… from the Obama administration
The Denver Post
December 7, 2008
The Denver Post asked a diverse stable of Westerners to add their voices to the chorus of Americans who have advice for President-elect Barack Obama. Top row, left to right: John Hickenlooper, Cleo Parker Robinson, Norma Anderson, Jeff S. Fard. Middle row: Dottie Lamm, Gary Hart, Federico Pena, Brian Schweitzer, Tucker Hart Adams. Bottom row: Al Simpson, Andrew Romanoff, Bill Owens, Patty Limerick.
KICK-START THE ECONOMY
President-elect Obama needs to kick-start the economy. Everything from international and homeland security, to education and alternative energy, to housing and health care, depends on having resources to invest.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors recently released a survey of 153 cities with “ready-to-go” infrastructure projects that could be completed in 2009. Investment in these projects would immediately create jobs, support small businesses and leave communities with lasting improvements to roads, bridges and schools. These investments need to include:
* Incentives that strongly encourage our cities and suburbs to work together. Infrastructure investments benefit greatly from achieving scale and critical mass. This happens more easily on a regional basis.
* Green requirements, including emissions reductions, energy and resource conservation, alternative energy use and creation of green jobs.
This economic stimulus package also needs to suspend some of the onerous regulations restricting our banks from making loans.
- John Hickenlooper, Denver mayor
ONE WORD: “BATTERIES”
That famous line from “The Graduate” about where future riches lie has changed from “plastics” to “batteries.” In America – with American ingenuity, engineers and workers – we can produce an unlimited supply of energy from the wind and sun while growing America’s economy.
Our problem isn’t producing energy; it’s storing energy. Battery and plug-in hybrid technology can solve our storage problem and end our dependency on the petro dictators.
Here’s how we can do it: The average American drives fewer than 40 miles a day. With current transmission capacity and battery technology, we could fuel 84 percent of the country’s vehicles with electricity if they were plug-in hybrids, eliminating our dependency on imported oil. Now, imagine if we could empower consumers to buy and sell their stored wind and solar energy on the open market. When power is cheap, they could buy; when power is expensive, they could sell. We can fuel America with technology we have right now. It’s energy that will never be controlled by the petro dictators and will provide a much-needed boost to the economy.
- Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer
KNOCK SOME HEADS TOGETHER
President Obama’s top priority should be to have a little ol’ private session in the White House with VP Joe Biden at his side, and have all the “heavies” there – the party leadership in the House and Senate – on both sides of the aisle. He should clap their heads together and tell them to step out of the center of the boxing ring, sponge some cold water on their heads, take out the mouth guards, spit into the bucket, take off the gloves, and do a most daring and dramatic thing: shake hands and go to a neutral corner!
The American people are waiting longingly for that and, more importantly, they are expecting it! All during this laborious and torturous campaign, folks talked of “doing something,” “being about the nation’s business,” “working together,” and wanting to “cut out the silly bickering and phony political posturing” (their words). I think he has the power to be a healer, and his first priority is to visit with those leaders of one engine of government that really swings a big stick and tell them: “Stop bludgeoning and start legislating!”
- Alan K. Simpson, U.S. senator from Wyoming (retired)
GOVERN AS A CENTRIST
President-elect Obama needs to govern as the moderate Democrat who won the general election, not as the liberal Democrat who won the primary.
At its essence, America remains a center-right country, generally mistrusting of both government and taxes while also believing that the United States is indeed a special nation.
The last time our country had both a liberal president and Congress was LBJ’s 1964 Great Society, which was quickly rebuffed in the elections of 1966, 1968, 1970 and 1972.
The Obama who won the general election was a candidate who in many respects sounded almost like Ronald Reagan: cut taxes, win in Afghanistan, set tough standards in schools, and drill for oil.
If he Obama governs as a centrist Democrat, he might be a very successful two-term president. If, however, he listens to the likes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, he will join Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter as merely the most recent of failed single-term Democratic presidents.
