2020.03.02 – Week in Review
Hello community! It’s been a packed couple of weeks, complete with a conference and bunches of meetings. Here’s a rundown on what I’ve been up to.
Urban Land Institute Housing Opportunity 2020 Conference
The Urban Land Institute (ULI) held a housing conference in Miami, FL from February 24th through the 26th that touched on housing affordability, transit-oriented development, smart planning, and some creative ideas for governments to partner with the private sector on each of these areas. I will be posting a separate update this week with a recap of the event and some key takeaways that I think we can put to use in Aurora. Until then, the image above will have to be a tease for what is to come.
Our March 2nd meeting covered a bit of ground, approving a pair of resolutions, debating a needlessly controversial ordinance, and appointing new members to the Planning and Zoning commission.
Oversight of Private Detention Facilities and APD Policy Resolutions
We passed a pair of resolutions expressing support for the Colorado Department of Health and Environment to oversee private detention facilities in our state and supporting the current Aurora Police Department’s policy of not inquiring about immigration status when responding to calls. Both of these resolutions are value/position statements for the city rather than a new law.
The rash of infectious disease outbreaks at the GEO facility have spurred council to pressure the Colorado legislature to allow the CDPHE to oversee private detention facilities and ensure detainees and inmates are being held in sanitary conditions and have access to adequate medial support. This is a pretty cut-and-dry public health and safety concern that the city is preempted from having any authority in.
For the APD resolution, council took a formal stance on supporting the current policy of non-enforcement of immigration status by our sworn officers. This approach ensures that our community, regardless of documentation status, is not afraid to call the police in the event of an emergency and/or aid with investigations. I felt this was especially relevant to affirm as a legislative body during our search for APD’s next chief of police.
Healthy Kid’s Meals Ordinance
The most contentious portion of our meeting revolved around the Healthy Kids Meals Ordinance. Most of the time on this item was spent on grandstanding from the more conservative council members, complete disingenuous framing of what the ordinance actually does and topped off by attacks levied against many of the individuals and organizations who showed up to testify in support of the ordinance. Once again, the ordinance does nothing more than require a healthy option (water or a non-sweetened beverage) to be the default choice for a kid’s meal. That is it. You are still able to order whatever kind of beverage you like for a kid’s meal. It does not impact choice, beverage prices, or anything else, and I would not have supported it if it did.
Planning and Zoning Commission Appointments
We had four vacancies to fill on our Planning and Zoning Commission, with interviews having been conducted on the prior study session. After watching the interviews and confirming that only two of the four vacancies needed to be filled in order for P&Z to have a quorum, I decided to support only two of the five candidates that were up for consideration. After several rounds of voting, council appointed Melvin Bush and Robert Gaiser to serve on the commission through December 2022.
I did not vote to support the other three candidates due to a variety of concerns around judgement, understanding of the subjective nature of the role, and ties to specific industries that I feel amount to a conflict of interest in serving on this commission. I am hopeful that the next batch of candidates for this board will be free of conflicts of interest and will better represent our city’s community.
Campaign Finance Reform
I have finished marking up the original draft for updating Aurora’s campaign finance law and will be comparing it to a draft prepared by the city attorney’s office as soon as it is available. A few key highlights for what I’m pushing for are as follows:
- Cash/Anonymous Donations: Prohibited as cash contributions are not able to be tracked for compliance the way check or electronic donations are. All donations must now be itemized regardless of the amount.
- Contribution limits: $200 per individual for any race, $4000 from a small donor committee (bundles of individual contributions with a cap of $50 per unique contributor) for any race.
- Corporate Donations: Prohibited to candidate committees.
- Independent Expenditure Committees: Must register themselves before accepting or spending any money, steep penalties for not reporting expenditures or violating other campaign finance laws.
- Public Financing: Funded by a progressive “dark money tax” on independent expenditure committees.
The prevalence and importance of money in our politics is a leading contributor to the lack of trust most voters have in our institutions. These changes, if adopted, should end the trend of our elections resembling auctions where candidates are for sale to the highest special interest bidder and allow candidates who are supported by community rather than big donors run competitive races. I look forward to what will certainly be a vigorous debate over these reforms.
Ward IV Meeting
Our next Ward IV meeting will be on March 19th at the Stampede (2430 S Havana St, Aurora, CO 80014) at 6:30 PM. Based on feedback from our February meeting, we’ll be discussing homelessness, trash, and snow removal with Q/A for each topic, followed by an in-person update from me and an open Q/A. I hope to see you there!
This week we’re meeting with the governor, kicking off our Council Rules Committee, and continuing to work on homelessness, election reforms, and more as the week rolls on. As always, you can get a hold of me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 720.0634.6927 (text preferred).