Chairman attends State of the State address

Southern Ute Chairman Clement J. Frost and Ute Mountain Ute Councilwoman Juanita Plentyholes speak with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper outside the Executive Chambers at the Colorado Capitol building on Thursday, Jan. 12. The tribal reps traveled to Denver to attend Hickenlooper’s State of the State address.
Southern Ute Chairman Clement J. Frost (left) and Ute Mountain Ute Councilwoman Juanita Plentyholes along with Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs Executive Director Ernest House Jr. at Gov. John Hickenlooper’s State of the State address in Denver on Thursday, Jan. 12.
Ernest House Jr. | Colo. Commission of Indian Affairs
Ernest House Jr. | Colo. Commission of Indian Affairs

Last Thursday, Tribal Chairman Clement J. Frost was personally invited to attend Colorado State Governor John Hickenlooper’s State of the State address at the Colorado State Capitol. Governor Hickenlooper has been in office since 2011 and delivers the state of the state speech annually.

Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribal officials have attended the Colorado State of the State speeches, which began under ex-Governor Bill Ritter’s administration and continued under the Hickenlooper administration. Governor Hickenlooper has also invited tribal representatives to attend his inaugurations, including tribal blessings during swearing–in ceremonies for him and most recently, Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne.

The Governor’s began by thanking the officials in attendance including Chairman Frost. Hickenlooper mentioned the Presidential election and the political climate, which could create a different relationship between the federal government and the State of Colorado.

“With an aging and insufficient infrastructure, lagging recovery in certain areas, and growing cost of living, the future is too far out of reach for too many,” eluded Hickenlooper.

The importance of infrastructure, including improvements in transportation, education, wireless internet, healthcare, and the environment, were stressed in order for Colorado residents to have a better quality of life.

Hickenlooper discussed plans of upcoming transportation projects such as improving I-25 between Castle Rock to Monument; a project that could not be covered from cutting costs from an already tight Colorado Department of Transportation budget, but increasing gas taxes, he said.

“Today, I’m announcing the creation of a broadband office to help us get from 70 to 85 percent coverage by the time we leave office and 100 percent by 2020,” he stated.

This initiative is to increase the WiFi access to all parts of the state, helping students succeed in their academics as well as helping rural businesses remain competitive in today’s fast-paced world, Hickenlooper said.

He then reported “common-sense plans” to fund education giving a solid foundation to youth from preschool through 12th grade and onto higher education or apprenticeships culminating favorable job opportunities, emphasizing investing in the youth is also an investment in the economy.

He stated that, “While we have one of the best economies in the country, rural Colorado communities are struggling.”

The governor plans to partner with rural communities on many issues, from economic growth to clean air and water.

According to Hickenlooper, the number of Coloradoans receiving healthcare has grown to 94 percent since 2011.

“I think most of us would agree that the last thing we would want is Congress making all of our decisions around healthcare. If changes are inevitable I will fight for a replacement plan that protects the people who are covered now and doesn’t take us backward,” Hickenlooper rallied.

Hickenlooper acknowledged the wisdom and experience of Colorado residents and encouraged all to serve Coloradoans rather than special interests.

Chairman Frost explained, “Attending these events helps build the relationship between the state and the tribe and allows for us to have a voice in issues that could affect our membership.”

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