2017 CITY COUNCIL: Who best can represent dynamic Original Aurora at stake in Ward I

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AURORA | Sally Mounier is hoping to hold on to her seat as the Aurora City Council’s Ward I representative, but she faces a challenge from Crystal Murillo, the 23-year-old candidate who grew up in the ward.

Murillo is the daughter of immigrants, a renter and first in her family to earn a college degree — all things she says she believes better aligns her with the diversity of the ward. Mounier has lived in Ward I for nearly 20 years, and, like Murillo, wants to keep the ward affordable and desirable for its residents, especially as home prices and rents continue to grow around the Denver metro area.

“I’m adamantly opposed to gentrification,” Mounier said during an Aurora Channel 8 candidate forum, despite development, such as the Anschutz Medical Campus and surrounding projects, popping up within the ward.

Murillo had similar thoughts on the topic during the forum.

“We are at risk of gentrification,” Murillo said of her home in Ward I. “(We’re at risk) of losing people who have called Aurora home for decades.”

Murillo lives with her grandparents who have called the Ward home for decades.

Mounier said Ward I still has affordable housing, a major selling point for many moving into the ward and is slated to be the perfect community for those who work in the medical field, but make substantially less money than a doctor does.

Both also support the city utilizing incentives to lure companies, such as the Gaylord hotel and Amazon.

“We are very deliberative,” Mounier said of council’s role in granting incentives. “We do not offer incentives when willy-nilly.”

Similarly, Murillo said the city should be careful in how it disburses such incentives.

“I don’t oppose growing for the sake of growing,” Murillo said. “It has to meet our community’s needs.”

Along the east Colfax corridor, where Aurora’s homeless population is most visible, Mounier said she would be open to building some sort of campus that has multiple resources for the homeless. Murillo also agreed that the city must act in some capacity to help that population, but so far doesn’t have a detailed plan in how that should happen.

When it came to the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which city council took up in late September, the candidates both say they support it.

But Mounier moved to send a resolution that would have declared Aurora’s support of DACA to a policy committee for “further development” last month. Mounier said she believed the resolution should include more on comprehensive immigration reform, including border security, before council makes a decision. It’s not clear when that resolution will be back before council.

“I am totally on record of support, finding a permanent solution for the DACA kids, but I want to assure the public that for me DACA is only one part of a huge immigration issue that has to be dealt with by the Congress of the United States, not the city officials,” Mounier said during the forum. “So my thought is let’s get in front of our congressmen and senators and pass immigration reform.”

Murillo said she supported the policy, and that people, many around her age, that were brought to this country illegally at no fault of their own, should not be penalized, but rather embraced by their community.

While Murillo supports Aurora adopting the title, Mounier sees the designation as a declaration to not follow the law.

“We follow it (the law) or we don’t,” Mounier said during the forum. “Are we going to pick and choose what laws we are going to obey? For me, we’re going to follow the law.”

On transportation, the two have different ideas. Mounier believes maintenance of Aurora’s roads is most pressing, while Murillo said “fixing roads is a Band-aid,” and a great deal of emphasis should be made on how the city’s transportation infrastructure will accommodate growth.

She points to Englewood for a model.

“They provide a free shuttle service throughout their city that connects to major business hubs and to the light rail. The shuttle not only increases mobility for residents but improves business access,” Murillo said in a candidate questionnaire. “It runs along a public art route, which if Aurora replicated could improve the community feel of our city, and be an opportunity to employ local artists as well.”