AURORA VOTE 2019: 6 vie for 2 seats for at-large city guardians

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Aurora City Council At-Large race
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | Four at-large members of the Aurora City Council represent the entire city. This year two of those seats are up for election, currently held by Angela Lawson, who was elected in 2015, and Johnny Watson. 

Watson, a former member of the planning commission, was appointed to the seat to fill a vacancy left by Bob LeGare, who was appointed to be mayor after the death of former Mayor Steve Hogan. 

Four more candidates, who haven’t previously been elected, are hoping to snag the seat: Martha Lugo, who ran for Ward III in 2017; Curtis Gardner, the executive vice president at the Aurora Federal Credit Union; Thomas Mayes, who serves on the city’s Victims Witness Advisory board and the incident review board for the Aurora Police Department; and Leanne Wheeler, an Air Force veteran who owns her own consulting company.

Watch the televised debate of Aurora City Council at-large candidate forum

Like recent at-large races, the candidates are concerned with issues sweeping the city, from gentrification in north Aurora to suburban sprawl in the southeastern region. Lawson, who works at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office as a program manager for the lobbyist unit in the Elections Division, has been vocal about balancing city resources to make sure residents in older parts of the city aren’t left behind as the city grows. 

She’s been supportive of affordable housing measures, putting the issue at the top of her priorities.

“Some options that the city is looking at is developing a housing policy, looking into community land trust options, and looking at options within our opportunity zones that could be used for housing,” she says on her website. “Another option is to look at properties that city owns from tax foreclosure and work to rehabilitate those properties with federal and block grant funds to support more affordable housing options. If we reduce some of the regulatory hurdles for developers and cut costs builders face during construction, developers may be more willing to work with the city to build more affordable housing options that can be passed on to buyers and renters.”

Mayes has also made affordable housing a top priority, saying the city should establish “rent control and encourage developers to give buyers incentives in reduced purchase price rather than upgrades.”

Candidates have also identified public safety as one of Aurora’s most pressing issues. Gardner, who was endorsed by the Aurora Police Association, said he wants to improve access to resources for police officers and firefighters. He stops short of supporting an independent police review structure, which the police department does not currently have to oversee police controversies.

“Because of the challenges and uniqueness of law enforcement, non-professional citizen review panels can have the unintended consequence of injecting politics into what should be a non-political review process,” he said in a Sentinel questionnaire.

Lawson and Lugo both said they support an independent review panel. 

“APD currently has an incident review board. But it only reviews discipline issued as a result of decisions already made as far as conduct,” Mayes said. “APD needs an oversight committee to provide transparency, accountability and consequence. Accountability without consequence is not accountability at all.

The group is divided on providing incentives to big businesses that want to set up shop or expand in Aurora. Watson recently claimed the city was holding the Anschutz Medical Campus “hostage” for not designating some nearby land as blighted for the sake of future redevelopment.

The measure, like most things on city council, needed six votes. 

Lugo and Wheeler say the city should prioritize existing business instead of granting incentives. 

“Further, bringing in corporations that pay $12/hour is not helping our community, these are poverty wages and only perpetuates the problem for those who can’t afford to rent or buy a home among other things,” she said. “We should invest more in our communities with those tax breaks – we have plenty of ways in which we can enrich the lives of our residents than by bringing in large corporations that do not put people first.”

For Wheeler, who worked at Raytheon before starting her own company, believes growth will continue to happen without the use of incentives. 

“And as we continue to give away the farm, we have failed to provide for road maintenance, robust and plentiful open spaces, aesthetically pleasing thoroughfares, and the like,” she said. “It feels like a race to see who can give more of our revenue, without a true understanding of the actual ROI (return on investment).”

Meet Curtis Gardner

Curtis Gardner

At-large candidate Curtis Gardner is a long-time Aurora resident. He grew up in the city and attended both Aurora Public Schools and Cherry Creek School District schools. After marrying,  he and his wife bought a house in the Hoffman Heights neighborhood. Currently, the father of two is the executive vice president at Aurora Federal Credit Union. He was appointed to the Aurora Citizens Advisory Budget Committee in 2012 and currently serves as its chairman.

