Nicole Johnston

Nicole Johnston, Aurora City Council Ward 2 Candidate

Nicole Johnston*seguido en español*

General Questions

1.Describe your policy platform

For the last several years, I have been a community activist in the City of Aurora.  I have advocated for different topics ranging from hydraulic fracturing to who serves on city commissions but the same issue has been repeatedly occurred.  The City of Aurora does not consistently include residents in its governing processes.  The City of Aurora should set forth polices brought by the people, not just special interests.

The top three issues I plan to work on if elected are: 1) Responsible, Sustainable Development 2) Accessible, Multi Modal Transportation throughout Ward II, 3) Transparent and Open Government to increase resident participation in our Aurora City Council.

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?

As a community organizer, I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to rush to let people know of an issue that will impact us because the agenda comes out Friday at 4pm for an item that the City Council will vote on a Monday night.  This is not conducive to the community being involved and organizing if they need to around issues that are important to their neighborhoods.  When I have brought up releasing agendas a week ahead of time, I have been told that it wasn’t possible due to staff restrictions.  I do, however, think it is reasonable to put on an agenda to the public the Tuesday or Wednesday prior to the meeting (Council members receive it on Thursdays).

I would like to offer interpretation when needed at City Council meetings.  I would like to encourage people with disabilities serving in our government by offering accommodations making the government commissions and meetings more user friendly.

A 10am or 3pm meeting does not encourage residents to attend.  I would live stream public Commission and Committee meetings.  I would offer opportunities for the public to ask questions (not just have a public comment but a question and answer) to Committee members and speakers.

3.Other than “having a seat at the table”, how will you work with us after you are elected?

Engaging communites of color is not a one-time thing or a tokenized action.  It is about building a strong relationship with a long-term commitment.  Different communities and cultures might have different preferences or abilities for communicating.  We need to use tools for communicating that are inclusive including translation and interpetive services provided at the meetings.  I will work with COPA by having regular communication sharing potential policy before it gets to the City Council for a vote.  As we develop priorities, I will consult with COPA.  I will bring allies together and also encourage COPA to have its members contact all City Council representatives on issues that are important.

4.In what concrete ways have you worked with the progressive movement in the past?

I learned how to community organize through the disability rights movement based out of California.  There, I learned about “systems change” organizing was to approach an issue a person with a disability was having and look at the system in place that could need changing.  This then prevented other people from experiencing the same problem.  I have brought this systems change philsophy with me personally and professionally.  At a recent meeting with a city official, they told me, you either work in the system or change it.  Well, my inclination is if the system doesn’t work, let’s change it!

Other concrete ways I’ve worked with the progressive movement was Conservation Colorado asking me to testify on several different legislative bills sponsored by Representatives Salazar and Representative Foote.  I also worked with statewide activist groups to include changes to the state constitution that would address local and state premptive rules dictating siting of fracking and other harmful industrial projects.

When the special interest driven “Raise the Bar” initative was announced by Governor Hickenlooper and Mayor Hogan in Aurora last year, I was out front speaking against it as well as being part of the “Trojan Horse”, handing out information in front of public libraries and educating the community about its ramifications. http://www.aurorasentinel.com/news/governor-kicks-off-petition-drive-colorados-constitution/  I am also a proud graduate of the Emerge Colorado program that trains progressive women to run for office.

5.What role do you have in creating a city where we embrace a politics of inclusion and justice for all?

The role I hope to have in embracing politics of inclusion and justice for all is to look at every issue through that lens, not just when talking specifically about race.  I think some of my role will to be to educate other City Council members and staff and also find an effective social justice faciliator that could provide training to other policy makers.  If I am elected, I don’t want there to be one or two of us waving the flag of inclusion.  I want to have the majority of city council coming from that perspective.  Now, it may be challenging with the current make up, but it won’t stop me from leading by example and encouraging others to do so when developing policy and asking for my support on their particular issues.

