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 so far. Here is the first:
Sheilah Davis has been a resident of Aurora for ten years. She moved to the city after citizens came to her rescue following a car accident. A psychotherapist who specializes in hypnotherapy, Davis owns her own practice, Ascension Hypnosis.
After seeing the city close four libraries because of budget cuts, Davis and several others created Citizens for Responsible Aurora Government, a group that monitors Aurora's city government, in 2009. Davis listed some of her issues as increasing government transparency, creating jobs and limiting government spending.
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?
Sheilah Davis: As a Libertarian, I discourage taxpayer-funded redevelopment efforts in favor of letting demand drive the types of businesses that choose to invest in our communities. The people in Montview are very vocal about the need for more services in the area. As mayor, I will work to remove municipal policies and bureaucratic requirements that hinder business development and keeps employers out of our city. When businesses and developers want to invest in our communities, they can find a way to pay their own 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?
SD: Aurora has a lot going for it. We are close to DIA, we have a network of roads and highways that make it easy to get into our city and travel about. Tax incentives only bring big business to the table. To truly celebrate our diversity, we must make it easier for our innovative citizens to share their unique talents, viewpoints and skills by starting businesses within our community. As a city, we are obliged to work with entrepreneurs and make it easier for people to start businesses and invest in our community. That is the best way to capitalize on the diversity within our great city. We have many fine minds in Aurora; we can benefit from the gift of diversity if we do not make it too difficult for the average person to explore their business potential.
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?
SD: Public safety is of the utmost importance. It is the very foundation of every community. People tend to move into and invest in those communities in which they feel safe. If we want to bring jobs into Aurora, we must change the perception that we are a high crime area. The citizens of Aurora may get the chance to vote on the mandate that Aurora have two police officers per 1,000 citizens (aka 2/1000). Citizens should have a voice in the way their hard earned tax dollars are spent; the beauty of 2/1000 is that it was a taxpayer-approved initiative. The citizens of Aurora felt, in the mid-'90s, that they wanted to make an investment in the police department. In the future, the city council may give us the opportunity to decide if we want to continue making that investment or whether we should roll those funds into the general fund.
As mayor, my first act would be to invite the public to share their views and impressions of governmental departments and solicit opinions on the changes that need to take place. Possible solutions could range from creating an independent commission to take and investigate complaints from citizens to having more officers visible on the street. Citizens want to see that their money is being used for their benefit; the best way to know what the citizens need is to ask people about their experiences and solicit their feedback.
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?
SD: The best way to expand our ability to bring business and services into our city is to open a dialogue with the people who can bring those services here. Let's reach out to the art community and find out if there are any governmental restrictions that are getting in the way of their ability to do what they do best.
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?
SD: The youth of today are interested in topics pertaining to liberty and personal freedom. I will invite volunteers to teach our youth about the history of this great country, their constitutional rights, and the ways that they can protect their rights in their day-to-day lives. Aurora has a youth commission that meets to discuss current issues of interest to young adults. As mayor, I would like to take this one step further. With input from our youth commission, I would like to find the best way to give our youth a forum, so that they can directly communicate with the city council. It would be best to poll our youth to find out the best way to get them involved, and with the many advancements in online and wireless technologies, I am certain that we can find an inexpensive way to do that.
WW: How can the city better reach out to its many immigrant populations?
SD: Our strength is in our diversity. As mayor, I'd like to reach out to everyone in our communities and ask about their experiences and gather their impressions of life in Aurora.
Many of the problems faced within our city are due to a lack of transparency and accountability. In speaking to my neighbors throughout Aurora, I am finding that people feel that they cannot voice their opinions about those things of concern and those things that impact their quality of life. I believe that the public ought to be given the opportunity to share their experiences, concerns and insights with the local government. The city must have an open door policy when it comes to the public and have a department that takes feedback, investigates complaints and offers real solutions. Open communication is the best way to learn what types of issues the groups within our city face and solve any issues or policies that are burdensome to any group.
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?
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SD: Social support is an amazing catalyst for positive transformation. Children are motivated to do things when they can see that they will be rewarded for their efforts. A mentoring program in which youth are paired with people from the business community is one possible way to allow children to garner individual support and show them positive possibilities for their futures and how far they can go with an education.
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?
SD: Good neighbors look out for each other. Aurora does not win by taking something of value away from a respected neighbor; Aurora wins when our neighbors win. Aurora leadership must have open and honest discussions, not only with neighboring cities but with the citizens. As mayor, I vow to take the hinges off of the closed doors of the city building, open negotiations up to the public and increase transparency so that deals with developers are not made in secret and people have a chance to voice their opinions and concerns.