Election season is right around the corner, and races for positions in Lakewood’s government are heating up. Homelessness, police protection and Lakewood’s growth cap were among the topics …
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Election season is right around the corner, and races for positions in Lakewood’s government are heating up.
Homelessness, police protection and Lakewood’s growth cap were among the topics discussed as Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul and City Councilmember Ramey Johnson took turns fielding questions from residents at a Ward 3 meeting — a centrally located portion of the city, including Belmar. The two mayoral candidates addressed a crowd of dozens at Phillips United Methodist Church on Sept. 28.
In 2015, Paul beat Johnson for mayor by less than 1%. He talked about things the city has accomplished during his time as mayor, including winning an All-America City Award in 2016 and the creation of The Council to End Hunger.
The criteria for the award from the National Civic League includes “impact, inclusiveness, public engagement and the use of collaborative problem-solving strategies,” according to the National Civic League’s website. Paul created The Council to End Hunger in Lakewood last year, a coalition of faith groups, Jeffco Schools, The Action Center, Hunger Free Colorado, Jeffco Public Health, service organizations and others that work to fight hunger issues in the city.
“My mom said take time to enjoy this world, but change the ugliness. Work hard to change the ugliness, and that’s been my task, and that’s what I’m here to do,” Paul told the crowd.
Johnson said one of her core values is public safety. She says the city’s crime and traffic congestion has risen dramatically due to population growth. Johnson noted that if she is elected mayor, her administration will be proactive and will have ongoing meetings with Lakewood Police and the court system.
“We all want the same things here. We want leadership that promotes healthy relationships in our communities,” said Johnson at the meeting. “We want people that will have an equal seat at the table to help define what your community vision is. You should not be left out.”
When talking about the homeless, Paul brought up Lakewood Police’s Community Action Team, a group that works with the homeless and people with mental illness conditions. The team is also responsible for verifying sex offender compliance. He said the city is looking at changing some of its laws to allow those experiencing homelessness to sleep in churches when it gets cold — something that is already happening in the city.
Johnson said homelessness is a complex issue to tackle. She said people who are homeless sleep in Lakewood public parks, causing families to stray from taking their children. If elected, Johnson wants to meet with Lakewood Police to learn what kind of policy changes would be helpful to address the issue.
With a high population, police are overwhelmed, said Johnson when asked about police protection. She said Lakewood police are good at their jobs, but response time to calls were becoming too long.
Paul said the 2018 election, where Lakewood residents voted in favor of the city lifting Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) limits, allowed for the city to put extra officers on the streets. The ballot question allocated $12.5 million to go toward additional police officers, vehicles and other equipment, park improvements and improvements to things like sidewalks, traffic signals and turn lanes.
Other issues discussed included Question 200, a law that limits new home construction to one percent and requires Lakewood City Council to hold a public hearing and vote to approve residential projects, which was approved in a special election process earlier this year. Both mayoral candidates were asked what their vision is for the city now that the measure is law.
Johnson said the city needs to implement the law and feels that it is being “dragged around a little bit.”
“There was a very substantial yes vote. We want this city to be looking at honest, responsible growth,” said Johnson.
“This 200 needs to be implemented the way the people intended it to be,” she added.
Paul said the city will honor Question 200, and it is figuring out what that looks like.
“Some parts of our community don’t want to see growth. I support that, and understand that — but there are also some that want to see that,” said Paul, particularly pointing to Ward 2, an area that includes the neighborhoods of O’Kane, Eiber, Two Creeks and North Lakewood.
Election day is Nov. 5.
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