BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
Around 40 Englewood residents showed up at The Barnhouse Tap at 4361 S. Broadway for a candidate forum for the Englewood City Council on October 5. It was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Arapahoe and Douglas Counties. Four of seven members of the city council will be elected in a mail ballot, coordinated election with Arapahoe County on November 5. Representatives will be elected to represent Englewood districts 1 and 3, along with two at-large representatives. All those elected will serve four-year terms.
Incumbent Othoniel Sierra, who won a special election in May 2018 to fill the unexpired term of Joe Jefferson when he became a municipal judge, is being challenged by teacher Monica Johnson and Bobby Ray Jennings.
Sierra said he had run in 2018 on a platform of environmental sustainability, affordable housing, and city center redevelopment. He named infrastructure, especially storm drains and “keeping the neighborhood character” as current issues.
Johnson, a teacher, said she was running because “we haven’t invested in preventing problems with our infrastructure.” She said she wants to invite family-friendly small businesses to locate in Englewood and if elected, plans to listen to the citizens.
Jennings said, “I feel that the city council is failing the people of Englewood in the storm systems, the alleyways, and the overall operation of the city. They say they don’t have the money.” He believes that the city could get federal funds to address its problems, but didn’t say which funds or from what federal agency or program they would come.
Asked about how they would help the homeless, Sierra pointed to an ongoing study Englewood is undertaking on the subject, along with Sheridan and Littleton. Jennings said that some homeless “don’t want help. What should we do with them?” Johnson said, “The homeless are people and we need to support them.” She agreed with Sierra that “we need to study the reasons for homelessness”
On the question of whether Englewood should be a sanctuary city, Jennings said he couldn’t answer. Sierra said he was okay with it because Englewood police should only have to do their own job. Johnson said, “The undocumented are part of our country and they contribute to our community. The census is coming up. If they aren’t counted, it will hurt the city.”
On redeveloping the Englewood Civic Center, Sierra said it is in the early stages and city council is discussing it. Johnson agreed that that was a good thing. Jennings said, “I haven’t made up my mind.”
Laurett Barrentine, a 25-year resident who survived a recall attempt in 2018, is being challenged in her bid for a second four-year term by Joe Anderson. Both candidates focused on the infrastructure challenges facing Englewood, where a woman drowned in a flooded basement apartment in 2018 during a storm. Anderson asserted that “the previous city manager (Erik Keck, who resigned dramatically during a city council meeting a year ago) proposed a long-term infrastructure plan that the city council did not adopt.” When Barrentine disputed that assertion, saying “We do have a 20-year (infrastructure) plan and we’re funding it,” Anderson pushed back saying, “It’s my word against hers. No 20-year plan has been adopted.”
On homelessness, Barrentine said the city had to work in collaboration with private not-for-profit agencies and that more than half the affected people have mental illness of substance abuse issues. Jefferson said that homelessness is not a consistent state for some people and they can be helped by positive mentoring.
On the subject of whether Englewood should be a sanctuary city, Barrentine said, “No. Sanctuary city means we don’t enforce that law.” Jefferson responded, “We should look after our neighbors. We don’t have the resources to enforce federal law.”
Current Mayor Pro-Tem Rita Russell is seeking re-election to a second term. Challenging are Steven Ward, a six-year veteran of the city’s budget advisory committee, and John Stone, a small business owner who was homeless from age 15 to 21 and is now finishing a master’s degree. There are two open at-large seats.
Russell said she has held numerous coffees and town halls during her first term and works well with everyone. Ward said that “future focus is the purpose of my campaign.” If elected, he will use his knowledge of the budget and “I will ask the citizens what they value.”
On homelessness, Russell said the county is in a better financial position to address the problem and that the city has to partner with others because it “can’t pay for it alone.” Stone said he was working on an independent program to get the homeless into apprenticeships to become tradespeople. He said he finds candidates among those who are already working. Ward pointed out that he agrees with Johnson that the homeless are people and added, “We (the city) have hired co-responders to go with the police to assist the homeless.”
On infrastructure, Russell said that stormwater fees are going to have to be raised to systematically replace the infrastructure, but she did not agree with some who had talked about quadrupling current charges. Stone said, “My favorite bar had to spend $10,000 after a flood last year.” Ward said, “There is not enough money to fund the city’s capital improvement plan” and the city council “has to ask citizens for the money” to fix its parks and storm drains.
On the question of Englewood being a sanctuary city, Russell said, “We need to enforce the laws. Ward said, “Let cops be cops. Let’s enforce things that affect our quality of life.” Stone agreed, saying, “Police are here for our safety. We don’t want people to be afraid to call them for crimes like domestic violence.”
For additional information about voting in Englewood’s municipal election on November 5, go to www.englewoodco.gov/inside-city-hall/election-information.
2018 All Rights Reserved. Villager Publishing |