AURORA VOTE 2019 — 2 clearly different voices vie to represent Aurora’s southeast Ward 6

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Ward VI candidates, Francoise Bergan, left, and Bryan Lindstrom
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | Incumbent Françoise Bergan is hoping to return to the Aurora City Council dais as the Ward VI representative for a second term, but the candidate, who’s drawn vocal support from local Republicans, is facing challenger Bryan Lindstrom, an Aurora high school teacher who’s earned endorsements from a bevy of progressive organizations and elected Democrats.

The two candidates hail from a growing region of the city where questions of resources and affordability dominate policy conversations. Ward VI boasts some of the city’s newest housing developments, the Southlands Mall and annexations that could bring hundreds of thousands more people to the city in the future.

Among the most pressing issues for residents in Ward VI is affordability. Lindstrom, an Aurora native, said he considered leaving the city altogether because of its rising cost of housing. 

Watch the televised Aurora ward council candidates debate here

“I almost left because I was being squeezed out due to the increasing costs of living. If I, someone with a master’s degree, a middle-class job am being squeezed out, I can only imagine how much other families are struggling,” he says on his campaign website. “That’s why I am running. We no longer live in an Aurora that works for everyone.”

To address affordability, Lindstrom proposes a “livable wage” and limiting incentives to big businesses looking to relocate or expand in Aurora.

“We don’t have a housing shortage, we have an affordable-housing shortage. We need to stop changing commerce zoning and rubber stamping development zones that don’t meet the community’s needs,” he says on his website.

Bergan, however, believes that mandating a minimum wage would be harmful to business in the city and incentives play an important part in luring jobs and investments to Aurora. 

On affordable housing, Bergan has opted out of requiring home builders to incorporate affordable housing units into their plans. She told the Sentinel she’s more in favor of enticing developers to add affordable housing to their plans through incentives rather than requiring it.

“I personally don’t like mandating and requiring that type of thing, it may end up backfiring and developers deciding not to build in Aurora,” she said.

Ward VI has not traditionally seen a major effort for affordable housing, for median income tends to be higher there. But Bergan said attainable housing becomes a real question in development and that the city should focus on smart growth and limit fees and regulations on builders because those tend to add to the cost of a home.

Ward VI also faces more crowded parkways as the population grows, Gun Club Road being a tough spot for morning and evening commuters. While the city struggles with a $20 million transportation repair deficit, Bergan points to the Southeast Aurora Regional Improvement District, which has identified Gun Club Road and other crowded streets as pressing funding matters.

Lindstrom said he doesn’t want to increase taxes on the working class for road projects, but said developers should pay for their fair share to make sure essential services are being met for residents. 

This year the city council, including Bergan, agreed to increase developer fees, which, in part, help fund new roads, public safety and parks.

“Aurora is a rare city in its availability to still expand outward while much of the rest of the metro area is expanding upward. Aurora is still below the metro average for impact fees and we give away too many incentives when they would develop here anyway,” Lindstrom said. “We need to seek out developers who want to invest in Aurora and benefit the residents of Aurora, not just make money off of us.”

Meet Francoise Bergan

Francoise Bergan
First elected in 2015, Francoise Bergan is vying for a second term in Ward VI. She says the council seat is her full-time job. She’s retired from working in sales, management and consulting. Bergan, who’s served on Aurora boards for more than 20 years, lives in Aurora with her husband and has a son in college.

Bergan: Personality Questions

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Being able to talk with dogs.

What movie will you watch again no matter how many times you’ve seen it?

“It’s a Wonderful Life”

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A librarian

Do talent do you have that most people don’t know about?

I can recite very quickly a French tongue twister.

If you wrote a memoir, what would you call it?

“Underestimated”

What time do you go to bed?

11:00 p.m.

What was the last book you read?

“The Nightingale”

Which restaurant do you eat at most?

Lazy Dog in Southlands

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Thanksgiving, where my family gets together for a grand dinner and gives thanks for our blessings.

If you had a boat, what would you name it?

“Depreciating asset”

If you could only listen to one song forever, what would it be?

“Against the Wind”

Which reality television show do you think you’d be best at?

“Fixer Upper”

What do you think needs to be invented more than anything?

A cure for all cancers.

 

Bergan: Policy Questions

Are there any laws at the city level that you believe could help reduce gun violence? Which ones? If not, why?

I don’t believe we can legislate away a problem without seeking true solutions that address the core reasons that a person chooses violence against others. Providing mental health resources (especially at the county government level) is an important step. Possibly re-evaluating the use of psychotropic drugs in younger people, as this has been a common denominator in certain cases. Aurora currently has an ordinance that does not permit firearms in public facilities.

