AURORA VOTE 2021: Leadership style and critical issues dominate at-large race for city council

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Two of four total at-large Aurora City Council seats are up for election this cycle. Neither of the two eligible at-large representatives, Allison Hiltz and Dave Gruber, opted to run for their seat again. At-large members of the city council represent the entire city of Aurora and may reside anywhere in the city. There are six candidates vying for the two open seats. The top two vote-getters will be elected.

There will for sure be at least two new faces on the Aurora City Council dais after this election. Council members Allison Hiltz and Dave Gruber, both elected in 2017, decided against vying for a second term. The slate running to fill their seats is diverse and filled with candidates with an array of experience.

The candidates are: Becky Hogan, Hanna Bogale, Candice Bailey, Danielle Jurinsky, John Ronquillo and Dustin Zvonek. Bailey, Zvonek and Jurinsky have served on the city’s citizen advisory budget committee.

Hogan is the widow of former Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan, who died in 2018 after being diagnosed with cancer, and sits on the city’s planning and zoning commission. She is also Chair of Korean Committee-Aurora Sister Cities International. Bogale, an Ethiopian immigrant, hasn’t sat on any local boards or commissions and says she is an entrepreneur.

Ronquillo is a former state house candidate and assistant professor at CU Denver’s School of Public Affairs. He’s served on a variety of civic organization boards as well.

It was originally unknown if Bailey would even make the ballot. The community activist who has called Aurora home all her life sued the city for its rule barring people with previous felonies from becoming municipal candidates. A judge ultimately agreed the rule violated the state Constitution allowing Bailey, whose conviction dates back to 1999, a shot at becoming an elected city council member.

The two at-large seats have a chance of tipping the Aurora City Council to a majority for both liberal and conservative factions. Since the Ward II vacancy earlier this summer, several important measures have been deadlocked at a 5-5 vote.

Among those is an urban camping ban proposal from Mayor Mike Coffman, who vowed to bring back the item early next year. While all candidates agree that the city should do more to reduce visible homelssness throughout the city, they differ in approach.

Hogan, Zvonek, who worked in Coffman’s congressional office, and Jurinsky would support the ban in some capacity. Bailey and Ronquillo said they would not.

New at-large members would also join a city council tasked with leading a city still recovering from the pandemic, rising crime rates and a police department under extreme scrutiny for its interactions with the community, particularly people of color.

Jurinsky, who owns two restaurant businesses and served most of her military career at then Buckley Air Force Base, said her professional experience makes the ideal candidate on pressing city issues. She’s also been endorsed by the Aurora Police Association and local chapter of Fraternal Orders of Police.

During a September candidate forum, she said that in order to reduce workload on an already thinly-stretched police department they should stop responding to “bad parenting calls.”

“They’re literally being called out because somebody can’t get their kid to go to bed,” Jurinsky said. “That’s where we could utilize a social worker, a counselor, something like that.”

She added that she’d look into better pay and better benefits for officers if elected.

At the same forum, Ronquillo said expanding programs that send mental health specialists instead of armed officers to non-violent calls is a good use of city resources and looks forward to furthering an existing pilot program.

Ronquillo also pitched a retention program to keep police officers from leaving the city to work at other departments. “The amount of money we spend to train these officers and fire personnel is a sunk cost when they decide to leave the city for other departments, and we can’t afford that,” he said.

Bailey may have the most insight into a bevy of reforms headed toward the Aurora Police department, having served on the recently-established Community Police Task Force, which was assembled in response to calls to improve the police department after the death of Elijah McClain.

“Aurora must redistribute some of the almost $60 million dollars in public safety to relinquish the police’s requirement to carry the weight of the community’s needs,” she said in her candidate survey, and echoed during a candidate forum.

“We must continue to uphold and execute the office of police accountability, transparency and transformation,” she said. “…this is going to help us in a million different ways in looking at the calls that officers are receiving, the way that things are being handled and not reacting to crime, but preventing things from happening.”

Out of the six candidates, the top two vote-getters will be elected to the Aurora City Council.

 

Meet Dustin Zvonek

Dustin Zvonek. At-Large City Council Candidate. Photo provided by Dustin Zvonek

Dustin Zvonek

Dustin Zvonek is a local business owner and consultant with roots in Colorado conservative political circles. He formerly worked in Mike Coffman’s congressional office, with Americans for Prosperity and other political groups in Colorado. He currently sits on the city’s Citizens’ Budget Advisory committee. He lives in southeast Aurora with his wife and three children, who attend Cherry Creek schools.

