Despite distracting noise about the 2024 general election, Aurora voters are poised to decide in just a few weeks government issues that affect their daily lives the most.
County election officials will be sending out ballots beginning Oct.16 that will let voters decide a bevy of city council and school board seats.
While there are endless critical issues that have and will come before the Aurora City Council in the next two years, we’ve singled out these obstacles as top concerns:
Tragically, the city’s police department and local crime have come to define the city for many who live here, and even more who don’t.
While the rate of violent and relatively petty crime mirrors that of neighboring communities, and even the nation, too many people rightfully feel far less safe today than they were before the pandemic.
At the same time, Aurora police created a quagmire of mistrust and fear over the past decades by permitting a shocking number of cops to inflict their racism and bullying on a vast array of residents, primarily people of color and especially Black residents.
By past police administrators permitting these crimes against the public to continue for so long, and to operate the system secretively and unilaterally, they nearly destroyed the ability of the city to continue operating a police department. The damage inflicted was not just on the public, but on the vast majority of officers who have steadfastly worked as honest, professional and dedicated law enforcers and public servants.
City council candidates need to be clear and frank about how they will direct city and police management to ensure that, above all, mandated police reforms are carried out swiftly, transparently and honestly.
For years, the police department has given only lip service to reforms. And even now, the onus is on the department to prove to the public it can be trusted.
Just announcing progress does not equate progress.
At the same time, the level of violent crime, especially shootings, have risen to a frightening level not seen in years. Equally concerning are prevalent crimes such as car theft, car-parts theft, shoplifting and unchecked menacing traffic problems.
In the past two years, some city lawmakers have offered and boasted a cluster of ineffective and unscientific proposals that make great sound bites on talk radio but provably have no practical impact on reducing crime.
The science is clear that programs and projects that measurably reduce crime operate outside of law enforcement.
Voters need to press city council candidates about whether they depend on reliable and trusted science sources to lead public safety policy, or political whimsy.
Similarly, Aurora has taken a winding and marginally effective course to address its part of a regional and growing crisis of homelessness.
Some current city lawmakers have aligned themselves with other misled public officials in the region, erroneously believing that homelessness is somehow a crime to be handled by police and county jails. Or, as in the case of Douglas County officials, some lawmakers here believe that just moving the problem out of sight and, if possible, anywhere out of Aurora, is a solution.
Homelessness is a regional issue that can only be solved by a regional approach, where every community works toward ensuring people have stable homes, and every community must step up to that shared responsibility.
Aurora voters should press city council candidates to ensure they are clear and unequivocal on where they stand in addressing this grave problem.
Homelessness, crime and police reform are far from the only issues the next city council must face. Aurora lawmakers must decide how best to use and protect the city’s water resources, and how best to ensure people from all economic sectors can comfortably afford a safe place to live.
That almost certainly will mean policy makers must interact with housing market forces and providers to ensure rapid construction to meet demand, providing incentives and assistance only to builders who pass savings onto renters and homebuyers.
The most critical aspect of the upcoming election lies in the hands of voters themselves. Eligible residents not only have a responsibility to register and vote — an easy task in Colorado — but every potential voter has rarely had more compelling reasons to seek out answers from candidates and take the time to choose those who will most responsibly and realistically put the city on the right track forward.