Gardner: Personality Questions

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

Power to heal – it’s the worst when my daughters are sick or get hurt.

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

Twister

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Lawyer

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

I have a very good memory.

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

"Just Getting Started"

What time do you go to bed?

Around 9:15

What was the last book you read?

"Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters" by Meg Meeker

Which restaurant do you eat at most?

Chipotle

What’s your favorite family tradition?

We go to the Rockies fireworks game on July 4 every year-my oldest daughter still forgets “regular games” don’t have fireworks

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

Hasta La Vista — because if I ever owned a boat it would be to sail off into the sunset

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?

I’d probably say a cooking show, like Top Chef

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

Truth Serum – I think honesty is the best policy

 

Gardner: Policy Questions

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

Gun violence has an impact on people of all backgrounds. However, criminals have a disregard for the rule of law and some do not place a value on human life. Aurora City Council needs to collaborate with our law enforcement community, school districts, mental health institutions, other government leaders and social service organizations to create a comprehensive plan for addressing gun violence that will make our communities safer while also protecting the second amendment.

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?

In general, I believe the “Worth Discovering” campaign is money well spent. However, I don’t think it’s a good use of resources to spend energy chasing every negative story – let’s focus on all the great things we have going for us in Aurora, like our international food scene, variety of recreation options and high quality of life. We certainly need to correct inaccuracies in reporting but we should focus on how great Aurora is.

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.

Yes, Aurora should use financial incentives to bring primary employers to Aurora. A thriving business community leads to good jobs and higher wages, which introduces so many opportunities for Aurora residents, including better schools, attainable housing and ability to enjoy a high quality of life. We certainly need to make sure these deals make sense for Aurora. On Council, I would be judicious in making sure they benefit Aurora and are used to compete with other municipalities. Our current economic development incentives are a net positive for the city because any incentives paid result from tax revenue generated, and primary employers attract other businesses looking to expand or relocate.

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 City Council needs to look for ways to be accountable and transparent to citizens. I would be supportive of working with the next council to build consensus on ensuring transparency to our citizens.

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 Aurora Police Department is made up of hundreds of men & women that have chosen a life of service to their community. Aurora should be proud to have such a professional department. Because of the challenges and uniqueness of law enforcement, non-professional citizen review panels can have the unintended consequence of injecting politics into what should be a non-political review process.

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?

Public safety is a critical job of City Council. Aurora needs to get creative with future growth and development to make sure we attract industries and destination facilities that generate sales tax revenue – higher sales tax revenue can provide a lot of benefits for Aurora, including making sure our police and fire departments receive better pay & benefits, as well as the latest training & equipment to serve our growing, diverse city.

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?

Oil and gas has been an integral part of Colorado for decades. Oil and gas operators take the health and safety of citizens extremely seriously, evidenced by the recent operator agreements the Aurora City Council recently approved. In fact, the city’s outside attorney called them some of leading agreements in the nation because of the extensive health and safety protections they contain. As councilmember, I will work hard to ensure that those agreements are honored by all parties, and that Aurora remains a leader in Colorado’s energy landscape.

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

Aurora, like most municipalities in Colorado, faces a transportation maintenance funding shortfall. Before dedicating money towards the creation of permanent bike lanes, we need to look for ways to properly fund our roadway maintenance. As Aurora continues to grow, we’ll need to look for creative ways to maintain our existing roads, as well as tackle larger projects such as Gun Club Rd expansion.

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

Aurora City Council plays a very limited role in climate change legislation. Aurora has an award-winning water department that protects this very valuable natural resource, ensuring clean, safe drinking water will be available to Aurora residents years and years into the future. In addition, our zoning code and master planning documents ensure that the city is developed responsibly.

Should Aurora raise the minimum wage? How high?

