Centennial City Council candidate profile: Rhonda Livingston

District 3 resident with longtime city involvement aims for council seat

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Rhonda Livingston and Centennial go way back.

Early in the city's history, Livingston served on a focus group organized by Centennial's economic development manager to gauge what moves the official should make. She has been appointed to city committees, including for neighborhood traffic management, rewriting the Centennial Land Development Code, and for the first iteration of managing snow and ice in the city.

She was elected to Centennial's Home Rule Charter Commission, which in 2008 allowed the city to begin following its own constitution, rather than the statewide municipal code.

She also brought forth a successful petition to halt an allowance for new car dealerships on East Arapahoe Road in the central part of town in 2018.

“When we wrote the charter, I was happy we included right to referendum, but I was hoping a citizen would never have to use it,” said Livingston, a candidate for Centennial City Council in District 3. “It was interesting to see how that works to have citizens rally around an issue.”

Livingston is a part-time clerical assistant at Colorado Humanities, a nonprofit that provides free educational programming throughout Colorado. She's the vice president of plan review on the Centennial Council of Neighborhoods, or CenCON, a coalition of homeowners associations and similar groups.

District 3 is by far the city's largest in terms of land area, spanning from parts of southwest Centennial to the city's southeast region, past South Parker Road.

Here is a look at Livingston's policy positions in her own words. Responses were lightly edited for clarity.

What's the most important thing you want to accomplish in office?

My first priority would be managing growth because that encompasses traffic, development and citizen requests. Whatever growth it is kind of trickles down to everything.

'Smart growth' is an often-used buzzword. What does that look like to you?

From the Environmental Protection Agency: “ 'Smart growth' covers a range of development and conservation strategies that help protect our health and natural environment and make our communities more attractive, economically stronger and more socially diverse.”

I think there are a lot of arms on the wheel, and we need to take a higher-level look at how whatever we decide impacts the community and businesses and nature and wellbeing of anything and everyone.

We're still learning how to navigate through that. I'm not sure we're there yet as far as saying we were right or wrong on smart growth.

What is your approach to transportation and 'smart city' initiatives?

Centennial should continue to work with regional partners to find common solutions. I like that Centennial has already started a pilot program (to manage traffic), in District 3, along Yosemite Street. The pilot program includes neighboring cities. This is a great start to finding solutions. Centennial should continue to foster these types of partnerships and continue to build our own smart signal network to improve traffic flow.

What is the best way to maintain retail sales tax base in Centennial?

In the big economic picture, it is important for the city to retain the great employers we have and continue to recruit more employers. Those employees will then be shopping, relaxing and living in Centennial with their families, and that will help maintain some of our retail tax base.

I don't know if we need to give retailers incentives … I think we need to be open to new concepts … We're not the owners of these retail centers, so we can't tell them we want to have a (certain) retailer in (a certain place). Try to encourage those retail owners to play along with us — let's try different things, and maybe we can all be successful at this.

What issue is city council not paying enough attention to?

I think city council has a lot of things to consider, and not everything can be resolved in a year or two. I think the council takes great effort to manage everything possible and within the budget that is approved … Sometimes council simply needs to be reminded of a concern or issue that perhaps wasn't noticed. My goals as a councilmember are to be a good listener and representative of residents and businesses. I want to encourage and continue that dialog with the community.

How can the city best take care of its increasingly aging population?

For several years, Centennial has considered options and services that will help seniors “age in place.” The city is doing a great job of helping seniors by providing programming, giving information about alternative transportation methods, educating them about county and local senior services, and approving a variety of senior living development options. It is something that will continue to evolve and should be looked at with regional partners and conversations.

How can the city best address high housing costs and the regional issue of homelessness?

High housing costs cannot be controlled by city council. City council can encourage affordable housing, but we need to find developers that are willing to build affordable housing. That can be housing that is new construction and is sold at the lowest end of the market price; it can also be low-income housing … We need to make it apparent that we're open to new ideas and new conversations, and we're willing to talk to those developers to see what it looks like on their end.

Homelessness is an issue that can continue to be addressed through regional conversations, identifying agencies that can provide services to help people that want help and educating people regarding the services that are already available.

If there's an agency out there doing a great job and needs a little funding, that would be OK to look at whether council could help support that … but you can't pay for everything.

This is a tough issue to solve, and there may never be a resolution, but everyone can extend a helping hand and be a part of the solution by doing whatever we can to support the agencies that make the effort to help homeless people.

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