Englewood City Council candidates Laurett Barrentine and Joe Anderson debated city infrastructure, homelessness and other issues in a forum at Sacred Grace church in Englewood on Oct. 2. Barrentine …
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Englewood City Council candidates Laurett Barrentine and Joe Anderson debated city infrastructure, homelessness and other issues in a forum at Sacred Grace church in Englewood on Oct. 2.
Barrentine and Anderson are vying for the Englewood City Council District 3 seat in the Nov. 5 election. District 3 is located in the southeastern and center-west areas of the city.
The two took questions from attendees in an hour-long event that packed the church with dozens of people.
Barrentine currently represents District 3 on Englewood City Council. She survived a recall effort against her last year, at a time when she was also charged with harassment and disorderly conduct in connection to an incident that took place after a council study session last August. Charges against her were eventually dropped, and she was able to stay on council after a vote went in her favor in a special election last September.
Anderson owns Oikos Coffee and is the director of United Englewood, a coalition of churches and nonprofits that work to serve the city. He lost a citywide at-large council race to Englewood City Councilmember Cheryl Wink by more than 10 percentage points in 2017.
Englewood's infrastructure remains a challenge, particularly with its drainage system that was built in the 1950s to the 1970s. In July 2018, flooding killed a woman and left others displaced.
Barrentine said the city is looking at all avenues of available funding for infrastructure issues, including increasing tap fees so that developers pay more money.
“There are a lot of other vehicles we can use to go ahead and bring in funds. (City staff) is hiring an outside firm to do exactly that, to look at (how to fund infrastructure improvements),” said Barrentine.
Anderson agreed with Barrentine, saying that there are a variety of sources of funding for infrastructure. He added that funds Englewood generates over the next 25 to 30 years are important for solving city infrastructure problems.
“We have to generate a more vibrant business environment, because the vast majority of our income comes from sales tax revenue. What we need to do is make Englewood the best place to start your own small business,” said Anderson.
Englewood Mayor Linda Olson recently told the Englewood Herald that the city isn't sure how to describe homelessness, or document it.
“Working together is the best solution to this problem. We've already got agencies (that work with the homeless) working together really well,” said Anderson. “There's a lot more work to be done, and a coordinated effort is the only thing that is going to be able to take care of the people who need our help the most.”
Barrentine agreed with Anderson, saying help for the homeless is going to have to come from the community. She said the city has to make sure it's enforcing the law and that citizens are safe.
“We don't know how to combat something we don't know the causes for. We can support faith-based organizations (who are working with the homeless), but we want to be very careful that we're not choosing one particular religious philosophy or organization over another with how we do our funding,” said Barrentine.
Working with city staff
Things got particularly heated during the debate when the two candidates were asked what they disagree about the most.
Anderson answered the question first, saying he disagrees with Barrentine about personal leadership style and what effective leadership looks like. He said leadership needs to be built out of a place from trust, saying accomplishing things requires leaders who have good relationships with people in the community and city government.
“Go watch a city council meeting, and you can see what we currently have on city council. Come out and participate with some of the initiatives I've led,” Anderson said. “It's night and day — a different style of leadership.”
Barrentine responded, saying if all of city council gets along, “you probably don't have a very good government going on.”
“My job is to represent my community, and that's what I do. My job is not just to get along with council,” she said. “We are to have conversations, bring information and best represent the community.”
Barrentine said the main issue she disagrees with Anderson on is also personal leadership style, saying issues won't be resolved by just getting along with the rest of council.
“It is difficult to be a strong woman with a passion for what you do. I think it is unfortunate that we have tried to take personalities and make them the issues so that we don't have to deal with the issues,” said Barrentine. “To go and demonize me and the way I speak, rather than to listen to the ideas and issues I'm putting forward — I think that's unfortunate.”
Anderson said it is a “bad extreme” when all of city council has groupthink, or makes decisions in a way that shuts down creativity or individual responsibility. He said he wants to be on a council where relationships are healthy so that people can disagree, come to good conclusions and have a healthy and honest conversation.
Barrentine said she was “taken aback from that opinion” from someone who isn't on city council, adding that she enjoys working with her fellow councilmembers.
“My one-sentence response is ask a few councilmembers and staff members how they think their relationship is with my opponent,” said Anderson.
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