Denver City Council District 10 candidate Q&A

Denver City Council District 10 candidate Q&A

AGE

43 RESIDENCE North Capitol Hill / Uptown (Moved to Uptown in 2008.) HOMETOWN Nacogdoches, TX PROFESSION Financial Analyst EDUCATION Computer Science (1998) and MBA in Finance and Strategy (2005), both from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX FAMILY Mom still lives in rural Texas, dad is deceased EXPERIENCE First-time candidate with proven experience. The Chris Hinds Act was signed by Governor Hickenlooper in May 2018. I built a large stakeholder group, and it received unanimous, bipartisan support. Blueprint Denver member. CHUN/Uptown on the Hill RNO Board member. Appointed to Boards by Colorado Governor and Denver Mayor. Board of my HOA. WEBSITE chrisfordenver.com FACEBOOK ChrisForDenver TWITTER @ChrisForDenver INSTAGRAM @ChrisForDenver

Why are you running for office?
As I worked on the Chris Hinds Act, I would go to the City and County building and State Capitol, and neighbors asked me to speak on their behalf. I asked them if they had a disability since the Chris Hinds Act was originally a disability access bill. They said no, but they didn’t feel they had a voice — particularly in District 10. However, they saw my success and believed I could get things done. I’m running to ensure everyone in District 10 has representation and feels heard by their government.

What three policy issues set you apart from your opponent(s)?
We all need access to housing, transportation, and representation. One policy I advocate for is the 20-minute neighborhood, as in we should all have access to food and everything needed to thrive within a 20-minute walk, ride, or roll (no cars). This is good for the planet, physical health, and community. We can meet our neighbors better if we can all connect in each neighborhood. Also, representation is two-way, as in the District 10 office should be accessible to all residents, and the District 10 representative should be active in each neighborhood during times people are available (as in outside work hours). Finally, our government is better if it is representative of all the people. I’ve worked to secure endorsements from Colorado Black Women for Political Action, Stonewall Democrats (Colorado Democratic Party’s LGBTQ initiative), Denver Area Labor Federation (representing working families), national disability rights groups, and I’ve even attended the Denver Republican Party monthly meetings. While I’m a strong Democrat, it’s even more important for me to reach across political divides to ensure every voice is heard.

What problems have Denver city leaders failed to tackle adequately during the long economic boom, and how would you propose addressing them?
In 2015, the District 10 office promised to tackle homelessness and sidewalks. It’s safe to say those issues are worse today than in 2015, so let’s address both. The best solution for our homeless is a housing-first policy; let’s find homes for our homeless and wrap services around them to set them up for success. Let’s partner with Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Denver Health, Mental Health Center of Denver, Caring4Denver, and others to find the best solutions. It’s great that we have a 3-year plan for our homeless, but that plan should have started 3 years ago. If we had, we would already see some of our homeless reintegrated into society and become neighbors once again. Functional sidewalks are huge, too: we should all have the freedom to get from A to B safely. Let’s place pedestrians at the top of our transit priority list and focus on moving people-per-hour, not cars. We need a protected bike lane network that connects downtown to Cherry Creek – and everywhere between. While we’re building that network, let’s also ensure we improve our mass transit options.

Should the city restrict development in single-family neighborhoods to preserve their character, or should current residents expect some degree of change? How much power should neighbors have to shape development?
Both! We can allow auxiliary dwelling units in neighborhoods that currently disallow them, and we can allow homes to be subdivided, too. 67% of Denver residents live in single family homes today, and that number must go down to fit additional residents in Denver. Capitol Hill could be a model for the city: It allows 5000 sq/ft homes to be subdivided into, for example, multiple 1000 sq/ft units. That allows more people to live in the neighborhood while also preserving neighborhood charm. This is the concept of the “missing middle.” Of course, we cannot fit all these extra cars on our streets, so again, we must address non-car transit. And neighbors should have a strong say in how development is shaped. I’ve heard multiple times that Denver gets an A in urban planning and a C in implementation. That suggests to me that the city does a good job of reaching out to neighbors to get input but then does a mediocre (or worse) job of actually incorporating input into plans that the City uses as a guide for urban development.

