When Wellington Webb Speaks Mayors listen….

Once a mayor always thinking about cities and urban issues. Webb earned respect doing the hard things in politics- building coalitions, balancing budgets, tackling tough issues. He walked the neighborhoods and met voters where they lived in his famous “sneaker campaign” to be elected Denver’s mayor in 1991.

Webb, who remains active in Colorado and national politics served three terms as mayor of Denver, he was also President of the United States Conference of Mayors and National Council of Black Mayors. He lectures frequently on civic issues and was a guest lecturer at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

 

Webb: Economic growth and environmentalism have a symbiotic relationship with good policy

Guest Commentarycolor  11/30/2015

By Wellington Webb

GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Environmental groups across the country are celebrating a recent victory — President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. This political decision was at best an ideological choice, with very real, and perhaps unintended economic consequences. At worse, it may have driven a stake in the growing wedge between labor groups and environmental organizations. Mayors are pragmatic chief of executives of their cities, who are often focused on solving problems and coming up with solutions. As a party, Democrats must lead and serve like mayors. As a party, we cannot afford to attack industries to just appeal to the activists within our party. The hard job of governing requires pragmatism, and, in order to guarantee success, we must guarantee opportunity.

I was once in a debate when a candidate said the city was like a donut with the suburbs as the central growth factor. I told him he was in the wrong part of the bakery; rather, the metropolitan area is like a sweet roll the jelly is in the middle, where the best of our growth and opportunity are in city centers. As a party, we run not left or right, we must run to govern.

As we continue to move closer to the 2016 election, candidates must embrace a message about governing — growing our economy and creating a prosperous future for the next generation. Yes, there are those who promote the misconception that our country must choose between economic growth and protecting our planet. For example, the recent calls to investigate ExxonMobil or the emotional reaction to the Keystone decision cater to this line of thinking. Calling for investigations of companies like Exxon has no direct impact on climate change; rather, these calls are symbolic in nature and, quite frankly, lack solutions needed to stop climate change. Instead, what Washington needs are pragmatic solutions.

The role of activism in our political system is important to our democracy, but we cannot allow distractions from creating viable solutions for climate change undermine economic development across the country. It’s this kind of all-or-nothing, divisive approach that will undermine opportunities to win in purple states in 2016. Our party is not anti-environment or anti-business, but we are a party that is pro-jobs, pro-business, and pro-environment. This underscores a theme President Obama put so eloquently — we are not red America or blue America, we are the United States of America.

States like Colorado have a growing energy sector that includes fossil fuels and renewables. Under the leadership of Gov. John Hickenlooper — who is a strong proponent of both natural gas development and renewable resources — and local mayors across Colorado, our state has grown into a leader of new energy resources, with Aspen recently becoming the third city in the country to run completely on renewable energy. But, advancements like this can only be made through pragmatic, pro-growth economic and environmental policies.

Elected officials at the local level understand that good policy cannot be led by ideologues on either side but instead must result from having a dialogue and coming to solutions. That’s what mayors do every day — creating resolutions to the biggest challenges facing our communities. Climate change and environmental preservation are two of these top priorities, but so too is ensuring there’s enough employment opportunities for our constituents to be able to pay their mortgages and feed their families. The solutions to our problems can be found in balance and pragmatism, not idealism and radical agendas.

President Obama sent a contentious message with his Keystone decision, but it’s not a message that will allow Democrats to win primary states like Colorado. Instead, we need to be a big-tent party with pro-growth solutions to our country’s most pressing challenges. It’s the commitment our elected officials make to our state, and it’s the commitment we need from our next chief executive at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Wellington E. Webb, served as mayor of Denver from 1991-2003 and has also been president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and president of National Conference of Black Mayors.