AURORA VOTE 2021: Ward II - In northeast Aurora, safety, environment rise to top issues

Ward II sees the most oil development in the city. How would you rate the city’s current approach to regulation under new state law? Would you like to see more or fewer regulations on oil and gas development? The Oil & Gas Manual (Aurora City Code Chapter 135) is 137 pages of code and direction. If we cannot appropriately address related risks under the current approach, then I must question what we are really trying to accomplish. Aurora has put forth a huge effort to regulate oil development.

As a general principle, I am for fewer regulations as they interfere with efficiency and create additional costs; however, I wholly recognize their intent in protecting our residents and I look forward to hearing more from my constituents on their thoughts (and feelings) on the topic. I have spoken with 1000s of Ward 2 residents and, frankly, additional  regulation or changes to the city’s current approach has not been a hot topic.

Do you support increasing impact fees — which defray the cost of public safety resources, roads and parks for the city’s newest residents — on home developers?

It makes sense that if costs go up, they get passed along to the consumer. In this case, the consumer would be the homebuyer. However, inherently, if you are supporting the increase of impact fees… you are also accepting the increasing prices of new homes and, to a lesser extent, the increasing prices in the overall housing market. ‘Affordable’ housing is already a hot topic in the city.

I see ‘impact fees’ as part of the build / development of a home or subdivision. I do not think these costs should be a burden to taxpayers already living in the area. If you are buying a new home, I believe it is reasonable to incur all related costs. If you increase impact fees on home developers, it should be passed along to the eventual homebuyer. The important question to me is… why are ‘impact fees’ increasing? What are we doing to address the drivers of the fee increase? This should be the focus of our attention.

Proposals to address visible homelessness have ranged from an urban camping ban — which Mayor Mike Coffman has committed to bring back for a second vote — to adding safe parking lots and additional shelter space. Which policies would you be in favor of? Would you support the camping ban? 

Policies: I support all assistance to the homeless community which is privately funded. While the City, through the Mayor and City Council, should have a stance on the topic… with these individuals serving to drive thought leadership… the direction should be to source funding through the community voluntarily rather than earmark taxpayer dollars or increase taxes. I believe more people should help; I do not believe anyone should be forced to help. Volunteering your time or money creates a sense of responsibility that I believe takes us from viewing it as a city-issue to a people-issue.

Too often, I believe people focus on what they deem as an eyesore rather than the fact that we are talking about people… people that are part of our community. Our homeless people should be treated like all other residents. They should have the same personal liberties as all other residents.

Mayor Coffman’s Camping Ban: As written, presented, amended, and discussed… I do not support the ban. I have been fortunate to listen to Mayor Coffman speak on the topic since City Council rejected the proposal and I hope the feedback he has received during those events is taken into consideration as he prepares to present the proposal again.

Would you support increasing the minimum wage in Aurora? Why? 

No. It’s an arbitrary wage floor that less than (approximately) 2% of residents make – the average Aurora resident makes $19.25 per hour (approximately $7 more per hour than the minimum wage). It’s not tied to the concepts of a living wage nor the cost of living; however, many want to use the minimum wage argument as a reaction to increasing living costs… rather than address the drivers of cost increases. This is compounded by the fact that this arbitrary wage floor artificially increases the true price of goods and services.

We – the people of Aurora – should work on changing the way we view minimum wage. I believe our efforts should be focused on reducing the cost of living rather than forcing local businesses to pay a certain, arbitrary, wage.

Do you support Aurora forming its own county? Why? 

No. I would oppose this simply because any reorganization is expensive and rarely recognizes the efficiencies it sets out to achieve. There are a ton of one-time costs, budgeting concerns, organizational costs (changing names, logos, buildings, re-training, new policies, and communications / marketing the changes to the public) and merger costs (merging departments that have different goals, strategies, procedures, etc).

What is the city’s most pressing transportation need? 

Improved roads. City government drives up the costs of our roads by two-fold. Further, government spending (or budgeting) on roads is relatively flat year over year over year. We are $20 million behind on maintenance… $43 million or so on possible reconstruction. Aurora has an opportunity to cut the cost to residents by moving more road maintenance responsibility to private companies, removing city government as a middle person, and put more control in the hands of residents to maintain residential roads. Maintenance per mile, if handled privately, can be as low as $3,400. With government intervention, it is approximately $7,500 per mile.

Improved public transportation – RTD. Our busing and rail system closely resemble the state of our roads. Fixing the roads inherently improve busing routes. I look forward to being able to work to increase busing routes… as well as expanding our rail system.

Do you think the city does a good job of marketing itself? If not, what can be done differently? Is it important? 

