Sen. Andy Kerr spent his day on Friday, Feb. 28, getting immersed in the character and characters of Colfax Avenue as part of a Lakewood listening tour.
Kerr started the day with a roundtable at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, to discuss the impact of the creative industries in the area, and how upcoming projects like Artspace are helping to revitalize the West Colfax corridor.
Among those on hand at the discussion was Mayor Bob Murphy, Ward 4 councilmen Adam Paul and Dave Wiechman, Bill Marino, chair of the 40 West Arts District, Brian Willms, president and CEO of the West Chamber, and community activists and artists like Julie Byerlein and Lonnie Hanzon.
“We’re very impressed by the energy in the area, and there is a clear interest and civic support in the area,” Roy Close, vice president of special projects with Artspace said. “Arts have a transformative effect and can really revitalize an area.”
Hanzon spoke about the great mix of people the area has, like young artists at RMCAD to more established artists like he is, many whom work at studios at their homes and ship their work both nationally and internationally.
“There are all these cliches about what arts and creative industries are,” he said. “It’s not just painting, it’s also writing, architecture, performing arts and design.”
After the round table, Kerr and Ward 2 Councilwoman Cindy Baroway spent several hours visiting locally owned businesses in the West Colfax Business District: Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters, Prestige Auto, The Orchid, Banner Signs & Decals, the Lakewood Grill, the Everything Gallery and Seigneur & Gustafson, CPA.
At Sweet Bloom, owner and master roaster Andy Sprenger explained how roasting beans wholesale works, and walked through the process from getting samples of beans from all over the world to shipping the newly roasted beans.
“We have found there is a lot of interest in specialty coffee, kind of following the steps of all the microbrews Colorado has,” Sprenger said.
Justin Adis, general manager at Prestige Imports, spoke about the auto dealer’s more than 20 years on Colfax, and how the recent rezoning the city approved is allowing the business to grow.
“We’re looking to expand and separate the Audi and Porshe dealerships,” Adis said. “It would be an around $10 million investment in the area to do this.”
Kerr and Baroway received a trip to Lakewood’s past with Don Jelniker at The Orchid, a wine and spa shop built into an original 1872 Victorian home.
“We want to educate people here, not only about the history of the house, but about wine as well,” he said. “We’ve had excellent support and we’re starting to become a bit of a gathering place.”
Banner Signs and Decals, owned by father and son Dan and Jeff Lundin — both veterans — specializes in making all manner of sings, and the company has landed large accounts like Chiptole and Noodles & Company. Banner also does signs for the state capitol.
“All the stuff that is happening at the corridor is all good stuff, it’s all awesome,” Dan said. “It really behooves us all to work together, and the partnerships have been awesome.”
The tour made a pit stop at the Lakewood Grill, a Colfax landmark, before visiting Judy Cybuch at the Everything Gallery to get a sampling of Lakewood’s local art scene.
The tour wrapped up at Seigneur & Gustafson, CPA, where Kerr and Baroway heard from Ron Seigneur about the projects along Wadsworth, including the widening of the street that will be occurring soon.
“In a way, I do tours like this on a daily basis, but on an official tour like this, you really get to talk to the business people and hear what is important to them,” Kerr said.
When Jesse Doerffel was 16, she got her first job busing tables at Macaroni Grill. During one of her shifts, a newspaper ad advertising a busing competition caught her eye. She signed up and worked hard — and a couple years later, she received a scholarship to Colorado State University. After graduation, she lived and worked across the country from Maui to San Francisco before returning to Colorado with her husband, Derrick, to open their own restaurant. Today, Jesse and Derrick are celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Common-Link restaurant in Fort Collins.
It’s stories like these that drive the work I do at the Capitol. Our state needs more Jesses in business and government, in schools and nonprofits — but not everyone can count on stumbling across an opportunity like this. How do we make sure Coloradans of all backgrounds have access to the same opportunities that Jesse had?
It starts with making college affordable. Republicans, Democrat, and independents alike agree that educating our fellow Coloradans is the most important investment we can make in our state’s future. Earlier this week, the Senate Education Committee considered the College Affordability Act, which Sen. Cheri Jahn and I introduced. In this bill, we target the number one barrier that keeps students from getting a college degree: cost. The College Affordability Act caps undergraduate tuition increases at 6 percent for the next two years. Even more, it gives an additional $100 million to Colorado colleges — and it’s fully paid for, so we’re not cutting K-12 education or Medicaid to make up for it.
Inside the Capitol, I’m focused on making our education system stronger as chair of the Senate Education Committee. But outside the Capitol, I’m a teacher. My wife, Tammy, is also a teacher. My three children are in grades preschool, 3, and 5 — and we have already started talking to them about attending college when they’re older. Every Coloradan should have the same opportunity, not just because it’s the right thing to do — but because training an educated workforce makes our state stronger. Our businesses and our economy depend on it.
But our work doesn’t end with making college more affordable. No matter the price, we can’t justify asking our students to invest their time and effort in a degree if we’re not preparing them for the jobs of tomorrow.
