Former Governor Dick Lamm takes on Amazon, Colorado's growth and political strengths

Posted at 7:30 AM, Oct 15, 2017

Former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm doesn't mince words when it comes to the challenges he sees Colorado facing in terms of growth and transportation.

“I think that Colorado has not taken enough initiative with its various growth issues and we’re slowly becoming the Los Angeles of the Rockies and I mourn that,” Lamm told Anne Trujillo during this week’s Politics Unplugged.

Lamm says the metro area is becoming one big sprawling, smoggy city reaching from Fort Collins to Colorado. That’s a big change from when he first came to Colorado when he was stationed at Fort Carson while in the U.S. Army.

“You would come to Denver and you could see the air was so pure. It was like little things of diamonds were in the air,” Lamm said. “I just think objectively the traffic is getting worse, the smog is getting worse, the congestion, the waiting… I think there’s been a real lack of planning and foresight in terms of Colorado.”

Lamm says he wishes he had done more to encourage mass transit like Toronto did.

“I tried to kill 12 miles of highway called I-470 [C-470] and had my head handed to me by the Supreme Court," he said. “I wish I could have made more progress on trying to do better land use planning on the Front Range.”

Lamm famously rejected the 1976 Winter Olympics. He knows the U.S. Olympic Committee is considering submitting Denver for consideration again. He says he’s skeptical the International Olympic Committee would select Colorado again.

He does think it would be “lovely” if Denver was selected to host a Super Bowl. He thinks the city has shown it’s prepared for it by hosting other large events.

But when it comes to attracting Amazon’s second headquarters, Lamm wishes things were different.

“Amazon is one of the wealthy corporations in America and here they are out seeking bribes from states with taxpayer money. I just really object to this whole method of economic development where they have to be bribed by local money,” he said, adding that the influx of new people to Colorado will cost tax payers big bucks. “Every family that locates here we estimate costs about $20,000-30,000 in taxpayer money just for libraries and roads and schools and sewers and all those other things. This has gone on for centuries in America where you have real estate development and then they put the cost off on people, so I really think that if Amazon wants to come here, fine, but don’t pay a bribe to them to come here.”

Known as “Governor Gloom” during his time in office, Lamm says his generation has been a poor trustee of America. He says they baked in a major economic disruption by borrowing too much money. He also thinks global warming is going to haunt Colorado.

However, he believes Colorado has an honest government and he’s proud that he brought some Colorado leaders to the table, encouraging former Governor Roy Romer and Denver Mayor Wellington Webb to become more involved in public office.

“The downside is campaign contributions. We all took them and we’re all compromised by them, but at least people aren't making a living out of politics,” he said. “I think that we’re lucky to live in Colorado with the political system we have.”

He’s less positive about politics on the national level.

“It’s terrible, really terrible. I just think I’m very much concerned about what President Trump might do to the future of America.”

Politics Unplugged airs Sundays at 4:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Denver7.