Why I’m Voting No on Lakewood Ballot Question 200

Why I’m Voting No on Lakewood Ballot Question 200

For several years now, growth has been the number one issue I’ve heard about as I knock on doors across Lakewood. People are worried about population growth and what it means for our historically underfunded schools and transportation infrastructure. We have all seen the traffic congestion on highways like 6th Avenue and C-470 and thoroughfares like Wadsworth, Kipling, Union, Colfax, and Alameda, and we don’t want it to get worse.

Lakewood has a long tradition of developing plans in a collaborative way, moving slowly and taking community feedback every step of the way. That’s how we ended up with our Comprehensive Plan, Sustainability Plan, and several other community plans. And that’s what’s driving our current Development Dialogue, which has already led to many changes in how the city deals with development.

This week, Lakewood voters will receive mail ballots asking them whether to support Ballot Question 200. I’m voting no, and I hope you do too. Though I share many of the proponents’ concerns about growth in our city, I feel that passing Question 200 won’t stop growth – it will just increase sprawl and make Lakewood’s housing affordability and traffic problems worse.

We already have a shortage of affordable housing that can only be solved by true strategic planning. If passed, Question 200 will make it much more difficult to build new affordable housing and will drive up rents and property taxes for people who already live here.

For the teachers, police officers, firefighters, young professionals, and others who work in Lakewood but can’t afford to live here, Question 200 will mean they have to drive in from somewhere else. That means more cars driving in and out of Lakewood every day, and thus more congestion on our roads.

So if not in Lakewood, then where? I’ve had constituents suggest that growth can just happen east of Aurora, but that’s just not realistic. If people are working in Lakewood, they’re not going to want an hour commute every day. That means increasing demand for developments in unincorporated Jefferson County that would sprawl out across the undeveloped spaces that contribute to our views of the foothills.

That’s really the choice we face. If we pass Question 200, we make Lakewood less affordable and increase sprawl and congestion. If we defeat it, we can resume our thoughtful, collaborative, and strategic planning process for the future.

I believe that we all want Lakewood to be a community accessible to young families, seniors, and everyone in between. I believe we all want to protect our beautiful parks, open spaces, and views. I believe we all want safe neighborhoods and great public schools. I believe we all enjoy having a growing number of unique restaurants, breweries, stores, and other amenities right here in our own city.

And how about the revitalization that has begun on West Colfax? I have loved seeing the emergence of art galleries and the facelift on the old JCRS shopping center, but we’re still seeing too many vacant units that could be filled by a new restaurant or store. And many of northeast Lakewood’s residents have to drive a couple miles to reach the nearest grocery store, which can be a real problem if you don’t have a car.

Why is that? It’s because businesses won’t move into areas that don’t have enough residents. New multi-family housing in northeast Lakewood – one of the growth areas designated in the Comprehensive Plan – could make a big difference in continuing the West Colfax renaissance.

What if we had a new restaurant row on Colfax instead of the growing number of storage units? Or retail establishments other than dollar stores? What if we could be sure that our kids will be able to afford to raise their families here? And that our parents will be able to retire here?

If we want to be thoughtful and strategic about growth, we must push our city council to continue the Development Dialogue, taking community feedback as they plan the right ways to grow. Passing Question 200 will not make growth more strategic – it will only increase sprawl and congestion while making Lakewood a less affordable place to live. Please join me in voting no.

Learn more at OurLakewood.com.

Delivering on promises

Last Friday, the 2019 Legislative Session came to a close with a list of accomplishments that the Denver Post said would ensure the session’s legacy as “one of the most transformative in decades.”

It’s amazing how quickly 120 days go by. As soon as we learned the results of the 2018 election, we began crafting an agenda based on the concerns we heard and the promises we made while on the campaign trail. Then there was the drafting and stakeholding and revising and moving bills through committee meetings and floor debates. And then it was over!

