Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2014

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The West, as Jim Kolbe sees it

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Leila Navidi

He’s always smiling at people. Even with strangers,” said big sister Gabriella Ramirez, 10, when I commented that her little brother, Jovany, was probably the most smiley and cute 1-year-old I had ever seen. Jovany loved to smile, and then when I got too close, loved to bat at my camera lens. I met them while videographer Matt Toplikar and I were cruising through one of the Hispanic neighborhoods in town, talking to people about the election. - Leila Navidi.

Sun Expanded Coverage

(The Sun has gone on the road to listen to voters and talk to political leaders around the West. Reporters will examine the economic, cultural and demographic forces re-shaping the region as they drive to Denver for the first of the two major party conventions the Sun will cover.)

PHOENIX -- I talked to Jim Kolbe Wednesday. The former Republican congressman is a true libertarian, a limited government conservative who was also the only openly gay Republican in Congress. Kolbe retired in 2006 and a Democrat won his Tucson district.

Kolbe outlined four key issues facing Arizona, Nevada and the rest of the West.

I'm paraphrasing here:

1. Growth. The sheer number of people moving. Accommodating that growth in what has been a surburbanized growth pattern. Urban planners, politicians and citizens must begin adjusting their lives. It leads to more density inevitably. They live in the West because they want space. So you don't have urban dwellers. People will adjust but it could be difficult.

2. Water. Water going to serve the population will result in less agriculture, and how do we deal with issues like food costs and food security.

3. Energy. We have a lot of resources. We need to protect the environment and the wonderful places we love. But people in the West know w need to develop energy resources. Opening up the north slope of Alaska. Offshore.

Oil shale. Nuclear energy. We can have clean, responsible, safe nuclear energy. (I should add here that Kolbe is a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, a translatlantic think tank, but I'm not sure if he has lobbying clients.)

4. Transportation. We need mass transit options, but for the foreseeable future there is going to be use of roads and a need for highways. But there are less resources to do it and concrete is getting more expensive.

Kolbe, not surprisingly, gave a strong endorsement to Sen. John McCain. The two are friends.

"He comes from the West and understands these issues, intrinsically. Energy and water are extraordinarily complex. People from back East have no comprehension about what we need and how these issues work.

Kolbe had some things to say about Republican politics, that I'll share in another post.

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