I took the trip to Denver last week for the annual Colorado Springs Day at the Legislature. As usual, I learned as much from interacting with others on the trip as I did listening to some of our elected officials.

Gubernatorial candidates John Hickenlooper and Scott McGinnis spoke to the group. While I liked both, McGinnis came out of the chute first with strong statements of how he would support Fort Carson expansion.

I should note McGinnis was at the back of the audience when the question of supporting the military in El Paso County was directed to Hickenlooper, so he got a bit of a head-start on that softball.

Hickenlooper talked about his experience of running businesses and name-dropped some prominent Springs business people who were part of saving the Cheyenne building. He transformed the downtown landmark into the Phantom Canyon brewpub, but our own John Hazlehurst saved the building from the wrecker’s ball.

After hearing from the gubernatorial candidates, it was off to the Capitol, where, once again, it became clear to me that an ever-present antipathy against El Paso County remains part of the landscape.

Of course, when we have candidates such as David Williams running for county commissioner, I can see why the more moderate elements feel that way about the Springs.

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You may remember David Williams. He’s the former UC Colorado Springs student body president who refused to sign a bill allowing money from the student body general fund to pay for a national coming-out day celebration of gay, lesbian and transgender lifestyles.

In an e-mail passed along to me by an elected official on the trip, Williams wrote that “he stood up for the constitution and our first amendment rights against the liberal University of Colorado.”

I don’t know about you, but I have never considered UCCS that liberal of an institution. Colorado College? Sure, but UCCS?

William’s Web site  reads like a manifesto for unbridled gun ownership, an absolutely literal interpretation of the Constitution, lower taxes regardless of the impact on basic services and so on.

In other words, elect Williams if you’re interested in a gun-toting, rabidly anti-tax, homophobe who can help further exacerbate the schism between Denver and Colorado’s second-largest city.

It is these type of right-wing fanatics that give El Paso County a bad rap.

By the way, Williams, a Cinemark theater assistant manager, pledges to commit to a full-time work schedule if elected. Hey, David, I think you’re confusing City Council with the County Commission. A County Commissioner job is full time.

Anyway, back to my day at the legislature. There were hot-topic roundtables on politics and elections, criminal justice and the business climate.

State Sen. John Morse presented budget numbers that almost made me want to move the Colorado Springs Business Journal to a state with some money — if only so my kids can go to college.

The state general fund budget for 2009 was $7.5 billion; by 2012 it has to get down to $5.8 billion. As Morse said, “We have to cut K-12 by $260 million” and “we won’t be able to spare the classroom any longer.”

Though not quite uplifting, the Day at the Legislature is a worthwhile trip. People need to understand how policies are made and get to know the people who make them.

There is, by the by, one area where the state may be able to save some money. Turn down the heat in the Capitol. It was sweltering in there.

Lobbyist for the Springs

Since we are on the subject of politics, it makes sense to give you an update as to where the Springs is on hiring a federal lobbyist. A group called the Regional Coalition for Strategic Federal Action has been formed. The group has commitments of $10,000 a year over three years from several local organizations. The goal is to raise at least $80,000 per year to hire the lobbyist. Who are the local organizations making the money commitment? Sorry, can’t tell you yet. But stay tuned.

Lon Matejczyk is the Publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at lon.matejczyk@csbj.com or 719-329-5202.


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