That’s why I was proud to introduce the Hospitality Career Education Grant Program (SB 14-015). This bill would establish a grant program to help students pursue careers in the restaurant and hospitality industries. In Colorado, nearly a quarter of a million workers are employed in these industries. The skills our students learn in these training programs, from communication to leadership, serve employees in any industry. One such program, Colorado ProStart, has already helped train over 13,000 students and contributed over $12 million in scholarships over the past two decades.
Strengthening our economy and our education system are goals that go hand in hand. I’m proud to join with my Senate colleagues to strengthen Colorado’s economic engine by making college more affordable and training our students for the jobs of the future.
Senator Kerr's Top Legislative Accomplishments of the 2013 Session
HB 4 - The Colorado Careers Act
Colorado’s economy is still on the pathway to recovery. There are too many Coloradans looking for employment. The Colorado Careers Act looks to allay this problem by empowering unemployed and underemployed Coloradans. The bill establishes grant funding for Coloradans to acquire the critical training and skills necessary to obtain employment. The provisions will create an effective policy tool to stabilize individuals and families with earned income, and economic stimulus for Colorado’s economy as a whole.
SB 278 - Drug Endangered Children
When controlled substances, whether legal or illegal, are used, produced, or distributed in the presence of children, a greater likelihood exists that these children will be harmed. The National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children has reported that professionals working in states where a "Drug Endangered Child" is defined were able to act with enhanced clarity and effectiveness in a variety of circumstances. The bill refers the definition of a drug-endangered child to the Colorado Drug Task Force, and a recommendation will be made to the legislature.
HB 1292 - Keep Jobs In Colorado Act
Sen. Jeanne Nicholson (right) and I (left) presented the Keep Jobs In
Colorado Act in the Senate Finance committee earlier this month
SB 279 - Green Schools
This bill brings Colorado schools into the twenty-first century by requiring new school buildings be constructed in accordance with high efficiency standards such as Energy Star or LEED. Energy Star certification is an inexpensive and flexible way for school districts to prove new buildings’ energy efficiency. Increasing the number of green schools in Colorado will save taxpayers money in the long term because there will be lower risk of escalating energy costs. Thus we save money while simultaneously conserving our state’s precious and finite natural resources.
HB 1117 - Alignment of Child Development Programs
This bill will make statewide early childhood services more efficient through its combining various offices into one single office in the department of human services. This office will administer programs that contain more precise guidelines and standards as well as more coordination between state and local efforts. The bill also ensures that parents retain their freedom in raising their children how they see fit. All family and child participation for any child development service is entirely voluntary.
I am joined by child welfare activists as Governor Hickenlooper
signs HB 1117, which will keep our children safe and protect Colorado families
HB 1135 - Voter Pre-Registration
Now that this bill has been signed into law at the age of 16 Coloradans will be able to pre-register to vote at the same time they receive their driver's license. They will be put on the active voter registration list automatically when they turn 18 years of age. Pre-registration will increase both youth enfranchisement and youth involvement in the civic process, something I am passionate about as a social studies teacher.
HB 1253 - Small Business Capital
This bill directs the governor's office of economic development and international trade to study the need for, and barriers to, the acquisition of capital for Colorado small businesses. This will help us promote small businesses in our communities. Unfortunately, this legislation did not pass, but I plan to bring it back next session because expanding small businesses is one of my top priorities.
"By the way, Sen. Andy Kerr co-sponsored the resolution that honored members of the developmentally disabled community. Perhaps he came up with the idea while he was on one of his many bike rides to the Capitol.
The Lakewood Democrat has set a personal goal to ride his specialized, Roubaix brand road bike to work, for at least half of the days of this legislative session.
Kerr has been using Twitter to provide updates on his efforts.
“It's a good way to put pressure on myself,” Kerr said. “And it's a good way to get the word out that it's a viable and healthy way to get to your job.”
Now, I walk several blocks from my place to the Capitol every day. But that effort seems puny in comparison to a guy who rides his bike all the way from Lakewood. With all these marathon-like legislative sessions going on in the Capitol these days — and all the free food being carted in on a daily basis — it's no wonder that lawmakers like Kerr grab hold of every exercise opportunity that they can."
About once a month, I'll give you an update about everything I am doing at the Capitol, let you know where to find me at events, and keep you posted about cool things that are going on in and around the cities and unincorporated areas of our Senate District.
Andy lives in Lakewood with his wife Tammy and their three children.
A long time Lakewood resident, Andy attended Foothills Elementary School, Dunstan Middle School, and Green Mountain High School. He continued on to get a B.A. in Geography, a M.A. in Information and Learning Technologies, and an Administrative Leadership and Policy Studies license, all from the University of Colorado.
Andy has spent over a decade with the Jefferson County Public Schools as a teacher and curriculum specialist, and has worked with many boards and organizations committed to improving education in Colorado.
Since joining the State Assembly in 2006, Andy has been a fighter for our schools, our health, our seniors, and our economy.