Aurora is ready to change with the new city council

By on November 6, 2021 0

AURORA, Colorado – Aurora city council is heading for a reshuffle. Conservative-leaning candidates who won a majority of the five open seats in Tuesday’s election promise big changes once in office.

Dustin Zvonek, Danielle Jurinsky and Steve Sundberg are all new to city council. Incumbent Crystal Murillo was able to retain her seat in the election.

The results reversed the balance of power of the non-partisan city council in favor of conservative-leaning members.

Since June, city council has been at a 5-5 deadlock on major issues after Nicole Johnston resigned her seat to accept a job offer in El Paso County. The city council could not even agree on his replacement.

Tuesday’s election will mean the end of this political stalemate and a possible path for the reintroduction of some of Mayor Mike Coffman’s priorities, such as a ban on camping.

“I can’t wait to review the camping ban. I will support him. I want a workable plan on where our homeless can go, ”Jurinsky said. “The plan, whatever we come up with, the homeless will be much safer than they are now with tents right by major highways.”

Sundberg agrees changes need to be made to city council to deal with Aurora’s homeless population, saying he doesn’t want the area to become the next Portland or Seattle.

He says homeless people tend to turn to the most permissive policies, and he would support an ordinance to discourage begging.

“The complex issue, we are dealing with human beings and with lives. Each situation is different, and in many cases – in the majority of them – to deal with uncontrollable addictions and drug addiction, and therefore, in a perfect world, each individual’s rehabilitation would be ideal, ”said Sundberg.

However, current city council member Alison Coombs disagrees with a camping ban and says Aurora needs to work to find more balanced solutions, like housing options.

Coombs says the mayor’s most recent proposal fails to provide decent housing and, instead, locks up homeless people.

“I’m afraid people don’t see viable solutions as accepted because they’re so focused on political victories for themselves,” Coombs said. “If this new advice comes along and it is not open to action that will truly serve people in a human way, then people are going to die.”

Due to city rules, the camping ban can only be reintroduced in February.

Jurinsky and Sandberg are both restaurant owners whose businesses struggled like many others during the pandemic. They say COVID-19 played a big role in convincing them to run for city council.

“The local municipal government was not of much help in pushing a minimum of $ 20 an hour when we were on our knees,” Sandberg said.

He believes this demonstrated a lack of appreciation or understanding for the struggles of small businesses in the community. Sandberg promises to work with city council to reduce regulations and taxes to encourage more businesses to locate in the area.

Coombs was one of the council members pushing for an increase in the minimum wage.

She says the current board has tried to work with the business community through their struggles over the past two years, but she thinks it’s important to raise the minimum wage to help low-income families.

Another change of direction with the city council could concern the reforms of the police force and the support to the police force.

Aurora Police have made multiple headlines in recent months over the death of Elijah McClain, an officer who passed out while intoxicated at the wheel, the detention of a black family after mistaken identity and more .

Jurinsky, an Air Force veteran who served in the Air National Guard, says she supports law enforcement and wants to rebuild the image and reputation of the police service.

However, Jurinsky says she knows there are bad actors and fixes to be made within the department.

“I support blue, but there’s this 1%, and make no mistake: this 1%, I’ll be their worst nightmare,” she said.

An independent investigation by the Colorado Department of Law also found that the department had embarked on a model of racist policing and excessive force.

The report recommended that the ministry enter into a consent decree that requires policy changes and more training.

Chief Vanessa Wilson has implemented numerous reforms, changed policies, sanctioned or fired officers and ordered more investigations into allegations of wrongdoing.

“I think she has a difficult position in a difficult role only, so she faces a lot of things. I think she’s probably the right fit in the meantime, ”Sandberg said.

However, the Aurora Police Union recently overwhelmingly passed a vote of no-confidence against Wilson 442-16. The vote came after Wilson decided to reopen an internal affairs investigation into the use of force during the arrest of Preston Nunn III, which had previously been reviewed by Force Review.

Following the vote of no confidence, one of the deputy city directors for the town of Aurora issued a statement saying that Wilson and Aurora’s agents had “my full support.”

Jurinsky, however, says that while she doesn’t know Wilson personally, she has doubts.

“The vote of no confidence was a pretty overwhelming number against her,” she said. “It sends a very clear message that there is a problem with leadership, and so I would say that is definitely going to be looked at.”

The city council does not directly dismiss the chief of police because it is not a post appointed by the council. This work falls to the city manager. However, Coombs says she’s heard of the Chief’s dismissal before.

“I want to be clear that I absolutely do not support this,” Coombs said.

Jurinsky and Sandberg are also disappointed with the state’s policing reforms with SB-217, saying they believe the new law has discouraged officers from doing their jobs. They blame some of the reforms for Aurora’s crime rate and say they want to explore options in city council to protect officers.

“The state has taken away qualified immunity, and one thing I would like to consider is maybe the city is stepping in and if there is a case where someone is suing a police officer, instead of suing him civilly, maybe it comes back to the city, ”Jurinsky said.

However, she said she would support change on a case-by-case basis and not as a rule of thumb, and it would depend on the city’s budget.

Sandberg, meanwhile, says he supports independent oversight of the police department.

Civility on the Aurora City Council is a whole different matter.

Between tied votes and very different ideologies, the city council has at times become ugly with quarrels and name-calling back and forth.

In October, city councilor Juan Marcano called Republicans the sadistic death cult that is the most dangerous organization to ever exist in a taped council meeting.

Jurinsky and Sandberg say they will approach their new positions with an open mind and a positive attitude.

The change in the composition of the city council could help restore civility, or it could further drive a wedge in Aurora’s politics.

Coombs says she would love to see city council work together and that could mean sitting down as a body and setting common boundaries for appropriate behavior.

For now, the extent of the changes to Aurora and how long will depend on how city council can come to an agreement.

“I think this is a crucial point for Aurora’s future,” Sandberg said. “I think people feel that in which direction can we go? We don’t want to go to the far left or to the right. Let’s unite and make big decisions together.

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