Arapahoe County Commission: District 3

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Arapahoe County District 3 

Republican Jeff Baker and Democrat Idris Keith will face off at the ballot box this November to represent the far eastern portion of Arapahoe County on the local board of commissioners. 

Baker, the incumbent, has made his nearly two decades of experience working in county government a primary tenet of his campaign. Beginning in 1998, he worked for five years in the department’s human services division followed by 13 years as manager of facility and property operations. 

“I know the people, processes and programs and use that insider knowledge to help my constituents navigate the county bureaucracy,” Baker wrote in response to a questionnaire issued by The Sentinel. 

Prior to working with the county, Baker had a lengthy military career and worked as a CSI investigator for the Aurora Police Department’s crime lab, including during the Chuck-E-Cheese murders in the winter of 1993. 

Keith is a political greenhorn who has spent his career primarily working as a business attorney representing and settling disputes among government contractors. He said his business and legal acumen make him uniquely suited to steer the county during what is expected to be a continued stretch of growth, especially to the east. 

“Due to my experiences working with, and for, the business community, I can apply my training and ensure that we make Arapahoe County a hub of commerce, trade and industry,” he wrote in a candidate questionnaire. “It is important to note that the county commission is the last line of defense that the taxpayer has from misguided spending which could drain our treasure and resources. I fundamentally believe in responsible spending and this belief derives from years of working with businesses who have been disproportionately impacted by higher taxes.”

The district the candidates are vying to represent runs from Centennial, Aurora and Foxfield all the way to Deer Trail and Bennett on the far eastern stretches of the county. The county is expected to surpass 700,000 residents by 2025, according to U.S. Census estimates. 

Both candidates acknowledged the anticipated growth and said they would place an emphasis on in fracture improvements to steel for a continued influx of new residents. 

“I would support a transitioned growth which requires repairs and expansion of roads and bridges to outpace the growth of development,” Keith wrote. 

Baker also underscored the importance of water access in newly developed areas. 

“The number one priority must be the developer’s ability to provide water to the area,” he wrote. 

The two candidates also agreed that the county should not pursue another ballot question asking voters to underwrite a new county jail via property taxes, a notion local residents roundly rejected at the polls last year. 

“Instead of focusing on job-killing property taxes, the commission should have focused on getting criminal defendants to trial quicker and this means ensuring that there are adequate numbers of judges, prosecutors and public defenders to proceed to trial and afford defendants the due process in which they are entitled,” Keith wrote. “Such an emphasis would have been more cost-effective than attempting to push a $464 million property tax hike on taxpayers who are already facing financial hardship as prices, personal expenses and consumer debt continue to increase.”

Baker suggested the commission will not have the resources to expand judicial personnel, but will instead may have to cut services in an effort to keep the 34-year-old jail running. 

The two candidates have netted similar monetary donations to their campaigns, with Baker reporting $8,400 raised and Keith $6,200. The former has spent about $5,400 of his funds, and the latter has incurred about $3,700 in expenses. 

County commissioners in Arapahoe County receive an annual salary north of $100,000, according to county budget documents. 

Meet Republican Jeff Baker

Jeff Baker

Republican Jeff Baker is seeking his second consecutive term representing Arapahoe County’s eastern district three on the board of commissioners. Prior to winning his seat on the board in the 2016 election, he worked for Arapahoe county in the human services and property maintenance divisions for 18 years. He has also worked for the Aurora Police Department and is a veteran of the U.S. Army.

Jeff Baker Policy Questions

What are the biggest challenges Arapahoe County faces in the next 10 years?

Addressing the backlog of road and bridge maintenance in the county. People tell me that they are fed up with traffic congestion, road surface deterioration and unsafe road conditions. Statewide efforts to increase funding for roads have failed because the state cannot be trusted to spend our tax dollars on the road work we voted for and instead spent it on other things including a new CDOT building. A local effort, in collaboration with our towns and cities, to tackle the problem is needed. As the county’s representative on DRCOG (the Denver Regional Council of Governments) and the Chair of the Arapahoe County Transportation Forum, I will lead that effort. Other challenges include the repair and/or replacement of the aging detention facility and courthouses.     

What is your philosophy on how the county should approach growth, especially as Arapahoe County is expected to surpass 700,000 residents by 2025? 

Growth is coming and most likely it is coming to the eastern district 3 that I represent.  I have two kinds of constituents in my district; those who anticipate and embrace growth and those who would like to stop growth.  I tell both types of folks that growth is coming whether they like it or not and that they should be prepared for it.  My philosophy on growth is that we need to responsibly plan for the growth as early as possible.  The number one priority must be the developer’s ability to provide water to the area. Next in importance is the infrastructures of roads, sewer systems and public safety (law enforcement and fire protection) which must also be planned prior to any approval to develop. The county must plan for how to provide services to these new residents within our financial and technology constraints.

