One Aurora Plan
By Steve Hogan
Great cities are not born, they are made. Cities like Paris, London, Hong Kong, Seoul, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver all have one thing in common: someone imagined a better place than what they saw and worked to make it so. We in Aurora must believe that we, too, can imagine a better place and make it so. It is the responsibility of good citizens everywhere to take what we are given, add to it, and bear the fruit of the improvements.
Fundamental to such a belief is the concept that what happens in one part of the City affects the rest of the City. While improving the whole City all at once isn’t possible, what we accomplish neighborhood by neighborhood can still advance the needs of the City as a whole. We are One Aurora, and our plans for a better Aurora will require a comprehensive approach guided by a human touch, not just a compilation of metrics, measurements and projections.
There are some boundaries within which we operate to make improvements and the discretion of public servants has limits: Aurora is required by law to have a balanced budget every year; TABOR rules the questions of tax increases; term limit ordinances ensure no one serves forever; and education is within the purview of four elected school district boards that touch Aurora. Nonetheless, we are very much in control of our own destiny.
I am running for Mayor to bring to Aurora the leadership and management skills I have acquired throughout my private sector career and political skills I have acquired during 26 years in public office – all infused with a love of this City developed over 40 years as a resident.
Over the last 60 years, Aurora has developed its own water system, annexed raw land to meet the needs of development for decades to come, developed premier parks, golf courses and recreation programs, helped to make the Fitzsimons Campus a reality, assisted in getting E-470 built and I-225 improved, aided in creating a flourishing business district along Havana, and made sure that Buckley Air Force Base became an integral part of the defense system of this country. With the Gaylord Entertainment announcement last month, the City is on the verge of attaining the long desired destination designation it deserves, sharing in the tourism enjoyed by the rest of Colorado.
Aurora is already a great place to live. It’s populated with citizens who want only the best for themselves and their families, whether they live in Eagle Bend, Southlands, Mission Viejo, Dam West, Village East, Tower Triangle, Morris Heights, Hoffman Heights, or High Point.
But as wonderful as Aurora may be, there are improvements to be made. My One Aurora Plan is more than just a vision document; it represents what I believe to be a comprehensive program for making the City we all call home even better. In the clearest terms possible it sets forth what I advocate, what I oppose and how I’ll conduct myself as Mayor if I’m honored with the office. Aurora is the 56th largest City in the United States – a City larger than St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo. When I am elected Mayor of Aurora, I will work every day to realize an Aurora that is more than just a ranking on a list that compares it to other cities of similar size. Our great citizens deserve no less than to have a mayor who will undertake the collective aspiration for their City. If that’s the case, as I trust it is, we have work to do – together.
What follows is my attempt to identify and clarify what is important for the future of this great City. By working on these, and other important issues, together, we will create and we will be, One Aurora.
Priority #1 for Aurora: Economic Development and Jobs
More so than at any other period in our recent history, jobs and economic development are of utmost importance to the citizens, businesses, public institutions and government of Aurora. I believe that there are five pieces to a good economic development program. If all are in place, all stakeholders will thrive in good times and survive in bad times. Those five pieces are: protection, attraction, retention, small business services, and redevelopment. Aurora does well in attraction and re-development and we are engaged in protection. We can improve on retention and small business services strategies.
Ensure New and Existing Job Creators Know they are Welcome in Aurora. Successful cities create climates where businesses are welcome and can prosper. It starts with an attitude of customer service and finding ways to say, “How can I help you?” to those who want bring economic development to Aurora. It ends with a process that makes it easy for employers to do business here. For example, it should be a priority to help builders and developers to move efficiently through the City approval process. City staff is key to creating and maintaining a high level of customer service and creating and managing a successful business climate. One of my first acts as Mayor will be to meet with the City Manager and let him know I support a culture of customer service among City staff.
Allow Aurorans to Work in Aurora. In order to be the best City in the country to live, work, and play, we must create more private sector jobs and keep sales tax revenue in Aurora. The 15 largest private sector employers in Aurora account for only about 17,000 primary jobs in a City of 325,000. While there are also tens of thousands of public sector jobs (City, counties, school districts, and the military) and tens of thousands of small business jobs, most working age citizens still leave Aurora every day to make a living. Consider how much sales tax revenue we lose for Aurora each day when these commuters buy their meals, gasoline and other purchases outside of our city.
