AURORA VOTE 2021: Ward II – In northeast Aurora, safety, environment rise to top issues

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The Ward II seat on the Aurora City Council has been vacant since June when former member Nicole Johnston resigned to move to Colorado Springs. The remainder of council members were unable to fill the position, ultimately violating the city charter. The Ward II seat encompasses northeast Aurora where housing development is booming. The ward is also home to most of the city’s oil and gas development, Buckley Space Force Base and many of the city’s big economic investments, such as Gaylord of the Rockies convention center.

After months without a representative, Ward II residents will finally get to place a new lawmaker on the dais of the Aurora City Council.

Over the course of several meetings this summer, 10 members of the council voted more than 150 times to replace Ward II council member Nicole Johnston, who resigned her seat in June. Without any resolution, the city council was in violation of the city charter and down a lawmaker who had the potential to avoid a tied vote on controversial measures.

Lawmakers couldn’t overcome an impasse between Steve Sundberg, the local manager of a bar and grill, and Ryan Ross, a community college administrator backed by Johnston. Sundberg was supported by the conservative faction of council, while Ross garnered the liberal vote. 

Overall, there were six candidates for the appointment. Three of them opted to run for the seat this November. Jessica Giammalvo, Robert Hamilton and Sundberg all find themselves vying for the Ward II seat after unsuccessful city interviews and community meet and greets this summer. 

Hamilton is a consultant and Giammalvo is a software engineer who came to Aurora to serve at Buckley Air Force Base. Bryan Lindstrom also joins the slate of candidates. He’s an Aurora Public Schools civics teacher who has served on the Aurora Education Association board.

Issues that affect the northeastern Aurora ward include oil and gas, which due to state law is now almost entirely regulated by local government, growing suburban neighborhoods and rising housing costs, and rising crime, which has become a city-wide issue. 

Like other races and candidates, Ward II candidates have spoken frequently and candidly about a police force fraught with criticism over its pattern of abusing people of color, facing new reform measures and losing a higher-than-normal number of officers over the last year.

Sundberg said he believes that crime rates should be the city’s top public safety issue.

“I believe it will start by demonstrating value and appreciation to our police. Police departments have been devalued, demonized, and defunded around the nation,” he said in a candidate survey for the Sentinel. “Currently, officers within our agency are highly reluctant to make certain traffic stops, or intervene in some matters for fear of being sued as a result of Senate Bill 217.”

Sundberg is in favor of beefing up police funding and staffing while potentially even lobbying the state to rework SB217, he said. 

Hamilton offers a multi-faceted approach to policing in Aurora moving forward. He pitched increasing police funding, encouraging private businesses to hire private security, and reprioritize important calls APD officers take.

“I firmly believe that all government functions should be voluntarily funded. Pay for what you want, support what you believe in, or pay for the level of service you receive,” he said.

Lindstrom, on the other hand, is in favor of “proactive solutions” such as housing, education and mental health services to prevent crime altogether.

“We fund this by reallocating resources that already exist because it saves us money and is better at actually preventing crime,” he said in a candidate survey. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Giammalvo didn’t return requests for a survey, calls or attend the September candidate forum with other Ward II candidates.

On oil and gas, Lindstrom said he’d rate the city’s regulation a “B” while Hamilton said during a candidate forum he’d be interested in seeing what areas oil and gas is “over regulated.” Sundberg said he’s content with the current regulation model and would not impose any further regulations.

A new city council could mean a different result on Mayor Mike Coffman’s urban camping ban proposal, which would encourage sweeps of homeless camps across the city when enough shelter beds are available. 

Lindstrom says the proposal “criminalizes homelessness” and would not vote in favor of the ban, which Coffman has vowed to bring back to council after the beginning of the year. The measure died on a tied vote earlier this year and could not, by charter, be reintroduced for six months.

As written, Hamilton said in its current form, he would also not support the legislation. He advocates for more assistance from non-profit organizations and people who wish to help.

Sundberg said he would support a camping ban and go a step further and support an ordinance banning panhandling in the city.

Meet Jessica Giammalvo

Jessica Giammalvo. Candiate for Ward II Aurora City Council. Photo via Facebook

Now a systems software engineer in the private sector, Jessica Giammalvo arrived in Aurora to serve at then-Buckley Air Force Base. She decided against re-enlisting in 2016 to ensure that Aurora would remain her home. Giammalvo has a physics degree from Stonehill College and graduated last year from Colorado Technical University with a master’s degree. Giammalvo also applied to serve as the Ward II appointee earlier this year.

