PERRY: Oy vey-cation calamity as Coffman careens into domestic travel troubles  

Aurora city council members meeting with El Salvador officials in El Salvador in September 2021. From left, Ivania Rivera, integrante de SARCO; Juan Marcano y Alison Coombs, concejales de Aurora; Félix Ulloa, Vicepresidente de El Salvador; Mike Coffman, alcalde de Aurora; y Ricardo Gambetta, Gerente de Relaciones Internacionales y de Migración de Aurora. (Fotos/Cortesía Prensa Aurora)

One of the first things Americans realize when they travel outside the country is that, despite what we are often taught to believe, this is not the center of the Universe, or even the planet.

Some Aurora lawmakers haven’t figured that out, and the city’s mayor doesn’t seem to want them to.

I grew up feeling sorry for people unlucky enough to not be born in the United States, and having to live in places where they spend most of their waking hours lamenting not being here.

By the time I started learning “foreign” languages and meaningful world history in junior high school, I began to realize it wasn’t all about us.

And when curiosity drew me onto an empty freighter ship in Florida bound for Cartagena, I started understanding how most of the world gets along just fine without us, and often better.

One of my first teen experiences in, “wow, I didn’t know” was drinking Colombian hot chocolate, “choc-oh-lah-tay a la taza.” It’s a more bitter than sweet hot drink with chunks of fresh cheese in the bottom. Really. You sip the wide-eyed, rich, hot chocolate and then spoon melty rich salty cheese out of the cup. It makes American packets of Carnation Instant taste like brown crayon water.

More importantly, I learned there’s an entire world out there who actually live without cars — on purpose — yet manage to get all over town, the country and the world.

Since then, I’ve been resolved and lucky enough to wander all over the planet, discovering all kinds of amazing things, most of which have little or nothing to do with our assumed place at the top of the globe.

Since most Americans who wander beyond our borders often come away with very similar observations, it struck me as beyond odd that Mayor Mike Coffman had a tantrum over two city councilpersons going to a French suburb as part of the International Making Cities Livable Conference.

Coffman dissed the trip, saying in a tweet and on talk radio that it was “an insult to the hardworking taxpayers of this city” for the two to attend “a conference, in Paris of all places,” concluding that the “next time they want to take a European vacation, they can pay for it themselves.”

He was so incensed that Murillo and Marcano would travel to an outlying Paris suburb — it was not Paris — “of all places,” that he pitched a new law essentially banning lawmakers from traveling outside the country using city money.

“As somebody who traveled internationally in another office, I just really fail to see the value of local elected officials traveling internationally,” Coffman, a former congressperson, said Monday, according to a story by Sentinel reporter Max Levy.

Coffman failed to mention that last fall he flew to El Salvador on your hard-earned tax dollars to glad-hand in a San Salvador suburb. Aurora has a large Salvadoran immigrant population, and El Salvador has a world class disaster on its hands being overrun by gang activity and shootings and half of the rest of all nations trying to sort out ways to keep the nation’s citizens from fleeing their home country.

I hope Coffman learned something he brought home as a “local elected official” sent to El Salvador, perhaps, to solve the immigration crisis.

I hope he was able to get out of his hotel and itinerary to find out for himself how charming and gracious just folks are in the San Salvador region. There’s plenty to learn from a nation with cities packed with people who seem pleasant no matter how hot and steamy it gets. The coffee and barista art is like nothing you’ve ever experienced here, in Italy or, “of all places, Paris.”

While travel agents and Parisian travel industry officials have carefully nurtured the image of Paris being the chic-chic capital of the world, anyone who’s been there, outside of a guided trip, can tell you it’s very much not. It’s an amazing place that is able to provide homes to millions and entertainment to hundreds of millions of people efficiently, or pretty efficiently.

The suburbs, however, especially the outlying ones, are no more like the Champs-Élysées than Havana Street is in west Aurora.

That famous Paris lane is filled with all kinds of tony things to wear and tuck away in your closet, all of which are much cheaper on Amazon.

But Havana Street in Aurora? You can get ramen just as good as you would if you flew to Tokyo for it. There are pork carnitas in a smoky chipotle blessing better than any in the top food quarters of Mexico City. Waxy potatoes await on Havana Street with a flowery pungent rub that if they weren’t here you’d have to find your way to East Africa to get.

I know because I’ve been to some of those places, here and there.

