I’m sharing my experience as a city council member to encourage others to run for local office and participate in the local elections. A city council can affect your life just as much as Congress.
Two years ago, I decided to enter a Lakewood City Council race right before the filing deadline. I didn’t expect success but actually ended up winning by just ten votes to fill the 2-year slot.
My priorities on the city council were to curb crime rates, preserve our right to self-defense, protect the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), and refocus government spending on core tasks instead of mission creep.
Looking back over my two years, I think some of those goals were accomplished.
Prior to my time on council, the state motor vehicle theft law was changed to reduce penalties based upon the cars value. As city councilors, we also serve on boards and commissions – one of mine was the Legislative Committee. I was thankful to get a motion passed to add Lakewood’s voice, along with many others, demanding the law be changed back, and it was.
Lakewood City Council was approached by a group in 2022 who wanted to eliminate our right to self-defense. I spoke up even though it was very difficult because it involved an attack that I had personally faced. As a young woman, I was attacked and dragged into an alley in downtown Denver one night after classes. I was saved by a woman who witnessed the attack and was carrying a gun. Whether she saved me from being raped, killed, or mugged isn’t known because her actions stopped all those options from happening. I also spoke up in the neighboring City of Edgewater, where an unprecedented attempt to restrict gun rights ended up significantly watered-down.
As a staunch supporter of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), I believe government revenue growth should be limited to the reasonable levels allowed in our state Constitution. That’s sensible policy and why TABOR is still loved by Coloradans.
City councils have time and again handed out taxpayer money in economic incentives despite the fact that our state constitution is written clearly to prohibit handouts. Our state constitution was undermined by a Supreme Court ruling.
I was a minority vote to oppose a corporate handout, but at least there was dissent in the recorded vote.
In addition, city councilors determine our municipal property tax bill. One of my last priorities was to reduce Lakewood property taxes to an amount that would comply with the property tax limit found in the city charter section 12.12. That limit says that the city can’t collect more than a 7% increase in revenue over the prior year. Apparently this hadn’t been discussed before and when I brought it forward, it was discovered Lakewood has been overcharging property taxes since 2016, sometimes twice as much and edging close to three times more than we should be taking from property owners. My motion was watered down by amendment but as it stands it saves Lakewood taxpayers over $1.5 million dollars for just one year.
That story isn’t done, but for now it’s far better than where the council had been headed with another rubber stamp on a double-digit tax increase, with zero discussion about property tax relief. Since the deceptive Proposition HH doesn’t cap local property taxes, it’s up to local governments to initiate that relief.
I’m expressing these challenges and victories to encourage voters to participate in local elections. Whether it’s self-defense, TABOR, property tax limits, or voting against corporate handouts from taxpayers – these are the policies that local elected representatives have control over.
Participating in local elections can be just as important as a vote for a congressional representative. I hope you’ll research the local candidates and choose the ones who will protect your rights and wallet. I encourage you to take a look at running for local office. Even in a minority position, you can make a difference.
Mary Janssen represents Ward 5 on the Lakewood City Council.
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