Imagine a Great ColoradoNews

TOM NORTON | Build infrastructure for people, goods, information — and water

Author: Tom Norton - July 31, 2018 - Updated: August 10, 2018

Then-Greeley Mayor Tom Norton at his desk in city hall in a November 2017 photo (Davis Bonner | The Greeley Tribune)

COMMENTARY: This is part of our series of contributed essays, “Imagine a Great Colorado.” See below for more.

I’ve been thinking about Colorado’s future.  What will make Colorado a great place to live, raise a family and prosper?  Many ideas immediately come to mind.  I’ve seen many ideas tried through legislative action and government programs.  These efforts are not necessarily all bad, but many have been misdirected, ineffective, overly complex and over-regulated.

Here are my ideas about essential building blocks for Colorado’s future:

• Businesses should be able to grow and thrive without burdensome regulations, so that they will develop jobs and build a solid foundation to stabilize our economy.

• Government certainly does have a place.  Government should invest in infrastructure and education, and continue to maintain public safety. Infrastructure goals should center around transportation and water. Investment in transportation means all forms, focused on moving people, goods and information throughout and between the diverse regions of the state. The second infrastructure investment that is absolutely necessary is in the development of water resources.  We must have water storage and conveyance, which not only addresses our population growth, but also addresses our quality of life, which is the foundation of why we all love Colorado.

• Education is a key investment in Colorado’s future.  I believe we should be investing in K-12 education primarily at the local level, with less and less dependence on state and federal funding.  It is the commitment of local residents to educating those kids they see on the street, their neighbors, that will provide the results necessary to develop our future leaders.  It is not necessarily how much money we invest, but how much we care about the outcome of this education, which outcome is our future Colorado citizens. We also need a third level, an alternative to a traditional college education, which re-establishes the crafts and trades, and invests in those who build things.

Teachers from Pueblo Academy of Arts in Pueblo march to the Pueblo City Schools offices on May 7, 2018. Teachers in Pueblo were on strike, shutting down schools in a dispute over how much they should be paid for the school year. (Anthony A. Mestas/The Pueblo Chieftain via AP)

The obvious question I see when I look at this list is: How do we pay for these investments in Colorado’s future?

I believe that we do not need more taxes, but we do need the discipline to spend the dollars we have in accordance with these priorities. That means we must decrease or eliminate well-intended, but ineffective, programs as we increase investment in Colorado’s future.  Automatically increasing programmatic spending means we are simply putting Band-Aids over the social problems that now exist.  We are not solving those underlying problems.  By emphasizing investment in our future, we will provide the jobs and business opportunities for individuals and families to prosper.

We cannot look two or three years ahead and hope the short-term solutions we come up with will solve long-range problems.  We cannot simply hope that those long-range problems will simply go away, or at least happen on someone else’s watch.

It takes 20 to 30 years to plan, develop and construct a major highway, transit or water project. We cannot wait to make the investment and do the planning for those critical projects that will make future Colorado great.

It takes 12 to 20 years to educate our population to build a great Colorado, which will guarantee our future 30 to 50 years from now. We cannot wait to make that investment for our future.

Another way of saying it is that the future is here — and it is time to act.

More essays

> DAN NJEGOMIR | Imagine a great Colorado: 7 perspectives on how to lift up the state

> NEIL WESTERGAARD | To move forward, Colorado must move beyond tribal politics

> BARBARA O’BRIEN | Five goals for Colorado’s next governor

> MARK HILLMAN | Hold government accountable — and call off the culture wars

> LUCIA GUZMAN | Bridge the partisan divide to pursue our highest priorities

> ELLEN ROBERTS | Resource stewardship, fiscal prudence and independent thinking

> PATTY LIMERICK | Forge new bonds between urban and rural Colorado


Tom Norton

Tom Norton

Tom Norton is the former mayor of Greeley and previously served as the Republican president of the Colorado Senate. He also was director of the Colorado Department of Transportation.