Aurora city lawmakers nix minimum wage increase proposal, approve lobbying ban for police, fire departments

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Council member Alison Coombs, front, stands on the west steps of the Aurora Municipal Building Sept. 21, 2020, as she addresses the media of the need to increase the minimum wage to $20 by the year 2027. Community members, workers and labor organizations met for a rally at the Aurora Municipal Complex.
Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | Aurora lawmakers banned police and fire departments from lobbying Monday night and nixxed a plan to raise the city’s minimum wage. 

Councilmember Curtis Gardner submitted the plan last month to prevent the Aurora Police Department and Aurora Fire Rescue from “directly or indirectly” expending dollars or staff on lobbying governments.

The plan was inspired after Gardner saw police organizations oppose national reforms. 

The departments themselves are banned from belonging to professional organizations that engage in lobbying or advocacy, including the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police. APD and Aurora Fire will have to seek council approval to remain part of professional associations. 

City lawmakers voted 7-3 to approve the ordinance. Councilmembers Francoise Bergan, Marsha Berzins and Dave Gruber opposed the plan. 

Berzins and Gruber said the plan unfairly targeted the police department. 

“To insinuate that it is an attack on the police department is somewhat disingenuous,” Gardner said in response.

He said he’s interested in fishing out any taxpayer dollars that might be traveling to professional organizations linked to other city departments.

APD belongs to the Metro Chiefs of Police, Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, Major Cities Chiefs Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Aurora Fire belongs to the International City/County Management Association, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Fire Protection Association and Colorado State Fire Chiefs.

APD Chief Vanessa Wilson said she doesn’t lobby on behalf of the department without council approval. She said the professional organizations APD belongs to are critical to keep improving the police department. 

In study session, Aurora lawmakers shot down a plan to raise the city’s minimum wage.

The proposal, sponsored by Councilmember Alison Coombs, would have gradually raised the minimum wage to $20 per hour in 2027, with more annual increases tracking the federal consumer price index. 

Councilmembers Coombs, Juan Marcano and Crystal Murillo supported the plan. Councilmember Nicole Johnston originally supported the proposal but revised her position. 

She joined Councilmember Allison Hiltz in calling for more information. 

Coombs told the Sentinel she’ll revise and reintroduce a minimum wage proposal that would go into effect in 2022. 

“Our essential workers need our support,” Coombs said before lawmakers opposed her plan. “They don’t need just thank you videos, they need support in the form of more money in their pockets.”

During the debate, Mayor Mike Coffman — who has risen in vocal opposition to the plan — attempted to hammer strict time limits on speakers. 

“This is just a job killer. There’s no other way to put this,” Coffman said of the proposal. 

At one point, Coffman allowed a debate between two experts with opposing views on raising the minimum wage. 

Michael Saltsman of the Washington, D.C.-based Employment Policies Institute said Coombs’ plan would force businesses to fold, flee Aurora and pass higher costs onto customers. His counterpart, Tyler Jaeckel of the Denver-based Bell Policy Institute, said raising the minimum wage would help Aurora workers and families survive and inject money into the local economy. 

If passed, Coombs’ proposal would have raised the minimum wage to the minimum wage to:

  • $12.60 in 2021
  • $13.23 in 2022
  • $14.55 in 2023
  • $16 in 2024
  • $17.60 in 2025
  • $19.36 in 2026
  • $20 in 2027