During the 2019 off-year elections, the city of Aurora boasted a diverse ballot. Of the five mayoral hopefuls, only one was a white male; two were white women; and two were black men. Also striking was the make-up of those running for two at-large City Council seats. Again, of the six hopefuls, only one candidate was a white male; two were black women; one a Latina woman; and two were black men.
I have lived in Aurora for my entire life; I graduated from its schools. I have served as a social worker in Aurora’s boundaries. I have been extremely proud to call Aurora my home. Bring on the naysayers, I was always ready to show others the beauty of this community.
Over the past few years, though, I have grown tired of the politics in my city. For the first time, I had been considering moving elsewhere. The city council meeting held on eve of Election Day further disheartened me. Threats were made by our sitting mayor to shut down open public comment; and hateful speech was slung toward him by some of our community members. No one was heard. No one felt like they could make any gains.
The potential of this election gave me such hope. Hope that our local government would finally reflect its constituency. The constituency that the City so often uses to sell its image to potential residents, to earn accolades like “The All America City” designation; but in its policies has tended to refuse to honor.
Seeing this year’s ballot renewed my faith and gave me confidence that our city could be different. We could have enough people in power with personal lived experiences to understand better, and differently than before, the needs of our community. As we know, this is not what happened. Mike Coffman, a white male, will probably lead our city. And while Angela Lawson was re-elected to city council, Curtis Gardner, another white male, was also elected.
I want more. I want to see more people who look like my neighbors, who look and sound like the parents I see in my child’s school; and less who look like my family members. I want more than just the perspective of my culture. While whiteness does not mean one cannot do good; it does mean, especially in our current national and local climates, that one must work much harder to get things done that are relevant to Aurora’s constituency.
I ask that the diversity we saw in this election be honored by our local government. All of our community needs to be seen. We need all of the voices to be heard, including those who are speaking in languages other than English; and those whose voices are so empassioned and enraged and loud that it feels uncomfortable to hear. We need our leaders to lean in, utilize interpreters to understand the languages spoken, see the passion, and become enmeshed in the true ethos of our multi-lingual, multi-national, multi-cultural city. Lives depend it.
Katy Ayers grew up and lives in Aurora.