Has Denver done enough to protect the housing and health of lower-income residents? If not, what remedies would you pursue, especially in gentrifying areas?
Denver developers are given an option: build affordable housing or pay a fee to opt out. These are supposed to be equal options. I have an MBA in Finance, but it doesn’t take a graduate degree to know that if two options are supposed to be equal, they should each be taken about half the time. Why do developers all take the fee instead of building affordable housing? I believe we should hire a nationally respected firm to evaluate Denver’s permitting and development processes to ensure all development is on a level playing field and that all development provides meaningful housing for all of Denver.

If the legislature allows it, should Denver adopt a higher minimum wage than the state’s standard?
Absolutely. The cost of housing has almost doubled in the last decade and wages have not kept up. Working families need a living wage, and it’s time to adjust our wages. Teachers, police, firefighters, and others should have the opportunity to live in the neighborhood in which they work. This involves a conversation with many groups to determine “how much” and “when,” but I believe it’s time to take a hard look at our city’s minimum wage. (PS – yes to tip credit.)

Read all of The Denver Post’s election coverage — including candidate profiles, an overview of issues and candidate Q&As — in our 2019 Denver election voter guide.

Will you vote to end or to keep the “urban camping” ban? Why?
Homeless sweeps are expensive, and those funds could be used to provide housing and services for our homeless instead. The best solution for our homeless is to give them homes, and the money going to sweeps should go to housing instead. I agree with Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and would work with City Council to withdraw the 2012 camping ban — or at least amend it in a way that it can’t be enforced when people have nowhere else to go. I commit to this regardless the outcome of Initiative 300. This will encourage the City to implement the housing-first policy quickly.

Should the “strong” role of the mayor change in Denver? If so, how?
Some say Denver’s Mayor is the most powerful elected person in Colorado. Our political system was designed to have checks and balances, and someone who has more power than the Governor should have checks in place to make sure the people in Denver have multiple opportunities to provide input. The easiest change would be to modify the number of City Council votes required to override items in the Mayor’s budget.

AGE 50 RESIDENCE Congress Park (15 years in Congress Park, 18 years in Denver) HOMETOWN I enjoyed my childhood on multiple Air Force bases around the world. I lived in Atlanta post-high school then college for 12 years; I consider Denver my hometown now, as I’ve lived here for 18 years. PROFESSION Full-time candidate for Denver City Council, former Marketing and Operations Director at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival 2000-2018 EDUCATION 1986-1989 Bachelor of Science in Business Operations, Summa Cum Laude, October 1989 FAMILY My husband and I have been together for 17 yrs, married since ‘08. My mother passed, father is in FL, have an older sister, younger brother. We have a large American & Filipino family, 32 cousins. EXPERIENCE For 18 years I have been a community champion for boards of directors, city commissions and the Cherry Creek Arts Festival. All of my proven and proactive service has been about developing relationships, community and business partnerships, building coalitions and collaborations, and simply getting work done.

I served the Cherry Creek Arts Festival 2000-2018 and helped rebuild the company from its most challenged state in 2000 to the nationally renowned success it is today – all while having significant cultural and economic impact for Denver. My roles varied from managing the business of the non-profit, to marketing, operations, public relations, development, accounting, administration, outreach, education, and serving as a spokesperson for the organization.

I have been an appointee to the Governor’s Council for Physical Fitness by two Governors (Ritter & Hickenlooper), as well as to the Cultural Affairs Commission. I am a current appointee to the Commission on Aging and the Parks and Rec Advisory Board. My commission work is all about serving our diverse communities, maximizing outreach, and navigating city agencies, employees and volunteers. I’ve also served various festival and sports boards, navigating civic, non-and-for-profit entities.

Why are you running for office?
I put neighbors first and I build coalitions, and I will represent all of Denver’s diversity because we all need to feel represented and have a connection to local government. I will engage and serve Denver like never before, as I have spent 18 years serving District 10 connecting communities, creating business alliances and uniting our diverse populations.
To this day, my greatest joy is when people come together — celebrating family and friendships and meeting neighbors. I believe that the better we know our neighbors, the more understanding and personal growth there will be – as great cities are built one neighbor, one neighborhood at a time. Connection is a vital element of a thriving city and society, and I feel that cities exist to help its residents live their best lives. My goal is to make Denver’s District 10 a model for civic engagement not just for Denver, but for the country.

