There’s real danger for Aurora — and every other Colorado town and community — from a surge in political theater substituting for legislation posed by jejune lawmakers and others too timid to reject this growing dangerous absurdity.
Welcome to Aurora in 2022, suffering this week under yet another “tough-on-crime” proposition, this one by Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky.
With no data, no research nor any discernible attempt to understand the problem, Jurinsky pitched a three-day mandatory jail sentence for those who steal $300 or more in merchandise.
She skipped Aurora’s tried-and-true committee and staff-review system without ever talking to prosecutors, affected city departments, public defenders, judges, or any kind of experts to examine the idea.
Jurinsky posed the legislation with no inquiry into the complicated problems behind an increase in shoplifting and theft from Aurora retailers, a problem here and across the country.
Jurinsky claims to have garnered valuable expertise because she visited the Aurora Municipal Holding Facility for a shift. She failed to mention, however, that the facility is not a jail. It’s a holding center where arrestees either bond out for low-level crimes or are transferred to jails in either Adams, Arapahoe or Douglas counties to await adjudication.
The facility was never built to be nor intended to serve as a jail repository for sentencing, and detainees must be released or transferred to a real jail within 72 hours.
Seat-of-the-pants schemes like this are what land cities like Aurora in courts against organizations like the ACLU and others, working to correct poorly planned gaffes.
Jurinsky’s stunt also swindles thousands of Aurora businesses by making owners and managers wrongfully believe the city has done something to solve the serious problem of widespread theft.
It doesn’t take an Aurora city councilperson to ask the simple question, what difference will this make if thieves keep their stealing under $300 an episode, or if they’re minors, immune from this farce?
Despite all that, and despite fellow conservatives pointing out that Jurinsky was asking them to drive the “tough-on-crime” circus car speeding into the abyss, they gave initial approval to the idea.
“Mayor Mike Coffman said he supported the bill but criticized the lack of a cost analysis, saying the council was unusual among elected groups he has served on for not requiring that proposals be accompanied by estimates, Sentinel Reporter Max Levy wrote last week.
“All of the legislative bodies I’ve been in do estimates,” Coffman said. “At this point in the process, we really should have fiscal notes on all ordinances that are brought forward.”
On that, Coffman, The Sentinel Editorial Board and more responsible lawmakers and city officials absolutely agree.
Conservative council members Curtis Gardner, Dustin Zvonek, Francoise Bergan, Steve Sundberg and Angela Lawson, however, didn’t care enough about a long list of serious questions unanswered by this ham-handed attempt at addressing a serious problem — again.
These lawmakers unwisely dismiss council opposition as liberal whining.
Aurora embarrassed itself earlier this summer when doing almost the exact same thing when Zvonek led the charge to force jail time for people convicted of stealing cars.
The problem with Zvonek’s scheme, hoping to make himself and fellow conservatives appear “tough on crime,” is that relatively very few car thieves are actually caught, let alone convicted. Zvonek’s attempt in shaming Democrats for changes in statewide legislation inadvertently pointed out how local district prosecutors serving Aurora have failed for years to get jail time out of car-thief convicts. The political kabuki sessions shone a fierce light on the fact that these crimes, plaguing Aurora and the metro area, go unsolved, primarily, because police don’t pursue them as priorities.
Aurora’s must-jail car-theft scheme is so ill-conceived that, despite cheers from far-right pundits across the state, no one has copied it.
Neither has anyone touched the city’s useless ban on homeless camping, which replaced the city’s previous ban on homeless camping. The only substantive change in law the city made was to further involve already overburdened police to help harass and evict homeless campers, shooing them from one unauthorized campsite to another.
In that case, the city, fortunately, agreed to expand pallet shelters and managed camping facilities, which actually help those who luck into the services.
But you don’t have to be an expert to see for yourself that Aurora’s failed camping ban is no more effective than Denver’s failed camping ban at banning homeless people from camping or making them any less homeless.
Aurora lawmakers must stop preening for themselves and conservative talk-radio shows and media with their ineffectual and wasteful showboating. The city faces a plethora of serious and critical issues, almost none of which are being effectively tackled with these partisan antics.
Aurora is managed and run by what is arguably the most professional and expert legion of municipal staffers in the state. Rather than listen to talk-radio extremists and their own instincts, city lawmakers should immediately consult the city experts that taxpayers pay hundreds of millions of dollars to for advice, guidance and, most importantly, solid data.
Reliable and credible information does not come from partisan “think tanks” and especially not from Twitter trolls or talk-radio personalities.
Aurora lawmakers should put this latest partisan snake-oil proposal on hold until real experts can review the effects and possible benefits.
Heed the mayor’s advice in demanding fiscal prudence and accountability when passing legislation, and ignore the mayor’s inability to follow it himself.