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Kara MasonKara MasonMarch 9, 20182min762

A couple of half-million-dollar homes in Arapahoe County have caught the attention of Aurora U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman.

The homes in southeast Aurora seems to be a regular stop for Aurora police, having seen multiple illegal marijuana grows in recent years. That has prompted anger from neighbors.

The Aurora Sentinel reports that the houses are being rented out by owner Grover Mohinder — who reportedly wasn’t home when a Sentinel reporter dropped by to ask some questions. A person who answered the door at one of the addresses said they thought Mohinder may be out of the country for now, according to the report.

After eight arrests, 1,460 plants and more than 370 pounds of pot, neighbors are growing tired of the riff-raff. In a letter to Robert Troyer, U.S. Attorney for Colorado, Coffman said a number of constituents have reached out about recurring instances with the two homes.

“I do not think it is a coincidence that two properties owned by the same individual have had multiple drug raids in the past three years,” he wrote. “It is also my understanding that to date no law enforcement agency has indicted the homeowner for facilitating or allowing these operations on his property.”

Coffman urged Troyer to investigative the matter, particularly whether the owner is committing any crimes.

While nearby residents have reached out to their congressman for help, the city is looking into ways of cracking down on problems like this. The Sentinel reports the city attorney’s office is looking into how they can use old ordinances passed in the ’80s that were created to target the owners of East Colfax Avenue hotels and homes where drug activity was prevalent.

There’s also a chance the city could create an ordinance to address illegal marijuana grows separately. But city officials told the Sentinel those are in very early stages.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchJanuary 20, 201812min370


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Kara MasonKara MasonDecember 14, 20172min746

A teacher at an Aurora middle school faced more than a month of administrative leave after complaints that a guest speaker in her social justice class was politically motivated, according to the Aurora Sentinel.

Some parents thought a guest speaker whom teacher Asia Lyons brought into her Sky Vista Middle School class focused on topics not suited for students of that age — such as sexual identity and sexual assault. Some of the materials for the class also allegedly used adult language.

While the parents wouldn’t initially respond to a request for comment from the Sentinel, the newspaper went on to get the parents’ letters through a Colorado Open Records Act request:

“Parent Ami Grube said in one letter that she was upset her child had to quote a video that included the word “hell.” She alleged that one of the videos used the slang abbreviation “WTF” when discussing the gender-pay gap. The letters also expressed frustration over what parents felt was the school administration’s apathy toward their complaints.”

The guest speaker, Dezy Saint-Nolde, also known as Queen Phoenix is an activist in Denver. She’s also facing a felony misdemeanor drug charge. The Sentinel reports she skipped out on her first court date.


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Kara MasonKara MasonDecember 1, 20174min502
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, an Aurora Republican, speaks at a meeting of the Colorado Republican Party central committee on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, at Colorado's Finest High School of Choice in Englewood. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)
Aurora Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman speaks at a meeting of the Colorado Republican Party central committee on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, at Colorado’s Finest High School of Choice in Englewood. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

Progressive coalition Not One Penny, which was established to fight GOP tax reform, is shelling out $200,000 in ads targeting Aurora Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and his vote on the proposed tax plan.

The Aurora Sentinel reports the ad is part of a seven-figure nationwide campaign, $200,000 of that spent here in Denver broadcast and digital ad space.

“With this vote Congressman Coffman proved that he would rather do the bidding of his wealthy and well-connected campaign donors than do what’s right for Colorado’s working families,” said Not One Penny spokesman Tim Hogan. “The bill that Congressman Coffman helped ram through the House is a taxpayer-funded giveaway to millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations, all at the expense of the middle class, and his constituents will not forget his vote.”


 

Related story: “National Democrats, pro-Obamacare group hammer Mike Coffman for vote supporting tax bill”

 


 

The ad features several statistics, all of which show the GOP tax plan, which could see a Senate vote soon, adversely impacting hundreds of thousands of Coloradans.

Not One Penny is also targeting Republicans in Iowa, California, Maine and New York. Hogan told the Sentinel the coalition will continue to target more lawmakers who support the tax bill.

So far, the attack ads have been very strategic. The Washington Post reported in August:

Starting today, the Not One Penny campaign includes a seven-figure ad buy in eight Republican-held congressional districts, all with large numbers of white voters without college degrees, who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 but have not historically been passionate about tax cuts.

Coffman’s campaign told the Sentinel the ad contains, “outright lies.”

