Mayor Mike Coffman gavels in new Aurora City Council and gavels out residual controversy

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AURORA | A new city council took to the dais in Aurora on Monday among cheers, applause and a loudly banging gavel.

Mayor Mike Coffman, a former Republican Congressman, and three new city council members were sworn in at the beginning of the regular meeting, after a reception where activists and supporters mingled in the lobby. 

Coffman  — who said he would lead meetings with a “big gavel” if they become too rowdy — was spotted posing for a photo with a group that brought their own homemade, five-foot long gavel to city hall. On Twitter, organizers of Abolish ICE Denver said it was one of their members who created the gavel. They dubbed it “the people’s gavel.”

Coffman began his tenure as Aurora mayor using the gavel to end public rants from the lectern later in the meeting. The over-time comments, in the past, sometimes profane, had become a regular council meeting feature that Coffman promised to end as mayor.

Past controversies were front and center for the inaugural council meeting.

During the last meeting, a group of conservative city council members wore so-called Thin Blue Line t-shirts, often association with the Blue Lives Matter movement. The t-shirts caused an uproar among outspoken critics of the Aurora police-involved death of Elijah McClain.

One man who said he was an Aurora high school teacher loudly berated those council members during a public comment period Monday night.

In apparent response to the Blue Lives Matter t-shirts, Arapahoe County Democratic Chair Kristen Mallory passed out t-shirts with the words “#squad” and “#aurora” written alongside silhouettes of new council members Juan Marcano and Alison Coombs. 

The two new lawmakers ran on progressive platforms. Other progressive members on the city council have been labeled “the squad” in online comments, a reference to a group of four Democratic Congresswoman also labeled “the squad.”

Inside the chamber, the new city council was met by supporters who cheered when they were sworn in, community members that continued calls for justice for McClain, and some who expressed optimism for the new body.

During public comment period, some attendees said a racist remark was made by an audience member to another woman in the audience. At the end of the meeting nearly all council members denounced acts of racism. 

As a body, the city council approved, unanimously, a bevy of city business measures, including $300,000 for police uniforms and tailoring, $6.8 million for water pump station improvements and $75,000 for Census 2020 support services. 

Councilwoman Nicole Johnston was elected to the position of mayor pro tem, which serves as an interim to the mayor when he or she is absent. Councilwoman Crystal Murillo was also nominated for the position as well. She received three votes: herself, Marcano and Coombs. 

Council members Dave Gruber and Marsha Berzins announced during the meeting that they would withdraw their names from the mayor pro tem election. The term lasts one year.

Outgoing Mayor Bob LeGare and members Johnny Watson, Bob Roth and Charlie Richardson were honored with proclamations for their service. Richardson wasn’t present for the meeting, but LeGare said Richardson, who retired as Aurora’s city attorney in 2014, was a champion for Ward IV.

LeGare was elected in 2015 as an at-large city council member, his second tour of duty on the city council. He was appointed mayor in 2018 after the death of former Mayor Steve Hogan. LeGare said then he would not run for the seat this year. He said he wanted to fill the term until a new mayor could be elected.

While no longer on the city council, LeGare will still serve on various boards, including the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District Board, which he was appointed to Monday night.