My coffee with Joe (Rice)

First off, we have too many elected officials named Joe. Ok, on to Joe Rice. I had coffee with him Friday morning and he is another example of the incredible depth of the Democratic bench here in Colorado.

Joe is that rare beast in politics where he is there to make the system better – and that’s it. He does not view this as a stepping stone to higher office. He does not view this as a way to impose his philosophy on others. He does not view this as a way to get some grand program implemented (or stopped).

Virtually the entire conversation was about two things; first finding where the legislature can help people. The law he is most proud of is the cold case law. And as he explained it, it seems to me that the gigantic value of that law is it tells the family & friends of the murder victims that they are not forgotten. And that is an important thing. He also talked about a number of others including removing the requirement of fund-raisers to collect sales tax (apparently my daughter’s soccer teams were violating the law when they made $50.00 selling cookies).

Second was listening to constituents. If someone emails or calls Joe, he emails or calls them back. If a group invites him to speak, he’s there. He does town-halls all the time. And he walks his district, hitting every door. This is a tremendous effort but it is invaluable for our democracy. Our state reps are probably our most accessible elected official – if they are willing to put in the effort.

Joe knows what the people in his district want, and he discusses those topics with them. He may not always agree with them. When he agrees he may not work on that particular item. But he listens and discusses it – and that is invaluable in terms of the voters feeling that their government is responsive.

One sign of this, Joe says that when people are testifying on bills half the committee members are not there and many of the remaining ones are on their laptops or talking to others. And you have people there who have never testified before who have come down to the capitol for this one bill. He always pays attention to the person speaking so they feel that the legislature is listening to them.

I think this is what makes Joe special, he respects the voters and he shows it. It shows in his efforts to communicate with them. And it shows in his telling them when he does not agree with them, and why. This is incredibly powerful, not just for Joe but it also brings credit to the institution of the legislature itself.

Diving into some specifics, TABOR barely came up. I mostly listen and occasionally ask a general question so it could be that we just never hit it. But he is the first state legislative member or candidate that I have talked to that did not bring it up as the biggest problem facing the state. (His one discussion of it was if we shifted some taxes by eliminating the business property tax, a TABOR election would probably be required even though the total tax hit would not change.)

I have no idea why this did not come up in our conversation. It may be that the conversation never got there. It may also be that what he has focused on is not impacted by TABOR and therefore it’s not central to his efforts. And it may be that he’s ok with how it works. (I should have asked him at the end – bad job on my part.) But it is interesting regardless…

He did talk about health-care and energy use. In both cases it was pretty general where he discussed some basics that need to be in place for both, but not detailed specifics or a given approach. I think this is good in that he has some basic requirements he knows we need to meet on both but is not locked in to a specific approach.

On the flip side, I don’t think he will be leading either effort. Because if he was, he would have a lot more detail on what all goes in to this. That’s fine, we have a part-time legislature we pay a pittance and that means each legislator can, if they are independently wealthy, concentrate on one major issue. But Joe will be there helping craft a solution.

I’ve talked to a number of state legislators (House & Senate) now and without exception they have all discussed that they need to address health-care and energy in the upcoming session. Now maybe they’re the only ones who think this way, but that’s unlikely. So my guess is the three biggies in ’09 will be transportation, health-care, & energy.

My final question to him was if he was told that he could bring forward any bill and it would be immediately passed and signed by the governor, what would it be. And his answer was a comprehensive transportation bill. His reasoning was that it is vitally important for the state, yet never gets the attention it requires.

He talked about a fire concerning a wooden bridge where two firefighters died because the bridge was wooden (they would have lived if it was steel). He sees the direct specific impact we have due to not properly handling transportation. He also discussed how the gas tax which funds all of this has been the same amount since 1970(?). So we’re funding transportation expenses with drastically reduced revenues.

I think this goes back to Joe’s root purpose which is to make the government work well for the people. Transportation was clearly the biggest failure this past session, where the legislature – could of, should of, but didn’t. I would not be surprised to see Joe take a lead on this, both for what should be funded now and fixing the funding mechanism for transportation.

All in all, a really impressive legislator – quiet & effective.

First published at Liberal and Loving It

24 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Jambalaya says:

    …what is it exactly, and when did it become law, merci!

  2. BlueCat says:

    Joe Rice, a Lt. Colonel in the army reserve with 3 tours in Iraq to his credit, was elected in 2006 in a previously extremely safe Republican House District in Tancredo’s CD6, but one with a large percentage of unaffiliated voters. He did it by drawing lots of those indies, vets group support and even a nice little chunk of Republicans.

