Gilchrist: Questions for Rep. Millie Hamner
Mountain people, this election season, get involved in a real way. Turn off the 24-hour news channels, don your best pair of cargo shorts and introduce yourself to our local candidates for political office. Shake the hand of Democrats, Republicans, independents and Constitutionalists. Look ’em in the eye. Ask the hard questions. Sample the Danish and avoid fist-fights, whenever possible.
Last Tuesday afternoon here in Frisco, Dr. Millie Hamner, a Democrat, met with a group of Summit County voters at Abbey’s Coffee shop. Now and again, the candidate had to raise her voice to be heard above the coffee grinder and the blender, the cellphones and customers ordering iced chai lattes.
Hamner the current State Representative for House District 56, is campaigning for House District 61 following redistricting. Hamner lives in Summit Cove. She taught third grade in Eagle County for 23 years and in 2004 was appointed superintendent of the Summit School District. When asked what she hopes to accomplish if elected to the state House, she says she will focus on improving public education.
Here is a highlight of the questions (Q) that your friends and neighbors asked the candidate. Rep. Hamner’s responses (MH) are, in some instances, abbreviated because of space limitations in this column.
Q: If you are elected, how long do you think it will take before you are in a position of power to really accomplish something for your constituents?
MH: I have a proven track record of hitting the ground running. Currently, I’m serving on the Transportation and Education Committees in the House. I hope to serve on the Agricultural Committee as well because I’m interested in how our water issues and fracking impact Colorado producers. Also, I’d like to see us working harder to promote organic farmers.
Q: How much money is it going to take for you to win this election?
MH: My guess is about $100,000. (Colorado legislators are paid $30,000 a year.) My contributors are individuals. I have the support of the firefighters and I hope to gain the support of other educators and educational groups. Most of the political action committees (PACs) out there are watching this election and are getting ready to decide which candidates will receive contributions.
Q: Are you working with any organizations that protect our water resources and our rivers?
MH: Yes, I work closely with the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments Water Quality /Quantity Committee and the Western Slope Colorado Water Congress.
Q: What is your position on fracking?
MH: I am not in favor of fracking. I cannot support fracking until we have scientific proof and assurances that the quality of the water we Coloradans use is clean, safe and drinkable. At the present time, given the evidence and what we’ve seen with current practices, I am unconvinced that fracking is safe.
Q: I represent Medical Marijuana of the Rockies. We don’t want people driving high, but our concern is that the DUID bill that recently died in the Legislature imposed ridiculously strict limits on drivers. According to that bill, a driver with 5 Nano grams of THC – the psychoactive chemical in marijuana-per milliliter of blood, would be driving under the influence. What is your stance on that now-dead DUID bill?
MH: I don’t want to see innocent people jailed because intoxication levels are not being accurately tested and currently, I think the science is weak.
Q: What can be done to improve the test scores of Colorado public school students?
MH: We have a unique challenge here in Colorado, because we have a state achievement gap between high- and low-achieving children. We are trying to provide quality education to the children of immigrants, and these children often speak no English at all. If they can’t speak English, they can’t follow the curriculum. We also have high-achieving children. How do we raise up these education levels for kids who don’t speak English and also satisfy the needs of high-achieving children?
Colorado is not investing enough in education. In fact, our investment in education has been described as “dismal.” Coloradans don’t like taxes. The Colorado Legislature doesn’t have the authority to increase your taxes. Voters have to agree to a tax increase by special referendum. But I think that if voters understand where the money is going, they’re willing to fund education.
I helped to pass the K3 literacy bill, which got $1,000 more for kids who are struggling. We need all-day kindergarten for all kids in Colorado.
Q: So, what would you take money away from to fund education?
MH: That’s a tough question. My first response is to take the money from prison funding. My thinking is that if we spend money on children in their formative years and intervene when we can still make a difference, we’ll have fewer people in prisons later on.
Q: I’m really worried about the fire danger here in Summit County.
MH: We are all worried about the fire danger. An hour ago, I was at a meeting with local firefighters and forestry officials. Our Summit County firefighters and emergency personnel are prepared for the worst. I sponsored HB 1032-the Forest Restoration and Wildfire Mitigation Bill with a funding provision that promotes the health of our forests, protects our watersheds, and our tourist economy from the terrible impact of wildfires
That’s all we have space for. Next time, we’ll check in on our friends in the Republican camp.
Micaela Gilchrist lives in Summit County. Email her at MicaelaMGilchrist@comcast.net
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