Interview #85: Aurora, CO Council Member Allison Hiltz (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM, and right here:

First-term council member Allison Hiltz has already seen a ton in her first three months: a bicycle shop in distress, sexual harassment training on the rocks, and an uproar involving the Girl Scouts. Listen for all the details!

Q: There’s this image of city council meetings that they are the place you go if your back is up against a wall and you need to plead your case to somebody. On February 5, there were over half a dozen people who came to beg that your city council save the Second Chance Bicycle Shop, which was about to be evicted.  Were they correct to come to you in a meeting to ask for help?

A: Yeah. I think it’s always correct to come and talk about the community at council meetings. That’s what city councils should be. That’s our job to know what’s happening in the community and to help.

Q: Do you get the urge to drop everything and figure out how to help these folks out?

A: I always want to drop everything and fix everything but then I have to stop, take a breath, and just work on getting the right people on it.

Q: Right, you’ve got to pace yourself. You’ve got a four-year term! I heard you are a lifelong Girl Scout. Is that correct?

A: Yes!

Q: Nice, nice. Same here. What was the idea that the Girl Scouts had for the Aurora city council?

A: It was to protect the health and safety of minors who are in cars with people who are smoking.

Q: This proposed ordinance came up at the January 22 meeting. At one point, Council Member Bob LeGare said the ordinance was trying to “legislate the action of stupid people.” You took offense to his use of the word “stupid.” How do you respond to the argument that Bob LeGare may simply have been “telling it like it is” while you were being “politically correct?”

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Aurora, CO Council Member Allison Hiltz

A: You know, I still stand by that comment. I understand that we live in a political world where you can just say whatever you want and call people the names that you want. I do think that as an elected official, you’re held to a higher standard. It is up to us to maintain a level of professionalism. I think once you start calling names over one action, why not start calling everyone else a name for whatever action they have?

Q: Was it the word that bothered you or was it the judgment behind that word being leveled upon people for some behavior?

A: It’s the judgment. No one’s saying that smoking in a car with children is a good idea. But it’s also not our job as council members to start judging the individual actions of people. Once you start passing judgment on people, it just goes into a whole different way of legislating that is not my preferred way.

Q: How surprised were you that between the first meeting with the Girl Scouts’ ordinance and the second meeting, the rhetoric had shifted to opposition?

A: I think it was easy for some to forget that these are 12-year-old girls. There was a lot of conversation about some things that I think maybe were not necessary to have said so vehemently and sternly in a public setting to 12-year-old girls. I would have much preferred those concerns to have been made to those Girl Scouts in a one-on-one context. It’s easy to forget sometimes that the people you’re talking about are real human beings and also 12.


Follow Council Member Allison Hiltz on Twitter: @AllisonHiltz 

#76: Schenectady, NY 12/27/16

For the last city council meeting of 2016, I couldn’t have picked a more beautiful council chamber: ornate chairs, delicate chandeliers, intricate woodwork. It looked more like the set of “Hamilton” than a municipal building.

But the room was also deeply, deeply confusing: the six council members were crowded into a single wooden desk–cafeteria style. The council president had her own luxurious dais in roughly the next ZIP code.

And then, there was the graphics department:

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“Councilman Textbox Head has the floor.”

However, the phrase “lipstick on a pig” sprung to mind, as the beautiful room was consumed by a series of irate public commenters tearing each council member a new rectum and–occasionally–making sense.

“Regarding the Uber issue,” a woman in a baggy blazer slowly wound herself up. “What is an ‘Uber?’ Is it generic? Is it a brand name? Is it a transitive verb? Is it a modifying adverb? I’d like to know.”

I had absolutely zero read on whether she was kidding. My heart said she wasn’t, and my head said, “oh, god, this is gonna get worse.”

“I picked up some statistics. Our seven new electric motorcycles–” she continued.

“Okay, this is about Uber and Lyft,” cut in Council President Leesa Perazzo with some exasperation. “It’s NOT about electric vehicles.”

“Well,” the woman huffed, “these can be hooked up if it’s electric motorcycles. There are many acres of forestland being destroyed for motorcycle lanes!”

Uh, point…taken? I’m sure all of the Uber drivers with electric motorcycles are quaking in their helmets.

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“Is it a house? Is it a mouse? Is it in a box? Is it with a fox?”

The next commenter was a tiny balding man in a sweater vest who spoke with a slight impediment and even slighter enthusiasm.

“I’d like to speak on what I call ‘my two cents’ on the smoking ordinance. When I found that this council had passed us a law, I went, ‘seriously? Did the council pass that without realizing some people are not gonna like it?'”

He was referring to a new ordinance banning people from smoking in cars when minors are present. Also, he was apparently new to the concept that city councils do things people don’t agree with.

He sagely added, “I don’t think anybody in the government has been using the brains or common sense…things.”

Well, this has been enlightening. And another anti-anti-smoking commenter stomped to the podium. “If you have custody of those children and you tend to be in a car that’s bought and paid for, that’s your personal property! You can do anything you want with your personal property!” he fumed.

Amen! That’s the same logic I use to run a dog-fighting ring in my basement and cook meth in my RV. Read the Constitution.

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Basically my reaction

And if the comments from the public hadn’t soured the mood enough, Councilman Vincent Riggi stood up to seal the deal. “Just to clarify the vote on the smoking: YOU brought up that it’s our part to not abstain, Madam President. I don’t know WHY that left-handed shot had to come out. That’s certainly my prerogative to abstain,” he snapped.

“I thought we were beyond that, but I guess we’re not. And I thought YOU were beyond that, but apparently not.”

Pause.

“I won’t answer any of the other nonsense I heard tonight,” he slammed the microphone down.

Here’s to a Happy New Year?