Jessica Giammalvo Q&A

Jessica Giammalvo did not submit a Q&A.

More about Jessica Giammalvo

Jessica Giammalvo did not submit a Q&A.

 

Meet Robert Hamilton

Robert Hamilton. Ward II City Council Candidate. Photo provided by Robert Hamilton

A native of rural Ohio, Robert Hamilton made Aurora his home 15 years ago. He graduated from Bowling Green University in 2003 and then completed a MBA at the University of Colorado in 2015. Hamilton has worked as a consultant and has more than two decades of experience in financial, operational and information technology. Hamilton was an appointment candidate for Ward II earlier this year.

Robert Hamilton Q&A

Ward II sees the most oil development in the city. How would you rate the city’s current approach to regulation under new state law? Would you like to see more or fewer regulations on oil and gas development? The Oil & Gas Manual (Aurora City Code Chapter 135) is 137 pages of code and direction. If we cannot appropriately address related risks under the current approach, then I must question what we are really trying to accomplish. Aurora has put forth a huge effort to regulate oil development.

As a general principle, I am for fewer regulations as they interfere with efficiency and create additional costs; however, I wholly recognize their intent in protecting our residents and I look forward to hearing more from my constituents on their thoughts (and feelings) on the topic. I have spoken with 1000s of Ward 2 residents and, frankly, additional  regulation or changes to the city’s current approach has not been a hot topic.

Do you support increasing impact fees — which defray the cost of public safety resources, roads and parks for the city’s newest residents — on home developers?

It makes sense that if costs go up, they get passed along to the consumer. In this case, the consumer would be the homebuyer. However, inherently, if you are supporting the increase of impact fees… you are also accepting the increasing prices of new homes and, to a lesser extent, the increasing prices in the overall housing market. ‘Affordable’ housing is already a hot topic in the city.

I see ‘impact fees’ as part of the build / development of a home or subdivision. I do not think these costs should be a burden to taxpayers already living in the area. If you are buying a new home, I believe it is reasonable to incur all related costs. If you increase impact fees on home developers, it should be passed along to the eventual homebuyer. The important question to me is… why are ‘impact fees’ increasing? What are we doing to address the drivers of the fee increase? This should be the focus of our attention.

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? 

Policies: I support all assistance to the homeless community which is privately funded. While the City, through the Mayor and City Council, should have a stance on the topic… with these individuals serving to drive thought leadership… the direction should be to source funding through the community voluntarily rather than earmark taxpayer dollars or increase taxes. I believe more people should help; I do not believe anyone should be forced to help. Volunteering your time or money creates a sense of responsibility that I believe takes us from viewing it as a city-issue to a people-issue.

Too often, I believe people focus on what they deem as an eyesore rather than the fact that we are talking about people… people that are part of our community. Our homeless people should be treated like all other residents. They should have the same personal liberties as all other residents.

Mayor Coffman’s Camping Ban: As written, presented, amended, and discussed… I do not support the ban. I have been fortunate to listen to Mayor Coffman speak on the topic since City Council rejected the proposal and I hope the feedback he has received during those events is taken into consideration as he prepares to present the proposal again.

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

No. It’s an arbitrary wage floor that less than (approximately) 2% of residents make – the average Aurora resident makes $19.25 per hour (approximately $7 more per hour than the minimum wage). It’s not tied to the concepts of a living wage nor the cost of living; however, many want to use the minimum wage argument as a reaction to increasing living costs… rather than address the drivers of cost increases. This is compounded by the fact that this arbitrary wage floor artificially increases the true price of goods and services.

We – the people of Aurora - should work on changing the way we view minimum wage. I believe our efforts should be focused on reducing the cost of living rather than forcing local businesses to pay a certain, arbitrary, wage.

Do you support Aurora forming its own county? Why? 

No. I would oppose this simply because any reorganization is expensive and rarely recognizes the efficiencies it sets out to achieve. There are a ton of one-time costs, budgeting concerns, organizational costs (changing names, logos, buildings, re-training, new policies, and communications / marketing the changes to the public) and merger costs (merging departments that have different goals, strategies, procedures, etc).

What is the city’s most pressing transportation need? 