6.How will you continue to help us educate, mobilize, and empower our communities of diverse backgrounds once you are elected?

It is extremely challenging to mobilize people if they don’t know the issues affecting them that will be signed into law.  We need accessibility and transparency of our proposed policies and ordinances.   We need to let the public know what is happening and not just by checking a box because it is on a website buried behind all of the other information.  As a community advocate, I organized a neighborhood forum about hydraulic fracturing and proposed drilling in our neighborhoods because the City of Aurora was not doing it on its own.  I learned quickly that our neighbors want to be educated, involved…and they want change.

If I am elected, I need to hear from the community to hear about their concerns.  I will hold monthly town hall meetings to communicate to residents and hear their concerns.  I will reach out to leaders of our diverse community groups to have them In the more diverse areas of Ward II, I will offer interpretive services in both Spanish as well as American Sign Language if needed.  I would also like to work with COPA to hear their suggestions on how to educate, mobilze and empower 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 been directly impacted by the issues facing others in our community.  That was the impetus for me being involved in local politics.  When I found out through neighbors, that there was going to be fracking in our community, I was frustrated that it was happening and more frustrated that the city was not notifying and informing me.  Because of that experience I will make it a priority to notify and inform residents of city issues that could have an impact on them.

I was also frustrated when I found out that there was a City of Aurora Oil and Gas Advisory Committee that only had oil and gas industry members serving on the Committee.  I changed that.  A year of community organizing and working to “educate” the current city council that citizens needed to serve on the committee, I was appointed last spring.  There are still a majority of industry members on the cmmittee so the majority of the votes are slanted toward the industry position.  I asuccessfully made a change to the by-laws of the Oil and Gas Advisory Committee.  Previously, when the Aurora City Council asked for guidance, only the majority position was shared.   I changed the system modeled after the Supreme Court of the United States so a “minority dissent” is also presented to the Aurora City Council.  I would like the majority and minority recommendations to be incorporated in all of the City Committees and Commissions when presenting recommendations to the City Council.

These experiences will inform my work because of the importance of having residents involved in our government in a way that is beyond “seat at the table”.  I also would like to have more opportunities for residents to ask questions during the public comment period at each meeting as opposed to making a statement and not getting answers from staff or members of the commission.

Issue Questions

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? 

A policy that I would propose to address if elected is to “ban the box” to implement fair chance policies for hiring.  With this policy, the conviction history question would be removed for the initial job applications for city jobs and I would work with private companies and the state (Representative Mike Foote introduced statewide legislation during the last session but it failed) to adopt the ban the box policy to have a greater reach.

Although the City of Aurora currently is not accepting new licenses for cannabis retail locations, if they eventually are, we could model policy of what Oakland, California does.

Oakland sets aside half of the city’s marijuana licenses for low income residents who live in a neighborhood with high enforcement or to those who are convicted of crime related to marijuana possession or sale. Colorado does not have such a program. In fact, a report by the Colorado Public Safety Department found that arrest rates for African-American and Latino juveniles increased after legalization, while the rate for white juveniles went down. (AP, “States Offer Breaks to Minority Marijuana Entrepreneurs” US News and World Report, May 31, 2007)

I also think it is more effective to develop policy that comes from the community and stakeholders that are affected.  I would work with communities of color that have been disproportionately the victims of state violence, targeted by our criminal justice system to develop policy to address these issues.

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?

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission follows regulations that were written by the oil and gas industry.  The City of Aurora approves all oil and gas applications and defers to the COGCC, yet it isn’t thinking more forward and building a renewable energy economy.

