Commerce City Candidate
Occupation: King Soopers 46 years / United Power 5 months
Years lived in Commerce City: 20
Years lived in Colorado: 61
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Why are you running for council?
I appreciate the chance to serve as the future Mayor of Commerce City. Many of you may recognize me from the King Soopers on 104th & Chamber, and some may have supported my candidacy as the new United Power East District Director as of April of 2023. Thank you for your ongoing support!
Commerce City holds immense personal importance for me, and I'm deeply committed to ensuring that our community is led by the right leadership. My journey in local politics spans numerous years. Although I faced defeat in my bids for a seat on the Commerce City Council in 2007 and 2009, I persevered. In 2011, I secured election and was subsequently re-elected in 2015, serving two dedicated terms. I also ran for Mayor four years ago, achieving a commendable second place in a fiercely competitive race with five candidates in 2019.
The future of Commerce City weighs heavily on my mind, and I remain steadfast in our need for strong, forward-thinking leadership. It's crucial that we don't maintain the status quo or choose leaders who may prioritize the interests of the highest bidder over the well-being of our city.
Despite coming in second in my bid for mayor, I didn't disengage. Over the past four years, I have diligently attended City Council meetings, both in person and virtually. Starting in 2020, our city, like the rest of the world, faced the challenges brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, resulting in business closures, restaurant shutdowns, and school disruptions. I commend everyone for their willingness to work together during those crisis times. It was two years of hard work and dedication to get us back on track.
Since 2021, we've witnessed the battle over extending a 20-year Consolidated Development Agreement with a major Master Developer. The request by the developer failed to extend. This agreement significantly impacted our city's annual budget, but an extension could be revived under the wrong leadership. This is just one example of why we must be very careful in who we choose to lead.
I have concerns about the gentrification brought by the redevelopment of the Mile High Greyhound Park, with home prices starting at $500,000 and rising. I support growth, but we must be mindful not to price people out of our city by building market-rate housing on a URA site that gives developers a significant advantage due to the 25-year tax offset provided by Urban Renewal. We must also be mindful that we have many more URA sites in the southern portion of our city for future development. Only a watchful eye will assure equity in successful planning.
We're already facing more roadblocks with heavy industrial traffic, and there's a lack of transparency regarding urban renewal authority plans for low or income housing ownership options, as they primarily focus on rentals or leases. I absolutely support growth, but not if it’s lopsided; and so with growth, we absolutely have to attract primary employers for jobs that will not only provide a living for our residents, but will take us into the future so other municipalities can look to Commerce City as a model to replicate.
If we promise a quality community for a lifetime - it’s time we work together to deliver. I look to lead that charge.
What do you see as the three biggest opportunities for Commerce City?
1) Transportation: Commerce City is now focused on transforming transportation in the area, primarily targeting the I-270 corridor. The goal is to expand capacity in both directions by introducing tolling lanes. However, I propose a more innovative approach: implementing multi-modal lanes that incorporate high-speed rail and bus rapid transit options. These lanes would support a variety of dedicated and bi-directional bus lanes, creating an advanced transportation trunk-line system that extends not only to I-25 North but also to I-70 West/East, connecting to Denver International Airport via Pena Blvd. This visionary transportation plan promises a more efficient and sustainable future.
2) Economic Development: Commerce City has evolved significantly from its small population of 23,000, now boasting approximately 70,000 residents. This growth positions us perfectly for additional development, both in the heart of Commerce City and in the expansive Northern Range. Despite the notion that we require more residential rooftops, we stand as Destination 101. Our generous open spaces offer excellent opportunities for shovel-ready projects, catering to commercial and retail needs. It's crucial to challenge the perception of being solely a Bedroom Community. Remarkably, 62 percent of residents desire walkable communities with optional car usage. Moreover, our Northern Range alone surpasses the population of Brighton Township. It's time to debunk the notion of needing more rooftops and recognize Commerce City as a prime location poised to become the next mega hub, featuring grocery stores, restaurants, retail outlets, high-tech industries, and top-notch sporting facilities.
3) Public safety: The surge in public safety concerns is evident, with crimes ranging from vandalism to retailers risking their lives to thwart theft. Existing laws lack effective preventive measures, leading to a growing problem. It's crucial to address this issue promptly. We frequently hear about thefts amounting to thousands of dollars, yet criminals often evade justice. Collaborative efforts between our state and federal governments should be prioritized to hold wrongdoers accountable. Our justice system needs significant enhancements to ensure fairness and equality for all, ultimately bolstering community safety and well-being.
As Maya Angelou so gracefully said, “Do the best you can until you know better.
What do you see as the three biggest challenges facing the city?