Improved roads. City government drives up the costs of our roads by two-fold. Further, government spending (or budgeting) on roads is relatively flat year over year over year. We are $20 million behind on maintenance… $43 million or so on possible reconstruction. Aurora has an opportunity to cut the cost to residents by moving more road maintenance responsibility to private companies, removing city government as a middle person, and put more control in the hands of residents to maintain residential roads. Maintenance per mile, if handled privately, can be as low as $3,400. With government intervention, it is approximately $7,500 per mile.

Improved public transportation – RTD. Our busing and rail system closely resemble the state of our roads. Fixing the roads inherently improve busing routes. I look forward to being able to work to increase busing routes… as well as expanding our rail system.

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

I believe the city should be run more like a business. Aurora is a poorly run, poorly managed business. If the city is going to market itself, the strategy should be tied to metrics that can easily be tied to results. An example would be if we are going to target economic development in the city to help keep more Aurora residents here (for work) versus working in Denver… the strategy should include metrics that the public can easily discern and use when selecting its leaders: jobs created, jobs retained, commute time changes, and quality of life changes.

Should Aurora limit or ban giving financial incentives to businesses 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. 

This is a multi-faceted topic. (1) Financial incentives to businesses do drive economic development, growth, and brings jobs to the city. It also helps them survive the first few tumultuous years of a startup or relocation. (2) It is corporate welfare and those that oppose it often are proponents of personal welfare. This seems hypocritical to me – it’s the same thing. (3) The city providing financial incentives to a business is, in essence, a redistribution of taxpayer dollars. Rather than a redistribution exercise, just reduce the taxes / fees the business would incur to establish itself in Aurora. (4) If the city was truly a great place to work and/or relocate a business to… it wouldn’t need to provide additional incentives. (5) I believe Aurora is a great place to work and own a business regardless of incentives.

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? 

City Council is woven into the fabric of change that we have seen across Aurora over the last few years. The ten members of Council not only represent this city, but its problems. City Council has great power, some Ward 2 constituents feel too much power, thus great responsibility.

I see our current crime issue as a simple problem with a complex answer. The city, as a collective of people, has made decisions that reduced police presence… it’s plain, it’s simple. This is a primary contributor to the spike in crime. If the city, again as a collective of people, wants to address the crime rate, here is a complex answer:

Increase police funding – basically undo the decisions previously made with the understanding that it’s going to be more expensive (to taxpayers) than if the decisions weren’t made in the first place. Keep in mind that police funding comes from multiple places, not just the residents of Aurora.

Become accepting of private police options – if you can afford it, hire your own police options. Private police can operate under the same code and strictures as the current public option… and as a for-profit enterprise, its incentivized to do a better job than public-funded options.

Rethink how Aurora polices – let’s have honest conversations about what crimes need to be addressed and which are less important. This is, effectively, what has happened in our city now: staffing limitations have an impact on which crimes are pursued and which laws are enforced.

I don’t think you can disentangle the crime problem with the police problem.

I firmly believe that all government functions should be voluntarily funded. Pay for what you want, support what you believe in, or pay for the level of service you receive. An example – if APD wants to procure a new vehicle, it should raise the funds from those in Aurora who want to contribute.

While there will be readers, constituents, who think voluntarily funding a police force is a horrible idea, or couldn’t work, it’s already happening to some extent. Over the last two years, private foundations have risen to help supplement training and equipment for

Aurora police officers. The residents who contribute to these foundations are, in many ways, supporting all residents of Aurora and, theoretically, all residents benefit from this.

One last thing I want to remind residents – police officers are people, these are our neighbors and, for many, our friends. While there have been way too many high-profile incidents (addressed in the next question), we must keep in mind that we are talking about people. People who choose to do an increasingly thankless job, with decreasing public resources and tools, and a decreasing public opinion. It’s not an easy position to be in and

I ask that you think about how you would be able to perform your job if you were in a similar organizational scenario. Additionally, there may be no better example of the city’s mental health crisis than looking at the Aurora Police Department.

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? 

Any organization or agency operating on behalf of or directly interacting with the residents of Aurora should be required to undergo an annual external audit… at a minimum… led by City residents or a judicial-type committee directly elected by the residents. City Council could be pivotal in organizing such an effort. To be clear - this isn’t just a comment about the Aurora Police Department, this is a comment towards all organizations and agencies of the City of Aurora. APD has an Internal Affairs Bureau and, while it endures its own scrutiny, is more than what most other organizations or agencies of Aurora have.

