Anne Landman, who has a popular blog on "Alternative News and Views from Western Colorado," shared about various experiences she has encountered while exercising free speech. Ruth Anna spoke about the importance of Colorado's open meeting laws. She serves on the board for the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. The non-partisan coalition's mission "is to ensure that Coloradans -- journalists, the general public, public officials, educators, students, business owners and legal professionals -- understand and use the public's rights of access to the records and proceedings of government and the judiciary."
By evening's end, those in attendance felt inspired by the uplifting messages about our nation's First Amendment.
For more information about Delta County Democrats, visit www.deltadems.org.
The election results are in at the local, state and national level, and as expected, Democrats are doing well in state and national races. Colorado has elected Jared Polis as governor; nationally the Republicans appear to retain control of the Senate while Democrats now control the House of Representative.
With a ballot full of local and state measures, voter turnout in Delta County topped 71%, with 15,889 ballots cast. Statewide, voter turnout was just over 52%.
Of the three Delta County residents seeking state offices, Matt Soper won over Thea Chase in State Representative Dist. 54; Mike Mason lost to Julie McCluskie in State Representative Dist. 61; and Olen Lund lost to Kerry Donovan in State Senate Dist. 5.
Locally, in the City of Delta voters rejected a .5% sales tax increase to fund recreation, as well as recreational marijuana sales. The sale of medical marijuana and cultivation/manufacturing facilities was approved by a slim margin. Delta voters also gave the city the green light to move forward with selling or trading the Cottonwood and Riverbend Park, and to sell the old Municipal Light and Power Building.