On many fronts, these are new days for the third-largest city in Colorado.
Politics in Aurora is no exception.
This week, former Congresswoman and gun-control activist Gabby Giffords is slated to come to Aurora to endorse mayoral hopeful Omar Montgomery’s campaign.
It’s a clear indication that Aurora is not just another American suburb, and this year’s city election is not just another vote.
Normally, candidates would attend neighborhood forums and launch mailers focusing on better streets, nicer parks, faster police response and the omnipresent promise to hold taxes.
Those civic responsibilities are now just a given in Aurora. As topics for political debate, they’ve been pushed out by how candidates weigh in on issues such as gun control, immigration and a host of issues normally reserved for state and national races. In part, Aurora voters are so vexed by Congress and the Trump Administration’s outright malfeasance that they are desperately looking to state and even city elected leaders to fix or at least move ahead on a wide range of issues.
Also, Aurora, moving fast toward becoming a city of 400,000 people, is called home by a growing community that realizes and is anxious to wield its political clout.
Clearly, national political interests are equally interested in tapping Aurora’s influence as well.
In just a few weeks, mail ballots go out and Aurora will choose a new mayor and a handful of key city council races. There is no shortage of qualified candidates.
But it’s clear many of these contenders sharply disagree on a wide range of policy issues that, in the past, seldom rose to the level of the interest they do now.
Because Aurora has become such a large and diverse community, and because the federal government has become at best incapacitated and often adversarial, it’s important that all Aurora voters ensure candidates make clear their positions on vital issues.
These are some of the issues we’ve identified as key to helping voters make sound decisions on who will lead the city after November, and what direction it will go.
Aurora has a serious problem with police department transparency and accountability, especially when officers are involved in the injury and death of residents. The city does not have a mechanism for providing independent review of the growing number of incidents where an Aurora police officer maims or kills people during a police call. Instead, Aurora police, an outside agency and local prosecutors make an internal determination on whether police committed a crime when killing or injuring subjects while carrying out police duties.
The city undermines police credibility by allowing only secret and internal investigations into deadly and other controversial police cases. It’s probable that an independent review panel would reach the same or similar conclusions in many cases. But an independent review system could validate internal queries and build confidence in how Aurora police interact with residents. Independent reviews might also reach different conclusions. That could build community trust in police, who would be held accountable to make changes.
Regardless of whether President Donald Trump is removed from office by Congress or voters, or even re-installed as president in 2020, every indication is that critically needed immigration reform isn’t coming soon. Aurora is home to a growing community of immigrants who are and aren’t U.S. citizens.
The next city council will have to decide in what ways and how far to push back against an adversarial federal government that currently undermines Aurora public safety. The Trump White House regularly makes threats of local raids. Trump and others undermine Aurora by wrongly depicting this and similar municipalities as so-called “sanctuary cities.” Aurora cannot solve the immigration crisis, but it must create a strong and visible policy for how it will handle a wide range of illegal-immigration issues. The next city council will be instrumental in creating and publicizing a policy that either reflects Trump’s effort to drive illegal immigrants into the shadows or refuses to allow it to happen.
Few people even a decade ago would see the oil industry come front and center at city hall. Because of the city’s vast eastern land on the Wattenberg Oil Field, and the state turning local control of oil-and-gas development over to cities and counties, Aurora can exert a wide range of control over development. The next mayor and city council will decide how much regulation and how it’s created, affecting the lives and livelihoods of residents from Aurora and across Colorado.
These are just a few high-profile issues candidates must address in the next several weeks as the 2019 city election plays out. Clarity depends on the media and voters pressing for concrete answers from candidates.
We’re ready to do our part in the election process, and we encourage voters to engage in pressing candidates for clear answers and taking the time to register a vote based on what becomes public.