Further, this isn’t just an Aurora issue. Police Departments across the country are going through similar issues, similar examination. There are lessons to be learned and Aurora isn’t on its own in finding solutions.

More about Robert Hamilton

What was the last book you read? 

Human Action, Ludwig von Mises

What has been your pandemic guilty pleasure? 

Running for Aurora City Council

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

I am presuming this is a survival situation: (1) a tarp; (2) iodine tablets or similar; and (3) a knife.

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

Humanity (reinvented)

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

Read and/or catch up on podcasts depending on how long the ‘staycation’ is. Admittedly, almost all of my meals are made at home... so I would take the opportunity to try a few new, local restaurants.

 

Meet Bryan Lindstrom

Bryan Lindstrom. Ward II City Council Candidate. Photo provided by Bryan Lindstrom

Bryan Lindstrom has always called Aurora home. He grew up here, attended Aurora Public Schools and today is a civics teacher at Hinkley High School. Lindstrom has served as a board member on the Aurora Education Association, which he said solidified his desire to serve the community. Before becoming a teacher, Lindstrom attended the University of Northern Colorado. He unsuccessfully ran for a different city council seat in Ward 6, where he previously lived.

Bryan Lindstrom Q&A

Ward II sees the most oil development in the city. How would you rate the city’s current approach to regulation under new state law? Would you like to see more or fewer regulations on oil and gas development?

As a teacher, I give it a ‘B-.’ Prior to 2019 we had a long history of approving oil and gasdevelopment with little question, including over 300 new wells right before the 2019 election. Iwould like to see more regulations on our current wells to increase the air and water quality standards, as well as worker safety standards with increased oversight to ensure it happens. I would also like to increase the requirements for all new agreements to have the strictest of standards and award contracts to developers who have the best record on air and water quality and worker safety and to those companies who are interested in transitioning to renewable energy development. I also would like to make sure that wells go nowhere near our schools, parks, housing, and water sources. We have taken solid steps in the last year or so to increase oversight and regulations but we need to continue this direction toward a greener economy.

Do you support increasing impact fees — which defray the cost of public safety resources, roads and parks for the city’s newest residents — on home developers?

I do support impact fees. As a teacher I know that we need to incentivize the behavior we want to see (e.g. investments in infrastructure, public safety, affordable housing) and decentivize behaviors we don’t want to see (e.g. pollution, skyrocketing housing prices, driving out our local businesses).

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?

A camping ban is not banning camping, it is criminalizing homelessness and violates our right to survive, and I do not support it. Our homeless population is made up of veterans, families, unaccompanied youth, and a disturbing amount of people fleeing domestic violence; they need our help and a ban does nothing to help them, it actively hurts them. These are people who have been harmed by bad government policies and they need our support. Criminalizing homelessness has been proven time and time again to not end homelessness. It wastes taxpayers’ dollars while pushing unhoused people throughout the city. And because it doesn’t end homelessness, that’s an expense taxpayers pay over and over again. It costs us roughly $40k per unhoused neighbor to continue the status quo and sweeps and court costs add tens of thousands to that total. It would only cost us about $20k per unhoused neighbor to provide them with housing and wraparound services and other housing first policies. This would give us long-term, more permanent solutions while saving us money. I would also expand upon public showers and public restrooms and city cleaning efforts to address sanitation and public health issues in the short-term.

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

Yes. About 15% of my students deal with unstable housing and that’s because wages haven’t kept up with cost of living. Working at minimum wage, each week you would have to work 72 hours to afford a modest one bedroom rental at fair market rent (National Low-Income Housing Coalition). As a teacher, I see the negative impact on our whole community when people have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet and when my students have to work late hours to support their families. According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, Denver increasing its minimum wage increased the average weekly earnings by more than $200 and increasing city sales tax revenue without increasing unemployment rates compared to the rest of Colorado. It is good economics. We need to increase the minimum wage to a thriving wage and attach it to inflation so we don’t have to have this conversation every single year. One job should be enough.

Do you support Aurora forming its own county? Why?

