Indignation or flatulation?
Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is outraged. Outraged! So much outrage!
Gardner is perplexed that he is not being welcomed like a conquering hero for using his political capital to move the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to Grand Junction. He is furious that Congress would dare — DARE! — to question this brilliant idea of his. As Justin Wingerter reports for the Denver Post:
The acting director of the Bureau of Land Management on Tuesday defended his agency’s decision to move its headquarters to Grand Junction in the face of criticisms that it will cause career employees to depart, will needlessly cost federal coffers and will harm tribal interests.
Gardner apparently thought moving the BLM would be a slam dunk of a political proposal that could propel him to re-election victory in 2020, but as it turns out, people aren’t actually thrilled about the idea. Bringing 27 whole jobs to Grand Junction clearly hasn’t obscured the fact that moving a big federal agency is really about trying to destroy that federal agency altogether.
Today, Gardner took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to voice his manufactured outrage about opposition to the BLM’s move, which he says has been “a priority I’ve been working on for a number of years.” A transparently defensive Gardner delivered a long, rambling speech full of odd factoids and indignation that plainly betrayed any facade of confidence in the decision. You can read the full transcript of Gardner’s remarks after the jump, but we’ll break out some of the more inexplicable segments for you below.
Look at how much red is on this map. Look at it!
After a bunch of platitudes about the beauty of the West, Gardner gets to what has been his primary argument in support of moving the BLM offices: That public lands management will work better if the managers are closer to the public lands. Jabbing his finger at a red-colored map of the United States, Gardner said this:
So in the case of Grand Junction, Colorado, the Bureau of Land Management, almost 73 percent of Mesa County, which Grand Junction resides, is public land. Why not make the decisions facing these millions of acres of public lands in the West, where the lands reside instead of thousands of miles removed in Washington D.C.?
This is, of course, a stupid argument. If moving the BLM to a place close to public land was really the primary motivation here, then why not stick the new HQ in the middle of Nevada where it could be 100% surrounded by public lands? Why settle for just 73 percent?
Next, Gardner tries (sort of) to target his critics:
Unfortunately, we’re starting to hear some partisan debate though creep into this incredibly important move. Because what we’re seeing in Washington of course, are Washington Democrats trying to stop the process.
In the news we’ve read about Washington bureaucrats who are opposed to the move, but it’s important to realize that this decision is not about the bureaucrats, it is about the job that we are doing to represent our public lands. This is an agency that doesn’t just work for each other. It’s an agency that works for the people of this country to do the best job they can representing and managing our public lands, the public lands that they are charged to manage and to protect.
Those “Washington bureaucrats” that Gardner denigrates are not exactly divided on moving the BLM headquarters. As E&E News reported from a closed-door meeting last week, “Not one of the more than 200 employees present expressed support for the move.”
But nevermind that, because we’re going to save literally thousands of dollars by moving the BLM…because, uh, well. Says Gardner:
It will also save states in Western communities thousands of dollars in travel expenses. Imagine, if you live in western Colorado, you no longer have to fly thousands of miles to Washington D.C. You don’t have to buy an expensive roundtrip airplane ticket, spend a night in an expensive hotel, buy an expensive meal at an expensive restaurant. You get to travel, drive, or fly a very short trip to western Colorado with great air service and great interstate access. You don’t have to pay for a Washington hotel or a Washington meal. These are things that you can do when the BLM is actually located where 99 percent of the land they represent resides.
Apparently, once the BLM moves its headquarters to Grand Junction, nobody will ever again have to travel to Washington D.C. Anyone who still needs to travel to Grand Junction will be able to use a teleportation machine.
You know, it’s a little bit absurd. It talks a little bit about the lack of hubris that government has, to think that only Washington knows best and only Washington can lead. To think you can’t manage these lands from where they’re at.
Who is saying this? Who is saying that the BLM can’t manage public lands from Colorado? Name just one of these people.
Let’s move along to the math section of Gardner’s speech:
Leasing costs are also worth raising when we talk about the BLM headquarters. The BLM compared leasing space for 27 staffers in Washington versus the leasing space available in Grand Junction, Colorado. The difference is $50 per square foot in Washington versus just over $32 per square foot in Grand Junction. If you think about what that means, that’s a significant savings.
What? How is that a significant savings? How many square feet of office space do you need for 27 people?
You think about what it means for travel, and the cost to taxpayers of travel expenses for BLM employees. According to the Department, in fiscal year 2018 BLM employee travel from Washington to the West was more than $3.2 million. There’s no question that these resources could have been better spent on state offices and field offices that have been starving for resources for years.
Again, Gardner touts the absurd idea that moving the BLM offices will eliminate the need for people to travel anymore. A middle school debater wouldn’t rely on this argument.
As Gardner starts to wrap things up, he turns up the indignity meter to full ludicrousness:
The only reason to oppose this move is if you don’t care about the people of the western United States, or you don’t think somehow the people of the western United States are smart enough to figure out how to run public lands, or to manage public lands. Or maybe you don’t think that Colorado is up to the task of being the headquarters of the BLM, because apparently you don’t trust the people in the West. [Pols emphasis]
If you don’t like my idea to move the BLM headquarters, then you hate Colorado and the entire American West! This is a real argument proposed by a real person.
In conclusion, Sen. Gardner trots out his straw men for one last admonishment:
It’s offensive. It really is, to think that there are people in Washington who think that only Washington can do this job. It’s wrong, and we should stand up against that kind of idea that only Washington can do something and fight back against that mentality…
…Only in Washington do they think it’s only Washington that can do the job. Washington bureaucrats and Washington Democrats can oppose Colorado all they want, but I believe in Colorado. I believe in our ability to manage these public lands better than they’ve ever been managed before.
To the imaginary people who say, “only Washington can do this job,” Cory Gardner says that Colorado can manage the crap out of public lands!
This is all incredibly silly from Gardner, but it is instructive to note how worried he is that his one big Senate thing isn’t going over as well as he imagined. It would be hard to telegraph those concerns any more obviously.