AURORA | An Aurora man has declared his intent to sue the City of Aurora over the city council’s recent decision to reverse a standing ban on residents owning several dog breeds, including American pit bull terriers.
Resident Matt Snider penned a letter to City Attorney Dan Brotzman earlier this month, stating that he intends to file suit against the city unless local politicos agree to renege on the decision they made earlier this month to nix the city’s 15-year-old ban on residents owning pit bulls and a pair of other breeds.
Snider, who has lived in Aurora for a decade, lambasted the council’s decision to unilaterally axe the ban from the dais at city hall. He said he takes issue not with the ban itself, but with city lawmakers overturning what he believes was the direction of voters in 2014.
“The city council does not have the right or authority under the city charter nor the Colorado Constitution to nullify the expressed will and direction of the people and instead substitute their judgment on the issue,” Snider wrote in a letter addressed to Brotzman and city council members dated Jan. 4.
Snider, a registered Democrat, unsuccessfully ran to represent House District 56 in the Colorado Legislature in 2016. He was a candidate for Cherry Creek schools board in 2017. He appeared on the radio program The Ross Kominsky Show on 630 KHOW last week airing his grievances over the recent ordinance, and Denver newspaper Westword published a story on his letter earlier on Tuesday.
Council voted 7-3 to rescind the ban on Jan. 11, with Republicans Francoise Bergan, Marsha Berzins and Dave Gruber dissenting. In the fall, local lawmakers approved a so-called dangerous dog ordinance that will allow courts to reprimand owners of dogs who act violently toward others.
Snider has said he will file a suit if officials do not kowtow to his demands by the time the ban is formally lifted at the end of February. He said plans to ask a judge to impose an injunction on the city, preventing officials from codifying the recently passed ordinance.
Instead, Snider is asking the city to issue a ballot question asking voters whether they want to repeal the existing ban. He is asking officials to certify identical language of a 2014 ballot question that sought to gauge voter appetite for the current law. The question volleyed to residents seven years ago was roundly rejected.
“The people voted against removing the pit bull ban and therefore, the city council, which derives its authority from the consent of the voters, does not have the legal authority to reverse the expressed will of the people since it has yielded its authority to the people on this specific issue,” Snider wrote in his letter.
A spokesperson for the city disagreed.
“The question put before voters in 2014 did not contain language binding the city but rather was advisory in nature,” City Spokesman Michael Bryant wrote in an email. “After recently adopting dangerous-dog legislation, the city council chose to change the breed restrictions by ordinance.”
Still, Snider said his letter was motivated by a desire to respect the will of Aurora voters.
“This is not a blue or red issue,” he said via phone Tuesday. “If there was ever a purple issue this is it. Votes are sacred to me. They’re sacrosanct, and they need to be counted. And the opinion and will of the voters needs to be followed. I may be somewhat idealistic about this, but that’s what keeps democracy going.”
He said attempts to discredit legitimate votes cast in the recent presidential election motivated him to author his recent letter; keeping certain dogs out of the city he’s called home since moving from Texas in 2011 is irrelevant.
“This is not about the dogs,” Snider said. “It wouldn’t matter to me if this was over an issue of a parking ordinance or a basketball court ordinance — that has absolutely nothing to do with it. The substance of my complaint is focused squarely on the disenfranchisement and nullification of the voters.”
Snider is the IT director and personal injury investigator for a law firm in Lakewood. In his letter, he said he regularly reviews evidence in dog bite cases.
When reached via phone Jan. 26, he said the recent ordinance related to dogs in the city has spurred him to mull a run for one of two at-large city council seats that will be on the ballot in 2021.
Snider clarified that he has not yet filed any official documents against the city, though he plans to hire an attorney in the coming days.