Debbie Stafford: an Aurora mayoral candidate Q&A
Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer's eight-year, term-limited reign will come to an end later this year, and the race is on to replace him, with a vote coming up on November 1. So far, six candidates have filed to run (the deadline is August 23), all with different backgrounds and different takes on what they believe is important to Aurora residents.
Westword sent questionnaires to all six candidates and has received answers from four.
Today: Debbie Stafford.
Former Colorado State Representative Debbie Stafford, originally from Rapid City, North Dakota, has been voted into District 40 four times since 2000, where she chaired the task force for Persons Involved in the Criminal Justice Field. Stafford also worked heavily on mental health issues. Originally a Republican, Stafford switched parties in 2007.
In 2009, Stafford left office now works as an ordained minister. She also works with domestic violence victims and is the chair of Project Heritage, a transitional house.
Although Stafford's mayoral website appears to be under construction, she has stated that some of the issues foremost on her mind are: job creation, economic development, public safety, the expansion of mental health benefits and keeping Aurora's libraries open after budget cuts forced some to close two years ago.
Westword (Jordan Roston): How would you like to see the neighborhoods between Stapleton and Fitzsimmons develop and change? What will you do to foster that?
Debbie Stafford: I would encourage community collaboration and partnerships with RTD, Stapleton, and Fitzsimmons to establish a master plan of median improvements, home improvements, readily accessible public transportation, and beautified parks along the way.
WW: Aurora is the 58th largest city in the country, but has very few attractions. How can the city capitalize on its size and its diversity of people, ethnic eateries and shopping to attract in-state visitors or even tourism?
DS: Aurora has been given the honor of being the All American City. We need to market Aurora as the All American City by strengthening our relationship with the State Tourism Board, in collaboration with Aurora's many restaurants, arts venues and diverse communities, to provide special discount price incentives to in-state and out-of-state visitors and take advantage of Aurora's unique proximity to DIA and I - 70. I would also encourage more festivals and the broadening of events such as A Taste of Aurora.
WW: Crime is a perennial problem in Aurora. What are you thoughts on the crime situation and your intentions on how to combat it long term?
DS: I would like to see the Civil Service Commission broaden the testing and hiring process to offer more diversity in our police and fire departments. The lack of diversity has historically contributed to civil unrest in some parts of Aurora. I understand that the 2 officers per 1000 citizens in our community, has created some challenges. I support revisiting this issue in order to give law enforcement more capacity to uniquely respond to the needs of each community.
WW: Aurora has tried to develop a livelier Art District, but the going has been slow. How can the city expand the city's arts and culture offerings?
DS: I would work with the Art District to reduce the cost of annual theatre passes to businesses, students, seniors, and Aurora citizens. In addition, I would work with the Art District to build strong collaborations using local and state tourism marketing to increase awareness of the Art District. I would also continue the development of special events to be held in the Art District throughout the year. I would certainly encourage everyone in Aurora to see my granddaughter in her second year of performing at the Aurora Fox Theatre!
WW: Aurora is a city with a large number of youth. Unfortunately the youth get a bad reputation. How do you plan to make a new face for the youth of Aurora?
DS: I have recently encouraged the development of the Aurora Mural Project, similar to the Detroit Mural Project that I visited in the past. This project provides an opportunity for at-risk youth to get involved with seniors and local citizens in order to identify a mural project, seek approval from City Council, paint the mural, and be responsible for maintaining the mural. Additionally, I would evaluate the viability for the City to offer local tax incentives for employers who provide jobs for youth. I would also invite youth to receive appointments to many of our boards and commissions. Finally, I support the development of recreation centers and adding technology centers to our libraries, affording youth healthier opportunities for personal development.
WW: How can the city better reach out to its many immigrant populations?
DS: Aurora's diversity is part of the uniqueness of our great city. I would encourage the development of an Immigrant Council with representation by the various immigrant groups living in Aurora. The Council will have representation from each of the immigrant groups with the goal of educating, empowering, and encouraging action from the members representing each group.
WW: According to the Colorado Department of Education, last year, only 58 percent of Aurora Public School's high school seniors graduated. How can you change this?
DS: Every great city has a great education system. Aurora's schools have continued to improve the academic opportunities for our youth. I would encourage the development of a collaborative committee representing Aurora's businesses, Senior Citizen groups, and other interested persons to establish mentor and tutoring relationships. I would also challenge businesses and citizens to donate an incentive such as a laptop computer as well as employment opportunities for at-risk youth who graduate from high school.
WW: Denver and Aurora have had an up and down relationship. But the two cities will need to work together to make proposed projects like the Stock Show work. How do you plan to work with the city of Denver?
DS: I would foster a positive relationship with the Mayor of Denver. Aurora is a great City that is on the move. Continuing a strong, respectful relationship between Denver and Aurora is vital to the advancement of Aurora's future.