BY FREDA MIKLIN – GOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
On June 1, Colorado Congressional District One U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette met virtually with the Cherry Hills Village City Council, which she does every few years.
Mayor Stewart noted that he and the congresswoman
both attended Colorado College. He pointed out that she then went to New York University law school on a full-ride scholarship. DeGette practiced law in Denver for 15 years and was elected to the general assembly, before moving on to the United States Congress. She has represented Colorado’s first congressional district for the past 25 years.
DeGette chairs the oversight and investigation subcommittee of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has “jurisdiction over all health agencies.” She complimented the “extraordinary” work done with Operation Warp Speed in developing the COVID-19 vaccines, noting, “after the first year, we shifted to how to get the vaccine out to the states.”
She talked about her focus on making sure federal relief included funds for cities and states because, “We were concerned about (state and local) tax revenues going down, while governments had to pay” for virus-related expenses. Mayor Stewart said that CHV expects to receive about $1.4 million from that program.
DeGette pointed to the 21st Century Cures Act that became law on December 13, 2016. She said she worked on that law with Republican U.S. Rep Fred Upton and she is now working with him on “Cures 2.0.” According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the 21st Century Cures Act “is designed to help accelerate medical product development and bring new innovations and advances to patients who need them faster and more efficiently.” She added that the Biden administration has asked her and Upton to oversee the effort to put together government and private researchers to try to find cures for diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. DeGette said, “I’m frustrated by the media because the media focuses on the extremes, but Washington isn’t broken. There is actually still a lot of bipartisan work going on.”
She noted that, “We (the House) passed my Colorado wilderness bill as part of the Protect America’s Wilderness Act.” That bill is presently in the Senate, awaiting action by the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, chaired by Sen. Joe Manchin, who DeGette said told her he supports the bill.
The congresswoman talked about the importance of the pending infrastructure bill, which is necessary to “rebuild the energy grid, getting telecommunications out to rural and underserved (urban) areas,” noting that some areas in CD1 “don’t have good broadband.”
CHV Councilmember Afton Safavi asked DeGette what was being done at the federal level with infrastructure to address the homeless situation? Stating that she agreed with him that it was the worst she had ever seen, having lived in Denver her whole life, DeGette pointed out, “If homelessness was an easy problem, we would have fixed it by now.” Crediting the many organizations who have helped the homeless, DeGette pointed to federal earmarks, which she said were not used “for about ten years, but they’re back now.” She said that her first three requests using that tool were “1) to help the City of Denver purchase a vacant motel that will house about 70 families; 2) to help the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless; 3) to help homeless youth. Each of these programs will get about $2 million. I also put in some money for Denver Health, because they realized that if they could get people into stable housing and include wraparound services, that would save money because people would be less sick.”
CHV Councilmember Dan Sheldon raised the issue of gun violence, saying that he is conflicted because, “Since Columbine, Colorado is a hotbed for mass shootings.” DeGette responded, “I am a supporter of the Second Amendment. I don’t think all guns should be banned, but it is a very thorny problem when someone can come in with an automatic rifle and a high-capacity magazine and just shoot (multiple) people in minutes.” She said a key to addressing the problem is to have “a more effective way to have mental health services available for people who are undergoing severe mental stress.” She shared that she was recently asked by a national reporter in an interview if it made her “nervous to go to the grocery store with everyone carrying a weapon.” DeGette said she “told her that I’ve lived in Colorado all my life and I’ve never seen anyone with a weapon in a grocery store.”