Aurora is in a unique position, and choices made by voters in this year’s races will likely have far-reaching impacts on the direction the state’s third-largest city takes.
There are wide range of issues facing Aurora that current and future city lawmakers won’t agree on. Photo-red light cameras, spending priorities, marijuana legislation, police staffing and growth policy are but a few of the divisive and important challenges the city faces. The touchstone we use this year in our recommendations to voters is based on candidates who are more than diligent in seeking fairness and compromise during inevitable disagreements. Residents will depend on the next city council to fight hard in areas and on issues they may not necessarily like or immediately agree with. It’s a leadership quality that will likely determine the landscape of Aurora for decades to come. The city is falling further behind in keeping up streets, expanding critical roads, finding ways to serve a growing, diverse and aging population and creating amenities that residents deserve and expect. Perhaps above all, city lawmakers must work hard to ensure the city’s voice is heard and respected as it evolves from awkward suburb to confident city.
Voters, however, also have a large pool of talent to choose from this year. For the most part, there aren’t any wrong choices for city council, just better fits for the times.
City Council At-Large: Bob LeGare and Angela Lawson
Among the tougher calls to make are choosing two at-large council representatives among the four contenders. Council members Debi Hunter Holen and Bob LeGare are seeking another term. Challengers Angela Lawson and Maya Wheeler are looking to unseat one or both of the incumbents. Hunter Holen has a strong grasp on much bigger-picture issues affecting Aurora and the region and is actually better suited to get a seat in the state legislature. She’s passionate about the care and treatment of the poor, the elderly and people who just get pushed around by the system. She would be a welcome force at the Capitol. The same for Maya Wheeler, an up-and-coming activist looking for her place in the political world. She, too, has shown to be remarkably sensitive to the challenges struggling residents must face to find housing, healthcare and a way to survive against a world pressing hard against the middle and working classes.
But LeGare and Lawson are tightly focused on the role of city government and policies made that affect our everyday lives. We have sometimes disagreed with LeGare on issues such as red-light cameras and taxes, but over the years, LeGare has proven time and again to be an exceptionally honest, forthright, pragmatic legislator who really does listen and carefully think out issues before voting on them. Above all, he brings solid credibility to the dais.
Similarly, Lawson, too, has a keen understanding of the role of the city, the forces bearing down on it, and that solutions will demand creativity, flexibility and an open mind. She is a savvy, passionate candidate eager to move Aurora ahead on issues that matter to a wide range of families. Although she doesn’t bring the experience of other candidates, she’s clearly a quick study and likely to be a unique leader on the council. As Denver and other area governments stake out their own, often selfish and contrary interests on issues, residents will depend on council representatives like Lawson and LeGare to toe the line on protecting and promoting Aurora interests.
Ward IV: Charlie Richardson
For more than 30 years former Aurora City Attorney Charlie Richardson probably had more influence over city policy than anyone else, ever. He has long been an amiable, practical and persuasive force. And over the years, we’ve found ourselves deeply at odds with his interests in protecting the city and its foibles from a prying press.
That was always outweighed by his transparency in defending his or any unsettling city move or position, a quality that is instrumental in empowering the city’s legislative body rather than making it suspect. As infill developments begin in earnest in and around Ward IV, Richardson’s institutional knowledge of what came before and his practicality about how to make things happen will be instrumental in bringing innovative and novel things like light rail station developments and tracts of declining areas such has parts of Havana. Candidate Joe Lewis has proven himself to be a quick study of city policy and issues and is also a solid candidate for the office, it’s simply Richardson’s unique skills and experience that makes him an uncommon choice.
Ward V: Bob Roth
Aurora is hardly an island in the metro area. Despite the city’s unique position of commanding a great deal of water, prime space and other resources, the city must cooperate and bargain with neighboring governments for the benefit of local residents and everyone in the region.
In the past, other city and regional players have run over Aurora’s interests and needs. While most of the metro area was reveling in a wide variety of state-funded transportation projects, Aurora’s interstates, mass transit lines and other similar projects have long gone wanting. The fact that eastern area residents continue to pay unique registration fees to fund the only real toll road in Colorado, E-470 — while C-470 continues to be a free highway unfunded by that area’s residents — is a testament to the inequality Aurora has long suffered.
Currently Councilman Bob Roth represents the city on regional government boards and organizations, and he is key in ensuring Aurora’s unfair past doesn’t continue into the future. His awareness of this important political issue and ability to navigate it is hugely valuable to all Aurora businesses and residents.
While leading the city through uncharted territory in how to regulate the nascent recreational marijuana industry, Roth has shown himself to be cognizant and flexible in recognizing the need to ensure residents are protected by government regulation, even though he professes a political bent of laissez faire. Roth has shown that he is keen to listen, to learn and to make decisions after weighing all the facts, an asset that serves everyone inside the city and out.
Challenger Livia Payne has also shown herself to be a strong proponent of ensuring the city keep pace with protecting existing residents as new infill projects spring to life. And she offers experience from a military career that would closely align with the need to work with and protect Buckley Air Force Base as the next round of federal military base closures begins in earnest.
Ward VI: Francoise Bergan
All three candidates to replace term-limited Bob Broom for this southeast Aurora ward seat bring enthusiasm and diligence to the race. But Francoise Bergan’s commitment to city service and transportation issues makes her the natural pick this year.
Teacher Brian Arnold and candidate PK Kaiser both offer sincerity and creativity in how to solve transportation and other issues besetting the fastest-growing and furthest reaches of Aurora. Poor planning on the part of Arapahoe County and Aurora years ago have left the area desperate for road improvements now. Totally foreseeable, current developments should have paid for improvements to roads such as East Sixth Avenue, Gun Club Road, Arapahoe Road and Quincy Road ages ago. It didn’t happen, and now primarily current Aurora and Centennial residents are left holding the bag for how to pay for expensive expansion projects. It’s a difficult task made nearly impossible by a wealth of critics of any, albeit inevitable, tax increase.
Bergan has shown a fast and solid command of the politics of growth and how vital it is for the city to be in control of that maelstrom, rather than having developers and builders inflict more of the same poor planning. She’s also shown herself to be open minded about innovative ways to bring expansion to southeast Aurora, a trait that hopefully won’t be lost when regional, citywide and other tax hikes of one kind or another make it clear it’s likely Colorado and Aurora’s only way out of a host of messes.