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POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Would Governor John Hickenlooper make a good president?

By: Paul Rosenthal and Paul Lundeen
October 1, 2017 Updated: October 2, 2017 at 10:51 am
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photo - Paul Rosenthal
Paul Rosenthal 

Paul Rosenthal

What's helping Americans get through the dark times of the Trump-Pence administration is the hope that we will have a new president in three years and four months. Fortunately, there's a bevy of highly qualified Democrats who may run, like our own Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sens. Kamala Harris and Al Franken.

Over the past 14 years, I have gotten to know our governor. I first met him at a candidate forum when he was running for mayor of Denver and I was running for City Council. He wasn't a polished candidate - I had to fix his upturned collar. Since then, he's gotten the hang of dressing up, but in his down-to-earth demeanor, he still doesn't like to wear ties, a sentiment I and probably a lot of Americans, fully identify with.

Hickenlooper was a successful mayor. In his quirky way, he corralled us to "giddy-up," passing Referenda A through I, which invested in our infrastructure, and shepherding the city to grow out of the crisis we were in. It's no surprise then that the voters elected and re-elected him governor. After all, he is an action-oriented man, an executive. Yet, he's not afraid of getting his hands dirty, literally. When he was starting out his successful Wynkoop brew pub, to save money he bought and cleaned used toilets that still had feces caked on them. He meets devastating situations head on with sincerity and compassion, like after the theater massacre in Aurora, the fires which destroyed lives and homes, and floods which did the same.

The governor is a poised, unflappable and determined man. At the same time, he relishes input and feedback from trusted advisers. He is an innovative maverick. While he occupies the political center, he is nevertheless a pragmatic progressive. He brings order to dysfunction, collaboratively. He moves the oil and gas industry forward by bringing all sides together to achieve higher standards. He is championing paid internships for high school students. He is cautious about marijuana, but ensures it is orderly and appropriately regulated and taxed. He spearheaded the establishment of a cybersecurity center, so the industry has a focus here. We're both internationalists. At our "beer summit," I enjoyed hearing his experiences promoting Colorado in Israel, China and Davos. He did gun safety legislation since D.C. is mired in inaction. He's a proven friend of the LGBT community. He signed bills for driver's licenses for undocumented folks and tuition equity for DACA kids, firefighters got collective bargaining, and he expanded Medicaid and safeguarded our health exchange.

The electorate seems to crave genuineness, and with Hickenlooper, what you see is what you get. His autobiography particularly reveals that. He hasn't been "corrupted" by Washington, D.C., despite his trips there to press for bipartisan health care reform. With so many years as a businessman, then mayor, and now as governor, he hasn't lost his moral compass that still points to decency, kindness, strength, inclusion and empowerment, all of which are completely lacking in the White House, but which defined one of our best presidents, Barack Obama, and which would make John Hickenlooper a similarly defining president as well.

Paul Lundeen

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. But at times it can be a pretty darn good indicator.

Paul Lundeen 

Gov. Hickenlooper is almost seven years into an eight-year run that is very instructive. Failure to cast a clear vision, craft a plan and execute successfully on the big issues that confront the people of Colorado tosses shade at the governor's apparent aspirations to lead our country.

Let's look at two key issues.

First, education. From where I stand, creating learning opportunities that put the children of Colorado a step ahead of the students in 49 other states and two steps ahead of students around the globe demands leadership from our governor.

We have just come through a chapter in the saga of American public education where the federal government dramatically overreached. It pinched the ability of teachers in your neighborhood to teach by prescribing excessive and expensive tests and other burdensome requirements. Bipartisan efforts are now rolling back that intrusion. We have replaced the high school test with one that is more meaningful to students and returned more classroom time to teachers to be teachers.

Despite the Legislature's success, leadership from the governor to defend local control of education was absent and could have prevented much lost time and treasure.

Second, transportation. Building the roads and bridges Coloradans need to get to and from work safely and predictably and to enjoy the beauty of our state in their free moments demands leadership from our governor.

Early in the Hickenlooper administration or just before, we crossed a decisive tipping point in the ability of many of our key roads and bridges to properly serve the people of Colorado. The problems stemming from that failure grow worse daily, and the cost of the solution increases every day. Yet no practical vision or plan is offered even as all practical assessments say "widen those roads."

Could it be the politics of disgust for individual automobiles (and adequate roads upon which people may drive them) has become a dictate in the new dogma of the left, and national political aspirants are forbidden to facilitate them? In any case, leadership from the governor to craft a big plan to solve this big issue remains absent.

So would John Hickenlooper make a good president of the United States? The governor may be a qualified standard bearer for the Democrat party - given its recent lurch to the left and his apparent willingness to follow the attendant dogma. But viewed through the prism of leadership on these two obvious issues that press in on the people he is called to serve, the answer is a lack of vision, no inspired plan and a failure to execute.

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Paul Rosenthal, a Democrat, represents District 9 in the Colorado House of Representatives. He lives in Denver. Paul Lundeen, a Republican, represents District 19 in the Colorado House of Representatives. He lives in Monument.

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