You probably pay little attention to those hollow “resolutions” that are adopted by state and local governments. Most are innocuous statements of support for some initiative or another. Some are more ambitious if still toothless declarations praising or condemning this or that.
Yet, one resolution adopted by the Aurora City Council the other day was worth noting. Not because it had merit — it was in fact ridiculous — but because it offered a case study of the fringe politics creeping into city halls along the Front Range these days.
Outlandish overreaches that were once confined to college towns — remember when Boulder declared itself nuke free in the 1980s? — are turning up on the agenda in Main Street municipal government. One of the more notable examples was last year’s proposal to replace Denver’s police force with a “peace force.” That one, hatched by the Denver City Council’s resident radical, Candi CdeBaca, sought an actual policy change but might as well have been a mere resolution given how offbeat it was and how quickly the rest of the council swatted it down.
It was against that backdrop that the Aurora Council adopted a resolution Monday in a 6-4 vote declaring housing a human right.
Yup. If you have been diligently scrimping to make your rent or mortgage payments, you now can spend it on Lottery tickets instead. It turns out society owes you housing, presumably facilitated by government’s power to tax.
The notion that we have a “right” to housing of course opens a can of worms. It has wide-ranging implications. It challenges basic precepts about the role of government. It poses profound questions. It’s worthy of one of those late-night, dorm-room debates back in college.
Fortunately, one of the remaining adults on the Aurora council dais, Dave Gruber, offered an end run on all that. In a commendable if futile attempt to talk sense into some of his colleagues, Gruber observed that residents who had called during the council session to weigh in appeared to have the impression the resolution would provide rental relief.
“Many of the people who called in made it sound like they were led to believe that, by council voting on this, we will deal with rent issues that they have,” Gruber said.
“I will not support this and I apologize to those people that called in who believe that this resolution will do this for them.”
The council’s Crystal Murillo, who had introduced the resolution, did what officeholders often do when standing knee deep in a hole of their own digging — change the subject.
Resorting to the tediously familiar, you-must-be-a-bigot insinuation, she shot at Gruber: “It’s insulting that we can spend months on end talking about this and, just because there was poor translation and they don’t speak English very well, you would dare to say they don’t understand.”
Except, as reported by The Gazette, residents who had called in to share personal stories about their struggles with affording housing in Aurora, were in many cases non-English speakers and used translators to communicate.
As also reported by The Gazette, there were translation difficulties and delays during the public comment segment as the scheduled translator was unavailable and the replacement translator left the meeting early.
So, maybe they really misunderstood.
At any rate, if the resolution couldn’t resolve the real-world problems posed by Aurorans who testified during the hearing, what could it do?
Insisted Juan Marcano, a Murillo ally on the council’s new progressive majority, “Resolutions are value statements and they are meaningful…They provide a vision to let the public know that we hear them and we want to do something about what they’re concerned about.”
Fellow progressive Alison Coombs noted solemnly that the resolution would align with the United Nations’ definition of the right to housing.
So, there’s that.
But, no, the resolution won’t pay anyone’s rent, cover their downpayment or forestall a foreclosure or eviction.
Another dissenter who, like Gruber, voted with the minority against the resolution, cut to the chase. Said council member Marsha Berzins: “Resolutions really mean nothing. It’s just a lot of words on a piece of paper.”
True enough. However, they can offer insight into the agenda of those who support them. In other words, it’s what comes afterward that should worry rank-and-file Aurora taxpayers — who might have to pick up the tab at some point for their city’s newfound right to housing.
They had better hope the resolution truly is nothing more than another empty promise.
The Gazette Editorial Board