AURORA | Aurora City Council Ward II representative hopefuls met the public virtually Wednesday evening, fielding questions about how they would address a bevy of issues that affect the northeastern portion of the city while filling the position vacated this week by Nicole Johnston.
The six candidates are: Steve Sundberg, Ryan Ross, Robert O’Riley, Luke Kodanko, Robert Hamilton and Jessica Giammalvo.
Each had two minutes to answer questions pre-selected by city staffers about topics ranging from oil and gas development — which impacts Ward II residents the most — to homelessness, rising living costs and Aurora’s increasing crime rate. While the six candidates gathered in the Aurora Municipal Center city council chambers, the event’s audience was virtual.
On crime, all candidates agreed that the issue is citywide and needs to be addressed by the city council, either through ramping up police staffing or through supporting residents so they don’t turn to committing crimes out of desperation.
“If you can remind people we’re neighbors and we all have a drive and needs, then that humanity in and of itself reduces crime,” said Kodanko, who said he moved here with his family for work seven years ago.
O’Reilly, who works as a law enforcement officer in Denver, underscored the police department’s attrition rate and pitched looking at the police department’s budget and bolstering crime watch programs around the city.
Ross, a community activist who recently facilitated the city’s police reform task force, said there are a number of issues at play when it comes to Aurora crime. Partly it’s desperation, he said, but there’s also a “community trust issue” that needs to be addressed.
Giammalvo, who moved to Aurora when she was stationed at Buckley Air Force Base, said supporting residents and police are both important.
The topic of rising home prices hit close to home for some. Sundberg, longtime manager of Legends Bar and Grill in Aurora, said the value on his Ward II home has increased so much over the past several years, he’s not sure he’d be able to afford it as a homebuyer.
Hamilton, a consultant who lives in Aurora with his girlfriend and English bulldog named Bella, said perhaps there should be some sort of cap on property taxes.
Homelessness also became a pivotal topic of the night. Sundberg said whether residents agree or disagree with Mayor Mike Coffman’s proposed camping ban, it’s “bold leadership.” Sundberg said if enough resources were available to the city’s homeless, he would endorse the ban.
On oil and gas, Ross praised the council’s work on creating local regulations for oil and gas operators, adding that’d he like to expand on them in possible. Sundberg said he’d seek out more expert advice and public opinion on the subject, though he highlighted that he cares for the environment.
Oil and gas development is what originally drew Johnston to city council as an activist prior to being elected in 2018. She resigned her seat, effective this week, to move her family closer together and take a job in Colorado Springs.
Johnston, a self-described progressive, has endorsed Ross for her seat representing Ward II, which encompasses neighborhoods in northeast Aurora, from Buckley Air Force Base to housing developments that neighbor Denver International Airport, Star K Ranch and the Colorado Air and Space Port.
City council members are expected to interview candidates in-person next Wednesday. A formal vote for the seat is slated for June 28 and the appointee will be sworn in during the July 12 city council meeting.