Gov. Hickenlooper praises commissioners regarding flood, buries the hatchet with Conway
February 1, 2014
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper still doesn't agree with how last year's 51st state initiative was handled, but he gave some props to the Weld County commissioners and said he's buried the hatchet when it comes to his relationship with Commissioner Sean Conway.
Hickenlooper talked about a variety of issues during a Friday afternoon meeting with The Tribune's editorial board, and among them was the failed effort for Weld County to secede from the state.
"If you ask Sean how we did in the flood recovery here in Weld County, I think he'd be pretty complimentary," Hickenlooper said. "Every time I ever spoke, I was very complimentary of what he did. I think your commissioners were remarkable, as good as any set of commissioners in any county in the state."
The secession issue, though, didn't please Hickenlooper, a Democrat.
"I was unhappy, and I told Sean that I was unhappy, of this whole secession thing that he promoted and pushed so hard," Hickenlooper said. "That divides the state to no real point. It really did polarize the state. Economic growth, getting jobs, whether it's Greeley or whether it's Arvada or Grand Junction, the more we're together, the more we work together, the better."
He said he was very blunt with Conway.
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"I said, 'You're welcome to have your opinions. You can attack me when we screw up. Lord knows I make plenty of mistakes. Have at it. Take pot shots. But to kind of manufacture something like this and promote it as such a divisive thing, I'd never seen you do that before, and it's not constructive.' Once we had that discussion, as far as I'm concerned, we buried the hatchet and the flood happened very soon after that."
Hickenlooper, who will run for re-election in November, said the flood was something that brought people together.
"Trust me, we worked every bit as hard for Sean to make him look good and to help Weld County as we did for any other county," said Hickenlooper, who was in Greeley with Ken Lund, the executive director for the office of Economic Development and International Trade. "That's what people expect. Sean does a great job. There's no question he does a great job."
Hickenlooper also discussed oil and gas, gun control, the middle class, the rift between Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature and the legalization of marijuana.
» On the current legislative session, Hickenlooper said he thinks the mood between the two parties is better this year than in 2013.
"Everyone recognizes that the public is kind of fed up," Hickenlooper said. "When you go out and talk to people, they haven't given up. They're just frustrated that Washington is so dysfunctional. The way the counties are working in Colorado, the way the counties work with the state, five years from now we'll have a real metric … to measure Colorado's response and resilience from the floods and compare it to what happened to New Jersey after Sandy, what happened to Vermont after Hurricane Irene. You're going to see that we moved faster. Part of it was we had a reserve in place."
» On tweaking the gun control laws passed last year, Hickenlooper said that it's a possibility.
"The state is going to succeed based on jobs being created, on clean air, clean water, on great schools," he said. "That's the stuff we should be focusing on. Getting caught up on whether your nephew's grandson can get your gun when you die … I'm going to pay much more attention and put more energy into things that will pull people together."
» On oil and gas concerns, Hickenlooper said the oil and gas industries are anchored by some quality companies such as Anadarko Petroleum and Noble Energy.
"When I sat down with them 2 1/2 years ago, I said, 'You've got a real public trust problem and you need to have the public trust,' " he said. "It can't be just you and the state talking, we have to bring in the environmental community and let them be right at the table and be transparent. We have the most rigorous set of oil and gas regulations in the country, and they were designed in concert with the oil and gas industry."
» On if he's concerned about the state's image with the legalization of recreational marijuana, Hickenlooper didn't hesitate.
"Yes. I opposed recreational marijuana," Hickenlooper said. "We don't want the state to be the butt of late-night jokes. We don't want to be the 'stoner state' or whatever Jimmy Fallon said the other day. We are working so hard to attract businesses. Part of how we attract people is the quality of life and the mountains, young people and music and also workforce."
Hickenlooper said Colorado's culture and community shouldn't be affected much by legal pot.
He said he's talked to at least 200-250 people about marijuana and concluded that "the same people that were smoking pot before are going to keep smoking it. The people who weren't smoking aren't going to smoke it."
Hickenlooper said what the legalization will do is result in less crime, among other things.
"Even though I oppose it, if we regulate it properly, it's going to be one of the great social experiments of the 21st century."
Hickenlooper said he did not want Colorado to be the first.
"We're allowing people to grow it and sell it, but we've got to keep it out of kids' hands. If a parent gives marijuana to their kid, we should put them in jail."