Last summer, there was a loose but noteworthy consensus among Colorado’s political class that, compared to Democratic governors in other blue states, Jared Polis really hadn’t done that bad of a job managing the COVID crisis here in Colorado.
Democrats in Colorado praised Polis’ handling of his daily press briefings, while independent and even many Republican voters saw his bold statements about the need to re-open schools and his reticence to shutter restaurants and other small businesses as proof that Colorado’s governor was taking a balanced approach.
But they were just that, statements. His actions reflect a different reality altogether. And since then, things have gone downhill, badly.
COVID has spared no one in its wake. Families are losing loved ones, kids are losing critical years of learning, and small businesses that have sustained families and their communities for generations are going under.
Polis’ handling of the nuts-and-bolts of governing in a crisis has deteriorated to the point of earning him the nickname “Controlis” as small business owners facing permanent ruin lash out and parents sour on his approach to school and sports.
Of dubious note, Colorado’s unemployment system is still an epic, historic disaster, as economically displaced Coloradans struggle to navigate the broken bureaucracy run by Gov. Polis, struggling to simply get an unemployment check.
Our governor, a man who famously built a fortune in the technology sector and whom the press frequently casts as an adept technocrat with his hands tightly on the reins of governance, can’t even stand up a website and call center to process unemployment checks.
The results have been devastating. One news account in December noted that, “Colorado’s unemployment system is so overwhelmed that strangers have resorted to helping each other” and described how “forums and online groups have sprung up during the pandemic as the unemployed search for answers they’re not getting from the state Labor Department.”
A broken unemployment system depriving many citizens of a basic social safety net is only the beginning of Jared Polis’ leadership failures.
The state’s COVID testing capacity, something Democrats have hammered on nationally, has consistently lagged the rest of the nation. Could that be because 11 days into the coronavirus crisis when Colorado’s testing labs were overwhelmed, as CPR reported, Gov. Jared Polis recruited and hired a former CEO of an email marketing company to help? A guy who had no experience in public health, and declared “I don’t know what the f- — I’m doing” in a text to a venture capitalist tied to Polis? He finished with “Fortunately, I never have, and that’s usually OK.”
Well, it wasn’t OK, and things went downhill with this guy’s help.
Worst of all, Polis seems to have given up altogether on using the power of his office to take on entrenched interests and get our kids back to school.
Polis, who has issued legion executive orders invoking vast new powers to make all manner of decisions in a unilateral way, has since shrugged his shoulders when it comes to getting kids back in class.
All evidence shows in a compelling and largely unarguable way that our kids and teachers are safe in school, but Denver Public Schools has scarcely had a day of traditional school this entire year. Neither have other union-dominated school districts.
In the face of all of this, Jared Polis has become suddenly timid. For a man who reportedly doesn’t care for the teacher’s union, it is strange that he is following their lead on the question of school closures.
Worse, Polis has failed our small, family-owned businesses.
He has allowed malls, spas and even pot shops to operate unabated, while invoking special emergency powers to force the closure of family restaurants all across the state. Our state’s restaurants have only been a small part of community spread, but the industry has become an economic killing field.
In the last quarter Colorado’s economy went from one of the best in the country to one of the worst.
A survey by the Colorado Restaurant Association in November found that 79% of restaurants would consider closing permanently if indoor dining was banned again. Days later, Polis banned indoor dining. But not pot shops.
The marijuana industry has powerful lobbyists, and they have benefited handsomely from a “business as usual” approach throughout the pandemic.
But apparently there isn’t a lobbyist for kids, and small family restaurants must not give enough to have their case heard by our governor. Our state’s economy be damned.
Heidi Ganahl is a businesswoman, entrepreneur, and at-large member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, to which she was elected as a Republican in 2016.