Newman: Gail Schwartz for Congress: true representation for Pitkin County | AspenTimes.com

Newman: Gail Schwartz for Congress: true representation for Pitkin County

George Newman
Guest Commentary

By definition, representative government means a person who represents a constituency, a community, and different groups of people in a legislative body. This is especially important as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

As a two-term Colorado state senator, representing 11 of the most diverse counties of western and southern Colorado, Gail Schwartz had a distinguished legislative record where 95 percent of her bills were bipartisan. During her stint as our state senator, Schwartz served as majority whip for two years as well as the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture; Natural Resources and Energy Committee; the Capital Development Committee; the Water Resources Review Committee and the Senate Local Government Committee. She also was a member of the Business, Labor and Technology Committee. No wonder her colleagues on both sides of the aisle recognized her as the Senate's hardest-working member.

Schwartz will bring her leadership skills and ability to work collaboratively to Washington, where we need someone of her stature who truly understands the importance of representing the needs of the entire 3rd Congressional District, solving problems versus just playing politics. Incumbent Scott Tipton has shown his inability to do so in all cases, as he has consistently sided and voted not only along party lines but along with his tea-party cronies.

Schwartz's values are our values. Pitkin County is comprised of approximately 85 percent public lands. Tipton has supported his party's stance to transfer our public lands to the states threatening our watershed, our wildlife, our Western heritage and our recreational economy. Schwartz understands that our public lands must remain in the public domain for all those reasons and more.

Of course, Tipton would gladly see the fossil-fuel industry run rampart over these lands as with the bill he introduced last year proposing to return federal lands to the states without any environment review. His constituency is one-sided for industry, further illustrated in his lack of support for the permanent protection of Thompson Divide.

This does not mean Schwartz is not supportive of a diverse energy plan. Far from it. Schwartz had a distinguished legislative record building Colorado's new-energy economy, diversifying and expanding Colorado's "all the above" energy portfolio.

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She understands the challenge of climate change while supporting natural-gas development in appropriate places as well as coal with methane capture. Tipton seems not to believe in science and, along with his tea-party cronies, dismisses climate change as a hoax.

Pitkin County also is proud of our schools and has always placed a premium on education from preschool to high school, from cradle to career. Schwartz served six years as a member on the University of Colorado Board of Regents, representing the 36 counties of the 3rd Congressional District. As our state senator, Schwartz authored and was successful in passing the "BEST Bill" — Building Excellent Schools Today — which has built over $1.25 billion of new K-12 schools. This has been especially important for those more rural and economically challenged communities in the 3rd Congressional District.

As a headwaters county, we know the importance of protecting our rivers, our streams and our fisheries from the continued threat of trans-mountain diversion.

Schwartz understands that water is the lifeblood of western and southern Colorado. She understands the threat of climate change and how that will be a game changer when it comes to water, from agricultural use to recreational use to the threat of wildfires. As a state senator, Schwartz sponsored important legislation protecting water rights, in-stream flows and water quality critical to fish and wildlife habitat. In Congress as she did in the state Senate, Schwartz will always protect the water interest of the 3rd Congressional District, ensuring adequate supplies for municipal and agricultural uses, protecting our in-stream flows and water quality and guaranteeing that our water always remains pure and safe for our communities.

Unlike Tipton, who voted against equal pay for women as well as continually for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, Schwartz will fight for women's rights in the workplace and a woman's personal right to choose. In Congress, Schwartz will strengthen our families by fighting to make the Child Tax Credit permanent — a credit that truly helps working families struggling to make ends meet.

Whereas Tipton has voted multiple times to abolish Obamacare to the point he voted to shut down the government as an attempt by the tea party to blackmail Congress in that effort (remember when our national parks were closed as well as access to the Maroon Bells?), or the movement to privatize Social Security, leaving our seniors at the risk of stock market fluctuations or crashes, Schwartz will fight against efforts to privatize Social Security, reduce Medicare benefits or raise the retirement age.

Schwartz's issues are our issues. Her record bespeaks a lifetime committed to preserving Colorado's majestic environment, protecting its water, natural resources, agricultural economy and building strong rural communities. She will truly be a representative of the people and not of special-interest groups. Let's send Gail Schwartz to Washington as our next U.S. Congress representative for the 3rd District to solve problems, not play politics.

George Newman is a Pitkin County commissioner.

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