Latest gubernatorial candidate to visit Craig wants to ‘build opportunity for all’
Bridging divides and building opportunity for everyone top the agenda of the latest gubernatorial candidate to visit Craig.
On Tuesday, Oct. 3 community members had the opportunity to attend a listening session with Democratic candidate Mike Johnston.
Johnston grew up in Eagle County, where his family ran a small hotel.
“I learned firsthand the challenges and rewards of operating a small business,” he states on his campaign website.
He became a public school teacher and principal after graduating from college and law school, before serving two terms in the Colorado State Senate.
“I’m running for governor because, with your help, we can bridge the divide between rural and urban, between the new economy and the old, between first-generation Coloradans and those whose families have been here for decades,” Johnston states.
His visit to Craig on Tuesday provided an opportunity to ask Johnston his view on economic development, education and health care.
How will you ensure rural economies aren’t left behind during the current population booms and economic growth happening elsewhere in Colorado?
First, we need to create a level playing field for rural Colorado by making sure broadband infrastructure is in place everywhere in the state and as governor, I will complete that work. Second, we must ensure that our rural schools are offering students the same science and math opportunities as their urban counterparts are receiving so that business looking to locate anywhere in Colorado can be assured of a highly-educated workforce. We’re close on that, but need to increase our funding of rural districts to get all the way there.
How would you support rural communities like Craig in their efforts to recruit new business and industry to diversify their economies?
As a state senator, I sponsored the Jumpstart legislation that provides tax incentives for new businesses to relocate to urban communities. That has created plans for 500 high-paying jobs in Mesa County alone. I want to see its use expanded to other rural counties throughout the state.
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?
Part of my platform includes a plan we call “The Colorado Promise” to provide tuition-free job training for mid-career workers in exchange for meaningful service to the state, and coal miners were top of mind when I thought of that. From moving into green energy jobs, to computer coding or manufacturing, the men and women of coal country are the kind of workers any business would be thrilled to have. We just need to connect them to the training and then the employers.
How would you propose to solve Colorado’s teacher shortage, especially in rural areas?
In these nine months of touring the state, one of the things I have learned is that affordable housing is an issue even in rural communities. I have a plan to convert some state-owned lands into residential properties, which could be used, by rural districts to attract teachers.
Do you support the new Critical Shortages in Rural School Districts law that will permit retirees to teach in school with teacher shortages without loosing retirement benefits?
Yes. This is a common-sense solution to an area of need and I support it.
How would you help people in rural Colorado obtain quality, affordable healthcare?
One of the things we are looking at is requiring insurers who want to cover state workers in Denver to then offer affordable plans statewide. We may also consider a return to a state-subsidized high-risk pool if it can be demonstrated that it would lower costs for residents in places like Craig. The confusing and conflicting lack of action in Congress has created so much uncertainty in the marketplace that we may need some more time to let things settle now.
What else would you like readers to know?
Yes, I am a Democrat, and I’m proud to be one, but I have always looked beyond party labels to find partners who were willing to work with me to solve problems. During my time in the Senate, 92 percent of the legislation I sponsored and passed had Republican co-sponsors.
I think that’s what all Coloradans want in their governor, and I think I am uniquely positioned to be the candidate with a demonstrated record of making positive changes happen through action, not talk.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.