1.) Homelessness: In Commerce City, we're grappling with the issue of homelessness within the Mile-High Income Metro Region, where gentrification has become the norm. Many residents live in constant fear that daily challenges or unexpected crises could lead to financial ruin. Soaring rents, healthcare expenses, transportation costs, education fees, and the ever increasing cost of living have left people with stagnant or declining incomes. It often feels like there's "too much month left at the end of the money," causing immense stress, with most individuals on the precipice of financial disaster.
I'm committed to establishing comprehensive programs that provide both housing and education simultaneously, addressing the underlying causes of these challenges. However, the problem goes beyond mere shelter; we must empower those in need with the skills and resources to sustain themselves, rather than relying solely on temporary assistance. Yet, teaching someone to fish is difficult when the waters are drying up. People are working harder than ever for diminishing returns, trapped in a society where it seems we live to work, rather than working to live.
This is an issue I've dedicated years to addressing, and as Mayor, I believe I can collaborate with like-minded individuals who share my passion to tackle homelessness and implement effective, sustainable solutions in Commerce City.
2.) Affordable Housing and Gentrification are pressing issues in Commerce City. The Denver Area Median Income (AMI) sets the standard for affordable housing, but we must also cater to those earning minimum wages. Collaborating with developers and policymakers is crucial to meet the housing needs of low-income individuals. I've noticed a trend where policymakers prioritize developer interests over accountability, and I aim to change that by emphasizing the broader community's well-being.
Municipalities must negotiate skillfully with developers, always putting the community's interests first. Rising housing prices and stagnant wages have exacerbated income inequality and wealth disparities, demanding action at all government levels. Whether through regulation or subsidies, addressing this issue is paramount, and I'm dedicated to working with officials at all levels to find effective solutions.
Currently, I'm focused on educating the community about gentrification's harmful effects, advocating for legacy clauses to limit property tax increases, and promoting a balanced approach to housing policies. I envision Urban Renewal Projects incorporating affordable and low-income housing while restraining market-rate residential development while assuring all services for providing a quality community are provided for those residents.
As a former Councilman, I persistently educated citizens about gentrification and supported increasing the minimum wage. I built relationships with developers to address income inequality and championed job creation in the new economy. As Mayor, I believe I can influence the Council more effectively to combat gentrification and guide our government towards greater equity.
3.) The continuous ask from developers for Metropolitan District/ Service Plan: the current system has put a considerable strain on our city budget every year. If elected I will take on this challenge and work to restore financial stability by implementing more sustainable funding solutions and streamlining the Metropolitan District/Service Plan to alleviate the burden on our city budget.
Metropolitan Districts and their associated service plans have become a prominent topic among developers seeking to expand. However, this often leads to long-term cost overruns and a lack of (ancillary) retail and commercial infrastructure due to the high mill levy fees and taxation associated with building within these districts.
The cost of buying a home in a Metro Tax District in Colorado can be staggering. Imagine closing on your new home, only to discover that a special tax will increase your tax bill from $1,200 to $7,500 in just one year. This has been the harsh reality faced by many Commerce City residents when purchasing a home within a Metropolitan Taxing Districts.
These Metro Tax Districts, also known as Special Taxing Districts, are established by developers to recover infrastructure costs and mitigate development risks. However, homeowners in these districts end up repaying multi-million-dollar bonds through property taxes. This raises concerns about conflicts of interest, as developers can elect themselves to serve on the governing boards of these tax districts. They have the authority to approve bonds that property owners must repay.
This system has resulted in astounding tax increases for homeowners and has prevented homeowners from knowing the true tax burdens associated with Metropolitan Taxing Districts.
What does a “Quality Community for a Lifetime” mean to you?
A Quality Community for a lifetime, in my view, embodies a place where people of diverse backgrounds and ages can reside and flourish within a secure, inclusive, and eco-friendly setting. It's a community that provides essential services, educational resources, healthcare access, and pathways for personal and professional development. Furthermore, it places a premium on nurturing social bonds among its inhabitants and consistently seeks enhancements to guarantee a superior quality of life for everyone, regardless of their life stage.
What is your favorite aspect of the city?
I'm quite fond of the diversity of our community and culture. Both my involvement and my job has provided me with an incredible opportunity to get to know so many of you who I look to as friends, even when we may not speak the same language. I have formed many wonderful relationships with so many great people here, and I can honestly say that’s what I appreciate the most about living here in this city.
What I miss the most is the absence of Community Outreach Events. These events used to offer free food and lots of fun, with a focus on bringing our city together. For many years, much of our city staff would organize and welcome Commerce City residents to engage in games, visit information booths, enjoy live bands, and much more. Unfortunately, over time, these events dissolved. There is still Music in the Park, but I’d really like to see the return of the Outreach Events as well. We are definitely a community that thrives on connecting with one another and so the more community events we can hold and support, the better in my opinion