By Chris M. Frésquez
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Democratic candidate for the United States Senate in Colorado.
Mr. Hickenlooper served as Denver’s Mayor and Colorado’s Governor and through his efforts he set in motion a vibrant and successful economy in the state.
In the following weeks, The Weekly Issue/El Semanario will begin our “Ask the Candidate” series that will educate voters about the candidates across the country and where they stand on issues of value to our communities.
The Weekly Issue/El Semanario reached out to our readers in Colorado, searching for issues relevant to our Latinx communities. We received numerous concerns and questions for Mr. Hickenlooper and we narrowed them down to a series of questions below.
What strategic plans do you have in place to protect essential workers from the pandemic that this country is facing, for example, in the Greeley and Fort Morgan packing houses, and for small businesses?
We have seen very high incidents of COVID-19 affecting people of color, especially Latinos. Latinos in Colorado are 20% of the population, but almost 40% of the COVID cases; we know that so many people working in essential businesses are making sure our food is produced. These are businesses that are essential to our country and our state’s progress, yet they are not given state protection, they are not given testing capacity, and they are asked to go out and risk their lives without the basics that any employer should have to give. I think the first thing we do is require those businesses to provide the PPE, face masks and protective equipment but also make sure that if someone is sick that they can stay home and not come in and infect other workers. The sentiment the way it is done now is not serving the workers well at all. It is not fair.
There is data that CARE Act dollars were not spent equitably. What plan will you put in place to assure the public that the HEROES ACT funds allocated in the future will be distributed equitably, including dollars for small businesses?
Obviously, we are going to need to support schools, we are going to need to support local governments and state governments to make sure that we have police and firefighters protected.
One of the reasons people of color haven’t been getting their fair share is because small businesses aren’t getting their fair share; and so many small businesses are started by Latinos and African Americans and this is how people get their hand on that first rung of the economic ladder and they begin building a better life. COVID-19 has knocked small businesses to the ground and this next stimulus package has to be a priority and when I say small businesses, I don’t mean less than 500 employees I mean less than 50 employees less than 20 employees. If you give them the support they need, that’s the backbone of the American business community. And for so many Latinos, they are the fastest business starters at least in Colorado of any group, I think.
Would you advocate for an oversight committee on the HEROES ACT?
Absolutely, how can they distribute that much federal money without wanting to make sure that it doesn’t go to the L.A. Lakers or the Ritz Carltons of the world; these massive corporations that qualified for the first round of distributions.
Among Latino youth, the environment, such as land and water, are of paramount importance. What plans and policy initiatives will you develop to improve the environment to insure a better future for our children?
One of my great frustrations with Senator Gardner has been his approval of every nomination that President Trump has made to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to the Department of Interior and the Bureau of Land Management. All these agencies have spent generations creating rules that would protect our clean air and our clean water. And now they have new directors who are going in the opposite direction; they are actually dismantling the protections that we have always had.
I think we have seen firsthand, just in the level of preexisting medical conditions that have affected Latinos and African Americans from COVID -19, there is too many, especially Latino youth all-in low-income communities and they are with the highest pollution the worst air and dirtiest water, and I think we are long overdue towards addressing that. Every single person in this country has the right to live in a place with clean air and clean water and somebody else should not have cleaner air or cleaner water just because they live in fancier subdivision. One of the reasons I want to go to the U.S. Senate is to make sure we have environmental justices, that everybody gets to live in a clean environment.
What specific provisions would you include in progressive immigration reform that includes protecting our children and those in detention centers with respect, to due process and protection under the law, more specifically the 14th amendment, and supporting DACA students?
Well, obviously we need more resources at the border without question. To have families separated, children torn from the arms of their parents and put into cells or cages that’s not América or that is not the América I grew up in. We also have to recognize we made a commitment to DACA. President Obama said that if you come out right after DACA, we will protect you and we will eventually find a way for you to be full members of society. I think pretty much everyone agrees that DACA kids who don’t have another home, they don’t know another country, that they are Americans and they deserve a pathway to citizenship in this country. Continuing to fight against that is really just a waste of time.
We believe Brown lives have value. What policies would you propose relative to police reform to address the historical police brutality in Latino communities?
We have seen more than our share in police brutality against Latinos and African Americans. We need to address the core issues behind that misconduct, that brutality, and do the major police reform that we started when I was Mayor. When I was Mayor, we did major police reform ten years before Ferguson. We got to finish it. I think Denver already, right now is ahead of most of the country.
And Colorado is ahead of most of the country in making sure that we have police officers that are empowered to do their job, but recognize that their job is not brutalizing communities…[It’s about] eliminating the choke-hold, making sure that if a police officer has a body camera, they have to turn it on. Making sure that we don’t have no-knock warrants, police officers bursting into someone’s home sometimes with guns blazing. These are things we know aren’t just, and the time is long overdue to make sure that we eliminate them.
In closing, what additional information would you like to share with Colorado’s Latino voters.
The Latino vote is going to be a swing vote in this election, in other words, I think I will not be able to win without the support of the Latino community. So, I expect to be out in the neighborhoods in small groups, socially distanced, we have to keep everybody safe in terms of COVID. I really want to hear the issues Latinos face, I want to hear how we can make the public school system more successful in educating Latinos, how can we make sure Latinos get equal access to health care and don’t have preexisting conditions we see today. It’s about how can we make sure that Latinos have an equal opportunity to create their own version of the American dream. Just like everyone else does.
Read more about John Hickenlooper:hickenlooper.com.
Chris M. Frésquez, Publisher, The Weekly Issue/El Semanario.
For More Colorado News: WWW.ELSEMANARIOCOLORADO.COM
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