I am concerned about the violence in our society and hope we can come up with some solutions that address it in a meaningful way.

Aurora has for the past few years paid for a substantial ‘Worth Discovering’ image marketing campaign. Should a campaign try to highlight the city’s good traits or push back against the problems Aurora is associated with?

We have so many great things happening in Aurora that I believe we need to continue to promote the positive to attract businesses and economic development.

Should Aurora limit or ban giving financial incentives to businesses in an effort to lure them to Aurora? An example where large incentives were offered includes the Gaylord and Amazon projects. Critics call these “corporate welfare,” but proponents say they’re a critical part of economic development and creating jobs.

Aurora is competing with cities across the nation for these companies, where incentives are part of the marketing package. I think it’s important to make decisions that carefully analyze the type of incentive and to ensure that a prospective business is ultimately beneficial to the city by adding tax revenues and jobs.

This year a majority of the Aurora City Council turned down an ordinance that would require lobbyists to register and record expenses if meeting with local elected officials. Would Aurora benefit from this kind of transparency?

A lobbying ordinance that requires lobbyists to register with the city is good; they already register with the state. The ordinance that failed was too broad in defining a lobbyist and had some special carve outs, so I hope that we can work to craft a better ordinance after gaining stakeholder input.

The city currently does not have an independent police review structure to provide oversight during police controversies. What kind of independent review panel would you recommend, or is one even needed?

The city does have an Independent Review Board (IRB).

I think it’s important that there are internal affairs personnel trained in conducting investigations to allow for a fair and just outcome on disciplinary cases. More serious cases, such as a shooting, are conducted by the District Attorney’s office.

How should the city approach retention in the police and fire departments with a record number of staff leaving for Denver where they claim better pay and benefits?

We have phenomenal police officers and firefighters and need to analyze how we can best retain them, especially after a substantial investment in our academies. Denver is a city and county and has a much higher tax base than Aurora. However, I would like to improve pay and benefits. Looking at improving our retirement plans is also important. I have advocated for a possible ballot measure that would add more revenue to Public Safety.

With local control of the oil-and-gas industry now a reality, how should the city create a permanent procedure and commission, or does the current system protect resident safety and industry interests?

The City of Aurora has recently approved two operator agreements that have addressed a number of health and safety concerns and now include much tighter regulation than previously through the COGCC. It was drafted with the intent to protect our residents from any negative effects from air quality, water quality to noise and pollution issues.

Additionally, our city has an Oil and Gas Advisory Committee that was formed to assist City Council in promoting efficient and equitable development of oil and gas while protecting the city’s natural resources.

Should the city dedicate money and resources to creating substantial, permanent bike lanes and structures to allow for more bike commuting?

The city has been dedicating both money and resources to bike lanes and continues to seek opportunities for more lanes when feasible.

What should Aurora do as a city and as a legislative body to abate climate change?

We should continue to support and partner with the “Regional Air Quality Council”. We also promote, through education, the use of electric vehicles or bicycles for transportation. Additionally, our water department does an excellent job protecting our resources.

Should Aurora raise the minimum wage? How high?

Minimum wage mandates will negatively affect employees and businesses. Often businesses cannot afford to pay such wages and still make a profit, and therefore reduce employee hours or automate functions. Some businesses will make a decision to move out of our city with such policies. With record low unemployment, businesses usually pay as much as they can to attract and retain good employees.

The Colfax arts and cultural district has some successes, but it’s struggling. Should Aurora create a new special taxing district to boost funding? What kind?

I believe this idea was proposed years ago yet there were not enough businesses in that community to support additional taxes. I think we can create marketing opportunities for businesses to support the arts – sponsorships, grants and donations.

Should the city build an emergency homeless shelter?

The city opened the Day Resource Center several years ago after investing monies into a complete renovation of an old gym. It provides a facility with lockers, showers and meals as well as counseling resources. We also have supported Comitis, a homeless shelter. Bridge House was another investment to assist homeless. I would like to see the counties step up in this endeavor, rather than depend on our city, which is funded primarily from sales taxes to deliver a number of city services.

Transportation corridors continue to be a problem in the region and there’s far more need than road dollars. Should the city create a special tax and overlay district for the southeast part of the city to raise money for improvements to roads such as Gun Club Road, East Quincy Avenue and Arapahoe Road?

We actually do have a special tax district called SARIA, Southeast Aurora Regional Improvement District. This district was formed to provide revenue to be used for local road projects. It has a board that votes on how to fund and prioritize projects. Currently, Gun Club Road and Aurora Parkway have been identified as priorities and they’ve approved funding for the design of expanding these roads.