On City Council, I will work hard to make sure Aurora has an environment that leads to job growth. I am not supportive of picking an arbitrary minimum wage but rather making sure the workforce in Aurora is highly skilled and ready to work to meet the needs of our global economy. We can work to meet these goals by collaborating with our education system to introduce skilled trades to young people and career readiness to all Aurora students.

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?

The Aurora Arts District has the potential to be a creative mecca, a place where art and other forms expression can thrive. There have been some successes, including theater performances that draw visitors from the metro area. However, I don’t believe creating a special taxing district is in the best interests of Aurora. The struggles they are facing go beyond funding for the district itself, and have to do with related issues like the lack of restaurants in the area and the perception of crime.

Should the city build an emergency homeless shelter?

Aurora City Council needs to collaborate with leaders at the county level, as well as in the private sector, to look for solutions to homelessness. Homelessness exists across a spectrum, and there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution. Work programs, housing and other support services may all play a role in addressing homelessness in Aurora.

Meet Angela Lawson

Angela Lawson
Angela Lawson is seeking a second term on the Aurora City Council as an at-large member. She moved to Colorado in the 70s with her mother and father, who served in the Air Force. She earned a political science degree at the University of California at Berkeley, then earned master’s degrees from the University of Colorado at Denver and Georgetown University. Eighteen years ago she chose Aurora when she moved back to Colorado for a job opportunity. Lawson currently works at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office as a program manager for the lobbyist unit in the Elections Division.

Lawson: Personality Questions

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

If had a superpower it would be the ability to rewind time. Not only to fix mistakes or past conflicts but also to relive some of the best moments in my life. More than money or material things, time is the most important currency we have.

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

Glory 1989, starring Denzel Washington. It’s sobering how much black men had to go through but it’s also amazing that they carried such a sense of pride.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a fashion designer. I can remember mocking up different sketches of clothing all the way through college.

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

I am classically trained on the clarinet.

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

“The Shadow-less Woman: How to be seen in a covered world.”

What time do you go to bed?

I try to get to bed by 9:30 pm but sometimes the excitement of the campaign keeps me up.

The last book I read?

The last book I read was Michelle Obama’s “Becoming.”

Which restaurant do you eat at most?

Popeyes, and yes, it’s the best chicken sandwich I’ve ever had…

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Every 4th of July we have a BBQ and huge dance contest.

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

Amphitrite. The Goddess of Water.

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

Franky and Beverly Maze – Before I let Go

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

Project Runway. Finally, would get to try my hand at fashion.

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

A single card that has an image of a driver’s license, insurance and registration on it. This invention’s sole purpose would be so a driver is not having to reach in areas of their vehicle to get required forms of identification in a traffic stop or if in an accident. Hopefully this would also curtail unnecessary police shootings.

Lawson: Policy Questions

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

There are no current laws at the city level that reduce gun violence. Gun violence among minors was a real problem this summer. I think we should work with city officials to make more programs filled with constructive things for the kids to do during the summer. I think we should also partner with the schools to ensure that we are actively looking at ways and technology to make our schools safer i.e. mental health, security etc.

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 believe that we push back with the problems Aurora is truly faced with. If we do so aggressively then the perception of Aurora will naturally change all on its own.

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?

I do recognize that big businesses create more jobs in the city but I believe that the true incentives should go to the small businesses and entrepreneurs who really need them and in the communities they serve.

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?

I am proud that I’m the council member that sponsored the lobbyist disclosure ordinance. The intent of the ordinance was to have all information and money disclosed pertaining to people or representatives who seek to influence the outcome of the city’s decision-making process. I believe that transparency is the best policy when it comes to truly reflecting and representing the people of Aurora and that the money and opportunities that lobbyist present should be recorded in some manner so that the people of Aurora can truly be informed of what’s going on in their city council. The lobbyist ordinance was one of the most important ordinances brought before council and I felt so strongly that I lead the charge and sponsored it and I will bring it back!

The city currently does not have an independent police review structure to provide oversight during police controversies. What kind?

