Candidate for Arvada City Council, District 2
1. Describe your sense of the role of the City Council in planning for climate change. (Please comment on approaches to ensuring air and water quality. Please include your thoughts on the impacts of real estate development and urban renewal, road construction planning, local transit options such as buses, trains, bikes, and walkways, as well as water conservation and zoning decisions.)
I believe the city can take a more active role in issuing municipal codes that would ban methane gas, for example. The Inflation Reduction Act and Colorado laws passed give resources to cities like ours to electrify and strengthen our grid.
For air quality, I would encourage neighborhoods to replace lawns with plants that do not require mowing. Colorado passed HB 22-1150 in 2022 which provides 4 million dollars to municipalities to replace their turf; Arvada should be a robust user of this program.
The Denver metro area has one of the worst air quality indexes in the country, and I would push the city’s legislative advocate to increase light rail access, electrify the grid, and shut down Suncor which has multiple violations. I’d also push them to revoke rail access to companies that want two-mile-long trains of fossil fuel to Suncor from Utah. Those train tracks run right through the middle of our city, and with relaxed rail regulations, a major accident like what took place in East Palestine is possible.
Locally, I’d encourage residents to electrify and conserve energy, see what funds are available for city facilities to electrify, and work on a bike plan that helps residents use bikes and other forms of transportation besides cars. Denver’s program to give ebike rebates has been very successful, so I’d look into the feasibility of providing such a program to Arvada, especially to lower-income populations. The planning commission can focus on how to integrate more bike lanes and make Arvada more bike-friendly.
For water quality, we have to update our water treatment plant. I would push to move it higher on the list of priorities of things that the city needs to get done to ensure our water quality. While we have tested for PFA’s locally, the national PFA program doesn’t reflect these results that the water is safe.
Our city’s growth has a fine line to walk in being available to keep housing and other costs down, but only expanding at a rate our resources can handle. Cutting back on water usage would allow for more sustainable growth as well as help our neighbors in our state and farmers out of state who are part of the Colorado compact. The climate crisis is very concerning to me, and we must do everything we can to conserve energy and water.
One of the easiest and cheapest options to address the burning of fossil fuels is expanding bus service. Taking cars off of the road and ensuring we have reliable public transportation is a goal of mine that will help the economic strength of our city; I would review current agreements with RTD and see what we can do as a city.
2. Explain how you would use your time on City Council to address the needs Arvada residents have for affordable housing. (In addition, please comment on your sense of the ways Arvada City Council might contribute to providing support for Arvadans experiencing housing insecurity or for those who are in fact unhoused.)
There are 700 affordable housing units that Arvada City Council has already approved; I’d ensure that these get built and stay affordable. It’s important that these homes are included in a mix of housing developments because Arvada needs to design for more diversity of class instead of siloing populations based on income, and future development must meet this inclusivity goal.
The Arvada Housing Authority has had success in issuing vouchers for the unhoused, and the One Small Step program that replaces probation officers with social workers which also has helped avoid the criminalization of people who simply need help navigating social services.
An area of concern I have is rent. The city must do more to inhibit the skyrocketing costs of rent.
Arvada can also work with the Colorado Department of Aging to enact programs that allow seniors to age in place or how folks who are ready to move out of their larger homes are able to afford to right size.
For those experiencing housing insecurity, we need to examine the assistance we offer folks who are having trouble paying their home energy and water costs to offset the price of rent or mortgages.
The navigation center will be built in Arvada District Two by 2026 and I am glad to have it in my district because unhoused folks are our neighbors. In the meantime, there should be better coordination between Community Table, the Rising, and church groups who offer safe overnight parking spaces to have a safety net for our unhoused folks to help them off the streets until these more robust services are available.
3. Though often portrayed as comprised of people from homogeneous backgrounds, Arvada is diverse, with a wide range of ages, races, ethnicities, and socio-economic circumstances. (If elected, what key approaches might you use while on City Council to help ensure all Arvadans feel welcome and valued in Arvada? How might you ensure all Arvadans feel heard on issues that might vary across different parts of our community? Describe how you might have engaged with people experiencing interactions with law enforcement or receiving different treatment; for instance, some issues we have heard described include being followed while shopping, or the elderly being left behind by city plans.)
