Campaign signs line the streets of Districts 1, 2 and 3 in Englewood displaying the division between residents who either support or oppose the Oct. 3 special recall election.
With less than a month until the special election, many residents are encouraging their neighbors to either vote for or against the recall of Mayor and District 1 Councilmember Othoniel Sierra, District 2 Councilmember Chelsea Nunnenkamp and District 3 Councilmember Joe Anderson.
Affidavits to recall the councilmembers were initially submitted in April and included former At-Large Councilmember Cheryl Wink, who resigned on July 17.
The efforts followed the four councilmembers' consideration of a proposal to allow multifamily residences in single-family zoning areas, a plan that was shelved indefinitely in mid-April.
Kurt Suppes, a member of the pro-recall group Recall and Restore Englewood, said those in support of the recall continue their efforts due to concerns regarding proposed zoning changes to the existing municipal code, a project known as CodeNext.
Englewood resident Cathy Naughton said the recall is “a result of (the) city council not working with or acknowledging the concerns of the citizens who elected them.”
“They work for us, the residents of Englewood. We need to replace the councilmembers with more careful planners who will not turn the entire revision of our existing code over to a Kansas City developer,” Naughton said, referring to Multi Studio, one of two outside firms that consulted with the city on CodeNext.
She said she feels the approval of CodeNext will create more infrastructure issues, will increase traffic congestion and will continue to allow developers to negatively impact the community.
Aaron Reid, who also supports the recall, said he wants “Englewood to stay as it is,” and feels future councils would agree.
“They indicated they like our city. However, the actions of late are not lining up with such concerns,” Reid said, referring to the council’s actions regarding CodeNext.
Not everyone in Englewood believes the councilmembers' actions regarding density and zoning warrant a recall.
Niki Shoup, a resident and cofounder of pro-density group YIMBY Englewood, said she feels the council has done well for Englewood and that the recall is unnecessary.
“We have a functional city council and people are trying to remove them from office,” Shoup said. “It is upsetting to think that our city government cannot function unless they please a very vocal minority.”
YIMBY Englewood is a group that believes the city can grow through CodeNext.
Shoup said she hopes the current council can continue working to better the city.
“In the last two years alone, we have seen improvements in our drinking water, repairs in our water drainage systems, started working with Tri-Cities Homeless to address the unhoused in our area, and better community outreach and engagement,” Shoup said.
Lisa Guthrie, who also opposes the recall, said she finds it “punitive in nature.”
Guthrie said she thinks recalls are undemocratic and believes when a recall for over half a government body is called, it’s not because of unethical behavior or “wrongdoing but because an element of the citizenry disagrees with what the government body is considering.”
“The natural cause for corrective action is the normal election cycle,” Guthrie said. “I believe when only those who are vocal about something are involved, they are fundamentally countermanding what the rest of us said through the general election. If the councilmembers are that out of step with what the citizens of Englewood want, then they will be replaced in the next normal election cycle.”
The recall is scheduled just five weeks before the Nov. 7 general election in which the seats in Districts 1 and 3, currently represented by recall targets Sierra and Anderson, are on the ballot.
City Communications Director Chris Harguth said per state law and City Charter §34, the city had to select a recall election date that would meet all requirements.
“We needed to pick an election date that would allow us to meet the deadlines that are required by statute,” he said.
City Clerk Stephanie Carlile said the recall will cost about $137,000 and is being managed by a third-party company, Community Resource Services of Colorado.
The cost and timing are other elements where Englewood residents disagree.
Suppes said those facing a recall continue to complain about the cost of the special election, but they aren’t being forthcoming about how they have used taxpayer funds.
“What they don't tell is that they have paid over $500,000 in fees to the out-of-state consultants they hired to craft the provisions of CodeNext related to accessory dwelling units,” Suppes said.
Harguth said the city submitted a request for proposals, or RFP, from firms that had “extensive experience in working with communities to formulate development codes.”
Harguth said based on the RFP, the council approved a $223,500 contract with the combined team of Multi Studio of Kansas City and Ayers Associates of Fort Collins to work with staff on CodeNext.
Nathan Hoag, the parish pastor of Sacred Grace Englewood, opposes the recall, saying it is completely “uncalled for and unprecedented.”
