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Grassroots at Java Groove

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By Vicky Gits

In the realm of grassroots politics, it doesn’t get much more grassroots than “soabox night” at Java Groove in Evergreen.

You can hear the candidates, the candidates’ representatives, and just plain voters. And you can even get up and hear yourself talk.

The organizer of the event brought a custom-designed soapbox — a portable platform, lined with gray shag carpet — that served the appointed purpose in style.

On a soapbox night, everyone gets a shot at the podium, for a limited amount of time anyway, and that can be kind of interesting.

On Monday, Oct. 6, about 20 people, including three political candidates, turned out for soapbox night, sponsored by Evergreen Peace.

In attendance were Dan Gibbs, candidate in Senate District 15, Andrew Scripter in House District 25 and Vicky Peters for Jefferson County district attorney. Tim Mauck, compliance director for U.S. Senate candidate Mark Udall, spoke on Udall’s behalf. Marcie Dahlen appeared for congressional candidate Jared Polis. Bonnie Sanchez made a statement on behalf of Barack Obama.

The candidates each got five minutes to lay out their platforms, then the rest of the citizen speakers took advantage of the opportunity to get a few things off their chests.

Gibbs touted his legislative efforts to save the forest from wildfires and said his main campaign priority was knocking on doors. “If I haven’t knocked on your door yet, it’s only a matter of time.”

A former senior attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver, Vicky Peters used her time to state the case for prison reform.

“I know the justice system is broken. We can’t afford to incarcerate people at this rate. Rounding up people and putting them in jail doesn’t solve their problems,” Peters said, referring to the many prisoners with substance abuse and mental health issues.

Among other things, HD25 candidate Andy Scripter endorsed investing in renewable energy, because it can be cleaner and cheaper, as well as create good jobs.

Hannah Hayes, a Canyon Courier columnist, who isn’t a candidate for public office, took her turn on the soapbox to complain about the lack of discussion about Iraq and Afghanistan in the presidential campaign. “We are spending about $20 billion a month on Iraq. If we go (more fully) into Afghanistan, we are going to make the same mistake,” she said.

One speaker seemed to sum up the significance of the election season.

“You may not be 100 percent behind one person, but it’s not the time to be on the fence,” said Becky Cook, a prominent Democratic Party officer. “We have clear choices. Talk to people who are spreading rumors and talk to people about the issues. There’s too much at stake to sit on the sidelines.”