AURORA VOTE 2019: 2 for Ward 4 boast wealth of experience and passion

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Ward IV candidates Juan Marcano, left, and Charlie Richardson
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | Two candidates — incumbent Charlie Richardson and challenger Juan Marcano — are vying to represent Ward IV on the Aurora City Council. 

The race started on a contentious note when Arapahoe County Clerk Joan Lopez endorsed Marcano, a fellow Democrat. Richardson alleged during city council meetings that may have an impact on the race and give Marcano an unfair advantage in obtaining voter turnout data. Lopez, however, said her endorsement wouldn’t result in any unfair treatment. 

Some city council members suggested the city should partner with a different county to run its election or establish ethical guidelines for the clerk. Neither of those suggestions came to fruition.

Watch the televised Aurora ward council candidates debate here

Richardson is running for his second term on the Aurora City Council. He retired in 2015 from having served as the city attorney. Marcano is an architectural engineer who is a first time candidate. Prior to running for office, Marcano served on the Arapahoe County Citizen’s Budget Committee and citizen-led advocacy groups Aurora Residents for Transparency and Transformation and Colorado People’s Action. 

Ward IV includes the Dam East and West developments, stretching from South Buckley Road on the east to South Dayton Street on the west. The district runs between East Mississippi Avenue and East Dartmouth Avenue at its southern edge.

Policing has become a significant issue among constituents. Richardson told the Sentinel it’s among a top issue he hears and wants the city to add enough police officers to meet a two police officer per 1,000 residents policy that’s been in place for more than two decades. 

Richardson points to one particular study showing the department is about 100 officers short of its goal, and partially blames the city’s population calculus for the reduction in police staffing.

“It doesn’t even include the people in the hospitals, people at Gaylord, people in hotels and motels, so I think we have a huge problem there — huge,” Richardson told the Sentinel in February. “And they all need calls for service and that mandate (staffing two police officers per 1,000 city residents) has been perceived as a maximum. People have looked at that as a maximum and that is tragically wrong.”

Ideally, Richardson said he’d like the city to have enough officers so that each one can patrol part of the time, rather than run from call to call. He attempted to add six police officer positions at a recent city budget meeting, but he didn’t garner enough support from the council to approve the request, which would have cost about $800,000.

Marcano said the two-per-thousand mandate is one option for improving public safety, but not necessarily his preference in reducing crime.

“That’s a reactive approach and I think we should address the root causes, especially petty crime,” he said, citing the need for economic opportunity and creating equity among marginalized communities.

On economic development, Richardson, who has typically been skeptical of granting incentives to lure business to Aurora, says each case should be examined separately. 

Marcano, on the other hand, said he believes the city should refrain from offering incentives altogether. 

“I would much rather invest in our existing small businesses than try to lure big names to Aurora,” he said in the Sentinel questionnaire. “We already have a talented workforce and an advantageous geographic location that makes us an attractive city to do business in.”

Marcano also favors raising Aurora’s minimum wage to $22 per hour, contending it would be a livable wage for Aurora residents. 

“This would be phased in incrementally so that small businesses are able to absorb the cost while reaping the benefits of increased consumer spending in our local economy as a rising wage allows pent-up demand to be expressed,” he said.

Richardson said he’d want to consult Aurora’s business community before taking a position on raising the minimum wage.

Meet Juan Marcano

Juan Marcano

Ward IV resident Juan Marcano is hoping to replace incumbent Charlie Richardson on the Aurora City Council. Marcano is the son of Puerto Rican immigrants. He is currently works as an architectural designer. He’s served on the Arapahoe County Citizen’s Budget Committee and citizen-led advocacy groups Aurora Residents for Transparency and Transformation and Colorado People’s Action.

Marcano: Personality Questions

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Teleportation. Imagine never having to sit in traffic again!

What movie will you watch again no matter how many times you’ve seen it?

The Princess Bride.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A game designer. I grew up designing card games and board games for my friends.

Do talent do you have that most people don’t know about?

My side-hustle is writing and selling content for Dungeons and Dragons.

If you wrote a memoir, what would you call it?

“Things and Stuff”

What time do you go to bed?

10:30-11 PM on work nights and between 11 PM and 12 AM on weekends.

What was the last book you read?

A Dance with Dragons

Which restaurant do you eat at most?

Not counting fast food - probably a tie between The Bent Noodle and Sushi Katsu.

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Pastels de guayaba (guava pastries) at Christmas.

If you had a boat, what would you name it?

Failboats Don’t Float

If you could only listen to one song forever, what would it be?

