27 December 2010

Highlights From An Interview Of Governor Ritter

DavidThi808 interviewed Colorado's outgoing Democratic Governor, Bill Ritter, for Colorado Pols and got some interesting tidbits. Here are some highlights.

[Remember Me For Improving Education, Expanding Access To Healthcare, Funding Transportation and the New Energy Economy]

[I] asked him what is his proudest accomplishment. He started off saying that they made the quality of life better under very difficult circumstances. . . . He talked about the package of education policy bills that have been passed and how that is of dramatic importance for the future of our state, especially to address the drop-out rate and achievement gap. He next discussed healthcare policy, calling out in particular the healthcare availability act. He completed his list with sustainable transportation funding (FASTER). He then switched gears and discussed what he thinks the history books will say. He thinks history will remember his administration for changing the energy culture in this state. . . .

[He Needed To Be More Aware Of Union-Mgt Issues And Promise Less]

Next I told Governor Ritter he gets a time machine, but gets to go back 4 years for 10 seconds to tell Governor-elect Ritter one thing. What would it be. He immediately answered that he would tell himself to pay more attention to the relationship between labor and the business community. He then said he would go back 5 years before the campaign started and stop himself from over-promising where was then not able to deliver. He later said that this was his biggest regret.

[The Republicans Put Politics Ahead Of The Public Good]

I then asked the Governor what was the biggest surprise over the last 4 years. He said it was how difficult it was to reach across the aisle to find common ground. He thinks a large part of that was a giant shock to the Republican party to lose so much ground since 2004 that they decided to focus on harming him politically as much as they code for electoral advantage rather than focusing on what is best for the state. . . .

[We Need To Invest In Higher Ed]

I asked what is the big issue Colorado will face in 20 years (assuming we are a green energy center and education is better). Governor Ritter replied "that we can get more for less money" (he's right - people who say that are lying!). That we can get more services, more jobs, and at the same time we can shrink government. He said that yes we need to always be fiscally prudent, but there are a number of things that would be better for the state that would cost money.

He went on to say that higher education is a good place to start. We are underfunding higher education and we cannot continue to underfund it without losing an edge. We're 5th in the country for jobs that require a college degree. Yet our most rapidly growing segment of the population is Latino/Latina and we're doing a lousy job providing them education. That we need to fund the programs that get people through K-12 ready for college, get them in to college, and get them to successfully graduate from college.

He went on to say "if we haven't figured this out 20 years from now, we'll be in real trouble." He says the people of this state have to figure out what they really want going forward. And they have to understand the impact higher ed has on the quality of life, economic development, etc.

I asked if the root problem is that a significant chunk of the populace doesn't care about the benefits higher ed brings, or if it's that people think they can keep taxes low and should be able to get the services they want. He replied both. First that people don't know, or that they haven't made the case to the people, about how key higher ed is to the future of this state.

Governor Ritter then said that an equal problem is the cynicism people have for the government. They look at the federal government with the deficit spending and the debt to GDP ratio is worrisome. And that reflects on to the state government. And with that comes people's lack of trust in the government to do these things, and do them well. . . .

[Don't Legalize Drugs]

I asked him about the money we spend on prisons and should we treat drugs as a mental health issue instead of a criminal issue. Governor Ritter first talked about how he started the state's first drug court. But he then said we cannot legalize drugs. He then went on to say that 75% of violent crimes are committed because people are intoxicated. He then continued saying we have to continue to educate kids about the problems that come with drugs, we have to spend money on treatment, and you have to address those people who won't obey the law. But you cannot legalize it because if you do then drug use will become normative.

Governor Ritter's official reason for not running again is the need to balance work and family, which is the default reason that every politician and political appointee gives for a decision to bow out of politics.

But, I think that I am hardly in the minority in seeing his frayed relationship with unions who are a key constituency of the Democratic party as his key political reason for not running again. And, the truth of the matter is that he could have delivered more to unions, simply by refraining from vetoing pro-union legislation that was passed on his watch. With Democrats in control of the General Assembly, he didn't veto many pieces of legislation, and the most controversial ones were pro-union measures, at least one of which he promised union supporters on the campaign trail that he would support, accompanied by unconvincing veto messages about the political process. But for those vetoes, it is my opinion that he would have been running for re-election in 2010 with broad based support from the Democratic party.

The interview didn't discuss juvenile justice or pardons, so we have no more insight on how Governor Ritter will address those issues in his final days in office.

1 comment:

T.R. Donoghue said...

I'm just not sure that labor has that much influence in Colorado politics. Look at the record of passing pro-labor legislation in Colorado, even with Democrats controlling the legislature. Just this past session the legislature wouldn't even bring a measure to the floor to protect union dues deductions for state employees. This was an absolutely critical piece of legislation and House and Senate Democrats completely walked away from it on the last day of the session.