Do you support pursuing another ballot measure sometime in the next four years to either replace or repair the current Arapahoe County Detention Facility? 

No. At least not an increase in property taxes. We heard loud and clear from the voters that they do not want us to pay for a new jail with their property taxes. After last year’s election, I heard from some folks that they would have supported a sales tax for the new jail. County sales taxes must be shared with incorporated cities and towns – which is why I believe that it makes more sense to use sales taxes  to cover road and bridge repairs since roads are present, running through, both types of jurisdictions.  Right now, we are having to tighten our budget belt to keep the old, failing jail up and running. That may include reducing services to the public in order to nurture it along for now.  

Briefly describe your professional background, including areas of expertise, roles and responsibilities.

My background is in law enforcement in the military. I retired from the US Army in 1993 as a Chief Warrant Officer – Two (CW2) after having been a Military Police Officer, Military Police Investigator and Criminal Investigator with the Army Criminal Investigation Command. I was hired to work as the Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Supervisor for the Aurora Police Department crime lab – the murders at Chuck E. Cheese in December 1993 was my first crime scene in Aurora.  I taught CSI and forensic science topics at the Community College of Aurora for 20 years. In 1998, I began working for the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services; primarily because I had experience investigating crimes directed at children during my law enforcement career.  I became certified as a Project Management Professional and Certified Property Manager before I moved to the county’s Facilities and Fleet Management Department where I was in charge of the maintenance and cleanliness of all Arapahoe County facilities for 13 years.    

What makes you uniquely qualified for this seat?

  My campaign motto is “There is no substitute for experience.” Prior to running for County Commissioner in 2016, I worked for Arapahoe County in two different departments for a total 18 years. Combined with my four years in office, I have over 22 years with the county.  I know the people, processes and programs and use that insider knowledge to help my constituents navigate the county bureaucracy. I live to serve people.       

 

LIGHTER SIDE QUESTIONS

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

I would have the superpower ability to bridge gaps and resolve conflicts.  I would like to be able to show both sides of the arguments and hatred that is present in the world today with the intent to identify similarities and common ground.     

What movie will you watch again no matter how many times you’ve seen it? Dances with Wolves.  I connect with the military protagonist on a number of different levels. He is stationed in a remote area near indigenous people – I was sent to South Korea for my first assignment. He connects with the Native American culture and learns their way of life, marrying into the family so to speak – I met my wife in South Korea on my first assignment and subsequently married her three years later when I returned to the land I now consider my second home     

What did you want to be when you grew up?  A cop.  I fulfilled that dream.     

What talent do you have that most people don’t know about? I am pretty much an open book – nothing hidden.  I believe that I could be a (good?) novelist if I set my mind to it. I don’t think I’ve ever shared that with anyone other than my wife and maybe my kids.        

The Lighter side of Jeff Baker

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

I would have the superpower ability to bridge gaps and resolve conflicts.  I would like to be able to show both sides of the arguments and hatred that is present in the world today with the intent to identify similarities and common ground.     

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

Dances with Wolves.  I connect with the military protagonist on a number of different levels. He is stationed in a remote area near indigenous people – I was sent to South Korea for my first assignment. He connects with the Native American culture and learns their way of life, marrying into the family so to speak – I met my wife in South Korea on my first assignment and subsequently married her three years later when I returned to the land I now consider my second home     

What did you want to be when you grew up?

  A cop.  I fulfilled that dream.     

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

I am pretty much an open book – nothing hidden.  I believe that I could be a (good?) novelist if I set my mind to it. I don’t think I’ve ever shared that with anyone other than my wife and maybe my kids.       

Meet Democrat Idris Keith

Democrat Idris Keith is a business attorney and former probation officer. He has specialized in government contracts law and is currently working in the areas of workers compensation, underwriting and auditing.

Idris Keith policy questions

What are the biggest challenges Arapahoe County faces in the next 10 years?

Economic Development & Recovery  Infrastructure, traffic and transportation  Population growth 

COVID-19 is devastating Arapahoe County’s economy and it may take years to recover  as businesses have closed, unemployment has risen and some citizens, if employed,  are facing unpaid furlough days.  

The business community faces substantial uncertainty and workers are concerned  about making big purchases based upon the lingering doubts regarding the economy. If  elected, I will focus on small businesses and emphasize their ability to create jobs. The  Commission must focus on measures which put capital in the hands of small  businesses and this assistance should stabilize the economy.  

Traffic and transportation have steadily grown worse. Due to the population growth,  county officials are attempting to simultaneously control residential development and  expand roads and highways. As a result, lanes are closed, traffic has worsened even  

more and delays persist. Proper advance planning and ensuring that the infrastructure  could handle the growth would have eased the current challenges. 

What is your philosophy on how the county should approach growth, especially  as Arapahoe County is expected to surpass 700,000 residents by 2025? 

