Latest Gubernatorial candidate to visit Craig promises to ‘think big, be bold’ for Colorado
November 2, 2017
CRAIG — The latest candidate in the race to become Colorado's next governor in 2018 met with local residents at Downtown Books to share his "big, bold" ideas.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) is an entrepreneur with an extensive political pedigree. He co-founded his first company — American Information Systems — while still in college, and in 2000, he was recognized as "Entrepreneur of the Year" by Ernst and Young and as one of Success Magazine's top ten young entrepreneurs. The same year, he was elected to the Colorado State Board of Education.
In 2008, Polis was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He has since been recognized as a leader on education, immigration, civil rights, environment and technology issues. He helped craft the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act, and has served in various leadership capacities, including as vice-chairman of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, vice-chairman of the Sustainable Energy and Environmental Caucus, and co-chairman of the bipartisan US-Mexico Friendship Caucus
He has also served on the bipartisan Nutritional Supplement Caucus, the bipartisan Blockchain Caucus and the bi-partisan Outdoor Recreation Caucus.
He announced his plans to run for Colorado's top job June 11.
Polis said he has three priorities: "To take the state into the future by making it energy independent with 100-percent renewable energy by 2040; improving education and delivering full day kindergarten and preschool across the state; and building an inclusive economy where employees of all levels make more, not just CEOs," according to polisforcolorado.com.
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The Craig Press asked Polis for more details about how he would address critical issues in rural Colorado.
Craig Press: How will you ensure rural economies aren't left behind during the current population booms and economic growth elsewhere in Colorado?
Jared Polis: While, in some parts of Colorado, our economy is booming, too many communities, especially in our rural areas, are being left behind, and that story isn't getting told as often as it needs to be. And, it's not just telling the story. We need a governor who cares and will finally do something about it, and I will.
I want to build an economy that works for every Coloradan — no matter what ZIP code they're in. One of my top priorities will be helping people find work in the communities they call home. You shouldn't have to move to Denver, hours away from your family, to get a good job. I've created hundreds of jobs, met payroll, patented innovative new technology, and I not only know what we need to do to make sure that our entire state is part of our success story, but I also know how to get it done.
To make this goal a reality, we need to support every aspect of our rural economies — from affordable housing, to good schools, to a modern infrastructure. One step we must take is ensuring that every school, hospital, small business and entrepreneur has access to high-speed internet. We can put Coloradans to work by removing barriers to the installation of broadband in rural areas and letting rural cities and counties take power into their own hands to give their citizens access to tools that the metro area can take for granted. When more Coloradans are given the opportunity to succeed, we all do better.
CP: How would you support rural communities like Craig in their efforts to recruit new business and industry to diversify their economies?
JP: "How bad are the roads today?" is as common as asking about the weather in rural Colorado. To attract businesses that will bring good-paying jobs to our communities, we have to upgrade our infrastructure. That means fixing our roads and highways and modernizing our transit systems to reduce traffic, improve safety and make travel within rural communities easier. Resolving our rural broadband problems is also key to recruiting new businesses.
In addition, I would focus on expanding our rural communities' affordable housing offerings and improving both the cost and the availability of health care.
CP: What ideas do you have to help coal miners diversify their skills and find other high-paying work as the coal industry continues to decline?
JP: We have to recognize that coal miners are already some of the highest-skilled and dedicated men and women that we have in the state. From manufacturing, to construction, to building a renewable energy economy, coal miners already have some of the finest skills and talents that we need for our future. In many cases, it's not simply about diversifying their skills, but making sure that we value what they already offer Colorado.
We can inject new life into rural Colorado by partnering with industry to renovate our closed down factories and mines to give them a new mission, whether it be to harvest our natural resources in pursuit of a clean economy or create the next hub of manufacturing in Colorado as a way to kickstart local economies. As coal traffic decreases, we can use existing rail infrastructure to move locally manufactured products to give us a competitive advantage in transportation pricing.
CP: How would you propose to solve Colorado's teacher shortage, especially in rural areas?
JP: Recruiting teachers to Colorado's highest-need areas is only one part of the battle — we also have to make sure teachers can afford to keep teaching, grow in their profession and tackle the high cost-of-living in some parts of the state.
That's why my administration will partner with local governments to pay off the student loans of teachers who commit to serve in a high-need or rural area for a certain amount of time. I will also work to expand and improve the Building Excellent Schools Today program, which is currently used to renovate our schools with contributions from the State Land Board, marijuana tax revenue, lottery spillover and interest. This program may be able to help local communities support the building of affordable housing and fulfill all of our schools' capital construction needs by considering new funding sources.
CP: Do you support the new Critical Shortages in Rural School Districts law, which will permit retirees to teach in school with teacher shortages without losing retirement benefits?
JP: Yes. This is the kind of innovative thinking we need to ensure that all our public schools have the resources and training they need to serve our kids. As governor, I will work with school districts across Colorado to ensure that every child in our state gets the great education they need to unlock the bright future they deserve, including preschool and kindergarten — whether they're from the Western Slope, Southern Colorado, the Front Range or the Eastern Plains.
CP: How would you help people in rural Colorado obtain quality, affordable healthcare?
JP: Coloradans in our rural communities face both enormous out-of-pocket health care costs and a shortage of qualified providers. In particular, I've met far too many men and women who have to travel several hours each way just to receive basic mental health care.
We need to continue to challenge ourselves to redraw Colorado's geographic rating areas to provide relief to rural Coloradans facing high costs. I will work with community members and public health officials at both the state and federal levels to bring down these costs, while incentivizing more providers to practice in underserved rural areas. I will also take advantage of innovative solutions to improve access to affordable health care services, such as telemedicine and mobile care.
Solving our health care affordability crisis in rural Colorado won't be easy, but I'm ready to go toe-to-toe with the insurance companies if I have to in order to make sure that patients have equal access to care and that our local providers can afford to keep their doors open.
CP: What else would you like readers to know?
JP: I've spent the past four months traveling to every corner of Colorado, and I've met so many families in our rural areas who feel like Colorado is leaving them behind,\ and that nobody cares. As I did when I started several successful companies, including proflowers.com, as I did when I started non-profit public schools that serve at-risk youth, I will think big and be bold for our state in making sure that Colorado is a statewide success story.
As governor, I'll be committed to building an economy that works for everyone, no matter who they are or where they live. When we look at the challenges our state faces today — from infrastructure and public school funding to affordable housing and the need for good-paying jobs — we can't call any proposal "a solution" unless it lifts up everybody, including hardworking families and retirees who call our rural communities home.