COLORADO VOTES 2022: ArapCo District 2 candidates put up plans for growth

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Mark Gotto | Jessica Campbell-Swanson

Jessica Campbell-Swanson and Mark Gotto are vying to represent Arapahoe County’s District 2 on the board of commissioners. Both have prior experience in politics but would be serving their first term on the board. Current representative, Republican Nancy Sharpe, is term-limited.

Republican candidate Gotto previously served on the Centennial city council for four years and has a business background. A progressive Democrat, Campbell-Swanson is currently chief of staff for state representative Iman Jodeh, an attorney and founder of a political campaign firm.

Currently Colorado’s third most populous county, Arapahoe County encompasses most of Aurora and Littleton, the cities of Englewood, Glenwood, Greenwood Village and Glendale and a number of other smaller cities and towns in the Denver metro area. Though its county seat is Littleton, Aurora is by far its most populous city.

As Campbell-Swanson noted in response to a Sentinel questionnaire, the county’s population is only expected to increase in the coming years. She said that growth is the county’s biggest challenge and must be addressed proactively instead of simply being resisted.

“We already have a housing crisis, lack of access to reliable public transportation, strife and violence in our communities, and poor air quality and limited water resources,” she said. “Growth will add pressure to these difficulties and if we don’t take proactive steps with the vision of a healthy, thriving, and sustainable Arapahoe County in mind, we will be in a world of hurt.”

Gotto’s campaign website states that his top priorities are curbing car theft and other crime, the transition to a new health department and managing federal infrastructure funding responsibly. In the questionnaire, he said that crime prevention and infrastructure investment are the county’s two biggest challenges.

“Our roads and potholes need to be fixed and maintained,” he said. “I will use my experience to help the Public Works department build a 10 year funding plan so our County’s quality of life is not impacted by driving on faulty roads.”

A self-identified fiscal conservative, Gotto’s website states that he “will manage waste and promise to fund all necessary resources important to the community.”

The Arapahoe County health department will come online at the beginning of 2023 following the scheduled dissolution of the Tri-County Health Department after both Douglas and Adams counties voted to leave the partnership. Gotto and Campbell-Swanson both said managing the transition will be a key role for the new commissioners.

“I will use my strategic planning skills as a VP and Centennial City Councilman to drive the County’s new health department,” Gotto’s campaign website states. “We have to get it right from a cost perspective and a leadership perspective. The County will need my experience and knowledge to achieve these initiatives.”

In the questionnaire, Campbell-Swanson said the commissioners can set the new department up for success by ensuring it has the necessary funding and that it is staffed by highly qualified people.

“Since the incoming Board of Commissioners will be responsible for appointing the permanent board of public health, the first thing we can do to ensure a smooth transition with our new health department is set it up for success by appointing public health experts dedicated to data-driven, science-based, equity-focused policy with administrative experience, a history of getting results, and a broad, intersectional and/or multidisciplinary perspective,” she said. “We can also be engaged with community and the board so we can course correct as quickly as possible should issues arise.”

Gotto has been endorsed by Sharpe and Centennial Mayor Stephanie Piko. Campbell-Swanson has been endorsed by commissioners Carrie Warren-Gully, Nancy Jackson and Bill Holen. 

Meet Mark Gotto

Mark Gotto

Mark Gotto is a Republican running to serve as the district 2 representative on the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners. Raised in Iowa, Gotto has lived in Arapahoe County for 13 years, according to his campaign website. From 2014 to 2018 he served as a member of Centennial’s city council, and currently works for an internet company that provides services to the city. He has previously worked as an executive at a call center company and as a stay at home dad. His family includes two children and a bevy of adopted foster dogs, according to his website.

https://www.votemarkgotto.com/

Mark Gotto Q&A

e/Auto and Property theft. The county's resident's quality of life is being impacted by hundreds of cars being stolen a week. A County Commissioner manages the Sheriff's Department's budget. This is the exact same process I completed as a City Councilman. I will ensure the Sheriff's department is supported and well funded.

2) Infrastructure - Our roads and potholes need to be fixed and maintained. I will use my experience to help the Public Works department build a 10 year funding plan so our County's quality of life is not impacted by driving on faulty roads.

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

Any growth measures should always look at the impact on water/serwer, traffic, and other infrastructure concerns. There are huge developments happening around I70 for example. If all new development can show minimal impact on infrastructure then growth is a good thing to bring revenue and jobs to the County.

  • At the beginning of the year, the Tri-County Health Department will dissolve leaving three separate agencies to take its place. How can the board of county commissioners ensure a smooth transition so that residents can continue to rely on needed services?

Communication will be key. As a City Councilman and a Business Executive I will use my experience to meet with the different departments regularly to see where we can help them through the process. We will fund and support common sense policies so children and businesses are protected if a crisis ever occurs again.

