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January 13, 2014 11:28 AM UTC

Arvada City Council Votes To Become "All-White Mens Club"; Citizens Shout Cronyism

  • by: nancycronk

A scathing indictment against the City of Arvada was published today by Arvada Citizens David Chandler and Russell Weisfeld, accusing the City Council of violating state statute and its own city ordinances in selecting a replacement Councilor to fill the vacancy left by State Representative Rachel Zenzinger. The blog article claims the Council violated Colorado Revised Statutes 24-406-2 (IV) and the Arvada City Charter Section 4.6 "Vacancies". It goes on to challenge the city to prove their compliance with Section 24-406-2 regarding advance notice of Council meeting agendas, and prompt recording of meeting minutes. The central argument made by Chandler and Weisfeld is that it was not proper for the Council to elect a new City Councilor by private ballot. 

As someone who lives on the other side of the metro area, I normally do not follow City Council meetings where I do not live. I am not an attorney, and will leave analysis of what happened legally to those who are more qualified than I. What strikes me about Chandler and Weisfeld's accusation, however, is the blatant sexism of a large, otherwise modern, suburb of metropolitan Denver. The gentleman who was appointed to fill the vacancy left by Zenzinger was as "establishment" a choice as one can get — he is the current Chair of the Arvada Chamber of Commerce. The addition of Marks to the City Council makes it an all-white, middle-aged, men's club. I venture to bet the religious and political diversity is not much better. According to, Arvada's citizenry is 51.2 percent female. If the Arvada City Council truly represented its citizens, four of the seven Council members would be women

My grassroots group, Progressive Women of Colorado, is sick and tired of rampant cronyism in local Colorado politics. We are tired of women being treated as if we are invisible. We are tired of old men's clubs like the Arvada City Council passing their sexist baton from one golf buddy to the next. And we are not going to take it anymore. Women readers, and readers of Colorado Pols who care about justice, please call, write, blog, post, and email about this story. Embarrass the Arvada City Council for its election practices from the dark ages, and expose them for their blatant misogyny. Then, head on over to the Progressive Women of Colorado Panel Discussion on "Women in Politics" this Tuesday, from 5:30pm – 7:30pm at the Unity Church at 3021 S. University in Denver to learn how to put a stop to this. 

It's time for the women of Arvada — and the women of Colorado to fight back. 



14 thoughts on “Arvada City Council Votes To Become “All-White Mens Club”; Citizens Shout Cronyism

  1. Being in Arvada, I heard from multiple insiders that the council "hoped to select a woman" or some such thing — it is clear in hindsight that the inclusion of ONE, solitary female finalist was solely a political move, and the likely illegal secret ballot process was intended to reach exactly the conclusion it did, the appointment of a white male whose ties to the Mayor and Council cannot be overstated. Cronyism is right. Arvadans would do well to vote out every member of the council without exception — or maybe this really IS a case for recall, since they've started breaking the law!

  2. Unfortunately, Ms Cronk forgot to mention that the Arvada City Council included three women candidates when they shortlisted to their five final candidates for interviews from a list of 16 applicants and that they did that in an open meeting.  She also forgot to mention that on the first round of voting, half of the Council's votes were for female candidates.   Those votes only declined when it was obvious that none of them would win a needed four-vote majority.  The male (but very qualified) camdidate was only the first choice of one Council member. 

    Ms Cronk also failed to mention that the statute quoted specifically allows for secret balllots for "leadership positions" in City government.  Nor did she mention that the final vote was a unanimous 6 to 0 vote by the entire City Council.  Nor did she mention that the Council did not have to publicly interview anyone on camera for the open seat — they said they chose to do that to show they were being as open as possible.  That's hardly the "rampant cronyism" that Ms Cronk characterised the procedure as.

    The thing I liked best was the Council not disclosing their initial votes.  No laws were broken in doing that and it seems to be allowed, if not required, by the City Charter.  No special  interests could check on how the Council members were voting nor could they base future campaign contributions based upon those votes.  Ms Conk also seems to have overlooked that the Council seat will be up for reelection by popular vote next year.  To have had a popular vote this year would have violated the City Charter and cost Arvada taxpayers over $100,000. 

    It's not the Arvada City Council's prejudices that are in question here, it's the impartiality of Ms Cronk's posting. 

    –John Kiljan (an Arvada resident and an old white male, who would have also voted first for one of the female candidates if he'd been on the Council, but is also very happy with their final selection.) 

    1. Mr. Kiljan,

      Funny how every time we run into each other you're the first on your feet to apologize for the Arvada Council's decisions! You should perhaps have noted in your comment your position with CLRC, the council's unofficial body of yes-men, I do mean yes-MEN. Yup, ANOTHER Arvada organization run only by old white males, which listens politely to women when they appear at meetings, but then dismisses their concerns, does not bring them into leadership roles, and does not act on their suggestions.

      Y'all are real nice in theory–like the theoretical vote you'd have cast for a woman–but in action, the only thing I see from CLRC is 1) support for the city council no matter WHAT they do, and 2) right-wing propaganda. If all the inclusive things right-wing men WOULD do, in theory, if the circumstances were right, given the opportunity were done, we'd have had gender equality before I was born. 

      Note that I have Chris Daly's silly explanation of the secret balloting too, I've read over it, I've read the Open Meetings law, and he is wrong, as are you in quoting his rationale. You will be proven so in court, should the Council fail to vacate their illegal decision.


    2. Let's be clear, John Kiljan is one of the biggest cheerleaders for the Arvada political machine. He will regurgitate almost verbatim whatever explanations the city government spews out to counter any dissent or serious questioning of the council's actions.

