BY FREDA MIKLIN
The first Greenwood Village City Council forum in six years, sponsored by The South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters of Arapahoe and Douglas Counties, and The Villager Newspaper, included 14 out of 15 people running for office and drew over 100 people live and by Zoom. Many more will see it since it was recorded and is available to watch anytime on YouTube.com by entering South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce in the search box.
It came as no surprise that candidates differed on the impact of last year’s city council resolution fully indemnifying any GV police officer found liable in a civil case for up to $25,000 (originally $50,000) or 5% of the judgment, whichever is less, in a case where the officer’s employer, which would be the City of Greenwood Village, “determines the officer did not act upon a good faith and reasonable belief that the action (the officer took) was lawful.” While incumbent council members strongly defended the action as being necessary to prevent the resignation of seven GV officers who were threatening to quit because of the new law, several challengers in the race pointed to the fact that GV was the only city in Colorado to pass a resolution promising to fully indemnify its officers even if it had determined that they had acted in bad faith, which sent an especially chilling message to members of diverse communities. The resolution was passed on July 6, 2020, six weeks after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis that drew attention to unequal treatment of minorities by some police officers.
District two incumbent Dave Kerber, explaining his support resolution, said he told someone, “All people should be treated with respect, as decent people…Our parents of children of color, they want to have safe ways to come home from school too. It’s not just for the white kids. When you make the rules, you have to make the rules for everybody. They want to be safe, too. They want to have parks, too. They want the same things that we all make (sic) and it’s very important that we recognize that and not treat them differently just because of the color of their skin.”
District two incumbent Anne Ingebretsen talked about how GV police already had many of the reforms in place required by the Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity Act (SB20-217) and how GV “has not had a sustained complaint of excessive force used by a police officer since 2007.”
She did not explain why, if it was so unlikely that a GV officer would ever be subject to the financial risks of the law, it was necessary for them to be fully indemnified when no other city in Colorado had done so, except to agree with others that seven officers threatened to quit over the issue.
District three incumbent Libby Barnacle, after saying, “I would concur with [Anne] Ingebretsen and [Victoria] Aguilar that civility goes a long way,” talked about the importance of a “fully staffed and supported police department.” Describing something that happened after the resolution was passed, she said, “False and irresponsible reckless linking of our Resolution 40-20 to racism and fascism, despite death threats received, attempted character assassination…”
Then Barnacle said, “I think that some of the dialogue has stalled because of some of the messaging behind the scenes about, ‘F*** (she said the word) these pigs. We want all police unions to burn.’ This is the messaging I’m getting.”
After the meeting, Barnacle gave The Villager copies of what appeared to be pictures of screen shots of nasty tweets with comments added from someone who assembled them. Barnacle was asked what it represented and she said she did not know, that someone, who she did not identify, gave the papers to her and she was giving them to this newspaper. None of the nasty tweets in the purported screen shots and unidentified narrative claimed to be from any of the people running for the city council.
District three candidate Paul Baumann talked about activities that occurred after Resolution 40-20 was passed, saying, “Our community’s strength is its diversity…My neighbors put together a proposal and sent it to our councilmembers (Barnacle and Donna Johnston) for a very low-cost, low-threat citizen-led commission on diversity, equity, and inclusion that would study that issue in our city…We were waved off.”
District One candidate Mathew Schulz said, “I’m a military veteran. I have police officers in my family, and I’m about as pro-police as you can be. But the fact that this council had no public debate or comment on that (resolution) upset a lot of people of…diverse backgrounds…I believe it’s discouraging to diversity.”
On a question about housing challenges in Greenwood Village, Victoria Aguilar, candidate for city council district one, said, “If we’re going to attract businesses, especially large businesses, we need to recognize that there needs to be more affordable housing including young families…We want our teachers, we want our firefighters, we want our police to be able to live in our city. Many of them cannot afford to do so given the high price of entry.”