A big part of inclusivity is language access. My experience in Carbondale includes pushing the municipality to update signs and common services to have Spanish so that everyone is able to navigate the city and use its services. Based on demographic data, requests, and projected use, I’d work on language justice and language access to make everyone feel like they are being heard and that they belong.
With law enforcement agencies, it’s important to remember that the City Council works with the municipal police department and not with other LEAs. There are many pressures on the police department at the moment, being down 30-40 police officers than what that department says it needs. Therefore, I would suggest addressing safety concerns without using officers, like a civilian traffic investigation force, and working with the police department to respond to more calls instead of proactive policing so that response time is quicker. I also want to expand the First Responder program to be 24/7 so that social issues are addressed with services instead of being criminalized. Police are frustrated with repeat offenders, so solutions that get at the root of the problem and take the burden off of the police would be the direction I’d go in.
District Two has the opportunity to be more inclusive with community events that reflect our entire history, such as the histories of the Chicano movement and Indigenous peoples in this area, not just the farming settler community or the gold rush settlers. Events like naming the park after Little Raven uplift this history and these stories to remember all who are guests on this land.
The elderly must be included in future plans, especially giving people the ability to right size. Right now that option is unaffordable. People need the freedom to age in place or right size as they see fit. Working with the Colorado Office of the Aging and our planning commission to include more of this housing in our future plans are ways we can be more inclusive of our whole community. The other key parts of development must be transportation, both increasing reliable bus service and services that seniors can call, and ensuring businesses do more to have ADA accessibility. Oftentimes people are unable to attend events because there is not enough even ground for walkers, wheelchairs, and other mobility aids.
Finally, I would make city council more accessible to neighborhoods that are typically ignored in our city by being present and available in those neighborhoods. I’d like to start a youth ambassador program for kids who typically don’t have access to government service because I want more people to consider representing the city by running for its council. I’d also ensure that the employees at the city feel included and represented by how the city is run, and keep a close eye on patterns of bias that typically show up in workplaces.
4. How would you characterize your views on urban renewal in Arvada, and what do you see as the next steps for urban renewal here? (Please feel free to comment on issues such as Arvadans’ needs for different sorts of commerce (e.g., small, locally owned businesses versus big-box stores) or housing developments (apartments versus single-family dwellings), or residents’ concerns with how Arvada finances its infrastructure or how Arvadans live with disruptions that attend urban renewal or development efforts.)
I believe sales tax, in general, is a regressive tax because it charges the same no matter what someone’s income is and that means poorer people are paying proportionately more. A way to help small businesses and the average person would be to eliminate sales tax for locally owned and operated independent Arvadan businesses. This would encourage spending at these locations and encourage small business owners to set up shop.
One easy step for Arvada to have a heavy hand in urban renewal is to have the right of first refusal of any commercial property that comes up for sale. That way Arvada could purchase property to be used for community or urban renewal purposes.
Growth should be done at a pace that our city infrastructure can keep up with, and should match the character of the neighborhood. For example, dense housing around the rail stops makes sense, so workers can commute to and from Denver. Townhomes make sense in most neighborhoods further from the rail because it increases housing density without changing the character of the neighborhoods. There need to be more starter-level homes to match the neighborhoods that have the starter homes from the 50’s and 60’s. There also is an opportunity to develop 65+ communities, with everything that has wrap-around care to developments that are multiple townhomes and simply are 65+ with no other services so folks have somewhere to move to close by when they want to right size. It seems there are many high-end housing units that do not need as much support in development as these other types of housing.
Financing infrastructure is a crucial issue in Arvada. While we want to expand services in need, the truth is the city is behind in $190 million dollars worth of infrastructure projects. The city’s core services must be maintained, and revenue to the city ought to increase by selling land to developers for what the land is actually worth and drawing more businesses like Costco to the community where the city can invest in its infrastructure. Another option for revenue is designating some areas where weed would be legal to sell – away from school zones and in more entertainment districts.
5. In addition to the issues that APA members identified as of concern, what would you add that would help Arvadans better understand who you are and what other goals you might have for Arvada if you are elected to serve on City Council?
Arvada needs a leader who knows how to bring communities together, who has good judgment on what the city should lead on and where the city can use its influence to change the state law for the better. City Council should be well-rounded individuals who understand a range of issues, but above all, should be very good at relating with people and building the community of our dreams. My background in movement causes, service as a veteran, minister, and union leader means that I have the right mix of social services, government, and community service to make Arvada to be the best place it can be for all of us.