The City of Aurora should require oil and gas companies who will be approved to drill to install (and pay for) emissions monitoring systems at each site.  As a member of the Oil and Gas Advisory Committee, we recently heard that the Colorado Department of Public Health Environment provided information on health studies.  When they said there were less than 400 people who reported health conditions, I asked if they had a budget to let members of the community, particularly those with socioeconomic issues or language barriers know to call a 1-800 number.  They do not.  I would have the City of Aurora require industry to pay for marketing the program so citizens know what to do and where to call if they experience health concerns. I would also change the current Oil and Gas Advisory Committee to include the same number of citizen members as industry and surface owners. I would also ask for an independent third party study to take place near the fracking sites (almost all in Ward II).  I would have the City sponsor town hall meetings with residents informing them of the processes and the science.

There is a Mobile Home Community in Ward II called Foxridge Farms.  Many of the residents are monolingual Spanish speaking people. Past, current and future oil and gas extraction sites are within a mile of the community with little communication to residents.  If I was on city council, I would host a townhall meeting in the community with materials translated and a Spanish speaking interpreter.  I would have a city staff person from planning department explain the process to educate residents.  I would require the city to mandate that the Oil and Gas company’s extraction site install an air monitoring system at the site as well as near the closest community.

If I was fortunate enough to serve on City Council, I would have initiated putting a people led/business led/council led effort to sign an agreement for the City of Aurora to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accords.  This could happen if Aurora was a leader with the Denver metro area cities to reduce our carbon emissions.  If the Denver metro cities partnered to even create its own Accord (since driving and living between the cities regularly happens), we could make more of an impact.  I would initiate an effort to work with the other local municipal governments to pursue that plan.

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 think that municipalities need to have local control when it comes to the health, welfare and safety of our communites including Aurora having control of its minimum wage.  I would support increasing the minimum wage for Aurora workers to a higher level than the state’s due to the high cost of living.

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?

I was and am opposed to the City of Aurora passing a resolution stating that it is not a sanctuary city.  Aurora is a diverse community that includes immigrants and our policies should be reflective of our community.  In addition, I am opposed to the City of Aurora moving so quickly in a reactive way because of fear of the Trump Administration that we were on a “watch list”.  Sometimes, cities have to draw a line in the sand to do the right thing.  I am also not afraid of the threat of a lawsuit that intentionally is designed to intimidate and curb progressive policy from moving forward.

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 would support policy efforts that would make Aurora a welcoming place for all immigrants and refugees besides using the words “we are a welcoming city”. I would go a step further to Aurora Police Chief Metz’ statement about the police department letting residents know they will not turn people into the detention centers.  I oppose the policies and practices of the private immigration detention in Aurora.  Detention needs to be based on probably cause.  Ongoing detention at these centers is really a new arrest without legal justification and official warrants.

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?

A recent analysis by Attom Data Solutions recently listed Arapahoe County as one of the least affordable places to live in the United States. We need to start today to make Aurora a place where young people, working families and seniors can afford to work and live.  Communities not being pushed out of the city are connected to having access to affordable housing. To take steps to ensure access to affordable housing, we can invest in Community Land Trusts, rent-to- own programs, and approve development projects when a portion built is also affordable (for those who make less than 60% of the median income).  We can also partner with non-profit foundations and businesses for community impact affordable housing grants.  The city also shouldn’t “rubber stamp” all housing projects, particularly if it causes gentrification. I want to ensure that development in Aurora offers something for all of us

Preguntas generales

1.Describa su plataforma de pólizas

Mis tres enfoques principales son el crecimiento inteligente, la inclusividad, y la inversión en la comunidad. El crecimiento inteligente implica ser conscientes sobre cómo el crecimiento afecta a los ciudadanos de Aurora y asegurándonos de que, mientras crecemos, no haya ciertas colectividades que reciban un impacto negativo. La inclusividad, que incluye la accesibilidad, significa trabajar por una Aurora que beneficie a todos sus residentes, sin importar de dónde proceden. Por último, necesitamos invertir en nuestras comunidades trabajando hacia un transporte público seguro y accesible, y una vivienda asequible.

