The Parker Town Council is due to see significant changes come November.
Three seats on town council are up for grabs in the election, and voters will have no small task in narrowing down the list of 12 candidates. The top three vote-getters will fill those at-large seats.
A fourth seat on council is open following Renee Williams’ resignation Sept. 18. The remaining five Parker Town Councilmembers have until Oct. 18 to either appoint a new councilmember or decide to stage a special election.
The seats are nonpartisan, but some voters have asked that party affiliation be known.
Regardless, Kevin Bommer, executive director of the Colorado Municipal League, said the bulk of the issues that municipal policymakers deal with are devoid of partisan politics.
“When folks ask to have street repairs done in their neighborhood, they just want the street fixed,” Bommer said. “They don’t ask for Republican asphalt or Democrat concrete. Local elected officials choose to serve because they care about their communities and they want to serve.”
Several candidates gave anecdotal accounts of this election involving partisan politics more so than in the past. Accusations of partisan slate candidates running for town council have dominated the conversation early, stemming from concerns voiced on social media by residents. Both Republicans and Democrats have been accused publicly of backing slates of three candidates — six candidates in all.
The tone of the campaign was set in August, when former mayor David Casiano urged his Facebook followers to ask candidates their party affiliation. It was a question Casiano said he received regularly in his 2004 campaign for mayor.
Casiano clarified in a Sept. 17 interview with the Parker Chronicle that the question of party affiliation in a nonpartisan race for town council or mayor should take a backseat to voter’s interests.
“If they give you their party affiliation, ask the question ‘Why are you that party affiliation? What do you think that brings to the table?’” Casiano said. “The final question that needs to be answered, is ‘What’s in it for me to vote for you?’”
Casiano, elected in 2004 and reelected in 2008, served two years on Town Council prior to running for mayor. Casiano threw his hat in the ring for town council this summer but withdrew his name before the race began, citing personal reasons. He said his role as mayor was to be the face and voice of the town, the sole voice of council to whom all questions were directed.
“Once you sit on the dais, it makes no difference what party affiliation you have,” Casiano said. “Your dedication needs to be for the Town of Parker.”
Casiano said when he ran in 2004, he remembered voters being more engaged in local issues and vetting candidates more than today — a change he attributes primarily to the influence of social media. Still, the question of his party affiliation always came up, he said.
“We’ve gotten to this point of social media being the great communicator to the public, and that’s OK in one aspect, but you’ve got to have that heart-to-heart, hand-to-hand, eye-to-eye contact with your constituents,” Casiano said.
Casiano says he feels the town’s elected leaders and staff have lost touch with many of their constituents.
“If you don’t get out there with your constituents and communities, what happens is they formulate their own conceptions about what’s going on in the town,” Casiano said, indicating it is a present issue. “There’s no sense of true communication between elected officials and constituents, and on the local level you really shouldn’t have that.”
Mayor Mike Waid posted on Facebook Live Sept. 16 cautioning residents about getting caught up in “silly season”—as candidates claw their way into the public eye.
“What I mean by that is this is going to get silly, and this is going to be a lot of ‘I told you so’ or ‘I gotcha’ or this or that point,” Waid said in a Sept. 17 post, regarding the news of the councilmember vacancy. “Let’s cut the garbage with all of that.”