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DENVER ELECTIONS 2023

Denver Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire

We believe Denver needs to lead the way in investing in climate action, resources for new immigrants and vulnerable families, affordable housing especially for the lowest income, and treatment over punishment. With those priorities in mind, we reached out to candidates running for Mayor of Denver to get their views. See their answers to our questions below.

illustration of denver skyline

Faith in Colorado reached out to the top 14 candidates (based on fundraising) for Mayor of Denver and have not yet received responses from Mike Johnston, Aurelio Martinez, Terrance Roberts, Trinidad Rodriguez, and Andy Rougeot despite multiple requests. If we receive responses we will add them to this page. Candidates are listed below in the order they appear on the ballot. Faith in Colorado did not edit any candidate’s response and their answers are written how they were submitted.

Lisa Calderón

Lisa Calderon profile photo
1. As Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us, “Budgets are moral documents”. Currently the City’s budget allocates more than 39.9% of our General Fund to law enforcement, and 2.3% towards housing stability. Broadly, how would you change the City budget? What areas would you decrease and what would you increase?

We will right-size the budget to reflect our values by reimagining an equitable society. My budget priorities include expanding a social safety net, investing in workers and small businesses. I will democratize our budget process by expanding participatory budgeting with residents at the beginning of the process to create a budget that uplifts working people and those on fixed incomes. We can have both a balanced budget or support working families.

2. What three words would describe how you plan to govern as Mayor?

Redistributing power

3. What is your plan to address the cycle of homelessness and police interaction? How would you respond to an unhoused person who refuses treatment and/or shelter?

I support housing-first solutions that recognize the diverse needs of the unhoused, and solutions that address root causes of homelessness including poverty, mental health, and affordable housing. In particular, we need wrap-around services, and can avoid unnecessary police interaction by expanding the STAR program. Unhoused people should have the right to autonomy, and the right to choose the housing that best meets their needs, whether that is tents, SOS sites, shelters, or other temporary housing.

4. Denver has been identified as the second most rapidly gentrifying city in the nation. How will you keep intergenerational families housed in their original communities and also create new housing options in neighborhoods across the city, specifically for residents earning 0-30% AMI and those earning 30-60% AMI?

We need expansive social housing run by the city in underutilized and repurposed spaces. By expanding social housing where no one pays more than 30% of their income, we can ensure the cost of housing remains low, accessible and permanently affordable by taking it off the speculative market. We will legalize ADUs citywide to create more affordable units, prioritize new developments at or below 50% AMI, implement rent stabilization, eviction defense and foreclosure assistance tools.

5. The State currently prohibits rent stabilization policies, eliminating one critical tool we need to solve the housing affordability crisis. If the State repeals the ban, would you pass rent control as our next Mayor?

Yes

6. Other than additional police officers and hot spots, what will your philosophy and policies be to ensure ALL of Denver residents ARE safe?

We must reimagine public safety as distinct from police, and inextricably linked to housing, public health, transportation, and climate action, among other issues. The multiple crises we face in Denver share a similar root: economic and racial inequality. Our over-reliance on policing as a criminal justice response to more significant social, and economic issues only compounds inequalities faced by the most vulnerable populations. We must reimagine public safety to prioritize solutions to address root-causes.

7. What policies will you use to increase generational wealth for Black and Brown communities through homeownership?

To support Black and Brown homeownership we can advance policies that help with the home-buying process and address the underlying inequalities that have kept Black and Brown communities from obtaining homeownership for decades. This includes creating social housing with priority access by Black and Brown communities, supporting equal pay to increase overall income, addressing racist lending practices, and implementing policies that prevent gentrification and displacement by mandating equitable and community-based development practices.


Thomas Wolf

Thomas Wolf profile photo
1. As Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us, “Budgets are moral documents”. Currently the City’s budget allocates more than 39.9% of our General Fund to law enforcement, and 2.3% towards housing stability. Broadly, how would you change the City budget? What areas would you decrease and what would you increase?

The foremost responsibility of a Mayor and CEO is to be a fiduciary and protect the assets of the city, or there will be no budget. Safety’s job is to enforce laws, protect and keep our streets safe, this department like all departments needs to be instructed on their deliverables, held accountable for their work, and measured on their outcomes.

2. What three words would describe how you plan to govern as Mayor?

Quanitatively, accountably, empathetically

3. What is your plan to address the cycle of homelessness and police interaction? How would you respond to an unhoused person who refuses treatment and/or shelter?

I speak specifically to encampments, which will be provided by the city. This intervention requires triage between clinicians, social workers, and police. They will be provided shelter, if they do not vacate all applicable laws will be enforced, if they vacate and only relocate, all applicable laws will be enforced.