Gather Input for an Aurora Economic Development Plan. When elected, I will bring together the representatives of the Aurora Economic Development Council, the Adams County Economic Development Council, the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority, the Visit Aurora organization, the head of the City Council Planning & Economic Development Committee and the City Manager to put together an Aurora plan to attract 25,000 new primary jobs in targeted industries for the citizens of One Aurora.
Keep Our Economic Development Organizations Working for Aurora. As Mayor, I will continue to lead the charge for appropriate funding of our public/private economic development organizations so they can do their job. I believe that this cooperative effort is one of the most successful models in growing our business sector. Empower a Retail Specialist. I would like to see the position of Retail Specialist upgraded within the City organization. The City should hire and empower someone who has the experience and the authority to pursue retail projects on behalf of the City and help private developers do the same on our behalf. Let’s begin a dialogue so we understand the needs of our current retailers and what it takes to bring new retailers to Aurora.
Bring Private Sector Experience to Visit Aurora. Visit Aurora could use more private sector experience to help bring more projects to Aurora. Governments tend to take forever to make a decision. A truly effective destination marketing organization needs to be lean and mean. The potential Gaylord project is a good step, but we need much more to benefit One Aurora.
Undertake Several Other Economic Development Actions. When elected Mayor, I pledge to examine other ways to boost our local economy including, but not limited to:
- Enhance our existing Business Recognition program
- Attract a Class A conference center hotel across from Fitzsimons
- Assist the private sector in achieving a south entrance to DIA
- Examine an enhanced business district along Colfax modeled after the Havana Business Improvement District
- Familiarize our non-English speaking business owners with City processes and requirements
- Establish a ―building upgrade revolving loan and grant fund‖ to assist existing businesses of all sizes to stay in Aurora
Liaise With Aurora’s Medical Facilities. Without being planned, I-225 from Colfax to Iliff has turned into a de facto medical district. That’s the good news. The bad news is those businesses will just as quickly leave Aurora if their needs are better met elsewhere. Aurora must create an executive level City position whose job it is to interact on a daily basis with University Hospital, Children’s Hospital, and the new Veteran’s Administration Hospital, the Medical Center of Aurora, and the variety of specialty medical facilities that now dot our landscape. For example, a constant point of contact with CU at an executive level will allow us to respond more quickly to the University’s needs, create interactions on different levels, and keep current about what is happening on campuses in Boulder, Denver, and Colorado Springs.
Protect Buckley Air Force Base. Buckley must be protected. Many experts believe there will be another round of base closures, and Buckley could end up on such a list. If Buckley’s existence comes into question, the surrounding aerospace industry businesses – as exemplified by Raytheon, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman – will also be put in jeopardy. As Mayor, I will continue to oppose development around Buckley that might hamper the base’s ability to function as a viable military base. Rather, I will seek business opportunities that can attract and complement a viable military base. I started a City process to restrict development around Buckley while on City Council, and I pledge to continue the same as Mayor.
Support Another Racetrack in Aurora. Once the State has completed its review of the Gaylord project and a final ―Go/No Go‖ decision is made, I believe it is time to reconsider the question of a privately funded NASCAR-type racetrack in the City. I support such a track—a true economic engine.
A Solid Infrastructure is Key to Aurora’s Overall Health
One of the universally supported core City services is Public Works. The department’s
functions range from street sweeping, to repairing pot holes, to repairing crosswalks at
corners, to building local streets, to bike path maintenance. Aurora has a history of
excellent public works activities, but there is always more we can do.
Extend 6th Avenue East to E-470. For several years I have advocated for the
extension of 6th Avenue from Chambers Road east to connect to E-470. This extension
is a needed Aurora improvement for a whole host of reasons, namely to provide:
- Better service to Buckley Air Force Base
- Another east-west connector through the City for commuters
- Another option for waste haulers in their attempts to find a reasonable, quiet and safe route to the landfill
- New development opportunities for the E-470 and I-70 interchange area.
One Aurora needs the extension of 6th Avenue!
Resurface and Maintain Our Bike Paths. All bike paths in Aurora need to be paved
with concrete or asphalt and maintained on a regular repair schedule. Like many other
bicycle enthusiasts and club members in Aurora, I dislike seeing some of our bike paths
in sad disrepair. Just as we set a time schedule for repair of streets, One Aurora would
benefit from a regular schedule for bike path repair.
