John Scarffe, Nederland. U.S. Congressman Jared Polis, D-Boulder, answered questions for Peak to Peak residents during a Town Hall Meeting at noon on Sunday, April 9, 2017, at the Nederland Community Center. Polis represents the ten counties that make up Colorado’s Second District — Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Eagle, Gilpin, Grand, Jefferson, Larimer, Summit, and Park.
The counties “truly represent the essence of Colorado. From the heartland agriculture on the edges of the district’s northern border, to famous ski areas and towering 14,000 foot peaks, to the ground-breaking research institutions and top tier universities of University of Colorado and Colorado State University, Colorado’s second district is home to both world class athletes and world class minds,” states his website.
During his introductory remarks, Polis told the packed theater audience that it’s great to be back in Nederland. He only had 20 to 25 people in attendance the last time he was here, so he appreciated the sold out attendance.
“The silver lining in Washington right now is the new sense of civic participation,” Polis said. “We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines. You need to keep getting involved and writing letters.”
These are interesting times in Washington and the world, Polis said. Issues surrounding the presidency arouse suspicion regarding members of the campaign team and their contact with the Russians. Was it collusion or who ordered what? Polis supports an independent commission and trying to use every possible procedure to get to the bottom of it.
FBI, House and Senate investigations are ongoing, and the republican chair of the investigation recused himself. “We will see where the smoke leads,” Polis said. Russian business interests might have funded moneys during the U.S. elections in 2016.
Meanwhile, one of the worst chemical bombings in Syria turned a northern rebel-held area into a toxic kill zone in early April. Western leaders including President Trump blamed the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.
As a result, the United States bombed Syria when congress left for the session, Polis said. “It exceeds the constitutional authority of the president. Trump just did it.” There’s a difference between bombing terrorists and attacking a sovereign state.”
Rand Paul and other colleagues joined Polis in disagreeing with this action. “The timing is interesting. We didn’t have time to debate it,” Polis said, adding that Assad is a brutal dictator and has a terrible human rights record.
Regarding health care, Polis has defended the Affordable Care Act, saying that his criteria for a good health care bill are expanding coverage and reducing cost. “Myself and other democrats are willing to improve on Obamacare.” He supports Medicaid and Medicare on all bills.
Regarding education, Polis is the ranking member on the House K-12 Committee on Education, he said. Public education is under attack right now. He advocates retaining funding for Title 1, free lunches and helping school districts meet the needs of every child.
On environmental issues, President Obama used his executive authority to move forward on protecting the environment and reducing emissions, Polis said. President Trump has overturned all those actions, removing regulations on methane and clean coal.
Trump is also threatening the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with budget cuts, but state and local governments are doing amazing things. Colorado should be more a part of that, Polis said. For example, California has emissions control legislation.
A lot is happening on the national level with opportunities for federal action on tax reform and infrastructure, Polis said. Republicans want to eliminate tax holes and expenditures, but democrats say to do so they will need to include green items in their measures. Trump wants a bold infrastructure package, and democrats want to push water and energy efficiency as a part of that, Polis said.
Locally, people are here on deferred action. The federal government has increased deportations and tried to shut down immigrations, Polis said.
On the topic of the Unites States Forest Service, for those of us who live here in the mountains, Trump’s plan will ruin the environment, and budget cuts will have an impact.
“A lot of us are concerned with Forest Service management, including clear cutting, which runs opposed to recommendations from scientists.”
Forest Service personnel are not funded, but funding is available for projects that produce value for the timber industry and not what science finds. The United States Department of Agriculture has failed in public education. How can you help drive policies on fire mitigation?
Polis said he is taking part in a series of digital round tables on public lands, which you can watch on U-tube. He worries a lot about public lands, environmental dangers, permitting and drilling and the transfer of public lands to private owners.
Once public lands are sold off, that’s forever, and then they can be used for oil and gas etc., Polis said. They won’t be able to do a massive sale, but it’s looming there. “We value our public lands, which are the majority of my district, for recreation and quality of life. The economic drivers and jobs in the area revolve around recreation.”
Polis is pushing to classify additional lands in Eagle and Summit counties as recreational areas under public management. He is aware of Forest Service under staffing and the ridiculous amount of lands they have to manage, as demonstrated by the millions of visitors per year at Rocky Mountain National Park and in the Nederland area. “We need to beef it up.”
