Udall: First five months of year "frustrating’ | SummitDaily.com

Udall: First five months of year "frustrating’

FRISCO – U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., told about 80 citizens at a town meeting Tuesday evening, many unhappy with Bush administration policies, that change at the federal level is best effected through consensus at the local and regional level.

That was the underlying theme Udall presented at a meeting where he addressed questions about everything from protecting state medical marijuana laws to peace in Israel.

He urged the local consensus approach on solving Interstate 70 congestion issues, in the face of a multi-laning plan some perceived as ram-rodded by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

“I urge people up here to work together to develop a plan for I-70,” he said. “It’s a local community joining forces. It gives you great leverage with state and other potential funding sources. It creates the character of a community. This is what we want to do.”

Udall said his task in a Republican-dominated Congress is not easy. Udall, who represents Summit County in the 2nd District, said he has been frequently frustrated by Republican efforts to make changes without going through committee, to erode environmental law and an alleged unwillingness to work with Democrats.

He’s also perplexed by President Bush’s $350 billion tax cut the president says will provide an economic stimulus to the faltering national economy.

“If I thought it would work, I’d be willing to provide cuts to 1 percent or 5 percent of the population,” Udall said. “But I don’t think it’s going to work. In the long-term, we’ll run up national deficits at the expense of Social Security, Medicare and education. I don’t see how the numbers add up.”

Udall said the tax bill recently approved in the House has a variety of accounting gimmicks that will, in the long run, total an estimated $2 trillion tax cut. He said he’d prefer if federal politicians would divert money to the states, seniors and Medicare.

Citizens said they were suspicious of the long-term goals of the Republican administration, saying it looked to them like the GOP was putting together a conspiracy to rule the government at all levels.

“It’s tough to put together a conspiracy, but I’m starting to wonder if we’re not headed that way,” Udall said. “This is why elections matter. Elections determine the direction of the country. Elections determine the country’s policy.”

Other concerns citizens have are cuts in Veterans Administration health benefits, why top officials at Colorado Springs-based Air Force Academy aren’t being held accountable for recent assault scandals and why the Democrats seem to be so quiet on many of the pressing issues of the day.

“We’re frustrated because we’re speaking out on every one of these key policy issues,” Udall said. “But we’re just not getting the attention right now. Also, if you notice, all the bad news is released on Friday. The Saturday paper is the least-read, and reporters have already gone home for the day.”

Udall discussed recent Federal Communications Commission proposals that would allow one company or individual to own more media outlets in a market, and his view that any national energy policy should include a wide array of choices, from oil to wind, hydrogen cells and other technology.

On relaxation of media ownership rules, Udall said he wants FCC chairman Michael Powell’s quest to relax rules slowed for further review.

That pleased Marilyn Hogan of Breckenridge, president of the Colorado Broadcasters Association.

On future energy fuels and more green energy, Udall said there would always be a mix of fuels that includes fossil fuels and even nuclear, a thought that makes him shudder.

“But we ought to be expanding the size of the pie,” he said of clean energy. “The cheapest barrel of oil is the one you save,” Udall said.

He said he still holds out hope in two realms not usually embraced by Democrats: Corporations and the military. Corporations are increasingly interested in uniform worldwide regulations, and the military is researching alternate energy forms to help in stealthy military maneuvers.

Udall also requested more information from people concerned about Head Start reauthoritzation, the lack of funding for Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” education program and Rep. Scott McInnis’s Healthy Forests Act, which was approved in the House last week. Udall supported the original bill that made it out of committee last year, but doesn’t support the changes legislators have since made to it.

“The bill goes too far,” he said. “It doesn’t address the red zone, it doesn’t allow projects to move ahead, there will be more litigation because the (National Environmental Policy Act) deadlines are shorter and it will build more controversy and less trust.”

The red zone is the area around urban areas where fuels buildup threatens severe wildfire dangers.

He agreed with a Wildernest resident that the process should be easier for people who want to remove insect-infested trees and deadfall adjacent to their homes. But County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom said people who choose to buy their homes in the forest shouldn’t be complaining about the trees.

“Wilderness is wilderness,” he said of the special protections granted to pristine areas. “We’re not going to change the wilderness because it’s so close to someone’s house.”

Udall said great things can come out of meetings where people from all walks of life gather to talk, but admitted being frustrated.

“It’s beyond frustrating, but I’m not going to back down,” he said. “That that does not kill you will only make you stronger.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.

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