The Election is May 7. Ballot mailing starts April 15. To win, a candidate needs 50% plus one vote. If no candidate wins the majority of votes, the top two candidates will be in a run-off election on June 4.
The Front Porch asked the candidates in City Council Districts 5, 8 and At-Large to share their positions on growth and issues related to growth (development, housing, transportation) as well as other issue(s) they consider of greatest importance.
Local elections have the lowest turnout, yet these people and issues are closest to our lives. A few votes can swing a low-turnout election. Northeast Denver had one of the highest voter turnouts in the City in the last election. We can be among the voters who decide our City’s future.
Statements are printed as submitted (unedited)
City Council District 8– Stapleton and Park Hill*
*District 8 neighborhoods in the Front Porch distribution area
Miguel A. Ceballos-Ruiz
GROWTH: Denver is a city that is becoming prohibitively expensive to build a future in. Many residents have had no option but to leave the communities where they invested their whole lives. My plan to manage growth is bold and simple: I will not be voting in favor of any rezoning for residential units that does not include affordable housing, or that displaces working people. We must have strong renters’ rights in place that prevent overnight rent spikes.
OTHER ISSUES: Denverites must be careful of speaking against growth, sometimes we do come across as unwelcoming. As someone who was brought here as an infant, I often am reminded that I am not “a native” despite this being the only home I have ever known. That is why I do not harbor any xenophobia towards new Denver residents. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you if you are new to our district. I also encourage you to learn the history of the space you now occupy. You have decided to lay down roots here, and I hope you thrive.
The history of some of the different communities in our district includes adversity. We have been through hard times. But, we came together and made our neighborhoods wonderful, desirable places to live. As Denver grows there must be a place for us. Denver must enact a living wage for all workers, and help working residents and seniors who are at risk of being displaced. These protections will allow us to grow in an equitable, responsible way. Please join me to ensure this.
Chris Herndon, incumbent
GROWTH: The city is taking a multi-faceted approach to managing growth. We’re investing in infrastructure in a big way, thanks to voters, who approved a $957 million dollar bond in 2017. We’re planning thoughtfully and collaboratively through Denveright plans focusing on zoning, parks, pedestrians, and transit. I made sure several of our neighborhoods were among the first to get small area plans, in which residents and city staff lay out a plan for maintaining and enhancing the quality of life for decades to come. I’m proud to have championed adaptive reuse projects in our district like Punch Bowl Social’s reactivation of the Stapleton air traffic control tower.
I’m committed to ensuring District 8 is a district where everyone feels welcome and included. Since 2015, we’ve added affordable housing options in every neighborhood in the district. For those experiencing homeless, we’ve partnered with Catholic Charities and Denver Rescue Mission to add nearly 400 beds, along with services to help folks transition to more stable housing.
OTHER ISSUES: When it comes to safety, I partnered with DPD leadership to put more officers on the street, add body cameras for officers, and update the department’s use of force policy. This job is also about building a sense of community and I’m proud to have founded our annual Family Bike Parade, Holiday Toy Drive, and Northeast Denver Leadership Week, my youth leadership program. I’m thrilled to have been able to support the Harvesting Hope 5k and a variety of other community events and programs throughout the district; everything from art supplies for our Boys and Girls Clubs to seniors events.
GROWTH: According to the experts, Denver’s population grew by 100,000 in 7 years. We’re seeing the effects of growth due to infill development in NE Denver. Traffic on MLK, 26th Ave, 23rd Ave, Montview Blvd and Colfax Ave have greatly increased and become main routes through Park Hill and point going west to downtown. Some streets have been reduced to one lane to accommodate bicycles. Plans for transportation, mobility and walkability are works-in-progress and more community involvement is necessary.
OTHER ISSUES: Gentrification. In District 8’s established neighborhoods of Park Hill, Montbello and East Colfax, many homes are owned “free and clear” by families who made homeownership a goal during their working careers. We must protect our seniors and homeowners from being displaced from the communities they helped to make successful and secure for the families they raised. No homeowner should ever feel threatened by progress in a city where they paid taxes and were contributing members of society.
Blueprint Denver. In the 1100+ pages of the master planning document for our city, the review and comment period for some resident responses has closed and City Council wants to adopt the plan soon. Because of the complexities of the plan, and the fact that committees have not been convened in all affected neighborhoods to review the plans calls for a delay in approving the Blueprint Denver plan until after the next City Council is seated.
