Smells like change. It’s coming to Aurora for sure. With half of the city council up for election next week, three of the five seats are guaranteed to go to newcomers. The other two seats are hotly contested instead of just drawing the usual sacrificial-lamb also-rans.
On the Aurora Public Schools board, four of the seven seats are up for election, and only one seat is held by an incumbent.
Actually, the change has slowly been building in Aurora. The slate of mostly younger, more progressive and more assertive candidates for both boards is the culmination of a city that has over the past 20 years or so steadily grown much larger, much younger and much more liberal.
This is a town that gave political birth to former Gov. Bill Owens, former Senator Bill Armstrong, Congressman Mike Coffman and a host of fellow Republican icons such as Elsie Lacy, Donneta Davidson and former state Rep. Gary McPherson.
Seat by seat, legislative jobs have gone to Democrats, even making inroads on once-safe county jobs.
While the city council has still boasted a majority of registered Republicans — even though the council is not a partisan agency — that’s clearly changing now, too.
And for a city where more residents are not white than are, the city council has hardly reflected that. This year, a bevy of minority candidates are running for office for the city council or the APS school board.
This is not your father’s Aurora anymore.
What it means is that Aurora has a rare opportunity for a city. It can actually reinvent itself.
While Aurora has long been a fast-growing sea of suburban homes, nestled among some serious non-residential concerns, such as Buckley Air Force Base, the Anschutz medical and research campus and an expanding and impressive array of industrial-warehouse behemoths, it really hasn’t been much more than that.
It’s not good or bad, it just is. The residents here, however, are anything but run-of-the-mill. The city is home to an astonishingly diverse population, teaming with first and second-generation immigrants from all over the world. The city has a large and growing gay population, a highly educated community, and it’s home to a lot of regional artists.
With a new city council, school board and enthusiasm, Aurora can set a new course, if it wants. Alongside all of this new leadership will be a new city manager as well.
So what do you want to be when you grow up, Aurora? Wanna be Fort Worth to Dallas’s Denver? Should Aurora set its sites on yet another, bigger and smarter downtown east of Aurora, complete with skyscrapers and its own football team? Should we finally, finally create a cultural arts Mecca at the exasperating City Centre project?
How about schools that excel at teaching English to non-native speakers? Cops that ride around in golf carts? A city that puts bike lanes and routes all over the city and focuses on drawing a way to the light rail system?
We could have minor league baseball. We can have buses just for senior citizens. Aurora could create traveling farmer markets that open on schedules just like they do in downtown Paris. We could have car-free zones. The city could finally cut ties with two counties that do not have Aurora’s best interests at heart and create its own city-county government, funneling state and federal money exactly where we want it to go.
We could have roving food-truck rodeos, fast-lanes for electric cars or after-school programs for every kid in the city.
There really are no limits to what the city can achieve.
But first, Aurora has to figure out what it wants. We know that unending residential growth at the current rate of taxation will bankrupt the city. It means we must either raise taxes, drastically cut services or seriously increase the rate of commercial growth, which pays for residential services.
It’s a lot to decide, and a lot of opportunity.
Inside the Opinion section of this edition are our choices for city and school district candidates that we think promise change you’ll want. We offer readers a bevy of information about all the candidates at AuroraSentinel.com.
Even if you haven’t registered to vote, this year or ever, you still can, right up the polls close on Election Day. If you have your ballot, vote. If you don’t have a clue, peruse our voter guide, call to find out how and then vote.
Change is certainly coming. Make sure your voice is heard to be a part of guiding it.
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