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Saturday, March 25, 2023

Denver City Council District 9 candidate Q&A

Briefly describe the single most urgent issue facing the city of Denver and how it should be addressed.
Cost of living in Denver: A shortage of affordable housing is a major contributing factor to homelessness. Ensuring that we have access to healthcare, education, jobs that pay livable wages, and the opportunity to own homes. These are things that we must make sure remain obtainable in Denver.

What should Denver leaders do to address the city’s lack of affordable housing?
We should be creating partnerships and gaining access to funds from the government and private developers to build houses that are actually affordable for all Denver residents. We need more initiatives, including low-interest loans and down payment assistance, that encourage home ownership and provide equity for low-income families. Existing landlords must have access to initiatives that will help them rent their houses or rooms to low-income Denver residents and receive direct payment. Neighborhoods should be allowed to up-zone if desired so that we can create more room for affordable housing.

Do you support redevelopment at the Park Hill golf course property? Why or why not?
I personally am in favor of the development and restoration of the Park Hill golf course. However I want to see if voters lift the conservation easement in April, and I will support their decision.

What should Denver leaders do to revitalize downtown Denver?
We must take all necessary steps to maintain business in the downtown area, attract new customers, and expedite the completion of the sixteenth street mall project. By turning vacant office spaces into affordable housing it will create more consumers for current businesses and allow a growing market for new businesses downtown.

What is Denver’s greatest public safety concern and what should be done about it?
The biggest concern we have in regard to public safety is youth violence. We must get guns off the streets by preventing gun trafficking, making sure gun owners secure their weapons, and invest in youth violence prevention centers and employment programs.

Should neighborhoods help absorb population growth through permissive zoning, or do you favor protections for single-family neighborhoods?
I believe that permissive zoning is beneficial in ensuring that housing is not limited and workers can share Denver’s economic success.

Should the city’s policy of sweeping homeless encampments continue unchanged? Why or why not?
I strongly support the ban of illegal camping in our city, because it is not safe for the individuals inside the camps. We have to use other ways of housing and last-minute treatment for those who are experiencing homelessness.

Should Denver change its snow plowing policy? Why or why not.
Yes, I believe with all of the changes to our city’s streets and weather we are in need of a new policy. It will only make sure that Denverites are as safe as possible on their daily commutes.

What’s your vision for Denver in 20 years, and what would you do to help the city get there?
I envision a Denver that is safe, clean, and equitable, a city where everyone has access to a great quality of life, feels protected, and knows they are well taken care of. In Denver, I want to create neighborhoods where residents have ownership and a sense of belonging. I wish to support others in starting their own businesses and pursuing fulfilling careers. Making sure communities are thriving and we have access to efficient resources, from transportation, to the energy we use to run our lives. We should all be able to live a sustainable fulfilling life.

How better can city officials protect Denver’s environment — air quality, water supply, ground contamination? And should the city take a more active role in transit?
The agricultural and industrial businesses that are so heavily involved in pollution ought to face stiff penalties. We should confirm that they have strict regulations in place and that they adhere to them. People that live close to these locations won’t have to worry about health issues as a result. Additionally, we must ensure that everyone in our city has access to energy-efficient resources and alternate sustainable forms of transportation besides cars. The city should collaborate with RTD to increase micro mobility and provide free transportation.


Briefly describe the single most urgent issue facing the city of Denver and how it should be addressed.
Housing affordability. Denver needs to mandate more affordable housing from private development or higher linkage fees. There need to be vacancy taxes, luxury sales taxes, flipping taxes and short-term rental fees sourcing a housing fund. First right of refusal for the city would allow the city to increase land stock to begin implementing social housing and Denver needs local control over rent stabilization.

What should Denver leaders do to address the city’s lack of affordable housing?
Amend the Expanding Housing Affordability policy recently passed that locks in essentially the status quo expectations of developers and increase both the linkage fee and mandate on affordable units and depth of affordability. Denver needs to use city-owned parcels to develop housing, change zoning to allow more single room occupancy, de-segregate housing types and adaptively reuse abandoned commercial units in the downtown area for housing. Also, we need to continue purchasing and converting motels and hotels to housing.

Do you support redevelopment at the Park Hill golf course property? Why or why not?
No. It is a false choice to say that in order to have affordable housing we need to develop green space. Green space is limited and shrinking as we develop and once you develop green space, you never get it back.

We currently own this incredibly valuable asset in the form of the easement. We the taxpayers paid $2 million for this restriction on the uses of the space that has value to the people of Denver and has a clear market value. Westside bought that land under that incredibly depressed market value. They are now trying to get rid of the easement and make that property value sky rocket for them and that is why they are willing to trade us a “free” park and some “affordable” housing. We could use eminent domain to buy the land instead.

