Arvada City Council candidates shared the stage for the first time at the Arvada Chamber of Commerce’s City Council Election Forum at Revive Church — a longstanding event that, for some, marks the public-facing start of the campaign trail.
The Sept. 15 forum featured nearly all of the candidates who will be on the ballot in the Nov. 7 election.
In attendance were mayoral candidates John Marriott and Lauren Simpson, District 2 candidates Shawna Ambrose and Michael Griffith, District 4 candidate Bob Fifer and at large candidates Sharon Davis and Bob Loveridge.
District 4 candidate Jessica Fenske attended the Chamber’s Candidate Boot Camp — a training program meant to mentor potential future civic leaders — but could not attend the forum, and at large candidate Kathleen Kennedy also could not attend, according to Arvada Chamber President Kami Welch.
All candidates participated in a moderated discussion which included opening statements, specific questions on local issues, a “speed round” and closing statements.
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Marriott and Simpson — both sitting councilmembers, with Simpson currently representing District 2 and Marriott representing District 3 — shared why they would like to move into term-limited Mayor Marc Williams’ seat this fall.
Marriott, who was born and raised in Arvada, said that he is seeking to lead the city in order to allow current and future residents to have the opportunities he’s had.
“I want to be the mayor of Arvada because I want to ensure that all of you and your children all have the same ability to reach your potential and beyond like I clearly have,” Marriott said. “I also want to make sure that we set things in place to make sure that the children who are not even here yet have things that I didn’t have.”
Simpson, who works in diplomacy for the Canadian government, said her four years on council have been the best four years of her life, and wants to earn the mayor’s seat to help curb “toxicity” in municipal politics.
“What made me run for office was the toxicity of our politics,” Simpson said. “Everything seems kind of broken right now, doesn’t it? Everyone is at each other’s throats to the point where it ruins relationships… What we need fewer of is spiders and what we maybe need a little bit more of is diplomats.”
The pair of candidates also shared their thoughts on what the mayor’s role should be, with both pledging to work to make council a collaborative body that works well together.
Marriott and Simpson both credited Williams’ leadership style as an example to replicate, with Simpson going as far to pledge that if elected, she will uphold Williams’ tradition of letting other council members speak first.
Candidates for the at large seat — which represents the whole city — Sharon Davis and Bob Loveridge shared their views on different issues and discussed why they feel like they are the right candidate for the job.
The pair divulged slightly on a proposed plan for affordable housing, with Davis suggesting a “public/private partnership” and Loveridge suggesting an amendment to legislation that would make it more amiable for builders to enact condo developments.
“We are building luxury homes that are $1.2 million and so forth; if you’re starting out, you cannot afford that,” Davis said. “I would like to see a public/private partnership where we encourage the diversity in housing stock as we’re moving forward.”
“We need to change the construction defects law so that we can start building condos,” Loveridge said. “The other thing we need to look closely at are the fees and development fees and codes that we are requiring from our builders. They are huge factors because that goes right into the cost of that building.
“We need to have that diversity and there are plenty of ways to accomplish that with what we do on council,” Loveridge continued.
Loveridge, who has served as a board member with the Arvada Fire Protection District since 2014, highlighted his experience working in the community as a reason why he believes he is the best candidate.
“I bring the experience and knowledge of this community and I love people,” Loveridge said. “I love working with people, and that’s something that would continue on city council.”
Davis said she would be a voice for residents who don’t feel like they are being heard by council.
“Arvadans are compassionate, they’re kind, they care about the community and they care about one another, and that is dramatically important to me because I didn’t know what to expect when I started door knocking,” Davis said. “I want to represent you on council, I want to be the person on council who represents those who don’t feel like they’re represented on council and don’t feel heard.”
District 2 candidates Shawna Ambrose and Michael Griffith discussed why they were enticed to run, with Ambrose discussing her firsthand experiences with social service and mental health legislation, and Griffith highlighting his experience as an urban planner and how that would help build regional partnerships.
Ambrose shared her experience with homelessness and financial insecurity, and credited policymakers who mandated social workers go into schools to assess families in need for helping her escape a cycle of poverty and abuse.
“I’m running for public service because I want to give back to the community,” Ambrose said. “Policymakers who care decided that social workers should go into schools, that the child and the whole family should get help. We were all made whole because of smart policy decisions.”
Griffith said that his experience in planning would help the city through important land use decisions looming in the next couple of years.
“I had to build partnerships to make those projects happen, and my practical experience would be useful on council as we make major land use decisions that will affect the quality of life for generations,” Griffith said.
The candidates appeared to disagree slightly on their stance on whether Arvada should allow recreational marijuana sales, which the city currently does not. Ambrose argued that the city is missing out on tax revenue, while Griffith cited a recent downturn in cannabis tax revenue.
Both candidates suggested raising the issue to voters on a future ballot.
“At this point, the city is missing out of funds that the surrounding areas are bringing in by not permitting a few of these types of establishments in Arvada,” Ambrose said. “I also think that for Arvada to be solvent and continue as a great city, it needs many diverse forms of businesses in order to have a good return on sales tax, which is where the city is funded.
“I think that this is one of the areas we could develop, but I think there should be a vote to the people, and they can decide if, when how and how many and where we want these stores,” Ambrose continued.
Griffith added that several areas are underfunded, especially in pavement.
“If you think about the potential here, I think the large wave of opportunity with retail marijuana sales and tax revenue may have crashed,” Griffith said. “That’s just my opinion…I don’t know if this is something the community really wants. I agree, it should be put up to a vote.”
Current at-large councilmember Bob Fifer was the lone District 4 candidate present at the forum. He said he wanted to represent the western side of Arvada because as a resident of Candelas, Fifer understands the distinct needs of the community.
“It’s the new greenfield area of what we can make our community and find a sense of place and a sense of community,” Fifer said. “It’s different than east and west, and it does have different needs. It’s at a different altitude and different demands on the city, and I understand that.”
Fifer said the three main issues facing the west side of town are transportation, wildland fire protection and metro districts. Fifer said he is in favor of staying the course on current infrastructure plans for the area.
“Infrastructure we’re talking about is not sexy,” Fifer said. “It’s underground, it’s invisible, but it’s necessary for our community to have a high quality of life. When we talk about the sewers, we’re addressing those; water, we’re addressing those (needs).”
The upcoming municipal election will take place on Nov. 7.