Crystal Murillo, Aurora City Council Ward 1 Candidate
1.Describe your policy platform
My platform is informed by my upbringing in Aurora and seeing first-hand the issues people face in this community. Affordable housing is a top priority for me because I see and have experienced the struggle of finding an affordable, safe and decent place to live. I want to see our community thrive and not be displaced by the rapid change. I am also fighting for a smarter growth: we need to make sure that our local community reaps the benefits of good paying jobs and that we grow in an inclusive way. A strong city infrastructure including a more connected and affordable public transit system is also important. Our road, sidewalks, bike lane and bus routes should be accessible for everyone. I believe that investing in these things will improve the quality of life for our residents.
2.We need a City Council in Aurora who will work with community to build a powerful economic, social, and racial justice movement to win real victories for the people of Aurora–what does that mean to you and how will you positively affect this mobilization?
We are a stronger as a community when we embrace our diversity. I believe that process first starts with me as a public servant. I hope to create a space to empower everyday people to live their most successful lives via practice and public policy. That means providing equal access to opportunity regardless of your current circumstance. This is especially relevant to those in traditionally marginalized communities. I will advocate for a livable wage, having a safe and affordable home and access to a quality education. I will seek out business partnerships that have our long-term benefit in mind and look for partners that want to increase affordability in Aurora. I welcome anyone who wants to call Aurora home and want to do so while maintaining the integrity of our community. Throughout my time as a city councilor, I will continually listen to the changing needs in this community in order to effectively represent them.
3.Other than “having a seat at the table”, how will you work with us after you are elected?
If I am fortunate enough to be elected, I will do my best to represent the interests of my community. I believe that having communication and transparency in the decision-making process is the best way to accomplish that goal. I intend on having regular meetings throughout Ward 1 to inform constituents about important issues and ask for their input. Though I cannot guarantee that we will always agree on issues and solutions, I can guarantee that I will be open to listening and understanding your perspective and conversely explaining mine. I will seek to partner with community groups like CPA to elevate issues and highlight progress towards racial and economic change in our community.
4. In what concrete ways have you worked with the progressive movement in the past?
My involvement in politics is rather new. My family never discussed politics growing up because they often worked multiple jobs to survive month to month. I am the first in my family to graduate with a high school and college degree and as I have grown up I have realized the importance of being an engaged and informed citizen. After graduating college, I worked at the CO House of Representatives with the House Majority Leader. The legislative focus that year was relating to workforce development in the community by providing alternative paths to successful careers. I was tasked with meeting with stakeholder groups to understand and incorporate their concerns into our bills. After interning at the Capitol, I became an inaugural Healthier Colorado Advocacy Fellow. Our goal was to elevate the health of all Coloradans via public policy and focused on communities of color because they experience disproportionate impacts on their health. Now, about a year later, I am running for Aurora City Council. I hope to bring my advocacy experience to create change and empower those who also seek change in our community.
5.What role do you have in creating a city where we embrace a politics of inclusion and justice for all?
I personally have a role in becoming educated and aware of inclusion and justice in my community and as a city councilor, it would be my role to educate other as well. Education is in many ways the foundation to leading a successful life. I believe that also means being proactive in reaching out and partnering with community organizations that seek to improve the well being of our residents. I will engage subject matter experts and make informed decisions about the direction of our city and supporting policies that make our city more inclusive and equitable to all our community members.
6.How will you continue to help us educate, mobilize, and empower our communities of diverse backgrounds once you are elected?
This is an area that I will defer to the experts in community-led organizing. I seek to be an ally to communities that want a say in their government. I want to be a resource for everyday people to learn more about issues and advance social justice in areas just as economic, immigrant, climate and racial. I believe in a reflective government and I hope to inspire and teach others how to run for office in their individual communities.
7. Have you been directly impacted by the issues facing others in our community? How does this experience inform your work?
Yes. I have personally experienced and have close family members that have experienced the hardships I am advocating to change. My family’s story of struggling to overcome hardship is similar to many in my community and directly informs my advocacy. Though not everyone in Aurora comes from an immigrant family like I have, it’s not difficult to empathize with those fighting for a better life. I care about affordable housing because like my family, there are people that have no choice but to live 10 to a home. I advocate for livable wage jobs in our local community because people deserve to provide for their family. I want a more accessible and interconnect public transit system because we need to protect our environment while being inclusive of differing lifestyles.