What should Denver leaders do to revitalize downtown Denver?
Adaptively reuse the abandoned commercial buildings for vertical neighborhoods. The entire downtown has been built around people who come and go daily. We lack any “glue” to make the downtown a community. Instead of looking for a scapegoat (homeless people) to blame for our deep failures in city planning, we should be trying to create the “glue” that makes a place able to endure hard times and transitions. Commerce and “work” will never be the same again post-COVID and we need leadership that recognizes this is a permanent shift and is capable and visionary enough to plan for a real future of downtown rather than cowardly bending to the bust/boom profit interests of the era.

What is Denver’s greatest public safety concern and what should be done about it?
Sadly, police violence and lack of trust and faith in police is our greatest safety concern. We cannot even recruit/attract a revived safety department to begin “reforming” or “replacing” the “bad apples” in DPD and DSD. Nothing we are doing is coherent/cohesive nor outcomes-based. We spend money to say we are doing more yet there is no mechanism for measuring return on investment when it comes to safety. Cops don’t investigate crime effectively, cases are closed because they hit walls and transparency and accountability are seen as a threat to the jobs of public servants. We need a renewed understanding of safety and an approach that is rooted in public health and the protection of life and deep understanding and interruption of violence. Until then, nobody is safe.

Should neighborhoods help absorb population growth through permissive zoning, or do you favor protections for single-family neighborhoods?
Yes, everyone in the city should share the burden of solving the housing crisis, not just a few communities who don’t have the financial, political or social capital to resist protection of their single-family neighborhoods. Sharing that burden doesn’t have to mean skyscrapers everywhere but gentle density everywhere can help alleviate the burden.

Should the city’s policy of sweeping homeless encampments continue unchanged? Why or why not?
It should not continue. The amount of money and police resources we are spending to play whack-a-mole with homeless people is counter to what is being asked of the public. The public wants cops solving crime, this does not allow the proper deployment of police. The public wants roofs over their heads, this absorbs limited dollars for a failed policy. If sweeps worked, we wouldn’t have encampments, period. Additionally, it does not serve us well to move people who are hard to pin down if we actually want to case manage them. The service providers express this challenge repeatedly.

Should Denver change its snow plowing policy? Why or why not.
Yes. I think there are several ways to improve plowing. I have proposed several process improvements and fleet conversion kits for all trucks but council does not have authority over implementation or planning. Snow is a life safety hazard and we have enough fleet vehicles that we could have plow kits and not necessarily need expensive plows.

What’s your vision for Denver in 20 years, and what would you do to help the city get there?
I want to rebuild a city where people can plant roots and plan for Denver to be home for generations. I see a city that is clean, connected and family friendly. I see us returning to a time when people felt like they knew their neighbors. I would love for every neighborhood to have every type of housing and every neighborhood has all of the basics/essentials in a walkable distance.

How better can city officials protect Denver’s environment — air quality, water supply, ground contamination? And should the city take a more active role in transit?
Denver has zero standards for the environment. I have pulled together our DDPHE air team several times and unfortunately their only goals are to be in compliance with federal and state standards rather than striving for a higher standard. With most other things, Denver is happy to set the pace/trend but not on environment. We should strive for higher levels of accountability for polluters and higher quality metrics on environment even if the floor is set by state and feds. We know our state has failed to protect our environment.


Briefly describe the single most urgent issue facing the city of Denver and how it should be addressed.
We are facing a housing crisis: housing is too expensive, it’s not located where people want to live, and there isn’t enough of it. One approach I will take is to elevate the housing crisis as a regional issue: first, passing affordable housing mandates in each municipality in Denver Regional Council of Governments; second, working regionally to ensure each municipality meets Prop 123 requirements; and third, coordinating regionally for state and federal dollars to increase access to affordable housing. My collaborative approach will also extend to fostering public-private partnerships to expedite the building of affordable housing units.

What should Denver leaders do to address the city’s lack of affordable housing?
First, Denver must fast-track the building of affordable housing by reducing bureaucracies that increase costs. I propose adding 10 new FTEs to the permit team immediately. Our 2024 budget must provide rewards, bonuses and OT tied to reducing backlog and permitting time to 90 days. Second, I will work alongside council colleagues and the new mayor to map out vacant city properties and expedite the building of deed-restricted, affordable housing. And third, city government must provide leadership in the conversion of office space into affordable housing to reinvigorate downtown.

