Tone deaf in the state capitol

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Colorado State Capitol dome
Listen up, class! I have good news and bad news: Today’s snack is chocolate chip cookies! Unfortunately, we have only 25, so you kids whose last names end in W, X, Y and Z will once again have to go without. 
If I lived in Wiggins, Colorado, and listened to state leaders talk about the good news / bad news economic report this week, I would be as resentful as little Timmy Wilson, who always gets the shaft in Mrs. Adams’ class.
The state budget director told lawmakers that the economy continues to hum along in Colorado, except for that ongoing economic collapse in the rural areas.
From the Sept. 21 Denver Post:
“(R)ural Colorado is expected to continue to lag behind the Front Range, dragged down by a precipitous drop in agricultural commodity prices and the ongoing struggles of the coal industry, which has shed nearly half its jobs since 2003.
Released at a Wednesday Joint Budget Committee hearing, the predominantly rosy economic picture painted by state and legislative economists will mean more revenue for Gov. John Hickenlooper’s next budget proposal, due out in November.
‘This is welcome room as we look ahead to planning the next budget request,’ said Henry Sobanet, the governor’s budget director.”
Excellent. Denver has a plan!
Illustration from the New Yorker shows push pins on Colorado map in shape of the GOP elephant logo

Rural Colorado see the president as their champion. (Illustration from New Yorker articl

If we learned anything in the last election, it should be that the rural/urban divide is real and has consequences (see this revealing New Yorker report from Grand Junction: When we get a state report that says the economic misery in the rural part of the state is continuing, that should command our attention.

But no, “resentment politics,” sniff the urban elites. Resentfully.
Some rural Colorado school districts operate without a math teacher. Many small-town hospitals are on the verge of shutting down. Jobs are dwindling and the younger generation is moving to the rapacious Big City.
But, hey. Lawmakers in Denver have more money to spend!
Political talk tends to be urban-centric. Even when politicians are trying to address rural problems, they demonstrate a lack of empathy for the rural experience and ethic. Their solutions come across as paternalistic. They talk much more than they listen.
And if they would just listen to themselves — critically — they just might see that the resentment at the back of the line is real.

Steve Krizman is a communication and PR change agent who has led innovation in health care, journalism, and higher education. He currently is a tenure-track professor of PR and journalism at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Steve is sole proprietor of Connected Communication, LLC, a consultancy that helps organizations develop integrated PR, communication, and marketing programs. His particular expertise is in the health industry, including insurance, health delivery systems, and digital health.

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