Aurora lawmakers ground mayor’s proposal to limit international travel

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Colorado Municipal League annual meeting June 21, 2022, this year in Breckenridge. PHOTO FROM CML Facebook Page

AURORA | Mayor Mike Coffman’s plan to put more restrictions on international travel by Aurora City Council members was turned back on Monday.

Members voted 6-4 to reject the mayor’s proposal, which would have required a majority of council members and either Aurora Sister Cities International or the city’s Office of International and Immigrant Affairs to sign off on international travel before a city lawmaker could take a taxpayer-funded trip.

Aurora’s City Council spends tens of thousands of dollars each year on foreign and domestic travel. In 2021, the only international trip for which council members were reimbursed by the city was a mayoral delegation that Coffman led to El Salvador.

Coffman brought his proposal forward after councilmembers Juan Marcano and Crystal Murillo returned from the International Making Cities Livable Conference, which was held in the Le Plessis-Robinson suburb of Paris and which Coffman skewered as a “European vacation.”

Mayor Mike Coffman at a June 27, 2022 city council meeting defends his plans to restrict foreign travel by city lawmakers. SENTINEL SCREEN GRAB

“As somebody who traveled internationally in another office, I just really fail to see the value of local elected officials traveling internationally,” Coffman, a former congressperson, said Monday. “But there are some limited circumstances where it very well may be warranted, and those would come before the City Council.”

The policy was similar to rules governing out-of-state travel in other metro-area communities, though Coffman’s suggestion was dogged from the start by allegations that he was being hypocritical and trying to smear progressives Marcano and Murillo.

“We have a tremendous amount to learn from folks outside of the United States, especially, frankly, when it comes to urban planning,” Marcano said. “You decided to go onto social media half-cocked, as you have the tendency to do, and accused us of taking a vacation. … You made a bunch of assumptions about this trip that were completely false, and now you’re backpedaling.”

Murillo went further in her criticism of Coffman, alluding to racist motivations.

“Whether it’s because we’re both Latino council members, because we are affiliated with one political party, I mean, I just fail to see why this is even a legitimate conversation,” Murillo said. “I’m really left with drawing conclusions here, because … there’s no logical explanation that you could follow that really describes what’s going on here.”

Councilmember Crystal Murillo questions whether Mayor Mike Coffman was singling out her and another Latino city lawmaker in an attempt to restrict foreign travel by city council members. SENTINEL SCREEN GRAB

Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky — who supported Coffman’s proposal along with Francoise Bergan, Angela Lawson and Dustin Zvonek — replied that the mayor “speaks more Spanish than any council member on this council.”

Coffman has spoken in Spanish at some public events. The comment drew a quick barb in Spanish from Marcano.

“I don’t understand the pushback,” Jurinsky said of opposition to Coffman’s proposal. “I see this as accountability to our constituents. … I think it’s transparency.”

Councilmember Alison Coombs said she planned to return to council with her own proposal for changing council rules to cap spending on trips based on the U.S. General Services Administration’s per-diem rates.

She was skeptical of the idea that council members’ travel should be limited by location, pointing out that Coffman’s proposal would do nothing to reign in unreasonable spending on domestic trips.

Councilmember Curtis Gardner agreed that the location of a conference was less important than what council members took away from it, mentioning that he recently attended a conference in Mexico City with the Downtown Denver Partnership.

“I’m a lot less concerned with where a trip goes than the value back to the city,” he said.

Coffman moved to amend his proposal by removing the requirement that Aurora Sister Cities International or the Office of International and Immigrant Affairs sign off on a trip. All but Coombs, Ruben Medina and Murillo approved the change, but even with the amendment, Coffman’s plan failed to earn the majority’s support.

Coombs and Murillo tried unsuccessfully to amend Coffman’s plan to add criteria by which council members would evaluate the appropriateness of travel, specifically the goals of the city’s strategic plan. That narrowly failed, with the mayor breaking the tie in opposition and Bergan joining progressives in support.

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dee-dee
1 month ago

I have to believe there are conferences for ‘making cities livable’ that are held in the US and not Paris, France. Regarding the fact that it was an ‘international’ conference may mean there were many problems and solutions presented at the conference to address varying cities populations and cultures, some that may not apply to the US, or Aurora, CO. I’d want to see what different approaches to making Aurora livable resulted from this conference.

Last edited 1 month ago by dee-dee
Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago
Reply to  dee-dee

Those who attended did give an open presentation of what they had learned, which is something I had not seen before.

But the Council now has spoken as a body, so each of us can quit trying to interject our own thoughts on the matter.

Doug
Doug
1 month ago
Reply to  dee-dee

Councilmember Marcano provided that information at a meeting. You missed that?

Rex Dunham
Rex Dunham
1 month ago
Reply to  dee-dee

It’s a off and on city with a diverse group. The upper class fights harder to maintain control in living. The seniors hold old value and the coalition as salvation Army still working hard on the lower level of struggle. Left or right I don’t think the division of community has made much civil reflection over 30 year’s in safe growth. The city show’s it’s good and bad sides of life over the years. The last 3 years have hit that city harder than Denver by far.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago

The Council is duly governing itself and the complaining should now stop. This proposal was ill-begotten considering who proposed it and how he had taken advantage of it.

Robert L Andrews
1 month ago

Personally, I think foreign countries offer very little to local governing…other than a vacation. I have found that when someone runs out a logical and pertinent material for debated, racial bias is equivalent to a “Hail Mary” pass. Nowhere have I read what council members Marcano & Murillo brought back from the conference that will benefit the city of Aurora. As they used to say in the old Wendy’s commercials, “Where’s the meat?”

Sandy
1 month ago

Did you bother to see their public presentation on what they learned and how it relates to Aurora? If not, This isn’t a relevant comment.

Doug
Doug
1 month ago

International Making Cities Livable is a four day intensive conference on transforming suburbs into, livable cities featuring other elected officials, academics, architects, engineers, and city planners. In addition to the conference, it also included meetings with the Paris Regional Chamber of Commerce (selling Aurora to them for economic development) and the city of Courbevoie (another suburb of Paris).

Dean
1 month ago

Pretty Close — “Where’s the beef?”

K. Smith
K. Smith
1 month ago

It’s “Where’s the beef?” and if you were paying attention closely, you’d know that Councilmember Marcano gave an overview in a recent town hall and has more forthcoming. But by all means, keep speaking on things about which you seem not to know.

Den Voran
1 month ago

*beef

Dean
1 month ago

You have to go to YouTube and then the link.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WlV7_l0ZcM

This fight between the Mayor and CM Murillo including CM Marcano is going to continue as long as whatever was gained at this Paris trip the citizens feel it was fairly important and that we should learn more as we’re curious souls. Not much about what was learned has been out. Juan Marcano stated last night that its all open for inspection. He said, CORA (open records) will provide any information asked for. Unfortunately, Marcano is misinformed about the release of records. One local radio station (KNUS) is trying to get these pertinent records and Aurora records so far has not complied. Is that intentional or incompetence? The city attorney has been sent a letter, to now get involved. You did not hear anything about this last night. Talk about all that city transparency. It sure ain’t here. By the way, all these other people that went with these two needs to be identified as well, and were they friends and or family and what did these folks learn going to the class? Who paid the tab for them?     So, till all this comes out, the Monday night fights continue.