1.We reject the ideology that denies the ongoing impacts of racism in our society. For too many years, communities of color have been disproportionately the victims of state violence, targeted by police and our prison system. Many ex-offenders face institutionalized barriers in their return home. What kind of policies would you propose to address these issues?
My experience on the CO Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission, has made me realize the impact of disproportionate minority contact (DMC) in our justice system. From even an early age, our system disproportionately impacts our communities of color. Most of my exposure in this area deals with struggles that our youth encounter. They struggle to find housing because of the stigma and cost of renting and I want to help alleviate that pressure. We also need to focus on other support services like mental health and potential rehabilitation for all our community members but particularly those who may need more support in adjusting from life outside of the system.
2.We must make decisions now to improve our lives and those of our future generations. Today, however, that legacy is faced with the urgent threat of climate change. Oil and Gas companies are taking over our state and elected officials are prioritizing corporate interests rather than community interests by allowing fracking in our communities. We have an opportunity to build a clean, renewable energy economy. However, little has been done to implement this solution and stop corporate polluters. How would you address this issue at the city level?
We need to make decisions relating to climate change now in order to preserve and improve the lives of our future generations. Aurora is not currently on of the growing number of cities that have made the commitment to meet the Paris Climate Accords. The climate accords are a recognition of the negative impacts of climate change and promise to fulfil our duty as global citizens to reduce that impact. I believe that Aurora should commit to meet the goals of limiting the rise of global temperature and cutting down on emissions. As a city councilor, I would advocate for policies such as adopting green energy sources and making sure we work with our local businesses and community organizations to help make that a practical reality. Aurora currently has an Oil and Gas Advisory Committee that helps direct our city council’s priorities and I would like to see equal representation of citizens and industry representatives.
3.We will support a candidate who will advance policies that build a fair, equitable economy that benefits everyone and that improves the lives of those most directly impacted by past policies. In 2016, we were successful in passing Amendment 70, a minimum wage measure that increases Colorado’s minimum wage to $12 and hour by 2020, which is a step in the right direction, but we recognize we still have a long way to go. Would you support efforts at the state level that will allow Aurora to have control of its minimum wage? Would you support increasing the minimum wage for Aurora workers to a higher level than the state’s? Why?
I would support efforts to implement a minimum wage in Aurora. As we grow as a city I know that may be more necessary because of the rising cost of living. Ward 1 is currently undergoing a rezoning process. Main roads such as Colfax, Peoria, Dayton and Havana are slated to increase its ability to house more mixed-use, higher density developments. This development will add additional housing but not necessarily affordability. Increasing our minimum wage will hopefully protect some on our community when these changes occur. I recognize that more needs to be done to overcome issues of affordability but this could be a start.
4. The current city council has passed a resolution stating that Aurora is not a sanctuary city.
What is your stance on this resolution? Why? And would you support policy efforts that would make Aurora a truly welcoming place for all immigrants and refugees? If elected, what steps would you take to ensure such actions take place? Additionally, what is your stance on the private immigration detention center in Aurora?
I am against the city council’s resolution that Aurora is not a sanctuary city. As one of the most diverse, if not the most racially and ethnically diverse, city in Colorado I believe that we need to stand in solidarity with our communities of color. I believe this to be especially true given the negative national rhetoric among this community. We should all be afforded the opportunity to live in a safe place and there are members of this community who do not currently feel that way. We need leadership from our city council to stand behind the communities that make our city great.
5. The city is facing a housing crisis, our community is being priced out, and the current city council is prioritizing developers’ interests rather than community interests. This includes ensuring new housing developments are affordable, and not only safe for the tenants but for the planet as well. If elected, what steps would you take to ensure community members have access to affordable housing? And, what steps will you take to ensure communities are not pushed out of the city?
What brought was my family and many others to Aurora was its affordability. What has kept them here over the past 20 years is the sense of community. The recent growth and interest in North Aurora has impacted its affordability and when I talk to neighbors in Ward 1 that is a top concern. When the city negotiates with developers that seek to invest Aurora, I will advocate for the use environmental friendly products and processes and for a percentage of affordable housing units. I currently sit on the Housing and Community Development Board for the city and we use federal funds to invest in similar projects for income-qualified families that we may be able to partner with. We also need affordable housing units that aren’t income-qualified as there are many people that do not fall under that umbrella but that are struggling just the same to. We should embrace creative and innovative solutions to fix these issues. Other cities have implemented the use of Community Land Trusts to protect community members in volatile housing markets and to build intergenerational wealth.