I-25 expansion among concerns voiced as Jared Polis meets with Berthoud citizens

Governor candidate answers questions on immigration, health care, infrastructure and more

By Shannon M. Hoffman

Reporter-Herald Staff Writer

Polis

Polis

On Saturday, Rep. Jared Polis met with more than 100 of his constituents at the Community Center in Berthoud to answer questions during his first of three town hall meetings for the day.

Community members showed concern for immigration, health care, infrastructure, overpopulation, public land, public schools, slaughter of wildlife, fake news and net neutrality.

"They want to share their ideas for how to make Washington work better," Polis said in an interview. "I'm excited to help explain some of the initiatives that I'm working on."

The turnout in Berthoud was at a high, according to Polis.

"This is amazing, because the last time we were in Berthoud we had about 30 people and this time we had about 100-150. There's been such a civic resurgence in participation," he said. "We're seeing this everywhere as well as here in Larimer County. People are really concerned and interested in what is happening in the dysfunction of Washington."

Polis voiced his views on the potential Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"It's very important for us to find out whether there was collusion; if so, who colluded," said Polis. "I'm very confident our system will get to the bottom of it."

Colorado highway needs were among the first topics brought up for discussion.


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"We did work, and we were able to help get the TIGER Grant for Highway 25 North lane expansion project," he said. "It's certainly not the end-all of our infrastructure needs."

His response met with cheers from community members.

Not only were community members concerned with the area's infrastructure needs, but overpopulation in general, and how that is going to be taken into consideration.

"I do believe the world population will continue to grow, I don't really think that there's a way government can or should stop that," said Polis. "What you want to look at is how do you do that in a sustainable way."

Polis continued with the concern of how to reduce food waste and how to improve the efficiency of agriculture.

"That's how you keep up with it," he said. "If we can address poverty, address health, make sure women have access to birth control, I'm optimistic that we can really prevent an out of control explosion."

He also addressed, defense spending including immigration control.

"I've been a critic of these increases in defense spending ... When we spend beyond our means in defense, which we are ... I believe it makes us less secure rather than more secure," said Polis.

Polis had a similar approach to immigration.

"This issue won't go away until Congress addresses it ... That's why I've been a very strong supporter of the bipartisan immigration reform packages."

Polis discussed a goal to do immigration reform in a way where there's as close to zero as possible of people here illegally, and to do that he believes there's a need for a comprehensive approach.

"We just need to have a realistic approach to solve it," Polis said. "It doesn't solve itself."

He also addressed early childhood education and as the founder of two charter schools, said he believes that choice within public education can mean many things.

"In terms of providing free public education, it's in our state constitution to do that ... I do view it as a core function," said Polis. "I'm very supportive of open enrollment ... People have lives that are mobile ... So, I think school choice is great. I think that if a school wants to receive public funds then there are some things they need to agree (to)."

Health care came up the most throughout the meeting and Polis shared his approach.

"There's a lot of work to be done on making health care more affordable," he said. "I'm hopeful that with the effort to replace the Affordable Care Act with something that was worse for the middle class, now that that's failed, now the bipartisan work can hopefully begin, where we roll up our sleeves and we look at common-sense solutions."

Net neutrality, another hot button issue, also came up.

"It's very important that you have a choice of your content providers and when you purchase internet access you're able to access any content you want," he said. "It's not tiered and you don't have to pay additional to stream certain sites," Polis continued. "So, it's a consumer rights issue ... It also affects our startup economy. ... A free and open internet is obviously important to discourse."

The topic of refugees fleeing to America also came up, and Polis is holding America to a higher standard.

"I've been supportive of America doing its part," he said. "I think we have to as the wealthiest, the most powerful country in the world, we need to lead by example, and when there's people that are displaced like there are by the Syrian civil war, in Sudan and so many other places, we have to do our part, and unfortunately we largely haven't.

"It's not just important in terms of the refugees we accept but it's also as the global leadership role America plays in elevating the issue around the world, because again, these are human beings for whom there simply isn't any other option."

Polis also mentioned that the current vetting process takes too long.

The congressman is running for governor in the 2018 race, and said his top priorities include sustainability, jobs, early education and infrastructure.

"I'm focused on moving toward renewable energy, creating green jobs and more sustainable energy pricing," he said. "Universal preschool and kindergarten across our state for quality early childhood education. And just continuing our economic growth and making sure we can keep up and get ahead of the infrastructure needs to reduce traffic."

"We're here for you," said Polis in his closing statement. "I'm honored to work for you, thank you for joining us."

Polis visited Wellington and Fort Collins after visiting Berthoud. He has held seven town hall meetings in August alone.

Shannon M. Hoffman: 970-635-3691, news@reporter-herald.com

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