Windsor residents Laurie and Kelly Steele attended the 2014 Colorado Capital Conference from June 17-19 in Washington. They were two of 100 Colorado residents chosen for the bipartisan conference sponsored by Colorado Mesa University, the University of Colorado and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.
Laurie said she and her husband “thoroughly enjoyed our experience at the Capital Conference.”
Windsor Now! asked Laurie to tell our readers about the conference and send some photos. Below are some notes and key takeaways from Laurie.
“We found this trip to be fascinating and extremely rewarding. We were exposed to many facets of federal government and some of the national and global issues we are facing. We felt that the conference was very well-balanced, offering speakers, topics and opinions from a bipartisan perspective, including Republicans, Democrats, tea party, moderates and administration representatives. The entire event was very well executed and provided attendees with a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at government in action. The two things that impressed us the most were the fact that senators and representatives work really hard. They have so much on their plates, so many things to learn about and think strategically about, all while keeping an ear to the ground regarding their constituents.
Many of the presenters also expressed time and time again that things are dramatized in the media, that the two sides come together much more often and in a much less combative way than what is presented to us by the media. Ultimately, we felt that regardless of which party our representatives belong to, there is a genuine, mutual respect and efforts to compromise and come to consensus for the betterment of our country.
Some specific notes from some of the more intriguing presentations:
» Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Winnefeld is the second-highest ranking officer in our U.S. military who thanked Colorado for our support of the military.
Has three primary areas in his portfolio in his role:
1. Policy: Spending time in White House meetings trying to protect the U.S. interests in a very dynamic global environment.
2. Investment: Determining what kinds of resources we have in terms of capacity, capability and readiness, and there must be a balance, based on how much funding Congress is willing to give the military.
3. People: Nurturing our people for future leadership, making sure we have the finest military personnel in the world.
He further mentioned that Coloradans can help by supporting the military. “Say hi to a person in uniform when you see them in an airport. Thank them for their service. They will appreciate it,” he said.
He also said we can help take care of our personnel who are injured, both the obvious injuries but the invisible ones, as well. And lastly, he asked the audience to hire veterans. He said they are folks who understand commitment, hard work and teamwork.
He also discussed Iraq and that the strategy needs to be nuanced with a strategic approach to end up with a positive, inclusive, multi-ethnic government that they have thus far been unable to create for themselves in the past five years.
» U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.
Sen. Udall also explained that the Colorado delegation in Washington, D.C., actually comes to consensus much more than we would imagine.
“Our politics are robust, but in the end we come together. I take the U.S. in my title very seriously, taking the U.S. as my first priority, then the state of Colorado, and then my party,” Udall said.
Udall also mentioned that marijuana is a very serious experiment right now for our country, and Colorado is the laboratory.
“As a Colorado delegation, we are concerned about that fact that this industry is working on a cash basis right now, which is a magnet for crime,” Udall said. “We are working hard to provide these businesses access to banking at a federal level.”
He added that it is an initiative by the people, but the industry has to get a quick handle on the edibles and dosages and some of the other major challenges we are trying to wade through right now.
» U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas
He started his presentation joking that he apologizes for being one more Texan that inflicts himself on Colorado in the summertime, because, “quite frankly, Houston in August is unfit for human habitation.”
He said that his No. 1 goal since being elected is to restore jobs and economic growth.
“It should be a bipartisan objective. Economic growth is foundational to solving all our other issues,” he said. “Every time we have out-of-control spending and regulation, our economic growth plunges. The key to economic growth is small business, because two-thirds of jobs come from small business.”
He supports tax reform, regulatory reform, entitlement reform and a balanced budget amendment.
“I hope we will see more bipartisan problem-solving in Washington,” he added.
» Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. State Department
She works with several bureaus within the government, ultimately all working on the disarmament of weapons of mass destruction.
In her portfolio, she oversees the Arms Control Bureau (trying to control, reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons and testing.)
She also oversees the Bureau of National Security and Non-Proliferation, trying to reduce and eliminate chemical weapons. She oversees the Political Military Affairs Bureau, working to reform export controls, as well as the International Consortium Task Force, which is focused on anti-piracy attacks on the shipping industry, primarily Somalia.
One of her salient points is that, while working with Russia can be a challenge, Russia and the U.S. are working very well together in the areas she focuses on.
» U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
After jokingly thanking Sen. Udall “for the water,” (alluding to water coming from the Colorado River) he mentioned that fire and water are the most pressing issues in the Southwest.
He noted that we must do forest thinning and it must be done by commercial enterprises. He said that water will be as precious as gold, and that we are in the 14th year of a drought, and the Colorado River does not have enough water to sustain the growth.
The VA is another big issue for him, and he added that we need to give our veterans some sort of choice in healthcare.
Lastly, Iran, Syria and the Ukraine are all very serious, terrible global situations, and that both sides must come together to help resolve these issues.
» U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
Rep. Ryan is actively involved in the appropriations process and currently working on the Pentagon’s budget.
“Congress is exercising the ‘power of the purse,” he said.
The IRS and the VA are under scrutiny right now, and he noted that we need to get our debt under control, get the economy back on track. He alluded that everyone in Congress agrees on our founding principles of free enterprise and limited and effective government.
“The friction is over tactics,” he said.
There were also presentations that focused on immigration reform, education, environmental protection and rural economies.
We toured the Capitol Building, observed Mario Rubio testifying in the Senate Chambers regarding Iraq, had a wonderful presentation from Tom Fontana, director of communications, architect of the Capitol. It was all about the various buildings that the Architect office oversees, and the building of the Capitol Visitors Center (underground); the rebuilding of the Pentagon after Sept. 11, and the restoration of the dome on the Capitol, which has over 1,300 cracks in it and is currently under a two-year restoration process.
We went through underground tunnels to meet in Senate office buildings and had a luncheon in the Members Room of the Library of Congress, a beautiful and historic room.