JOHNSTOWN — Last week while Johnstown Mayor Scott James was mowing his lawn, he thought about the people of his community who could lose everything in just a few weeks.
It frustrated him.
“I got mad just thinking about Proposition 112,” James said. “I’m a mayor. I can do something about this.”
So when he was done with the lawn, he sat down on his porch to smoke a cigar and think some more.
“I called my mayor buddy John Gates and told him what I was thinking, and that it was weighing heavy on my heart,” James said. “He said it was weighing on him too, and we decided we needed to do something.”
That something became Mayors Against Proposition 112 (MAP).
Proposition 112 requires a 2500-foot set back for all oil and gas production. Opponents call it a de facto ban on oil and gas in Colorado, as it will make drilling off limits to most of the state.
After talking to Gates, the mayor of Greeley, James set out and called the other mayors around Weld County closest to him first, and got them on board.
“Beau Woodcock in Milliken and Kristie Melendez in Windsor were both immediately in,” James said. “As was Kevin Ross in Eaton.”
He then went to work on everyone else.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were a total of 14 mayors, including James, who lent their name to the cause. Only one mayor James contacted was a hard no, he said. That was Jennifer Carroll in Erie. Some are still researching the situation, and others have not contacted James back, yet.
“I bought in without hesitation,” Gates said. “I think it’s devastating to Greeley, to Weld County to the entire state of Colorado.”
James said he fears for his community’s school district, which relies on more than half its assessed valuation to oil and gas.
“This is going to hurt our schools, our businesses and our communities,” James said. “We are only one of seven on our boards, but being Mayor still comes with a certain leadership that is expected, and when we stand up and say this is wrong for our community, there is a level of gravitas that comes with that.”
Gates agreed, and in fact, took it one step further.
He presented the idea of passing a resolution in opposition to the Proposition at the council’s meeting on Tuesday. He said all but one council member — At Large councilwoman Stacy Suniga — was in favor of his idea, so the resolution to oppose 112 will be brought before the board at its next regular meeting Oct. 2.
Weld County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution in opposition on Monday.
The mayors plan to schedule a series of rallies and community meetings to answer their constituents’ questions.
The first rally will be at 11 a .m. Thursday on the east steps of the Weld County Courthouse, 901 9th Ave. in Greeley, where all the Mayors will get the chance to say why they oppose 112.
Gates said he doesn’t see how anyone could support this, with opposition coming from all sides.
“It strikes me that the current governor and both gubernatorial candidates are against 112,” Gates said. “People on opposite ends of the political spectrum say this is bad for Colorado. There has been so many advances in safety. Is there a risk, yes, but there is risk to walking across the street. To me it’s important that we have a thriving economy.”
James called the effort pure grassroots.
“All we have are our voices,” he said. “But that’s enough. If we are nothing more than a bunch of mayors locking arms on the courthouse steps, that’s fine. It carries a punch.”
Mayors currently on board with MAP in opposing Proposition 112 are:
- Ault Mayor Rob Piotrowski
- Dacono Mayor Joe Baker
- Eaton Mayor Kevin Ross
- Evans Mayor Brian Rudy
- Fort Lupton Mayor Zo Stieber
- Greeley Mayor John Gates
- Hudson Mayor Dwayne Haynes
- Johnstown Mayor Scott James
- LaSalle Mayor Andy Martinez
- Milliken Mayor Beau Woodcock
- Platteville Mayor Adrienne Brossman Sandoval
- Severance Mayor Don McCleod
- Thornton Mayor Heidi Schoenenberger Williams
- Windsor Mayor Kristie Melendez