TBD Colorado

Regional ‘summit’ discussing big issues facing Colorado; leadership needed too

The second round of meetings in Gov. John Hickenlooper’s statewide listening tour – called TBD Colorado, for “to be decided” – will kick off Saturday, with a regional summit meeting from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Vallecito Room at the Fort Lewis College Student Union. Anyone interested in the big issues affecting Colorado’s future should consider attending. (See: www.TBDColorado.org.)

That said, there is a lot about this effort to attract the attention of the cynics among us. For starters, there is the suspicion on the right that Democrat Hickenlooper’s real goal is to gin up support for a tax increase. On the other hand, there is concern that all this listening is not a prelude to action, but an alternative to it.

The initial planning for TBD Colorado began months ago. It then moved to more than 60 community meetings in April and May with more than 1,000 participants statewide. Now it is about to hold six regional summits with the one in Durango on Saturday. The process will conclude with a final report to the governor and the Legislature in December.

There is nothing especially disturbing about any of that. The effort is led by a bipartisan board of distinguished Coloradans and supported by an impressive list of private donors. No taxpayer money is involved. And the topics are indeed crucial – education (at all levels), health, transportation, the state budget and its workforce.

But the TBD moniker notwithstanding, this process will decide nothing. That is the Legislature and Hickenlooper’s job.

TBD Colorado describes itself as “a nonpartisan, collaborative effort to create informed and constructive conversations among Coloradans about some of the biggest issues facing the state.” It is meant, in Hickenlooper’s words, to “focus on listening and not imposing top-down, government-driven solutions.”

What gobbledygook. “Informed and constructive conversations” are good, but the lack of money for education is not just a big misunderstanding. And fixing the state budget really does suggest government action.

Colorado’s problems are difficult, but not inherently complicated. Many people understand them quite well. The problem is nobody has broadly satisfying answers.

It is said that to govern is to choose. Colorado faces some tough choices and not choosing is typically a bad one. Listening is admirable, but at some point it must give way to leadership.