Rule of .6%: How Aurora’s New Republican Overlords Roll

Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman with “Mini-Mike” City Councillor Dustin Zvonek.

As readers know, most of the counties making up the Denver metropolitan area have announced a return to mandatory mask use in most public indoor settings. Suburban Jefferson County along with the two counties still serviced by the Tri-County Health Department, Adams and Arapahoe County, were joined by Denver in reinstating mask mandates until the current surge of COVID-19 cases trends downward. The other county nominally a part of the erstwhile “Tri-County” Health Department, Douglas County, stands alone in refusing to mandate mask use after having pulled out of TCHD in protest of requiring masks in Douglas County public schools.

Conservative Douglas County’s refusal to enforce a mask mandate while the state struggles to cope with skyrocketing COVID-19 cases is the backdrop for the first test of the city of Aurora’s new Republican majority on the City Council, after Mayor Mike Coffman’s campaign to pack the Council with Republican loyalists became one of the only bright spots in an otherwise poor showing for Colorado Republicans in the off-year 2021 elections. As the Aurora Sentinel’s Kara Mason reports, Republicans on the City Council are seizing on Douglas County’s refusal to go along with the rest of the metro area’s mask mandate as a pretext to let the whole city of Aurora disregard the Tri-County Health Department’s mask mandate:

The mask mandate in Aurora, imposed by the Tri-County Health Department, which overlays Aurora and all of Adams and Arapahoe counties, could be in jeopardy after some Republican members of the city council asked the city manager to refuse the order.

A group of sitting and newly-elected Republican Aurora City Council members on Tuesday requested the city disregard a new mask mandate for Adams and Arapahoe counties because it doesn’t cover a sliver of residents in Douglas County, which has no public establishments.

The council members all signed a letter, saying it would cause inequity about where in Aurora the mask mandate would be required and where it wouldn’t. There are, however, no commercial businesses in the Douglas County portion of Aurora, according to city data. [Pols emphasis]

The letter said the Tri-County measure “has placed the City of Aurora in a situation where the new mandate will not evenly apply to all our city’s residents.”

Understand this clearly: the Republican members of the Aurora City Council are arguing that because a portion of their city is located in Douglas County, there should be no mask mandate in the areas of the city located in Adams and Arapahoe Counties in order to promote “consistency.” The problem? Look at a map of Aurora:

The tiny sliver of Douglas County within the city of Aurora’s boundaries contains less than 1% of the total population of Aurora–2,560 out of over 386,000 according to the 2020 Census. As the Sentinel reports, the area of Aurora south of County Line Road is also entirely residential–meaning there are exactly zero businesses who would be forced against their God-given right as Douglas County residents to require masks.

Obviously, the idea that this small area of Douglas County with no affected businesses should be able to dictate policy to the overwhelming majority…well, it’s an idea so perfectly outrageous that only a brand-new Republican city council majority would be foolish enough to do this. From the CU medical campus on down the line of Aurora stakeholders this is certain to provoke a major backlash–and serve as a warning for Aurora voters about the choice they just made at the ballot box.

It’s one of the clearest cases of Republicans “fighting for the 1%” you’ll ever see.

10 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Dano says:

    One thing I have never gotten used in Colorado is that cities and counties can have non-contiguous portions. I'm not sure if it is the only state that allows it, but it at best very rare.

  2. Dano says:

    If you look at the map…the orange and light blue areas have unconnected portions quite a ways from the main part of the city. The "disconnected portion" of the pink area is actually connected by a road (but not the land on either side of the road).

    There are other examples of non-contiguous counties: The City of Glendale  and community of Holly Hills (Arap. County, but entirely within Denver County) as well as a handful of 1-block islands of both Arap. and Jeffco which are completely inside Denver County. The borders between Broomfield and its neighboring counties are a little iffy, but I have not looked at them super closely.

    Another thing Colorado allows which most states don't: incorporated cities to cross county lines (Aurora is a good example again, it's in 3 counties). 


  3. Voyageur says:

    Yes, the road provides the continuity — one of the "flagpole" annexations I mentioned.   The Denver "islands' resulted from the fact that Denver is a city and county and its annexations did leave some discontinuous county sections.  But no city, not even Aurora, is technically non-contiguous.

  4. Voyageur says:

    Here’s a link to Colorado Municipal League summary of state annexation law. Even a streams can be annexed for contiguousness.

  5. notaskinnycook says:

    When is Aurora going to get tired of being sprawled across three counties and petition to be their own? I've been waiting for them to start this process ever since they gobbled up that sliver of Douglas County. Broomfield did it when it slopped over into Weld to put it in parts of four counties. As big as Aurora is, I think it's past time.  

    • Voyageur says:

      Theyve studied it.  There would be major costs, such asbuilding a county jail.  Worse, creating a new county takes a statewide vote.  The voters okayed city/county broomfield.  But there is a lot of dislike for Aurora and winning such a vote would not be easy.

      • notaskinnycook says:

        They've already got a municipal jail out next to where Aurora Mall used to be. It'd make more sense to expand that than build another. And, I should think Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas would be glad to be rid of them. I doubt they pay their way in any of those counties.  

        • Voyageur says:

          all 64 counties get to vote.  Lots of out-state folks think Aurora wants their water and would vote no.  Counties collect property taxes on Aurora but provide little in return, since the city has its own police and streets.

          As I say, the city studied it about 20 years ago and did not think it would win.   Remember, if Aurora becomes a county and tries to annex, voters in the county losing land would have to approve it.   That would more or less preclude any new Aurora annexations — but as a city, they can annex unincoporated county land with basically the consent of the landowners, who are eager for city services like water and sewer.

  6. Gilpin Guy says:

    Coffman: Always a dick even when he tries not to be.

    Coffman cronies: ditto

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