Governor Polis speaks about affordable housing, child care and teacher retention during his visit to Glenwood Springs
Gov. Jared Polis’ election campaign brought him to Tequila Mexican restaurant in Glenwood Springs on Thursday night, where he spent time answering questions from local leaders and activists.
Polis, running for his second term as governor of Colorado, was in the middle of a three-day swing, hitting 22 saves statewide on Centennial.
Discussion topics included housing, child care, the need for more Spanish translators, and the recruitment and retention of educators.
He also highlighted how the state responded to disasters like COVID-19, the Glenwood Canyon wildfires and debris slides beginning in the summer of 2021.
“In the midst of all of this, I was truly so impressed to see the great resilience of the people of Colorado,” Polis said.
The last three years for Garfield County under Polis’ leadership have seen a whirlwind of major events. Eighty-nine residents died of COVID-19, while the Grizzly Creek Fire and subsequent debris slides have exacerbated displacement and economic hardship.
And when the cost of living rises, the average sale price of a single-family home in Garfield County continues to hover around $660,000.
The Polis administration reacted to housing inflation by asking if the state should do more to push more affordable housing construction.
“We are working very aggressively to partner with cities and counties to create more housing close to jobs in a thoughtful and planned way, so that we don’t put more traffic on the roads, so that we don’t. let’s not add more air pollution,” Polis said. “We’re excited to help communities like Glenwood have more affordable housing, close to jobs, which is especially difficult in the high country.”
The high cost of housing and living in Garfield County has also caused difficulty in recruiting and retaining educational staff for school districts. The Roaring Fork School District just passed a factory tax waiver to be used to get an additional $7.7 million to raise teacher salaries.
At the other end of Garfield County, the District of Garfield Re-2 is currently trying to make health care packages more affordable.
Polis said the state’s current proposed education budget is a “record increase.”
That’s almost a 9% increase,” he said. “What that means is an increase of about $13,000 for a class of 25 students.”
Polis also spoke about other ways the state is trying to strengthen education.
“In addition to the 9% increase in school funding law, we are separately sending an additional $90 million to school districts for special education,” Polis said. “Then distributed according to special education accounts to meet the needs of our learners who have special needs.”
Local Spanish interpreter Jen Quevedo also asked Polis what it is doing at the state level to provide more access to the Spanish language in all institutions, such as schools and police departments.
“Our hospitals don’t have interpretation,” she says. “Nonprofit organizations that accept federal grant money don’t have access to interpretation. Counties, municipalities, they have no proper interpretation.
Polis said the state created the New Americans Initiative in 2019, which employs Coloradans who came to the United States as immigrants or their children, according to the website.
“They mostly work with people who have arrived within the past two decades,” he said. “And so he’s probably our language contact person, and I’m going to ask him to contact you.”
Local attorney Karl Hanlon asked about health care and how Polis plans to reduce small business policy costs.
Polis, which has enacted new health insurance policies aimed at keeping premiums lower for individual and small group markets, said this Colorado reinsurance program saves money for people who don’t. are not insured by their employer.
“The last thing we did was the Colorado options policy, which includes small group markets. What the Colorado public option does is it will reduce rates by about 15% on the small group market over the next two years.
The election for the Colorado gubernatorial race will take place on November 8.
Journalist Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or [email protected]