Beautify Aurora’s Interchanges. The interchanges along I-225, I-70 and E-470 are
often the first, or only structural view people from other states and countries have of
Aurora on their way to or from DIA. Because these interchanges are under the control
of other agencies, I will open conversations with CDOT and E-470 regarding City
takeover of the appearance of these interchanges. We’ll improve the image of Aurora
with some very simple steps to beautify these areas:
- Replacing weeds with trees
- Planting vegetation
- Posting signs welcoming people to Aurora and Colorado
Reintroduce Medians and Beautify our Streets. Street medians can be a touchy subject because many people view them as a waste of money. I disagree. Given our city’s ongoing issues with unsightly fences on major streets, I’d prefer medians. That way, drivers – many of whom are just passing through Aurora – will see a lush row of trees, bushes and yes, even synthetic grass, rather than just dilapidated wooden fences. I give kudos to Aurora for making progress with alternate fence options. As with most efforts to beautify our city, I’m in full support of reintroducing medians.
Welcome Visitors to Aurora with Additional Signage. In addition to 6th Avenue and the interstates, there are a host of other major street intersections – Parker Road & Arapahoe Road, Tower Road & 64th Avenue, Iliff Avenue & Parker Road, Montview Boulevard & Yosemite Street, and Havana & Dartmouth – which could be turned into ―Welcome to Aurora‖ locations. As Mayor, I want to send a message to everyone – passersby, visitors and residents alike – that we are proud of living in Aurora.
Environmental Stewardship Begins with Community Pride
The term ―environmental responsibility‖ means more than doing our part to help address the effects of global warming. On the city level, it means fostering a return to simpler goals of conservation and community pride. We should all want to have the best looking city in Colorado, and we should be willing to embrace change to make Aurora more beautiful. Some might say there is little a city can do to promote environmental stewardship, but I disagree. Strong leadership in conservation and environmental cleanliness will make a difference. As Aurora’s next mayor, I will promote meaningful environmental leadership in the following ways:
Convert City Vehicles to Natural Gas. Despite efforts over the years to modify the City vehicle fleet – an initiative I have long supported alongside people like former Councilmember Ingrid Lindemann – Aurora now needs to shift the City fleet of vehicles to natural gas (with any necessary public safety exemptions) within the next 8 years. If doing so in the most efficient way possible requires building a natural gas service station, I will advocate for one. A natural gas fleet means that Aurora City employees will be driving vehicles using a domestic energy source and simultaneously helping to keep the air we all breathe cleaner.
Build a For-Profit Recycling Facility. As I learned working on my grandfather’s farm each summer, recycling simply makes sense. But recycling isn’t always feasible or profitable for a municipality. I believe we should work with trash haulers and waste management companies to attempt to establish a private sector, for-profit recycling plant south of DIA on otherwise non-developable land. Not only will building such a plant in our area create jobs, requiring all haulers and waste management companies to provide recycling service will spruce up our community. Eventually, recycling will be viewed by Aurora citizens as nothing more than basic conservation, and Aurora will have the plant in place to accommodate it.
Expand City-Supported Annual Clean-Up Days. North Aurora has alleys; south Aurora doesn’t. Alleys collect trash. Based on a perception created by isolated trash problems in some north Aurora alleys, home values all over Aurora are perceived to be hurt. Over the years the City has been an active partner in sponsored neighborhood clean-up days, alley cleaning days, and other clean-up programs – all of which make perfect sense. I would propose doing all we can do to expand our efforts to six more City-supported annual neighborhood cleanup days over the next four years. These proven programs, with the support of the private sector, can harness the energy of our great citizens and will help promote One Aurora.
Promote Solar Energy Facilities. The largest public/private sector solar Research & Development center in the United States is sited on a property to the southeast of DIA. Solar Technology Acceleration Center (Solar TAC) is on ground owned by the City of Aurora, but is run by the private sector, for the private sector. The City must do all it can to assure Solar TAC is successful. Solar power may be years away from replacing more traditional energy sources, but solar power does have its uses. As Mayor, not only do I pledge to assist Solar TAC in its efforts to expand, I will work to target the attraction of more Research and Development operators over the next four years.