Trump’s budget is not serious, Polis explained. The president offers a budget, but congress doesn’t act on that. They value their prerogative to do their own budget. Polis hopes they will be able to restore the Public Broadcasting Service and Meals on Wheels.
With the strongest arguments from communities, congress will be able to make the case not to cut back the EPA. “We, as democrats, have more leverage, because the republicans have been ineffective in governing,” Polis said. “They can’t get bills passed, and then they come to us and don’t want government to shut down. We can protect important funding like the National Endowment for Arts.”
Regarding environmental regulations, questioners stated that greed is driving everything, such as the focus on oil, dropping chemicals into rivers and cutting EPA by 30 percent. “Is there something else we should be doing? The train needs to be stopped.” Cycling and other modes of transportation should be supported.
Polis said that hearing more people speak out will help. The one-third spending cut of the EPA is Trump’s proposal because they are trying to spend more on defense. They need to enforce laws on clean air and water, and that will be a big line in the battle. “If they want our support, they will have to leave some cuts.”
They propose spending $56 billion on defense, even though the United States spends more than anyone else on defense, Polis said. It makes us more dependent on China and other countries.
Another congressional election will take place in a year-and-a-half, and your letters really matter, Polis said. “You have two senators and we welcome your calls. Continue to write and call and maintain that level of civic participation.” Regarding fracking, some other states don’t allow fracking. Local governments have some control.
Summit and Eagle counties are putting together areas that allows biking. “We’re continuing to meet the needs of all users including shooters, sportsmen and motorized vehicles,” Polis said. No one wants bullets whizzing by people’s houses, so they are working toward improvements on public lands to be sure it’s safer. Enough sustainable uses are available to make everyone happy as long as public lands are not privatized.
On questions regarding labor and the economy, one of the drivers for economic equality is union participation, but union participation has plummeted. The United States is one of the wealthiest countries, but that wealth is controlled by a smaller percent. What do you see as your role?
Due to the low minimum wage in the 21st Century, lots of people have to work 70 to 80 hours per week to provide housing, food and basic needs.
Raise the minimum wage to no less than $12 per hour. With automation coming soon, it will push people out of the market because it will be taken over by a robot.
Polis said that Colorado did work on raising the minimum wage. The United States is seeing growth and a strong economy, but still not everyone benefits. Strong labor is part of that. We routinely see violations of labor laws, because of minor penalties for those violations, and we want to see criminal penalties added to that.
Many consumers have benefited from the economic growth, but workers and employees have not shared in that, Polis said. The percentage of the workforce in unions has deteriorated. He encourages employee ownership.
Comprehensive union bills will be introduced on unfair practices that keep unions from organizing, Polis said. Trump will have appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, and he overturned the overtime rule. Assistant managers and workers are working more than 60 hours per week without overtime. To reinvigorate labor movements, unions need to evolve and make themselves relevant to the next generation of workers, who don’t see union dues going to anything.
Budget concern questions regarded tax reform, the border tax and a law that allows internet service providers to sell personal information. Polis said the big three republican measures are tax reform, the border tax and repealing the Affordable Care Act.
What’s to stop them from getting those done? Polis said that tax reform is the centerpiece, but it needs revenue, and the democrats are looking at the carbon tax. The republicans are looking at border adjustments for higher taxes on imported items.
“This is a regressive tax, and a lot of items come from China and other countries,” Polis said. Are there ways of reducing brackets for lower income people, since this would affect them?
The border tax could cause other countries to reciprocate, which would cause loss of American jobs, Polis said. A carbon tax would also be regressive, but less so than the border tax.
The Federal Government has repealed FCC rules that kept providers from selling private information, and it’s an enormous problem, Polis said. Net neutrality means all information needs to be treated equally.
Today’s and tomorrow’s startups would not be able to reach people. It prevents startups from having an equal footing and allows big companies for broadband to extort the internet. The magic of the internet is content, what you have access to, Polis said. Both laws convey a large amount of value, and there is no reason to pad their profits. It’s a very dangerous route to go.
Polis closed by saying that Colorado has two senators, and those calls and letters absolutely have impact, so write to Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Cory Gardner (R-CO). If you write a physical letter, because of the anthrax threat, it takes three weeks until we get it. “It’s such a silver lining to see more people in Nederland, and if this continues, I know the pendulum will swing the other way,” Polis said.
Polis’s staff will compile questions that were not asked at the meeting and will get back to those who asked them. For more information or to contact Congressman Polis go to http://polis.house.gov/