En resumen, quiero devolver el Consistorio a las personas. El trabajo de un servidor público es servir a la comunidad y, hasta que todos tengamos total accesibilidad (tal como prestar servicios de traducción en las reuniones del Concejo), este trabajo no estará hecho. Ahora mismo demasiadas personas se están quedando fuera de la conversación, y creo que necesitamos incluir a más colectividades en las negociaciones con el fin de promover políticas adecuadas.

2.Necesitamos un Consejo de la Ciudad de Aurora que trabajará con la comunidad para construir un poderoso movimiento de justicia económica, social y racial para ganar victorias reales para la gente de Aurora. ¿Qué significa eso para usted y cómo afectará positivamente esta movilización ?
En primer lugar, necesitamos asegurar el acceso al Concejo municipal para que se puedan oír las voces de nuestra comunidad. Ello incluye proporcionar traductores en las reuniones del Ayuntamiento y suministrar la información a las personas, en lugar de esperar a que sea la comunidad la que viene al Ayuntamiento. De esta manera, podremos tener conversaciones útiles sobre las cuestiones que se presentan y las soluciones que debemos encontrar. Debido a la gran cantidad de retos a los que la gente se enfrenta, incluyendo barreras idiomáticas, discapacidades y horarios laborales, un segmento de nuestra comunidad está siendo apartado de la conversación, y el primer paso es incluirles.

3.Aparte de “tener un asiento en la mesa”, ¿cómo trabajará con nosotros después de estar elegido?
En la pregunta anterior, he esbozado las líneas que necesitamos y debemos mejorar sobre la accesibilidad al gobierno local. Como miembro del Concejo municipal, trabajaré para asegurar que estos cambios son llevados a cabo. También estoy abierta a organizar reuniones regulares con la CPA y sus miembros para debatir las cuestiones a medida que se presentan, asegurándonos de que siempre nos movemos hacia delante. Los asuntos que la CPA defiende afectan a muchos ciudadanos de Aurora, y para mí es importante asegurarnos de que ninguna voz es marginada.

4.¿De qué maneras concretas ha trabajado con el movimiento progresista en el pasado?
Como progresista de toda la vida, he defendido la inclusividad y luchado contra las injusticias sociales desde siempre. A los 17 años discutí con mi Consejo Escolar para asegurarme de que los veteranos de guerra obtenían el respeto que merecen. En la Universidad estuve entre los diez primeros puestos a la hora de realizar trabajos de voluntariado, muchos de los cuales versaron sobre causas progresistas. A lo largo de los años he luchado para incluir la diversidad como valor en lugares de colocación y he denunciado el sexismo en el trabajo. Me he levantado contra las injusticias de la Administración Trump personándome en las marchas y manifestaciones y asegurándome de que mis Congresistas conozcan mi posición al respecto. He condenado públicamente la reciente decisión de Aurora sobre su posición de Ciudad santuario. Me he unido a los defensores de la transparencia en el Concejo municipal. He mostrado mi apoyo a nuestras comunidades de inmigrantes asistiendo a sus presentaciones y celebraciones.

5.¿Qué papel tiene usted en la creación de una ciudad en la que abracemos una política de inclusión y justicia para todos?
¡Alzando la voz! La reciente decisión del Concejo Ciudadano de reafirmar que no somos una Ciudad santuario está en oposición directa con el mensaje de inclusividad, y no es un mensaje con el que comulgue. Los retos a los que nos enfrentamos son mucho más profundos que el hecho de, simplemente, proclamar la inclusión y justicia para todos; también es necesario dirigir nuestros pasos para abordarlos a nivel político. Soy una persona que da importancia a los hechos, y los datos muestran que la diversidad es beneficiosa. Múltiples estudios muestran, por ejemplo, que las áreas con inmigrantes no autorizados están relacionadas con menos, no más, crímenes violentos y sobre la propiedad, a pesar de la retórica nacional. Las Ciudades santuario muestran también mayores ingresos y menor tasa de desempleo, en parte por nuevas empresas e inversiones inmobiliarias. Este es un mensaje que necesitamos transmitir para traer nuevos defensores a la mesa.