Denver is at crossroads and needs an energetic, responsive, proactive and personable coalition builder to bring a longterm approach to Denver’s growth challenges with affordable housing, neighborhoods and wellbeing. Because of my diverse background, I will always stand up and fight for progressive values and for our neighbors.

What three policy issues set you apart from your opponent(s)?
Historic Preservation: Great cities are composed of their unique neighborhoods, and we must work to maintain this history for future generations. This is accomplished via collaborations with residential neighborhood organizations, urban planning professionals, conservation overlays and landmark designation work. We can also address the need for more affordable homes and businesses with incentivized adaptive reuse to maintain historic buildings.

Neighborhood Development: Great cities are built one neighborhood at a time, and our neighborhoods are evolving at an incredible rate. We need proactive and energetic leadership to address rapidly changing issues of neighborhood safety, parking, sidewalks and crosswalks, vehicular traffic and more. We have many city plans in the works, and it will take strong leadership to steward them. We also have many vacant homes and rooms in our neighborhoods that can be addressed with innovative programs such as the LIVE Denver as well as Sunshine Home Share.

Health and Wellness: We all must first take care of ourselves before we can care for others, and we all must lead by example. Denver has many incredible city health and wellness programs that need to be better communicated and placed in front of our residents.

What problems have Denver city leaders failed to tackle adequately during the long economic boom, and how would you propose addressing them?
Affordable Housing: Denver’s growth has outpaced its production of affordable housing and we are in a deficit. We must build more affordable homes and work with developers in every possible way to incentivize production. We also must continue our hard work with existing agencies doing innovative work in these regards to fill current available housing: Sunshine Home Share, LIVE Denver, co-ops and more.

Transportation and accessibility challenges have outpaced Denver’s growth: Denver’s 2019 budget has $27million more for transportation and mobility, with a focus on bike and pedestrian infrastructure. I support the Denver Streets Partnership to dedicate sufficient and sustainable funding in the Denver Moves Plans within 20 years, which they state at current levels would take more than 100 years.

The October 2017 Denver Vision Zero program action plan states the establishment of a permanent funding source of $2M/year for 2018/2019, with $3M/year 2 additional FTE/year. This info was obtained at the Denver Streets Partnership policy platform meeting 2/23/19; I will look to these organizations to continue moving our transit and mobility concerns with the utmost priority.

Should the city restrict development in single-family neighborhoods to preserve their character, or should current residents expect some degree of change? How much power should neighbors have to shape development?
This issue should be presented to communities as conversations working to address both growth challenges as well as neighborhood character preservation. When development projects are proposed, I will proactively ensure that neighborhoods are aware of what is being proposed and that they know their options for accepting or avoiding that development. As such, I will reach out to RNOs to make sure they are aware of the process for historical preservation. Furthermore, I am against the radical rezoning of single-family neighborhoods. While some degree of increased building is necessary in neighborhoods across the city, no single-family neighborhoods should become zoned without factual data-driven information.

Has Denver done enough to protect the housing and health of lower-income residents? If not, what remedies would you pursue, especially in gentrifying areas?
i. No Denver has not done nearly enough the protect the housing and health of lower-income residents.

ii. Need for a strengthened “renters bill of rights”

iii. Need for increased affordable and low-income housing development with large-scale new developments

iv. City successes: The “Housing an Inclusive Denver” plan and the draft 2019 Action Plan are quite comprehensive. I support the core goals of creating affordable housing in vulnerable areas, preserving affordability, promoting equitable options, stabilizing residents at risk, etc.

v. Based on a report presented at a Commission on Aging Report by the OED, I learned of the revenue framework: increase RMJ (retail marijuana) special tax rate by 2%, dedicate proceeds to the AMF ($8m in 2019), increase annual PAYGO General fund transfer to Affordable Housing Fund AHF by $7m starting in 2019.

If the legislature allows it, should Denver adopt a higher minimum wage than the state’s standard?
I am excited for the City of Denver approving the increased minimum wage to $15 by 2021, and it is my hope that this will translate to higher minimum wages across the city. We also need to take measures to prevent automation of low-wage jobs and to continue supporting incentives to businesses expanding in Denver. We also need to support initiatives supporting transportation and affordable housing for workers to both live as well as work in Denver.