Here’s what I heard on the trail: Lower the cost of health care. Invest in education, transportation, and affordable housing. Accelerate the transition to clean energy. Make our schools safer. Expand mental health access. Stand up for the rights of every Coloradan – voting rights, reproductive rights, rights to self expression, and more. Protect the clean air, clean water, and beautiful open spaces that make Colorado such a special place to live.

And those are the things we put most of our energy into over the last 120 days. Check out this recap of the session to learn more.

I am so proud of the work we did this session, and now I’m going to relax a little and start getting caught up on yard work before starting to make plans for the 2020 session.

Thanks again for placing your trust in me.

P.S.  Before too long, I have to start fundraising again for my 2020 reelection campaign. If you want to get a head start, you can donate here!

HD 23 Day at the Capitol

Last year, Colorado voters elected Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate because we campaigned on supporting education, protecting our environment, addressing the high cost of health care, standing up for the most vulnerable among us, and much more.

And over the last 78 days, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing down at the capitol. Here are a few recent highlights:

Oh yeah, and the hospital cost transparency bill I’ve been working on since 2017 is on its way to the governor’s desk to be signed into law!

If you want to see how this all happens from the inside, join us next Wednesday, March 27th, for our HD23 Day at the Capitol. See the agenda and RSVP on Facebook or email my aide, Ryne Fitzgerald, at ryne@kennedy4co.com.

Memorial for Former Rep. Gwyn Green

As most of you already know, one of my precedessors, Rep. Gwyn Green, passed away last year.

We have a tradition down at the State House of celebrating the life of our members with a memorial ceremony in which former colleagues come to share their memories. Family members come and sit on the House floor, and other friends can come and sit in the gallery to hear the speeches.

We’ll be holding our memorial for Gwyn on April 15th, shortly after 10am. If you’re interested in attending or if you have stories you’d like to share, email me at chris@ kennedy4co.com.

Leftover Pizza

During my five minute lunch break today, I’m eating some pizza left over from last night’s nine-hour committee meeting. We heard three bills:

  • One that would make it harder for seniors and low-income Coloradans to vote (defeated 3-6)
  • One that would allow Colorado businesses to freely discriminate against the LGBTQ community (defeated 3-6)
  • One that would join Colorado into the national popular vote interstate compact (passed 6-3)

Colorado law allows every legislator to get a fair hearing on five bills each year, and as you can see from the first two listed above, not all of them are good ideas. With the third, though, I’m very excited that Colorado will soon be joining an interstate compact in which we award our nine electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The law will go into effect once enough states have joined the compact to make up 270 electoral votes. To be clear, the electoral college will still exist as required by the US Constitution, but Colorado will be exercising our right to award our electoral votes as we see fit. This idea’s time has come and I’m excited we’ll finally be treating every American vote as equal!

In other news, we’ve been incredibly busy working on everything from health care affordability to clean energy to education funding. Here are just a few highlights:

  • My hospital cost transparency bill passed the House with bipartisan support and will soon be heard in the Senate. Check out this recent story.
  • A bill I sponsored with Rep Kerry Tipper to make it easier for local governments to license tobacco retailers passed the House. With Colorado’s teen vaping rate the highest in the country, we must do a better job preventing retailers from selling to minors. Check out our press release.
  • One of the bills from last summer’s opioid study committee will be heard this Friday in the House Public Health and Human Services Committee. This bill, which I’m carrying with Rep Jonathan Singer, will establish tough standards for sober living facilities and increase housing support for people in recovery.
  • I’ve been working with Rep Julie McCluskie on a bill to reduce health insurance premiums on the individual market through a reinsurance program. It was introduced last week and will be heard in committee soon. Check out our press release.

That’s only a snapshot of what I’ve been up to, and we’ll have much more to talk about soon. Bring your questions and join us this Saturday at 10:00am for our monthly Lakewood Town Hall meeting.

Kicking Off the 2019 Session

Kicking Off the 2019 Session

We all know that Colorado is a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family. And we all want to keep it that way so that our kids and grandkids will be able to afford to live in the same neighborhoods, breath the same clean air, and explore the same beautiful mountains.

