Conversation with Colorado Senator Dan Gibbs " candidate for District 16
September 29, 2008
Incumbent state senator Dan Gibbs says he is familiar with the issues in Grand County. And one is tempted to believe him with a carved wooden beetle on his belt buckle, and a sample of dead beetles encased in plastic in his pocket to show those who may have never seen one.
The wildland firefighter and Summit County resident has also had to bear the costs of cutting down dead Lodgepole pines. Working 70-hour weeks and spending seven hours a day going door-to-door talking to the people in his district has worn down his cowboy boot soles.
But he isn’t resting yet. Gibbs says he’s prepared to continue fighting for the people he represents ” District 16.
District 16 contains portions of the Front Range and mountain towns along Interstate 70, including Clear Creek, Gilpin, Grand, Summit, Boulder and Jefferson counties.
Prior to his current position, Gibbs spent one term in Colorado’s House of Representatives before elected by the vacancy committee to fill the State Senate seat vacated by former Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald. He has also served as director of U.S. Congressman Mark Udall’s Western Slope office in Minturn.
Q. What would like you to improve in the state senate?
A. “The Wildfire Committee, we recommended seven bills. I’ve been working on making those recommendations bills. So that’s been a major priority, especially being a firefighter. I can look at my district, and look people in the eye and say there’s a real threat in these communities with all the dead trees.
“The wildfire issues I think are huge for the community. I’ve been working hard for years on bringing real money to the table and state budget.
“Creating a strong healthy business climate for the state of Colorado I think is very important and for Grand County.
“I work in a bipartisan fashion to get the job done. And you don’t pass 22 out of your 26 bills without doing that. I could care less if people are Republican, Democrat or Independent. If it’s an issue that’s important to my district I’m going to fight day and night to either kill that bill or to pass it.”
Q. As a member of the I-70 Mountain Corridor Coalition, what progress has the group made in making the highway safer and less congested?
A. “I’ve been involved with the I-70 coalition since its inception in 2004. We recently came up with recommendations that look first at having a multi-motile approach. You look at not only what you have for the existing infrastructure so you make improvements to the highway right now, but you also look at a mass transit alternative as well. So, whether that’s a train or bus the coalition has recommended an EGS (advanced guide way system) System, which happened to be a train. I support getting started on what’s called early action items immediately.
“Everyone in this coalition has agreed, we need improvements, we need to do widening on the highways, we also need to look at some type of mass transit system. The Colorado Department of Transportation’s budget is approximately $1 billion a year. A train will cost at least $8 billion if not more. Now the challenge that we have at the state capitol is, ‘How are we going to pay for our increased transpiration needs throughout the state?’ ”
“Any increase funding really has to go to the vote of the people. We’re all working on … really looking at ways we can increase transportation funds for the state.”
Q. Do you plan to recruit more business into District 16 to boost the economy?
A. “I want to take every step I can possibly take to create a healthy business climate for the state of Colorado.
“My approach is looking at the business personal property tax incentive so it’s cheaper for businesses to start up ” I think that’s a real positive.
“I’m excited to see the expansion in Winter Park Resort. I think that’s really exciting. And I think we have a healthy, vibrant community. I’ve spent a lot of time here. I stopped by Fraser Elementary earlier and they’ve seen an increase in kids, and I think that’s very exciting.”
Q. What role do you plan to have in education and making sure no child is left behind?
A. “This year I co-sponsored a bill ” it was a major education overhaul called Cap for K (Colorado Achievement for Kids). It really looked at how we do education. It aligns preschool, K-12, and higher education all together. It was a major, major education bill that we worked on this year. What it means is students who graduate from college in the future in the state of Colorado will either be prepared to go straight to college or be prepared to work in a particular field, which is very revolutionary.
“Another bill I worked on allows 25,000 more kids to enroll in preschool and full-day kindergarten … I think the earlier we start kids with education … is a real positive.”
Q. Do you have any ideas on how to make health care more affordable?
A. “We have about 800,000 Coloradoans without health insurance. We have about 180,000 kids without health insurance. What we did this year was we worked on a bill (Health Care for Kids SB 160) that passed that enables 50,000 more kids to get the health care they need.”
“We also passed a bill that adds more transparency to the insurance companies. So instead of an insurance company saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to increase your insurance policy because of this or that.’ Insurance Companies now have to prove that the rates need to be increased for reasons outside of their control.
“We also worked on a bill that’s called Coverage That Counts HB 1407. (It) holds insurance companies accountable if they don’t pay the benefits that’s within a person’s health care plans.”
Q. Do you support the Windy Gap or Moffat firming projects?
A. “I am not supportive of water projects that pit one region against another. While I understand that water users on the eastern slope have water rights on the western slope, I believe that they have an obligation to mitigate any impacts to the western slope when that water is diverted. I intend to work with all parties to make sure such water diversions are supported and consensus is reached. Since that consensus was not established with Windy Gap and Moffat Firming projects, I think it is not the way we should pursue such projects and for that reason I am not supportive.”
Q. What have you done to lower energy costs or support energy development?
A. “I think we’re at an energy crisis in the United States, and I think we need to look at a comprehensive approach to our energy needs. I don’t think it’s a one-size-fits-all approach. I think we need to take a serious look at traditional oil and gas, nuclear and biomass.
“I mean Confluence Energy, that’s amazing, we can turn a negative into a positive. And I can’t tell you how many people ask me, ‘How do I get a wood burner stove?’ And I know there are schools looking at doing Fuels for Schools, using wood.
“We need to look at geothermal, we need to look at solar, and wind. But we can’t put all of our eggs into one basket.
“I introduced a bill (SB 145) when I was a state representative. That gives counties and municipalities the authority to give tax breaks for homeowners or businesses that utilize renewable energy fixtures ” it means solar, it means wind, it means biomass. It means anything you can do to create energy.”
Q. Do you support Confluence Energy pellet plant and Colorado Blue Logs in Grand County? Do you think there is room for more businesses like them?
A. “The blue stain is beautiful. If harvested within about a five-year time period after the trees die, structurally it has the same integrity as a green tree. We have 1.5 million acres of dead Lodgepole Pine.
“I think where there are challenges there are great opportunities and Mark Mathis (CE President) is an example of someone who is working hard to try to turn a negative into a positive.”
“Whether it’s wood pellets, whether it’s building material for furniture, whether it’s building material for homes, I think the opportunities are endless.”