Aurora City Council to take first vote on proposal banning police, fire departments from lobbying organizations

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AURORA | Aurora lawmakers are slated to cast first votes Monday on an ordinance banning city police and fire departments from lobbying. They’ll also debate a proposal raising the minimum wage. 

Councilmember Curtis Gardner submitted a plan last month to prevent the Aurora Police Department and Aurora Fire Rescue from “directly or indirectly” expending dollars or staff on lobbying governments. The departments would also be banned from belonging to professional organizations that engage in lobbying. 

The prospective ordinance requires two votes to become law. 

In an August study session, only Councilmembers Marsha Berzins, Francoise Bergan and Dave Gruber opposed moving it forward. 

Like many professions, Aurora’s police and fire departments belong to associations that share information, trainings and advocacy networks. They also involve themselves in politics and voice opinions on laws that would impact the profession. 

If the proposal becomes law, city council members would have to specifically allow the police and fire departments’ memberships in an association “which has a legislative lobbying component to that organization’s mission.” The departments themselves would be banned from lobbying local, state or federal governments without council approval. 

Gardner told the Sentinel in August he watched law enforcement organizations in particular — including some APD belongs to — fight police reforms that the city council had signaled support for. Some police organizations took positions against ending the qualified immunity doctrine, which protects government employees including cops from being personally sued for monetary damages after violating residents’ constitutional rights.

Colorado legislators quashed the court doctrine in June as part of a sweeping police reform law. In July, Aurora’s city council called on the federal government to end qualified immunity on the city’s legislative priorities list amidst federal plans. 

APD’s Chief Wilson said last month membership groups are indispensable and largely involve training and information-sharing. APD belongs to the Metro Chiefs of Police, Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, Major Cities Chiefs Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, she said. 

Aurora Fire Rescue told city council it doesn’t belong to any organizations that “focus on lobbying.” Fire Chief Fernando Gray said professional organizations are vital resources that help bring grant dollars into city coffers. 

In a study session, the entire city council will also take a first look at Councilmember Alison Coombs’ plan to raise Aurora’s minimum wage to $20 per hour by 2027. 

Coombs carried the plan to the entire council despite a first rebuke. In August, the Management and Finance committee voted 2-1 not to approve the plan, with members Dave Gruber and Curtis Gardner against the proposal and Councilmember Juan Marcano in support.

If her plan becomes city law, the minimum wage would rise each year from the current $12-an-hour rate to: 

  • $12.60 in 2021
  • $13.23 in 2022
  • $14.55 in 2023
  • $16 in 2024
  • $17.60 in 2025
  • $19.36 in 2026
  • $20 in 2027

“This is really about making sure that our essential workers, who are disproportionately women and people of color, are being paid well during a pandemic and…in general and can afford to survive on just one job,” Coombs said in August.