Will you vote to end or to keep the “urban camping” ban? Why?
I am not in favor of the Right to Survive initiative, as people do have a right to survive and not to be persecuted for being homeless, but they should not have the option to sleep on the streets and in the parks of our communities for safety reasons and for the protection of Denver businesses. Instead, we need to expand the City’s funding of homeless shelters. We also need to expand and connect programs that work on finding people permanent homes rather than just temporary sleeping quarters. A major factor in getting to that point is by providing increased mental health care to homeless persons. Most people who are on the street are unable to work towards a personal housing solution due to mental illness

Should the “strong” role of the mayor change in Denver? If so, how?
Government must always work in the best interests of the people and of the city; and I would welcome opposing views and research for not only why we’d need to change our current system — but also the challenges and costs of changing Denver’s form of government — as the Speer Amendment has years of history as to when Denver adapted the strong mayor system. I feel our check-and-balance system of our independently elected Auditor would also have to be challenged as to why our strong mayor system is being questioned.

AGE 70 RESIDENCE Cherry Creek North (20 years) HOMETOWN Denver PROFESSION Present City Councilman for District 10; hospital management and consulting for over 30 years EDUCATION BS Industrial Management, Georgia Institute of Technology; MHA Healthcare Administration, Georgia State University FAMILY Leslie (wife) – 47 years EXPERIENCE Serving as the District 10 City Councilman, I have co-chaired the Homeless and Housing Task Force and chaired the Safety and Business Services Committees. I led improvement initiatives in the payment practices for minority, woman-owned, and small business subcontractors in City construction; construction management improvements affecting retail businesses and neighborhoods; and slot-home zoning development to prevent zoning misuse.

Living in Denver for 20 years, I have co-chaired committees for the Cherry Creek Area Plan and the BID Zoning. I have been actively involved with CCN, CHUN, and INC neighborhood organizations and their improvement efforts.

I have a degree in Industrial Management from Georgia Institute of Technology and a Masters in Healthcare Administration from Georgia State University. My health care management career began at Atlanta’s indigent Grady Memorial Hospital and then management positions in children’s hospitals at Emory University, Stanford University, and Denver. For 10 years I was an operational improvement consultant with the Child Health Corporation of America and the top 43 Children’s Hospitals in the nation.

My business experience in budgeting and finance, capital improvements, construction, and both strategic and operational planning has served well for the District and City. WEBSITE wayneforcouncil.com FACEBOOK CD10New TWITTER @WayneforCouncil INSTAGRAM n/a

Why are you running for office?
I want to be re-elected to continue serving the people of District 10. I listen to citizen ideas and suggestions, work to solve problems, and strive to the voice for residents with city departments. My priorities are homelessness; affordable housing; responsible zoning; and a transportation system.

My business background provides perspective and experience that strengthen my ability to enhance service to all our citizens. Traffic and pedestrian safety-related problems, addiction and mental illness, accountability and transparency affect all citizens.

I want to protect our unique and beautiful neighborhoods, both the historic and the contemporary. We must improve traffic, congestion, and parking issues; address zoning that does not enhance neighborhood character; and reduce crime. I want to protect our parks, our cultural institutions and our healthy outdoor lifestyle while encouraging careful, intelligent expansion. By avoiding the mistakes of other cities, we can continue to be one of the most desirable places to live in the nation.

We must have honest, ethical, and responsible city government. I believe in direct and open issue discussions and have a vision of Denver as a truly great city that places citizens’ quality of life ahead of political gain.

What three policy issues set you apart from your opponent(s)?
Zoning – I advocate for a zoning code that is clear, unambiguous and represents fairly residential zoning intention, development and neighborhood character. In my first year I have had several zoning controversies where the zoning code was not clear and development applications were inappropriately allowed, creating much residential unrest and lengthy resolutions to reach satisfactory conclusions.

Policy Financial Analysis – My children’s hospital management experience in strategic and operational planning and analysis makes me the most qualified to help deliver a comprehensive financial strategy … planning that aligns service improvement with sound financial expectations before policy adoption. I believe in policy solutions that can solve multiple issues simultaneously. Let’s be creative, innovative, and financially responsible in planning our future.

Budget – I have managed hospital revenue and expense operating and capital budgets for over 30 years. The City must have a balanced budget, making service improvements but being cost conscious and effective in meeting short and long term goals. As an example on the DEN Great Hall Project, I worked with DEN financial staff to produce an accurate and informative financial analysis on the project’s future profitability. The City needs a long term plan that defines strategy, actions, and funding.

