Golden update: Election Special

The presidential race is getting all sorts of attention these days, but there’s an election coming up here in Golden a whole lot sooner and with more immediate implications for our community. Yup, we’ve got two city council seats up, plus the mayor’s term is up, and that’s all in addition to an extremely important Jefferson County school board election.

But first things first. I had a terrific time during my two-year stint in D.C. and now I’m thrilled to report that I’m back home in Golden. I haven’t figured out a plan yet for this email list – this is the list I built and maintained while I was mayor – and I’m open to thoughts about how to use it in a way that’s useful. But for right now, at least, I want to offer a few thoughts about the upcoming election here in Golden.


1. Mayor of Golden

I supported Marjorie Sloan when she ran for mayor after my term ended four years ago and I’m supporting her again now. Although I think there are still some important challenges that still need attention – protecting the remaining unprotected open space around Golden and tackling our long-term financial challenges are two – Marjorie has maintained a steady and competent hand on the tiller. She’s also navigated two really challenging situations: Mike Bestor’s retirement and the hiring of a new city manager, and finalizing an agreement to end the beltway war and actually build some projects that will be immensely valuable to the Golden community. I will vote for Marjorie and hope you will too.

2. Golden City Council
For the District 1 seat (the southern half of the city) I’m supporting the incumbent, Saoirse Charis-Graves. Saoirse takes her role incredibly seriously, she works incredibly hard, and it’s tough to imagine someone who more earnestly understands the responsibilities of representing her community on the Council. And she has a vision for Golden that I think most Golden residents share: a livable, safe, thriving community where the city government communicates effectively and is responsive to community needs and concerns. I recommend a vote for Saoirse.

For the District 2 seat (the northern half of the city) I encourage you to support Casey Brown. Most new members of City Council take at least a couple of years to figure out what’s going on enough to have any real impact on anything at all. Casey won’t have that problem; his experience ranges from the Campaign Election Board to the Parks and Recreation Board to even chairing the Planning Commission. He helped kickoff and lead the Golden Vision 2030 process that most of the candidates at the forum last week cheered and celebrated. If ever there were a City Council candidate who will be able to have a real impact advocating on behalf of his constituents from the day he is sworn in, it’s Casey. Casey is also genuinely the nicest and most accessible guy around. Call him or email him or corner him at the grocery store and he’ll actually listen, and think about what you say, and do his best to help. He’s the sort of guy you want as both your City Councilor and your neighbor. If you like the idea of giving Golden residents more power to protect and support their neighborhoods, and making sure the City Council has the tools they need to preserve Golden’s historic small-town character, Casey is the guy. Finally, I’ll mention that Casey also has a real backbone, and he’ll call people out – city staff, land developers, whomever – when he thinks they’re doing sloppy work or trying to pull one over on the community. He’s professional and respectful about it, but he’s not shy, either. And frankly we really need some more of that on the Council. I recommend a vote for Casey Brown.

3. Jefferson County School Board
There are two important things happening in the school board election. First, there are two open seats on the board for which Golden residents will get to vote. I’m supporting Ali Lasell and Amanda Stevens for reasons I’ll get to in a minute.

Second, there is an effort to recall the other three school board members (“the school board majority”). I want to be really clear that I am very skeptical of recalls. Many of you probably remember Marion Olson’s attempt to recall six members of the city council, including me, over policy disagreements. If you don’t like someone’s policy choices, vote for someone else in the next election (and for those of you who weren’t in Golden at the time, community residents so fiercely and widely opposed the recall that we killed it before it ever got to the ballot … not only did Golden residents disagree with Marion’s policy views, they widely supported the City Council’s vision).

Recalls should be reserved, in my view, for willfully misleading voters, gross negligence, or severe ethical violations. Sadly, and truly unfortunately, the situation on the Jefferson County School Board is actually that bad and a recall is actually the appropriate response. It seems like these issues have been fairly well covered in the local press, but in case a recap is helpful, the school board majority:

  • Has repeatedly gone out of its way to conceal information, limit public oversight, restrict public input, and make important policy decisions in secret behind closed doors. The point of Colorado’s open meetings and sunshine laws is to ensure that government decisions are made transparently; the school board majority has ignored and even flouted these rules. And as anyone who lived in Golden during my time as mayor knows, I believe these are some of the most important responsibilities of our elected representatives. A healthy democracy absolutely depends on honest and open access to the workings of government. And the school board majority has aggressively done the opposite.
  • Attempted to inject an overtly ideological agenda into the curriculum, sparking mass student protests (which was both ironic and impressive, since part of what the school board was trying to censor was the role of dissent in American history and politics). This debacle was particularly revealing and offensive. The proposal included the mandate that AP History classes “not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.” History teachers were understandably concerned, since the history of the U.S. is, in many ways, a history of people challenging authority in the name of fighting injustice and expanding liberty … the authors of the Declaration of Independence, women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement, etc.
  • Forced out the beloved, highly regarded, and widely respected Cindy Stevenson as superintendent despite her impressive record of success. And they replaced her with a novice superintendent (despite Jefferson County being the state’s largest school district) at a salary that was $80,000 more than they were paying Ms. Stevenson.
  • Are aggressively pushing an agenda that, in my view, is anti-public education, anti-teacher, and anti-kids. It’s an ideological agenda explicitly modeled on the far-right wing ideological agenda that’s been unfolding in Douglas County over the past decade. The results there: an exodus of the best teachers to other school districts, a national reputation that is now suffering, wasting millions of dollars on ideologically-fueled litigation (which they’ve lost, by the way), and, ultimately, the quality of the education itself suffering.

We made the mistake of electing people whose goal seems to be to weaken the very thing – the Jefferson County Public School District – they were supposed to be safeguarding. All of these school board elections are fundamentally about whether we will let our schools here in Jefferson County follow the same path as the schools in Douglas County – an ideological battleground that comes at the expense of our kids and our communities – or whether we’ll put our schools back on a thoughtful, non-ideological path.

Which brings me back to the two open seats. Ali and Amanda, in my view, are moderate, thoughtful candidates who actually support the idea of public education and are committed to putting our kids’ education above ideology. Their opponents, on the other hand, are supported by the same Koch Brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity organization supporting the Douglas County craziness and the school board majority in Jefferson County (and which has a rich history of attacking and undermining public education).

My recommendation: vote for the Clean Slate for Jeffco candidates:

Ali Lasell
Amanda Stevens
Brad Rupert
Susan Harmon
Ron Mitchell
4) Measure 1A for Jeffco Libraries

This is a proposed mill levy increase to support Jefferson County’s public library system, and I encourage you to support it. It’s a modest increase, and it should go a long way toward restoring library hours, investments in books and other materials, fixing the things that need fixing, and generally improving our libraries.

I don’t love this measure because the problems it is trying to address run deeper than a mill levy increase: we have a public library system that answers to a Board of County Commissioners that doesn’t prioritize or – apparently – care much about public libraries. But I also think it’s a mistake to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and this measure should help improve what is now a broken system, and it should make it easier for the hard-working and committed folks who run our libraries across the county to do a better job despite the lack of support from the Jefferson County Commission. Please consider voting yes on Measure 1A.

It sounds like ballots are now in the mail and should start arriving in our mailboxes any day. Your ballot has to be received by 7pm on November 3, so I’d encourage you to fill it out and mail it back quickly. Alternatively, you can drop it off at the Jefferson County building (100 Jefferson County Parkway) or at Golden City Hall (911 10th Street). You’ll find more general election information on the Jefferson County elections page.

Whatever you do, and whatever opinions are on the races I talked about here, please vote! It matters.