Hymn 101 by Joe Pug.

Which reality television show do you think you’d be best at?

You got me. I don’t watch reality TV (or much TV at all) so I don’t have an answer.

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

Matter Converters (Star Trek)

Marcano: Policy Questions

Are there any laws at the city level that you believe could help reduce gun violence? Which ones? If not, why?

I am supportive of passing an ordinance requiring trigger locks to be included in the purchase of a firearm within the city of Aurora. Studies show that this kind of requirement helps reduce injury and deaths from accidental discharges and suicides.

That said, psychologists tell us that gun violence is an issue that is best addressed proactively rather than reactively. The path that leads to gun violence begins with unmet material and/or emotional needs, typically early on in life, and escalates over time to abusive behavior, suicidal ideation, a sense of deep despair or hopelessness, a feeling of alienation from work and/or community, and in some cases untreated mental health issues (less than 5% of gun violence is perpetrated by someone with mental illness).

There are several things we can do at a municipal level to ensure the material needs of our residents are met, including but not limited to: increasing the minimum wage, ensuring housing is affordable for our residents, and partnering with APS/CCPS to bring the community schools model back to ensure our communities have access to services they are currently lacking. Though none of the ordinances that would help us reach these goals deal directly with gun violence, the result would be a reduction in gun violence and crime.

Aurora has for the past few years paid for a substantial ‘Worth Discovering’ image marketing campaign. Should a campaign try to highlight the city’s good traits or push back against the problems Aurora is associated with?

Our marketing campaign should be highlighting the great things we have going on (and that we’ll hopefully set into motion after this election) rather than trying to push back against the undeserved negative image we’ve been given by folks in other municipalities. That said, I don’t believe one can market a city the same way they market a consumer product.

Cities are complex organisms with a lot of moving parts, and to me the best way a city can make a name for itself is to do great things. I believe that public works like becoming a gig city via municipal broadband and getting a public banking enterprise running will help us make a name for ourselves without having to spend a quarter million dollars a year on branding. At the end of the day, people and businesses don’t come to Aurora because of our slogan or our logo – they come because of the quality and price of housing, the talent of our residents, and our amenities.

Should Aurora limit or ban giving financial incentives to businesses in an effort to lure them to Aurora? An example 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 should ban financial incentives outright.

Governing, Forbes, and other respected publications have studied the issue and found that they are generally a losing proposition for the entity giving the incentives away, and that most of the entities receiving incentives were likely to expand their business to the areas in question without any incentives. On top of that, few jurisdictions have a meaningful way to hold the recipient of an incentive accountable for their promises or even independently measure the effectiveness of their incentives—Aurora included.
I would much rather invest in our existing small businesses than try to lure big names to Aurora. We already have a talented workforce and an advantageous geographic location that makes us an attractive city to do business in.

This year a majority of the Aurora City Council turned down an ordinance that would require lobbyists to register and record expenses if meeting with local elected officials. Would Aurora benefit from this kind of transparency?

Aurora would absolutely benefit from this kind of transparency, and I am very disappointed in the councilmembers that voted against this ordinance. Trust in our institutions is low, and governmental reforms that increase accountability and transparency are necessary to repair that damage. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

It is no secret that lobbyists for developers and other special interests are extremely influential in our city. Our residents deserve to know how who they are, who they represent, how much they spend, and how often they meet with our councilmembers at a bare minimum.

The city currently does not have an independent police review structure to provide oversight during police controversies. What kind of independent review panel would you recommend, or is one even needed?

I am a strong proponent of creating an independent review panel. I believe the best way to build trust between our community and our police department is to have mutual accountability, which a civilian oversight board provides.

I prefer the independent investigator approach, provided that the investigator is not appointed by council or the mayor. I would like to see a structure where the investigator can conduct their investigation in tandem with APD and is able to issue subpoenas and access all evidence related to the complaint or incident rather than having to wait until after internal investigations are complete. The findings from their investigation would then be presented to a board of residents not associated with APD or the police union, and that board would issue their recommendation after reviewing the evidence.

How should the city approach retention in the police and fire departments with a record number of staff leaving for Denver where they claim better pay and benefits?

We need to remain competitive with our neighboring municipalities, which means increasing pay for our first responders and moving our police officers to the FPPA plan. I understand the qualms some councilmembers had with the issue in 2018, and I am hopeful we can come to an agreement and find a way to make the transition happen.

With local control of the oil-and-gas industry now a reality, how should the city create a permanent procedure and commission, or does the current system protect resident safety and industry interests?