I recognize that this is something that is 5-10 years out, at least. Aurora is the 3rd biggest city on the path to being the largest city in our state but we are spread across three counties and it creates inefficiencies. Vertical alignments would reduce redundancies. We need to set the goal and timeline of this, have consistent measurements toward that goal, and work with the state to ensure this process makes sense and can make it to fruition. My goal is to make sure Aurora works for the people. That includes being efficient with our tax dollars. We are being subjected to three different county redundancies. While it’s far off and I’d want to make sure it makes sense- I think consolidating makes sense.

What is the city’s most pressing transportation need?

We lack walkable and accessible neighborhoods. We do not have a long-term sustainable development plan that is focused on people. We have allowed development to go unchecked without centering people and our environment and it has led to suburban sprawl with unwalkable neighborhoods, food deserts, as well as ignoring our pedestrian needs. We need our future development to be planned around people with parks, accessible sidewalks, mixed-use development, neighborhood schools, and public transit, including first and last mile transportation.

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

Being here in Aurora, it is difficult to know how this city’s marketing is being perceived throughout the country but I find it difficult to see any amount of marketing being able to counter our national news coverage around Elijah McClain and the Aurora Police Department. I’m a teacher, not a marketing executive, but I think becoming a model for police reform and accountability would bring a lot of positive earned media for our city.

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 do not like incentivizing outside companies to come in because experience shows us that our everyday Aurora resident doesn’t benefit and, in fact, is then paying a higher portion of the tax burden. However, if we are going to use incentives, let’s start with our locally owned businesses. Then, let’s look at businesses that are paying a thriving wage, businesses working in green energy development, unionized businesses, worker-cooperatives, and other worker- and community-centered businesses, not ones who seek to extract from our city, exploit our workforce, and drive out our local businesses. Also, if we’re going to be using tax incentives we should require a certain percentage of the workforce be Aurora residents and require that they pay at or above a thriving wage.

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 want to invest in proactive solutions (e.g. housing, education, mental health) instead of reactive institutions. We fund this by reallocating resources that already exist because it saves us money and is better at actually preventing crime. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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?

Absolutely. As a teacher I teach my students that we should refer to research, data, and expert testimony to come to evidenced-based conclusions. The Attorney General’s report was conducted professionally and thoroughly and lays out a multitude of changes including increased independent oversight, increase of authority for the Police Chief regarding hiring and firing, increased and updated training, and ensuring officers are in compliance with US Constitution and Colorado law regarding stops and use of force. If elected, I will be a firm supporter of police accountability and hope our city and police force enter into the consent decree with the Attorney General’s office

More about Bryan Lindstrom

What was the last book you read? 

“Family” by J. California Cooper is a book I read twice a year for my African American History class. It hits me hard every time.

What has been your pandemic guilty pleasure? 

My guilty pleasure is watching ‘Big Brother’

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

Multi-tool pocket knife, inflatable raft with oars, fishing net

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

Teleportation

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

 A vacation for me is always about the food so it would be a food tour that visits our locally owned restaurants

 

Meet Steve Sundberg

Steve Sundberg. Ward II City Council Candidate. Photo provided by Steve Sundberg

Steve Sundberg is a longtime Aurora resident and manager of Legends Bar and Grill. He holds degrees from Colorado State University and the University of Phoenix and currently serves as a member for the Aurora Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and is the chair of Leadership Aurora. He’s served in numerous other volunteer capacities in the 25 years he’s called Aurora home. Sundberg earlier this year sought an appointment to the Ward II seat after former member Nicole Johnston resigned.

Steve Sundberg Q&A

Ward II sees the most oil development in the city. How would you rate the city’s current approach to regulation under new state law? Would you like to see more or fewer regulations on oil and gas development? 

The work to ensure the safe extraction of oil and gas in Ward 2 has largely been accomplished with the creation of a robust set of rules within The Oil & Gas Manual, by the City of Aurora’s Oil & Gas Commission. The operator agreements created by the City, go beyond the State of Colorado’s regulations, which are some of the strictest in the nation, further protecting surface water and groundwater, air quality, odor, noise, visual mitigation, road maintenance, etc. I do not yet see the need to further expand upon the City of Aurora Oil & Gas Manual.

Do you support increasing impact fees — which defray the cost of public safety resources, roads and parks for the city’s newest residents — on home developers? 