  • Should the county pursue additional open space and trail acquisitions, slow them down or stay the course?

The Open Space measure on the last ballot that passed to secure a long term funding solution will allow for creative ideas on how to improve our County's Open Space. When I was on the Centennial Open Space Commission we worked with the County extensively to ensure resources were utilized to maintain and grow areas to walk and play. If accusation is the right thing to do financially and socially, then I will help guide the County through that process.

  • How should the county handle the problem of homelessness and homeless campers?

The County is on the right track with funding programs like the Affordable Housing Grant Program, The Tri-Cities Navigation Center, and Aurora Shelter and Safe Housing Options. I will use my Executive experience to find other creative programs to help with this mental health and homeless crisis. I want to be your next County Commissioner so I can explore the current programs and make them more impactful.

  • What one thing could the Legislature do to solve a perplexing problem in the county?

One perplexing problem is that employees do not have the opportunity to live and work in the same community. The legislature can take another hard look at this construction defect law. It is stifling the ability for developers to build Condos in the County. Condos is what employees can afford for their first home. That would keep people working in the county, living in the County.

  • If you could persuade other metro counties to get on board with a single project, what would it be?

The mental health crises. We all need to combine resources to fund programs like the All Health Colorado Spirit program and Expansion of Pretrial mental health programs. More facilities like the Aurora Mental Health Potomac Safety Net Campus need to be explored. Together we can use experience and passion to help curve this crisis.

  • Would you support Aurora creating its own city-county?

Aurora has the right people in public service to make that decision. If they can complete this complicated endeavor in a fiscal responsible way where it does not place any additional tax burden on the voters then I trust them to make the right decision.

  • Counties such as Adams hire a professional county manager to run the county and ensure continuity of mission. Would that be better than having elected, partisan officials running the county, as is the case of Arapahoe County?

If elected you will not find a more non-partisan public servant than myself. I am an experienced executive and former elected official. I have managed an organization of over 9,000 people and budgets in the millions. I will help guide the county through managerial and operation processes. If we get to a point where the County residents feel that a County Manager is needed then I will also help guide that process.

  • Do you trust the election process in Colorado? And will you accept the outcome of this election as announced?

I have toured the election facility and have observed the voting process. I will for sure accept the outcome.

  • Do you believe the 2020 Presidential Election was absent of widespread fraud and fairly won by Joe Biden?

    No response.

Meet Mark Gotto

Did not respond.

Meet Jessica Campbell-Swanson

Jessica Campbell-Swanson

Jessica Campbell-Swanson

Jessica Campbell-Swanson is a Democrat running to serve as the district 2 representative on the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners. Campbell-Swanson is currently chief of staff for Iman Jodeh, who represents Colorado’s 41st district in the state House of Representatives. A native of Kansas, Campbell-Swanson moved to Colorado in 2008 to receive a law degree from Denver University, after which she worked as an attorney and was active in local Democratic politics. She is the founder of Brighter Day Strategies, a political campaign firm that works with progressive candidates and causes. She lives in Arapahoe County with her husband and two children. She has been endorsed by commissioners Nancy Jackson and Bill Holen.

https://www.jessicaforcommissioner.com/

Jessica Campbell-Swanson Q&A
  • What are the biggest challenges Arapahoe County faces in the next 10 years?

 

Growth is going to be the biggest challenge. We’re at 650k people in Arapahoe County now and are expected to hit 875k by 2040. We already have a housing crisis, lack of access to reliable public transportation, strife and violence in our communities, and poor air quality and limited water resources. Growth will add pressure to these difficulties and if we don’t take proactive steps with the vision of a healthy, thriving, and sustainable Arapahoe County in mind, we will be in a world of hurt. 

 

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

 

We have a choice. We can embrace the growth and meet it with proactive policies that will ensure our county is healthy, thriving, and sustainable with diverse housing options, a vibrant local economy with high-paying jobs, smooth flowing traffic with access to public transportation, gorgeous parks and open spaces as we reduce carbon emissions and protect our environment. OR we can put our heads in the sand, resist growth, and repeat the mistakes of our neighbors and face the same problems our neighbors face as we expensively try to retrofit solutions to problems we saw coming and could have prevented. As Commissioner, I will move us toward the former with proactive, intentional policies that will make Arapahoe County healthy, thriving, and sustainable.

 

  • At the beginning of the year, the Tri-County Health Department will dissolve leaving three separate agencies to take its place. How can the board of county commissioners ensure a smooth transition so that residents can continue to rely on needed services? 