GROWTH: Denver’s growth pains are a product of poor planning and a misunderstanding of the city’s population, past and present. The state’s demographers have said we need more single occupancy housing and a focus on our aging population yet we lack focus on these development types. The cost of housing in Denver has nearly doubled in just 8 years and we need more protections for renters, options for home buyers, and support for those at risk of losing their homes. With the most expensive transportation system in the nation on the cusp of a death spiral, continuously raising rates and losing ridership, we need a real investment in transit options and a systematic overhaul to meet the needs of the people. Denver has been too focused on moving people to transit rather than bringing transit to people.
OTHER ISSUES: Denver needs to fight for municipal control of the minimum wage. Wages in Denver are failing to meet the needs of our residents. The state minimum wage leaves families below the federal poverty level for a family of 4. We deserve better. We deserve a livable wage. We deserve safe neighborhoods with healthy spaces for community to come together. We deserve access to quality grocery and retail options and a holistic approach to children that includes partnering with DPS. It is time we stop settling for coming in second place to special interests and time we voted for a candidate who places people over profits.
GROWTH: District 8 is composed of distinct neighborhoods. Stapleton is a young, planned community with micro residential and retail districts. Park Hill is a hundred-year-old neighborhood intent on preserving its history and character. Montbello, in the Northeast is home to many minority and immigrant residents with limited access to basic needs. East Colfax is looking to revitalize its retail district and expand housing options.
This growth should have ensured opportunities for the spectrum of needs in District 8. The city’s commitment to providing diverse and affordable housing stock is unaccounted for. Developments must include concurrent affordable housing options. Denver growth’s warrants a true metropolitan transit agency to address connectivity needs and revaluate transportation options – expanding bike trails from Montbello to downtown. Let’s transform connector streets into dedicated boulevards to provide transportation, recreation, and storm water runoff.
OTHER ISSUES: There is a disconnect between the city and what is happening in our communities. We were in the middle of the teacher strike when City Council was voting themselves a raise for an increased cost of living. It is clear that the residents of Denver care about our environment. We voted for the Green Roof Initiative and a tax increase to protect our parks. However, the “Brown Cloud” is growing as fast as we talk about solutions. With a significant increase in pervious surfaces, increasing tree canopy, pocket parks in all neighborhoods, and preserving Park Hill Golf Course, the last large open space are paramount. These issues didn’t happen overnight. I am committed to listening and working for a clean, safe, progressive Northeast Denver.
Patrick F. Thibault
GROWTH: Our city is like a toddler in that, you can’t stop them from growing, but you can make sure they grow up right. We need a balanced approach to create development, that enhances our neighborhoods, and preserves our history and culture. We need stewardship from our development community and participation with our inclusionary housing ordinances. The city can work to better procure resources for our gap financing programs to ensure our developers can create more affordable housing stock for all incomes. District 8 needs more workforce housing, and better temporary/permanent supportive housing for our underserved populations. Housing access for working families does not mean just 2- and 3-bedroom options, but access to amenities as well, i.e. grocery stores, childcare, transportation, and greenspace. The East Colfax corridor presents opportunities to create innovative and inclusive transit-oriented development, as the plans for Bus Rapid Transit advance. It is important to ensure our adjacent neighborhoods can safely accommodate the change in traffic patterns. We also must work to build the neighborhood infrastructure that supports multi-modal transportation methods and routes.
OTHER ISSUES: We also need to work to create a strong local talent pipeline for jobs from skilled trades to STEMs. I will work to create alternative pathways, Career & Technical Education, project-based learning, and elective programming to ensure our Denver Public Schools are preparing our children for good-paying jobs, as well as, four-year university. I will also work to make sure our non-traditional learners have access to re-training programs to stay competitive in an ever-changing economy.