East Quincy Avenue is actually mostly Arapahoe County and would require a partnership to widen it. Currently, we are widening Quincy Road, west of E470. Additionally, Arapahoe County has begun the “Continuous Partial Flow Intersection” to relieve congestion at Quincy Road and Gun Club Road.

Arapahoe Road has been expanded in recent years, primarily with Arapahoe County.

 

Meet Brian Lindstrom
Brian Lindstrom

Bryan Lindstrom
While a resident of Ward VI, Bryan Lindstrom is a social studies teacher at Hinkley High School in northwest Aurora. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Aurora Education Association teacher union. Lindstrom is an Aurora native. He graduated from Gateway High School then attended college at the University of Northern Colorado. He’s worked in education for nearly a decade.

Lindstrom: Personality Questions

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

If I could have any superpower it would be to instantly absorb and retain all the information in any book I ever touch. This would allow me the knowledge to tackle our toughest problems and the ability to communicate with anyone in the world.

What movie will you watch again no matter how many times you’ve seen it?

I am a movie buff, so this is a tough one. If I had to pick just one it would have to be The Departed. It is a movie that I can turn on during any part of the movie and get sucked in. And who can turn down a movie with so many great actors and actresses by one of the greatest filmmakers, Martin Scorsese.

What did you want to be when you grew-up?

When I was a kid I wanted to be a professional football player. Sometime in high school I realized that would never happen. I loved the impacts my coaches had on me and realized that I wanted to become a teacher and have that same impact on students in this community.

What talent do you have that most people don’t know about?

I can juggle

If you wrote a memoir, what would you call it?

Just a Teacher

What time do you go to bed?

On weekdays I’m usually so busy that I fall asleep around 11, then Friday hits and the week catches up with me that I fall asleep by nine, usually.

What was the last book you read?

I use novels in my classroom and we are finishing up “Family” by C. California Cooper.

Which restaurant do you eat at most?

Probably Chipotle.

What’s your favorite family tradition?

I am fortunate enough that my parents and sister each live within 20 minutes of me, so our traditions are still alive. But my favorite is probably our yearly labor day trip to the mountains.

If you had a boat, what would you name it?

Fharfrumwherk

If you could only listen to one song forever, what would it be?

“Vienna” by Billy Joel

Which reality television show do you think you’d be best at?

Big Brother. It’s the only reality show I watch because I think I’d be great at it.

What do you think needs to be invented more than anything?

Earth Air and Water purifier.

Lindstrom: Policy Questions

Are there any laws at the city level that you believe could help reduce gun violence? Which ones? If not, why?

Yes. This has multiple levels to it. Suicide is now the leading cause of death for our teenagers. One way we can reduce this is to keep guns out of their hands. A way we can do this is by defining what a responsible gun owner is. Every gun owner I talk to thinks it is responsible to have some form of locking mechanism for their firearm, whether it is a gun lock, a quick safe, or a gun safe. We can require purchases that occur in the city to come with a locking mechanism or require proof that the purchaser possesses some form of lock/safe.

But beyond the firearm, we need to address the cause of most firearm incidents. We need to increase the socio-economic status of our residence so partners of domestic violence can afford to move out and so people don’t fall into desperation. We can do this by addressing housing costs through having city and community-driven planning, not developer driven planning so we are building housing in the affordable range. We can also create a city bank so we can prioritize small business loans and first-time home buyer loans for people who live in this city and they can build wealth and invest in our city. We can also increase the minimum wage in the city of Aurora to meet the needs of our residents. By building community wealth it will reduce these incidence because people can afford their basic needs and afford to address their mental health concerns, if applicable.

Aurora has for the past few years paid for a substantial ‘Worth Discovering’ image marketing campaign. Should a campaign try to highlight the city’s good traits or push back against the problems Aurora is associated with?

We are currently spending about $250,000 per year on this and that is not money well spent. We should not be spending this money on a campaign saying how great we are or pushing back against issues. We should, instead, be spending that money on actual improvements and those great things will speak for themselves. There is very little evidence to support that campaigns like these are anymore than a net loss for the city.

Should Aurora limit or ban giving financial incentives to businesses in an effort to lure them to Aurora? An example where large incentives were offered include the Gaylord and Amazon projects. Critics call these “corporate welfare,” but proponents say they’re a critical part of economic development and creating jobs.

Aurora has the space and availability to grow unlike much of the rest of Colorado. We don’t need to give away these incentives to lure businesses here, especially for businesses like Amazon that are cutting their jobs. We should, instead, establish a municipal bank that will give priority loans to small businesses for people who already live here or businesses that already have demonstrated that they are invested in Aurora. I want businesses who are invested in seeing Aurora succeed, not just their own bottom line.

