DENVER Like a cowboy from an old-time matinee movie, Gov. John Hickenlooper likes to keep his ear to the ground.
During Thursdays State of the State address, which was filled with Western imagery, Hickenlooper announced he would go on the third statewide listening tour of his administration, an effort he dubbed TBD Colorado to be determined.
The tour will be from March through May and will include a stop in Durango, said Brenda Morrison, whose company, Engaged Public, will oversee the meetings. Hickenlooper has conducted two statewide tours already a brief one before his 2011 inauguration and a bottom-up economic development tour that led to his business plan, the Colorado Blueprint.
He remained purposely vague about everything about the new tour, down to the name TBD Colorado.
Like the Colorado Blueprint, TBD Colorado will focus on listening and not imposing top-down, government-driven solutions. Coloradans will be invited to share their vision and priorities for our state, Hickenlooper said.
Reform groups have been clamoring about the need for an extreme makeover of Colorados government and constitution, thanks to predictions the system will never be able to keep up with demands for education and health services.
Hickenlooper avoided using the word tax in connection with TBD Colorado, and he stridently denied the effort was meant to prime the pump for a tax increase in a recent interview with Colorado Public Radio.
But Democrats were quick to talk about the need for revenue after Hickenloopers speech.
We need to know what the people of Colorado want us to do, what it costs and how were going to pay for it, said House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver. Theres no better person to lead that conversation than the governor.
Republicans, too, were generally supportive.
House Majority Leader Amy Stephens said she was still trying to understand what TBD Colorado is, but she likes what she heard and does not think it is an avenue to a tax increase.
I didnt gather that today, Stephens said Thursday. I really viewed this as a jobs issue.
Such big-picture discussions about reform in Colorado are nothing new, but the governors involvement is. The Colorado Nonprofit Association led a series of talks last year about the governments shrinking ability to deal with residents needs.
Renny Fagan, director of the association, was heartened by the TBD Colorado idea.
We really need to focus on what we want to be as a state and move away from polarizing discussions about the size of government and the amount of taxes, and look at our values and what we want to accomplish, Fagan said. I think its critical to have a governor leading this effort.
Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said he needs to hear more about what Hickenlooper hopes to accomplish.
TBD. I guess well see. I appreciate very much this governors willingness to work together and his interest in bringing Coloradans together, McNulty said. But at some point you do need to show that leadership to move this state forward. ... So well look forward to specifics.
A few of those specifics came into focus Friday.
Morrison said the meetings would focus on five topics: health, transportation, education, personnel and the states structural budget troubles..
A TBD Colorado website should be online within a few weeks, she said.