Though things in Washington DC feel uncertain, here in Colorado we’ve done a pretty good job protecting the things that are most important and planning for the future. But we have a lot more work to do to make sure every hard-working Coloradan can thrive and enjoy the Colorado way of life.

In November 2018, Colorado voters elected Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate and a Democratic governor. For me, this means a few things. First, voters chose candidates who committed to taking action to grow the middle class, invest in public education, expand access to affordable health care, and protect the environment. They chose a government that is proactive and thoughtful about solving problems and planning ahead for the future. Now, we are going to do what they elected us to do.

Second, many of the good ideas that died over the last few years in the GOP-controlled Senate will have a great chance of passing into law. The list includes paid family leave, increased transparency for hospital and pharmaceutical costs, new protections for the LGBTQ community, increased investment in affordable housing, acceleration in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and common-sense gun violence prevention laws.

Third, our work to build bridges across the aisle has a different kind significance. While Democrats may not technically need bipartisan support to pass bills, those of us who served in a divided legislature have learned how much can be gained by seeking to understand different perspectives. In every conversation I’ve had with my new and returning colleagues, I have observed a strong desire to find bipartisan solutions wherever possible. And when you actually try, you find it’s possible a lot more often than some might think.

So what all will we be working on? Well, at the legislature, we all lead in some areas and play supporting roles in others. Here are a few areas where I’ll be devoting much of my energy.

Health Care

I believe health care is a human right. We must continue to build on the progress of the past several years to reduce costs and expand access to affordable health care for all Coloradans. To reduce costs, we must start by increasing transparency, curbing outrageous billing practices, and reforming insurance markets to address some of the highest cost risk pools and regions. From there, we must focus our energies on the transition from fee-for-service “sick care” to a health care system that pays providers for value, not volume.

Furthermore, we must work to close gaps in access to mental health care and substance use treatment and recovery services. Far too many people who need help can’t find it or afford it.

We have also seen a major public health issue growing over the last few years – teen vaping. We know that the vast majority of smokers who are addicted got started smoking as teenagers. We also know that our too many retailers are still selling products to minors. We need to take steps to make sure our smoking laws are modernized to include vaping and to hold retailers accountable to following the law.

Housing

The rapid growth in the Denver metro area has made it too difficult for too many Coloradans to afford to buy a home or even to rent and apartment. We must tighten up our renters’ rights laws and partner with our cities and counties to increase the availability of affordable homes, townhomes, condos, and apartments. And we must do it in a sustainable way through a prioritization of transit-oriented development. By building mixed-use residential/commercial communities near light rail stations and bus routes, we can make it possible for people to live and work without needing to take a car everywhere they go.

I have also been focused on senior housing. In 2000, voters established the Senior Property Tax Exemption to help seniors afford their property taxes and stay in their homes. Unfortunately, the program is not working as well as it could be. It doesn’t give enough help to low-to-middle income seniors, and the ten-year residency requirement discourages seniors from downsizing. Furthermore, the growing cost has made the program vulnerable to cuts during recessions. I have been working on a plan to restructure the program to focus our limited resources on giving more help to senior owners and renters who need help the most, and to make sure the program is around for the long run.

Energy and Environment

Climate change is a real threat to our way of life. The carbon pollution we’re putting into the atmosphere is heating the planet and increasing the frequency and severity of wildfires, droughts, and hurricanes. Colorado has long been a leader on renewable energy, and our early investments have made wind and solar so competitive that Xcel is implementing their own plan to get to 100% renewable without needing to increase utility bills. Now is the time for us to take the next big steps. That means helping the rest of the state catch up by creating processes to close coal plans while providing a just transition for the works, modernizing our grid, and building out an infrastructure for charging electric vehicles.

