Senator Mike Johnston talks education, affordable housing over pizza

Joe Manely

State Senator Mike Johnston attended a “Pizza and Politics” event to talk to students about his stances on issues such as education, the labor market, affordable housing and renewable energy, while promoting his campaign for governor in 2018 Wednesday in the Lory Student Center.

Former Sen. Mike Johnston talks about his past as a principal and senator at Pizza and Politics in the LSC Nov. 8. (AJ Frankson | Collegian)

The Straayer Center for Public Service Leadership hosted the event and offered free pizza to interested students. Many of the students who attended majored in political science. When Johnston entered the room, he introduced himself and shook hands with them.

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Sam Houghteling of the Straayer Center said the opportunity for students is a good one. 

“Anytime we get an opportunity to bring someone like Mike, who has a pretty wide range of high-level experience in the public center and have him interact directly with our students, I think any of those opportunities are both good for the students as well as important opportunities for the senator to promote,” Houghteling said. 

As the event began, Johnston discussed his background as a public school teacher and how his experience with a former student who could not go to college because he was undocumented pushed Johnston into politics. As a Senator, he managed to pass the ASSET bill, Colorado’s version of the Dream Act, to support undocumented college students.

A key issue Johnston discussed at the event was his “Lifetime Opportunity Promise,” a plan to support people who want to go to college or receive job retraining in exchange for providing service to the state. He explained that the service would entail conservation efforts, fire mitigation, flood prevention, assisting seniors and other charitable causes, like Meals on Wheels.

In response to controversial decisions from the Trump administration such as the move to end DACA, Johnston said a governor needs to have a role at the national level. He plans to do whatever the state can do to “help prevent negative outcomes.” In the case of DACA, Johnston suggested a plan to prevent state officers from being involved in the deportation process.

Johnston took questions from the audience and further elaborated on his stances to expand affordable housing and renewable energy. He discussed methods of negotiating to use land for housing units with little taxation involved. For renewable energy, he talked about ways to replace coal plants with renewable energy facilities and supporting development of battery technology.

George Gromke, a senior majoring in political science, is the campus chair of Rams for Mike. He decided to get involved in the campaign because his own passion for public service and community service.

“Mike, through his experience an educator and a state senator, has really showed he’s committed to community building,” Gromke said.

Rams for Mike eventually plan to hold meetings to organize Johnston’s supporters on campus and discuss the campaign.

Johnston said he appreciated the support from the students.

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“I think a lot of people who want to be involved in politics think we’re finding this a moment when there’s a real insurgence of young people who want to lead and want to lead now,” Johnston said. “So, that’s always inspiring to hear.”

Collegian reporter Joe Manely can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @joemanely