- Bill Owens, Colorado governor from 1999 to 2007
RESTORE NATION’S CONFIDENCE
The most important task facing our new president will be to restore the confidence of financial institutions, businesses and consumers. People need to be able to believe that someone is in charge, someone who has a plan to restore the U.S. and world economies to health. Until this happens, all of the stabilization and stimulus packages in the world won’t make much difference. Over the last 15 months, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury have poured trillions of dollars of liquidity into the financial system. Normally, this money would be loaned and re-loaned by financial institutions to healthy businesses, consumers and homebuyers, where it would be spent and re-spent, creating orders and jobs. But, rather than calming markets, the 16 separate actions they have taken merely confirmed participants’ fear that no one knows what to do.
President Obama must convince us that, although there is no quick fix to our penchant for spending more than we earn, he and his advisers have a plan to steer us onto the path to sustainable economic growth.
- Tucker Hart Adams, Colorado Springs economist
RESTORE U.N. POPULATION FUND
Mr. President-elect, pick up that pen! With one stroke, you can restore the tens of millions of dollars that the Bush administration has denied to the United Nations Population Fund. This restriction was implemented on the spurious claim that UNFPA monies go to agencies that conduct forced abortions in China. They do not.
Good family planning services reduce abortions. According to Barbara Crossette, former New York Times bureau chief at the United Nations, “Of the 190 million women who become pregnant annually, 50 million have abortions.”
Family planning is the world’s best anti-abortion tool. It is also the world’s best population-reduction tool, since right now 200 million women who want to curtail their childbearing have no access to family planning. An added bonus: Slowing world population growth will directly decrease global warming, a major priority of your campaign.
So pick up that pen! Our children, their children and all others on our greatly warming Earth will thank you.
- Dottie Lamm, former first lady of Colorado, and presidential appointee to the 1994 U.N. Conference on Population and Development in Cairo
TRANSPORTATION, ENERGY, EDUCATION
President-elect Barack Obama’s recently announced economic stimulus plan targeting green energy, transportation and education is welcome news for Colorado and the West. The reason is simple: the West has already identified these sectors as keys to our future economic vitality.
* Green energy. Colorado is already a leader in the development of clean technology and green businesses. With the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory and the Dutch wind power manufacturer Vestas all here, we are well positioned to partner with the new administration on targeted initiatives to solidify Colorado’s position as the Western headquarters of America’s renewable-energy industry.
* Transportation. Denver International Airport has opened the West to the world, but our regional infrastructure is lagging. One-third of the state’s roads and highways are in need of repair and 126 of its bridges are “structurally deficient.” FasTracks needs additional dollars to be built out as originally planned. Addressing these needs will cost more than $1.5 billion annually.
* Education. Quality education is the lynchpin of a strong American workforce. Given the West’s rapid growth and changing demographic mix, it is important that the next administration focus education dollars in our region. In Colorado alone, it is estimated that more than $5 billion is needed to both repair and build new K-12 schools to meet future needs.
The West has long been known as innovative and frugal. By investing stimulus dollars in the West, the new administration will help put our growing population back to work and address the nation’s future needs in a cost-efficient and effective manner.
- Federico Peña, former Denver mayor and secretary of transportation and energy in the Clinton administration
IMMIGRATION, ON A PRACTICAL LEVEL
President-elect Obama: The true majority party in the United States – the Party of Practicality – awaits your leadership. For most issues, the old political categories (liberal and conservative, left and right) are antiquated relics, ready to yield to practicality.
Consider immigration. Practical people recognize that the United States has the right to say who is a rightful resident and who is not. They recognize that we cannot save the impoverished of the Earth by inviting them to join us. And yet, when practical people compare the expenses of finding and deporting the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country to the expenses of educating and assimilating them, they choose the more frugal alternative.
In recent months, we have found an unappealing way to reduce the number of immigrants drawn to the nation: send the economy into a recession. While the economy moves toward recovery, we can reform immigration policy.
Given the opportunity on this issue and many others, the Party of Practicality will stand behind a President of Practicality.