I believe the city should be run more like a business. Aurora is a poorly run, poorly managed business. If the city is going to market itself, the strategy should be tied to metrics that can easily be tied to results. An example would be if we are going to target economic development in the city to help keep more Aurora residents here (for work) versus working in Denver… the strategy should include metrics that the public can easily discern and use when selecting its leaders: jobs created, jobs retained, commute time changes, and quality of life changes.

Should Aurora limit or ban giving financial incentives to businesses to lure them to Aurora? Examples 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. 

This is a multi-faceted topic. (1) Financial incentives to businesses do drive economic development, growth, and brings jobs to the city. It also helps them survive the first few tumultuous years of a startup or relocation. (2) It is corporate welfare and those that oppose it often are proponents of personal welfare. This seems hypocritical to me – it’s the same thing. (3) The city providing financial incentives to a business is, in essence, a redistribution of taxpayer dollars. Rather than a redistribution exercise, just reduce the taxes / fees the business would incur to establish itself in Aurora. (4) If the city was truly a great place to work and/or relocate a business to… it wouldn’t need to provide additional incentives. (5) I believe Aurora is a great place to work and own a business regardless of incentives.

Crime rates have increased in Aurora in the past two years. What can the city council do to address that problem? How do you think any new proposals related to controlling crime should be funded? 

City Council is woven into the fabric of change that we have seen across Aurora over the last few years. The ten members of Council not only represent this city, but its problems. City Council has great power, some Ward 2 constituents feel too much power, thus great responsibility.

I see our current crime issue as a simple problem with a complex answer. The city, as a collective of people, has made decisions that reduced police presence… it’s plain, it’s simple. This is a primary contributor to the spike in crime. If the city, again as a collective of people, wants to address the crime rate, here is a complex answer:

Increase police funding – basically undo the decisions previously made with the understanding that it’s going to be more expensive (to taxpayers) than if the decisions weren’t made in the first place. Keep in mind that police funding comes from multiple places, not just the residents of Aurora.

Become accepting of private police options – if you can afford it, hire your own police options. Private police can operate under the same code and strictures as the current public option… and as a for-profit enterprise, its incentivized to do a better job than public-funded options.

Rethink how Aurora polices – let’s have honest conversations about what crimes need to be addressed and which are less important. This is, effectively, what has happened in our city now: staffing limitations have an impact on which crimes are pursued and which laws are enforced.

I don’t think you can disentangle the crime problem with the police problem.

I firmly believe that all government functions should be voluntarily funded. Pay for what you want, support what you believe in, or pay for the level of service you receive. An example – if APD wants to procure a new vehicle, it should raise the funds from those in Aurora who want to contribute.

While there will be readers, constituents, who think voluntarily funding a police force is a horrible idea, or couldn’t work, it’s already happening to some extent. Over the last two years, private foundations have risen to help supplement training and equipment for

Aurora police officers. The residents who contribute to these foundations are, in many ways, supporting all residents of Aurora and, theoretically, all residents benefit from this.

One last thing I want to remind residents – police officers are people, these are our neighbors and, for many, our friends. While there have been way too many high-profile incidents (addressed in the next question), we must keep in mind that we are talking about people. People who choose to do an increasingly thankless job, with decreasing public resources and tools, and a decreasing public opinion. It’s not an easy position to be in and

I ask that you think about how you would be able to perform your job if you were in a similar organizational scenario. Additionally, there may be no better example of the city’s mental health crisis than looking at the Aurora Police Department.

The Aurora Police Department and the Civil Service Commission have been the subject of many high-profile incidents – notably regarding the death of Elijah McClain – and consequently the subject of intense scrutiny from investigative reports. Would you support additional oversight of the Aurora Police Department? If so, what do you think that should look like? 

Any organization or agency operating on behalf of or directly interacting with the residents of Aurora should be required to undergo an annual external audit… at a minimum… led by City residents or a judicial-type committee directly elected by the residents. City Council could be pivotal in organizing such an effort. To be clear – this isn’t just a comment about the Aurora Police Department, this is a comment towards all organizations and agencies of the City of Aurora. APD has an Internal Affairs Bureau and, while it endures its own scrutiny, is more than what most other organizations or agencies of Aurora have.

Further, this isn’t just an Aurora issue. Police Departments across the country are going through similar issues, similar examination. There are lessons to be learned and Aurora isn’t on its own in finding solutions.

What was the last book you read? 

Human Action, Ludwig von Mises

What has been your pandemic guilty pleasure? 

Running for Aurora City Council

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what are three things you would want to bring? 

I am presuming this is a survival situation: (1) a tarp; (2) iodine tablets or similar; and (3) a knife.

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

Humanity (reinvented)

If you were going to staycation in Aurora, what activities would you do? 

Read and/or catch up on podcasts depending on how long the ‘staycation’ is. Admittedly, almost all of my meals are made at home… so I would take the opportunity to try a few new, local restaurants.

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