      So, in his 'comment' he merely adopts the city attorney's very lawyerly argument that a 'leadership' position in the new law can apply to a council vacancy appointment. However, a plain reading of the law and a little research on the history of the law makes it rather clear that this provision applies to selection of a 'leader' from within the ranks of the public body, ie., the council voting on whom among them will be the mayor pro temp. One would expect that the city attorney would come to a conclusion that supports what his clients want to do or have already done; we may pay his nearly $200,000 salary as taxpayers, but his clients are only a majority of the council that vote to give him pay rises.

      This bottomline reality still stands: six men rejected many women from sixteen applicants to appoint a crony of the mayor's to be the district 1 representative. Understand that — five men who do not even live in district one (one at-large  member does live in the district)  managed to find a way to chose for the residents of district 1 a 'representative' for us who just happens to be the chair of the Arvada Chamber of Commerce. In the end they eliminated by secret ballot four others including three qualified women to arrive at their choice.

      Kiljan and other apologists for the entrenched governmental cronyism we have in Arvada will always try and sound reasonable and accomodating, but the results speak for themselves: Arvada city council is where men rule here in 21st century America.

      For myself, I'm calling it as I see it, no mincing of words, straighforward no matter how uncomfortable or irksome it is for the self-important elites who seem to think they should be above scrutiny or criticism.

  3. Mr. Kiljan, I appreciate your response, and the time it took for you to write it. Please note in my blog diary, I was serving as the reporter of the accusations of improper voting practices. Please note it is David Chandler and Russell Weisfeld's article to which I was referring. Please also note I indicated I am not a legal scholar and I reserve judgement on the legal process, and status of the recent vote. I was not actually at any of the meetings you mentioned. As you may surmise, several of my friends were very involved in the process and kept me informed as it proceeded. 

    For my part, I  DO accuse the entire City Council of sexism, and I stand by that statement. The fact that 7 out of 7 of your City Council members are now middle-aged and older white men is despicable. The city of Arvada is not all white, it is not all over 40+, and it is not all male. Women, girls, people of color, and young people in Arvada are not represented at all on the Council, and that is a travesty. This fact indicates a lack of understanding why diversity at all levels is crucial to a healthy, fully functioning society. The notion that an older white man can fairly represent the interests of every other group in Arvada is not only proposterous — it is insulting.

    There are many things each voting member could have done to actively recruit candidates who were not white, not male, and not older than 40, so that there were many to candidates to choose from. The voting members also could have persuaded one another to strongly consider diversity when making their appointment (with 6 other middle-aged and older white males on the board, it should have been THE most heavily weighted criteria). A City Council is only as strong as the degree to which it represents the community in which it serves, and Sir, your City Council represents only a small fraction of its constituents by design. 

    I do appreciate the fact that you may have voted for a woman to replace Coucilwoman Zenzinger, but ultimately, the majority of your Council voted in another man who looks pretty much just like everyone else on the council. The fact that the white man who was chosen also has extensive ties to other board members via the business community might be a coincidence — or it might be cronyism. In the end, there is one thing that is certain, and that is that the Arvada City Council is now an "all white men's club". That is as obvious to all.

    Best wishes, Sir.


    1. Nancy Cronk wrote:  "Please note in my blog diary, I was serving as the reporter of the accusations of improper voting practices. . . . For my part, I  DO accuse the entire City Council of sexism, and I stand by that statement."

      Dear Ms Cronk, At least the impartiality of your posting is no longer in question.  As for the other respondents, I'm sorry to disappoint them, but I only rarely respond to anonymous posts.  –JK 

  4. Mr. Kiljan, 

    One more thing. I mean no disrespect regarding your age, or anyone else's age. The only reason I am referring to age at all is because young people are not represented on your board. The photo I referenced above appears to include men over 40 only. A healthy, diverse council would include younger people as well.

  5. So now we gotta have gender quotas?

    Qualified candidates with good campaigns win elections. Vacancy committees always suck- but it's just temporary. Good candidates, good campaigns.

    1. This was an appointment, not an election. There was no opportunity for "campaigns" for this vacancy. Appointments need to appoint people who serve the interests of the governing board. Diversity – of age, race, gender, political opinions- serves those interests. Better decisions are made when all voices are heard.

      Maintaining homogeneity keeps all of the critical thinking and questioning out, and leads to faulty decisions, and lack of credibility. That's where the Arvada City Council is now – not credible, and prone to making bad decisions.


    2. We need women in office.

      If you would like to achieve that by quota, be my guest. For my part, I'm starting toward achieving it by protesting when my city council breaks state law to avoid adding one, solitary woman to the Seven White Men Club. 

    3. No quota.  Please encourage your party to select more old white guys for whatever appointment they can; toss in a 'even if your daughter is raped' abortion ban and a Save-the-Eggs bill too!  Then come back and cry to us about how unfair it is that the public thinks the GOP is waging a War on Women.  Its OK, we expect nothing else.  

  6. Mr. Kiljan, I posit that a City Council made up of only one gender does not serve roughly half (in this case 52%) of its constituency. Call it what you will, but the decision the Council made to round out the old boy's network with 7 is unethical at best. 

    1. A strange assumption indeed!  Until recently, my own City Council district had been represented by women for many, many years.  Despite the gender difference, I never felt underserved by them during that time.  They did a much a better job of their duties than I could have, were widely supported by my neighbors of both genders. 

      And my dictionary describes something that is "unethical" the equivalent of being immoral or at least not conforming to accepted standards of conduct.  That's hardly something I see when I read Arvada's City Charter, which the Council seems to have followed to the letter. 

      Again, we're not faced with the issue of the Council under-serving its constituents nor its lack of ethics.  It's the issue of your own prejudices and the impartiality of your reporting.


  7. There goes the mixer with the Golden City council, the poor councilor from Golden’s second ward will have no one to dance with now that Rachel’s gone.

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