LEANNE WHEELER: I get that the ‘hit piece’ is a rite of passage for Aurora council candidates

Long before my first job as a paper girl, my dad (also an Air Force Veteran) kept political media at the forefront in our household.

Face the Nation, Paul Harvey and 60 Minutes were near constants, as was the World News, Life and Time Magazines, and Readers Digest.  Once I became a paper girl, then the evening newspaper and the colossal Sunday edition, both of which I delivered, became my constant obsession.

I poured over pages and pages of political and business news, the Want Ads, Opinion Pieces and Letters to the Editor.  From that day until this one, information – having it, interpreting it, and sharing it – have been a low-key, constant passion of mine. But nothing intrigued me more than the proverbial “Political Hit Piece”. Literally, nothing.

By the time I enlisted in the United States Air Force (1986), I was one well-read, well-informed, well-prepared young Airman Basic. I turned my attention to Air Force Regulations, a crisp uniform, perfection in my facing movements and a character above reproach.  Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in ALL I Do, have undergirded my life’s work, whether professional or in service to community.

My inaugural run as an At Large Candidate for Aurora City Council is my next opportunity to serve community.  In so many ways, I’m an unlikely Candidate.  A simple Google search will reveal what I’ve been up to since arriving in Aurora, in 1996.

Leanne Wheeler

Unlike many military Veterans, and some Corporate Executives, I don’t have an ‘I Love Me Wall’.  I take more pleasure in serving with my unhoused neighbors, or restored citizens who are finding their way back to community, than being seen at “the right party”, or with the “right” people.  In this way, I am quite the anomaly, really, as these are invitations that I often get, by virtue of the legislative advocacy work I do with (and on behalf of) Colorado’s 450K military Veterans, and our families.

But for the fact that I was blessed to serve as Project Manager for Providence at the Heights (PATH), a supportive housing development for 50 of our unhoused neighbors and their families, I would not be running for Aurora City Council.

The irony here is that I’m often too pragmatic for my own good and am a bit of a “process wonk”.  Our interface with the City throughout the development – which bears noting was a private land sale, between two private parties, with investment from a private syndicate, and NO financial investment from the City of Aurora – was wrought with inconsistencies, errors, miscommunication and unnecessary delays.  Developments like PATH are precisely what a high-performing government is FOR, and ironically, HOW a low-performing government is illuminated.

The latter is the impetus for my run:  a low-performing government.  A government that waives its right to reconsider negotiated contracts; one with a culture of incentivizing development that is inevitable, given the vast opportunities offered here; and one without an understanding of what plagues the everyday Auroran, in everyday ways.

Besides, I want to build more housing, without spending an additional $1.2M to defend a near-perfect Site Plan, or leaving families unnecessarily unhoused during the first big snowstorm of the winter season. Running for office seemed the pragmatic choice.

Unlike other Candidates in the race, I’ve the benefit of having worked statewide ballot initiatives.  With the passing of Proposition 111 (Payday Loan Center Cap), I entered the race with a win under my belt; two wins, if you count the Providence at the Heights appeal to Aurora City Council.

I’d argue that I’ve been running a principled race, as an unaffiliated candidate (thanks to Amendment 71, now my permanent “party”), with a keen interest in sharing my vision for #AnAuroraforALLofUs, in co-governance with my neighbors, and in collaboration with industry, and inter-/intra-regional governments.  A free Google search will reveal that ALL my work has transpired precisely this way.

A free Google search will also reveal that I’ve been partnered with every stripe of neighbor, citizen, and colleague with a shared vision for integrity in our shared work.  My own life’s work has taught me that partisanship serves no one, that shared vision is possible no matter your political affiliation (I’ve voted for H. Ross Perot and Bernie Sanders in my voting history), that your support will sometimes come from unlikely places, and that eventually, someone WILL write a political hit piece that will qualify you as a “legit politician”.

I now understand that political hit pieces are a rite of passage; in particular, when your integrity and vision unnerve the status quo.  And today I learned that I’m still intrigued by the them.  Very.

— Leanne Wheeler, Candidate Aurora City Council At Large via [email protected]