Hoag, who became involved in the Vote No campaign, said he and others feel the cost of the recall election is a waste of funds.
“The overwhelming consensus among Englewood residents is that this is wasteful and wrong,” Hoag said. “I've heard that from people who don't agree with the politics or policies of these councilmembers. Even in their disagreement they know that this kind of spending is a tremendous waste. I agree. This is hard-earned taxpayer money that should be spent on making our city a better place to live, work and play.”
Resident Barry Lancaster, who “fully supports the recall of each of the members,” said the cost of the recall is focused on more than the cost of CodeNext.
“This is a red herring put forward by the city and those members who do not want to be recalled,” Lancaster said. “What cost is too high for a free and fair democracy? At what point do we look at injustice and decide it would cost too much to do the right thing?"
Residents on both sides of the recall continue to campaign and spread their messages and perspectives.
Rebecca Kramer, who supports the recall, said her efforts include “walking (her) neighborhood, knocking on doors and having really valuable conversations with neighbors.”
“This is what my district rep has failed to do,” she said. “Most citizens are frustrated with the overdevelopment and irresponsible increase in density in District 2. If we fail to recall these individuals, they will push through CodeNext without conducting proper impact studies regarding our infrastructure.”
On the opposing side, Hoag said he and others are “getting 'Vote No On The Recall' signs in yards, sending postcards to neighbors, wearing stickers that say, ‘I'm voting NO on the recall,”’ utilizing social media posts, canvassing neighborhoods, and engaging with people at events such as the Englewood Block Party.
“Additionally, we are trying to call out and confront any and all lies attached to this recall attempt,” Hoag said. “There is a tremendous amount of misinformation circulating and people do not fact-check what they hear often enough.”
Brenda Francis, who lives outside Englewood city limits, built the Recall and Restore Englewood website.
Francis has expressed support for the recall through social media, including in Republican groups' pages, and during a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in July.
“Recalls are never convenient,” she said. “If any of these councilmembers lose on Oct. 3, they should step down from their run in November.”
Francis continued: “The citizens have a right to petition the government for a redress of their grievances. This recall is a facet of a larger momentum, looking to push back on an overreaching local government.”
Francis is a Republican precinct leader. While not an Englewood resident, she said she is passionate about the city council’s actions and their impact on the community as she frequents the city often and has been affected by crime in the area.
“Crime does not stay within the boundaries of a city,” she said. “Crime will increase even more in my neighborhood if these changes are made to zoning laws."
Shoup said YIMBY Englewood is not officially a part of the Vote No campaign but “fully supports it.”
Additionally, Shoup said she does not support the GOP influence in a nonpartisan election.
State Sen. Jeff Bridges and Rep. Meg Froelich, Democrats who represent Englewood in the legislature, stated their oppostion to the recall in a social media post on Sept. 7.
"As Englewood representatives in the Colorado General Assemby we're proud to advocate for the success of this great community," the statement reads. "Unfortunately, over the last few years we've seen recalls across our state against elected officals just for doing the job they were elected to do."
The statement goes on to say "short of egregious misconduct, regularly scheduled elections serve as our opportunity to change representation when we disagree with their votes or values. We urge a 'no' vote on the October recall."
Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce member Eric Anderson said he and his wife Amber, who grew up here, returned to the city three years ago because they “love the smaller town feel of Englewood and the strong sense of community.”
“I’m concerned that the divisive recall election would set Englewood backward and distract from creating a community that respects its legacy and embraces the future,” Anderson said.
As the Oct. 3 recall grows closer, both sides of the issue plan to continue working to educate voters.
“We can do better than this,” said parish leader Hoag “I've seen it over and over in this city. I've seen neighbors taking care of each other, people showing up to make this place more beautiful, folks working hard to invest in our schools, businesses, neighborhoods, nonprofits and more. That's the kind of Englewood I want to be a part of.”
Hoag is excited for when this “recall attempt is put to rest” and he’s looking forward to continuing his work to serve Englewood.
Suppes, of Recall and Restore Englewood, hopes the recall results in a change in the council.
“It should be obvious from all of this that these city councilmembers are costing the city much more than the cost of the recall election and they must be recalled on Oct. 3,” he said.
For more information on the recall election proceedings visit englewoodco.gov and click on the Recall Special Election tab.
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