Letter to the editor: Access denied to public building and public officials

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner has received many thousands of calls, letters and online messages from constituents requesting that he hear their comments and concerns in town halls. He has steadfastly refused to do so. One brief and hastily-scheduled, unilateral "tele-town hall" poorly substitutes for face-to-face engagement with citizens.

I was among 250 Southern Coloradans gathered on Saturday night outside the Adams State University Student Union, hoping to make contact with Senator Gardner, who attended (with District 3 Representative Scott Tipton) a private banquet for Republican donors. The peaceful crowd held signs reiterating our request for a genuine exchange with the senator. Gardner had also declined to meet earlier in the day with a small number of community representatives. Gardner and Tipton entered the building on the sly, never acknowledging or communicating with their gathered constituents.

A Canine Unit squad car with continuously flashing lights remained blocking the ASU parking lot for several hours. Sheriff's vehicles circled. Police cordoned off the surroundings and prevented citizens from approaching the entrance of the ASU. Two fire engines and a fire truck were stationed opposite the building. Over 12 Alamosa law enforcement officers were onsite, locking down access to the publicly-funded university building, guarding the reception area. Three officers were attired in what appeared to be SWAT-team gear.

I fully understand the necessity for guaranteeing the protection of members of Congress, and I respect law enforcement's duty to maintain the peace. However, on Saturday, taxpayer-funded emergency vehicles and personnel were engaged for much of an evening in shielding public servants from the constituents to whom they have a constitutional responsibility. This display does nothing to remedy the perception that Senator Gardner and Representative Tipton are unable or unwilling — fearful, perhaps — to take this responsibility. They should understand that his refusal to meet Coloradans only corrodes the public trust, and galvanizes us to make sure that they are never elected again to represent our state.


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