by Chet Hardin
Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall showed up for a short reception and talk at the Colorado Springs District 11 Administration Building.
The event was hosted by the Black/Hispanic Leadership Forum.
Rev. Al Loma, also a member of the D-11 school board, kicked off the event.
Udall's 10 minutes at the mike was a mostly folksy, warmly received monologue on many national issues, from education to military to immigration and the military.
Pointing out County Commissioner Sallie Clark, he asks, "What did that man say about you?"
"Oh, that was Doug Bruce," she responds, and the crowd chuckles. "He said many things about me; none flattering."
Udall is reassuring. "You measure people by both their friends and their critics."
"Sallie and I were talking about the right kinds of investments that in our state and in our country," he continues. "Particularly l I was talking about the need to authorize the [federal] highway bill, which will mean that we invest in the best infrastructure in the world."
"Some people say 60 is the new 40; some days, I feel like it is the new 80," he says. "But seriously, my children have benefited from great public education, both at the K-12 level and now at the university. And that's how we keep our country strong; it's a form of another investment that we need to make going forward."
"You've read about what is happening in D.C. It's been frustrating, it's been dismaying," he says. The debt ceiling debate brought the country to the "edge of real trouble, potential catastrophe."
"We did make a small down payment on putting our debt situation under control, but we have more work to do," he says. "I'd place my bet on the Simpson Bowles commission proposal, which has, I think, the right blend of spending cuts, the strengthening of Social Security and Medicare, which have been marvelous, wonderful programs but if we let them continue on the path that they are on they will not be solvent in the future. And I think that we need to reform the tax code, lower rates and generate growth, and we've got to have an adult conversation about personal income tax rates."
He says, though, that the conversation on tax rates will come after Social Security, Medicare and the tax code are reformed.
"Then we have to turn our attention back to the economy and jobs," he says. "We need an all-of-the-above energy policy. By the way, we're really well-positioned here in Colorado with abundant fossil fuels, we have abundant wind and sun, we have the National Renewable Energy Lab, we the military ... and we have brain power. That's a great, strong combination.
"We are not having an honest discussion about immigration reform. I think that there's a lot of common sense that could be applied ... that would secure our borders more effectively, would give our employers the tools that they are hiring documented and legal workers. But I think that you also say to the people who are here that we want you to come out of the shadows. We are going to give you legal status, but you first have to pass a background check, you have to pay a fine, you have to be employed — you have to show that you want to be American. And I think that there are a lot of people who would meet that standard."
"We have to focus on our military, the conclusion of two wars. And we know that better in this community better than almost any other community in Colorado.
"And then we need to focus on education. Right now, No Child Left Behind is not getting much attention. My attitude, if I were king for a day, with No Child Left Behind, would be to listen to you all who are on the front lines ... and amend No Child Left Behind. Some of those rules make sense; having a national policy makes sense. We also have to understand that our education system has been in an evolutionary status, and we really have to have a local focus on how we deliver education."