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Kara MasonKara MasonApril 17, 20183min1416

Aurora city leaders fear that a census citizenship question could have negative impacts on the city. They’re sending a letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross urging against it.

The Aurora Sentinel reports that the Aurora City Council members are requesting the questionnaire leave out the inquiry because of the number of immigrants and refugees that call the city home — nearly one in five residents is foreign born.

The letter says “that a citizenship question will unduly burden respondents and lower participation by immigrants who fear the government’s use of such private information.”

The Sentinel reported that councilman Charlie Richardson, also the former Aurora city attorney, said the question could have significant impacts on the city if residents are scared out of responding because of the question.

Of course not all government leaders in Colorado are on the same page with Aurora’s council members. State Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, in her elected capacity, announced she’s in favor of the question.

“The goal of the census is to produce as accurate a picture as possible of the makeup of our vast and diverse country so that all people that live within our borders can be appropriately represented,” she said in a released statement.

“Colorado’s next redistricting and reapportionment will be based on its 2020 Census data. We need the most complete information possible to assure fair political representation of the entire state. In fact, it is so important to be able to obtain this information that federal law provides strong privacy protections for the information that is collected, which should help overcome any reluctance to participate.”

Aurora leaders disagreed on asking a question about a resident’s LGBQT status. Nicole Johnston, elected in 2017 after being recruited by Emerge Colorado, said it could be important information for local nonprofit organizations, according to the Sentinel.

Those members in favor were told they could send a letter on their own, so long as it states they are doing so in an individual capacity.


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Kara MasonKara MasonFebruary 16, 20183min717

Aurora City Council member Charlie Richardson said if sexual harassment “can happen in Hollywood, it can happen in Aurora.” But the resolution he was pushing to prevent public funds from being used in related lawsuits against council members and senior staff is on pause.

The resolution hit the floor Monday night and was tabled indefinitely — a move Richardson said means the measure is dead. But many of the council members who voted the measure down say it’s not the measure, but the timing they’re concerned about.

The resolution deemed that if senior staff members and council members didn’t partake in sexual harassment training, they may not be able to utilize taxpayer money in defending their case.

Councilman Bob LeGare, who motioned that the resolution be put on hold, said during the meeting he’d like to see the measure back in front of council once city staff is able to schedule some kind of sexual harassment training.

The council was evenly split, with Mayor Steve Hogan casting the tie-breaking vote.

Councilman Bob Roth said prior to the vote he’d be a no vote, not because of timing, but because it’s a non-issue in Aurora.

“It’s a solution looking for a problem,” he said.

But for the most part, councilors agreed that sexual harassment should be taken seriously, especially as cases have made headlines from showbiz to the state Legislature, where Democrats are looking to expel state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulfur Springs.

“I don’t think tracking down training would be hard to do,” said council newbie Allison Hiltz.

Staff said during the meeting a training would likely take about two hours. But schedules are so far packed.

The original resolution, before it was sent to the council floor, didn’t include a training requirement. But Richardson decided to include that in the resolution as an “escape valve.”


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyFebruary 8, 20182min648

The Aurora City Council is a non-partisan body, but that won’t stop the Colorado Democratic Party from celebrating the three newly-elected progressive women on the dais.

Colorado Democrats will honor Crystal Murillo, Allison Hiltz and Nicole Johnston with Rising Star awards, for being” breakout stars” within the party, at the inaugural Obama Dinner, on Feb. 3, the party said in a press statement.

“We are honored to have such dedicated Democrats fighting every day to ensure that all Coloradans have a fair shot and opportunities to succeed,” Morgan Carroll, Chair of the Colorado Democratic Party, said in a statement.

“The Colorado Democratic Party would not be able to accomplish all that it can without the tireless work that our volunteers and leaders put in every day, and our award winners have proven that they are willing to step up to the plate to strengthen the state party to help move our state forward. Their commitment to building communities that work for all Coloradans is what will help elect great leaders up and down the ballot in November.”