Dustin Zvonek Q&A

Proposals to address visible homelessness have ranged from an urban camping ban — which Mayor Mike Coffman has committed to bring back for a second vote — to adding safe parking lots and additional shelter space. Which policies would you be in favor of? Would you support the camping ban?

The homeless encampments that continue to pop up along our highways, in our neighborhoods, and around our businesses are creating serious public health and safety issues and they need to be addressed. I would support the Mayor’s commonsense camping ban proposal that would prohibit encampment from being on unauthorized private or non-designated public property. By utilizing existing shelters and adding encampment locations designated by the city that would provide basic sanitation, lighting, and safety we could clean up our city, improve public safety and offer the homeless a better alternative than camping under an overpass.

Would you support increasing the minimum wage in Aurora? Why?

You don’t have to spend much time driving around Aurora to see hiring signs advertising starting wages significantly above the current State required minimum wage. This upward pressure on wages is a result of a tight labor market and demand for employees. The $20 per hour proposed by members of the current city council is unrealistic and would have destructive repercussions for our small, family-owned businesses that can’t afford it, and would incentivize them to relocate to neighboring towns and cities.

I believe we can continue to drive higher wages without unnecessary and unaffordable mandates. I want to see Aurora become the most job friendly city in the state, by creating more jobs, with better pay, by helping businesses succeed and grow, not by forcing unreasonable mandates on small, family-owned businesses.

Do you support Aurora forming its own county? Why?

No. First there is the practical challenge of creating a 65th county in Colorado, it would require statewide voter approval in order to happen. Second, the cost to Aurora taxpayers to create all of the necessary departments and bureaucracy required to provide not only city but also county services would be significant.

What is the city’s most pressing transportation need?

I believe the most pressing transportation need is to close the annual road maintenance deficit that continues to grow each year as we kick the can down the road. For too long addressing the annual shortfall has been paid lip service as a priority, but then given nothing more than one-time money for what is an ongoing challenge. We can do better.

I serve on the Citizens Advisory Budget Committee, and this past year I was the chair of the Transportation subcommittee. On that committee I suggested that we finally propose a long-term sustainable solution.

I recommended that we take all of the use and sales tax revenue the City currently collects from the sale of automobiles and dedicate that revenue to our Capital Projects Fund formula. The revenue from automobile sales use and sales tax is projected to be, and has consistently been, enough to completely close the annual funding gap. In a year when the city will collect $40 million more than projected, we have an opportunity to build this long-term transportation solution into our base budget, without requiring additional cuts, and finally prioritize roads in a meaningful way.

Do you think the city does a good job of marketing itself? If not, what can be done differently? Is it important?

I believe our partners at the Aurora Economic Development Council, the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, and Visit Aurora do a good job marketing the city. However, I do believe the city itself can do better. In order to do this, we need a Council that will cast a clear vision for the city, connect all city staff and partners to that vision in order to more effectively market Aurora. I want Aurora to be recognized as one of the safest big cities in America, the most job friendly city in the state, and a great place for people from all walks of life to safely live, work, and raise their families. It’s essential that we do this if we want Aurora to reach its full potential and attract new businesses and families to call Aurora home.

Should Aurora limit or ban giving financial incentives to businesses in an effort to lure them to Aurora? Examples where large incentives were offered include the Gaylord and Amazon projects. Critics call these “corporate welfare,” but proponents say they’re a critical part of economic development and creating jobs.

I believe economic incentives can be a powerful tool for the city to leverage in order to attract businesses that will bring more jobs and opportunity to our community. However, I don’t believe in corporate cronyism. I believe that Council has a fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers first and foremost and any financial incentive awarded by the city requires due diligence to ensure that the return on investment is equal to or greater than the value of the incentive. I have real concerns about economic incentives being exploited and the risk of cronyism, and I would support oversight and transparency for any and all incentive deals being considered and ultimately awarded by the city.

Crime rates have increased in Aurora in the past two years. What can the city council do to address that problem? How do you think any new proposals related to controlling crime should be funded?

Crime in Aurora has exploded in the past couple of years, making our families, neighborhoods, schools and businesses all less safe. Public safety will be my top priority.

We have seen over 150 officers leave our police department over the past 18 months. I believe we have to immediately reverse that trend if we want to seriously address the nearly historic rise in crime. In order to improve public safety in Aurora, Council has a responsibility to ensure our police department is fully staffed, fully funded, and has access to the best training available.

