BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
Nine of the ten candidates for open seats on the Littleton City Council came to a non-traditional forum organized by the League of Women Voters at the Littleton-Bemis Public Library on October 10 to answer voters’ questions. Residents sat in chairs organized in circles and each candidate sat with them for seven minutes, responding to voters’ questions.
Four of the seven seats on the Littleton City Council will be filled in the November 5 election. Ballots started arriving in the mail on October 12. One council member will be elected from district 2, one from district 4, and two from the city at-large. All will be for four-year terms, except one of the at-large seats. The winner who receives the fewer number of votes will be elected to a two-year term. Citizens can watch a two-minute You Tube video of each of the candidates on the city’s website at www.littletongov.org/city-services/city-departments/city-clerk/election-information/2019-general-election/2019-candidates.
Three candidates are running in district 2. They are Kathleen (Kate) Eckel, Jane Ozga, and Jerry Valdes. Each came to talk to the voters.
Kate Eckel tells voters she is “pro-fiscal responsibility and pro-thoughtful development.” An eight-year veteran of the Littleton Fine Arts Board, Eckel has been chair for the last two years. She holds a masters’ degree and works in human relations. Eckel would like to see adequate housing in the city for “individuals who are just venturing out into the world and want to call Littleton home,” as well as senior citizens. She would reach out to foster positive relationships with good developers and would encourage design guidelines for landscaping and developers’ contributing to the city as part of the approval process. Eckel would like to see residents “back out on their front porch” getting to know one another.
Jane Ozga is a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran who also worked in Antartica for the U.S. Navy. She would like to see city employees live in Littleton and get diversity and sensitivity training. Ozga wants young families to move to Littleton, but she doesn’t think there are enough jobs. She would like to see an advocate for military veterans. On development, Ozga says, “Let’s not knock down houses to put in high-rise apartments.”
Valdes is the incumbent and is seeking his third four-year term, having served since 2011. A 35-year resident, he was a director of property operations for a large corporation before his recent retirement and is a part-time member of the statistics crew for Broncos home games. Valdes has served on the Arapahoe County Citizens Advisory Budget Committee and multiple other public commissions. He cited as an accomplishment that he got crosswalk indicators on Littleton Boulevard, which enhances pedestrian safety. Asked if he would support a sales tax increase to fund capital projects, Valdes said, “Not until we analyze (our needs) through priority-based budgeting.” On the subject of homelessness, he said that Littleton should work with others in the area to address the problem.
District four is being contested by Kelly Milliman and Iftin Abshir. Milliman did not attend the forum.
Iftin Abshir is a third-generation Littleton resident, who describes her vision as “a city that is thriving, both with economic and social vitality…with programs that “encourage our youth, assist our seniors, and honor our veterans…” She thinks the Columbine Square Shopping Center “should be redeveloped where infrastructure exists,” and that the “right mix of retail to support residential” would work for the Ensor property. Abshir says that the city should support preserving view corridors and the tree canopy. She would like to see more natural design elements.
The five candidates for the two at-large seats are Pam Grove, Bill Schwanitz, Jessica Mendes Ford, Scott Melin, and incumbent Kyle Schlachter. All five came to meet the voters at the forum at the library.
Grove is a 32-year resident and retired marketer and college instructor “who wants to maintain the integrity of our neighborhoods and our historical assets, while fostering our community spirit.” She believes in careful development where residents’ needs trump those of business. She is concerned that “starter homes aren’t lucrative to large developers,” and would make sure any proposed development fits into the neighborhood in size and density. She will focus on the city’s comprehensive plan and its zoning code to maintain Littleton’s community character while balancing it with having housing that people can afford.
Schwanitz is a software developer who has “become concerned about the number of historic houses and buildings being demolished in our city.” He saved an old farmhouse, remodeled it, and now lives there with his family. Schwanitz is concerned about the lack of citizen input at the city council and would change the time allowed for residents to speak on issues from the current three minutes to five minutes so that people’s voices can be heard. He would like to see affordable housing in Littleton for working people and preserve the neighborhood character, while making sure there is a place for young people and for seniors.
Mendes Ford, who holds a masters degree in instruction and is a “guest teacher” at Littleton Public Schools, says her family moved to Littleton three years ago “for the great schools and the suburban feel of this small city.” She serves on her homeowners’ association board as communications director, managing its social media and publishing its quarterly newsletter. She says Littleton needs more affordable housing to get more people to live here and that it needs to be in the proper location. She would like to see a transportation study to see if traffic can be re-routed from where it is presently congested. Mendes Ford likes the feel of downtown’s Main Street.
Scott Melin is running for city council “to ensure that Littleton has a thriving future for people and families of all ages.” On housing, Melin said that the city “can encourage affordable housing and have influence by its zoning code.” On seniors who want to downsize, he says “The city studied the question. We need it. South Broadway may be a good location, but we need to address transportation issues.” On higher density housing, Melin answered “I’m for balance. There are places in the city that might be appropriate for increased density, possibly for seniors, to make it affordable.”
Schlachter views the Next Gen Advisory Committee as a major accomplishment in his first two years on city council because it is a way to get “input from young people who are hard to reach.” Asked about his position on the short-term rental ordinance, which failed to win a majority at city council, Schlachter said, “Why can’t people own five short term rental properties? We need to do something.” To get affordable housing in the city, Schlacter said, “We need to allow additional dwelling units.”
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