Schmuck of the Week

Shmuck of the Week: Josh Penry

This week's shmuck is state Senate minority leader Josh Penry of Grand Junction. He's also gunning for Bill Ritter's Governor job, and the short version of the past few weeks' convoluted saga of schmuckitude is that Penry cares a lot more about his political future than his constituents. (Which makes him exactly like every other politician, which makes every other politician a shmuck. Which means we're probably right about this one).

It's tough to decide where to begin, really. Early July -- when the Feds started looking at a disposal cell south of Grand Junction as a storage facility for thousands of tons of mercury -- seems a good a time as any. It seems pretty clear that to store mercury in the cell would blatantly abuse the intent of the facility, which was to store uranium mill tailings from the city's past. The facility was approved on condition that it not be used to store hazardous materials. Like mercury.

Citizens of Grand Junction were understandably miffed at the government's proposal, but the city's elected officials in Denver were oddly silent. Protest came from the Capitol, eventually, from Penry and Ritter and everyone else. But Penry seems less interested in keeping mercury out of his city than finding ways to attack Ritter, even though they're both fighting for the exact same thing.

Ritter has set up a form letter on his web site to be forwarded to the U.S. Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, and Penry is calling foul. Via the Grand Junction Sentinel, which may have its own pro-Penry agenda

Why go to such lengths? Penry asked in an e-mail. Penry is seeking the Republican nomination to oppose Ritter in the 2010 election.

"Does anyone think it's strange that the governor doesn't just pick up the phone and call the Secretary of Energy and President Obama himself?"

Ritter plans to write to Chu late this week, his spokesman, Evan Dreyer, said in an e-mail Tuesday.

I don't know, Penry. Maybe the better question is why are you wasting you're time sending speculative emails to the local paper when you're already stretched thin between your Senate job and your Gubernatorial campaign? And this indignation at Ritter's potential politicking rings false after you described a pledge you signed in your 2006 Senate campaign as a "great gimmick." You know this game, Josh Penry. You play it yourself all the time, and maybe the most important issue here is keeping toxic materials far away from your constituents' water basin rather than second-guessing the efforts of the man with the clout to actually accomplish just that.

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Kiernan Maletsky is a former Westword intern.
Contact: Kiernan Maletsky