Yes, an independent police review structure is necessary, particularly due to recent events. Although we are one of the safer cities in the state, there has been more coverage of incidents between the community and police. I have been exploring best practices of what other cities are doing. The National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) with which the City of Aurora participates in provides and overview of several different oversight models. The kind of independent review model that I would support would be a hybrid of a third-party auditor combined with a civilian oversight commission.

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?

First and foremost, we need to get our officers back to Aurora! Our end goal should be to have a competitive wage for all of our officers that choose to police in this city. In the meantime, we need to look at alternative benefit packages that may make employment in Aurora just as desirable as other places i.e. housing discounts, extra vacation time, commuter benefits, tuition assistance.

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?

The oil agreement changed the dynamic of the commission. I would suggest a standard operating procedure that evolves community engagement with the neighbors in impacted areas where oil and gas activity is happening, along with a committee assembled with people who are in no way affiliated with the oil and gas industry. Future application approvals should have neighborhood notification prior, not after the approval. New rules were adopted but there needs to be a system to make sure that they are followed for the health and safety of residents. The number one goal is to keep residents safe.

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

I think there are more pertinent issues to invest in but if I was to invest in permanent bike lanes and structures it would be in transit-oriented development areas.

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

Pollution doesn’t stop at city limits and as a metro area, the ozone quality is poor. By recently approving 400 wells, wind quality is a concern. I would like aurora to do more and work together with neighboring communities to address climate change by leading with solar, wind and other green technology.

Should Aurora raise the minimum wage? How high?

I think the term "minimum wage" needs to be done away with all-together. People need a "living wage" to truly survive in today's economy. A living wage should start at $18.00/hr

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?

No, we should not create a brand-new taxing district but I would suggest that we take an already existing improvement district like The Colfax Ave Business Improvement District (BID) and see if we can just extend their reach. Also, ramp up the event planning and civic engagement with the community and local artists.

Should the city build an emergency homeless shelter?

Yes, I do believe there should be an emergency homeless shelter built in Aurora. The Aurora day resource center is a make-shift emergency homeless shelter and they deserve permanent one. There is a main facility but even it doesn’t have enough beds.

Meet Martha Lugo

Martha Lugo

Martha Lugo is an at-large candidate. She’s been a resident of Ward III since 2000. The daughter of immigrants is a native of El Paso, Texas. Lugo, now an organizational development and leadership Ph.D. candidate at the University of the Rockies, came to Colorado for her job as a probation officer. From 2000 to 2010 she was a sworn officer in the 18th Judicial District Probation Department.

Lugo: Personality Questions

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

Fly

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

“The Green Mile”

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A teacher

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

Aggressive softball catcher

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

Martha’s Victories

What time do you go to bed?

1130pm-midnight

What was the last book you read?

“Labor Rights are Civil Rights: Mexican American Workers in Twentieth Century America” by Zaragosa Vargas

Which restaurant do you eat at most?

Real de Minas | 14035 E Evans Ave, Aurora, CO 80014

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Quality time with my adult son

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

The Warrior Queen

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

“El Niágara en Bicicleta” by Juan Luis Guerra

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

The Secret Millionaire

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

A way for hot water to come out of the faucet immediately upon being turned on instead of having to waste water because it’s too cold.

Lugo: Policy Questions

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

Yes, being more aggressive in holding irresponsible gun owners accountable. Providing gun safety locks at no cost or low cost to gun owners and creating an ordinance that fines those who do not use them. Regularly scheduled gun buy-back programs throughout the year. This can be funded by medium and large corporations and gun businesses.

Requiring gun owners to go through continuing education/testing and physical/mental capacity verification every five years in order to renew their license (like when renewing driver’s licenses). Carrying liability insurance on all weapons owned. Registration of all private gun sales, gun shows/transactions with penalties for failure to comply. More gun safety education in all schools, media, social media for people of all ages.

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 believe that the city should do both. I think it’s important to highlight the good traits, but to also clarify what has been done to mitigate the bad incidents that have happened in Aurora. It’s important to clear up the reputation by being more transparent.

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.

