Photo by Joel Reichenberger
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper stated plainly Sunday that he'll welcome any and all input about Western Slope issues in his first statewide campaign. Steamboat residents were happy to oblige, taking time out of their day to talk with the candidate.
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Steamboat Springs Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper said unabashedly Sunday that he’s learning on the fly in his statewide campaign for governor and that he’ll welcome all the input he can get on Western Slope perspectives about the future of Colorado.
But the Democratic candidate already has learned enough about this side of the state to hit the right note on a touchy issue during a public reception at the Artists’ Gallery of Steamboat on Lincoln Avenue.
“We have cut the per capita consumption of Denver water by 20 percent,” Hickenlooper told a small crowd. “It’s in all of our self-interests to save every drop of water we can.”
Hickenlooper said he doesn’t oversee the Denver Water Board, he just appoints its members. But he said that since taking mayoral office in 2003, he’s worked to instill a water conservation ethic that is ultimately in the state’s best interests. Hickenlooper said he tells metro area residents about the importance of preserving Western Slope resources to support the region’s natural beauty and recreational opportunities such as fly fishing and hunting.
“Without all that, Denver isn’t Denver,” Hickenlooper said, adding that he tells homeowners in thirsty areas such as Aurora and Douglas County that “the value of your home depends on the success of the Western Slope.”
That message resonated well with North Routt County rancher Peter Kurtz.
“The most important issue for ranchers, and anyone in agriculture in this state, is usually water,” Kurtz said. “I was really impressed by Hickenlooper’s position that Denver and the state as a whole benefit the most by keeping Western Slope water on the Western Slope, and that collaboration is always the best approach.”
Collaboration was a theme to Hickenlooper’s remarks, which focused on his experience as an exploration geologist who got laid off in the 1980s oil bust — giving him empathy with those struggling to find employment today, he said — as a businessman who founded a brewpub in Denver’s then-stagnant downtown and expanded into locations across the country, and as a mayor who brings diverse groups to the table for sustainability efforts and other projects.
Hickenlooper said he would take the same approach with the oil and natural gas industries in Colorado, to “find a middle ground” between strict environmental oversight and helping those industries continue to “bring a huge amount of money into the state.”
Hickenlooper visited SmartWool on Sunday, to talk about how state government can add value to businesses. He said job creation is the No. 1 issue he hears about from Western Slope residents.