LAKEWOOD By LeRoy Standish Sentinel and Transcript Newspapers In Ward 4 there is a City Council race like no other. Councilman Ray Elliott, 39, is …
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By LeRoy Standish
Sentinel and Transcript Newspapers
In Ward 4 there is a City Council race like no other.
Councilman Ray Elliott, 39, is being challenged by Michael O’Beirne, 41. The two men have a history. O’Beirne was stopped by police June 9 outside a Lakewood hotel, he was arrested for pushing an officer. Councilwoman Jackie Herbst had a room at the hotel. When she saw O’Beirne and another man, Mike Muller, lurking outside, she called Elliott. Once Elliott arrived at the hotel, police were called and O’Beirne was arrested. Immediately after that, O’Beirne was leveled with a restraining order from Herbst. The order was in effect less than a month.
O’Beirne tried to make an issue out of the relationship between Elliott and Herbst, both of whom are married, but not to each other. Now that O’Beirne is a candidate for office, he is sticking to city issues as opposed to rumors.
Elliott said he has raised about $5,000 to date. O’Beirne said he is not seeking donations and said he has the support of a small group known as Lakewood Citizens for Open Space.
“I have a small pocket of die-hard supporters interested in preserving open space and neighborhoods,” O’Beirne said.
Elliott said he has the backing of such heavy weights as State Sen. Norma Anderson, R-Lakewood, Rep. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, and all the county commissioners.
“They recognize that I am an experienced and seasoned elected official who has the knowledge and experience Lakewood needs,” Elliott said.
O’Beirne said, despite his efforts, Elliot is lacking substantive leadership skills needed on City Council. The difference between the two men is “style,” according to O’Beirne.
“Ray’s analytical style and my action-oriented style,” he explained.
If elected, O’Beirne said he would push for a radical shake-up of city government.
“The city government is ripe for reorganization and, according to my constituents, the time is now,” O’Beirne said.
Elliott said city government organization is not an issue. Of concern to many Ward 4 residents, and others throughout the city, is the balance between development and open space, he said. It’s a quality of life issue, with financial underpinnings that Elliott said he has to grapple with a lot as a city councilman. He cites property rights as an example.
“We have to respect private property rights,” Elliott said.
He is agreeable to the development of property within its designated zoning, but if a new development requires rezoning, Elliott said he becomes very skeptical and gives great weight to neighborhood concerns.
O’Beirne said Elliott is not hearing what the residents of Ward 4 are saying.
“There is an ongoing concern over the underground utility fund,” O’Beirne said.
He said the reserve of dollars meant to be used by public utilities to bury service lines was loaned out to the Mills Corp to bury
electric lines crossing the Colorado Mills site. The money, which O’Beirne said amounts to possibly more than $6 million, was paid back to the city and may have gone into the general fund.
“Because I am a political novice, I don’t have the access that some of the other incumbents do, and for the life of me I can’t find where the money went,” O’Beirne said. “I believe the money has gone into the general fund, which would be extremely unfortunate.”
Elliott said O’Beirne has his facts wrong and is confused. The money was always intended for Excel Energy to bury utilities. Since the new Mills’ mall was anticipated to be a great benefit to Lakewood, Elliott agreed to allow Mills use of the fund. A perk of giving the money to Mills was that, unlike Excel, the Mills would repay the money.
“So, had Mills come and asked Lakewood to use these credits, Excel’s underground utility, with no repayment offered Lakewood, we would have used that money to do that — to pay for the undergrounding with no anticipated repayment,” Elliott said. “However, Mills borrowed the money, which was repaid to the city. Had Mr. O’Beirne the knowledge, experience and fortitude to do the research, he could have gotten the same facts that I have.”
He is also hawkish on the city budget. If re-elected, he vows to keep the city on course, “becoming as efficient as we can in delivering the essential services to the citizens with the current rate sales tax,” he said. Elliott added that he is against any sales tax increase.
O’Beirne said he is one candidate untainted by Lakewood politics and provides voters a unique choice.
“I’m not a machine politician. I’m not a career politician. I’m going to do it myself outside of the machine,” O’Beirne said.
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