Centennial City Council candidate profile: Ron Phelps

Engaged citizen with 'learning and organizational' skills eyes District 1 seat

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Many Centennial residents don't think their opinions matter, said Ron Phelps, a city council candidate for the west part of town.

That's what Phelps, who leads an effort to inform residents and collect their input on the possible redevelopment of The Streets at SouthGlenn outdoor mall, wants to change.

He's an Air Force veteran who has experience in the “learning and organizational development” industry, where he's designed ways to learn that help meet goals for Fortune 200 organizations as well as the military and public entities.

Phelps has served on citizen committees regarding open space, budget and ethics for Centennial and Arapahoe County and as a victim advocate with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office. He currently works for Denver Water.

Council District 1 is the far west part of Centennial, encompassing most of the portion between South Broadway and South Colorado Boulevard.

Here is a look at Phelps' policy positions in his own words. Responses were lightly edited for clarity.

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

It has to do with what I've learned with this ongoing redevelopment at The Streets at SouthGlenn: Residents don't feel included in the development process, and they believe it heavily favors the developer … Right now, many of the residents don't trust their city leaders. They don't think their opinions matter. The city elected folks and staff will say, “Well, of course they matter, and I care," but perception is reality here. If people don't feel that officials actually value those opinions, then there's still something that needs to be addressed.'

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

“Smart growth” is this trend in urban planning, and it's all about increasing density … How can we put more amenities and allow people to work where they live, and that'll help us in our traffic problems and some other things we're faced with.

But I don't think growth equates to having or creating a thriving city … I think (we should) focus on the quality we have before we focus on quantity … If growth is wanted, then the retail sales tax is a big part of that answer.

In District 1, the shopping centers are ground-level; there's not a second story to them. Some of them are struggling. So is it about adding more retail, or is it about what type of retail goes into these areas? And I'm not an expert, I'm not an economic development guy, but I'm not about packing it in.

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

The city is using the fiber network to aid in the traffic management system, and I think that makes sense. From a budget standpoint, should the city provide that kind of infrastructure? I'm not convinced of that. It could be the right answer, but I need to learn more. I'm a limited government guy, so I want more private answers than government answers.

The city has a transportation master plan, and it was passed by city council back in late 2013. But it includes traffic data from 2008-09, and as far as I know, that is the current master transportation plan passed over five years ago, and it has data that's over 10 years old. I think we need a new plan.

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

For all municipalities, the retail strategy has been affected by all the online shopping we do … That impacts the strategy in place, which is that brick-and-mortar locations will provide the tax base the city needs ... As far as the best way to maintain, it's a moving target right now. We need to have a viable and a flexible economic development plan.

What issue is city council not paying enough attention to?

I try to be positive. I don't agree with some of the decisions, but I believe that they're all serving with the best intentions … Traffic mitigation would be one area. Are they paying enough attention to it? Well, they're trying to, but there's only so much you can pay attention to. There's a time and budget constraint.

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

The city has a role to play, but I think the larger role to play lies at the county level through how the county handles property tax and services for those who are older.The city has a Senior Commission, and ... I think the city can do a lot by educating seniors on county services, state services, private entities and nonprofit services. It's a role of educating, informing and advocating for, and not providing services directly.

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

On homelessness … I have in my head these three different groups: One, someone who wants to live that way by choice, and then there's those who, for reasons out of their control, found themselves homeless ... and a hand up to get back on their feet (is needed). I don't see that as something the city provides; I think that's a regional solution. And then there's the third group, who are not emotionally or mentally healthy ... They become very well-known to law enforcement, and they go through and are released, and I don't have an answer to that, but it most definitely is a regional issue.

With high housing costs, that's a supply-and-demand thing … The city isn't going to get involved in how many homes are available and the pricing of homes … The city's role in housing costs should be about protecting private property rights, and the city can protect property rights by not burdening residents with fees or regulations that put more government on homeownership.

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