It wasn’t long ago that a night like Monday night would have been unimaginable in Aurora, Colorado’s third largest city. A city that is now over 400,000 residents and bigger than St. Louis or Pittsburg by population.
Newly elected Aurora City Councilman, Dustin Zvonek, was one of five councilmembers to cast a vote in favor of a homeless camping ban that – along with a tie-breaking vote from Mayor Mike Coffman – was enough to pass the ban into law by a 6-5 vote.
“Homelessness is a serious issue, and we’ve made clear that the camping ban is not going to solve homelessness,” Zvonek told Campfire Colorado in an interview. “What it does solve is a serious symptom of homelessness that is causing significant public health and safety concerns for our residents and for the people who are actually trapped in them.”
Zvonek has barely been on the job in Aurora for three months, but along with the other two conservative members who were newly elected to the city council in 2021, he’s making good on promises made on the campaign trail.
When he ran for Aurora City Council, Zvonek focused on three things in his campaign: public safety, roads, and economic development.
“The camping ban is a critical part of the overall work we are doing to improve public safety,” he explained while detailing how enforcement will be key to making the camping ban succeed where other cities like Denver have failed.
“Denver seems to only situationally enforce their ban when big things come to the city. So, when the Major League All-Star Game unexpectedly came to Denver, we had tent cities everywhere, then suddenly, they were gone. Aurora has to be better at consistently enforcing it if we want our camping ban to be effective.”
Whether it’s planning the execution of the new camping ban, developing and passing a comprehensive planon crime-reduction strategies, or laying out a plan to make Aurora an economic success story in future years through the creation of an ad hoc committee to cut unnecessary government red tape – it’s very clear that Dustin Zvonek is a man who values a good plan.
In fact, he believes articulating a clear plan for the future of Aurora to voters is what gave them faith in his candidacy in 2021, and he believes that same strategy is what can help turn the tide for Republican candidates in Colorado this year after losses in recent election cycles.
“Conservatives in Colorado have traveled a tough electoral road over the last ten plus years, with only a few highlights along the way. We often lament the fact that the last Republican Governor that we had in Colorado was Bill Owens,” Zvonek explains while preparing to make his case for how candidates with a plan can succeed in Colorado.
“When Owens first ran, he was the first Republican Governor in twenty-four years to be elected and now it’s been twenty years since he was re-elected. What he did so effectively in 1998 was lay out a clear vision for how we wanted to lead the state and a platform to support that vison. He was very clear on things he wanted to accomplish. He promised to address the need to improve transportation, he wanted to cut taxes, and address education. He had a very clear vison and straightforward platform.”
After being elected in 1998 he delivered on his campaign platform, addressing transportation, cutting taxes, and making education a priority. He demonstrated how conservatives could effectively govern.
As a result, Zvonek says, “not only was Owens the first Republican governor in twenty-four years to win – he then runs for reelection in 2002 and gets sixty two percent of the vote. I mean, just wipes the floor with the Democrats.”
It’s an observation that was also recently shared by one of Colorado’s most astute political minds – Dick Wadhams – in a Denver Post op-ed titled, “The case for a Colorado Republican comeback.”
“Bill Owens is the only Republican governor to be elected in fifty years because he defined a clear agenda to cut taxes, improve transportation, and reform education, issues that transcended partisan lines,” Wadhams notes. “If Republican candidates want to win in 2022, they might want to take a hard look at those who actually won in the last 20 years and, just as important, at those who lost winnable elections.”
The Colorado Republican Party led by Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown has in many ways helped crystallize the plan for Republicans to run on in 2022 when they unveiled the “Commitment to Colorado” plan last year focused on addressing crime and pocketbook issues impacting Coloradans.
“It’s encouraging to see conservative’s laser focused on addressing a set of important issues and presenting a clear vision of where they want to lead the state,” Zvonek remarked while analyzing the current political environment in Colorado.
“The Commitment to Colorado is centered on issues that are impacting all Coloradans, across the political spectrum. I believe with the commitment to Colorado as the foundation, Conservatives will have the same type of success we saw in Aurora last fall at the state and at the federal level in the coming year.”
While he isn’t on the ballot this cycle, Zvonek clearly has the benefit of recent experience when it comes to successfully campaigning on a plan and winning. Now that he’s in office, he’s laid out his vison for Aurora’s future and is executing against that plan in hopes of once again demonstrating to voters that conservatives can govern and achieve common sense results that will benefit the residents of Aurora.
Will Republican candidates across the state learn from Dustin’s recent experience in Aurora and heed similar advice from political heavyweights like Dick Wadhams and Kristi Burton Brown?
Only time will tell.