Absolutely! We cannot continue to give tax incentives to corporations while neglecting our working-class taxpayers. Further, bringing in corporations that pay $12/hour is not helping our community, these are poverty wages and only perpetuates the problem for those who can’t afford to rent or buy a home among other things. We should invest more in our communities with those tax breaks – we have plenty of ways in which we can enrich the lives of our residents than by bringing in large corporations that do not put people first. As a city, we should always put our people first! We must get developer money out of politics as well; they are buying our elections with the premise that they are doing the city a favor. Studies have affirmed that in the 90s, incentives were an effective manner in which to attract new business, however, this practice has become the demise for many cities because often the promises made by corporations are not kept. We should also keep in mind that we have many other large corporations that are not paying their workers a dignified wage, therefore creating an influx of workers who rely on public assistance. This is unacceptable! We should require these corporations to not only sign a pledge but keep that pledge to pay their workers a dignified wage.

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?

This is appalling! All government employees are bound by conflict of interest/code of conduct personnel rules. When I served as a probation officer for the 18th Judicial District Probation Department as an officer, I was not authorized to accept ANY gifts, money, items, goods, services or favors of any kind. I would’ve lost my job! Elected officials should be held to that standard as well. The impropriety of these maneuvers clearly accentuates the level of dishonesty, secretiveness and unethical dealings that many elected officials engage in – these ordinances are designed by them to protect their unethical business dealings that are hidden from the public. Elected officials are paid by our hard-earned tax dollars – they must work in complete transparency at all times.

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?

Absolutely we need one! I would like to see an independent monitor similar to the one at Denver City and County – I believe it should be staffed by paid individuals (part-time, full-time, on call, etc.) such as attorneys, district attorneys, civil rights professionals, community members, survivors of police brutality, people of color, people of varying ages (teens and older), community leaders, members of law enforcement (those who have not had disciplinary action filed against them), community activists, judges, psychologists (specializing in vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and PTSD).

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?

For starters, as aforementioned, I believe the city must stop giving away tax breaks to large corporations and start investing in the wages of our city personnel. Not only police and fire personnel, but also city workers who are not able to afford to live a quality life. We need to evaluate our salaries, do a comparative analysis and make our wages competitive with other cities. We must not pay any workers anything less than $20/hour. I believe we can accomplish this and other great things to succeed at retention and boost workplace morale by stopping wasteful tax spending and investing it in our workers. They are our most valuable asset!

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?

Yes! We need commissions and advisory boards that are comprised of professionals, community members, environmentalists, activists, scientists, engineers, etc. We must be conscientious of the planet. We cannot continue to kill our residents by contaminating our air, land and water. I believe we must seek to plan for renewable energy in Aurora. There is no other planet we can live on. I believe we should also create paid positions so that we can work diligently in this direction.

Also, as a former commissioner (Human Relations Commission and Immigrant and Refugee Commission), it was frustrating that city council would often not follow our recommendations. They must recognize the expertise that community members bring through their valuable volunteer time.

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

Yes, in line with renewable energy and protecting our planet, we must make alternative modes of transportation a reality for our residents. We can push local businesses (medium and large) to contribute to these initiatives.

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

I envision a clean energy plan that includes incentives for electric/hybrid vehicles, carpooling incentives, incentives for solar panels on every rooftop in Aurora, wind farms in our open spaces to the east of us, more/improved recycling initiatives, composting/community gardens, tree planting initiatives, green development/redevelopment, ban plastic bags/Styrofoam/other non-recyclables, exploring and implementing alternative fuel sources, etc. Ultimately, partnering with conservation organizations such as Food and Water Watch, Conservation Colorado, Protégete, Sierra Club and any others that could provide expertise in this transformational initiative. I would like to see a department within our city in order to have consistent progress to achieve these goals and milestones.

Should Aurora raise the minimum wage? How high?

Yes! We must protect our low wage earners. Everyone in Aurora deserves to thrive, not merely survive. We must have a minimum wage between $20-23/hour. We must also work with small businesses to help them properly transition to a higher minimum wage. Everything has gone up in the last several years except for wages. It is not right that people are struggling and have to work more than one job in order to provide for themselves and/or for their families.