I believe council needs to drive greater efficiency by implementing commonsense recommendations that have been made over the years in the staffing studies that suggest we increase the civilian staff who support our officers to ensure those in uniform are able to focus on police work.

I believe Council could also help address the uptick in burglary and vandalism our small businesses are struggling with by creating a grant – utilizing a portion of the $64 million the city received from the federal government – for small businesses to cover one-time hard costs of installing needed security equipment such as lighting, motion detectors, and cameras. The city is on great financial footing, between collecting $40 million more than projected in this fiscal year alone, and the unprecedented levels of support from the federal government, covering the costs for improved public safety would not be a challenge.

The Aurora Police Department and the Civil Service Commission have been the subject of many high profile incidents – notably regarding the death of Elijah McClain – and consequently the subject of intense scrutiny from investigative reports. Would you support additional oversight of the Aurora Police Department? If so, what do you think that should look like?

When I entered the race in February one of my first suggested changes for the police department was for them to join the Critical Incident Response Teams in the 17th and 18th Judicial Districts. I believed that doing this was a much-needed reform that would provide greater outside of the department scrutiny to officer involved incidents by other law enforcement departments in those shared Judicial Districts. Since February, that change has been made and they are now a part of those teams. I have also continued to voice support reforming the civil service commission, specifically the hiring practices that I believe are long overdue for reform.

The ultimate goal of greater oversight is accountability, which in turn leads to better trust and stronger relationships between the police and all of Aurora’s residents. I believe the most important step that we can take toward greater accountability would be to ensure that all of the men and women in our police department, and any and all new recruits, are receiving the best available situational based training possible. Current training is inadequate, it’s too infrequent, and it has not caught up to all of the new requirements placed on our officers by new state legislation, City Ordinance, and department directives. Accountability is important, and ensuring our officers have an unambiguous understanding of what they are expected to do in the very dangerous and stressful situations they are placed in is a critical first step that we owe them and our community.

More about Dustin Zvonek

What was the last book you read?

Founding Brothers – Joseph Ellis

What has been your pandemic guilty pleasure?

Netflix. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but through the pandemic my wife and I watched way more Netflix series and stand-up comedy than ever before.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what are three things you would want to bring?

My family, chips and salsa, and coffee.

What do you think needs to be invented more than anything? Technology that delivers affordable and efficient desalinization.

Water is a critical resource for our future, and as the west continues to grow the demand on current water sources grows with it. Desalinization is already used by other countries, although it is very expensive due to the energy required to separate the salt from the water. Technology that would drive the cost down, and/or reduce the energy required, allowing us to utilize ocean water for drinking through desalinization would be a big win Colorado and Aurora as we continue to see growing pressure on our current water supplies.

If you were going to staycation in Aurora, what activities would you do?

I have three school aged kids, when we staycation in Aurora we love to visit the Gaylord. It is a great asset to our community that caters to both kids and adults.

 

Meet Danielle Jurinsky

Danielle Jurinsky. At-Large City Council Candidate. Photo provided by Danielle Jurinsky.

Danielle Jurinsky
An Aurora native, Danielle Jurinsky graduated from Overland High School. After she graduated, she joined the Air Force and then served nine years in the Air National Guard, spending most of her time in the military at Buckley Air Force Base. Jurinsky is also a real estate agent who owns two restaurant and bar businesses in Aurora, Steel Tips Bar and J.J.’s Place. She is currently a member of the city’s Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee.

Danielle Jurinsky Q&A

Danielle Jurinsky

Proposals to address visible homelessness have ranged from an urban camping ban — which Mayor Mike Coffman has committed to bring back for a second vote — to adding safe parking lots and additional shelter space. Which policies would you be in favor of? Would you support the camping ban?

I will support a camping ban.

Would you support increasing the minimum wage in Aurora? Why?

I will not support raising the minimum wage for Aurora. Minimum wage needs to be handled at the state level to keep an even playing field for business and prices.

Do you support Aurora forming its own county? Why?

No. It would take a lot of money to do that and get the services necessary in place, in my mind it is unnecessary.

What is the city’s most pressing transportation need?

I think the bus system is the most pressing transportation item right now. We need more routes and we need later bus service as not everyone works a 9-5 job in the city.

Do you think the city does a good job of marketing itself? If not, what can be done differently? Is it important?