We must also pay special attention to the communities impacted by oil and gas development. I support increasing setbacks from schools and neighborhoods, funding more inspectors to enforce our methane regulations, and ensuring that the regulators have a clear mission to protect the health and safety of our communities.

Education Funding

While I’m thrilled that Jeffco voters passed 5A and 5B last year, we are still funding our schools far below the national average. The teacher shortage continues to be a major challenge, and too many districts across Colorado are still on four-day weeks. We must continue working to build support for reforming TABOR and Gallagher so that we can invest adequately in K-12 and higher education in Colorado. I also support increasing our investment in early childhood education and full-day kindergarten. Education has always been the key to a thriving middle class.

Election Reform

As the Chair of the State Affairs committee, I’ll be playing a major role in updating our elections laws. While the 2013 law that gave us universal mail ballots and same day voter registration is working pretty well, there are some adjustments we can make so that it works even better. We are also moving forward with automatic voter registration, a program to register eligible voters when they enroll in other state programs. Lastly, I have begun conversations with our incoming Secretary of State, Jena Griswold, about some ideas around dark money in campaigns. While our hands are somewhat tied by the Citizens United decision, there are steps we can take to beef up disclosure requirements to make sure the funders of these dark, negative campaigns are known to the public.

And much more…

I will be eager to support the work of my colleagues on many other issues including affordable childcare, criminal justice reform, transgender rights, transportation funding, equal pay for equal work, paid family leave, immigration, and gun violence prevention.

We have an incredible opportunity over these next two years to show Colorado voters what can be done with a government focused on expanding opportunities for everyone who works hard and does their fair share. We must be thoughtful about the consequences of our policies and we must take bold steps forward to protect the things that make Colorado such a special place to live. I’m so excited to be back in session and working on these policies again.

Next Steps

What an incredible night! As we watched the results roll in, I could hardly believe my eyes. Turnout in Jeffco ended up exceeding 70% — a record for a midterm election — and voters elected Democrats all and passed progressive ballot measures all across the state. I’m very proud to have been reelected and am excited to serve a second term in the Colorado House of Representatives!

For me, it felt like the result of months of hard work by so many volunteers knocking on doors, making phone calls, writing postcards, and more. But more broadly, it felt like a sign that Colorado voters wanted leaders focused on solving problems together rather than turning us against each other.

I’m feeling very hopeful about the progress we’re going to make over the next two years in Colorado. Even though things are feeling very uncertain at the federal level, here we can ensure equal rights for all, advance opportunities for those working hard to support their families, and protect our clean air, clean water, and beautiful public lands for the next generation.

On Thursday, the House Democratic caucus gathered to elect our new leadership team, and I was elected Assistant Majority Leader! I’m so excited to work alongside Speaker-designate KC Becker, Majority Leader Alec Garnett, and our entire 41-member caucus to make sure Colorado remains a place where everyone who works hard and does their fair share has great opportunities to be successful and enjoy the Colorado way of life.

Thanks for entrusting me again to represent you at the capitol. Make sure to send me your thoughts and ideas at chris@kennedy4co.com.

2018 Election Results

2018 Election Results

What a night. Democrats swept the five most competitive State Senate seats, and we picked up at least two in the House.

In my race, the most current results are:

  • Chris Kennedy (D)
    • 61.75%
    • 17,882 votes
  • Joan Poston (R)
    • 38.25%
    • 11,075

Thank you all so much for your support, and I look forward to serving the people of HD23 for another two years!

See more results at http://www.sos.state.co.us/.

Reducing Health Insurance Premiums

Reducing Health Insurance Premiums

Last session, Rep. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale) and I worked incredibly hard to pass a bill to implement an insurance reform called “reinsurance,” which would reduce premiums on the individual market by 15-30% for various regions of the state.

Here in Colorado, we’re not going back to the days of discriminating against those with preexisting conditions. We must move forward and work together to reduce costs and expand access to quality health care.

Though our reinsurance bill was defeated by the Senate Republicans, I’m proud of the bipartisan work we did in the House. Rep. Rankin and I are already in discussions about running the bill again next session.