City Council District 5– Lowry, Montclair, Mayfair*
*District 5 neighborhoods in the Front Porch distribution area
GROWTH: As a 4th generation lifelong resident of District 5, for 47 years I have experienced and understand the challenges our community faces. I am willing to make the hard choices to take care of the people of the City and County of Denver. In a recent Denver Post article Feb. 22, 2019 city dollars given to Developers was outlined. Denver City Council voted in favor 12-0 to give 60 mills to the Developer of the Elitch redevelopment. Denver operates on 28.33 mills and Denver Public schools runs on 48.24 mills. Denver’s budget is over a billion dollars a year-according to a current Denver City Council representative; 60 mills is more than double the entire budget on which the city operates. The developer doesn’t pay principle or interest on the money given for the development nor contributes to the whole necessary infrastructure for the redevelopment. That money could be used to build more affordable housing.
OTHER ISSUES: We need to bring government back to the people, community first, starting with transparent and accountable government. We deserve to know how our tax dollars are being spent. We must improve our infrastructure and expand our transit services, improving accessibility & affordability. Through my continual work as Chief of Staff and Policy Analyst for a State Representative at the Colorado Legislature, I have worked across State and Municipal interests including the recent Local Minimum Wage Option. I have the experience to bring real solutions to City Council and I promise to represent your interests, not the interest of profit-driven developers and large corporations. We deserve better.
GROWTH: Underlying this traffic virus that is overtaking us, is the uncontrolled high-rise building craze throughout the city. The unintended consequences of this condition include even more traffic (notice a theme here), rising prices, and more crime, more pollution.
As you can see, everything is related; more building leads to more density which leads to less parks. Leading to more crime, and which directly causes more traffic. Stop new projects until the current projects are completed and digested. Let us then assess the impacts they have on each neighborhood. Only then can we reassess our future growth strategies.
OTHER ISSUES: The traffic congestion is getting worse daily as each high-rise apartment building is completed. And, like a river overflowing its banks in a devastating flood, traffic no longer stays where it belongs. When drivers can’t get where they are going easily, they naturally turn to side streets to go faster. And when they move to these side streets, they drive 35mph and 40 mph to make up for lost time. Who uses these side streets but our children as they play, our pets and you and I who go for walks after getting home in the afternoon? I have common sense suggestions to resolve this problem over time. Why doesn’t anyone else?
I want to bring COMMON SENSE BACK TO DENVER, where it is in short supply now. We do not need another bureaucrat on city council with great government experience. Life will change little.
GROWTH: We live in the greatest city on the planet, because the people who call Denver home have had a seat at the table on the big decisions we have faced. That’s not been the case recently, particularly around big developments. We need to rediscover the “soul” of our city which is found in the hardworking people who live here. New developments should reflect the character of our neighborhoods. My opponents either have ties to big developers or want to enact policies that will cause property taxes and rental prices to continue to skyrocket. I have a proven track record of working with our neighborhoods and standing up to big developers and the incumbent when they have sided against our neighbors. I am not accepting campaign contributions from big developers, because our community deserves a public servant who will operate with a clear conscience and integrity.
OTHER ISSUES: We need results, not rhetoric. We must build out our infrastructure — bike lanes, sidewalks, crosswalks — and clean, safe, reliable public transportation that stops more frequently and takes riders to the places they want to go. Denver has no dedicated source of funding for transportation and mobility infrastructure; rather, it all comes down to the annual city budget. With the influx of development taking place, our traffic problems are bound to get worse if we do not act quickly and strategically. Our current council has shown no political will or leadership to do anything about the traffic concerns in our neighborhoods. If you elect me, that’s going to change.
Mary Beth Susman, incumbent
GROWTH: Over the near fifty years that I have lived in my district I have never witnessed more growth of our city then during the last eight. Denver has become one of the most vibrant and booming economies in the United States. With an unemployment rate consistently ranking one of the lowest in the nation, our city has a lot to be thankful for. However, with extreme growth comes unique and impactful changes, such as traffic congestion, housing shortages, and frustration that solutions don’t happen at the speed which many desire.
I believe that the future for our city is one that is built on 3 basic principles: 1) ensuring residents from all economic backgrounds have opportunity to live in all parts of the city: 2) providing equitable transit and mobility options so residents are able to get out of the car some of the time and still move around the city; 3) create new small business opportunities and affordable housing options in high density areas by working with communities to create sustainable solutions for the future.
OTHER ISSUES: I have been working closely with the Mayor’s office to develop Denver’s own Transportation and Mobility department so that we can more quickly and better address the mobility needs of our city. As Denver continues to move forward on projects that will dramatically change our movement in the city, such as Colfax Bus Rapid Transit lines, sidewalks, bike lanes, we need to be doing more to get people around and complete our mobility network.