I have not given much thought to a need for Aurora to market itself. I would say we need some attractions to be able to market (as well as get our crime rate down) and Aurora lacks in that area.

Should Aurora limit or ban giving financial incentives to businesses in an effort to lure them to Aurora? Examples where large incentives were offered include the Gaylord and Amazon projects. Critics call these “corporate welfare,” but proponents say they’re a critical part of economic development and creating jobs.

No. Aurora should not limit or ban incentives to attract businesses. Every deal should be evaluated based upon the needs of Aurora.

Crime rates have increased in Aurora in the past two years. What can the city council do to address that problem? How do you think any new proposals related to controlling crime should be funded?

Being supportive towards the police department would be a good starting point for city council. Whatever funding was needed to get crime under control in Aurora I would look at and if creativity was necessary in the budget, I would gladly entertain that as well. Nothing is more important to me than the safety of everyone who calls Aurora home.

The Aurora Police Department and the Civil Service Commision have been the subject of many high profile incidents – notably regarding the death of Elijah McClain – and consequently the subject of intense scrutiny from investigative reports. Would you support additional oversight of the Aurora Police Department? If so, what do you think that should look like? Additional oversight?

Well, I’d have to look at the current oversight in place and see if that’s necessary. I can tell you that I would look for leadership to put out the good with the bad in the current transparency effort. Seems the only transparency right now is the bad that the Aurora police officers are doing. I’d like the public to also know about the good. The lives they’re saving, the toys being brought to apartment complex for children that would otherwise not get new toys... the good with the bad.

More about Danielle Jurinsky

1. What was the last book you read?

7 common mistakes of candidates.

2. What has been your pandemic guilty pleasure?

Tik Tok

3. If you were stuck on a deserted island, what are three things you would want to bring?

Flares, Knife, Tarp

4. What do you think needs to be invented more than anything?

Flying cars

5. If you were going to staycation in Aurora, what activities would you do?

Can’t say that I would do much other than rest at the Gaylord.

 

Meet Hanna Bogale

Hanna Bogale. At-Large City Council Candidate. Photo provided by by Hanna Bogle

Hanna Bogale
Hanna Bogale is a nine-year Aurora resident who was born in Ethiopia and then immigrated to the U.S. while a student. She graduated from Aurora Public Schools and then continued on to Metro State University to study biology before deciding on an entrepreneurial journey. She is a board member of the Ethiopian American Civic Council and serves on the Community College of Denver Business Administration Advisory Board.

Hanna Bogale Q&A

Hanna Bogale

Proposals to address visible homelessness have ranged from an urban camping ban — which Mayor Mike Coffman has committed to bring back for a second vote — to adding safe parking lots and additional shelter space. Which policies would you be in favor of? Would you support the camping ban?

No Answer to this question on form

Would you support increasing the minimum wage in Aurora? Why?

I do not believe that Aurora should Increase the minimum wage because small businesses cannot survive paying more in wages and providing products and services at a lower cost. We need to be cautious of the unintended consequences of increasing the minimum wage. We need to educate people about the long-term effects of wanting to increase minimum wage and the effects it has on the competitive labor market if we are claiming to be true capitalists. I suggest that the city of Aurora work with the state to give workers better health insurance instead.

Do you support Aurora forming its own county? Why?

I do not have all the facts as to how that will benefit the city of Aurora. I would like to learn more about this topic before I answer.

What is the city’s most pressing transportation need?

As the population of Aurora grows, we need to be able to provide reliable transportation. Keeping up with the supply and demand while being cautious of the environmental implications are pressing needs now. Aurora has many projects that are already complete and some that are in progress to deal with the issues of roadways, intersections, and sidewalks.

Do you think the city does a good job of marketing itself? If not, what can be done differently? Is it important?

I believe not, Aurora is the most diverse city in the state and the city needs people that represent that diversity within the council and in various city positions. Aurora is a community that has immense potential on a global stage. We need to celebrate and welcome foreign companies as that celebrates our international community.

Should Aurora limit or ban giving financial incentives to businesses in an effort to lure them to Aurora? Examples where large incentives were offered include the Gaylord and Amazon projects. Critics call these “corporate welfare,” but proponents say they’re a critical part of economic development and creating jobs.

I believe Aurora should give businesses reasonable incentives that do not have environmental or other repercussions.

Crime rates have increased in Aurora in the past two years. What can the city council do to address that problem? How do you think any new proposals related to controlling crime should be funded?

