Iraq and Other Issues: Interview with Will Shafroth

There are lots of ways in which the war in Iraq is unlike the one fought Vietnam a generation ago. But one similarity is their impact on the home front. Opposition to Iraq appears to be inspiring a generation of activism much like Vietnam did.

When Jared Polis announced his candidacy for Congress from the 2nd Congressional District, he emphasized putting an end to the Iraq War. And in our interview Monday, Will Shafroth also spoke with concern about the effect of the Iraq adventure on the U.S. domestically and internationally.Some of this is doubtless political posturing, an attempt to turn Americans’ dissatisfaction into favorable votes. But much is also clearly genuine concern and emotion about the direction of the nation as seen through the prism of Iraq.

Asked why he wanted to run for Congress, Will Shafroth said:

The “why” part for me has a lot to do with intergenerational accountability. I have three teenage kids … I don’t know about you, but I have become increasingly aware of the state of the country and the planet we are leaving them …

I don’t feel so great about the state of our country and our world, particularly our situation in Iraq. It’s got me very worried for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is the loss of life and the number of people who are being injured, the number of military and civilian deaths in Iraq.

Fundamentally how we got in there, and why we got in there, was just wrong. We weren’t being told the truth. I don’t think it’s been very well planned out at all. We need to get ourselves out of there in an expeditious fashion.

Specifically, Shafroth says that he supports the Democratic plan to set a deadline and timetable for withdrawal — a position that Congressional Democrats have now apparently retreated from. “I do believe that its time we sent a strong signal to the Iraqi government that we’re going to be starting to change our mode of operation there from one of combat to one of security and rebuilding. I think that will continue to be an important role for us. But I think it’s time for us to begin to move out of there.”

Shafroth said that the key issues facing CD-2 specifically were:

Transportation is a big one. The Highway 36 corridor and I-70 corridor are really big issues. The federal government has something to say about that because of the funding. What kind of transportation future will the state or region have? Will it be rail-based, or highway-based, you know, more lanes. more buses, trains?

I think those are really important issues to people, and it touches almost all of the district.

Growth also continues to be a concern, Shafroth said. “It’s not so much a ‘no-growth,’ but how are we going to deal with that,” he said, “but it’s related to our investments in transportation and our parks and open space. It certainly has an effect on our long-term ability to conserve energy. If we continue to sprawl, without being sensitive to how developments are going to be energy intensive, not just in the energy used in the homes, but the energy it takes to get people to and from shopping and their jobs, that’ s a long-term issue.”

On some other major national hot-button issues, Shafroth said that he is firmly pro-choice, opposing the recent Supreme Court restrictions on the right to abortion. He also said that while the health care system is “a train wreck,” his position on alternatives is not yet fully formed. “I don’t think our country is ready to adopt a Canadian-style system overnight,” he said. “A 180 degree turn would be too much of a shock. It’s very complicated.”

Shafroth’s strong suit in the race is his experience in environmental issues, especially land preservation. He ran Great Outdoors Colorado for many years, and started the Colorado Conservation Trust in 2000 to help groups protect open space.

The work that I’ve done is certainly at a depth in agriculture, natural resources, wildlife, conservation, recreation and energy, and is of a practical nature. I can point to 300,000 acres of land in Colorado that has been preserved as a result of the work that I had a hand in at GOCO and at CCT.

That’s a pretty tangible set of accomplishments. I can point to hundreds of miles of trails and hundreds of local parks and ballfields, and tens of state parks that have improved or established as a result of my work.

Jon Roush, a conservation management consultant and former board chairman of the Nature Conservancy, said Shafroth is “highly respected among conservation pros. He’s a remarkable man and would be a good congressman.”

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