Maintain Arbor Day Tree Planting. Despite the well-worn joke about us having only one tree in Aurora, our city today has sprouted into an urban forest. In 1985, Aurora was first awarded Tree City USA status in recognition of its efforts to promote a greener, more lush environment. I’m particularly proud of this designation for Aurora, having worked closely with former City Councilwoman Peggy Kerns to require developers to replace trees that were removed to make way for development. According to a recent Aurora Sentinel article, the City today maintains 77,000 trees. While we have had a great start, we must elevate community focus on Arbor Day tree planting and work toward 35 consecutive years as a Tree City USA. The shade canopy alone benefits One Aurora.
Convert Highline Canal to Trails and Greenways. Though the Highline Canal in Aurora used to flow with water, it has been mostly dry for years and will never serve to transport water for irrigation purposes again. I believe Aurora should work even harder to use Arapahoe County Open Space funds and private grants to purchase and improve those portions of the canal in the City for walking and bike trails, wildlife habitat and linear greenways. This effort to convert and plan for the future utilization of the Canal has started, but it must be expanded so the City can exert more control over the process.
Beautify Sand Creek Parkway. Sand Creek runs through the Adams County portion of Aurora. In cooperation with Adams County, Denver, and Commerce City, the Sand Creek Parkway has been developed. Aurora must continue to pursue Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) dollars and private grants to further improve the Aurora portion of the Sand Creek Parkway for a more beautiful One Aurora.
Leverage Student Expertise to Maintain Alternate Energy Programs. The recently opened Ecotech Institute in Aurora – a trade school focused on renewable energy, sustainable design and “green” technology – is one of the few schools of its kind in the country. To support the Institute’s efforts, the City should encourage its students to intern with the City public works department to install, upgrade, and maintain any City alternate energy systems.
Re-open Discussions to Relocate the Lowry Landfill by 2025. The Lowry Landfill and Super Fund sites are not in Aurora, but affect Aurora citizens every day. Whether it is concern over routes for trash haulers, or developers who want to build east of E-470 and south of Jewell, or citizens concerned about what was dumped there decades ago, the Landfill affects Aurora’s future. I would propose an immediate effort to work with Waste Management, City and County of Denver, Arapahoe County and the State to identify how and where to relocate the Lowry Landfill by 2025.
Making Our Good Government Even Better
I’m proud of the progress our City has made in serving its citizens. Aurora has grown dramatically over the years, and our City employees have done great work keeping up with the demands of an expanding population. Still, we must continue to lead—there is more that that we can accomplish together for the betterment of all.
Adjust Pension Requirements for Elected Officials. Aurora elected officials get a pension after only six years of service, and they can start collecting that pension at age 56. I’ve spent years on pension boards, and I’ve never seen a lower service requirement or lower qualifying age for a pension. I understand the plan is meant to compensate for the absence of Social Security deductions from Council paychecks – and there’s not much we can do about pensions already earned for those people who played by the rules – but we can change the rules for the future. When elected, I will propose that the requirement threshold for years of service be at least 8 years, and the age to receive a pension be 67. I believe this is the right move to improve One Aurora.
Require Three City Council Meetings Per Month. Currently, City Council meets just twice per month. In my view this is an antiquated requirement and not befitting the third largest city in Colorado. I believe the Mayor and Council need to be proactive, not reactive in running the City. Our elected officials must do more to earn what the taxpayers pay them. While two meetings can be reserved for voting business, I will propose a third meeting every month for the purpose of policy review and direction to staff. These additional meetings will lead to a better One Aurora and further accountability to our residents.
Increase Interface Among City Council Members. It is imperative that City Council members take the time to get to know the fellow Council members with whom they serve, so that sufficient time and energy can be dedicated to policy-making decisions that advance our community. Today’s City Council workshop agendas are taken up with two to three hours of staff presentations (except for the budget sessions) and held at City Hall. One of my first acts as Mayor will be to propose that these Council workshops have real Council-driven agendas regarding policy development and problem solving. Additionally, I will propose that these meetings be taken from the confines of City Hall and out into the community, bringing Council to the people they serve. Council members need to spend productive time together, working with all Aurora’s residents to make the City run even better. Greater awareness, interaction and cooperation among our Council will lead to a better One Aurora.
