Q&A with Jared Polis, Democratic candidate for Colorado governor

Congressman and Democratic candidate for governor Jared Polis speaks to an audience of about 60 people in Steamboat Flyfisher on Sunday afternoon. (Photo by Eleanor Hasenbeck)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Congressman and Democratic candidate for governor Jared Polis spent time in Steamboat Springs on Sunday to host a meet and greet with community members at Steamboat Flyfisher before departing for a closed-to-the-public tour of Smartwool’s headquarters.

Polis also made stops in Craig and Meeker as part of the Western Slope tour

The following questions and answers have been edited for clarity.

Will you continue the efforts for water management outlined by the statewide water plan established under Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration?

Polis said the water plan was a great step to get all the stakeholders on board but funding infrastructure outlined in the plan is a challenge.

“We want to look at additional conservation measures on the ag side, both rewarding and incentivizing farmers for water-efficient practices as well as the urban and suburban interface with new developments using the best technology around water conservation,” he said.

Polis said he would oppose any transmountain diversions to which the West Slope did not agree. A transmountain diversion occurs when Front Range water providers, for example, buy water rights on the Western Slope and then pipe that water east over the Continental Divide.

How do you suggest improving public transportation on the Front Range and traffic congestion?

Polis said lane expansions play a role but do not solve the problem. Polis proposes reducing traffic in the Fort Collins to Denver metro area by building a rail line and facilitating bike commuting. On the Interstate 70 corridor, Polis said he supports the zip lanes and reversible lanes in improving congestion during peak travel hours. He said he also wanted to explore the possibility of a “rail option with new technology.”

What are your plans to improve higher education and trade programs?

“A high school diploma alone is not enough to have a good job in a changing 21st-century economy,” Polis said. “Doesn’t mean everybody is going for a four-year degree, but what it means is we need to make that diploma more meaningful.”

Polis offered up expanding dual credit programs and apprenticeships that lead to vocational certificates as a means of achieving this. Polis said making four-year degrees more affordable is also important.

What are your ideas to lower health care premiums in expensive areas like Routt County?

“We need to reconfigure the pricing zones,” Polis said. He said the state needs one pricing zone or a few zones with minor disparities “because it’s completely unfair that Routt County residents are paying 40 percent more than Clear Creek or Mesa County or Denver residents.”

“That’s not necessary,” he said. “It hurts the Affordable Care Act’s implementation. It hurts the livability of our communities, and we’re going to fix it.”

He also emphasized reducing health care costs by other means, including saving money on prescriptions, cleaner air and diet and nutrition.

How do you feel about public land policy in Colorado?

“We’re really worried about selling off our public lands because once they’re sold off or carved up, there’s no going back,” Polis said.

He said, as a native Coloradan, public lands are part of our identity and heritage as Westerners, as well as jobs.

“Most of our economy revolves around our public lands, so I will stand up to (U.S.) Secretary (of the Interior) Zinke or President (Donald) Trump or any president that wants to come after our Western way of life and our public lands.”

What would you do to support economic development on the Western Slope?

Polis said we need to ensure Colorado is a statewide success story.

“Despite economic growth, there are too many people who are left behind and too many areas that are left behind,” he said. “We want to make sure we can better diversify the economy here in Western Colorado.”

He said he wanted to attract manufacturing jobs and other jobs that “can round out the cyclical nature of oil and gas or ag or even outdoor tourism and (recreation).”

In another comment, addressing how coal-dependent communities can adjust to a changing industry, Polis said it is important to provide “good opportunities to help people not just get by, but thrive.”

One idea he suggested for Northwest Colorado to move toward manufacturing materials to produce renewable energy, such as wind turbines, which must be produced nearby rail lines.

Editor’s note: The Steamboat Pilot & Today reached out to the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton to see if he had any planned visits to Steamboat in the interest of covering Stapleton’s event. A representative of Stapleton said the campaign was still finalizing his schedule.  

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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