This week’s face in the crowd: literally…as I was watching the junior livestock auction at last week’s National Western Stock Show, I noticed a familiar face bidding on one of the champion lambs. It was former Democratic Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll of Denver. When I pointed out (via Twitter) that I’d seen him raise […]
Awards season is upon us, and the conservative jesters at Colorado's right-leaning Independence Institute are bestowing the inaugural "Californian of the Year" award Wednesday on the lucky Coloradan who has "done the most to turn us into California," in the words of the think tank's president, Jon Caldara.
Michael Hancock is a mayor on a mission. It’s the Friday before the election, and Hancock is promoting a once-in-a-decade, $937 million bond package filled with hundreds of projects to maintain and improve Denver’s transportation, public safety and cultural infrastructure. After a stop at a Spanish-language radio station to pitch the ballot questions, he tours a 100-year-old library that’s due for some repairs if the bond measures pass, and then he ambles up Santa Fe Drive for the monthly Art Walk.
Just when we thought he was out, they pulled him back in. Joe Garcia stepped down as Colorado's lieutenant governor last year, but now he's Denver Mayor Michael Hancock's pick to oversee reconstruction of the National Western Complex.
If the devil got tired of dancing, there was plenty room to sit down on the fair’s opening night. Crowds were light.
The fair is perpetually underfunded and can’t seem to attract crowds big enough to sustain itself in Pueblo without taxpayers’ support.
At the legislative barbecue and, later, the Governor’s Beef Show, in the spirit for crops and livestock was pitched.
“This is the best time of year, the changing of the seasons, we’re getting ready to harvest all our agricultural production for the year, and we get to see all our old friends,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said on stage at the legislative barbecue put on by the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, before reading a long list of members of his administration at the fair Friday night.
The list included Donna Lynne, the former health care executive turned lieutenant turned potential gubernatorial candidate, who didn’t win when she showed a steer in the exhibition show put on by the Colorado Farm Bureau that pairs politicians and young 4-H mentors. The governor pointed out Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, the former state attorney general, in the crowd.
“Here’s my short speech,” Hickenlooper said as he began a two-minute address to the politicians, lobbyists and various political hangers-on. “The speech is about how important ag is to Colorado and how important you are to ag.”
He noted the bipartisan support on some major issues in the last legislative session, including a lot of ag issues.
“I’m going to challenge you to a better session in 2018,” Hickenlooper told lawmakers in the crowd.
He turned his attention to the financially hamstrung fair.
“The state fair is a time-honored tradition,” Hickenlooper said, telling of its history that dates back to 1872, four years before Colorado’s statehood.
“Right here is one of the cultural highlights of the state and best represents our strong ag groups who pour billions of dollars into our economy every year, over 107,000 employees, 34,000 farms and ranches, basically more entrepreneurs in agriculture than every other business combined.”
Each new legislature usually includes a few from other parts of the state who talk of moving the fair out of Pueblo, usually to metro Denver to put it closer to more Coloradans and tourists. With hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into the renovations of the National Western Complex in Denver, those talks are like gasoline on a leaf fire these days.
For the state fair, lawmakers are called on regularly to help the it balance its books. Some are getting tired of paying.
Last year, for instance, Rep. Daneya Esgar and Sen. Leroy Garcia, both Democrats from Pueblo, sponsored legislation that would put in $100,000 to go with $140,000 approved by Pueblo voters for renovations to the horse arena at the fairgrounds, along with money from the fair’s foundation and other sources.. The goal was to help attract more non-fair events to Pueblo, as well as maintain the facility as a draw for 4-H competitions. Half the legislature’s proposed contribution would have come from the marijuana tax haul.
“The junior livestock sale is instrumental in supporting the future of Colorado’s agribusiness,” Garcia told the committee. “It demonstrates to the youth the importance of raising quality livestock and the work required by those who pursue careers in agriculture.”
The bill passed the Democratic-led House on a 39-25 vote, but Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee killed it. During questioning they asked about local support for the fair in Pueblo, and business practices in running the fair that might be the reasons it’s not attracting crowds, rather than repeatedly turning to the state taxpayers.
Legislative support Friday night, however, sounded clear and strong.
“It highlights one of the greatest economic drivers of our state,” he said. “That’s what this is all about. One of the things we all have in common is we all have to eat.”
But will the State Fair be in Pueblo?
“If I have anything to say about it, yes,” Grantham said.
…Twenty Years Ago This Week in the Colorado Statesman … Democrat state legislators were making their opinions known on what they contended was a poor handling of Medicaid funding by the Republican majority. The minority party in both chambers had kicked off the 1997 legislative session clashing early and often with GOP leadership over Medicaid. One Senate Democrats caucus lunch meeting took center stage in late January 1997, as Dem legislators discussed the issue among themselves, bringing in a state expert. Dean A. Woodward, legislative liaison for the Colorado Department of Healthy Care Policy and Financing, gave a presentation at the lunch, providing Democratic members with what they thought would be some information firepower.