“Despite his political opponents’ utter disregard for the truth, he will keep fighting to fix our broken tax system,” said Tyler Sandberg, a campaign spokesman for Coffman.

Coffman voted for the House version of the bill, saying in a statement he “always believed that simplifying our tax code and reducing the tax burden on hardworking families and businesses will promote job growth and higher wages in communities all across our country.”


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyNovember 13, 20174min906

Aurora’s traditionally red City Council will have a blue hue after last week’s election.

Per preliminary election results, progressive candidates have won three seats on the Aurora City Council, altering the political makeup of a non-partisan board that is however typically a mainstay for conservatives. As the Aurora Sentinel reports:

In Ward I, upstart candidate Crystal Murillo leads incumbent Sally Mounier by approximately 400 votes. In Ward II, Nicole Johnston leads the pack with more than 2,600 votes. And in the At-Large race, Allison Hiltz will likely come out on top. She already has 15,000 votes.

The three women could start influencing city policy on public transportation, affordable housing, development, immigration and the environment (per the candidates’ campaign websites).

Murillo, who at 23 will be the youngest member of the council, says on her website her main priority will be affordable housing. She said she will “fight to make sure families can stay in their homes and implement policies that get renters on a path to homeownership.”

The daughter of Mexican immigrants, she will be featured an upcoming episode of She’s the Ticket, an online program following female candidates for public office around the country, according to Westword.

Progressives had their collective eye on Aurora city government early in the runup to the election.

The three candidates were coached by Emerge Colorado, a six-month program that trains Democratic women how to run election campaigns.

And, political clout from progressive groups like Colorado People’s Action  and Conservation Colorado, both of which promised to canvass voters on their behalf and provide other support, probably didn’t hurt.

The women also garnered the endorsement of the hometown newspaper, the Aurora Sentinel, in an October editorial.

The board will still however retain many conservative voices. One of which, as the Sentinel noted, will likely be conservative incumbent Marsha Berzins, who appears poised to retain her Ward III seat on the council.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyOctober 12, 20173min4306

Aurora’s race for City Council is heating up, and here we thought it would be because of the slew of liberal candidates running for the traditionally conservative body.

The Aurora Sentinel’s Kara Mason has been busy muckraking on candidates running for local office this election cycle. The other day, she reported on candidate Abel Laeke — a registered sex offender who has a storied criminal history, though no felony convictions, which would disqualify him from running.

Mason points out court documents say Laeke was charged in 2004 with misdemeanor indecent exposure and sexual contact without consent, a felony, but Aurora City Attorney Mike Hyman noted Laeke’s not guilty plea by reason of insanity to the charges are not a conviction and he is clear to run for office. He has been arrested in the past for burglary, driving under the influence and trespassing. In a 2014 memoir, Laeke says he was “lured by the bad behavior of those I considered friends, alarming my family and derailing my life.”

Another controversy is brewing over whether Naquetta Ricks lives in the Aurora ward for which she is a City Council candidate. Mason explains:

Up until the beginning of October, Ricks said she lived at 13651 E. Alaska Place in Ward III. But a lock box on the door and a roll-off in the driveway at that address prompted competitors to ask where Ricks was living if it wasn’t at the address she provided to the city.

Ricks’ address was the topic of a special Election Commission meeting in September, but she later told the Sentinel she moved to another location in the ward.

Days after the Sentinel’s inquiry, Ricks updated her address with the city clerk to show she currently lives on 364 Nome St., owned by Georgia Bellamy, which is in the ward. Ricks has also updated her voter registration to reflect the Nome Street address.

A crowded field, there are 20 candidates vying for five seats on the council.

Read both of Mason’s reports here.


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Kara MasonKara MasonSeptember 28, 20173min808

Two cities in the Denver metro area are taking contrasting approaches to supporting the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, which is set to end in six months if Congress doesn’t act on a permanent fix.

Aurora and Longmont were both presented with resolutions this week that asked council members to support the program that offers some protections to young immigrants that were illegally brought to the U.S. as children. But only one went through with a vote on the symbolic measures.

Monday night Aurora City Council had the chance to vote on a resolution that would have supported the continuation of DACA and U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream And Grow Our Economy Act, but instead decided to move it to the city’s Management and Finance Committee for “further development,” according to a report by the Aurora Sentinel.