This year a majority of the Aurora City Council turned down an ordinance that would require lobbyists to register and record expenses if meeting with local elected officials. Would Aurora benefit from this kind of transparency?

Absolutely. I have spoken out at city council about expanding transparency and is a key part of my platform. Lobbyists should be required to register and should not be able to give gifts of any amount to our council members. Our council members have offices where these meetings can take place and do not need to receive fancy dinners as a reward for doing their jobs. Lobbyists should not get any more access or privilege to influence council than any other resident of Aurora.

The city currently does not have an independent police review structure to provide oversight during police controversies. What kind of independent review panel would you recommend, or is one even needed?

Aurora has a fantastic Chief of Police that I believe is trying to do what is best for our city. But, unfortunately, without an independent review panel, we cannot be sure that all future Chiefs will do the same due diligence that I feel Chief Metz does. Having an independent review panel will ensure equity and accountability during these controversies for both the police and the residents. This panel should have representatives from the community as well as legal experts that are independent from the Aurora PD.

How should the city approach retention in the police and fire departments with a record number of staff leaving for Denver where they claim better pay and benefits?

We need an ordinance for prevailing wage for city employees in relation to our surrounding cities, like Denver. This will ensure we always have competitive wages and retain the best as well as allowing them to afford to live in the community that they serve.

With local control of the oil-and-gas industry now a reality, how should the city create a permanent procedure and commission, or does the current system protect resident safety and industry interests?

The city needs a commission that is independent from the industry to review all permit requests prior to it going to the city council. The city needs to also establish the highest standards for health and safety protections. We can staff an independent committee that is free from ties to the industry and pay for their stipends through impact fees on the current Oil and Gas developers.

Should the city dedicate money and resources to creating substantial, permanent bike lanes and structures to allow for more bike commuting?

We need a complete overhaul on how we view transportation in Aurora. We are currently allowing developers to drive our development which is creating uncontrolled sprawl that is making our infrastructure unsustainable. We need to have city driven development that includes a large expansion on public transportation, walking accessibility, and bike lanes. This will help alleviate traffic and emissions.

What should Aurora do as a city and as a legislative body to abate climate change?

Aurora should invest in clean energy like geothermal. This will increase permanent, high paying jobs in our city, reduce our electricity bills, and make us a more sustainable city. This will ensure a transition away from fossil fuels is a just transition that considers the cost and labor components, as well.

Should Aurora raise the minimum wage? How high?

Our state’s minimum wage is $11.10/hour. That is nowhere near enough to afford the basic necessities of life, let alone being able to invest in a small business, become a homeowner, or buy your children school supplies. Just to afford the very basics in Aurora, a person needs to make between $16.00 - $20.00 per hour, depending on the zip code. We need a minimum wage that meets this demand as well as allowing our neighbors to provide for their families. I want a path to $25/hour gradually, so businesses can have time to adjust, but it will still be sufficient for the employee. I want to also tie it to inflation so it will continue to meet the needs of our community members. We also need to ensure that our small businesses have a seat at the table to ensure they are not hurt during this transition. Working together will ensure that we all win.

The Colfax arts and cultural district has some successes, but it’s struggling. Should Aurora create a new special taxing district to boost funding? What kind?

I would support a mill-levy or bond that would fund this. It would attract both Aurora residents and people from outside which would increase spending in our city. I would not, however, support a sales tax increase in order to fund it because sales taxes are inherently regressive.

Should the city build an emergency homeless shelter?

Yes, but it should mimic programs like the Bridge House so we are including wraparound services within the shelter. We need to acknowledge that this is a bandaid, not a solution, however. We need to address the problems that creates and increase homelessness in our city. It is the humane and fiscally responsible thing to do. It costs us 2-3 times more to allow people to be homeless than to ensure they are housed and stable. We need to make sure developers are paying their fair share and not abusing metro districts in a way that artificially inflates the market, we need mixed level housing (high, medium and low end housing in the same area) so we are not flooding the market in a way that artificially inflates it, and we need to expand our use of community land trusts to proactively address our housing crisis.

Transportation corridors continue to be a problem in the region and there’s far more need than road dollars. Should the city create a special tax and overlay district for the southeast part of the city to raise money for improvements to roads such as Gun Club Road, East Quincy Avenue and Arapahoe Road?

No. working class people have not seen a raise in 40 years. I don’t want to increase taxes. What I want to do instead is create public enterprises like municipal broadband and a city bank so we can provide essential services while also increasing revenue to the city using methods you’re already paying for. We also need to make developers pay their fair share. Currently, developers are using metro districts to avoid the risk of development and creating sprawl, making our problem worse.