Hickenlooper talks economy, then acts after inauguration
DENVER — While legislators in the state Capitol are talking about introducing bills dealing with civil unions, staying on daylight saving time or combating illegal immigration, Gov. John Hickenlooper stayed true to one campaign promise Tuesday and focused on the state’s economy.
In his inauguration speech on the west steps of the Colorado Capitol, the new governor announced that his first three executive orders, which he signed soon after taking office, would deal with boosting jobs, improving the economy and opening up markets wherever possible.
“This economic downturn goes beyond statistics and forecasts. It’s personal,” Hickenlooper said during his 16-minute inauguration address. “All of us know someone who’s lost a job. We know someone who went back to work after retiring because their nest egg cracked along with Wall Street. And we know someone burdened with anxiety and fear about the pink slip that might appear tomorrow.”
Immediately after being sworn in, Hickenlooper signed three executive orders to allow each of the state’s 64 counties to create its own economic development plan, to create a Governor’s Trade and Tourism Ambassador Program, and to bar state agencies from enacting new regulations that place mandates on local governments that aren’t expressly approved by state or federal law.
The Democrat talked about his “bottom-up” economic development plan during his campaign, saying he’d rather have a plan that local people buy into because they had a hand in creating it themselves, rather than one dictated to them “without someone from faraway telling them what would be good for them.”
At his first news conference as governor immediately after the ceremony, Hickenlooper said the ambassador idea came from a former Colorado resident who now lives in Tokyo. He said that man told him he wanted to help Colorado promote tourism and get businesses to locate in the state.
Hickenlooper said there are other former Coloradans worldwide, in countries such as India and Mexico, who want to do the same thing.
“There’s a whole group of Coloradans in Tokyo and throughout Japan who would love nothing more than to have real, actionable opportunities to help bring business and commerce to Colorado ... These are folks who we don’t have to pay. They want to help us. We just have to help orchestrate them,” he said.
Hickenlooper said his immediate plans are to take a four-day tour of the state to tout that economic-development message, including stops in Grand Junction and elsewhere on the Western Slope. Details of those events are to be released later today. The new governor will be in Grand Junction on Friday to hold a second inaugural dinner there. He’s doing the same thing on Saturday in Pueblo.
Speaking on the west steps of the Capitol in temperatures that dipped into the teens, Hickenlooper promised in his inauguration speech to make state government leaner and more efficient, saying government’s focus should be to help encourage business to prosper.
Hickenlooper said each of his Cabinet nominees have standing orders to work toward that goal.
“Their job will be to help us shrink government while still being efficient and effective,” the governor said. “They have not been asked, nor will they be expected, to provide partisan perspective. Their work will define Colorado as a beacon of good government, where innovation and customer service is part of the daily exercise of every state employee.”
Also sworn in during the event were Joe Garcia as lieutenant governor, John Suthers as attorney general, Scott Gessler as secretary of state and Walker Stapleton as treasurer. Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Bender swore them in one at a time, saying “mazel tov” to each, which is the Yiddish word for good luck.
Outgoing Gov. Bill Ritter also said a few words, taking the opportunity for a final time to call for less partisanship and more collaboration.
“We must respect one another,” Ritter said. “When we fight, we must fight for civil debate. We should fight as friends, not as enemies. We should fight as Coloradans.”
Former Republican governor Bill Owens attended, as did outgoing Secretary of State Bernie Buescher and State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, both Democrats.
U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet also attended the event, along with U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter, Jared Polis and Diana DeGette. All are Democrats. None of the state’s Republican congressmen attended the event, including newly elected U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton of the 3rd Congressional District.