 

Since the incoming Board of Commissioners will be responsible for appointing the permanent board of public health, the first thing we can do to ensure a smooth transition with our new health department is set it up for success by appointing public health experts dedicated to data-driven, science-based, equity-focused policy with administrative experience, a history of getting results, and a broad, intersectional and/or multidisciplinary perspective. We can also be engaged with community and the board so we can course correct as quickly as possible should issues arise. And ultimately, we can ensure a smooth delivery of services by ensuring our new health department has the funding needed for a smooth, equitable, and reliable delivery of services.

  • Should the county pursue additional open space and trail acquisitions, slow them down or stay the course?

I believe we should acquire more open space and trails while recognizing we must maintain anything that we acquire. Specifically we should acquire space in the eastern part of the County where there is a lot of availability as well as explore acquisition in our urban core areas to provide equitable access. Arapahoe County voters approved the permanent reauthorization of our parks and trails sales tax in 2021 with almost 77% approval. You want to invest in parks and trails and we are responsible for doing that on your behalf. Additionally, we need to continue building out our trail system so they are fully connected. It is also important for us to acquire open space so it is preserved as Arapahoe County grows. If we are not intentional about these acquisitions now, it will become harder to do in the future. 

  • How should the county handle the problem of homelessness and homeless campers?

 

Largely, I believe the county should stay the course as we have new opportunities and are taking new approaches we haven’t taken before. Arapahoe County is taking a holistic view of our unhoused neighbors and addressing their needs with wrap-around services and a continuum of care. We should (a) prevent folks from entering homelessness through rental assistance, eviction assistance, increasing housing options affordable across income brackets, workforce development, and supporting higher wages; (b) get people out of homelessness by getting our unhoused neighbors access to housing to stabilize, health care to heal, and workforce development to obtain employment; (c) keep our parks and neighborhoods clear of health hazards; and (d) get governing bodies out of silos and working together as we’ve done with the Countywide Homelessness Coordinating Committee, launched this year. I’d like us to partner with neighboring counties and municipalities to take advantage of the $50 million state grant for local governments to create a Metro Denver homelessness navigation campus. This approach helps our neighbors get back on their feet and supports them as they recover from homelessness rather than punishing them for struggling and kicking them while they’re down. It is the most humane, cost-effective, and sustainable approach to homelessness. 

  • What one thing could the Legislature do to solve a perplexing problem in the county?

 

“Solved” is a strong word, but just because a problem won’t be entirely solved, doesn’t mean it’s not worth taking action to reduce the level or severity of the problem. To me, that problem would be mass shootings and access to guns. The legislature could (1) raise the legal age to purchase a gun, (2) repeal the statewide prohibition against a registration list of guns, (3) require all gun dealers to obtain a state license, and (4) bar or put restrictions on the purchase of assault style weapons. Each of these changes would inspire contentious debate as all gun reform has in this state, but each of these changes could make our communities safer, reform is supported by the majority of voters, and we must take action to protect our communities. 

  • If you could persuade other metro counties to get on board with a single project, what would it be?

 

Revamping RTD. (This would require partnership with our state legislature as well.) We have GOT TO increase access to and use of public transportation. I talk to people all the time who would use public transportation if it made sense, myself included. But, especially in the suburbs, service is too expensive, too infrequent, and doesn’t get them where they need to go when they need to go there. What are our tax dollars going to when we still have to pay $10.50 to get downtown and back? This is a great example of our tax dollars NOT working for us and it’s holding us back and hurting our environment. Baked into our state constitution, county governments within the Regional Transportation District are prohibited from having full control over our own public transportation and must work with RTD. RTD is focused on the whole system though and is not focused on what works for each locality. We need to revamp the structure and make it more practical and useful for suburban counties. (Runner-up: Climate Change, but working on public transportation helps address climate change as well.)

  • Would you support Aurora creating its own city-county?

 

To me, this is about self-determination, quality and efficiency of government services, use of tax dollars, and ultimately what serves the people of Aurora best -  in which case I believe there are arguments for and against. First, because Aurora municipal elections are nonpartisan and in odd-numbered years, city council elections have incredibly low turnout resulting in a majority Democratic city with a majority Republican city council. To put all the eggs of governance of Aurora into a city-county structure under the current election rules could create a lack of representation while Aurora would be taking on more partisan issues. That is anti-democratic and would need to be adjusted first. Second, having one large city with three counties impacting its services and functions is awkward. Besides this awkwardness, I would be curious about how Arapahoe County - Aurora residents feel about the services and resources they have access to. If we need to move more services out east, let’s explore that. At the end of the day, I want what is best for Aurora residents, makes the best use of their tax dollars, and gets them the government structure that will serve them best. 

  • Counties such as Adams hire a professional county manager to run the county and ensure continuity of mission. Would that be better than having elected, partisan officials running the county, as is the case of Arapahoe County?

