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Civic engagement is a necessity

Life and the weather are shifting into autumn patterns, probably causing a few of us to wonder how the hours of daylight can be growing shorter already.

I had the chance to see just where my summer went as I looked over my calendar book in preparing to write this month’s column and I can report that it was filled with lots of worthwhile miles traveled in this beautiful and many-faceted corner of Colorado.

Now, though, I’d like to ask you to consider getting more involved with your state Legislature and with me, as your state Senator, in particular. I don’t mean getting more involved with me in the political or partisan sense. I’ve just started a four-year term, so for those who might be cynical about my desire for greater constituent connections, you can relax and take your understandably protective hand off your wallet.

I’m asking for your help as there are so many important and complex issues facing our state, not to mention our country, your civic engagement is a necessity, not a luxury, if we’re to arrive at solid, common sense solutions.

State legislators function very differently than federal legislators. We don’t have staff or an office in the district and we get by on our own shoestring. This fact makes my job more difficult, but it also tends to keep me in close contact with the people I serve; that’s the silver lining of the situation. We’re in this together.

E-mail and phone contact are the most common ways I hear from constituents, but there’s no substitute for face-to-face meetings. So, I’ll continue making the rounds in the district at community meetings and I welcome any invitations to meet with constituents in other settings as well.

Through wide-ranging committee assignments during the session and interim, I’m exposed to problems in many areas of state government. Most recently, I’ve heard urgent questions about improving the state’s economy, how to adequately fund Colorado’s essential water infrastructure and the complex question of how to build a Colorado specific health insurance exchange that’ll provide an effective and efficient marketplace to access affordable health insurance.

These questions are all the more difficult to answer given the sour economic climate, the pressing need to address America’s long term financial health, and the intense partisan bickering everywhere. I understand why people wonder how I could want my job at a time like this. But, I do. As much as any time in our nation’s history, we need constructive and forward thinking. Challenges can be opportunities. We need real dialogue, between citizens and elected officials, but also between neighbors.

A dialogue is defined as an exchange and an exchange is where one person gives something in return for an equal something received. It’s not a dialogue if there’s only one way movement and as we approach these difficult challenges, let’s keep these definitions in mind. Our success in reaching solid, common sense solutions depends on it.

This autumn will move as quickly as the summer has and, before long, January and the next legislative session will be here, with new bills and proposals to consider. The more we’ve gotten to know and understand each other in the meantime, the better I can do my job for you in Denver.

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