United States Senator Michael Bennet (D) was in town last week, but not on the kind of business you may think. I caught up with him in Manitou Springs to figure out exactly why he was bussing tables at Adam’s Mountain Café.
MD: So let’s just start out with the basics. What’s going on here today?
Sen. MB: The Colorado Doesn’t Shut Down Tour is a demonstration about withstanding all this nonsense in Washington D.C., this completely meaningless and pointless exercise of the government shutdown that we went through, that people at home are working hard to provide for their families and build the community. Here in Manitou Springs, I couldn’t think of a better place to go just because these guys have been through so much with the floods, worked so hard to get their business reopened, and I hope people who haven’t taken their trip up to Manitou Springs will do it and spend some money up there.
MD: So what’s the ultimate goal of this program? Do you want more people to get out and into the public and spend their money?
Sen. MB: Well, I think it’s important for places that have been hit hard by the flood like Manitou Springs and Estes Park… Estes Park is a good example. They not only got hit by the flood, but then right as they were getting up off their knees, the shutdown happened. Rocky Mountain National Park closed right during the peak season for tourism there. We need people to come to these towns and support the communities that are here; they’re fighting to hard to come back.
MD: Are you worried about [another shutdown] happening again in January, when the Continuing Resolutions Act expires?
Sen. MB: I’m worried about it. As disastrous as the last shutdown was, I think people are really going to want to avoid doing it again.
MD: What can we do to prevent this from happening again?
Sen. MB: Well, I think we’ve got to have people of both parties who are rational come together on a path forward, not just in terms of our fiscal stuff but the other things that we need to fix as a country by working together. I think part of what happened in this shutdown was that there were a handful of people in the House and Senate with an ideology that’s pretty far outside the mainstream of American political thought, and they thought shutting the government down would be a good idea. I don’t know if they’ve learned their lesson, but the rest of us, Democrats and Republicans, know that we don’t want to go through this again.
MD: Is this tour in any way a form of prevention? Are you just trying to build awareness around the communities?
Sen. MB: We’re just trying to build awareness that Colorado never shuts down and we keep on going, and we’ve got friends and neighbors that are trying to recover from these floods, not just in Manitou, but in Estes Park and other places, and to the extent that we can lend a hand by supporting their businesses, this is a time for us to step up and do it.
MD: How did this idea come about?
Sen. MB: Well, I was just trying to figure out how to use the week, and I’d been to Manitou—we stood right here actually, in front of this very restaurant which was closed as a result of the flood. I thought it was important to come back now that it’s reopened and show support for the home team; that’s what this is all about.
MD: Tell me a little bit about bussing tables. I know that’s not your traditional… I mean, have you ever bussed tables before this?
Sen. MB: Not much. I got some good tips in there about how to do it, and if felt a lot more productive in there than the last several weeks were in Washington D.C. But it’ll fun to learn a whole bunch of things this week. I think I’m going to do a police ride-along in Pueblo, and then we’re going to do some stuff in the Eastern plains and then we’re off to Alamosa. So it’s a good way to meet people.
MD: Is it kind of a fun job-swap thing for you?
Sen. MB: Yeah. Except nobody wants my job. I don’t blame them.
Maggie Deadrick, Life Editor