The primary responsibility of city council is to represent the interests of their communities, and that begins with fostering productive dialogue. The current rules for speaking at council meetings create a non-interactive environment and can be intimidating for the public. I will work with my colleagues to change council rules in order to make the process an opportunity to speak with city council rather than speak at city council.
It is also incumbent upon our city government to be as accountable and transparent to its citizens. I believe that city council should make their decision-making process as open and transparent to the public as possible. To that end, I will work with my peers to craft an ordinance that restricts the use Executive Session, making it a rare occurrence, and to record our policy committee meetings so that interested residents can stay up to speed on what is being discussed.
Housing is a necessity, not a luxury, and it’s time we take on our city’s deficit of affordable housing with the urgency it deserves. I will work with my colleagues to bring in established community land trusts so that we can create a source of permanently affordable housing stock, allowing our working families to be secure in their homes and put down roots in our city.
A strong local economy is the backbone of any successful city, and sales taxes are the primary source of revenue for Aurora. Many Aurorans face difficulty trying to start their own businesses due to the high cost of renting a storefront, compounded by increasing property tax rates on commercial spaces due to the Gallagher amendment. I will work with my colleagues to ensure that we take on affordable commercial space at the same time we’re taking on affordable housing through the use of community land trusts and other tools to clear the way for our entrepreneurs to succeed.
A majority of Americans blame money in politics as the chief dysfunction in our political system, followed by wealthy political donors. In Aurora, we currently have no contribution limits for our municipal elections, allowing out-of-state developers and other special interest groups to shape our city’s politics and priorities.
After redistricting this year, each ward will have an average of around 62,360 residents, or about 80.5% the population of the average state house district. I believe we can put reasonable rules into place by implementing similar contribution limits as those for state house and state senate races, as well as adopting the same campaign finance reporting schedule for those races, and that these requirements should affect both candidates and issue committees.
I also believe that it is the city’s duty to ensure information is easily accessible and readily available. To that end, I support modernizing the city’s campaign finance portal so that reports are searchable, sortable, and exportable in spreadsheet format.
I believe that a representative democracy works best when the winner of an election wins with a true majority (50% + 1) of the vote, and that we get a better government when more people participate in our elections. I support amending our city charter to move our municipal elections to even numbered years so they coincide with mid-term and presidential election years which sport much higher turnout than our current off-year election cycles. I also support the implementation of ranked choice voting to ensure that the winners of our elections are chosen by a true majority of voters.
I believe that the people of Aurora should always be the priority of council members, and that sunlight is the best disinfectant. To that end, I support the creation and passage of strong ethics laws that prohibit council members from voting on matters which might benefit them or their family members financially, and that require the full disclosure of any gifts given to council members by parties doing business with the city.
Our city’s population is growing at a rapid pace, and with more people comes more development. We have several infill opportunities in Ward IV that could bring new housing stock, businesses, and other amenities into the heart of our city, improving the quality of life for ourselves and our neighbors.
I believe that Aurorans should be steering new development in our city rather than outside interests. To that end, I will work to increase community outreach by not just bringing our residents to the table, but by bringing the table to our residents by meeting them where they are at. By conducting outreach to community centers, neighborhood associations, faith communities, and even with door-to-door canvassing, I believe we’ll be able to create a community-driven master plan the future of our city and find partners willing to make that vision a reality.
I will work to make sure new developments are built with affordability, environmental sustainability, and access to public transportation and bicycle-friendly routes in mind.
The state has overreached in the past by taking local control away from home rule cities on matters surrounding oil and gas and housing. I will work with the Aurora delegation to the state legislature to restore controls on these matters to the municipal level so that we can expand our available options to ensure that our housing needs are being met, and that our health is the primary concern for industry activity.
Rather than putting taxpayer dollars in private banks with records of exploitative and unethical behavior, I believe that our city should create its own bank whose purpose is to serve our community first and foremost. A properly chartered municipal bank can provide loans for individuals and small businesses at favorable rates to help bolster our local economy, and would allow our city to better leverage our tax dollars which will aid us in keeping up with much-needed infrastructure maintenance. I will work with the state treasurer and the Aurora delegation to the state legislature to ensure our city can lead the mountain west in public banking.
Aurora has an opportunity to lead the metro area by creating a public utility that delivers reliable, affordable, neutral, locally managed, and locally accountable high-speed broadband to our homes and businesses. We need to ensure that our city is equipped to handle the economy and technology of the future, and we can do that in way that is financially responsible and at a lower cost than existing service providers.
Our roads and bridges carry over a hundred thousand commuters, shoppers, and vacationers daily through our city and to destinations beyond. I will work to ensure we prioritize maintaining our infrastructure as our city grows and continue to improve the safety of our roads by ensuring they are well lit and that sight lines are not obstructed, particularly along Mississippi, Iliff, and Parker.
Aurora is the safest large city in Colorado, and that is thanks in part to our diverse immigrant and refugee community and the work of the Aurora Police Department. I believe that we can become the safest large city in the country by aggressively pursuing economic justice issues such as housing affordability and living wages, which have been shown to have impact on property and violent crime, especially in marginalized communities. However, our police department deals with a lot more than property and violent crime, and we can make changes in how we treat matters of substance abuse, mental illness, and non-violent offenders that will benefit our community, our officers, and our city budget.
Too often our jails end up acting as holding facilities for our neighbors who are suffering from addiction, struggling with mental illness, or both, which is an expensive and ineffective way to provide people in crisis with help. I believe we should continue to support innovative approaches to public safety such as the Aurora Police Department’s Crisis Response Team so that we can help our neighbors get back on the road to wellness.
Other cities and even an entire country (Portugal) have taken bold steps towards dealing with issues of substance abuse. I believe that we should treat substance abuse as a public health crisis rather than a criminal matter, bringing users to see medical professionals and social workers rather than incarcerating them. This would help our neighbors addicted to substances find the treatment they need to deal with their addiction while freeing up resources for police officers to go after traffickers and dealers.
Many Aurorans ride public transit every day to get to work or to enjoy what our city has to offer, and I count myself among them. However, many of our neighbors have difficulty accessing bus routes and light rail lines due to distance from a hub and/or lack of off-peak service. I will work to connect under-served parts of Ward IV to transit hubs by partnering with local business improvement districts and RTD to provide bus routes that connect our light rail stations to residential and economic hubs in our city, such as the Havana corridor.
As the wealth gap continues to grow in our country, I believe there are steps we can take as a city to ensure our working families aren’t left behind, and that worker-owned enterprises are a powerful tool to build wealth in our community. I will work with my colleagues to bring the necessary educational and training resources for Aurorans to start their own cooperative businesses to our city so that our working families can take their destinies into their own hands.