Wednesday, April 21 2021

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Building the Future Takes Effort, and Vision
Dottie Lamm

The year 2000 will soon be upon us and another century will begin. The question we need to ask today is what do we want the next one hundred years to offer us and our children?

I believe we Coloradans want many of the same things for ourselves, our state, our nation, and most importantly, for our children. Whether it is good paying jobs and opportunities for small business, well-equipped schools with high academic standards and good teachers, safe drinking water and preserving our Rocky Mountains, or putting trust-building measures in place to ensure our political representatives work for us and not the special interests, I believe that realizing these goals will require vision as well as effort.

In order to better focus our thinking on these values, I would like to talk about what I call the four "E###s,": economy, education, environment, and ethics. These four areas will help form the foundation of a secure, prosperous and healthy future.


Small businesses provide nearly three-quarters of all the jobs in our economy today. This trend is increasing as the information age and the information superhighway make it possible for more people to start their own businesses with relatively small capital investments in computers and communications technology. This increasing ability of more people—and more women—to become entrepreneurs is changing the nature of our economy.

Government should encourage entrepreneurs by helping to provide micro-loans, which furnish the small amounts of seed money necessary to turn ideas into profits, jobs and tax revenue. In addition, we need to design smarter and more streamlined regulations that allow entrepreneurs to fully concentrate on the business of providing a product or service to the public.


National standards have been in the news lately as President Clinton tries to come up with ways to improve the math, science and English skills of today###s students. I believe that unless we have such standards, we will not know in which areas improvement is needed. Some criticize national standards, saying they infringe on states### rights. I, however, don###t see why two plus two can###t equal four in Louisiana, Colorado and New Jersey.

Colorado###s recently released statewide test results revealed that fewer than one-third of fourth-graders met state standards in writing and about half met state standards in reading. While these results are disappointing, they provide us an opportunity to understand where our students need help. Without such standards and testing, we cannot know where to direct our efforts to make certain our education tax dollars are being used in the most effective way.

For women in particular, encouragement in math and science is critical. I believe we are moving in the right direction and that more young girls in elementary and high school need to be encouraged to pursue subjects such as math, science and computers so that, in the coming information age, men and women will be on an equal footing.


A number of the health problems that many people suffer from today can be linked to pollutants and toxins in our environment. Whether it is the water we drink from our taps, the meats and vegetables we buy in the grocery store, or the air we breathe when we step out for a jog or hike, it is imperative that public health concerns be the top priority underpinning our environmental laws.

Although there are some legitimate business concerns over excessive environmental regulations, we cannot risk the public###s health today or in the future based on narrow, short-sighted profit concerns. At the same time, our environmental regulations must be precise, reasonable and effective in order to maintain the overwhelming public support that exists for our current environmental laws.


Granted, the public is cynical about our political leaders and believe that the best interests of voters are routinely sold off to the highest bidder. However, I believe we must not give up trying to reform politics -- it###s our only hope of rescuing our democracy. I deeply care about our democracy and am willing to keep fighting for meaningful campaign finance reform.

It###s important that we start the ball rolling even with incremental steps like the recently defeated McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform package. This modest package (much more modest than Amendment 15 passed by Colorado voters in 1996) was, unfortunately, defeated by the special interests and their benefactors in the Senate. I am committed to keep on trying, however, to change the status quo.

Moreover, ethics in government demands that we address the truth of our deficit and national debt. While our deficit appears to be low at $22.6 billion for fiscal year 1997, that number includes receipts from Social Security taxes (approximately $66 billion) which make the deficit appear smaller than it really is. I believe we need to be honest about the deficit and begin addressing the issue of our nation###s accumulated, $5.4 trillion debt. Interest on the debt consumes more than $200 billion a year of our tax dollars—that is money we could be using for transportation, education or tax cuts. Combined with Social Security and Medicare payments, interest on the debt consumes over half of the federal budget. We cannot continue to ignore this problem without driving down the living standards of all working Americans.

Another area in which ethics in government can and should be made a priority is honesty about our budget and what I like to call the civil rights struggle of the next generation. I am speaking of the adjustments that must be made to strengthen Social Security and Medicare to ensure they are still around for our children and grandchildren. For too long, our elected leaders have avoided the politically sensitive subject of Social Security and Medicare solvency. But because I believe so strongly in these two programs and what they have done to improve the standard of living of our parents and grandparents, I want to see them preserved for future generations. This will require some modest, yet necessary changes. We do have the time now to prepare for the retirement of the baby boom generation and we should take advantage of this window of opportunity while we still can. Ignoring this issue would be irresponsible and dishonest.

Unless we are forthcoming about these budgetary realities, our children will inherit a bankrupt government and a monumental debt that can never be repaid. To not address these issues is tantamount to fiscal child abuse.

I believe that the closing days of the 20th century should be a time to envision and prepare the groundwork for the 21st century. I want to help lead in this area, especially on the issues which will guarantee our children a fiscally sound and environmentally secure future. Moreover, I am prepared to make the hard and sometimes politically unpopular decisions necessary to achieve the goals I discussed above.

In the end, I don###t believe that these are left-right issues for most Americans, they are issues of leadership.

Dottie Lamm is a longtime Denver Post columnist and community leader. For decades, Dottie has been a tireless, thoughtful, and effective advocate for economic self-sufficiency, human rights, fiscal responsibility, children###s well-being, health care accessibility, and educational opportunity.

Born on May 23, 1937 in the Bronx, New York and raised in Palo Alto, California, Dottie###s professional experience spans a broad variety of careers. As a college student, she worked summers on an assembly line at Hewlett-Packard. In 1959, she got her first glimpse of Colorado from the air on board a United Airlines plane where she worked as a flight attendant. As a psychiatric social worker, Dottie counseled single mothers, worked in public welfare, and was a therapist for families of emotionally disturbed children. In her Denver Post column,