No answer to this question on form

The Aurora Police Department and the Civil Service Commision have been the subject of many high profile incidents – notably regarding the death of Elijah McClain – and consequently the subject of intense scrutiny from investigative reports. Would you support additional oversight of the Aurora Police Department? If so, what do you think that should look like?

What happened to Elijah McClain was unfortunate and my condolences go out to his family. Yes, I support Aurora working with a third-party company like CP21 to oversee the police force. We should also thank the Aurora police for all the hard work that they do to protect our city. I do not support defunding the police program.

More about Hanna Bogale

What was the last book you read?

The Aladdin Factor

What has been your pandemic guilty pleasure?

Self-care and home spa days (everyday)

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what are three things you would want to bring?

Bible, recyclable water filter supply and solar flashlight

What do you think needs to be invented more than anything?

Disease detecting chip

If you were going to staycation in Aurora, what activities would you do?

Horse riding, boat riding at the reservoir, hiking

 

Meet Candice Bailey

Candice Bailey. At-Large City Council Candidate. Photo provided by Candice Bailey

Candice Bailey

Candice Bailey, who has called Aurora home since childhood, has served on several local and state boards and commissions, most recently Aurora’s Community Police Task Force, which set out recommendations to improve police relations with local residents. She’s also served on the Citizens’ Advisory Budget Committee, State of Colorado Child Welfare and Domestic Violence Task Force and the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Bailey lives in Ward 4, where she runs a small business and raises her family.

Candice Bailey Q&A

Candice Bailey

Proposals to address visible homelessness have ranged from an urban camping ban — which Mayor Mike Coffman has committed to bring back for a second vote — to adding safe parking lots and additional shelter space. Which policies would you be in favor of? Would you support the camping ban?

I am in favor of the human-first policies such as pop up shelters, permanent shelters, and accessible resources for permanent affordable housing. I do not support the camping ban.

Would you support increasing the minimum wage in Aurora? Why?

Yes. Liveable wages for more people in Aurora means they will have food and housing security and what they need to be whole and healthy. And, liveable wages also means more of us can spend money in our community, which in turn increases revenue for our city. It is a smart decision that strengthens our community in many ways.

Do you support Aurora forming its own county? Why?

Yes I do and I believe it will take a strategic plan to ensure that the burden is not passed on to taxpayers. As we witness the divestiture of the tri-county and the influx of people moving to Aurora we must make the courageous and well structured move to self sufficiency and less oversight from various places.

What is the city’s most pressing transportation need?

We need RTD to expand the routes in Aurora to reduce single occupied vehicle (SOV) trips. We also need to build a path to maintaining our road infrastructure to deter chasing after over $20 million dollars in funding every year.

Do you think the city does a good job of marketing itself? If not, what can be done differently? Is it important?

No, I think that we do not market ourselves enough. By adding additional community fairs, markets, and opportunities to engage we can build a stronger message of solidarity and unity during a time when we must rebuild our trust.

Should Aurora limit or ban giving financial incentives to businesses in an effort to lure them to Aurora? Examples where large incentives were offered include the Gaylord and Amazon projects. Critics call these “corporate welfare,” but proponents say they’re a critical part of economic development and creating jobs.

Aurora has a responsibility to focus on local, small business development and the financial incentives should be given priority to strengthen them. These corporations will gladly move into our beautiful city regardless and the impact of pollution by corporations like Amazon should not be incentivised.

Crime rates have increased in Aurora in the past two years. What can the city council do to address that problem? How do you think any new proposals related to controlling crime should be funded?

Crime is a situation that is a multifaceted cause and effect scenario. The Youth Violence Prevention Program, Critical Response Team, and organizations currently doing violence prevention, violence interruption, and community safety work must take the lead. Aurora must redistribute some of the almost $60 million dollars in public safety to relinquish the police’s requirement to carry the weight of the community’s needs.

The Aurora Police Department and the Civil Service Commision have been the subject of many high profile incidents – notably regarding the death of Elijah McClain – and consequently the subject of intense scrutiny from investigative reports. Would you support additional oversight of the Aurora Police Department? If so, what do you think that should look like?

As a member of the Police Oversight Committee, I helped develop the Office of Police Accountability, Transparency, and Transformation to ensure the crimes against the community stop. The outcry of community was evident last year and we must honor their calls to action. As Aurora Police Department enters into potential federal oversight we must maintain the voice of our community to steer this process, finally.

More about Candice Bailey

What was the last book you read?

