Joe Neguse talks climate change, voter diversity with Fort Collins residents

Julia Trowbridge

Editor’s Note: Jayla Hodge, the moderator for this event, is also the Opinion Editor for The Rocky Mountain Collegian.

Rep. Joe Neguse, the first African-American man to represent Colorado in Congress, connected with everyone from middle schoolers to Fort Collins natives during his visit to Colorado State University.

Ad

Over 100 people showed up to hear Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District representative for the event “Strengthening Our Future with Congressman Joe Neguse” Wednesday.

Hosted by the Straayer Center for Public Service Leadership and the department of political science, Neguse spoke to CSU students about climate change, voter diversity and more. The event was moderated by senior journalism major Jayla Hodge and featured questions written by Hodge and gathered from other students.

“He knows how to articulate himself well, and (his answers) weren’t just answers to please the crowd. His answers were realistic and holistic and I am excited for what he’s going to do for us,” said Hana Gerbu, a junior biology major and Associated Students of CSU senator who attended the event.

Hodge started off the event with the topic of the Green New Deal (GND), a resolution made to combat the issue of climate change that Neguse helped introduce to Congress.

 Neguse said that climate change is a crisis that needs to be addressed immediately at the federal, state and local level. Neguse credited cities in his district like Fort Collins for leading the initiative towards renewable energy, and he is making sure to follow the lead of his constituents. 

“My wife and I had a daughter … and I think a lot about the world she will inherit, the world that young folks will inherit,” Neguse said. “(I) hope that when you’re my age when you’re 34, that you inherit a better world than perhaps the one that we did. That you’re able to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park just as much as I’ve been able to.”

At the end of the day, our democracy is stronger when more people participate, irrespective, by the way, of what political affiliations people might have. Fundamentally, the more voices we have, the better.” – Second District Congressman Joe Neguse

Members of the organization Defend Our Future, a nonprofit organization aimed at ending climate change, were present. Seth Harrison, the Colorado director of Defend our Future, said Neguse spoke to a lot of the issues they advocate for by supporting the GND and by bringing climate change back into the national spotlight.

“He’s been pretty good on climate-related issues and we’ve been excited to see him be a constant advocate for climate action,” Harrison said. “We’re really excited to have an advocate here in general in Colorado be on the select committee on climate crisis and to be able to have that advocate for the environment.” 

Harrison said that if anything could be added to what Defend Our Future wanted Neguse to speak out about, it would be the air quality regulation that President Donald Trump rolled back on in his administration.

Neguse said the GND is intended to speed up the process of implementing renewable energy. With this, the GND aims to make sure the transition does not negatively impact the working class in the oil and coal industries.

Ad

Hodge asked Neguse about the issue of funding for higher education. Although Neguse said most of the education funding issues are state-level issues, he expressed his support for some sort of debt-free college at the federal level.

“We have over a trillion dollars of student debt, outstanding in our economy, and you think about the impact that has everyday folks carrying around an anchor, unable to buy their first home, buy a car,” Neguse said. “I think during a recession, which invariably will come, we’re really going to feel this in a more pronounced way.”

It’s important that I’m not simply the first African American to represent the state … , but I’m not the last. That ultimately, there are more young people that run. That, to me, would be the signal of progress.” – Second District Congressman Joe Neguse

Hodge asked a question from a student who asked how to best support “Dreamers,” beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Neguse said that people interested in advocating for Dreamers should call political representatives to make sure they are making their lives a priority.

Neguse said that one way he showed his support for Dreamers was by bringing a CSU Dreamer to the State of the Union address.

As the founder of New Era Colorado, a non-partisan nonprofit aimed towards increasing voter registration, Neguse wants to increase voter turnouts federally, especially in the younger voting population.

Rep. Joe Neguse discusses the Green New Deal at the Lory Student Center Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. (AJ Frankson | Collegian)

Neguse said he supports online voter registration, making Election Day a national holiday and automatically registering citizens to vote when they turn 18.

“At the end of the day, our democracy is stronger when more people participate, irrespective, by the way, of what political affiliations people might have,” Neguse said. “Fundamentally, the more voices we have, the better.”

Neguse highlighted the importance of diversity in voters as well as representatives, and the diversity needed extends to a diversity of age as well as people of color and women representatives. 

“Whenever folks bring up that I’m the first African-American to represent the state or I’m one of the youngest people in the delegation and, for me, it’s an incredible honor,” Neguse said. “But it’s important that I’m not simply the first, but I’m not the last – that ultimately, there are more young people that run. That, to me, would be the signal of progress.”

Julia Trowbridge can be reached at news@collegian.com or on twitter @chapin_jules.