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 believe that the burden of this funding initiative should be on medium and large corporations. This is an excellent outlet for people in our community and it is necessary.

Should the city build an emergency homeless shelter?

Absolutely! We can redevelop a vacant building (or several) to create a city-funded shelter. We can also partner with Comitis, Bridge House and Aurora Warms the Night to be able to eradicate homelessness in Aurora. It can be done; we just need leadership that cares about humanity enough to solve this and other humanitarian issues we are facing in our city. We must also be proactive to create transitional programs within these emergency shelters so that we have sustainable, permanent solutions.

Further, in order to take steps to resolve the issue of homelessness, we can create initiatives such as tiny homes, community land trusts, co-op housing, shared housing, redevelopment of vacant buildings, city owned homes for low rental to qualifying tenants, city-owned low cost or income based RV/trailer parking lots, requiring all vacant apartments to be rented, rent caps, requiring all homeowners/landlords to accept section 8 vouchers, etc.

Meet Thomas Mayes

Thomas Mayes

Colorado native Thomas Mayes is vying for a seat on the Aurora City Council as an at-large member. The now-retired Vietnam veteran grew up in Denver. He’s been married for 40 years and has four adult children. Mayes has degrees in biblical studies, business administration and urban ministries. He serves on the Victims Witness Advisory board and the Incident Review board for the Aurora Police Department. In 1990, Mayes created the non-profit, E.S.C.A.P.E. – Everyone Sharing Child Abuse Prevention Education.

Mayes: Personality Questions

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

Read the minds of people.

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

The Wizard of Oz

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Teacher

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

Comedian

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

Don’t give up

What time do you go to bed?

11pm

What was the last book you read?

"Leadershift" by John Maxwell

Which restaurant do you eat at most?

East Cafe

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Holiday dinners

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

Success

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

Somewhere over the Rainbow

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

I don't watch reality shows

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

Time machine

 

Mayes: Policy Questions

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

Universal background check & mandatory safety training similar to the course for hunters license

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 feel there should be a balance of good traits and challenges our city faces.

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.

No, but they should limit the incentives and use a % of the funds available toward a partnership with non-profits to develop programs to train/develop Aurorans to benefit from business/economic development.

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?

Absolutely

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?

APD currently has an incident review board. But it only reviews discipline issued as a result of decisions already made as far as conduct. APD needs an oversight committee to provide transparency, accountability and consequence. Accountability without consequence is not accountability at all.

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 have an awesome police force and the only way we can retain it is that we comparable wages and benefits to those surrounding municipalities as well as municipalities across the country.

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?

Aurora controls its own future safety with the growth and influx of oil and gas. That being said, the city must be the voice of those who elected them even when they don’t agree with them. We must make the safety and welfare of the people of Aurora a priority over profit.

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

Yes

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

Create incentives for consumers using alternative energy and partnering with sources providing alternative energy and alternative energy research.

Should Aurora raise the minimum wage? How high?

Yes, $15 per hour with a progression scale for qualifying small businesses.

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?

Should the city build an emergency homeless shelter?

I feel they should identify existing building available to renovate into a strictly monitored temporary emergency shelter.

Meet Johnny Watson

Johnny Watson
A former member of the city’s planning commission, Johnny Watson was appointed to Mayor Bob LeGare’s at-large seat last year when LeGare was tapped to fill in for mayor after the death of former Mayor Steve Hogan. Watson, who lives in the southeastern portion of the city, also served on his metro board. He joined the Army during the Vietnam War and served for a decade before becoming a salesman with Kodak.

Watson: Personality Questions

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

The USA

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

It’s a Wonderful Life

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Astronaut

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

Electronic Technician with Laser Certification

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

Why Me

What time do you go to bed?

11:00 to 1:00 P.M.

What was the last book you read?

Bible

Which restaurant do you eat at most?