“Have You Filled Your Bucket Today?” Carol McCloud

What has been your pandemic guilty pleasure?

Food and civic engagement.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what are three things you would want to bring?

Family, fire, and music!

What do you think needs to be invented more than anything?

A self-filling coffee cup.

If you were going to staycation in Aurora, what activities would you do?

I would go to Cherry Creek Reservoir for a day of fun with the family and then a great dinner at a local, family-owned restaurant

 

Meet John Ronquillo

John Ronquillo. At-Large City Council Candidate. Photo provided by John Ronquillo

John Ronquillo
John Ronquillo is an assistant professor of nonprofit and public management at CU Denver’s School of Public Affairs. He was previously a candidate in Aurora’s state House District 40 Democratic primary. He sits on several civic boards, including: the Colorado COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project’s Advisory Council, the board of Hispanic community organization Servicios de La Raza, and the Arapahoe County Foundation’s board of directors, a fundraising arm of county government.

John Ronquillo Q&A

John Ronquillo

Proposals to address visible homelessness have ranged from an urban camping ban — which Mayor Mike Coffman has committed to bring back for a second vote — to adding safe parking lots and additional shelter space. Which policies would you be in favor of? Would you support the camping ban?

The Aurora Housing and Community Services Department had an extensive community input process on various temporary alternative sheltering options such as pallet homes, tiny homes, safe camping sites and safe parking sites. They partnered with Restoration Christian Fellowship, one of many community partners that have been working toward solutions on this issue. I believe that the city should invest in many of the temporary alternatives that were exhibited, but also in permanent, affordable housing options. That said, I also think that local governments need to find innovative ways to take a regional approach to addressing the problem, as it is not endemic to Aurora alone. I would not support a camping ban in its current proposed form.

Would you support increasing the minimum wage in Aurora? Why?

Yes. I believe that businesses have a lot of potential to thrive when it’s known that they pay their employees a living wage. You cannot live in Aurora on the current minimum wage, and it is unlikely that one can even live on $15 an hour. A great way to stimulate the local economy is to pay people a living wage. If people make more, they spend more. When people are secure in their work, business productivity can increase, thus bringing greater potential for increasing revenues and reducing employee turnover. Economic stability also contributes to improvement in behavioral health. It is important to work with our small business community on any changes to ensure communication and coordination.

Do you support Aurora forming its own county? Why?

While the idea of city-county consolidation in Aurora isn’t new, given our size, projected growth, and span across three different counties, I think there’s a renewed opportunity to at least ask whether or not it makes sense. We’ve seen, for example, recent issues with other counties opting out or potentially opting out of Tri-County Health where things may get complicated when it comes to providing public health services to the community. There would also be, however, associated challenges in terms of setting new tax rates, transferring and establishing services from other counties and determining whether or not legislative support to create a new county exists. Regardless, it would be something that would take a number of years to accomplish. In the meantime, I would be committed to ensuring that Aurora continues to strengthen its relationships with Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas Counties in meeting the needs of our shared residents.

What is the city’s most pressing transportation need?

While I certainly want to improve public transportation in Aurora, we can’t deny that the road maintenance deficit is a problem. That $20 million annual shortfall makes road maintenance quite difficult, which in turn creates potential hazards and safety risk for motorists. Maintaining and improving our roads benefits the community in a number of ways, including lowering the risk of safety hazards, and potentially reducing personal costs associated with vehicle maintenance and insurance. Regardless, funding is needed, and the city should pursue an extensive community engagement process to explore options in terms of a ballot measure, a sales tax, or usage and impact fees to remedy this deficit.

Do you think the city does a good job of marketing itself? If not, what can be done differently? Is it important?

I think it’s getting much better because I feel those tasked with marketing Aurora know it’s tremendous potential, but yes, we can always find ways to improve. I definitely think it’s important in terms of showcasing what we as a city have to offer in terms of arts and entertainment, parks and recreation, schools, world class hospitals, dining, our military presence, lodging, our growth opportunities, our livability, and our proximity to one of the largest airports in the world. I think it’s also important in terms of building our identity as a city in our own right as opposed to merely being a bedroom suburb in the Metro area. I think solid branding and strong media can go a long way in touting what Aurora has to offer.

Should Aurora limit or ban giving financial incentives to businesses in an effort to lure them to Aurora? Examples where large incentives were offered include the Gaylord and Amazon projects. Critics call these “corporate welfare,” but proponents say they’re a critical part of economic development and creating jobs.

