Whether it was for the free BBQ or the Jeffco officials, almost 200 county residents attended the 22nd Annual Legislative BBQ at Red Rocks Community College on Sept. 7.
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About 30 county officials, whether representative or coroner, and both incumbents and candidates alike, mingled with the crowd before each spoke on a prepared question. For some attendees, this was a chance to hear an official's thoughts for the first time and start their research ahead of the November elections.
“It's helpful. I'll still have to do my due diligence, read reports and more, but it's a good start,” said Lakewood resident Laurae Davis.
To her, the event was casual. She wasn’t anticipating asking any questions but was there as a “first attempt” to learn about the candidates.
Others, like Lakewood resident Valeria Palmer, saw a free annual BBQ event and thought it was “worth checking out.”
No matter the motivation, everyone involved believed the communication was helpful, whether resident, official, or one of the non-profits that put the event on.
“The more we talk about mental health, homeless and domestic violence, disabilities, the more we have important conversations to decrease stigma, and make officials see that,” said CEO and President of the Jefferson Center for Mental Health Kiara Kuenzler. To her, it gives an impact to the voice of the people.
The Jefferson Center was one of the four non-profits that put on the event, along with the Developmental Disabilities Resource Center, Family Tree and the Seniors’ Resource Center.
“I think it's fantastic,” said County Commissioner Andy Kerr, when asked about this communication. “It gets a lot of the service providers with folks receiving services along with the people representing them.”
He said the forum models “American civic responsibility,” where, even if officials and residents have differing perspectives, people can still “sit to have a civil conversation.”
County Commissioner Leslie Dahlkemper, who’s running for re-election this November, thought similarly.
“Even with different perspectives, better policy can come from it,” she said.
The speaking part of the event allowed two minutes for every candidate to answer a prepared question either on homelessness and domestic violence, elder care, mental health or disabilities. Congressional candidates spoke as well as local.
Donald Rosier, a Republican candidate running for Dahlkemper’s commissioner seat, highlighted his previous experience of two terms as county commissioner and that his priorities would be the same.
“I’ve seen the incredible things that you all do, day in and day out. And I have to tell you, you do it so much better than government can ever do it,” he said, addressing the non-profits.
Ed Brady and Regina Marinelli are both running for county sheriff, and both spoke on homelessness.
Brady stressed supporting “the most vulnerable out on the street, with mental health and addiction issues” through “compassion and accountability.” He continued that the “state needs to prioritize more funding to help those folks with their mental health and addictions issues.”
“When we don’t know what to do with [the homeless], jail should not be the option,” said Marinelli. She highlighted that “putting someone in jail because they’re homeless is not an option.”
Jerry DiTullio, the current county treasurer also spoke, highlighting fiscal savings over the last few years of his tenure, with Faye Griffin running against him this year.
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