Hick Gets Earful As He Tries to Mend Fences with Rural Coloradans

November 26, 2013
A packed but polite crowd of more than 200 rural Coloradans attended the town hall at the Moffat County Fairgrounds, which lasted nearly an hour

A packed but polite crowd of more than 200 rural Coloradans attended the town hall at the Moffat County Fairgrounds, which lasted nearly an hour

DENVER—Even though Gov. John Hickenlooper did most of the talking during Monday’s “lean in and listen” stop in Craig, the locals made it clear they’re tired of having their concerns brushed aside by lawmakers in Denver and Washington, D.C.

Chief among the issues raised at the public forum were the federal crackdown on coal, the looming sage-grouse listing, and the state legislature’s doubling of the renewable-energy mandate and limiting access to firearms and ammunition.

Brandy Meek, chair of the Moffat County Republican Party, drew loud applause when she said, “I would urge you, this next legislative session, please represent all of Colorado, not just the urban center.”

“We all kind of have same sentiment, that all of Colorado is not being represented by you,” said Meek. “I had high hopes when you came into office that that would not be the case; however, it seems every piece of legislation that was put on your desk from this liberal legislature this last session was passed by you. As governor, it is your job to create a checks-and-balances system for rural Colorado, because as you mentioned, most Colorado counties are rural.”

A packed but polite crowd of more than 200 rural Coloradans attended the town hall at the Moffat County Fairgrounds, which lasted nearly an hour and was broadcast live by KRAI-FM. Video footage of the event can be found at the Complete Colorado website.

Hickenlooper, beset by sinking poll numbers and facing a rugged reelection effort in 2014, blamed the uproar over the 2013 legislative session in part on his lack of political prowess.

“I’ll just be blunt. No one’s going to ever accuse me of being a really good politician,” he said.

The Democratic governor said he was warned that the legislative session wouldn’t be easy after Democrats took over the House and the Senate in November 2012.

“Everyone said, ‘You’ve got a Democratic House, Democratic Senate, you’re going to have to veto a bunch of stuff,’” he said. “I said, ‘Well, if I’m any good, I should be able to negotiate the negative portions of those bills out of them and get something in there that’s bearable.”

Hickenlooper did pull the rug on some bills before they reached his desk, including measures to restrict the drilling industry, but he seemed to acknowledge that he should have vetoed some bills.

“I’ve heard this from all sectors, I’ve heard this from urban communities: Once you start negotiating sometimes on certain bills you’re going to end up with a bill, no matter what the compromise is, it’s still a bad bill,” he said. “And rather than negotiate, you’re better off just saying, ‘Don’t do that, or if you do, I’m going to veto it.’ So I’m learning as I go.”

On some issues, the governor promised to take action, saying he would look into concerns about rural school funding the Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to add the Gunnison sage grouse to the endangered-species list.

He said he’s met twice with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who took office in April, and that “she has an open mind” on the sage-grouse listing.

“[S]he’s not well versed in this issue, and she recognizes that,” said Hickenlooper. “What she’s hearing the first time is from her staff at Fish and Wildlife, and I think she gets a slanted version. My job is to make sure that she gets—I shouldn’t say a slanted version on the other side—let’s just say a better version, how’s that—but a balanced version so she hears both sides of the story.”

On other issues, Hickenlooper could usually find common ground. He frequently brought up the need to find “balance” between competing interests, such as by agreeing that Colorado should get credit from the federal government for its work on reducing pollution at coal-fired plants and improving wildlife habitat.

KRAI-FM summed up his appearance with the headline, “Hickenlooper Gives Vague Answers to Community Questions.”

His senior staff tried to discourage him from accepting the invitation to Craig, said Hickenlooper, telling him, “’You know, you’re not real popular out there right now.’”

“I spent 16 years in the restaurant business, and the one thing I learned is that when people aren’t happy, there’s no benefit by just sitting there, letting them be unhappy,” said Hickenlooper. “There’s probably some of this stuff I can’t help, some of this stuff I can, but I think we all do better if I come out and take my medicine, as my granddad used to tell us, and at least listen, and try to hear as clearly as I can exactly what your complaints are.”

Comments made by visitors are not representative of The Colorado Observer staff.

7 Responses to Hick Gets Earful As He Tries to Mend Fences with Rural Coloradans

  1. Jason
    November 26, 2013 at 9:06 am

    The left has managed to again take one step too many and now invites the backlash. It’s coming; not just a wave but a tsunami.

  2. Tom
    November 26, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    When Hickenlooper signed the egregiously written HB 13-1224 into law, I made the decision I can never vote for him again.

  3. Joan Vairin
    November 27, 2013 at 9:56 am

    This article just shows that the Democrats think that if they “apologize” , all is ok. But watch out for someone who says that he is just “learning” to be a better politician, This means, just like some doctors, that he is just practicing—- and that can KILL you!!

  4. November 27, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Hickenflopper is the epitome of a true Democrat: runs as a center Dem, rules as a progressive; weak leadership in 2nd Amendment issues, capital punishment, energy mandates for rural Colorado, drugs, you name it – Hick will sign it!! Hick is as bad as Ritter – worse bx Hick was actively in favor of the largest tax increase proposal in Colorado history which thankfully failed. Any way you cut it Hick has flopped in every category. The only people that are happy with Hick are the Denver County breadline crowd & Boulder-FtCollins DemOPlex -to hell with the rest of the state!!

  5. Gary Lockhart
    November 28, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Nearly eight years as Mayor of Denver and the only thing he learned was how to let people like Michael Bloomberg dictate to him, as well as pay him, what to do.

  6. Tom Darden
    November 29, 2013 at 6:32 am

    Hickenlooper’s actions over the past 2 years speak louder than words.

    If you are not in the Denver metro area then you are a second class Colorado citizen. Your concerns are secondary to the “Gov. of Denver” and his liberal Denver constituency.

    But NOW he wants to be your friend… He FEELS YOUR PAIN.. Yeah right..

  7. December 2, 2013 at 5:47 am

    Chickenpooper is not a leader, he is not a Governor. He is a “Democrat” and that is all he is.


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