    He is exactly the kind of non-ideological, practical, get stuff done Dem that appeals to indies, especially in the west and heartland, and really does work across the aisle to get things moving.  As noted, he really is stellar when it comes to returning calls and e-mails of any and all constituents who want to express concerns.  If we could clone him we could take over red states across the country and have a congress that actually gets us somewhere.  

  3. ColoCitizen says:

    About a month ago, I recieved quite possibly one of the worst push poll’s I have ever heard.  It was supporting Joe Rice and basically said, “You should vote for Joe Rice because Dave Kerber wants to let convicted sex offender’s move into your neighborhood and watch your children play.” It was a ridiculous 25 minute poll, probably from funds given by Polis, et. al.

    Last election he didn’t say in any of his speeches or on any of his literature that he was a Democrat.  This time, there will be a heavy anti-Obama (aka anti-tax) turn-out in his district, anything with a (D) next to it will get destroyed.

      • ColoCitizen says:

        Asking him about the push poll?

        • DavidThi808 says:

          That having a [D] next to your name will be a negative this year. That is definitely a fantasy. More & more voters are understanding that when taxes drop below a certain level it means we lose government programs we need.

          The “let’s emulate Somalia” wing of the Republican party is going to find it gets fewer and fewer votes.

          • ColoCitizen says:

            But have you been to this part of Littleton?  This includes the Polo-Reserve, Columbine Country Club, etc.  The median income of this area is extremely high, I don’t think there number 1 priority is keeping government programs.  I’m from this area, my precinct is registered 2 R’s to 1 D+I.  This is not a safe district for a (D)

    • ThillyWabbit says:

      we seem to have somebody who doesn’t know what a push poll is.

      A push poll goes to every targeted voter, not a small sample. If it had been a push poll a lot more people would be talking about it.

      And push polls are not 25 minutes long.

      The poll you received was likely an internal poll from Kerber or a Republican group supporting him testing the various attacks they expect to receive. That’s what internal polls are for. They quite typically push the envelope on the attacks to see how potentially damaging they can be, as well as to study how to best defend themselves.

      • ColoCitizen says:

        If you knew that Greenwood Village Republican, Dave Kerber, voted against a requirement to expand the zone from 10 feet around day-care facilities that convicted sexual offenders could be, would you be more or less likely to vote for this person?

        That was not word for word what the question was, but it was close.  And by the way, it was from the Dem’s because they asked the opinion of Obama, Udall, and which party was better on health care, the environment and renewable resources.

    • BlueCat says:

      Look around.  State House and Senate candidates do not normally include party affiiation on their signs and most don’t on their lit.  Thats just the way it’s been done by just about everyone forever. You obviously don’t know how this works and you obviously don’t know Joe.  

      Joe Rice is a great candidate, a great state legislator and a great guy.  As a soldier he has been singled out for his contributions in Iraq where he worked mainly on aspects  the American/Iraqi interface and received many decorations and  commendations, including a bronze star and combat action badge.   His real compassion and respect for the Iraqi people made him a huge asset wherever he went.

      He’s also widely both liked and respected, is a devoted family man and you won’t be reading about any personal or financial scandals connected to Joe Rice

      As a legislator he has been singled out for his success as a freshman and ability to  reach across the aisle.  Don’t know what push poll you are talking about but would bet a lot that it did NOT come from his campaign.

      • DavidThi808 says:

        When I met with Joe I offered to buy his coffee. He asked what I did and when I replied that I am CEO of a software company and therefore would never have business in front of the state – he bought his own.

        I understand, after all I might someday somehow as CEO of a company be there lobbying about something. He is scrupulously careful on that issue. Very impressive.

        (I made good on it though – I made a donation to his campaign afterwards.)

  4. ColoCitizen says:

    That many of you who are posting are not from this area or know much about it.

    • JT says:

      Joe Rice, as has been said, went door to door and made personal connections with nearly all of his future constituents during the 2006 campaign.  He’s accessible, friendly, non-condescending, open-minded, and his work ethic and determination are evident in how hard he campaigned.  You’re right, Greenwood Village is a conservative place (I mean, we did elect Tancredo year after year), but person-to-person connection and trust-building can be very effective in trumping party-identity.

      My father, a Republican, voted for Joe after the man determinedly came back to my front door three times so that he had a chance to meet with everyone in my family registered to vote.  He comes off as a neighbor, not a politician, and that goes a long way.

      He’s made the personal connections, now all he has to do is prove he’s serious about getting things done while staying above the partisan bickering.  That’s what will get him re-elected in our district.

      You’d think from your postings that he didn’t already win a race here.

  5. Truant says:

    If the legislature were 100 Joe Rices, it would be a much better place than it is today. He’s truly one of the good ones.

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