My ballot measure endorsements for 2018

In addition to the incredibly importance races for federal, statewide, state legislative, and county offices this year, Colorado voters will get to weigh in on 13 statewide ballot questions and numerous local issues. While I’m not weighing in on all of them in this blog, you can read about the rest in the Blue Book.  Feel free to email me any questions you may have at chris@kennedy4co.com.

Understanding the naming of statewide measures:

  • Amendment – Changes the state constitution
  • Proposition – Changes state statute (and can later be modified by the legislature)
  • Letters – Referred to the ballot by the legislature
  • Numbers – Initiated by citizens who collected petition signatures

Statewide Ballot Measures

  • Amendment A:  Vote yes if you want to remove the last references to slavery from our State Constitution. It’s that simple.
  • Amendment W:  I support this measure to simplify the appearance of judicial retention elections on future ballots.
  • Amendment X:  This sounds complicated, but all it’s really doing is moving the definition of hemp out of the constitution and into state statute. This will allow us to respond more rapidly if the federal government changes the rules on hemp farming, which could be a huge benefit to Colorado farmers.
  • Amendments Y & Z:  I strongly support these measures to reform our redistricting/reapportionment system and put a stop to political gerrymandering. To be fair, Colorado’s system for drawing state legislative districts already involved an independent commission, but Amdt Z improves that process significantly and Amdt Y will make the system for drawing congressional districts use that same process. The measures establish fair criteria for drawing maps and remove politics from the process as much as possible.
  • Amendment 73:  I support it and hope you do, too. Colorado’s school funding situation is dire; we’re about $2500 per kid per year below the national average. This measure asks corporations and the wealthiest 8% of Coloradans to pay their fair share to support our schools. Coupled with local funding efforts (see 5A & 5B below), Amdt 73 will help us take a major step forward to providing a 21st century school system that provides great opportunities to every Colorado kid.
  • Amendment 74:  I oppose it. Sponsored by the oil and gas industry, this measure is designed to prevent local governments from trying to regulate industry to protect the health and safety of their communities.
  • Propositions 109 & 110:  While we need to do more to repair and expand our roads and bridges, we must also recognize that increasing transit options and bike paths are important parts of the whole. I strongly support Proposition 110, which increased our sales tax by 0.62% to fund infrastructure investments. I strongly oppose Proposition 109, which effectively forces the legislature to make deep cuts in education and health care in order to fund transportation.
  • Proposition 111:  I support this measure to crack down on the exorbitant interest rates being charged by payday lenders. This kind of predatory lending hurts the people who are struggling most to get by.

As for the rest, I’m still weighing pros and cons. Let me know what you think at chris@kennedy4co.com.

Local Ballot Measures in Jeffco/Lakewood

  • Jeffco School District Issues 5A&B:  I support both Our schools are in need of more funds to attract and retain great teachers and maintain our facilities. While we’ve worked hard to increase school funding at the state level, we’re still well below the national average. Learn more at WeAreJeffco.com.
  • Lakewood Issue 2D:  I support it. Without raising taxes, Lakewood voters can choose to allow the city to retain dollars above the TABOR limit to increase our investment in parks, police, and potholes. I think these are smart and needed investments. Learn more at OurLakewood.org.
  • West Metro Fire Protection District Issue 7C:  I support it. Because of the Gallagher amendment (long story), our fire district’s revenues are very uncertain in the years ahead. Without raising taxes, district voters can stabilize future budgets and make sure we don’t have to cut our fire protection. Learn more at LifeSavingAlliance.com. 
  • Urban Drainage and Flood Control District Issue 7G:  I support it. Colorado’s bizarre constitutional requirements have ratcheted down this special district’s mill levy by 44%, putting real strain on our infrastructure. By allowing this special district to restore it’s original 1.0 mill levy, we can do a better job investing in storm water systems and other infrastructure across the Denver Metro area. Learn more at UDFCD.org.