2017 CITY COUNCIL: Vast experience and enthusiasm colors race for Ward II

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AURORA | Ward II will have a new representative come November, as Aurora City Councilwoman Renie Peterson is term limited. The five that are vying for the seat are: Bob Hagedorn, Nicole Johnston, Ruben Medina, Robert O’Riley and Jeff Wilson.

Hagedorn is mostly known for his time in the Colorado State Legislature. He represented Aurora as a Democrat in the Senate and the House during the ‘90s and early ‘00s where he was a champion of school, health care and criminal justice reform.

Now, he wants to serve the city as a councilman. Along the East Colfax corridor Hagedorn believes some type of business district could improve the area. Though, not something similar to the Stanley Marketplace. Hagedorn believes the Colfax corridor should appeal to millennials who crave value and diversity above everything else.

Since leaving the legislature, Hagedorn has been spending a fair share of time along Colfax Ave. He served as the president of the Aurora Cultural Arts District and helped create the ‘Fax Aurora business league.

Among other plans, Hagedorn wants to apply a more holistic approach to city government. While studying the improvements of one project, Hagedorn said he believes there should be a great deal of emphasis on how that project impacts other parts of the city or other areas of city government.

Johnston founded the East Aurora Community Development group after she learned of oil and gas drilling near her home, where she lives with her children. She now serves on the city’s oil and gas advisory committee, and supports the city having more control over where wells and production facilities are placed.

She’s also in favor of enforcing more safety regulations on each oil and gas site. She has stated she doesn’t believe the city is doing enough to regulate the industry.

“We also don’t want what happened at Firestone to happen in Aurora,” her campaign website says. “When it comes to public health and safety in our neighborhoods, let’s follow what is best for our families’ health as well as home values, not make decisions on what the oil and gas industry tells us.”

Among Johnston’s top priorities if elected to office is smart development, ensuring there is enough water and public safety for a growing community.

Peterson has endorsed Johnston to succeed her as the Ward II councilwoman.

For 10 years Medina oversaw the Meadow Wood and Expo Recreation Centers as a supervisor in Aurora. After leaving his job with the city, Medina decided to run for the Ward II council position.

Like other projects Medina has worked on, he sees council as an opportunity to use his networking skills and get people and organizations to work together. For him, bringing in community groups and organizations is a vital piece in bettering the city.

Additionally, Medina tends to favor the community having more of a say in how their government runs. During the Aurora Channel 8 candidate forum, Medina, along with Johnston, said he would support asking voters to increase taxes for roads and transportation, but wouldn’t be opposed to looking for that funding in other places, such as the budget or working to get state funding either.

O’Riley, a current Denver Deputy Sheriff, wants to bring more diversity to the council. As a Spanish speaker he said he would like to have some kind of translating service for city council meetings, specifically.

On oil and gas O’Riley said during the Aurora Channel 8 candidate forum fracking in Aurora could bring business, “and with business comes growth.” But he added that allowing fracking and oil and gas activity has to be responsible and voters should have some input into what regulations should look like.

“I’m for what the voter wants,” O’Riley said.

Wilson, a property investor in Aurora, has lived in the city for 13 years and said he believes a lot of the growth and changes local officials have ushered in has been “incredibly positive.”

He first came to Aurora to work at Buckley Air Force Base.

“Going forward, we must continue to be ever vigilant to keep on this path of good governance and progress, as it is deceptively easy to fall off and start backtracking,” Wilson says on his website.

To keep moving forward, Wilson suggests reexamining current city policies and exploring new ideas to “maximize prosperity and efficiency.” So when it comes to growth, Wilson said he’s only in favor of annexing land if it’s neutral to the budget.

Among the many topics that emerged during interviews and in forums some of the most-cited issues for candidates were homelessness, Aurora’s stance on immigration policy and transportation.

 

Many of the candidates believe the city should put more resources into aiding the homeless population in Aurora.

On the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival policy, which has been a hot topic in Aurora since the city council passed a resolution from the floor to a committee, all candidates said they support the policy.

“The DREAMers are a key part of Aurora’s, Colorado’s and America’s economic future,” Hagerdorn said, adding that he would consider any kind of local support of that population.

O’Riley said as a Latino, it’s important to consider what the next generations will contribute to the economy. During the Channel 8 candidate forum he said he doesn’t think it’s a topic council should put on the back burner.

When asked about pushing back against the Trump administration if it requested the city to do on enforcing immigration law, Johnston said during the forum she would absolutely pushback.

O’Riley said he’d like to have some backing if the city were to stand up to the federal government, possibly getting other local governments such as Denver to join in and oppose policies.

With the R Line facing service cuts, some have proposed that as the city’s top concern. O’Riley suggested in a candidate questionnaire that city leaders sit down and determine exactly which direction it wants to take on public transportation.

For Johnston, connectivity is the most pressing transportation issue, which includes, “improving Gunclub Road [ highway 30], extending 6th Ave east of E-470 to accommodate commercial and residential development in the area around I-70, Colfax, and E-470.”

Residents living on the city’s eastern edge need better connections to the rest of the city, she said in a candidate questionnaire.

Likewise, Medina said those living on the “city outskirts” need more transportation options.

Wilson said maintenance of the roads should be at the top of the priority list.

“I would be willing to spend more money on this section of the budget if it would allow us to allow traffic to flow more smoothly and efficiently,” he said in a candidate questionnaire.