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    Q&A with Hashim Coates | Candidate for Arapahoe County Commission District 5

    By Kyla Pearce,

    24 days ago

    Arapahoe County residents will vote for three county commission seats this year, with two candidates vying for District 5.

    The races in Districts 1 and 3 are uncontested. Incumbent Carrie Warren-Gully and Scott Brown are running for each district, respectively.

    In District 5, it's a contest between Rhonda Fields and Hashim Coates.

    Bill Holen currently holds the seat, which includes northern parts of the city of Aurora and unincorporated Arapahoe County. Holen was appointed in January 2012, elected to his first term in January 2013 and sworn into his third term in January 2021.

    Arapahoe County is made up of five districts, divided by population. Commissioners, who are elected to four-year terms, serve as the governing and administrative body for the county.

    Commissioners are responsible for creating and adopting the county's annual budget, appointing residents to serve on community advisory committees and boards, representing the county on regional and national authorities, boards and commissions, and handling property tax protests.

    They meet every second and fourth Tuesday of each month.

    The Denver Gazette sat down with candidate Coates to talk about his goals and priorities for the seat he is running for. Coates is a U.S. Navy veteran and activist who has worked on political campaigns for various Aurora area candidates.

    Denver Gazette: Tell me about your background and what makes you a good candidate.

    Coates: I'm a Navy veteran and came back home to get involved with community advocacy work for HIV and STD prevention. I worked for organizations like One Colorado, Colorado AIDS Project, then I transitioned into working for different candidates like Andrew Romanoff, Morgan Carroll, Juan Marcano, Alison Coombs, Crystal Murillo, Nicole Johnson, all of the candidates with progressive energy. I served on the Aurora City Budget Advisory Committee, which is complex, and requires someone who's tenacious, pragmatic, a critical thinker and is willing to push sometimes when people want to pull, and that is me.

    DG: Why are you running?

    Coates: It was a void that helped spark my decision to run. The county deserves representation that's going to be unapologetically and boldly for them. My campaign slogan is "unbought, people bossed." The people don't have an advocate. There's over half a million dollars that have been poured into this race. At the end of the day, my district is not the wealthy district. It's the working class district. The one unifying thing is they're tired of being sold out. You will like me because you will have access to me and I'll be honest with you. You might not agree with everything, but you will always know that I sincerely move with the people's interest at heart.

    DG: What's the first thing you'd do in office?

    Coates: What do I want to tackle first? I mean, everything. But first of all, housing is really important and so is economic growth. The county is running on a budget shortfall, so I want to find creative ways that we can address that, pushing the message of de-Brucing* and getting the county started on creating a county bank. This is a tried, tested model with North Dakota, where they bring in a billion dollars a year. I also want to set up district five meetings once a month throughout the district. People don't know who their elected officials are, and we need to be more interactive. (Editor's note: The term "de-Bruce" a reference to retaining and spending revenue above TABOR limits. It is derived from the name of TABOR author Douglas Bruce)

    DG: What would you like to change about how the current commission operates?

    Coates: I do like that the county is working as hard as they possibly can to make sure their employees' lives are not interrupted by the budget shortfall. I like the county's approach to setbacks and the environment. I think the oil and gas setbacks were bold and necessary. Those are the types of things I would love to join in on. I would say more interaction throughout the county, my district specifically, because there has not been that, would be my critique.

    DG: What are the top three challenges the county is facing?

    Coates: Budget, human services crises and environmental stuff, but it all relates to budget.

    DG: What do you think needs to be done about the budget shortfall? Are you supportive of increased taxes?

    Coates: No new taxes. I don't really agree with that. I think there should be a clear message of "de-Brucing." The first immediate thing I would recommend is to start the efforts of a county bank. It's not going to happen overnight, but we can definitely expedite that type of thing.

    DG: In the case that the county has to cut services to save money, what do you think they should cut first?

    Coates: I think that's so far ahead of us. The county is working so hard to make sure that their employees don't have any type of interruption. I think answering that would be a thing of inciting fear or disruption, and we're just not there yet.

    DG: What are your thoughts on the Lowry Ranch Community Action Plan (CAP) and the county's oil and gas regulations?

    Coates: When I knock on doors, I always tell people that without clean air and clean water, we can't fight over apples and oranges. We need to be able to change with new presenting information. We're not going to be able to give up oil and gas overnight. It's a transition. And I think there needs to be a collective effort into making that transition. I think it's a perfect opportunity for us to give preference points on oil and gas contracts when they hire from the county, so you get people from the county working for the county. We can do innovative things like that as we work our way toward more renewable energy sources. I support what the county has done as far as the setbacks. With the Lowry Ranch CAP, I'm not a "drill, baby, drill" kind of person. We have to preserve balance and protect nature.

    DG: What does the county need to do to combat homelessness and make housing more affordable?

    Coates: It has to begin with better partnerships with providers and developers. We have to find low-cost ways and environmentally friendly ways to do that. We should find ways to integrate people who are on the verge of being homeless and looking for work into the development of affordable housing. Corporations that are buying out like 25% of the ZIP codes? No. If you own more than six properties, profitability for the seventh shouldn't be so friendly. Those types of balances need to happen.

    DG: Why should voters choose you over your opponent?

    Coates: No. 1, I would be an advocate for the people. I have no political debts or favors to pay back. I've done the work. I have a high level of empathy for people, so that makes me qualified. I'm accessible. I have new and innovative ideas, a fresh set of eyes that have spent more time with community than with lobbyists and that's what this seat is about. I'll ask the question: "What are you offering my people?" And if you have nothing for them, you have no conversation with me. My belief is that an elected official is public servant number one.

    DG: What do you love about Arapahoe County?

    Coates: The diversity of the county. In my district, over 130 languages are spoken. There's a little bit of everything. We have business, we have residents, we have agriculture. Theoretically, one could live their whole life without having to leave the county.

    DG: What do you do for fun?

    Coates: Music and food. I love barbeque and Mexican food. I also love spending time with family and friends. I'm a wonderful singer alone and at high volume.

    Be sure to check out The Denver Gazette's primary voter guide for congressional, legislative and education-related races.

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