Improve City Employee Morale. Whether in the private or public sector, today’s employees are emotionally affected by the economic downturn – specifically, they are concerned about their jobs. As Mayor, I will suggest to the City Manager and the Council that the City adopt the following theme: “#1 In Service Today, #1 in Compensation Later.” The City may not afford a pay increase for City employees now, but will be able to later. And just like the private sector, which increases salaries and benefits when times are good, the City of Aurora can as well. If we want to be the best, we have to treat our employees as the best. Employees can have ownership and pride in making Aurora #1 in service. All to serve One Aurora.
Expand the Role of Our Cultural Affairs Division. Aurora is a majority-minority City. With a 53% non-white population in Aurora, we must expand the number of full time employees (FTE) beyond 1.25 in our Cultural Affairs Division. There are more than 100 languages spoken in Aurora’s schools. A full 9% of our population (about 30,000 people) is not Caucasian, not African-American and not Hispanic. I will actively support an expansion of the role and demand additional support for the Cultural Affairs Division to better work with One Aurora.
Improve Communication with City Board and Commission Members. Several hundred Aurora citizens proudly serve on the dozens of City boards and commissions we have in Aurora. Many of these civic-minded people are making important decisions for the City, along with hundreds of recommendations to the Mayor, Council and Administration. A common complaint among these advisory group members is that the City doesn’t seem to listen. In the past, there was a City Council policy committee to which these groups reported at least one a year. Council recently abolished that policy advisory committee. I believe these committee members have important contributions to make to creating One Aurora. As Mayor, I will meet with each of these committees at least once a year, and I will report the results of those meetings to the full City Council.
“Mobilize” Aurora’s Next Mayor. The only job description for the Mayor of Aurora is that it’s a full-time job. It’s up to the wisdom of the voters to elect an office holder who will define their own role as have the mayors before me. As Mayor, I will be in and out of the office. I will be out meeting with other jurisdictional representatives like RTD and CDOT, serving on required bodies like the E-470 and Aurora Economic Development Council (AEDC) boards, conferring with employers in their offices, meeting with City advisory committees, interfacing with citizens, and meeting regularly with other elected officials at all levels. I not only commit to fulfill the Charter requirement of full-time service, I commit to be proactive in serving our citizens. I also commit to serve out my full term as Mayor. You have my pledge that I will not run for another elective office while serving as your Mayor.
Increase Transparency in Aurora’s Elections. In years past, I have led Council efforts to make Aurora’s election process more accountable to the citizens. Currently, there are two contribution/expenditure reports due before the election from every candidate for municipal office – with the first report due August 3rd. In addition, starting after the August 3rd report, I will commit to disclose to the City Clerk every cash or in-kind campaign contribution of $5k or more within two business days of receipt. I challenge my fellow candidates to do the same. Once I am Mayor, I will work to pass an ordinance that codifies this simple requirement of all candidates for City office going forward. Aurora elections are getting expensive, and the citizens of One Aurora need to know who is making those contributions.
Aurora is Part of a Regional Fabric of Metro Cities
Over the last 15 years or so, municipal cooperation has become more “the new normal”, and the benefits to the region – and to Aurora – are huge. As a City Councilmember, I served on boards like the E-470 Authority, the Metro Air Quality Commission and subsequent Regional Air Quality Commission, the Denver Regional Council of Governments, the Cherry Creek Basin Water Quality Authority, the Urban Drainage & Flood Control District, and the Northern Aurora Business Association. My years of service on several of these boards (as well as presentations made to other bodies such as the State Transportation Commission and various legislative committees) taught me that often times, the best defense is a coordinated offense. If we want One Aurora to move ahead, we need to promote regional solutions at the same time we are protecting our communities.
Complete I-225. The current expansion of I-225 would not be happening without the cooperation Mayor Tauer fostered at Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the great efforts of Congressman Perlmutter in Washington, D.C. However, those efforts have not always been easy. My past efforts on Council with others – not the beneficence of CDOT – resulted in the widening of the Mississippi Bridge and the construction of the Alameda interchange. When elected Mayor, I will take a hands on approach to continue the cooperation needed between Aurora and CDOT to complete I- 225.
Foster Regional Water Improvements. Ensuring that water is available and delivered affordably is a priority of mine. Just as we have in the past with Colorado Springs and Thornton, today the City is in discussions with Denver Water and South Metro Water to join forces on regional water improvements. The residents of Aurora should not bear the full burden for a system that is bigger than is required. As Mayor, I will strongly encourage efforts to get other jurisdictions to help pay the cost of water projects (or pay Aurora for our excess water when we have it), thereby helping to reduce rates for Aurorans.
