Topics at town hall with guv run the gamut
With less than 600 days left in office, Gov. John Hickenlooper is focusing on broadband access for every community in Colorado as central to the economic health of the state.
At a community town hall meeting Saturday afternoon at Colorado Mesa University, Hickenlooper was joined by members of his Cabinet as he emphasized the technology necessary to continue expanding the Colorado economy more equitably among all communities, not just the cities of the Front Range.
“Economic development, health care, education, the foundation of all that is connectivity,” said Tony Neal-Graves, executive director of Colorado’s Broadband Office, in response to a question about what the Western Slope can do to create jobs and grow its technology sector.
Many who attended the town hall submitted written questions through moderator Irv Halter, executive director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. Topics of national and local concern included a question about how tax dollars from recreational marijuana sales are allocated.
“We did move more marijuana money to education — the General Assembly did — and we will continue to split it between schools and education (campaigns about marijuana),” Hickenlooper said.
Another question asked what is being done statewide to support children who are at the highest risk for suicide, which Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne said is a particular concern because it’s the No. 1 cause of death for children age 10 to 14 in this state.
“We’re trying to support teachers, to support guidance counselors to have conversations about suicide, about mental health, about bullying,” Lynne said.
Hickenlooper said the state Legislature allocated about $10 million “to make sure we have professionals available to help. Over 1,000 people committed suicide in Colorado last year. We need to get with the program with mental health and that $10 million is a real down payment toward that.”
The free-ranging discussion also touched on clean energy, access to health care and what citizens can do to support Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which has lost significant funding due to license fees that have not kept pace with inflation.
Bob Randall, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, also mentioned a recent U.S. Department of the Interior memo that put a hold on federal grants of more than $100,000.
Colorado previously received about $30 million in federal grants, “and there’s a real risk that money might not be coming back to the state,” he said.