Council candidate Q&A: Aaron Norris
Name: Aaron Norris
Years lived in Grand Junction: 4.5
Political party: Democrat
Why are you running for City Council?
Although this is the first time I have run for public office, I have spent a great deal of my life in public service. I believe when you are a part of a community, you have an obligation to offer your skills in service to that community for its betterment. I am running for City Council because people like me are not always represented there. I am a young business owner. My wife and I are raising our children here. I am a professional who bought his home at a high point in Grand Junction and want to help guide the city back to sustainable prosperity.
How involved should the city be with homeless issues?
The city needs to be involved in the homeless issue in a fundamental way. Homelessness affects every citizen’s health, welfare and safety. We cannot put this issue off on local charities alone and expect any real resolution. I applaud the Police Department creation of the Homeless Outreach Team. Over the years the city has fluctuated from a position pushing the problem out of sight to one now where it is taking tentative steps to actually fix the problem. The city government must play a constructive role in removing the underlying causes of homelessness.
How should the city invest in economic development?
We have to do two things, one is immediate and the other is longer term. First, we have to get the local economy jumping and businesses back to hiring. Second, we need to escape boom and bust cycles. We must fix the problem and learn from past mistakes.
When the city contracts for work, the work should be local. If that’s simply impossible, the city should require any subcontracting be local. Any future hires should be local for the same reasons. Finally, we should consider offering tax discounts to new businesses moving in to currently vacant buildings.
What is your philosophy on the city’s role in competing with the private sector?
The government should not place itself in direct competition with the private sector. It is fundamentally unfair to use tax dollars to compete against a private business owner. There are, however, externalities in an enterprise, both positive and negative, that are not always captured by the marketplace. Some services may need to be provided, but their value cannot fully be measured in dollars and cents. Great examples are the ambulance service, the fire department, the police. On the other hand, we should expect something like food service on a golf course to be private.
How do you feel the city manager has performed?
Recently, there have been breakdowns in communication between the city manager and the council. Up to this point, it has been up to the sitting council to determine if the city gets a quality return on its hire. City Council really has only two jobs: pass ordinances and resolutions and keep oversight of the city manager. The city manager serves at the pleasure of the council, and the council serves at the pleasure of the citizens. If elected, I will be constantly vigilant to honor the citizens’ trust and see that the manager does not betray the council’s trust.