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Aurora, Colo., Mayor-elect Mike Coffman fields questions from reporters Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, during a press conference after his victory speech on the west steps of the Aurora Municipal Center, in Aurora, Colo. (Philip B. Poston/The Aurora Sentinel via AP)
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Aurora residents will not vote in November on a ballot measure that would have given their mayor significantly more power. 

The city says that’s because of when proponents of the so-called strong-mayor initiative turned in signatures they collected to try to make the ballot and because of citizen protests to the measure. 

While supporters of the measure announced last month that the ballot question wouldn’t progress because time had run out, the city told The Colorado Sun there was technically a chance the measure could have made it before voters in November. Now, that window has officially closed, the city said Friday.

The city of Aurora said it recommended earlier this year to proponents of the measure, called “Yes on Term Limits and Empowering the Mayor,” that they submit the 12,017 voter signatures necessary by June 6 to give the city enough time to approve the initiative for the 2023 ballot. The group turned in the signatures on June 26. 

While there was enough time for the city to give initial approval of those signatures, tentatively placing it on the ballot, protests challenging the validity of the signatures were then filed with the city clerk. 

The clerk had not made a final decision on those protests as of Friday — the state’s deadline for local election officials to certify measures for the November ballot. 

The clerk’s deadline to decide on the protests is Monday. Then, the Aurora charter requires the city council to approve ballot questions during two separate meetings.  

The measure’s proponents, including Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman, who is running for reelection this year, said previously they will try again in 2025 and are hoping to be allowed to use the signatures they already collected to make the ballot in two years. 

Suzanne Taheri, legal counsel for the campaign, said the group turned in the vast majority of the signatures for the initiative in early June with only the final batch at the end of the month. She said the clerk took too long to verify them.


The city says it plans to continue its process of verifying the signatures and then will make a determination about the future of the ballot initiative.

The ballot measure would change Aurora’s governance structure from its current council-manager system — where a city manager is the head of the city — to a “strong mayor” form of governance where the mayor is the top decision-maker. 

Under the current system, the mayor is mostly a figurehead, though, according to The Aurora Sentinel, the mayor is paid about $85,000 a year. 

The committee supporting the initiative was being funded by a conservative political nonprofit, Colorado Dawn. The Sun refers to Colorado Dawn as a dark-money group because it does not reveal its donors.

Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo have strong mayors who wield veto power over some or all ordinances passed by their respective city councils. They also appoint their city’s police chief, city attorney and other department leaders.

The Aurora proposal would have also added an 11th at-large seat to the City Council and reduced the number of terms council members can serve from three consecutive four-year terms to two.

Elliott Wenzler wrote about politics, water, housing, and other topics for The Colorado Sun from October 2022 through September 2023. She has covered community issues in Colorado since 2019, including for Colorado Community Media. She has been...