 

It depends, though I lean toward it. Some thoughts: (1) If a county manager has too much control, it can stymie County Commissioners in working to get things done and remove elected officials from accountability. So I would be wary of handing over too much control to a county manager. Their control and role, of course, can be crafted to the right scope and authority, but that is a concern. (2) A county manager would help the county have a singular point of reference for coordination of operations, communications, and when examining how our dollars are working across the county and its many departments and offices. In not having a county manager, I can see how resources might not be used as efficiently as possible, how department directors’ decisions might be influenced by the politics of the commissioners, and how communication across departments and offices could break down. All of which could be solved or reduced by a county manager. But ultimately, if elected, I’d get in office and talk to staff and directors and the other commissioners - talk to the people closest to the issue - before making a decision. 

  • Do you trust the election process in Colorado? And will you accept the outcome of this election as announced?

 

Yes - I fully trust our election process in Colorado and especially in Arapahoe County. I have studied our elections while getting an MA in Comparative Politics, volunteered with the Colorado Lawyers Committee’s Election Task Force, and as an Election Attorney, I served as the Colorado Democratic Party’s Voter Protection Director in 2016. In that role, I traveled the state examining counties’ election processes and whether they were complying with state laws. I worked with bipartisan teams, including Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Democratic and Republican Clerks from around the state to ensure voting was accessible and our elections were secure and credible. Our elections processes have only gotten more secure since 2016. In my work, I have toured the Arapahoe County elections facility about eight separate times. I have trained election watchers and been part of the post-election audit as well. Additionally, as someone who has run campaigns, I have been on the winning side and the losing side of elections and still trusted the result. 

 

I fully trust our election process in Colorado and especially in Arapahoe County and will accept the outcome of this election as announced once all ballots have been counted after the curing period is complete. I note that because there is some confusion about election night results in Colorado. Because of overseas ballots, mail in ballots, and the surge of election day voters - even though all of those votes comply with state law - the first results that appear after 7 pm on Election Day do not reflect the total number of votes. Counting will continue for several days after election day and the curing of ballots does not end until eight days after election day. 

 

TLDR: My specialty as an attorney is in elections, yes our elections are secure, and I trust the process and will accept the results. 

  • Do you believe the 2020 Presidential Election was absent of widespread fraud and fairly won by Joe Biden? 

 

Yes, especially in Colorado. Colorado has become a model for election security, credibility, and accessibility for the country. I hope other states who’ve been struggling with reliability and credibility look to Colorado for guidance. 

Get to know Jessica Campbell-Swanson

What’s the most Colorado thing you’ve done recently? Watched the Broncos game in a friend’s backyard, drinking a 1554 from New Belgium Brewing, wearing my Steamboat hoodie.

 

What is the last concert you attended? Centennial Under the Stars! 

 

What restaurant do you frequent most? India’s Castle

 

If you had a superpower, what would it be? To clear pollution and heal the planet. I would absolutely love to be Captain Planet! 

 

What was the last book you read?  

 

The Colorado Blue Book! It’s that time of year and we have important questions on our ballot, like Prop. FF which would create the Health School Meals for All program to provide access to free meals for all public school students in Colorado. 

 

What is your least favorite household chore?

 

Making dinner, cleaning up from dinner. It’s not that I’m bad at cooking, I just do not prefer it. After a long day - I want to sit and relax - not do more work. Luckily my husband LOVES to make dinner and is great at it. Good partnership there! 

 

If you had to pick one television show to watch forever, what would it be?

 

West Wing. While it was a product of its time, it has a special place in my heart. My dad and I used to stay up late doing work and watching the show together. We both love to rewatch it and will send each other quotes and reflections as we’ve rewatched across the years. 

 

Did you have any New Year's resolutions? What were they? 

 

New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday! I normally make a New Year’s resolution but didn’t this year because I was in the group of folks who got COVID from the holidays, so I was focused on just getting through that. Normally, my resolutions center around self-improvement. Something I’ve been working on has been taking care of myself. I tend to run myself ragged trying to do ALL THE THINGS and it’s not sustainable. So, if I had made a resolution - it’d have been to make sure I’m taking time to take care of myself. 

 

What were you most excited to do after pandemic restrictions eased? 

 

Eating out! We love supporting local restaurants and while we ordered take out while restrictions were tight, we were nervous we’d lose some of our favorite spots. So, getting to get out of the house and enjoy a nice dinner out while supporting our favorite local spots felt great!

 

What fun fact about you would most surprise people who know you?

 

I can’t really ride a bike.  … I CAN…technically, but I’m just a MESS on a bike. I’m a generally athletic person - can play pretty much any sport - but a bike? Nope. Disaster town, America. 

 

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