Complete FasTracks. FasTracks is one of the best examples of successful regional cooperation in recent years. Aurora benefited from the initial FasTracks construction and will benefit further from savings on estimated costs of the East Line; one such benefit is extending the I-225 current line from Nine Mile to Iliff. I believe RTD made the right decision to defer going to the ballot this year to ask voters for a tax increase to complete FasTracks. If FasTracks is to achieve full build-out, such a tax increase question will be forthcoming. I would like our part of the system finished sooner rather than later, but not until all the questions about costs are answered. A finished light rail system is good for One Aurora; a new station to serve the proposed Gaylord project and others is critical. Of primary importance is to take those steps with a full understanding of the costs and implications – and the assurance that a new tax will fully fund the project.
Maximize the Importance of Front Range Airport to Aurora. Aurora is impacted by four airports: DIA, Rocky Mountain, Centennial, and Front Range. Each is owned and operated by other governmental entities. Two (DIA and Centennial) have the attention of their respective city governments. Front Range Airport, however, is an amenity I believe could be an eventual gem for the City of Aurora. Front Range can help us to be a port for Colorado; it can help us keep Buckley Air Force Base alive; and Front Range can be a general aviation service point to Aurora and the West. When elected Mayor, I will be a strong proponent of active discussions with Adams County regarding our participation in the ownership and/or management of Front Range Airport. Such action will ensure – along with our DIA relationship – we are the entryway to Colorado.
Assist Efforts to Modify Colorado’s Tax Structure. Local municipal systems in Colorado are stymied by Amendment 23 and the Gallagher Amendment. Even if Aurora wanted to change its reliance on sales taxes and move to more of a property tax-based system, we couldn’t do so without hurting the very businesses we want to retain and attract in Aurora. I believe, for the good of One Aurora, we need to make it a priority to join with other interests who are making it their goal to modify the Colorado tax structure. I fully support citizens’ rights to vote on tax increases. I would also support Aurora’s participation in a reputable, objective effort to re-examine Colorado’s tax code. It would benefit every local government in Colorado and help to improve One Aurora.
Support Arapahoe Park Racetrack. Arapahoe Park sits on the edge of Aurora, just like Front Range Airport. We go out of our way to try and attract people to Aurora Reservoir, which sits, literally, next to Arapahoe Park. For the benefit of Aurora, Arapahoe County and Arapahoe Park, all entities should work together to enhance Arapahoe Park as a tourist destination. People who go to the track will eat in Aurora restaurants and shop in Aurora stores because there aren’t any others within proximity to that venue. For the economic health of the City and the County, Aurora needs to begin discussions on how to make Arapahoe Park a true tourist attraction.
Culture and Community Pride: Aurora’s Greatest Assets
Community pride is something easy to lose and easy to overlook in a tight economy. It can be as basic as clean streets, or as complicated as trying to advocate for the development of an arts district. Throughout my years as a public servant, I’ve been a reliable advocate for numerous programs and activities falling under the umbrella of community pride. I am a member of the Aurora Museum Foundation, the Aurora Historical Society, and a Charter Member of the Aurora Fox Equity Founders Circle.While serving on Council in the 1990s, I voted to direct staff to achieve what has become the Aurora Arts District. My son went to school to be an artist, and while he has become more of a writer than an artist, it is all part of that portion of Aurora that must not be forgotten: culture and pride.
Sentence Misdemeanor Offenders to Clean Aurora Streets. When elected Mayor, I will make every effort to convince Council that it is in the best interests of the city to have our municipal judges pass sentence on misdemeanor offenders to serve their penalty by cleaning up the City. If nothing else, our streets and parks will be clean and One Aurora – north, south, east and west – will benefit.
Promote Aurora’s Arts Scene. Some of the best cultural programs in the City are not well known, and are in fact better known outside Aurora. The Aurora Symphony Orchestra, the Downtown Aurora Visual Arts program, and the schedule of performances at the Fox Theatre are certainly the most visible of our cultural institutions. The painters, sculptors, and artists of other disciplines in the Aurora Arts District all have their champions – and rightfully so. I believe it is the responsibility of the City to assist these entities through Visit Aurora, our destination marketing group, and through the public relations department of the City. More visitors – not just Aurorans from the southern part of our City trekking to the northern part – from all over coming to our city is good for One Aurora.
