Two of the three candidates vying for the mayor’s chair in November’s municipal election had vastly different views of Westminster, its government and the way city councilors have acted during the last two years, and another candidate took a …
Two of the three candidates vying for the mayor’s chair in November’s municipal election had vastly different views of Westminster, its government and the way city councilors have acted during the last two years, and another candidate took a middle position at a recent forum.
For incumbent Mayor Herb Atchison, seeking his second term as mayor, Westminster is a positive place with great opportunities, many of them stemming from the Westminster Downtown development along 88th Avenue.
For City Councilor Bruce Baker, hoping to unseat Atchison, Westminster’s government is broken and corrupt and the Westminster Downtown is sham project that’s shown no results.
“The biggest, really, challenge today is that the city council does not care about the people that live in Westminster,” Baker told a breakfast group Sept. 22. “They could care less. It’s only when the people get really angry, like they did with the trash thing, that the people on council care.”
The three candidates, including challenger Rich Seymour, sat for a short breakfast forum Sept. 22 at the Grill at Walnut Creek Golf Preserve sponsored by the Jeff West Community Forum.
The three each had six opportunities to speak, including four questions from forum moderator Evie Hudak. But Baker distanced himself from Westminster’s current state immediately.
“I’m running for mayor because there are things the city council is doing wrong. Very wrong.” Baker said.
Baker decried using enticements and tax benefits to bring developers into city-led projects, especially when it concerns the Westminster Downtown development, designed to replace the empty lot where the Westminster Mall once stood with a massive retail, commercial and residential development. Baker objected to a deal approved in 2015 that gave a developer there a discount on city fees.
“That’s wrong government. That’s bad government. That’s corrupt government,” Baker said. “That needs to stop. It needs to stop and the city council can do that.”
Westminster Downtown is a mistake, with no private developments going up, Baker said.
“Every development there has been given a huge subsidy, a huge subsidy,” Baker said. “And it’s basically a con, it’s like snake oil salesmen.”
The city has role in development, Atchison countered.
“I will tell you, you can’t survive on yesterday,” Atchison said. “You have to look at the future. You have to invest in order to get people to come here themselves. And you have to have people come in and bring business.”
And the city needs to bring in business to pay for services people want, he said.
“Remember, we work off of sales taxes. Without businesses here, small and large, we don’t have a future,” Atchison said. “We have infrastructure that’s been in the ground for 50 years and you have to pay for it. We have streets to repair and you have to make things accessible to people that come and go to work.”
Private developers have shown plenty of interest in Westminster Downtown.
“Contrary to Bruce, I think we have six projects under contract and we are moving forward,” Atchison said. “JC Penney has invested $2 million to revamp their facility there and that store is still the number one producer in the state for them.”
Seymour took a moderate stance, somewhere in between the other candidates.
“We have great opportunities for our city in growth and we can look for opportunities at the former mall sight and bring in groups of developers to partner with us in many different ways,” Seymour said.
Seymour argued for working to build consensus among city councilors and residents.
“Things should not be done just on ‘We’ve got more votes to move things forward,’“ he said. “We should word on important issues through consensus and that’s hard work. But it helps improve communication and when everyone leaves the room, they are on the same page together.”
But Atchison said the current council does that.
“We have worked together as a council, or a majority of us have, and we have been able to move things forward,” Atchison said. “But people have to have the right to dissent and to agree — and they have that right now on the council.”
The three will meet again, along with the candidates seeking three open city council seats, at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10 at Westminster City Hall, 4800 W. 92nd Ave., and again at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 14 at Covenant Village, 9153 Yarrow St. Both of those forums are sponsored by the Westminster Chamber of Commerce.
The Jeff West group is a monthly forum that discusses topics that matter to residents of Westminster and Jefferson County. It meets on the fourth Friday of every month and is open to the public. Meals are available for purchase.
Voters can get mail-in ballots toward the end of October but Election Day, the last day to cast ballots, is Nov. 7.