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Jonesin' for a recall

Black leaders still fuming despite death of anti-affirmative action bill

The defeat last week of a bill to eliminate affirmative action programs in Colorado hasn't doused the anger felt by many blacks against Republican state Sen. Ed Jones of Colorado Springs, the bill's chief sponsor.

And some African-American activists are still supportive of a pending recall effort against Jones.

"It doesn't change how I feel," said the Rev. James McMearn, of New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church, after Jones' bill died. McMearn, a longtime civil-rights activist in the Springs, said many in the black community share his anger against Jones. "At the grassroots level, people are just furious."

Jones' bill, which would have outlawed racial considerations in hiring, contracting and education throughout Colorado, died on March 26 when Republican Sen. Lewis Entz joined Senate Democrats to reject it on an 18-17 vote. All of El Paso County's state senators -- Jones, Andy McElhany, Doug Lamborn, Ron May and Ken Chlouber -- voted in favor of the bill.

In introducing the bill, Jones, who is black, said he believed affirmative action hurts people of color, because it creates the perception among many whites that minorities only succeed thanks to preferential treatment.

Black and Hispanic leaders, meanwhile, said the bill would reverse decades of progress made by minorities. Affirmative action is still needed, they maintained, to create a "level playing field" for people of color.

Local African-American leaders also complained that Jones didn't even discuss the bill with them prior to drafting it. Many of the leaders had backed Jones when he first ran for Senate District 11 two years ago. Their support likely helped tip the race in favor of Jones, who defeated his Democratic opponent, Tony Marino, by a mere 651 votes.

Lillian Mallory, a local Democratic activist, announced in February that she is working on a petition to recall Jones. Mallory said last week that she was planning to proceed with the recall regardless of whether Jones' bill passed. Jones has not responded to requests seeking comments on his position.

McMearn said this week that he plans to put "whatever force and support" he can offer behind the recall effort.

"I do want to help effect that," McMearn said. Jones, he said, "is a dangerous person for the civil-rights movement."

Another local civil-rights leader, the Rev. Milton Proby of St. John's Baptist Church, said he's also still mad at Jones.

However, Proby said he was skeptical of trying to recall Jones, calling it a "waste of time."

Blacks and others should focus their time and energy on more important issues, such as working to make sure more state money is spent on education instead of prisons, Proby said.

To hold a recall election against Jones, petitioners would need to gather at least 6,535 valid signatures from voters in Senate District 11, which includes core areas of Colorado Springs as well as Manitou Springs. The number represents 25 percent of the votes cast in the district during the 2002 election.

John Straayer, a political scientist at Colorado State University and an expert on state politics, told the Independent recently that, to his knowledge, no state legislator in Colorado has ever been successfully recalled.

-- Terje Langeland

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