Celebrate Aurora’s Rich Diversity by Invigorating our Sister Cities Program. Aurora’s Sister Cities are in South Korea, Poland and Costa Rica. The purpose of having a Sister City is to foster greater international awareness, cultural exchanges and trade. Aurora used to be active in the Sister Cities program, and I believe it should be again. The last time a representative of Aurora visited one of our Sister Cities for economic development purposes was at least 12 years ago, and it has been longer than that since we had a visit from a Sister City. My wife, Becky, was born in Seoul, Korea. She was adopted and brought to the U.S. at six months old. She knows little about the country of her birth. My daughter-in-law, Rosa, is of Spanish descent, but has little opportunity to easily investigate her heritage. Aurora is a City of legal immigrants from dozens upon dozens of nations, and we can do more to make it easy to learn about those countries. Awareness of one’s heritage – and that of our diverse array of neighbors – is only good for One Aurora.
Highlight Our Historic Amenities. The Aurora History Museum is another gem littleknown in Aurora, let alone in the metro area. Likewise, the programs at the Plains Conservation Center are not widely known. As Mayor, I will advocate to find a way to bring the efforts of these two organizations together. The City should be commended for its work with Delaney Farm and the Gulley Homestead House. But we have a piece of ground as large as New York City’s Central Park that, if tied to the efforts of the Museum, can become not only a tourist destination, but a fabulous cultural heritage base in One Aurora.
Further Promote Aurora as a Destination for Sporting Events. Aurora has been a sports town for a long time. We have excellent parks, great golf courses, and wellmaintained fields for baseball, softball, and soccer. As a member of City Council, I supported the creation of Aurora Sports Park, Olympic Park Fields, and the development of courses like Saddle Rock and Murphy Creek. As Mayor, I want to do more. For example, I want Aurora to consider finding a way to create a Colorado Softball Hall of Fame in the City and bring an LPGA tournament to one of our golf courses. Doing so will bring more sports recognition and more tourists to the City. Support Completion of Colorado Freedom Memorial. I believe Aurora should become more active in making the Colorado Freedom Memorial a reality. This worthy project honoring our veterans is headed by radio personality Rick Crandall and needs to be brought to fruition.
Strong Education is the Foundation for Good Citizenship
During my years on City Council I have always been an advocate for cooperation with the educational community. I made contributions to the Aurora Community College and established a scholarship at my alma mater, the University of Denver.
As mentioned above, Aurora is the 56th largest City in the United States. Aurora is also a City served by not one, but parts of four school districts. Two of these – Aurora Public Schools and Cherry Creek School District – are the largest and most influential. Aurora is also fortunate to have one of the best community colleges in the state. With our school districts and the community college threatened by budget cuts and a difficult economy, the City can help.
Expand Joint Use Agreements with Our Schools. Aurora must do all it can in these times of tight budgets to review and, where needed, negotiate new joint use agreements with our school districts for community use of libraries, swimming pools, computer equipment, and meeting rooms. Building fewer structures can help both the City and the school districts. Use of existing facilities by each will provide a cash flow that can assist in the budgets of each. More rooms, pools, computers, and libraries available to more people can’t help but be good for One Aurora.
Support Public School Programs. The City must do all it can to help support efforts like the Aurora Public Schools’ Career Pathways Program. This concept, begun by Superintendant John Barry and the Aurora Public Schools’ Board, is designed to make learning and career preparation more relevant to APS students. As Mayor, I believe it is my responsibility to meet with all four of Aurora’s superintendents on a regular basis for the benefit of One Aurora.
Keep CCA a Viable Partner in Aurora’s Education Network. While I have no desire to lose the Community College of Aurora, the entire system is threatened by budget cuts at the State Legislature. First, the City needs to get on board with active lobbying at the Statehouse to keep the community college system – and CCA in particular – alive and well. Should the worst happen, however, I believe the leaders of Aurora would step up and investigate the establishment of a University of Aurora.
Sound City Finances and Well-Managed Budgets are the Hallmark of Public Stewardship
While some people consider the City budget a yearly document subject to change, I view the budget as the ultimate City Council policy statement for the year. In Aurora’s Council/Manager form of government, the budget represents Council’s only opportunity to direct how the City is managed and make spending decisions.