6.¿Cómo seguirá ayudándonos a educar, movilizar y empoderar a nuestras comunidades de diversos orígenes cuando está elegido?

¡Escuchando! Como mujer blanca, no pretendo saber qué se siente al crecer como persona de color. Entiendo los retos y las barreras institucionales desde mi posición en  investigaciones y conversaciones con esas personas que lo están sufriendo; es mi trabajo, como aliada suya, escuchar y ayudar a proveer estructuras formales para que las nuevas colectividades y organizaciones sean incluidas. Mi objetivo es utilizar lo que he aprendido y energizar las comunidades de diversos orígenes mostrándoles que estoy trabajando para representar a la colectividad, no a mí misma. Siendo accesible y abierta a conversar, espero mostrar a través de mis actos que soy su aliada. No quiero luchar por ti, quiero luchar contigo.

7.¿Ha estado afectado directamente por los problemas que enfrentan los demás en nuestra comunidad? ¿Cómo esta experiencia informa su trabajo?

¡Sí! Como muchas personas, sé lo duro que es llegar a fin de mes y lo desolador que el desempleo puede llegar a ser. He sido marginada por cuestiones de salud. Sé lo duro que es encontrar una vivienda asequible, especialmente cuando pagas en préstamos estudiantiles tanto como una hipoteca. He visto de primera mano los efectos que las adicciones (y, subsecuentemente, su superación) pueden provocar en una persona y su familia. Estoy presentándome como candidata porque he pasado por todas estas experiencias.

Preguntas de asunto

1.Rechazamos la ideología que niega los impactos del racismo en nuestra sociedad. Por demasiados años, las comunidades de color han sido desproporcionadamente las víctimas de la violencia estatal, dirigida por la policía y nuestro sistema penitenciario. Muchos ex infractores enfrentan barreras institucionalizadas al regresar a casa. ¿Qué tipo de pólizas se propone para abordar estos temas?

No hay duda de que las colectividades de color son víctimas del racismo institucional y debemos tener esta conversación a nivel municipal. El primer paso es hablar con estas mismas comunidades que son marginadas para asegurar que son parte del proceso de búsqueda de soluciones. Los ex delincuentes se enfrentan a muchas barreras en su reingreso en la sociedad, incluyendo dificultades para encontrar trabajo y vivienda. Una forma de hacerlo es proporcionando recursos para ayudar a educarles y apoyarles, como impulsar el apoyo a las asociaciones con empresas y unidades habitacionales que contratan y hospedan ex delincuentes. También es importante alcanzar a colectividades que podrían convertirse en hospedaje para centros de reinserción, de tal forma que se sientan parte en el proceso, lo cual mitigaría las reacciones adversas para aquellos que, inicialmente, puedan encontrarse incómodos. En muchas ocasiones, la identidad de los ex delincuentes se confunde con la pena a la que fueron condenados, y esta no es una suposición justa.

2.Debemos tomar decisiones ahora para mejorar nuestras vidas y las de las generaciones futuras. Hoy, sin embargo, ese legado se enfrenta la amenaza urgente del cambio climático. Las compañías de petróleo y gas están asumiendo el control de nuestro estado y los funcionarios electos están priorizando los intereses corporativos en lugar de los intereses de la comunidad permitiendo fracking en nuestras comunidades. Tenemos la oportunidad de construir una economía de energía limpia y renovable. Sin embargo, poco se ha hecho para implementar esta solución y detener a los contaminadores corporativos. ¿Cómo abordaría este asunto al nivel de la ciudad?