The women were part of a progressive wave over the traditionally conservative Aurora City Council. They were coached by Emerge Colorado, a six-month program that trains Democratic women how to run election campaigns. They netted endorsements from progressive groups and from their hometown newspaper.

In December, Murillo, the youngest member of the board at 23 and the daughter of Mexican immigrants, was featured in an episode of She’s the Ticket, an online program following female candidates for public office around the country.


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Simon LomaxSimon LomaxJanuary 31, 201812min1289

Tom Steyer is back in Colorado politics. Well, actually, he never really left. Anyone who follows politics in our state should know Steyer well. He’s the environmental activist and California hedge-fund billionaire who spent more than $7 million on a failed campaign against U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R) in 2014. He poured at least $2 million more into Colorado politics in 2016, spending big on the presidential election and another failed campaign to seize control of the Colorado state legislature. 


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Ernest LuningErnest LuningJanuary 19, 20183min1017

Three newcomers to Aurora's nonpartisan city council will be honored with the Rising Star Award by the Colorado Democratic Party at its inaugural Obama Dinner on Feb. 3 in Denver, the party announced. State party chair Morgan Carroll also plans to give the Chair's Service Award to three term-limited state officials — Gov. John Hickenlooper, House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, all Denver Democrats.


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Marianne GoodlandMarianne GoodlandDecember 6, 20173min645

The latest episode of “She’s the Ticket,” a new web series from Topic, features the 2017 city council run of 23-year old Crystal Murillo of Aurora.

Murillo, a first-generation American, was elected to Ward 1 last month.

The show focuses on women who decided to run for elected office, some inspired by what happened in the 2016 national election.

In the episode, Murillo talked about her reaction to President Donald Trump’s win a year ago, stating Trump didn’t represent her values and that “I feel like layers of my identity were kind of being chipped away at.”

Murillo spoke of supporting DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students and an interest in affordable housing, an issue she believes the Council can tackle. She literally ran between houses — in order to meet daily canvassing targets — as she hunted for votes in the northwest Aurora district that also includes a large swath of East Colfax Avenue.

The election pitted Murillo against incumbent Sally Mounier, a race that Murillo won in a landslide by more than 21 percent.

Murillo pointed out that Mounier, who is 79 and a registered Republican, had recently voted against an Aurora resolution on sanctuary city status. That offended Murillo, who is Mexican-American and the first in her family to graduate from high school and college. Murillo also claimed that Mounier, whom she said at first didn’t take her candidacy seriously, later hired a company to investigate Murillo’s employment and her family’s immigration status. Family members hold legal status, Murillo explained.

To watch the full episode, which is about 10 minutes, click here.

 


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyDecember 1, 20173min662

We’ve at last reached a final tally for Aurora’s second at-large seat on its city council, some three weeks after the fall election, and it was a close, one.

Just 47 votes had separated retired Air Force Colonel David Gruber and former Regional Transportation Director Tom Tobiassen following election night, the Aurora Sentinel reports. While Tobiassen gained two votes after the recount, Gruber won the at-large seat on the Aurora City Council by 45 votes, according to official election results. 

The very tight initial vote count had triggered a recount last month. State law requires a recount when “the difference between the highest number of votes cast in that election contest and the next highest number of votes cast in that election contest is less than or equal to one-half of one percent of the highest vote cast in that election contest.” That’s a mouthful.

In a message on his Facebook page, Tobiassen congratulated Gruber.

“Congratulations to Dave Gruber on his election to the @AuroraGov City Council At-Large,” he wrote. “I’ve gotten to know Dave while on the campaign trail and I know he will do a great job representing the residents of Aurora.”

Gruber said he’s ready to “get into the nuts and bolts of the city,” the Aurora Sentinel reports.

Gruber will join new, progressive members Crystal Murillo, Nicole Johnston and Allison Hiltz on the council Monday, when they are officially sworn in.