I eat at home mostly

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Christmas

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

Miss B

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

“What’s Your Name”

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

I never watch any if you like comedy the Jeffersons

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

A Free Clean Energy Source – Following Nicholas Tesla

Watson: Policy Questions

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

The City follows Federal Guidelines

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?

Worth Discovering is a program designed to promote the “Aurora Places” that most citizens and others are not failure with. 2: Campaigns should highlight the good in the City and share ideas that Candidates have to alleviate the problems that Aurora is Associated with.

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.

The program is working to bring companies with higher paying and add tax revenue to the City. Yes the most important thing is job creation. We are offering incentives worldwide to attract companies that will benefit the future of Aurora with job training for youth and unemployed populations.

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?

There is already an ordinance on the books that pretty covers the same thing.

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?

There is already an Independent Review Board in place for the City of Aurora. The IRB panel consists of four (4) civilian members, two peers, one (1) lieutenant and one (1) Captain/Commander.

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?

The City of Aurora is currently reviewing the pay and benefits package for police and fire for next years contract negotiations. We are working on this issue now.

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?

Aurora is one of the few cities that has worked with both the citizens and the oil gas industry to create an Operators Agreement that has set guidelines for drilling operations to protect the best interest of Aurora Citizens. Our Agreement is one of the most stringent agreements in the Nation that provides for updates to the “New Best Management Practices”.

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

Yes, we are currently implementing new bike lanes and structures for bike parking.

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

Are should have a Citizens Information Campaign about the citizens can help combat Climate Change using energy saving appliances, ride sharing to lessen carbon emission and pollutants into the environment. The City is currently building apartment complexes/communities close to train stations/rapid transit which intern promotes less use of vehicles that emit pollutants.

Should Aurora raise the minimum wage? How high?

Aurora is a city of small businesses we first have to determine a way to not put the Mom and Pop businesses out business.

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?

This a citizen and business tax increase on the people who could can less afford it.

Should the city build an emergency homeless shelter?

The already has emergency housing and services for the homeless. Visit at City Municipal building Neighborhood Services Department.

Meet Leanne Wheeler

Leanne Wheeler
Leeane Wheeler is an Air Force veteran. While in the military she was a Cryptographic Equipment Maintenance Specialist. She was honorably discharged in 1992 and went on to work in the private sector. She worked at Raytheon until 2010 and then launched her own small business. She is the principal of her own company, Wheeler Advisory Group LLC. Wheeler has served on a bevy of city and regional boards. She is a certified Six Sigma Black Belt.

Wheeler: Personality Questions

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

Mind reading.

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

Toss up between ANYTHING Avengers and Pulp Fiction.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Chemical Engineer or a Flight Attendant.

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

I can develop BW film. It’s been awhile, but I’ve done some great stuff.

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

My Father’s Daughter

What time do you go to bed?

Eventually or depends.

What was the last book you read?

“The 5th Risk” by Michael Lewis; finishing “Becoming” by Michelle Obama.

Which restaurant do you eat at most?

I spread the wealth, and prefer ANYTHING over franchise restaurants.

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Listening to old records.

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

The Lee-Lee McGee.

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

Rock the Bells by LL Cool J.

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

I don’t watch Reality TV.

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

Mag-Rail...it’s been invented, we just need to implement it.

 

Wheeler: Policy Questions

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

Local businesses could certainly declare their environment be gun-free. We are seeing a push along this line on the national level, which can certainly be implemented locally. The City of Aurora also underleverages business license requirements, which could work in tandem with national initiatives, if we chose to get out in front.

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 vision for Aurora isn’t bold enough, and we don’t currently have a Council that is capable of being bold. With three multi-billion dollar industries in our City, the notion that a Nordstrom and a “nice sit-down restaurant” are key to an Aurora worth discovering, leaves me gob smacked. The diversity in this community is underleveraged. True partnership with industry is underleveraged — and further, I’m not certain we know HOW to leverage it. We’ve only to look at cities like Fort Collins, Boulder and Colorado Springs for clues. How do we partner to create living wage opportunities in Aurora? When more than half of your City is working more than one job, and still earning less than a LIVING wage, then the issue is the governing body.