En el Concejo municipal necesitamos gente que entienda el impacto que la industria petrolífera y del gas pueda tener en nuestras aguas subterráneas y comunidades, y que escuche a las colectividades que resultarán afectadas. Asimismo, necesitamos delegados municipales que no tengan miedo de alzar la voz. Las energías renovables son el futuro, y podemos aceptarlo o revelarnos contra ello; yo elijo aceptarlo. Pero también necesitamos ser realistas. A menudo existe una tendencia a fijarnos en soluciones a corto plazo, y cambiarnos a una energía limpia y renovable es una inversión a largo plazo que afectará a los que hoy se encuentran dentro de la industria. Por lo tanto, necesitamos invertir en formación por competencias de tal manera que, a medida que hacemos el cambio, traigamos también a la gente y sus puestos de trabajo con nosotros.

3.Apoyaremos a un candidato que promulgue políticas que construyan una economía justa y equitativa que beneficie a todos y que mejore las vidas de las personas más directamente impactadas por pólizas pasadas. En 2016 tuvimos éxito al aprobar la enmienda 70, una medida de salario mínimo que eleva el salario mínimo de Colorado a 12 dólares a la hora para 2020, lo cual es un paso en la dirección correcta, pero reconocemos que todavía faltamos mucho. ¿Apoyaría los esfuerzos a nivel estatal que permitirán que Aurora tiene control de su salario mínimo? ¿Apoyaría aumentar el salario mínimo para los trabajadores de Aurora a un nivel más alto que el del estado? ¿Por qué?
En efecto. A pesar de las altas bajas de desempleo, muchos ciudadanos de Aurora que trabajan a jornada completa (o incluso más) no obtienen un sueldo digno. Esto es inaceptable. Si Aurora obtuviera el control sobre el sueldo mínimo podríamos aunar esfuerzos a conseguir un sueldo que se ajuste a las necesidades de nuestra comunidad.

4.El actual consejo de la ciudad ha aprobado una resolución que indica que Aurora no es una ciudad santuario. ¿Cuál es su postura sobre esta resolución? ¿Por qué? ¿Y apoyaría los esfuerzos políticos que harían Aurora un lugar verdaderamente de bienvenido para todos los inmigrantes y refugiados? Si está elegido, ¿qué pasos tomaría para asegurar que tales acciones se llevarán a cabo? Además, ¿cuál es su postura en el centro de detención de inmigración privada en Aurora?

Yo me he opuesto firmemente a esta decisión del Ayuntamiento de Aurora. Para empezar, esta resolución no ha sido una cuestión sobre si Aurora debe ser o no una Ciudad santuario, sino una reafirmación de que no lo somos. También se ha enviado un mensaje que no concuerda con el mensaje que el departamento de policía está enviando. Yo respaldo que Aurora se convierta en una Ciudad santuario, y el centro de detención de inmigrantes no es compatible con ello. Además, el centro es una prisión privada, y estoy en contra de la industria carcelera privada, en general.

5.La ciudad enfrenta una crisis de vivienda, nuestra comunidad está siendo tasada y el actual consejo de la ciudad está priorizando los intereses de los desarrolladores en lugar de los intereses de la comunidad. Esto incluye asegurar que los nuevos desarrollos de viviendas sean asequibles y no sólo seguros para los inquilinos, sino también para el planeta. Si está elegido, ¿qué pasos tomaría para asegurar que los miembros de la comunidad tengan acceso a vivienda asequible? Y, ¿qué pasos tomaría para asegurar que las comunidades no sean expulsadas de la ciudad?
Primero debemos redefinir qué significa asequible, y reconocer que tenemos un problema. Tener precios más baratos que Denver no es suficiente. A pesar de las bajas tasas de desempleo, muchos de nuestros residentes viven al día y no reciben un sueldo digno. Necesitamos trabajar para que el desarrollo se reinvierta en la comunidad. No hay una sola respuesta para esta pregunta, pero existen muchas formas de mejorar esta situación, incluyendo la evaluación de los incentivos fiscales y el empleo local.