I believe we need to reform the Oil and Gas Advisory Committee to be a citizen-driven commission that prioritizes public health and safety to reflect the COGCC’s new mission. I am also supportive of putting a moratorium in place on approvals for new drilling until the COGCC finishes rulemaking around SB-181, then utilizing the reformed committee in partnership with environmental advocates and organizations to craft the best rules we can to protect our the health and well-being of our residents.

Should the city dedicate money and resources to creating substantial, permanent bike lanes and structures to allow for more bike commuting?

Yes. We have infrastructure in place near transit-oriented developments and the areas surrounding them, and we should continue to expand that infrastructure down commonly used arteries to create a truly interlocking set of lanes and paths to ensure our bicyclists are safe.

What should Aurora do as a city and as a legislative body to abate climate change?

From a transportation and infrastructure angle, we need to ensure we’re doing everything we can to close last-mile gaps that disincentivize the use of mass transportation. Getting more folks on bus and rail will help improve our air quality and reduce frustration from traffic jams while also reducing wear and tear on our roads. I also believe we should be working to expand our EV charging network as much as possible to encourage the use of zero emission vehicles and reduce the anxieties folks have about making the switch from internal combustion engines.

From a development standpoint, we must move towards denser planning for commercial and residential projects that are built with multi-modal transportation in mind. This approach to development has been shown to use less energy and water than traditional suburban sprawl and helps combat the contamination of runoff from rain and snow. I also believe there may be an opportunity to revise our building codes to require energy efficient construction for new developments in our city.

From an energy generation standpoint, I believe we should explore the feasibility of low/no carbon energy production in Aurora – including wind, solar, and geothermal. We have many rooftops throughout the city suitable for solar photovoltaic energy capture, and a lot of undeveloped land out east that may be suitable wind, solar, and geothermal energy generation.

Should Aurora raise the minimum wage? How high?

The minimum wage was originally created to be a living wage and keep workers out of poverty and allow them to raise a family, but it quickly became unable to do so because it was never indexed to keep pace with the cost of living or gains in productivity. We are long overdue for a correction.

I would support a minimum wage of $22 an hour, pegged to the consumer price index, so that workers in Aurora will always be able to live with dignity. This would be phased in incrementally so that small businesses are able to absorb the cost while reaping the benefits of increased consumer spending in our local economy as a rising wage allows pent-up demand to be expressed.

The Colfax arts and cultural district has some successes, but it’s struggling. Should Aurora create a new special taxing district to boost funding? What kind?

I am not in support of creating a special taxing district for ACAD. I believe the arts are important and that we should be investing in the arts as a city, especially with as diverse a community as we have. That said, I don’t believe a special taxing district is the way to go, especially not in an area that is already struggling.

Should the city build an emergency homeless shelter?

I believe we need to take steps towards solving homelessness rather than managing homelessness, and a shelter is not a home. I am a strong supporter of organizations like Bridge House and testified in favor of their program coming to Aurora and attended many neighborhood meetings to help build community support for their location near Nine Mile station. I would prefer to build upon the partnership we have with Bridge House while following best practices from cities across the world that have dealt with the problem in a more direct fashion via housing-first practices, which are less expensive than the patchwork of services currently available in our city.

Should the city pursue creating a K-Town community along the Havana Corridor?

The Havana corridor is home to a very diverse set of businesses belonging to a variety of ethnic backgrounds and is part of the reason why my wife and I chose to make Aurora home. I believe an “International Market” designation for that part of Aurora would be a more fitting and inclusive for the diversity of our city and our ward. That said, I’d leave it up to the community members and businesses in the proposed area to decide if that’s something they’d want to pursue.

Meet Charlie Richardson
Charlie Richardson

Charlie Richardson

First elected to the city council in 2015, Charlie Richardson is no stranger to Aurora City Hall. He spent 38 years working for the city, retiring as the city attorney in 2014. Richardson has been married for 27 years and has one daughter and one grandson. In the past he’s served on the Aurora Housing Authority Board, and was appointed to the Quality of Life, Management and Finance, and Intergovernmental Relations Committees. He helped lead a congressional redistricting effort that put Aurora in its own district.

Richardson: Personality Questions

f you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Go 6 or more hours without needing to go to the bathroom

What movie will you watch again no matter how many times you’ve seen it?

Forrest Gump

What did you want to be when you grew up?

California Highway Patrol Officer

What talent do you have that most people don’t know about?

Patience

If you wrote a memoir, what would you call it?

"Closing Arguments"

What time do you go to bed?

The first time around 2:30; The second time around 9:00

What was the last book you read?

