BRIGHTON — Joan Kniss’ passion for serving the community has inspired her to run for a city council seat. Kniss, who currently serves as President of the School District 27J Board of Education, will be running against incumbent Chris Maslanik to represent the residents of Ward 1.
“Since I’m term limited on the board of education, I still would like to be active in the community and give back,” she said. “Brighton has been a great place to live and work, so I’d like to continue working.”
While issues like water, infrastructure, sustainability and public safety are important to her, Kniss believes she will bring integrity and dependability to the Ward 1 council seat. In her eight years of serving on the board of education, Kniss has never missed a meeting. She says she’s very detail oriented, will do her homework on issues that come before council, will respond to residents concerns and will work harder to serve the residents of her ward.
“I also understand the role of a public figure in that I’m representing an organization. If I go to a school – to an assembly at a school – I know that yes, I represent me, but that I represent the organization,” she said. “I understand the importance of knowing that what I say and what I do and how I appear reflects beyond just me as a person, there’s a reflection on the organization. I know that I have respect for the office and I will say and do in a manner that’s respectful of that position.”
As part of her campaigning, Kniss has been going door to door to visit with the residents of Ward 1. She said many residents would like to see more trails connected to the city and more lighting on some of the more heavily traveled streets with round-abouts, such as the corner of 45th Avenue and Oxbow.
Through her campaigning, Kniss has also discovered the city really needs to reach out to some of their newer residents, listen to them and find ways for them to become more involved in the community.
“We can’t just listen to our citizens at the once a year barbecue... and if there’s a hot button issue where a lot of citizens come to a city council meeting, we need to listen to them on a more continuous, systematic basis,” she said.
In addition to her experience as a public figure, Kniss has more than 40 years of involvement in the City of Brighton. She retired from School District 27J after teaching there for 33 years. She is currently involved in many boards and organizations including the Brighton Legacy Foundation, Court Appointed Special Advocates, the Brighton Breakfast Lions Club and the Hispanic Advisory Council.
She lives in Brighton with her husband Adam and enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren.
“I’m committed to our community, I’m not moving away,” she said. “I have children and grandchildren in this community. I want them to have the same quality of life in Brighton that I’ve experienced.”
Q&A with Joan Kniss
Why are you running for office?
The simple answer is because I love Brighton. I have had the opportunity to be actively involved in our community for over 40 years and would like to continue serving the community. Brighton has given so much to my family and me that I would like to continue the positive work that is currently being done in the city. I am not running against something: I am running for our city. I also know that no one will work harder to represent Ward 1 than I will.
What makes you the most
qualified candidate for this office?
My active involvement in the city for over 40 years has allowed me to be very knowledgeable about the city’s governing structure, the economic growth, the importance of our historic structures and areas of town, the cultural diversity, and the opportunities for youth, families, and older adults. I am a person of integrity and will serve in a manner that is respectful of being a public figure. I am a good communicator which includes being a good listener. I am very responsible and detail oriented (I did not miss a Board of Education meeting in the eight years that I served). I am a learner, a problem solver, and a creative thinker. I am an experienced leader. And I have a lot of energy and optimism!
What do you feel is the top priority for
City Council heading into 2014?
The top priority going into 2014 is to sustain a solid financial picture while at the same time maintaining the services and amenities that our community expects. This is a year of optimism as the economy is slowly rebounding. According to a report by the Chief Economist for the Colorado Legislative Council Natalie Mullis, Colorado is outpacing the United States by 2 ½% in employment growth; since the recession of 2009, the housing market is rebounding and in the Denver Metro area is up 12% in the last 12 months which is the best in the nation. Housing starts are up in Brighton, and new families are moving in. All of these economic markers indicate that Brighton will continue to grow fiscally and with careful, strategic planning our city will continue to attract more businesses and amenities for our residents.
What do you believe you can do to support and promote locally owned and small businesses in Brighton?
City Council needs to continue its investment in the Community Development Department which focuses on planning, building, engineering, and the One Stop Center. Also the strong partnerships with Brighton Economic Development, the Small Business Assistance Center, Brighton Urban Renewal Authority, Downtown Partnership, and the Housing Authority are critical. City Council needs to continue with its plans for revitalizing the downtown area which includes easier access to Main Street businesses and parking lots that are inviting and safe. City Council should also advocate for holding more community activities in the downtown area as well as other smaller business development sites along East Bridge Street. Inviting small business owners into a study session to talk about their successes/challenges/ideas would also be helpful. In addition, discussions need to be held regarding incentives for locally owned and small businesses just as there are for larger businesses. Every business is important to a vibrant community.
What issues do you hope to bring to Council’s attention specific to your Ward?
Much of Ward 1 is made up of newer neighborhoods. As I have walked door to door, I have found that many of the residents do not feel “connected” to the City. Yes, they might have their children participating in the City’s recreational activities and might go to the AMC theater at the Pavilions, but as far as knowing about the operational aspects of the City, many of these newer residents do not understand these aspects of Brighton. The Council needs to have more of a presence throughout the community so that those who live in Brighton East Farms or the Preserve or even our older residents at Inglenook feel like their voices are being heard.
Several residents expressed that having more trail connectivity to “core” Brighton is important to them. Keeping this interest on the City’s planning agenda is something that I can bring from Ward 1.
What other specific issues within Brighton do you hope to address?
Keeping Brighton a family friendly community (awareness of safety concerns, offering affordable recreational and cultural activities, a variety of educational options). Honoring the cultural richness of our community. Strengthening a healthy economy (support for local, small businesses and attracting high skill/high paying jobs). Involvement- Everyone has a role to play in making our city great, and we need to find ways to get others involved.
What expertise or experience can you bring to City Council to better connect with citizens and keep the public engaged?
In my role as President of the Board of Education for 27J, I planned monthly “linkage” meetings with small segments of our community. For example, one month the Board of Education listened to and talked with representatives from non-profits; another month we met with small business owners. In addition to these linkage meetings, I also set up Saturday “Coffee and Conversations” that were held about three times a year in various public locations within the school district. Instead of waiting for community members to come to us, we went to them. As a member of City Council, I would continue to have these small group meetings within my Ward. In addition to these face-to-face conversations, I would keep the public informed social media. Not everyone has the time to attend a meeting, but he/she might have a few minutes to log onto the computer.
What do you believe city government can/should do to ensure a sustainable supply of water in the years to come?
Water is key to the City’s success. Towards the goal of a sustainable supply of water, the City is planning via a “utilities plan.” This plan has four key components: increasing infrastructure funding, exploring revenue sources and using existing financial policies effectively, investing in future water resources, and investing in the training and retention of highly skilled staff members. Monetary reserves must also be in place for operations, emergencies, and rate stabilization. Water rates need to be evaluated yearly to ensure that we are able to meet the financial obligations tied to our water resources. Each of us is also a critical partner as far as conserving our water resources. This includes the use of alternative landscaping methods and adherence to water restrictions.