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Politics and Government

Here’s Jared Polis’ initial to-do list, courtesy of current Gov. John Hickenlooper

Democratic and Republican leaders urge the Democratic governor-elect to embrace public accountability effort when he takes office

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Gov. John Hickenlooper is leaving his successor Jared Polis with a lengthy to-do list.

In one of its final acts, the Hickenlooper administration set preliminary performance goals through June 2020 for the Polis team in the areas of economic development, environment, health, education and government services.

The incoming Democratic administration is not beholden to the benchmarks — and even suggested plans to rewrite them. But the document offers guidelines for Polis to build on the current administration’s work, which he pledged to do in his campaign. How much energy Polis puts into the effort also will indicate whether public accountability and transparency will be a priority.

“We felt like you couldn’t just end the conversation, as if we can walk away at the end of 2018,” said Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, who leads the current administration’s effort as the state’s chief operating officer. “We wanted the agencies to continue to do the work which they are doing to get to improvement across all of those areas in 2019.”

A look at the goals set for Polis administration

The two dozen goals outlined for the Polis administration are incremental in many cases, but others would result in real-life impacts if achieved, according to documents shared with The Colorado Sun.

The targets to meet by the end of June 2020 include:

  • Improve broadband coverage in rural parts of the state from the current 81 percent rate to 95 percent, and reach 97 percent statewide in the same time frame.
  • Reduce traffic congestion on Interstates 70 and 25 by a few minutes and reduce crash fatalities.
  • Cut 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the current level as part of a goal to lower emissions nearly 20 percent by 2025.
  • Increase the acreage restored for wildlife habitat each year to about 21,000 acres from 11,095
  • Lower the state’s suicide rate to 18.5 per 100,000 residents from the latest figure of 20.2.
  • Increase the immunization rate among kindergartners to 95 percent from the current 88.7 percent.

Lynne, who serves on the Polis transition team for customer service, said the governor-elect may want to accelerate certain goals or find new areas of focus. Either way, she added, “we feel pretty passionate about continuing the work.”

Mara Sheldon, a spokeswoman for Polis, said in a statement that the transition team is gathering information and plans to present modified goals in April.

But she declined to answer questions or elaborate on whether Polis will continue to prioritize the government accountability process once he takes office Jan. 8. The question of whether Polis would champion transparency is one that remains unanswered from the campaign.

Polis urged to embrace accountability and transparency dashboard

Much of the work is required by state law as part of the State Measurement for Accountable, Responsive and Transparent Government Act passed in 2010. But Lynne said it takes much more — a desire to build “a whole culture that supports it.”

The Hickenlooper administration embraced the SMART Act to increase government accountability and transparency, designating a chief performance officer in each state agency and building a public dashboard that allows the public to track progress toward the goals.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration published a dashboard that showed progress toward its goals in different key areas.

“The one-page colorful dashboard is just like a car dashboard,” said Lynne, who has talked to the Polis team about the importance of what she considers a good-government initiative.

Even if they don’t fill her job as the state’s chief operating officer, Lynne said she implored them to have “the accountability to say where you are going, put the resources to it and then report it out.”

State Rep. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican and budget writer, also wants to see the Polis administration continue the dashboard to help shed light on the agency priorities.

“It condenses rather wordy documents into some very concise measurements that the average legislator can identify with and think about it,” he said in an interview.

In essence, it holds the administration’s “feet to fire and makes it visible to both the public and the legislature.”


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