The City Council election was historic for Aurora, with progressive candidates elected to a traditionally conservative body.


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Kara MasonKara MasonNovember 28, 20173min567

Typically a quiet Monday night at Aurora City Hall wouldn’t be news. But this week the city council chose to cancel a study session meeting altogether because the group couldn’t decide on what it wanted to meet about.

Originally Mayor Steve Hogan had planned for some of the new council members to have an orientation of sorts with the current council members during the study session, which typically takes place Monday evenings.

But Councilman Charlie Richardson had other ideas. He proposed to the group during last week’s study session that a study session was too precious to spend on answering questions for new members. Instead of an entire study session for some of the new members, Richardson said the council should talk important issues, and plan for a usual study session.

The rest of the council agreed and repealed the mayor’s plans, despite Hogan’s claim that the date was the only workable time for a majority of the new members. One at-large seat is still undecided with a recount in the works.

Outgoing Councilwoman Barb Cleland said she was disappointed city staff couldn’t find a time for all new council members to meet together, adding that they should be treated with the same “dignity as the current council.”

“That’s part of the problem around here,” Hogan said. “Everybody assumes and doesn’t try to fix anything.”

During the 45-minute discussion on the next week’s meeting, it seemed a majority of council agreed the orientation didn’t have to be during the study session. It could be held elsewhere in city hall.

After recalling the orientation-slash-study-session, it was up to the council to find something for the agenda. But with a holiday weekend in the works — the city was closed Thursday for Thanksgiving and Friday — it left city staff just two days to gather needed information and put together a backup document for the meeting.

The council was unable to come up with anything to talk about for the meeting with the two days available for staff, so the entire meeting was cancelled.

After the study session let out Richardson said he only got “half of the cake.” While he didn’t want the orientation during study session, he also didn’t want the meeting cancelled altogether.

Hogan said what council had essentially done was “thumbed their nose at the new council.”

Next Monday’s regular city council meeting is slated to be the first for the new council members. A swearing-in ceremony is scheduled, though it isn’t so far clear whether the recount will be finished by then.


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Kara MasonKara MasonNovember 17, 20173min442

It’s been nearly two months since the Aurora City Council first took on a resolution supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA. Now after a round of revisions in a committee, the governing body is back to where it started.

But it’ll likely be a more conservative council that gets the final decision on the resolution.

Councilman Charlie Richardson first submitted the resolution. It was in support of legislatively extending DACA and Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman’s BRIDGE Act. Richardson said voting for the resolution, which would have been a symbolic measure of support for the protections of young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally, was simple and shouldn’t require so much back-and-forth from council.

But some council members, including Sally Mounier who represents a significantly diverse portion of the city, thought the resolution should encompass immigration issues as a whole.

The Aurora Sentinel has been following the story:

After Councilwoman Sally Mounier requested the first resolution be sent back to a committee, two more resolutions were drafted by the city attorney’s office. One was a revised “short” version, which mostly focused on DACA. The other was dubbed the longer version and was intended to support immigration reform as a whole.

“I totally support a path to citizenship for the DACA kids. What I also support, though, is a total and complete immigration reform… It is time to tell Congress that we have multiple issues with immigration,” the Sentinel reported Mounier saying during the first meeting at which Richardson’s resolution was presented to the council.

Mounier lost her seat last week to upstart candidate Crystal Murillo who ran a campaign largely on the premise she could better represent the district because she is a young Latina.

This week, the council reviewed the two versions. But neither satisfied the council. Both failed to make it to the regular meeting.

Richardson said he had another resolution ready to submit. He called it the “clean” version. This time it made no mention of Coffman’s BRIDGE ACT or the Trump administration. Just support for DACA.

That’s slated to be in front of council at next week’s meeting. Four new council members — three of which are slated to be more progressive than the rest of council — will join council on Dec. 4.

Five seats were up for election. Marsha Berzins won her seat in Ward III.