Playing Both Sides Of An Issue Can Be Tricky

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Gov. John Hickenlooper (credit: CBS)

Gov. John Hickenlooper (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Gov. John Hickenlooper is one of the more savvy politicians that Colorado has seen in a long time. He enjoyed “honeymoon” conditions throughout nearly his entire tenure as Mayor of Denver. Even as governor of Colorado, Hickenlooper has enjoyed positive reviews from Republicans and Democrats alike.

However, no one is perfect.

This week has been a tough week for Hickenlooper, not so much due to any major political blunder, but more due to his desire to play both sides of the issue of natural gas drilling in Colorado.

He had successfully walked that balance when he helped to pass strict rules regarding the disclosure of the contents of fracking materials used by oil and gas companies. But this week was a bit tougher for Hickenlooper to walk that balance.

On one hand, the governor worked to clarify the different rules that the state and local municipalities have put in place to regulate drilling by assigning a task force to arrive at solutions. While task forces got Gov. Bill Ritter in trouble, mainly because he used them too often, overall this proposal was met with praise from environmentalists and disdain from oil companies.

On the other hand, Hickenlooper appeared in a new advertisement that talks about the safety of fracking, specifically claiming that groundwater contamination is not a significant risk. The ads are produced and paid for by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

Hickenlooper has been roundly criticized by the same environmentalists that liked his task force idea for his involvement in these ads.

In one short week, the governor was able to successfully anger both sides of the fracking issue, and not necessarily make any new progress. Angering both sides is fine, as long as you can be productive while you do it. In this scenario, the jury is still out on how productive these moves will be.

But it also marks one of the first times Hickenlooper has publicly been caught in that uncomfortable middle ground, where as we all know, it is easy to get squished.

With someone of Hickenlooper’s considerable success, I don’t expect him to stay uncomfortable for long. He’ll either back away from one of the two areas as gracefully as possible, or he will find a way to assuage one of the offended parties.

However, what this situation does show is that even someone of Hickenlooper’s caliber can be tripped up by some of the challenging issues facing the state.

The good news for the governor is that he has the right experience to dig himself out of this fracking mess fairly well.

The bad news is that solving the competing sides of fracking is a piece of cake when compared to some of the other problems facing Colorado.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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