While there is a place for incentives of this nature, I think they should be limited. More than anything, I want to see the city make strides in economic development and job creation, but we can’t assume that they’ll come about with tax incentives alone. When financial incentives are given, I want to ensure that our local economy is benefitting and receiving a good return on its investment. I want Aurora to be a business friendly city, but that should pertain to small businesses in addition to larger corporations. Small businesses are a hallmark and economic anchor of Aurora’s commerce, and I would like to see investments made in minority-, women-, and immigrant-owned businesses, as well. I would also like to find ways to promote businesses that engage in worthwhile corporate social responsibility activities and those businesses that already pay above and beyond a livable wage, and would consider those types of small businesses as prime examples of businesses that should be entitled to some sort of tax break. I would like to find ways for us to reward or incentivize businesses to pursue that.

Crime rates have increased in Aurora in the past two years. What can the city council do to address that problem? How do you think any new proposals related to controlling crime should be funded?

Aurora has long been considered one of the safest cities in Colorado, but certainly not free from incidences of crime, and depending on what kind of incident it is, the rates certainly vary. Recently, the city has launched the Aurora Mobile Response Team, similar to the STAR Program in Denver, and based on the CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) model in Eugene, Oregon that can respond to calls involving mental health, homelessness, and addiction issues. I would like to see that program fully funded and expanded to the entirety of the city, while ensuring that our sworn officers and other police personnel are targeting the most pressing and/or violent crimes, including high incidence of domestic violence and murder rates among our youth. I believe the council must seriously engage the community (i.e. schools, law enforcement agencies, neighborhood associations, businesses, etc.) to promote good public safety, and I believe we need to do all we can to prevent automatic weapons and other firearms from falling into the wrong hands. APD already receives a significant amount of the city’s annual budget. If any new proposals require funding, I would suggest we get creative with what we do have in the budget, including any reserves, and consider usage or impact fees to cover associated costs.

The Aurora Police Department and the Civil Service Commision have been the subject of many high profile incidents – notably regarding the death of Elijah McClain – and consequently the subject of intense scrutiny from investigative reports. Would you support additional oversight of the Aurora Police Department? If so, what do you think that should look like?

After reading much of the Attorney General’s “Investigation of the Aurora Police Department and Aurora Fire Rescue,” seeing the extensive data collection and methodology employed therein, and having witnessed significant national and local news coverage of said high-profile incidents, I believe we are at a critical time where accountability, transparency, and justice are much needed in order to restore trust between the community and APD. I feel that the Civil Service Commission can, at times, hinder progress when it comes to the Chief of Police enacting discipline or accountability measures, and thus is in need of reform. I am supportive of the Attorney General’s suggestion to enter a consent decree to correct the identified problems so that the city can be proactive and avoid a court-imposed order. While the new independent monitor may help things, I am also a proponent of a Citizen Oversight Board to also have a hand in things and to assess the effectiveness of the independent monitor.

More about John Ronquillo

What was the last book you read?

I believe it was The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown, with my two sons, but on my own it was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.

What has been your pandemic guilty pleasure?

Running, Netflix, and family time. They all balanced and sustained me.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what are three things you would want to bring?

Honestly, I need the vacation, so let’s say a grill, a water purifier, and a book I’ll never get tired of re-reading (though, if I have a choice of what to bring, I wonder what I did in the first place to get confined to a deserted island!)

What do you think needs to be invented more than anything?

I think a lot of us would love teleportation, but to be completely silly, I’d really love a translator for my neurotic dog who thinks he’s a cat.

If you were going to staycation in Aurora, what activities would you do?

I’d probably spend a lot of the time outdoors and jump on a kayak or paddleboard at Aurora Reservoir or go on a long run in Cherry Creek State Park. I would definitely want to sample some of the amazing cuisines on Havana or at Mango House if a food truck with good quesa-birria at La Plaza doesn’t get to me first. I’d definitely go see what’s going on at Downtown Aurora Visual Arts and catch a performance at the Aurora Fox Arts Center.

 

Meet Becky Hogan

Becky Hogan. At-Large City Council Candidate. Photo provided by Becky Hogan.

Becky Hogan
Becky Hogan serves as the Chair of Korean Committee-Aurora Sister Cities International and sits on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. She is a 19-year resident of Aurora, getting to know the ins and outs of city government while her husband, Steve Hogan, served as mayor before his death in 2018. While having a background in economic development, Hogan has prioritized community service through food drives, multi-cultural events and most recently managing COVID equity clinics.