What problems have Denver city leaders failed to tackle adequately during the long economic boom, and how would you propose addressing them?
Two of our most important problems in the City are homelessness and affordable housing.

Although best practices for helping the homeless were identified in similar cities (housing, supportive services for addiction, mental health, and job training, and transportation) and Denver provides funding to Denver Health and a variety of incredible providers for low income and homeless individuals, the City has not allocated sufficient funding to meet the need. A goal was initially established to produce 500 to 600 units per year for 10 years – a total of 6,000 units, when the need was defined at 25,000 units with cost-burdened residents at over 80,000. Transportation, shelters, and triage facilities need synergy, connectivity, and funding.

The Affordable Housing Fund was started with $15m, then doubled with community action, to finance a bond to produce $100m for new affordable housing on all AMI levels. Working with the Denver Housing Authority and our non-profit providers, low income and homeless housing units will be addressed. To build middle to high levels of AMI (40 to 100%) developers will be incentivized to build affordable housing.

The City needs a more aggressive approach.

Should the city restrict development in single-family neighborhoods to preserve their character, or should current residents expect some degree of change? How much power should neighbors have to shape development?
District 10 has some of Denver’s most attractive neighborhoods, as well as the most historic areas that preserve our history, culture and beauty for tourists and new residents. Ironically, District 10 also has the smallest geographical area for its equal distribution of population, thereby making it already the densest district in the City.

Even so, there may be some fringe areas close to transit stations, arterials with multimodal transit, and large surface parking lots, where some change is possible within proper zoning. However, the introduction of density without careful analysis could adversely affect neighborhood character, infrastructure, parking, and traffic management and be in conflict with present zoning.

Blueprint Denver has always advocated the hand to hand linkage of land use and transportation. Neighborhood integrity is at the core of quality of life. I support neighborhood considerations on developing design overlays that define and project neighborhood character. Change may be coming but how we adapt matters. Neighborhood residents must be actively involved in the process.

Has Denver done enough to protect the housing and health of lower-income residents? If not, what remedies would you pursue, especially in gentrifying areas?
Some areas are developing design overlays and considering land trusts to protect neighborhoods from overdevelopment and gentrification. In addition, the city is starting see some zoning change requests to increase the creation of accessory dwelling units, which will increase housing and provide additional resident income. Traffic management studies are being implemented to protect residents and pedestrians from cut-through traffic, speeding, and running stop signs. Our sidewalk improvement programs will also have a positive effect for neighborhoods, especially for those areas without any sidewalks.

As I mentioned earlier, the affordable housing fund $100m bond should have a significant positive effect on affordable housing units on all AMI levels. Again due to land cost, this increase will likely help more in lower income or undeveloped areas of the city, which may decrease gentrification. With this development and the potential increase in resident relocation to more affordable areas outside of the city, I cannot emphasize enough the need for a system to provide more efficient and effective transportation services for all residents within the city and metro workers needed within the City’s business areas.

If the legislature allows it, should Denver adopt a higher minimum wage than the state’s standard?
The City of Denver has already passed a wage increase program to raise the minimum to $15 per hour by 2021 for all City employees and non-City workers in City business areas, such as DEN. This city and national trend should have a positive outcome on those individuals who are experiencing the high cost of living from housing. I have just recently been briefed on the effects on a higher minimum wage situation for restaurant workers in the city and have not had the opportunity to study this complex wage situation. If the final State analysis is that a statewide minimum wage standard will not have a significant negative impact on all businesses, then I will be supportive. I look forward to reviewing the analysis.

Will you vote to end or to keep the “urban camping” ban? Why?
I strongly oppose Initiative 300 and its elimination of the urban camping ban because it is not a solution to helping the homeless. This Initiative will not create new funding for the housing, supportive services, triage facilities, and transportation to break the cycle of homelessness. It will deteriorate the quality of life for residents and have a detrimental effect on business and tourism.

This broad and ill-defined initiative would allow tent and camping in our parks without a curfew, possibly create a public health issue, and decrease the enjoyment and safety of our parks for families and children. Importantly, it will waste financial resources that should be used to address the housing, mental health, addiction, and job training supportive services needed by the homeless. The negative effects of this type of Initiative can be easily seen in Portland, Seattle, and Los Angeles.