The growth must be managed in an orderly fashion and, while I do not agree with a cap  on growth as has been enacted in some communities; I would support a transitioned  growth which requires repairs and expansion of roads and bridges to outpace the  growth of development. We must also continue to zone for open spaces in order to  ensure that residents may walk, run, hike and enjoy Colorado’s majestic landscapes.  

Do you support pursuing another ballot measure sometime in the next four years  to either replace or repair the current Arapahoe County Detention Facility? 

One of the major arguments in support of Ballot Measure 1(A) was that there was  overcrowding as the inmate population was 3 times the amount originally intended at  the time of construction. When the County Commission approved the measure to be  presented to the voters, 70% of inmates at the Detention Facility were pre-arraignment;  or rather, there were no formal charges where a plea was required. The question is,  “Was the cost of potentially replacing the detention facility outweighed by the benefit  that citizens would experience?” The answer was a resounding “NO!” 

In pertinent part, the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution states, “In all criminal  prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an  impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed……” 

Instead of focusing on job-killing property taxes, the Commission should have focused  on getting criminal defendants to trial quicker and this means ensuring that there are  adequate numbers of judges, prosecutors and public defenders to proceed to trial and  afford defendants the due process in which they are entitled. Such an emphasis would  have been more cost-effective than attempting to push a $464 million property tax hike  on taxpayers who are already facing financial hardship as prices, personal expenses  and consumer debt continue to increase.  

The County Commissioners are essentially CEOs of the county and there is a duty of  loyalty that they owe to taxpayers, a duty of fair-dealing that they owe to taxpayers and  a duty to act in good faith with taxpayers. The thought of binding taxpayers to a 30-year  obligation totaling $464 million is evidence of how current leadership in District 3 failed  to act in the best interests of constituents. When the taxpayers had an opportunity to  speak, 7 of 10 opposed the property tax hike. The taxpayers knew that rising  unemployment and higher taxes are no recipe for commonsense leadership.  

I understand the need to address the county detention facility, but the remedy must be  thoroughly fleshed out by the citizens of Arapahoe County who would ultimately be on  the hook for potential replacement or repair. This requires careful analysis and  understanding by all involved and/or impacted by such a big decision; most importantly  being the taxpayers. But a complete overhaul similar to Ballot Measure 1(A) would face  my strong opposition. In the near term, we should focus on granting criminal  defendants a speedy trial as mandated in the US Constitution.  

Briefly describe your professional background, including areas of expertise, roles  and responsibilities. 

I am a business attorney and have practiced extensively in the areas of small business  consulting, small business development and government contracts law.  

I have practiced law before the US Court of Federal Claims, the US District Court for the  Colorado District, Colorado State District Courts and County Courts and the Office of  Administrative Courts. I have also practiced before the US Small Business  Administration’s Office of Hearings & Appeals, the Armed Services Board of Contract  Appeals and the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals. There, I successfully advocated  for businesses in multimillion-dollar disputes as well as advocating for other clients  seeking assistance with legal issues. The businesses that I represented included  physicians, construction companies, developers, HVAC experts, maintenance and  janitorial services, painters, electricians, etc. All of these differing interests were either  currently contracting with the government or seeking to contract with the government. 

I have also been an Administrative Hearings Officer presiding over hearings determining  eligibility for unemployment compensation as well as Medicaid benefits. 

I was a Probation Officer as well and supervised a caseload of nearly 200 active  probationers. 

What makes you uniquely qualified for this seat? 

The Board of County Commissioners handles the business affairs of the county. As  such, a business attorney is exactly what is needed at this time of financial uncertainty  and this uniquely qualifies me for this seat. Due to my experiences working with, and  for, the business community, I can apply my training and ensure that we make  Arapahoe County a hub of commerce, trade and industry. It is important to note that the  county commission is the last line of defense that the taxpayer has from misguided  spending which could drain our treasure and resources. I fundamentally believe in  responsible spending and this belief derives from years of working with businesses who  have been disproportionately impacted by higher taxes. And these taxes inhibit growth  and limit businesses from hiring additional labor. We cannot gamble with the people’s  money. Rather, we must protect their best interests. My experiences and training,  therefore, uniquely qualify me for this seat.  

The lighter side of Idris Keith

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

The powers of a Jedi knight 

What movie will you watch again no matter how many times you’ve seen it?  A River Runs Through It 

What did you want to be when you grew up? 

I wanted to be an astronaut. 

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

I am a Bodan in Tae Kwon Do 

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

I Kept the Faith 

What’s your favorite curbside pleasure? 

Chinese food 

What was the last book you read?

Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs & Ham (with my children) 

Have you found any unexpected upsides to wearing a facemask during the  pandemic?  

I have several college facemasks which strikes up conversations with others. What’s your favorite family tradition? 

Family Forum discussions in the evening. 

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

The Life 

If you could only listen to one song forever, what would it be? Just My Imagination by the Temptations 

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