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MEEKER I State Senate leaders came to town Aug. 13 as part of a statewide listening tour. They got an earful.
Much of what they heard from locals had to do with national issues, most notably health care reform.
But that didn’t stop people from expressing their views, and it didn’t stop the senators from listening.
“You can’t vote for me, but I can vote for you,” Senate Majority Leader John Morse of Colorado Springs told Charlotte White and Barbie Purkey.
Even though Morse and Senate President Brandon Shaffer of Longmont are from the Front Range, the purpose of the listening tour is to hear from all parts of the state.
“As the Senate democratic leadership, we wanted to get a sense of the whole state, not just our own districts,” Shaffer said, adding this was his first visit to Meeker. “Remember, we don’t work in D.C. We work in Denver; we’re focused on state politics. But we’re ready to talk about whatever you want to talk about.”
Many in the crowd of 40 some people at the Meeker Cafe wanted to talk about the national debate on health care reform and concerns about government infringing on personal choices.
“I don’t want to pay taxes to kill babies,” said Michelle Pollock of Meeker, whose comment drew applause from the crowd. “The Bible should intervene with my marriage, not the government. My Bible and my Lord tell me how to train my child.”
Another national issue brought up by the crowd was enforcement of immigration laws.
“In Rifle, when they introduce the Wal-Mart special in Spanish, I know something is up,” said Del Turner, whose comment received enthusiastic applause and shouts of “Amen” from the crowd. “From gun laws to immigration to abortion to oil to health care … if Colorado could pass one law, that would be to adhere to the Constitution. Coloradans should have the rights, not the federal government and Obama and his bunch of thugs.”
Shaffer said state government and how it deals with issues like the economy is different from the federal government.
“People have the perception we’re an extension of the federal government, and we can just print money,” Shaffer said. “We’re really different from what’s going on in Washington, D.C.”
Even though the politicians distinguished between the state and federal governments, local control should be preeminent, said Rio Blanco County Sheriff Si Woodruff, rather than the state dictating what the county can and can’t do.
“Tell the state to stop mandating county business,” Woodruff said.
One point the politicians and people in the crowd could agree on was Colorado has its share of problems that need fixing. The question is what to do about them.
“We’ve got a bright future, and we’re going to get there, but we have to figure out how,” Morse said.
As part of that process, the two Senate Democratic leaders wanted to hear what people had to say about the direction the state should take in dealing with its problems.
“It’s worth having a conversation to see if we can sort things out,” Shaffer said.
And, for the politicians, part of that conversation was listening to what people had to say.
“You all are here,” Shaffer told the crowd. “And that’s what’s important.”