This Initiative has made visible the City’s inability to provide sufficient funding and resources to address our homeless service issues. Our citizens want to help the homeless but in a constructive manner that will provide positive results without decreasing our quality of life and our growth and development as a great city.

Should the “strong” role of the mayor change in Denver? If so, how?
With a strong political mayoral system there can be a reduced level of attention paid to the management of city services and resources to achieve the most efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars to meet our needs.

From my hospital management background I understand fully the positive impact that an experienced business and quality oriented chief operating officer can have on an organization. This surely applies in the important areas of departmental service coordination to reduce the common silo effect, the management of labor costs and productivity, and the important establishment and monitoring of departmental performance goals. The city has 12,000 employees with 65 to 70% of the city operating budget allocated to labor cost, similar to hospitals. Both types of organizations must be devoted to public service and strong accountable business practices.

As we address our revenue needs for present and future capital improvements for our city, we should always make sure that current resources are used in the most effective manner. If resources are not used wisely or programs are not meeting desired outcomes, then expense may need to be adjusted. This is surely a common practice our businesses and citizens face every day.

AGE 34 RESIDENCE Capitol Hill (5 years in neighborhood and 8 years in Denver) HOMETOWN New York, NY PROFESSION Executive Director, Serve Colorado – Governor’s Commission on Community Service EDUCATION Colby College BA in American Studies and Theater (double major) 2006, University of Denver Sturm College of Law JD, Certificate in Arbitration and Mediation, Certificate in International Law 2014 FAMILY Caitlin Sweany Mendez (wife), Antonio Mendez (Father), Juana Mendez Sosa (Mother), Joanna Mendez (Sister) EXPERIENCE Current Executive Director of Serve Colorado – Governor’s Commission on Community Service Former Deputy Chief of Staff to Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia and Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne Current Appointee to the Colorado Creative Industries Board Served on the Denver Community Corrections Board Served on the Colorado Low-Income Energy Assistance Board 2018-19 America’s Service Commissions Board of Directors member 2018 Aspen Ideas Institute Spotlight Health Scholar 2012 White House Intern 2011 Colorado Legislative Fellow for then State Senator Mike Johnston 2009 Fulbright Fellow to Andorra

Why are you running for office?
My interest in the office began when I read an interview where the incumbent mentioned that he thought President Trump’s American Health Care Act (his answer to the Affordable Care Act that would have eliminated protection for pre-existing conditions) was a “good compromise.” The more I learned about the incumbent the more I realized our district deserved someone better, someone who represents the entire district, not just the wealthiest among us. I decided that my experiences working in policy for the Hickenlooper administration made me an ideal choice to run for office. Denver is growing fast and we need to address some of the challenges we are facing as a result of that growth – lack of affordable housing, a growing homeless population, increased pollution, and poor infrastructure and transit options. But, to do that we need to be smart and intentional, designing the Denver of tomorrow today. We need to ensure the city grows strategically and creates opportunity for all. We find ourselves at a crossroads in this country. We’ve seen hateful national rhetoric affect local priorities. I’m running for Denver City Council to defend the values that our city, and our country, was founded on.

What three policy issues set you apart from your opponent(s)?
The three issues that set me apart from my opponents would be the Opioid Epidemic and how we go about addressing that issue, Recycling, and Initiative 300. While I commend the Denver City Council for their vote to approve a Safe Injection Facility, many believe it is now the state legislature’s responsibility to pass a bill and they will wait until that happens to continue their advocacy. I believe city leaders need to be meeting with their counterparts at the State Capitol and educating them on the need, and most importantly the urgency, for Safe Injection Facilities. While many see access to parks and open spaces as a critical need to be addressed, I believe recycling in the city is far more important. According to the Sierra Club, “Denver’s current waste diversion is an abysmal 21% whereas the national average is 34%.” We know that over 50% of waste comes from the business sector so I think we need to work on regulations that address business recycling. Finally, I am the only candidate in this race who is in favor of the “Right to Survive” or in favor of Initiative 300.

