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Stephanie Piko stepped into the mayor's seat Jan. 8, and she sat down with us during her transition to discuss what she's looking forward to tackling in her new position. She won her election against fellow former District 4 Councilmember Charles “C.J.” Whelan Nov. 7. She sat on the city's Planning and Zoning Commission from 2008-2011, chaired the Open Space Advisory Board from 2007-2011 and is a former mayor pro tem for the city.
Transportation, the city's aging community, fiber-optic technology and city branding all sit at the forefront of her priorities. Here's what she had to say about these policy areas.
How will the city work for seniors?
(It may involve) using universal design criteria and assisting with retrofits (or remodeling) in houses. Adopting design standards that make the process easier. If you go through the process and design this way, that might make it less expensive, might make it a better fit. We'd look at what they might need for ADA access, for doorways to be proper width for walkers, how to make bathrooms safe … for people to look up and think oh, yeah, I should make this counter lower. Providing info for people to utilize in their construction projects.
Another part is bringing the Smart City (part) into it and how technology can help seniors age in place.
That's an investment in our community that's over the next 20-25 years. We want a plan to let people adapt their homes with the consideration of aging. Having the fiber (optic technology) project, if you have fiber connections in the home, you can connect with doctors, connect with your pharmacist, connect with family — you can have monitoring, medical monitoring, that (lets you) just be at home more safely.
What does it mean to make Centennial a 'Smart City'?
Being part of the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance — what does that mean with our city? (It's about) contributing to making lives better for people — that's the whole point. We want to find efficiencies in government, and find efficiencies (for citizens).
The fiber infrastructure we're putting in place will change the future abilities of the city for traffic and data, and give more predictability with system failures in city or traffic information — everything from weather to energy usage across the city. There are a lot of opportunities for the city to tie in with that fiber connection to solve problems before they become problems, hopefully (laughs).
What's on the horizon for transportation?
In 2018, we expect fiber to be completed, and along with that, hooking up traffic cameras to the Eagle Street Facility and being able to have active responses to current traffic situations (like adjusting traffic light times).
Smart traffic systems can adapt and basically learn what traffic flows are. For the most part, currently, a traffic light has a morning system and an afternoon system for rush hour going one way and another way.
By being able to adapt faster, signal times can be adapted back much quicker and not have that lag you get.
How will the city's branding change?
We have some banner-pole identifications we're using to identify the City of Centennial, some (structures) going up to let people know they're in the City of Centennial and welcoming them into the city.
Those are being integrated as projects progress and opportunities present themselves ... it's kind of being rolled out with scheduled construction projects in 2018.
In 2010, city council did an entire branding plan for the city ... it wasn't the best choice to roll it out all at once, but rather to roll it out as improvements are done throughout the city. South Yosemite Street south of East Arapahoe Road is scheduled to have our first monument sign as the project nears completion. And then in 2018, East Quincy Avenue will be widened in a joint project with Aurora, so there will be a community-identifying sign along Quincy and South Flanders Street.
What have you learned from former Mayor Cathy Noon and from other cities?
She's been a great mentor. She's definitely set the standard of excellence for the City of Centennial. And, you know, she's taught me to be optimistic and cautious at the same time.
I think what's really impressive that I don't know that people necessarily appreciate is how regional approaches are taken to solve problems (among cities) in our area. None of us think we live in a bubble, and none of us want to keep people in one city or out of one city or not encourage development across cities because (it's good for all of us).
What are you most excited about, personally?
It's great to be in a place where we have choice and can decide what issues we want to tackle and what solutions we want to bring. A lot of cities are not as fortunate.
The city is (nearly 17) years old, and it's a great time for us to consider what our expectations are for our local government.
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