- Patty Limerick, professor of history and director of the University of Colorado’s Center of the American West
FOCUS ON SMALL BUSINESSES
While war, health and the economy will dominate and define the next presidency, the economy should be President-elect Obama’s top priority. Fostering an environment of job creation and government responsiveness to business must be job one. The economic solution is not only in massive bailouts for failing corporations but must also simulate small business, workforce development and focus on emerging technologies. In this regard, Colorado and the West is poised to lead the nation into the new economic frontier with leadership worthy of Cabinet positions.
- Jeff S. Fard, community organizer and owner of Brother Jeff’s Cultural Center in Five Points
A BALANCED ENERGY POLICY
Our economy is the most important issue. But our energy policy is an important piece of that economy, for the West, the U.S., and globally. It has an impact on jobs, imports, exports and the environment, particularly in the West and in Colorado. On our Western Slope, the economy has been thriving because of the need for energy. Our current recession is beginning to affect that climate of growth.
We need a balanced policy on energy. We still need to drill for oil and gas as well as develop alternative fuels. Each has a place in the economy. President-elect Obama should continue the policy of drilling offshore as he stated in his campaign. The global price of a barrel of oil will stabilize when the U.S. can produce enough energy to be self-sufficient. We will need to develop alternative forms of energy such as solar, nuclear and others. We cannot rely on any one form of energy to be competitive.
- Norma Anderson is a former Republican majority leader of both the Colorado House and Senate
HOLD SPIRIT OF BIPARTISANSHIP
Barack Obama will face no shortage of challenges when he takes office in January, and will need help from more than one political party to solve them.
Democrats will enjoy large majorities in both chambers of Congress. Barring a flood of filibusters in the Senate, our new president will be able to enact much of his agenda with little or no Republican support. But it would be a mistake to do so simply because he can.
The Obama campaign engaged citizens of every political stripe; the Obama administration should do the same. Republicans may choose not to participate, leaving Democrats no choice but to govern alone. But the problems we confront at home and abroad will be easier to solve – and the nation better served – if our commander-in-chief keeps all hands on deck.
As Sen. Obama told the convention that nominated him: “Patriotism has no party.”
- Andrew Romanoff, speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives
CREATE A SPIRIT OF UNITY
Barack Obama represents a spirit in America that is extraordinary. He has personified the courage of Dr. Martin Luther King, that we must maintain our ability to move in unison through the greatest adversity. As an artist and educator who believes we must do what is best for all of humanity, I feel our new president must nurture and sustain a more harmonious place of unity within his administration, with a priority to help us learn from every segment of our society. From our diversity comes strength, and it is from that strength that we can sustain faith in ourselves as a compassionate and caring people.
We must all remain vigilant and deeply involved in the social, economic, educational, enviromental and artistic process, and must show utmost respect for the contributions of all our citizens.
- Cleo Parker Robinson, founder of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance
WALK, CHEW GUM AND JUGGLE
Stabilizing, then transforming, the national economy clearly is the most immediate goal of President-elect Obama. Stabilizing requires halting the damage, and transforming requires beginning the massive shift from spending and consumption to savings, investment and production. Additionally, we must start the several-decade transition to a post-carbon economy.
It is apparent that a president does not control events and cannot deal with problems when he chooses to. So the new president will have to walk, chew gum, and juggle three oranges at the same time. Too much has been left undone for too long. President Obama should adopt core recommendations of the Presidential Climate Action Project and begin to negotiate a Kyoto-like treaty. He should require Detroit to produce smaller, more efficient vehicles in exchange for federal tax dollars. He should start negotiations with nuclear powers to eliminate all nuclear arsenals. He must have a Department of Homeland Security whose leaders, unlike today, have their hair on fire where future attacks are concerned. He must start the process of making the U.S. independent of Persian Gulf oil in a decade.
These and other tasks are all high priority and can be started simultaneously if experienced, high-energy, effective leaders are appointed to them and given a mandate from the new president. We do not have the luxury of doing one thing at a time.
- Gary Hart, former U.S. senator from Colorado