Several other challengers for the council, including Mathew Shulz and Jeff Leitner (district four) talked about the importance of teachers and first responders being able to afford to live in the city in which they work, which they said was very challenging in Greenwood Village.
Several incumbents, including Ingebretsen in district two, said that Greenwood Village has more multi-family housing per capita than Denver, a mix of 54 percent single-family housing and 46 percent multi-family housing, something that seemed to surprise some people. Dave Kerber, also a district two incumbent, agreed that Greenwood Village has a higher rate of multi-family housing than every city in the State of Colorado except Glendale, which “has one single-family home.” District Three candidate Kendall Kappler said, “A functioning community includes…economic diversity… Crime increases when there is more commuting, people don’t live in the neighborhood they’re working in. Our community is safer and stronger… if more people can afford to live here
District one candidate Paul Wiesner, who was born in Greenwood Village, said, “The reason it is expensive here is because of the principles that…make all of us want to live here.” I don’t know what…you can do about it.”
District three incumbent Donna Johnston said that GV has “a really good mix of affordable housing.”
The subject of Orchard Station and the 2017 referendum came back around when several city council challengers pointed out that, four years later, there has been virtually no redevelopment there and the area continues to deteriorate. Several, including district four candidate Jeff Reiman, tried to say on multiple occasions that current councilmembers, including Kerber and Barnacle, misconstrued the vote as meaning that residents didn’t want to see anything developed there, rather than that they were against the oversized dense plan that they believed was coming if they didn’t vote no. Incumbents, including Barnacle, strongly argued back that people knew what they were voting for. Reiman, who said he voted no, kept trying to explain that he wasn’t saying the voters misunderstood the issue, the council did. That, he and others believed, is why there has been virtually no redevelopment of any kind there in the four years since the referendum.
One candidate, Bob Doyle in district two, focused mainly on the city’s continuing to ignore virtually all issues around climate change. He pointed to multiple opportunities that are available for cities to take advantage of, to help reduce greenhouse gases, noting that the current council had ignored the issue. Doyle has been a well-known environmentalist for many years.
On the topic of vacant office space in Greenwood Village as a result of the pandemic, district four challenger Tom Stahl, who is in the commercial real estate business, said, “The office market has been hard hit with people working remotely.” He noted that one 1970’s two-story office building in GV was recently approved for redevelopment, but that, “Commercial real estate is a very complicated issue. Over time, I think different property owners that have vacant office space will figure out solutions as time goes on.”
On the issue of communication, district four incumbent Judith Hilton said she had sent quarterly newsletters since being elected four years ago. Her opponents, Jeff Reiman and Jeff Leitner, talked about holding regular town hall meetings to get input from constituents instead of telling them about decisions already made in newsletters.
In district one, Aguilar and Schulz, both challenging incumbent Dave Bullock, also talked about the importance of asking for residents’ input before taking action. Aguilar said, “Sending letters after the fact isn’t really the point…I want to know what’s on your docket. I learn about decisions after the fact. Transparency needs to happen. The technology is there. You can Zoom these things. That’s transparency. That’s access. Let our voice be heard instead of the city council send us a letter after it’s made a decision without any input from us. I promise you, I will bring listening back and I will be respectful, even listening to those I don’t agree with.”
Schulz said, “Quarterly newsletter? Nothing in it that Freda [Miklin] hasn’t already reported on. I don’t need to know why you voted the way you did. I’d rather you seek my opinion…before you vote. I met with my councilmember. I reached out to him. He said, ‘If my constituents don’t like the way I vote, they won’t re-elect me.’ That is too late. This council operates reactionary. Newsletters, that’s great, but it’s nothing new. Televising, live feeding these meetings. That’s the point.”
As the meeting ended, Kerber said, “If you like your city, continue those people who have kept it this way. If you want a change and go into another direction, vote for the other people.”
More to come from the forum next week and the entire video can be seen on YouTube.com by searching for South Metro Denver Chamber.