Hickenlooper swings through Western Slope
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper said on Friday that, if elected governor of Colorado, he would work to cut government red tape for businesses and to get warring factions of the state’s water users to work together on critical water issues.
Hickenlooper, who is hoping to be the Democrats’ nominee for the gubernatorial election in November, stopped by the repair site in Glenwood Canyon on Friday during a tour of the Western Slope.
Hickenlooper is the presumed Democratic nominee, and is expected to face Western Slope Republican Scott McInnis in the general election, although it appears that McInnis must make it through a primary fight first.
The mayor’s regional tour was mainly focused on businesses, jobs and alternative energy initiatives. His stops included a meeting at the Collbran Jobs Corps Civilian Conservation Center, and a visit to Solar Energy International in Carbondale on Saturday.
“We’re continuing to try and get out to every corner of the state multiple times, and ask people what are their thoughts, their sets of issues, how can the state government do a better job of helping their businesses grow, help new businesses start, and to try and connect the dots,” Hickenlooper explained following a chilly walk around the canyon repair project.
He said he will be meeting with some Democratic party activists during the tour, but stressed that his main goal is not to fan the partisan fires.
“I’m trying to run a sort of more non-partisan type of campaign, in that we want to hear from everybody,” Hickenlooper declared. “The businesses we talk to, the voices that we hear, the non-profits that we connect with … you look at most businesses, they’re made up of both Republicans and Democrats, most non-profits there’s plenty of Democrats and plenty of Republicans.”
The mayor acknowledged that his likely opponent has a strong base on the Western Slope, being a native of Glenwood Springs with a home in Grand Junction.
But he laughingly asked whether reporters treat McInnis the same “when he comes to Denver. Do they ask him how he feels venturing into Hickenlooper’s territory? I doubt it. He’s been living in Denver a long time, too.”
Still, Hickenlooper conceded, “He’s got much more name recognition here. Most people know who he is, and they really don’t know who I am. So, my job is to make sure that people begin to get some sense of who I am, that I was a geologist for five years [doing some work on the Western Slope’s oil exploration industry in the 1980s], that I did get laid off, like a lot of people all across the state, that I put everything I had on the line to start a business of my own [several restaurants, and founding partner in the Wynkoop Brewing Company], creating jobs, and we did some affordable housing and real estate development.”
He said that “these experiences, and dealing with the red tape of government” have shaped his outlook, adding, “What I’ve tried to do in the last six and a half years in Denver was figuring out, while always protecting the public interest, how to you cut some of that bureaucracy, how do you make it that little bit easier for a business that wants to expand?”
He said that, even while he was an engineer working in “the oil patch … I was a strong environmentalist,” He argued that other geologists saw themselves as environmentalists, and that he still views himself that way.
“There must be some way to protect the heritage landscapes that make Colorado what it is, but at the same time … maybe we end up with a little bit of oil and gas in a few places where it might really mar the landscape,” he mused. “But in most cases, the oil and gas is where we’ve already got roads, we’ve already got oil production. And the question is, how to we do it and make sure that we don’t harm the ranches or the citizens around it?”
Examples of his environmental ethic, he said, include efforts to get natural gas companies to reveal all the chemical components they use in hydraulic fracturing fluids, which has been the focus of intense debate concerning possible contamination of ground water supplies in the drilling process.
Also, he pointed to what he described as a 20 percent reduction, per capita, in water consumption rates in Denver, as a way of avoiding the need to poach water from the Western Slope.
“And we tell people that’s to ensure that we [keep] every drop of water that we can on the Western Slope, whether it’s for ranching or growing peaches in Palisade, fly fishing or whitewater rafting.” “Because,” he continued, “those water-related activities are what make Denver, Denver,” meaning that Denver benefits from its proximity to the mountains, and he knows that water is critical to the continued vitality of the high country’s communities and environment.