At-Large City Council– Vote for TWO
GROWTH: The rapid rate of growth in Denver in recent years demands that our community begin thinking outside of the box for creative solutions. Residents need control of how their community develops in a way that best preserves the history and culture while still giving opportunity for progress that improves those residents’ quality of life. I believe renters and homeowners need protection and I’ll do what I can as an elected official to ensure that protection. With this rapid growth, transportation has become a serious issue for us all. One thing we need to do is to make improvements to the systems we already have in place, but we are going to need more than that. Mexico City came up with a creative solution to install a cable car system for transportation that has had great benefits. I’m not saying this is the answer for Denver, but it exhibits the kind of creative solutions we can implement.
OTHER ISSUES: I believe in improving the quality of life for everyone. I’m an historian and artist and wish to preserve and encourage history and art within our community. Denver is a prosperous city and we are primed and fit to make progressive improvements. We can set an example for the nation with our progress and thoughtful community choices.
Robin Kniech, incumbent
GROWTH: Growth in Denver must have a conscience. I’ve worked with communities to hold major redevelopments accountable for being inclusive rather than displacing existing residents. I’ve partnered with communities to hold major redevelopments accountable for open space, affordable housing, and expanded transportation. Accountable growth must be focused in large redevelopment areas or along transportation corridors, while preserving historic areas and culturally diverse business districts.
Denver can’t build our way out of this housing crisis, but we can’t meet the needs we have and prepare for the future if we don’t build more housing families can really afford. Affordability must be built throughout the city, including areas of opportunity with good schools, access to transit and grocery stores. We must take steps to prevent displacement before major investments are made in areas experiencing gentrification. Beyond building affordability, we need strong policies to keep people in their homes and expand access to existing housing through more of the policies I’ve already passed (eviction defense, property tax rebates for low-income seniors, disabled individuals and families with children, prohibiting discrimination based on how someone pays for housing etc.).
OTHER ISSUES: After ensuring equity, my next priorities are interrelated: transportation and climate. To preserve Colorado’s beauty and economy aggressive action is required to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030. We must transform bus transit to be faster, more efficient allowing more folks to choose transit instead of driving alone, improving quality of life and air quality.
GROWTH: It is exciting, Denver is growing and there are so many opportunities for our cities future! I want to make sure we implement newer, proven technology & lower cost green options for our infrastructure, housing and transportation. Our housing options need to provide a MIX of price ranges, and options for ALL our residents. There are many lower cost green options builders can use to keep their costs down while still providing a quality product, and in some cases even better for our residents. Our transporation systems need to be upgraded, safe, & provide direct routes so residents will WANT to use them. Our roads, sidewalks and bike paths need to be maintained, safe, and completed. Denver also has many residents that are homeless or facing struggles in various other ways. I would like Denver to have more resources, and facilities that provide a VARIETY of options for rehabilitation and progress. Not everyone needs the same things. However, having a strong support system is KEY.
OTHER ISSUES: I have not received money from any groups or individuals, so I will not be beholden to developers or interest groups like the others. I will represent everyone equally.
Debbie Ortega , incumbent
GROWTH: I will continue to fight to protect our unique neighborhoods and housing we can afford. I’ll also continue to work to combat growing traffic problems, with more transit options.
OTHER ISSUES: I am committed to a fair and equitable Denver. Our city government must be accountable and responsive to Denver communities, neighborhoods, and workers. I will continue to advocate, collaborate, and strive to protect the public trust.
Jessie Lashawn Parris
The Front Porch received no response at the email address on the City’s candidate list, a Facebook Instant Message, or the phone number listed on Jesse Parris’ campaign Facebook page.
Anthony “Tony” Pigford
GROWTH: Denver does not need to become a cookie-cutter city like San Jose or Minneapolis; our mountain views should not become a premium that only the wealthy or tourists may enjoy. More importantly, the city should be focused on tracking the available affordable housing stock in Denver and protecting it. Public transportation and housing support go hand-in-hand, so new developments need to be taxed to sustain and expand our public transportation system.
OTHER ISSUES: Denver should ban all fracking within city limits. And not only do we need comprehensive renter protections, we can begin finding ways to support land trusts, and becoming more creative, rezoning to allow for a variety of housing options.