From my understanding, the Impact Fee of $5,000 is a recently added fee to the cost of a new build and was mandated about three years ago. This is in addition to the high cost of a Water Tap Fee. As we rely upon builders to help with the supply of new homes and innovative, new neighborhoods in Aurora, we need to be careful not to create fees that are too burdensome to builders. These costs are ultimately passed on to the new homeowner.

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? 

Those who are homeless in our community can be unhoused because of economic challenges, mental health issues or severe addiction. A local expert on homelessness in Aurora, who also provides a myriad of services, estimates at least 75% of Aurora’s homeless population experience severe addiction. On a case-by-case basis, I hope people can achieve rehabilitation, if they are willing. Cities such as Seattle, have shown that just throwing money at the problem, coupled with laxed regulations, can worsen things. The homeless, especially with heavy addiction, will gravitate to cities with the most permissive policies. Allowing people to camp wherever they want leads to public health issues and increased crime. I would support a camping ban, in addition to a public campaign against panhandling. 

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

 Government mandated minimum wage increases can result in negative, unintended consequences. The current struggle for businesses to find employees is driving up wages. A local McDonald’s, for example, is advertising for help at $18/hr. I would not support an Aurora mandated minimum wage increase. Too high of a mandated minimum would cost service jobs and force full-service restaurants, for example, to change their concept away from full-service, to quick casual, or drastically increase pricing.

Do you support Aurora forming its own county? Why? 

This is a subject I honestly would need to study further and form a firm opinion, after hearing the pros and cons. It would likely be too costly to develop new administrative departments and bureaucracies. 

What is the city’s most pressing transportation need? 

The poor condition of neighborhood roads, as the City faces a $20 million/ year, accruing short fall for neighborhood road maintenance. 

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

This is important, as it brings tourism, benefits the local economy, and generates tax revenue. Entities, such as Visit Aurora and The Aurora Chamber are doing a fine job at this.

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. Doing so would not only limit our ability to attract quality employers who are always seeking the most competitive environment to do business in, but change our reputation as an innovative city that wants to compete. Offering incentives should be a critical part of any city’s strategy to have a hospitable environment. One of the most important responsibilities we have as a council is to help provide jobs for our citizens and allow them to work where they live. Any policy against this would be detrimental to Aurora continuing to prosper. 

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? 

This aspect of public safety should be top priority. I believe it will start by demonstrating value and appreciation to our police. Police departments have been devalued, demonized, and defunded around the nation. Currently, officers within our agency are highly reluctant to make certain traffic stops, or intervene in some matters for fear of being sued as a result of Senate Bill 217. We have lost 100 officers since January 1st, so the department is understaffed and not responding to all types of calls. With less of a police presence, people are emboldened to push the law and commit more crime, driving faster, etc. We will need to reverse the attrition rate and bring in more qualified candidates. Perhaps hiring and retention bonuses, especially for valued veteran officers to stay longer, instead of choosing early retirement. 

We may need to lobby the state legislature to revisit the workings and unintended consequences of Senate Bill 217, which stripped officers of qualified immunity. 

Its going to come down to a well-trained, well-funded and well-staffed police agency, which continuously builds trust in the community, making their presence known in neighborhoods and in public areas. The Critical Response Team, responding to situations requiring a mental health clinician, or non-emergency staff helping in appropriate situations, can allow officers to concentrate on police work. 

With the city collecting $40 million more than projected in this fiscal year and $64 million provided by the federal government, funding for additional programs should not be difficult.

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? 

The goal should be accountability and greater oversight. I would support an independent auditor providing oversight of internal policies, use of force and practices. This could be a solid step forward in the police department’s ongoing effort to build trust in the community. 

More about Steve Sundberg

What was the last book you read? 

Alexander Hamilton by Don Chernow

What has been your pandemic guilty pleasure? 

I worked during the Pandemic, but I did watch a bit more Netflix 

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

A dog, plenty of good books and enough wine to build a cellar. 

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

Hydrogen fuel cell automobiles.

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

Staying at an Airbnb or the Gaylord, I’d likely fish at the Aurora Reservoir, take some golf trips, and enjoy some local brew pubs and eateries. 

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DICK MOORE
DICK MOORE
1 month ago

Understand that Lindstrom is not a Democrat. He’s really a socialist. Don’t suppose Ward II wants to be represented by a socialist, again.

FeelingsAreNotFacts
FeelingsAreNotFacts
1 month ago

Fact. DSA = Democratic Socialists of America

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