Becky Hogan Q&A

Becky Hogan

Proposals to address visible homelessness have ranged from an urban camping ban — which Mayor Mike Coffman has committed to bring back for a second vote — to adding safe parking lots and additional shelter space. Which policies would you be in favor of? Would you support the camping ban?

I support a camping ordinance that protects both property ownership (public and private) and the camper’s rights. If elected I would work with the Mayor, City Council and Law enforcement on an ordinance that provides short term options and is enforceable. I would also look to adopt policies that provide options for long term solutions to address the unhoused residents, while protecting property ownerships.

Would you support increasing the minimum wage in Aurora? Why?

Not at this time. Our small and large business communities have been affected by COVID-19 and need time to adjust.

Minimum wage often has significant impacts on business, particularly small business. Minimum wage should not be increased by the government, at the cost of cutting jobs. It is important to note that minimum wage was never designed to be a final wage. The average wage in the city of Aurora for service sector jobs is considerably higher than minimum wage in Aurora.

Do you support Aurora forming its own county? Why?

Should the city of Aurora wish to have control over all city services and change a form of operation government in the future, then YES, I do think one day Aurora should form its own county. That being said, there are significant upfront costs. Like, Broomfield (who became a city and county), this transition needs to take place over a period of time (may be years), so that the initial cost impacts and changes can be phased. Becoming a county will require a vote. Council cannot make this decision without the input of voters.

What is the city’s most pressing transportation need?

The City currently has a shortfall of $20 million / year in transportation funding. Dedication and targeting (current and future) of funding is the most pressing transportation need.

Do you think the city does a good job of marketing itself? We all can improve in this area. If not, what can be done differently? Is it important?

Everyone in the City has a role in marketing Aurora. Whether that be the City’s Communication Department, Visit Aurora, the Chamber of Commerce, the Police or Firefighter, the business community, and so on. We are all responsible for being ambassadors of a city that means the world to us.

Should Aurora limit or ban giving financial incentives to businesses in an effort to lure them to Aurora? Examples where large incentives were offered include the Gaylord and Amazon projects. Critics call these “corporate welfare,” but proponents say they’re a critical part of economic development and creating jobs.

We need a competitive marketplace for businesses small and large that will bring services and jobs to our community. We use the phrase ‘but for the incentives the project would not happen’. Without the fees and taxes generated by a project, there is NO money to be “shared back”. Hence, it is not using existing taxpayer funds toward incentives. Simply said, if the project is not built the city gets zero additional tax revenue.

Crime rates have increased in Aurora in the past two years. What can the city council do to address that problem? How do you think any new proposals related to controlling crime should be funded?

I am endorsed by past Police Chiefs Nick Metz and Dan Oates. They both know that I am the only candidate with the experience and relationships with law enforcement and the community to bring solutions to the table. Police personnel need to know that City Council supports them, which I will support law enforcement. Those committing a crime, need to know that there will be consequences for their actions in Aurora. Citizens need to know justice will be served by those committing a crime in our city.

The Aurora Police Department and the Civil Service Commission have been the subject of many high profile incidents – notably regarding the death of Elijah McClain – and consequently the subject of intense scrutiny from investigative reports. Would you support additional oversight of the Aurora Police Department? If so, what do you think that should look like?

The Aurora Police Department is taking the right steps with getting the community involved. It is time to revisit the City Charter and update the structure and responsibilities of the Civil Service Commission. Any steps to make significant changes in the structure of the Police Department, should be considered through the Charter update process.

More about Becky Hogan

What was the last book you read? I started re-reading Treasure Island, which is the very first book that was read to me, as a child.

What has been your pandemic guilty pleasure? Netflix

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what are three things you would want to bring?

Technology to send out an SOS, a filter that would turn seawater into drinking water, something to start a fire.

What do you think needs to be invented more than anything? Something to clear our air (from fires, pollution, etc)

If you were going to staycation in Aurora, what activities would you do? Eat and shop!

 

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Marie Myfanawy
Marie Myfanawy
1 month ago

are you going to do similar profiles on the candidates running for the Ward positions as this one on the at-large? Or have you already done so, but I somehow missed it?

Kara Mason
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Marie Myfanawy

Hi Marie! All profiles on all Aurora City Council races are published now. You will be able to find them by clicking “AURORA VOTE 2021” at the top of the webpage. Thanks for reading! – Kara Mason, Managing Editor