ALAMOSA — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cary Kennedy returned to Milagros Coffee House on Tuesday for a community conversation and reiterated her platform. It was her first time in Alamosa since winning the democratic caucus with 49.2 percent of the votes and being endorsed by former U.S. Senator and United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
At the cafe Kennedy spoke about her main three platform issues: education, affordable healthcare and protecting Colorado. Renewable energy, public lands and managing the state’s growing population fall under that umbrella category of protection.
She began the conversation by listing her credentials. Kennedy has been the Colorado State Treasurer along with Denver’s chief financial officer and deputy mayor.
“According to U.S. News World and Report Colorado has the number one ranked economy in the nation,” Kennedy said. “I’m proud to have been part of the leadership team that has helped laid the foundations for that success here in our state and I’m running for governor to continue the great work that we’re doing here in Colorado while recognizing our success and our prosperity is not reaching everyone.”
To help make sure that prosperity reaches those underserved communities, Kennedy said that she would make education the state’s number one priority. She was an author of Amendment 23, which increased public school funding, and implemented the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant program, which has assisted 14 schools across the San Luis Valley, and said that the state’s education shouldn’t rank low if the economy ranks high.
She attributed the state’s education issues, such as low pay for teachers and schools moving to a four-day week, to the Tax Payer Bill of Rights amendment that requires all tax increases to go to a vote.
“Rural school districts are having the toughest time attracting and retaining teachers,” Kennedy said. “We know the most important thing to children’s success is the quality of the teacher so we need to be supporting the teachers in our state with higher pay.
“Colorado should have the best public education system in the country and every child in our state, regardless of where they grow up, deserves to get the same great education.”
One audience member asked about the rising costs of higher education. Kennedy responded by saying that she would expand concurrent enrollment programs, allowing students to get their associates degree or trade certificates while still in high school.
“What we see is only about half the kids that graduate high school go on to higher education and that those who start, only about half of them are completing any degree at all,” said Kennedy. “We are not getting our kids any credentials beyond high school because we’ve made it so expensive that we’re losing a lot of kids in that pipeline.”
When discussing protecting the state, Kennedy mentioned that she would stop the sale of public lands, prepare for a growing population and follow the Paris climate agreement.
"Colorado should have the cleanest air in the country,"Kennedy said. "We should have the cleanest water in the country. This is a headwater state to 40 million people."
In response to an asker Kennedy also touched on affordable housing and said that she helped develop Denver's affordable housing fund and would create a similar fund for the entire state. It would be seeded with $50 million from unclaimed property funds and be given as revolving loans and grants to affordable housing developers.
"Right now there's a lot more demand than there is supply," she said.
An attendant asked how she would handle renewable energy and Kennedy said that eventually she wants the state to use 100 percent clean, renewable energy and mentioned Colorado›s strong wind and solar capacity.
"That said, the oil and gas industry in our state is very important," said Kennedy. "We're one of the largest producers of oil and gas in the nation and we need to make sure that resource can be developed...in ways that are accountable to the communities in close proximity of where the development is occurring."
Kennedy will be in Colorado Springs and Denver on May 19 for candidate forums.