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.

YES! Aurora is the new frontier. Growth will happen here whether or not we offer TIFs. And as we continue to give away the farm, we have failed to provide for road maintenance, robust and plentiful open spaces, aesthetically pleasing thoroughfares, and the like. It feels like a race to see who can give more of our revenue, without a true understanding of the actual ROI. There is a hypothesis, but we’ve no evaluation built in to determine if we’re on track to benefit. In the case of Gaylord, everyone on Council who made the decision will in all likelihood be dead by the time the 30-year TIF concludes. There’s one exception, Ryan Frazier, who was a Council Member At Large, and in his 20s, when he cast his YES vote.

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?

Yes. A lack of transparency does not serve the residents or businesses of Aurora, any more than our local government waiving OUR right to reconsider negotiated contracts serves the residents or businesses of Aurora. When you have sitting Council Members enriching themselves by knowing what proposals are in the pipeline, then acting on it without recusal or apology, we’d be well within our right to call it corruption.

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?

Every city should have an independent police review panel, as the police function serves at the pleasure of a city’s residence, not its government. The majority of the difficulties we see can be directly charged to having this relationship reversed. Community stakeholders, with autonomy and authority, in addition those with autonomy and authority to implement change within the Department should serve on the panel.

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?

Our First Responders are underpaid, as are our in classroom teachers. Although we don’t have the authority to affect the latter, we can certainly address the former. We behave as though we don’t know HOW to pay First Responders more. As we endeavor to grow, and build more rooftops, shopping centers and other venues, we must take into account how we ensure the health and safety of our City, in scale. This is where the City can take a page from the industry I hail from: Defense; and although you may not suspect it, the Customer Service model Nordstrom uses. Without writing a dissertation, we could greatly benefit by understanding the hiring practices of the Defense industry and the retention strategy of Nordstrom.

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?

The City of Aurora should invoke Aurora Municipal Code 3-9 as the default, versus voting about whether to act within its purview. We are a Home Rule City, and as such get to call ALL of the shots. We have a structure in place for creating Boards and Commissions, and we should follow it. Where it may be flawed, change it. NGO is an entire value stream within a City that is also an entire value stream.

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

Eventually, yes. Let’s figure out how to recover the $20M annual deficit in the General Fund geared toward road maintenance first. The last thing we need are bike lanes running alongside potholes that could swallow a Mini-Cooper.

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

Learn and lead.

Should Aurora raise the minimum wage? How high?

The Minimum Wage should be a LIVING WAGE. This, in fact, was the very intention of Minimum Wage legislation. Somewhere along the way, we lost our way. Here, in Colorado, we have the benefit of a robust report, put forth by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy. The Self-Sufficiency Standard holds critical data for ALL of our decision-making, should we dare to read and understand it. Depending on the cost of housing, and other factors, in any given zip code or county, the living wage will vary. However, what’s clear is the simple premise that one cover his or her expenses without the need for government assistance of any kind.

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?

We lose money to Denver for most things, and the Arts are no exception. We can’t even graduate our own students in the city they went to school in, which is not only reprehensible, but is a lost revenue opportunity, year after year. Families travel for a child’s graduation. They eat out. They shop. They stay in hotels. Right now, Denver benefits from this simple right of passage. A fresh, bold vision for Aurora MUST include the Arts, and it starts with prioritizing this critical area of town, and create an Aurora worth discovering AGAIN.

Should the city build an emergency homeless shelter?

Yes...AND. We must build attainable housing for ALL who reside here, to include those currently without homes, as well. Our thinking simply is NOT bold enough. Yes, we need a year-round housing option for our unhoused neighbors. The question I’d ask is, what does the City have by way of shuttered properties that could simply be repurposed? Colorado Coalition for the Homeless has subject matter expertise along this line. Tap them. Second Chance Center has partnered with a house of faith to build a 50-unit supportive housing development, in the heart of Aurora. They have subject matter expertise along that line. Tap them. And there are any number of shelter/housing solutions in the 7-county metro. Let's tap them.