U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who hopes to secure votes in next month’s Colorado gubernatorial primary, focused on education, the economy and standing up to Washington establishment politicians during a campaign stop Friday in Durango.
The Democrat from Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes the cities of Boulder and Fort Collins, spoke with The Durango Herald’s editorial board Friday about his campaign issues, hitting on local issues such as homelessness.
Polis said he sees two problems that need to be addressed regarding homelessness, which he called a statewide problem.
First, there must be affordable housing for low-income people, he said. Second, there must be programs to treat people with mental health and substance abuse problems.
Polis pushed back against Durango City Council’s recent ordinance banning people from sitting and lying on public sidewalks, which some considered to be unfair to the homeless population.
“In the absence of something else, that’s not a solution,” he said.
In other topics, Polis said he is unfamiliar with the details of Colorado Senate Bill 18-223, which would seal autopsy reports of minors, records that are currently open to the public.
Proponents of the bill say it protects minors’ privacy, but opponents say it has dangerous public health implications.
The bill, which is awaiting the governor’s signature, could block the public from knowing whether a minor died by suicide, which is the leading cause of death for teens in Colorado.
Polis said the subject of suicide is tricky because some families want the information to be public but others do not. There is also a danger of copycats, he said.
“We have to err, as a society, on the side of transparency; there’s no question,” he said.
Polis said he will stand up to President Donald Trump, especially on the issue of public lands.
Public lands bring a better quality of life to people in Colorado, and they also support the large outdoor recreation industry in the state, he said.
“I’m the most ready of any of the candidates to go toe-to-toe with Trump when he’s talking about shrinking our monuments and privatizing public lands,” he said. “We need the voice of Western governors to stand up for our public lands.”
Polis said as governor, he will support a strong education system from preschool to higher education.
He aims to bring free full-day preschool and kindergarten to Colorado. Starting school at a young age is crucial in a child’s development, so it makes sense to give the opportunity to every family, he said.
Increasing teacher pay and funding schools are other items on his agenda. He believes in smaller classroom sizes and paying teachers what they’re worth, he said.
He added that funding initiatives must have a specific purpose.
“When we do something around funding our schools, we want to tie it to metrics that people care about like class size, teacher pay and outcomes,” he said. “I don’t think the voters will ever give a blank check to the schools and say spend it how you want.”
As for higher education, Polis advocates concurrent enrollment for high school students. He said he would like to see every high school in Colorado have an opportunity for students to take college courses.
Polis praised Gov. John Hickenlooper for creating a strong economic building block for the state of Colorado, which he hopes to grow upon.
“We want the economy to work for everybody, not just those at the top,” he said.
A lot of families are struggling with issues such as the high cost of living in the Denver-metro area and throughout the state, and Polis said he wants to make the economy more feasible for everybody.
A model he advocates is employee ownership of businesses through things like co-ops and stock options. He also supports labor unions and would allow local communities to dictate their minimum wage, he said.