Councilwoman Sally Mounier, who represents one of the most diverse wards of Aurora, said she wanted a resolution that encompassed immigration as a whole, not just DACA. But drafter of the resolution Councilman Charlie Richardson said that the measure was simple and asked whether those wanting to move the resolution were really supporting deportation efforts.

In a 6-3 vote, the resolution was moved to committee. Richardson alleged that it was a move made to sidestep an official stance on the issue for those who are up for re-election this November.

It’s unclear when that measure will be back before the full council.

On Tuesday, Longmont City Council took up a similar measure, passing it unanimously.

“We in Longmont have found DACA recipients to be important and well respected members of our community, and many Longmont businesses depend upon them as valued employees,” the resolution said.

The Longmont Times-Call reported there was no discussion on the resolution, but many community members showed up to support the measure.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoySeptember 18, 20174min685

A proposal to scale back light rail service on a route exclusive to Aurora has miffed city officials who are characterizing reductions as unfair and premature.

The Regional Transportation District has targeted the 10.5-mile R line, which runs through the city along Interstate 225, for reduced service due to poor ridership. But, as the city points out, the line is less than 6 months old.

As Aurora Sentinel’s Kara Mason reports, the light rail cuts would target stops south of Anschutz Medical Campus and near the VA Hospital among others. Weekend service would discontinue and weekday routes would run at peak times — 5 and 9 a.m., and 3 and 6 p.m.

“Despite the short time the line has been operational, the up to 2,500 new residential units planned and under construction next to the light-rail line, and a connection to the Anschutz Medical Campus where 25,000 work and 1.7 million people are treated each year, RTD thinks the ridership isn’t up to par and wants to cut the frequency and add unnecessary transfers to the routes,” city officials said of the cuts in a statement, which also encouraged residents to use its draft letter to RTD to voice opposition

“The city of Aurora thinks it is not only premature, but also unfair to the residents and taxpayers in Aurora.”

In a letter to RTD, Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said the district has fallen short on properly marketing the R line.

“Since the opening of the R line, RTD has failed to market the line in order to further develop ridership,” Hogan said. “We would like to see an aggressive advertising campaign implemented, as well as some innovative measures. RTD should be invested in the long-term success of the R-line.

“The proposed R line service cuts would impose two very inconvenient train transfers and doubling of travel times for riders making trips between the southeast corridor and the heart of Aurora (23 minutes to 44 minutes for a trip between Arapahoe Station and Aurora Metro Center station),” he said. “It seems these changes would also impact those wanting a direct and easy way to get to the country’s sixth-busiest airport-DEN.”

RTD will hold a public meeting discussing the proposed cuts Thursday Sept. 21 at 6 p.m. at the Aurora Municipal Center City Café on the 2nd floor.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyAugust 21, 20174min787

If you get bit by the gambling bug and want to deposit some of your hard-earned cash in the slots or try your luck at roulette or blackjack, you’d have to leave the Denver-metro area for someplace like Blackhawk or Central City.

That’s by design, as Coloradans have said no to gaming expansion on the Front Range. Yet, when the folks over at the Colorado Gaming Association heard news about a possible entertainment district coming to the outskirts of Aurora, they still reached out for assurances it wouldn’t include gambling, the Aurora Sentinel reports.

The district could include a NASCAR-style racetrack, restaurants and nightlife, but a casino is not on that list. As the Sentinel’s Kara Mason notes:

Colorado’s current casino owners are excruciatingly protective of their turf, saying that any metro expansion of gaming would critically affect the state’s mountain gaming communities.

“Over time there has been proposals to put a casino in the vicinity of Denver International Airport. I believe the thought was that by putting a casino close to the airport there would be the possibility of tourists who would fly in, go to the casino and they’d be captured on that site and never make it to Aurora or Denver,” said Mark Grueskin, the CGA’s legal counsel.

When CGA approached the city about the possibility of a casino in the entertainment district, Grueskin said the city ensured that gambling was not any part of their intent.

CGA is working with the city on an ordinance that would ban limited gaming operations in the city, Mason reports.

A 1999 city charter amendment, barring public funding for motor sport projects, has dogged Aurora’s ambitions for the entertainment district and racetrack for years. The city decided in June to seek voter approval through a ballot initiative to roll back the amendment and recently cleared an early hurdle, winning a court challenge to the ballot question.

History is not on Aurora’s side however, with the city twice unsuccessfully asking voters to strike the amendment.