What problems have Denver city leaders failed to tackle adequately during the long economic boom, and how would you propose addressing them?
The transit needs of our city have not been addressed in a timely fashion. In my district alone, you have 6 major streets – Colfax, Speer, 6th Ave, 8th Ave, 13th Ave, and 14th Ave. Each of these streets is used as a major thoroughfare to get from one part of the city to the other. Each poses major concerns to our residents – many vehicles speed down these streets often ignoring speed limits and, unfortunately, often crashing into other vehicles or homes. The city needs to improve safety by increasing enforcement of the rules and employing effective best practices in all parts of the city, not just the wealthy parts. I would also say that 73% of our city still commutes to work by themselves in a vehicle and only 6% use the RTD system to commute to work. That is an indictment of the inefficient public transit system we currently have. We need to work with RTD to expand options, reduce cost, and create new lines to encourage residents to use public transit.

Should the city restrict development in single-family neighborhoods to preserve their character, or should current residents expect some degree of change? How much power should neighbors have to shape development?
The Denver Post reported last year that the city added about 100,000 residents in a seven-year timespan. With this population growth, and the projection that the state of Colorado could add another 2 to 3 million people by 2050, I think it would be unrealistic for many neighborhoods to assume that the city would restrict development to preserve their character. I believe Registered Neighborhood Organizations (RNOs) should continue to act as stakeholder conveners, but the express wishes of the RNOs need to be balanced out by other city interests such as affordable housing, development along transit lines, cultural and arts needs, etc.

Has Denver done enough to protect the housing and health of lower-income residents? If not, what remedies would you pursue, especially in gentrifying areas?
Denver has not done enough to protect the housing and health of lower-income residents. The last (2014) Health of Denver report stated that, “Significant differences in health outcomes exist among some of the neighborhoods and demographic groups in Denver” and that, “Health is intricately linked to the places where people live, work, learn and play. Social and economic situations, environmental conditions, personal behaviors, and access to care all play key roles in the overall health of a community.” With the health care community placing a greater emphasis on social determinants of health, it now more important than ever to prevent gentrification for lower-income residents. There are a number of approaches to addressing this issue: 1) we could create a stabilization voucher to ensure that longtime residents aren’t forced out due to increased costs associated with gentrification, 2) Work with developers to create conditions that encourage increased production of housing units, thereby preventing gentrification of existing housing, and 3) Develop middle-income housing options that would satisfy the housing demand middle-income earners in Denver place on the market.

If the legislature allows it, should Denver adopt a higher minimum wage than the state’s standard?
Denver should definitely adopt a higher minimum wage than the state’s standard as we all know the cost of living is higher here than in most parts around the state. In fact, according to 2016 data, Denver ranks 6th in Cost of Living behind San Miguel (Telluride), Routt (Steamboat Springs), Eagle (Vail), Summit (Breckenridge), and Pitkin (Aspen) counties. For over a decade wages have failed to keep up with inflation and while there has been some correction to that recently, many in Denver still struggle on minimum wage. A current employee earning minimum wage and working 40 hours a week will earn $21,312 a year or just $1,776 a month before taxes. With housing costs as high as they are, we are creating untenable situations for people earning minimum wage.

Will you vote to end or to keep the “urban camping” ban? Why?
I would vote to end the “urban camping” ban. This issue is a deeply personal one for me as I had a member of my family experience homelessness. My father immigrated to this country in 1979 as a student from the Dominican Republic. Unfortunately, due to some difficult family circumstances, he was homeless for about a year of his life while simultaneously attending Lehman College. Thanks to some luck and some kind professors, my father would make it off the streets and go on to graduate from Columbia University’s School of Social Work. Policies like the camping ban, that criminalize poverty and do nothing to improve conditions for the homeless, prevent people like my father from getting ahead. The camping ban is ineffective as we know hundreds camp out in the streets every night so this ineffective policy just creates the possibility for increased tension between the homeless community and law enforcement. I find it troubling that in a city as progressive as Denver, many would rather talk about “preservation of parks” than the plight of people struggling in our communities. Repealing the ban should be the first in a series of efforts to improve homelessness in our community.

Should the “strong” role of the mayor change in Denver? If so, how?
I would like to see City Council take more of an active role in developing the budget. Currently, under the “strong mayor” form of governance, Council has the opportunity to review the budget, make some modifications, and approve. I would like to see Council involved from the beginning of the creation of the budget alongside the Mayor, balancing administration priorities with the needs of the citizens as expressed by their elected representatives. I would also argue that by giving the mayor so much power, the city is at greater risk of special interests using money to influence key decisions.

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