Colorado Municipal League hears from Gov. Polis

BY FREDA MIKLIN GOVERNMENTAL REPORTER

The Colorado Municipal League (CML) was founded in 1923 and counts as members more than 97% of the state’s municipalities. It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that provides services and resources, including education and lobbying, to assist municipal officials in managing their governments and serving the cities and towns of Colorado. Governor Jared Polis was the keynote speaker at CML’s 2021 Legislative Workshop, held virtually on February 11. The Villager listened in.

Polis said,

“As Colorado businesses recover, we are happy that at the special legislative session (held in early December�, more aid was approved for local business.”

Looking toward the regular session that began February 16, the governor said,

“We have suggested a one-time stimulus of $1.7 billion to the legislature. We are proposing a $130-million boost for shovel-ready transportation projects. We have also proposed $70 million for CDOT’s Revitalizing Main Street program for beautification of our downtowns, pedestrian areas, and other needs as determined by our cities. We are open to more if the legislature wants to do more.”

He said he would support main street façade improvements, improved weatherization, and other energy efficient restoration to beautify and improve our downtown areas across the state. Polis talked about an earlier successful Main Street funding pilot program with only a few million dollars that was employed in small cities. He pointed out that, with this program, “It will be up to cities what they want to do with this to improve efficiency, traffic-flow, even adding permanent pedestrian benches.”

The governor added that matching funds might be required, but, “This puts municipalities front and center, because we rely on our cities.”

Also included in the proposed $1.7 billion package from the governor is $120 million for connectivity. It would be for shovel-ready investments in broadband to support telehealth, telecommuting, and other activities that rely on highspeed internet access. The $1.7 billion package also includes $40 million for upskilling to support Coloradans’ readiness for fill 21st century jobs.

The governor told CML members that the state was “doing well on our vaccines,”

Governor Jared Polis spoke to members of CML virtually. Photo by Freda Miklin

having administered over 500,000 doses. Although older Coloradans are being prioritized because 80% of all deaths from COVID-19 have been in the 65+ age group, Polis said that everyone who wants the vaccine will be able to get it in the coming months. Asked why the additional requirement was put into place that 70% of all those 70+ had to be vaccinated before 5-Star certified businesses could move down to the next level on the new color dial 2.0 as COVID-19 case numbers continue to decline, Polis said,

“We are going to tie the devolution of the dial to vaccine levels. There will be one more version of the dial and then it will go away. This is the first phase of that. We expect to hit that 70% by the end of February.”

He said he hopes to have the next group, those who are 65 to 69, vaccinated with their first dose by the first week in March. On the question of increasing the rate at which Coloradans are getting vaccinated, the governor said,

“We can do 10,000 a day at Coors Field but we only get 90,000 doses a week and we don’t want everyone to have to go there. We have 800-900 vaccine locations because we have to make it convenient for people.”

When someone asked the governor about the possibility of prioritizing college instructors for vaccines, Governor Polis said,

“We are using risk, which means age, and then those that are most important in society like health care workers and first responders. To ensure that our schools are able to teach in person, we have prioritized K-12, which also focuses on women. We elevated them ahead of where they would be because of the important role schools play in public health—kids need socialization, emotional support, plus their education.”

Asked by CML Executive Director Kevin Bommer, on behalf of his member cities, whether there was any update on when front line municipal employees, like utility workers, will be on the priority list for vaccines, the governor said,

“There are some gray areas and we count on our county health departments to help in this area. We will likely go to 60+ years of age before we just do everyone. There is very little risk for people in their 20s and 30s. Someone in their 70s is about 500 times more likely to die if they get COVID than someone in their 20s. The decision has to do with who is most necessary for society to function. There are probably some folks in city government who fall into that category.”

Bommer asked Governor Polis about efforts to increase transportation funding in the 2021 legislative session. Looking at the bright side of 2018’s Proposition 110 to fund transportation that failed 60% to 40%, Bommer observed, “One of the things that was apparent from that effort is that it’s possible to get lots of groups behind something.” Polis responded,

“It needs to be the same coalition, and then some, to modernize how we fund roads. There are more electric vehicles and more efficient gas vehicles on the road, so they are paying less (to the Highway Users Tax Fund, where the state’s gas tax collections are placed) for more wear and tear on the roads. We need to form a broad coalition to address this before we fall more behind on the infrastructure deficit statewide. “

The governor said he was excited about the state starting to fund preschool in 2023, adding, “That’s one of the reasons I ran for governor.”

Fmiklin.villager@gmail.com

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