Steve Hogan: 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.
Six candidates filed to run, all with different backgrounds and different takes on what they believe is important to Aurora residents.
Westword sent questionnaires to all six candidates. Today, meet Steve Hogan.
Former Aurora City Councilman Steve Hogan has been working with the city of Aurora for more than forty years. His city career began in 1974, when he ran for and won House District 40. After finishing his term, Hogan ran for council in 1979, serving six non-consecutive terms up until 2009. Hogan currently works as a project consultant for Jacobs Engineering Group in Denver.
As a councilman, Hogan strongly supported the E-470 project and served as the toll road's executive director from 1991 to 1998. He also worked with land and water use industry and transportation development.
Hogan says his focus as mayor will be economic development and a zero-based city government. Among his main priorities: protecting what Aurora has, attracting more than it has, and increasing pride in what it has.
Westword: How would you like to see the neighborhoods between Stapleton and Fitzsimons develop and change? What will you do to foster that?
Steve Hogan: There are several projects that are already in process, or have been debated and studied for some time. First, specific north-south street connections between Denver and Aurora have been identified and proposed for quite some time; those connections need to be made. Second, Aurora has initiated several studies for improvements along Montview Boulevard.; now it's time to act. Third, the City must do all it can to support the Fitzsimons campus and surrounding area. For example, support the development of more hotels along Colfax, including one with a conference center that is useful to the hospital community. Additionally, light rail must be completed through the Fitzsimons campus. And finally, Aurora must see to the completion of the I-225/17th Avenue interchange.
WW: Aurora is the 58th largest city in the country, but it 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?
SH: Aurora recently established a destination marketing entity named Visit Aurora. The job of that organization is to recommend how to take better advantage of our strengths. It's a start to attract more tourists, but I believe there need to be more private-sector people on the board and fewer government types to attract our fellow Coloradans. The private sector knows how to make things work. In my One Aurora Plan, I've proposed a stronger effort to sing the praises of the city and all of our assets. For example, Aurora is the first big minority-majority city in Colorado. That specifically means only 47 percent of our citizens identify themselves as Caucasian. We could do many things as a city to tap the potential of that diversity and to support Visit Aurora efforts to attract more visitors. A start would be to resurrect the dormant Sister Cities program, and also expand the Cultural Affairs Division in city government to more than two employees.
WW: Crime is a perennial problem in Aurora. What are your thoughts on the crime situation and your intentions for combating it long-term?
SH: I reject the premise that crime is a "perennial problem in Aurora." Crime in Aurora is not a problem; the perception of crime is the problem. Aurora's crime rate is one of the lowest in the U.S. for cities between 250,000 and 1 million in population. In fact, the crime rate is lower than that of Denver. But since we cannot ignore the persisting -- and false -- perception, we must do two things. First, keep the police force we have. As I've affirmed in my One Aurora Plan, I support the city's formal policy of two police officers per 1,000 population. This requirement was approved by the voters in 1993. It is only an average staffing requirement for cities in the same 250,000 to 1 million in population category (Denver has more than 2/1000, for example). And let's not forget that policy helped to bring some persons of color to the department. Next, we must address the perception itself. One of my first actions as mayor will be to ask the City Council Public Safety Committee and the city administration to come up with a plan to begin to counteract the negative perception.
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?
SH: Any attempt to create a district out of nothing is going to be slow. I support efforts now, and when I was on City Council, I supported the creation of the district. My One Aurora Plan focuses on fostering community pride as one of its main elements, and I will continue to urge the City Council to appropriate funds to help the district grow and thrive. My personal efforts to encourage the arts in Aurora include my involvement as a contributing supporter to the Fox Theatre. In addition, while serving on the now defunct Northern Aurora Business Association, I consistently supported efforts to make Original Aurora more economically viable.
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?
SH: One of the keys to assisting with youth challenges is participation of the community through schools and business. Aurora has not one school district, but parts of several. The city must regularly work with each of those districts on plans they have to support youth activities. The city must also work with our business community and community-based groups to shore up existing programs, and, where they can be paid for, new programs. However, for a host of reasons, I do not support the $100 million ballot issue to build new recreation centers in the city. One of the most important reasons I am voting no on this initiative is because the new proposed centers do not serve the part of the city needing activity centers most.
WW: How can the city better reach out to its many immigrant populations?
SH: I mentioned earlier a need to expand the city Cultural Affairs Division and resuscitating the Sister Cities program. I also believe city staff needs to be made aware of the cultural challenges we face -- from something as simple as the need for building permits to assisting law enforcement. I want our city administrators to feel comfortable continuing those efforts to interface with people from diverse national backgrounds. Because many new immigrants are business owners, I also believe the chamber of commerce can have a role to play. When elected, I will be talking to the chamber president specifically about outreach to Aurora's new immigrant business owners.
WW: According to the Colorado Department of Education, last year, only 58 percent of Aurora's high-school seniors graduated. How can you change this?
SH: Aurora is far different than Denver when it comes to relations with and involvement in the educational system. First, while Aurora's mayor is full-time, the mayor is not the administrator of the city -- a city manager is in that role. Next, because Aurora has multiple districts within its borders, it is the part of the job of the mayor in Aurora to keep in touch with the various school boards and school superintendents to see how the city can be supportive. For example, the city must do all it can to support efforts like the Aurora Public Schools' Career Pathways Program. This concept, begun by school superintendent John Berry and the APS School Board, is designed to make learning and getting ready to work more relevant to students. The city has no legal responsibility or authority to make decisions regarding education. However, as mayor, I believe it is my responsibility to meet with all the superintendents at least once a month and report the results of those meetings back to city council, for the benefit of One Aurora. We can help, where and when asked, but we must stay in touch to be aware of what is needed.
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?
SH: I have a history of forging coalitions and bringing the right people together to get things done. As Executive Director of the E-470 Authority and the Northwest Parkway Authority, I had to work with almost a dozen different jurisdictions to get those highways built. As an Aurora City Councilmember, I had to work with ten other officeholders to get anything done. In July, I announced the endorsement of almost forty former and current officeholders in Colorado, including former U.S. Senator Hank Brown, and former Governor Bill Owens. The vast majority of those officeholders -- both Democrat and Republican -- were not from Aurora, or Aurora government. Those endorsements are an indication of the reputation I've earned over forty years in the private and public sectors. No one else in the Aurora Mayoral race can claim the background of accomplishment and depth of experience I have developed, thereby allowing conflicting sides to find common ground and reach agreements. As it relates to the future, I believe Mayor Michael Hancock will be able to work with Mayor Steve Hogan on Stock Show issues, or anything else affecting our two great cities. The mayors of Bennett, Commerce City, Parker, Glendale, and Centennial -- the other cities bordering on Aurora, and the County Commissioners of Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties -- will also be able to work with Steve Hogan to the benefit of all our jurisdictions.