“The Mosquito A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator” by Timothy Winegard

Which restaurant do you eat at most?

Texas Road House ( Senior Special before 6 pm )

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Having 2 television sets in the house

If you had a boat, what would you name it?

"Adrift"

If you could only listen to one song forever, what would it be?

"Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straits

Which reality television show do you think you’d be best at?

"Dancing with the Stars"

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

A "Do Over Machine" when the first choice is a disaster.

 

Richardson: Policy Questions

Are there any laws at the city level that you believe could help reduce gun violence? Which ones? If not, why?

Restrictions on gun ownership, type, and use should be governed by uniform State provisions. The portability of guns across city and county limits makes it practically impossible for a local police department to enforce a city specific law. The vast majority of gun owners are responsible citizens who would be hard pressed to research every municipal gun law when traveling. When I travel in my RV I research State laws but do not research each and every city I am traveling through.

Aurora has for the past few years paid for a substantial ‘Worth Discovering’ image marketing campaign. Should a campaign try to highlight the city’s good traits or push back against the problems Aurora is associated with?

I have voiced my opposition to using public funds for this type of marketing for Aurora. The first responsibility of a city is to create a safe environment for its citizens. In my opinion the funds for this marketing campaign are better spent on unfunded needs in the public safety arena.

Should Aurora limit or ban giving financial incentives to businesses in an effort to lure them to Aurora? An example 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.

Financial incentives like those you describe should be judged on a case by case basis. The City Council by majority vote should continue to be able to review and authorize economic development incentives based upon the resulting benefits to the City.

This year a majority of the Aurora City Council turned down an ordinance that would require lobbyists to register and record expenses if meeting with local elected officials. Would Aurora benefit from this kind of transparency?

The proposed lobbyist registration ordinance would have duplicated the already existing provisions of quarterly gift reporting, the recently enacted Ethics Code and new campaign finance provisions. I think we need to assimilate and incorporate all of our current laws to better serve the people they are intended to protect. I’m all for ordinances with teeth – not so much for those that posture.

The city currently does not have an independent police review structure to provide oversight during police controversies. What kind of independent review panel would you recommend, or is one even needed?

The Civil Service Commission is not perfect but over the decades has done a good job of providing due process to members of the Police and Fire Departments. The City Council retains the ability to appoint and/or remove the Commissioners.

How should the city approach retention in the police and fire departments with a record number of staff leaving for Denver where they claim better pay and benefits?

Retention will improve when we offer better pay, benefits including competitive pension offerings, better working conditions and retiree health benefits. Denver has identified Aurora’s compensation shortcomings for first responders and is exploiting them very effectively.

With local control of the oil-and-gas industry now a reality, how should the city create a permanent procedure and commission, or does the current system protect resident safety and industry interests?

I support the City’s initiative to stand up a new administrative unit to administer the oil and gas activity in the City.

Should the city dedicate money and resources to creating substantial, permanent bike lanes and structures to allow for more bike commuting?

Yes. More robust dedicated bicycle-use only lanes should be a priority.

What should Aurora do as a city and as a legislative body to abate climate change?

The City should focus on converting its fleet of vehicles to EV where available and eliminate any permitting/inspection fees when homeowners or business adopt solar arrays.

Should Aurora raise the minimum wage? How high?

Before agreeing to any increase in the minimum wage, I would want to hear from Aurora small businesses who are competing for labor with Denver and other surrounding communities. There can be serious unintended consequences to minimum wage increases (like job losses) and I would not want to put Aurora employees and small businesses at a disadvantage.

The Colfax arts and cultural district has some successes, but it’s struggling. Should Aurora create a new special taxing district to boost funding? What kind?

Special taxing districts are a great way to provide a consistent revenue stream. They are locally organized and governed to address specific purposes. However, the creation of a taxing district along Colfax would not impact Ward IV so I would defer to the opinions of the applicable Ward Council Member who would have a much better understanding of the pros and cons.

Should the city build an emergency homeless shelter?

Until recently I thought we needed a new homeless shelter to supplement the Day Center and said so publicly. Then I spoke with Mile High Behaviorial Health Care CEO Robert Dorsheimer about the idea for a new homeless shelter, and he convinced me that his organization has the capacity to handle the situation. I do support the use of marijuana tax revenue to fund homelessness programs.

Should the city pursue creating a K-Town community along the Havana Corridor?

I oppose any attempts to emphasize or endorse one Aurora community over another. I believe my position is consistent with the views of the Havana BID which supports a multi-cultural experience in this area.