Do you support redevelopment at the Park Hill golf course property? Why or why not?
Yes. As a parks advocate with 30 years of experience increasing park space and the quality of existing parks across the city, I know it’s unprecedented to have 80-100 acres of dedicated park space donated to the city. The park, trails and playing fields will provide access to a vast green space that historically has not welcomed the historic black community surrounding it. The development provides deed-restricted rental apartments, workforce housing for teachers, firefighters, and working families who are currently priced out of Park Hill, as well as incentives for a grocery store and targeted incentives to increase BIPOC businesses.

What should Denver leaders do to revitalize downtown Denver?
Denver leaders must reduce crime, incentivize businesses to adopt a 4-day employee-in-office work week, and design programs to bring crowds to the Central Business District. We must prosecute habitual offenders committing crimes while increasing the continuum of services from outreach workers and STAR team to support unsheltered residents. Let’s foster the vibrancy and creativity of downtown spaces by scaling up DDP pop-up strategies to include artists and small performances like David Byrne’s Theater of the Mind. Finally, let’s invest in outdoor concerts and signature events in front of Union Station and in Civic Center Park.

What is Denver’s greatest public safety concern and what should be done about it?
Denver’s greatest public safety concern is the growing sense that crime does pay. There must be consequences for criminal behavior and penalties for criminals stealing cars, conducting open air drug deals, and harassing residents and visitors when they walk or roll on the 16th Street Mall or ride the mall shuttle. As we execute on police reforms, we must also revisit criminal justice reform. Public safety also includes our streets. Vision Zero can no longer be a slogan: we must reduce vehicle and pedestrian deaths in the city. We also must increase shared streets, protected bike lanes, and safe sidewalks.

Should neighborhoods help absorb population growth through permissive zoning, or do you favor protections for single-family neighborhoods?
This is not an either-or question. Throughout Denver’s history we have done both. Neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and Cheesman Park demonstrate that single-family homes with gentle density like carriage houses and duplexes in the same neighborhood have worked for at least a century. That mix of housing has provided affordability while single-family homes in those neighborhoods continue to increase in value. For the children and possibly parents of families currently living in primarily single-family zoned neighborhoods today to be able to afford to return to their neighborhood, we must increase gentle density options.

Should the city’s policy of sweeping homeless encampments continue unchanged? Why or why not?
No, it’s not compassionate for over 300 residents to die unsheltered on our streets every year. I support the camping ban, but sweeps without services and housing are a failure. We must implement Community Solutions Built for Zero program and have an accurate count of every resident living unsheltered in Denver. We must provide one-for-one transitional housing options for every person living unsheltered. This must be a regional effort. Increasing 10-fold sanctioned outdoor spaces throughout the region as well as increasing transit between all regional transitional housing options including SOS and motels to service providers and healthcare providers is crucial.

Should Denver change its snow plowing policy? Why or why not.
The track record of mayors keeping their jobs after not plowing the streets quickly is not a good one, and I’m certain a similar impact flows to council candidates not demonstrating dexterity in their answer to this question! I will tread lightly. Yes, change is needed. Our current policy takes into consideration historical “sun melt” of cross streets as a mitigating factor for not rolling out plows. Impacts of climate change must be taken into consideration when we forecast snowfall, snow melt and the speed of “sun melt.” An all-hands-on-deck approach can provide the plowing service our residents expect.

What’s your vision for Denver in 20 years, and what would you do to help the city get there?
Denver 2043 will be a healthy, micro-transit city with bus rapid transit along main parkways Colfax, Federal, Broadway, and Speer. We will have narrower tree-lined streets, buffeted by vertical parks along major parkways with protected bike lanes, and wider sidewalks in every vibrant neighborhood. DOTI-managed free micro-transit electric vehicles will cut by 75% individual car usage and reduce the carbon footprint for the first and last mile to regional transit options. We will accomplish this by fully funding CASR and DOTI to meet sustainability goals. Over time, creating and funding local transit priorities will augment RTD’s reduced bus service.

How better can city officials protect Denver’s environment — air quality, water supply, ground contamination? And should the city take a more active role in transit?
The next councilperson must lead local, state and federal officials to go beyond monitoring air quality to levy impactful penalties to change polluter behaviors. In addition, the city must reduce its water use. CASR should increase xeriscaping incentives for residents and the city should eliminate lawn-only options in future developments, while redoubling efforts to plant and care for trees. DOTI must expand micro-targeting transit options like the Montbello connector in every impacted neighborhood. Finally, our city needs to lead – not lag – in recycling and composting.

Candidates are ordered alphabetically by last name.

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