Mayor candidates make their case to Aurora City Council

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AURORA | The four candidates for Aurora mayor took the hot seat Friday night to answer questions from city council members on how they’d approach the job. Most said their goal is to provide a smooth transition until voters can elect a new mayor next year.

The death of Steve Hogan earlier this spring left council members to appoint a mayor.

Out of 13 candidates, Aurora city council members chose four to interview: current councilman Bob LeGare, former council members Renie Peterson and Debi Hunter Holen and Steve Hogan’s son Timothy Hogan.

Each of the candidates said they have no interest in running in 2019. Peterson, who term limited last year, had pulled a packet for a possible 2019 run, but said she was no longer interested.

“In recent years I had not any thought of being mayor,” said LeGare, who has served a total of 16 years between two tours on the council.

But when Steve Hogan announced his cancer diagnosis, LeGare said he knew that if the worst was to come and the city needed to appoint a mayor, he’d feel a civic obligation to step up.

LeGare said he feels he is the most qualified of the four to be appointed, adding that there could be benefits for other members in his appointment. LeGare said he wouldn’t offer up input as often if he was mayor.

He said he’d be more of a discussion facilitator.

“I don’t get to vote anymore, and some people will throw a party over that,” LeGare said with a laugh.

Other candidates made an emphasis that they want to help bring the council together.

Council member Marsha Berzins asked all candidates if they thought it was better to have a cohesive council, rather than the division they’ve encountered over the past few years. Most agreed that, for the most part, harmony is best for the city. Hunter Holen said she didn’t believe that there could be unity without discord. She suggested it might be good if council members all complimented each other at the beginning of meetings.

Peterson, who is the former Ward II council member, said she’d like to see the council take a retreat within her first 90 days of office. That way everybody could get to know each other better.

“I think this council needs a little fun,” she said.

Timothy Hogan said he’s OK with council members challenging each other. He said “democracy is messy” after all, and he’s been in countries where politicians have literally fought it out on the streets.

Disagreement doesn’t have to be all or nothing, he said.

Hunter Holen, who ran for the Ward III seat in November but lost, said a top priority of hers as mayor would be to address council ethics. That would include a citizen board and code. She told council members she’d like to start tackling that in her first 90 days in office.

Many of the candidates listed affordable housing as a top issue facing the city. Hunter Holen said the city had to address construction defects in some way, while others, like LeGare, said it’s simply time for council to sit down and have a major discussion about affordable, attainable and subsidized housing.

Council members also asked about how the candidates would address growth.

Timothy Hogan said while the city does have to make room for development, that shouldn’t mean forgetting older parts of the city, whether that be in redevelopment or in infrastructure projects. Hunter Holen said more in-depth conversations must be had with developers.

Council members will appoint a mayor at the June 25 meeting. An appointee must receive a majority of the votes. If no appointee receives a majority, the candidate with the least amount of votes will be dropped and council members will vote again.