Ex-Aurora Councilman Hogan launches mayoral campaign

The Colorado Statesman

Former state Representative and Aurora City Councilman Steve Hogan launched his campaign for mayor Wednesday, the first candidate in the race that will be decided by voters on Nov. 1.

Hogan, who has served a total of 24 years on the city council since 1979, said his top priorities are economic development, a zero-based city budget and transportation infrastructure.

“I believe in the city and I believe in public service,” said Hogan, a 40-year resident of Aurora and project consultant for Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc.

Hogan’s campaign for the $54,999 a-year job kicked off at the city’s municipal center with speeches by former Aurora Mayors Paul Tauer and Dennis Champine, Aurora Firefighters Local 1290 President Randy Rester and Tom Ashburn, former chairman of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Tauer and his son Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer, who is term limited, served the community for two decades.

Hogan’s supporters include former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, former state Rep. Doug Friednash, Aurora Fire Chief Ray Barnes, Aurora City Council members Bob Broom, Bob FitzGerald, Bob LeGare, Renie Peterson and Brad Pierce, and former city councilors Steve Bobrick, Deb Wallace and Dave Williams.

“I’m a fiscal conservative,” said Hogan. “But, I have a reputation of putting together compromises and getting things done. You can tell that by the diversity of endorsements that I have — Bill Owens, Paul Tauer and the firefighters. I get support from both the right and the left because I can work with people.”

The candidate’s willingness to listen, seek solutions to problems and build coalitions was echoed by Paul Tauer during his remarks at the campaign announcement in front of the Aurora Municipal Center.

Hogan said that he was a Democrat some 25 years ago when he met former Gov. Owens who lived in Aurora. Their friendship apparently withstood the test of partisan politics.

As a Democrat, Hogan waged two unsuccessful campaigns against Republicans supported by Owens — former 6th District Congressmen Jack Swigert and Dan Schaefer. Swigert defeated Hogan in 1982, but the astronaut died of bone cancer before taking office. He was replaced by Schaefer, who beat Hogan in a special election in 1983.

Hogan said that he maintained a friendship with Owens — and changed his affiliation from Democratic to Republican.

Hogan’s Aurora vision

To create new jobs, Hogan said, the city has to attract new businesses and help existing companies to grow — a key component is transportation infrastructure to make the city easily accessible.

As a city councilor, Hogan initiated the idea of using Urban Renewal reserves to finance the expansion to the I-225 and Mississippi Street interchange, proposed a private-public partnership to expand the E-470 and Smoky Hill Road interchange, and supported the construction of the I-25 and Alameda interchange. In the 1980s, he encouraged Aurora to participate in the E-470 consortium and he later served on the E-470 Public Highway Authority’s board of directors.

The candidate’s list of economic development priorities includes working with other public and private entities to protect Buckley Air Force Base, the aerospace industry and the redevelopment of 577-acre U.S. Army Fitzsimons Medical Center that closed in 1999, and reopened for civilian use.

The redevelopment area now houses the Anschutz Medical Campus, University of Colorado Hospital and Children’s Hospital, and construction will begin this year on the Veterans Hospital as well as adjacent hotels and office buildings. Hogan estimated that the complex employs 15,000 people — a number that will continue to grow in the near future.

Like other cities, Hogan said, Aurora faces a budget crunch — but not a crisis.

“Aurora addressed the issue in recent years better than most cities,” he said, “but it’s still an issue.”

The city has scaled back its budget from $768 million in 2009 to $574.8 million in 2010. This year, the projected expenditure is an estimated $554.2 million.

If elected, Hogan will promote a zero-based budget that begins each fiscal year at a zero balance and adds each city department’s funding request — and justifies the service and cost.

“I also want to form a citizens advisory committee to evaluate services and identify what services can be provided by the government and those that could be privatized,” he said.

The city has reduced fulltime staffing from 2,804 employees to an estimated 2,681. Yet, Aurora’s police department has grown continuously over the past decade to a level of 655 employees this year because a city ordinance requires staffing two police officers per 1,000 residents.

Hogan said he supports that public safety ratio although some people oppose it because it reduces the city’s revenues to fund other services. The candidate said that any proposed change to the level of law enforcement officers would be placed on the ballot by either city council or citizen petitioners and ultimately be decided by voters in the city that encompasses parts of Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.

The election for this nonpartisan position might hinge on name ID, economic ideas, experience and raising money — and professional guidance is an asset. Hogan has hired Marcus Pacher to steer his mayoral bid.

In 2007, Tauer spent an estimated $150,000 in a relatively easy re-election bid and won roughly 75 percent of the vote in his race against Frances Peter Maks Jr. More competitive was Tauer’s first race in 2003, which took an estimated $250,000 to run.

“I think it will take $250,000 to $300,000 to run this year,” said Hogan, who is aiming for the lower figure. “It’s tough to ask people to contribute to a campaign when they’re going through rough financial times.”

“There are rumors and speculations about who is going to run, but city Council member Molly Markert is probably my biggest contender if she decides to run,” said Hogan. “She’s a liberal Democrat.”

Markert, a former state representative, won election to city council in 2003 and 2007. She has held leadership positions for the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved, Colorado Municipal League’s Women in Municipal Government and Metro Denver Homeless Initiative.

Leslie@coloradostatesman.com