Unfortunately, the fiscal structure on which local governments rely is broken in Colorado. For example, as Mayor if I advocated for a supposedly revenue-neutral move to replace Aurora’s primary reliance on sales tax with more reliance on property tax, the long term impact on businesses would be largely negative – and that isn’t right. In some cases then, the only act of self-determination we have as a local government from a fiscal standpoint is introduce or raise fees for revenue, instead of raising taxes. It isn’t the best way, but it is better than not having enough money for improvements.
Introduce Zero Based Budgeting to the City Process. I have long been a supporter of what is sometimes called Zero Based Budgeting. In essence, it means requiring every City department to justify both its previous years’ expenditures and projected expenditures in the coming year. The budget starts at zero rather than at a certain percentage higher or lower than the previous year’s budget. As Mayor, I would work with City Council members to instruct the City Manager to institute this kind of sound budgeting process. I believe it represents a better way to identify both excesses and deficiencies in the budget for every government department each year.
Address Budget Priorities Creatively. I have some firm ideas about budget priorities; placing public safety above all else, for example. But having priorities doesn’t mean we can’t be creative in our budget. We didn’t have to close libraries two years ago. I believe the money to keep those libraries open was – and is – available. I also believe we can find new solutions to old problems. For example, instead of finding a way to name buildings after businesses, we could just as easily negotiate naming rights for a library system. Public servants owe it to the taxpayers to be more creative, more flexible, and more interested in changes that make our City government leaner and meaner.
Assess How Much Taxpayer Money We Need. Due in large part to the leadership and foresight of Mayor Ed Tauer and our City Council, the City is very well run. Aurora is in particularly good shape as a result of efforts I began with other Council members, including Barb Cleland, in the 1990’s to establish a rainy day fund. In addition, our City also has a TABOR fund, an emergency fund and about 20 other special funds. It’s time to determine how much is enough—after all, this is the taxpayers’ money. The City may be facing a crisis of not setting and living with clear priorities and not taking action soon enough to avert problems, but the great news for One Aurora is that Aurora remains fiscally sound.
Make E-470 Produce Results for Stakeholders. I believe it is time to have a discussion with the E-470 Public Highway Authority about how the Authority, 20 years after initiating tolls, can provide benefit to its communities. Aurora agreed to build E-470 so there would be some benefit back to Aurora. As Mayor, I will advocate to the E- 470 board that it is time to address how this organization will benefit One Aurora.
Divert Truck Traffic Onto E-470. Parts of the city have had to deal with noise from trash hauling trucks for years. Other parts of the city are afraid they will soon have to. In addition, the City has had to spend a small fortune on repaving Hampden. I believe it’s time to have a conversation with E-470 about truck toll rates to encourage the transition of trucks from city streets to E-470.
Where I Stand on Timely Issues Facing Aurora
There are several items that haven’t been addressed in the remainder of this One Aurora Plan, but need to be highlighted. Here they are, along with my position on each.
I Support the 2 per 1,000 Policing Plan. As many who oppose the plan wrongly assert, the 2 per 1,000 Plan is not at all unusual or exorbitant. In fact, it’s an average requirement for cities our size across the nation. The voter approved plan does not bust the City budget. Rather it mandates law enforcement as the top priority for Aurora. In addition, the 2 per 1,000 plan has helped to integrate Aurora’s Police Department, and I want it to continue. The elimination of this plan would immediately create a $10 million hole in the budget and likely result in laying off police officers and firefighters. With apologies to the Rolling Stones, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” Aurora needs to get its priorities in line – with public safety first. Only with a clear set of priorities can we decide what comes next.
I Oppose the Likely Recreational Bond Issue. Now is not the time to raise taxes to the tune of $100 million to fund a plan that will only serve a portion of the City. While what follows is clearly fiction, we could partner with each of the school districts to allow us to upgrade lockers and equipment in every high school in Aurora and allow citizens to use the pools and tracks, and it would cost much less than $100 million. We need to be more accountable and creative to One Aurora.
I Oppose Extending Mill Levies to Pay for Capital and Operational Needs. Similar to the recreation bond issue, this isn’t the right time to incur new debt. Aurora needs some of these improvements, but when there is no campaign committee in place to adequately educate voters and advocate a YES vote, the ballot issue is almost certain to lose. City leadership is imperative in communicating messages of explanation and support prior to moving forward with incurring debt for our residents.