City Councilperson Curtis Gardner this week said he, too, just made an “official” trip to Mexico City. No doubt he was treated to some good stuff from one of the best foodie cities on the planet. But his takeaway was how the city manages to have one of the best public transit systems anywhere, despite the city’s love of cars, just like ours.

Even if Gardner didn’t learn first hand how to fix the Aurora metro area’s transit system, which needs serious help, he came back determined to tell people, we don’t have to live like this.

After going to a lot of places in my life, that’s the most important thing I learn every time I leave and come back: We don’t have to live like this. Other people don’t.

In Vienna, there are no turnstiles or ticket-checkers on their amazing subways and metro trains. It’s an honor system that people will pay, because it’s worth it. And it is. And they do. If someone is too broke or greedy to pay? Enough of everyone else does to make it work, and work well.

There are places in Germany, Holland and Norway where the roads are only for bikes or skiers. They don’t complain. They bike and ski to school, the store and to work.

And given that Aurora has spent hundreds of millions of your “hard earned” dollars to lure the international to Gaylord of the Rockies Conference Center and work endlessly to lure government-funded tourists or any kind of tourist to Aurora, to see how uniquely diverse and international we are, a clever person would think it odd that Coffman has such a problem with city lawmakers going there, too.

If you’re like Coffman, and others who believe that we can only make Aurora safer if we get tough, tougher, no, toughest on crime, you don’t know that in Iceland, they found out that plentiful and cheap education, good paying jobs and a strong social safety net has made that nation the safest in the world. And the fish soup in the fjords? Unparalleled.

Don’t tell Aurora fellow electeds like Dustin Zvonek and Danielle Jurinsky — who are convinced that tons of more cops everywhere are the way to end shootings and car thefts — to stay off city-related international flights.

They and other city officials have been spending tens of thousands of your “hard earned dollars” to fly to Washington D.C. to lobby Colorado’s own congressional delegation, who all live here. D.C. has some amazing restaurants, but if anything is a picture of everything we don’t want Aurora to be.

Coffman should actually send them to places like Reykjavik, Copenhagen and Osaka, to see for themselves what success looks like. 

And if they get to taste fabulous cliff bird eggs or outrageous smørrebrød? All the better.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]


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Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago

I love it!

1 month ago

I thought Coffman was very cruel to CM Curtis Gardner about his trip to Mexico, as well as to
other council members.

He totally dismissed the trips other took, while traveling outside of Aurora, Colorado himself.

Seems as if Coffman has an anger management problem just like Trump, and is very nasty
when making remarks about other council

1 month ago

I very much doubt that a editorial by any one at this paper could or has been impartial. I Read it simply to remind myself that I live in a country that allows everyone to speak their opinions. To bad there is no balance in the Sentinel.

Ken Reiplinger
Ken Reiplinger
1 month ago

It seems to me that many of these “conservatives” want to be time travelers and turn the clock back to the 70’s, you know back in the “good ol’ days”, where white elites’ could do whatever and no where else was like the USA. After being out of the country last year for the first time, I saw how it was different but the same. They had large department stores and they even had the internet too.

There is so much we can learn today we if we just decide to work together. Maybe not perfectly but try and shut up and listen to how someone else looks at things.

1 month ago

I think Gaylord is a bad joke. What a dump.

1 month ago

Mr. Perry, do you ever watch the city council meetings? With your erector- set put the pieces together thinking you missed a bunch of critical areas. I guess I should not be surprised you were for obvious reasons avoiding Crystal Murillo’s wanting to reach into the racist naming , bigot calling , bag of tools lefties always like to throw out in a pinch. After all Dave, her and Juan Marcano, are lone Latinos on the council, and now the rest of council according to Murillo, must be full card carrying racist to challenge this Paris trip for no other justifiable reason than the two are Latino. Is that about how you see it Dave, just like Murillo appears to?
Who knows, this could be another civil rights case manufactured by our local city council.

Jeff Brown
Jeff Brown
1 month ago

Largely dependent on sales tax, the City of Aurora is among the poorest in the state. Yet both the conservatives and leftists on council remain in lockstep agreement to not even acknowledge the root cause of a horribly weak retail, dining and entertainment sector. They’d rather keep bickering like this as Denver continues to eat Aurora’s lunch.

Are there any other pragmatic moderate independents ready to step in? There is so much upside potential for this city!

1 month ago

Now that playing the race card at these council meetings is being accepted and fair game the two M&M connection will work it as a political activist tool, similar to the Al Sharpton model.
These city meetings anymore have taken away any of what Aurora city hall’s credibility had held.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bob