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COVER STORY | Imagine a great Colorado: 7 perspectives on how to lift up the state

Author: Dan Njegomir - July 31, 2018 - Updated: October 22, 2018

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Colorado is, for many, a promised land; that’s why people keep coming here, of course. But can our state live up to the promise? 

That’s essentially the question that Colorado Politics put to a diverse group of longtime, prominent voices from across Colorado’s wide-ranging landscape.

We asked them to “imagine a great Colorado” and to share with us how we can achieve their vision. Name some worthy goals, in other words, and set some steps we might take to arrive at them. 

Their responses (links to all of them are at the end of this article) covered a lot of bases, befitting their various walks of life and divergent political views, yet some common threads emerged. Like the need to secure water — semi-arid Colorado’s original, most contested and arguably most prized natural resource. Colorado’s other natural wonders, not surprisingly, and the need to be good stewards over them, also came up more than once.

Another recurring theme of a very different sort was what several of our contributors maintain is a particularly bitter, acrimonious and unyielding strain of partisanship that they say has overtaken Colorado politics. This dynamic, they maintain, stands in the way of progress in addressing a host of the state’s most pressing needs and desirable goals.

Dillon resident Brennna Gardner carries a standup paddle board to the waters of Lake Dillon June 5, 2018, at the Frisco Bay Marina. Lake Dillon is a key part of Denver’s water supply system. (Hugh Carey/Summit Daily News via AP)

Several of our authors take up the seemingly never-ending quandary of what to do about our state government’s fiscal constraints — love ’em or hate ’em — imposed in significant measure by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, in Colorado’s constitution. Reflecting the longtime standoff between ardent admirers and caustic critics of this voter-enacted policy — in a perennially purple state — some of the contributors we tapped for today’s exchange of ideas espouse decidedly opposing views of TABOR.

While none of these perspectives purports to offer anything close to a definitive solution for the challenges the authors point out, they do at least provide a glimpse at the public-policy priorities of some Colorado thought leaders. The hope, certainly, is that the observations they serve up could inspire action at some point.

Read on and see if you agree with the seven sages we consulted. They are, in no particular order: a former lieutenant governor; a distinguished historian; an eastern plains wheat farmer who happens to have served as state treasurer and state Senate majority leader; a former mayor and onetime state Senate president; the Senate’s outgoing minority leader; an esteemed Four Corners water and resources lawyer who served a decade in the legislature, and a veteran Colorado newsman. 

Are they on the money? Did any miss their mark? After you read their take, be sure to give us yours: Email Opinion@ColoradoPolitics.com.

The essays

> 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

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

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


Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.