Colorado politics has been something of a mixed bag in the 2000s. We began the millennium as a red state with some blue splotches, with Republican Bill Owens in the gubernatorial seat, majority support for George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, and 9 out of 10 national elections from 1968 to 2004 going to the GOP. But the one spot of blue in that run — Bill Clinton’s first bid for the White House in 1992 — was perhaps a harbinger of purplish things to come. By the time Obama was running in 2008, Colorado was suddenly considered a swing state. By the 2018 midterm elections, Colorado was most decidedly blue. It has indeed been a multi-hued couple of decades here in Colorful Colorado.
So what will 2020 bring? Here are a few suggestions as to how Colorado citizens can address our statewide issues in the coming big political year:
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Say Goodbye to Cory Gardner
It was the Denver Post’s tragically misguided endorsement of Cory Gardner for Senate back in 2014 that’s helped to put American politics right in the crapper, solidifying congressional gridlock and helping to hand far too much power to the overly committed Yertle the Turtle cosplayer Mitch McConnell. Granted, the Post retracted its inexplicable and flat-out-stupid recommendation of Gardner in March 2019, but as much as we support local media, it’s too little too late. (We called for a full accounting of that failed editorial process earlier this year…and we’re still waiting.) No matter your political affiliation, you’d be hard pressed to come up with anything Gardner has accomplished in his time in Washington, other than staying in Washington and issuing insultingly evasive nonsense responses to real and important issues. Gardner has ignored the people of Colorado in almost all ways, but most notably in its significant political shift from reddish-purple to solidly blue. It’s time to show Cory Gardner the door.
Capitalize on the New City Council...
With three incumbents losing their seats to new candidates in 2019, the face of Denver’s City Council has changed — and so has its position in city governance. With Michael Hancock stalwarts out and committed-to-change councilmembers in, there’s opportunity to shake up some old deadlocks on affordable housing, city development, environmental issues and overall government accountability. Voters wanted something different than the same-old same-old, and made it clear in the Denver 2019 elections; Candi CdeBaca has already shaken things up. Time to see what some fresh perspectives can accomplish.
…and Hold Hancock to a Higher Standard
Mayor Hancock’s administration hasn’t been without controversy, to put it kindly. And with the new makeup of the city council, his ability to push through his agenda without challenge or even public notice has been dramatically reduced. This is a good thing, even if you’re a Hancock supporter: Greater transparency in government is what holds government accountable to its citizenry. It is unquestionably a positive force, and anyone who says otherwise is trying to hide something.
Expand and Support City Composting
Yes, it was a great step for the City of Denver to begin to offer composting services along with garbage and recycling pickup. And now it’s time to refine its approach. Currently, Denver residents who participate in composting pay over $100 per year for the privilege — a penalty for a practice that should instead be rewarded. Several 2019 mayoral candidates were on record as saying this situation is completely backward — that there should instead be a surcharge on what’s headed for the landfill instead of that which is reusable. The Pay-as-You-Throw program might be years in the offing, but in the meantime, the city can certainly find a way not to penalize people for wanting to reduce waste.
Let’s face it: TABOR was born a disaster. It was a pretty idea (Tax refunds! Who doesn’t like tax refunds?) cloaking a selfish cynicism and complete economic ignorance. Those tax refunds have robbed the people of Colorado of literal billions since 1992, when it was passed — and those dollars have come directly out of much-needed support for infrastructure, education, transportation and more. We had one shot to mitigate the damage last year, with Proposition CC; that fell to a vote of a public still somehow buying what TABOR author Douglas Bruce (one of our oft-repeated Schmucks of the Week) is selling: that the state of Colorado is somehow exempt from, you know, paying for things. It is, of course, important to remember that Bruce is an anti-tax activist who’s also a slumlord and convicted felon (tax fraud, money laundering and attempted bribery) who has gone to prison twice. It’s also important to remember that Colorado has been working for 27 years to reduce the damage that TABOR continues to wreak on state coffers, and therefore the taxpayers.
Colorado will have a chance to end the TABOR era completely in 2020, as the state Supreme Court ruled in the summer of 2019 that a repeal initiative could proceed. It’s time to kill this thing and remove the last vestige of Douglas Bruce from politics so Colorado can stop working around a bad amendment and get to making sound and unfettered fiscal policy.
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Not just because ecological concerns like global warming and rising sea levels are real things with real consequences (and real solutions, if we have the courage and fortitude to address them head-on). But also because Colorado has the opportunity to take the lead in cutting-edge environmental technologies that will support and benefit from that absolutely necessary move away from limited resource energy, rampant pollution, and a man in the White House who cares about nothing but golf, constant adoration and wringing as much cash out of the world as he possibly can. Colorado can do both the world and its own economic future a lot of good if we’re able to politically embrace the ideas put forth and fund necessary research and industry. It’s a win-win, and a game for which the stakes could not be higher.
Stop the Infighting
Politicians need to be the ethical leaders of the state and the country again; we’re in desperate need of statesmen and stateswomen who can disagree on policy but retain honest and mutual respect for each other, the word of law and objective truth. We’ve been talking for decades now about fighting political gridlock and working across the aisle. It hasn’t worked. What will work, if Colorado politicians have the will and the integrity, is to put first the interests of the state, the nation and the world. Country above party should never be an empty promise. When all that matters is winning, we all lose.
No, Colorado can’t do it by itself, nor can Denver. But the good folks of our Mile High community can play their part in bringing back civil discourse, political inclusivity, the dignity of national office, generosity of spirit, love of our fellow human beings, and, perhaps most important, the inherent value of intellectual thought and basic honesty. All of this has been in precious short supply around the country, and utterly absent from the American seat of power, for three long years. American greatness was never the property of one man or one misguided movement; it’s about always striving for and honoring the best and brightest in its citizenry. The American Dream is in peril, and the citizens of both Colorado and the nation as a whole need to come to its aid.