Town council candidates for the upcoming special election in Parker had an opportunity to introduce themselves and their platforms during a March 25 forum hosted by the Parker Chamber of Commerce.
The seven candidates talked about their views on economic development, parks and recreation, public transportation and the grocery tax, among other topics.
The April 20 election will fill two seats on the town council, vacated by Jeff Toborg, who is now serving as mayor, and Renee Williams, who resigned in September. The top two vote-getters will be the winners of the election and will serve until Nov. 8, 2022.
Below are the abridged questions and answers. The full forum is available at Facebook.com/ParkerChamber/videos.
What would you expect from the town’s new economic development department during your term in office?
Nate Matthews, vice president of wealth management at UBS Financial Services: “I think that by partnering up on economic development we can bring some great jobs and businesses here to Parker and I’m excited for that opportunity.”
Danielle Ozaluk, general manager, hospitality industry: “(Economic development) is oftentimes more successful when it’s a public-private partnership and not something that’s just directly underneath a government entity. So I would like to see us grow in that direction.”
Jeeva Senthilnathan, student, Colorado School of Mines: “I think that we need to have more outreach of other young people who can get involved within economic development. They can have mentorships from other business owners.”
Terry Dodd, construction management: “First, (the new economic development director) needs to work closely with our downtown business alliance … this is key because we need to increase the attraction of the consumer to spend more time in our downtown area. The second big issue is … we need to do things that are going to create that synergy and bring more jobs here.”
Anne Barrington, owner of Barrington Group Real Estate and Card My Yard Parker: “One of (the new economic development director’s) visions is to … create something like a Larimer South, which I think Parker is prime for it. We have a blank canvas. There is so much opportunity here.”
Joshua Rivero, Owner of Fika Coffee House: “I believe there’s … two big parts to economic development, there’s recruitment but there’s also retaintment. How do we make sure our businesses stay strong? … I do believe we need to bring new businesses to town but we need to make sure the businesses we have here are thriving.”
Doug Butte, IT director and consultant, coach: “I would expect the department to talk to business owners, and say ‘what are the burdens that are on you?’ … I would expect partnerships to take place with the Downtown Business (Alliance) and the chamber, I would expect lots of conversations to take place with private organizations.”
Should there be more things accomplished by parks and recreation and how do you budget for those tasks?
Matthews: “We do need to plan for additional rec centers as we move forward … The user fees do cover a portion of that revenue and then the additional half percent of sales tax should help fund that as well.”
Rivero: “When we look at the citizen’s survey every two or three years … (parks and recreation) is the number one ask … we need to ensure that their want is what we’re investing in and we need to make sure we have the revenue to invest for their wishes.”
Ozaluk: “There’s definitely a need to continue to expand parks and rec and I agree that we have to look years and years out.”
Barrington: “We get 3% tax that comes into the town, and of that (half a percent) goes to parks and rec … but it’s not enough … there’s still part of that general fund that we need in order to fund the parks and recs. That is what people move here for.”
Dodd: “We want to build on the good things that (have) been done in the past. The town council has made that an important issue and it should stay an important issue … The load on the parks and rec is going to increase. We’ve got to be prepared for that.”
Butte: “I’m not sure if parks and rec should be doing more now. The people that do know are the voters … it should be up to them where the funding comes from … Probably not more can be done on the current budget.”
Senthilnathan: “I think it’s about the projects we need to expand, having other young people who join different kinds of sports, having them break gender stereotypes … I think that when we have more parents and more young people come to the rec center for these kinds of projects, I think that we’re going to be able to generate a good amount of revenue.”
What would be your plan for public transportation in Parker, what are the current gaps, if any, and how would you address them?
Butte: “We simply can’t send that much money to RTD (Regional Transportation District) getting the product that is returned from RTD.”
Dodd: “We need to be tough on RTD. They’re not going to solve our transportation problems … They’re just ripping us off. So we’ve got to negotiate with them and figure out a way … threatening to leave district, if we have to, to get them to come to the negotiation table.”
Barrington: “There are talks of us leaving RTD, I think it’s a terrible idea … Are we getting the services that we’re paying for? Absolutely not, but we need to partner with RTD and figure out another way to get more services in here.”
Senthilnathan: “I strongly believe we should not move from RTD, in fact, we should involve them and make them more efficient and more effective.” (Senthilnathan noted that she has been endorsed by District G director for RTD, Julien Bouquet.)
Ozaluk: “We need transportation but we don’t need to sit by and allow them to not provide the service when we’re paying the money.”
Matthews: “With the tax dollars that Parker residents are paying into the system we need to leverage those dollars and make sure that the services provided are equal to what we’re paying.”
Rivero: “Are we ever going to get 100% of (return on) service (from RTD)? Absolutely not … but let’s get more … We need to negotiate, I’m proud of the (town) council for saying something. I do not want to leave.”
What is your opinion of the grocery tax in Parker, should we keep it or should it be repealed?
Barrington: “I absolutely think that this is a necessary tax. It’s elective, if you don’t want to pay this tax, you can go into Lone Tree. But it’s what funds this town … If this grocery tax goes away, it’s basically defunding the town … If we don’t have another alternative, we can’t just vote to eliminate it.”
Ozaluk: “What I would like to see is future data come out so we can make that determination … if this tax reduction were to ever affect our police department I would not be in favor of that.”
Senthilnathan: “I strongly believe that the grocery tax, it needs to be kept here … it really does help us fund most of our parks and recs.”
Dodd: “It’s morally wrong because grocery tax hits those hardest who are most in need. So we need to look at this, we need to analyze this properly … and figure out a way to work around it and get it out, gone.”
Rivero: “(The grocery tax) was set up in a brilliant way, we set up as a town that could collect sales tax from outside of our community … if you look, where is Costco? It’s on our border, it’s on our edge. We pull in Arapahoe County dollars to give services to Parker, that’s brilliant … (the tax) is elective.”
Butte: “I would be in favor of rolling back that tax wisely and seeing where we’re at down the road and if that tax needs to be brought back, it’s up to the voters once again.”
Matthews: “If this is truly important to us, where we can look out for our lowest-income residents and say ‘we care about you’ … I believe there are revenue sources that we can get to to make up for that funding gap.”