4. Denver has been identified as the second most rapidly gentrifying city in the nation. How will you keep intergenerational families housed in their original communities and also create new housing options in neighborhoods across the city, specifically for residents earning 0-30% AMI and those earning 30-60% AMI?

I am a carpenter and have built affordable housing, and as a financial professional that have financed, procured and structured affordable housing via permanent land trusts, tax exemptions and abatements. These properties still exist and are nicely woven into gentrifying neighborhoods in NYC, and can be done here as well.

5. The State currently prohibits rent stabilization policies, eliminating one critical tool we need to solve the housing affordability crisis. If the State repeals the ban, would you pass rent control as our next Mayor?

No

6. Other than additional police officers and hot spots, what will your philosophy and policies be to ensure ALL of Denver residents ARE safe?

Return to law and order, by ending encampments which are the poster for lawlessness.

7. What policies will you use to increase generational wealth for Black and Brown communities through homeownership?

As stated above re gentrification, equity in homeownership for those that can make rent via city assistance with downpayment, but also a path to repayment so that the program recycles and serves more citizens. Added benefit is that it frees up a rental unit.


Chris Hansen

Chris Hansen profile photo
1. As Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us, “Budgets are moral documents”. Currently the City’s budget allocates more than 39.9% of our General Fund to law enforcement, and 2.3% towards housing stability. Broadly, how would you change the City budget? What areas would you decrease and what would you increase?

The public safety budget is vital to rebuilding the department. Cutting it would lead to safety issues all over the city, including the county jail. Due to the city’s budget constraints, the important work of building more housing stock needs to be accomplished in collaboration with the private sector, nonprofits, and federal and state partners. As Mayor, I’ll continue to build on my legislative work making affordable housing a top priority.

2. What three words would describe how you plan to govern as Mayor?

Inclusive, data-driven, empathetic

3. What is your plan to address the cycle of homelessness and police interaction? How would you respond to an unhoused person who refuses treatment and/or shelter?

We have a very well established process for involuntary holds. If someone is in a mental health crisis, I would use that process.

4. Denver has been identified as the second most rapidly gentrifying city in the nation. How will you keep intergenerational families housed in their original communities and also create new housing options in neighborhoods across the city, specifically for residents earning 0-30% AMI and those earning 30-60% AMI?

We need 50,000 new units and we need to provide options at every price point. We must quickly build more housing along transit corridors. As Mayor, I will expedite affordable housing project permitting and set up a special team to fast track projects funded with federal funds and state funds, so we can build the thousands of new units we desperately need quickly.

5. The State currently prohibits rent stabilization policies, eliminating one critical tool we need to solve the housing affordability crisis. If the State repeals the ban, would you pass rent control as our next Mayor?

No

6. Other than additional police officers and hot spots, what will your philosophy and policies be to ensure ALL of Denver residents ARE safe?

My top priority will be public safety. Everyone deserves to feel safe in Denver. I’ll commit to rebuilding and improving our Public Safety Department by investing in training, hiring, and retaining officers, and funding the STAR program so co-responders can address mental health and substance use issues, which allows our police to prevent, respond to, and solve crimes. Denver can be safer with targeted gun crime prevention, increased hot-spots patrol, and robust accountability.

7. What policies will you use to increase generational wealth for Black and Brown communities through homeownership?

The city can work with nonprofits and the private sector to increase generational wealth for communities that have traditionally not had access to homeownership. For example, there are great philanthropic options for helping folks with down payments. The city’s role might involve using public land that could be leveraged to create projects that expand home ownership.


James Walsh

James Walsh profile photo
1. As Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us, “Budgets are moral documents”. Currently the City’s budget allocates more than 39.9% of our General Fund to law enforcement, and 2.3% towards housing stability. Broadly, how would you change the City budget? What areas would you decrease and what would you increase?

I would decrease the percentage given to law enforcement and put this toward a Universal Basic Income for all residents are barely making it. The cost of this program would be offset by the savings in health care, mass incarceration, child and elder care, and by the social benefits of having a working class that is not time poor, where parents can be with their children and return to school to improve their employment opportunities.

2. What three words would describe how you plan to govern as Mayor?

Inclusive, Thoughtful, Informed

3. What is your plan to address the cycle of homelessness and police interaction? How would you respond to an unhoused person who refuses treatment and/or shelter?

My plan is to implement Universal Basic Income, so that unhoused people may be able to afford rent, and could rely on a monthly boost to their income. For those who refuse shelter or treatment, they can be received with compassion and directed to locations with sanctioned encampments.

4. Denver has been identified as the second most rapidly gentrifying city in the nation. How will you keep intergenerational families housed in their original communities and also create new housing options in neighborhoods across the city, specifically for residents earning 0-30% AMI and those earning 30-60% AMI?

Again, Universal Basic Income solves this issue as it provides resources to those in 0-30% AMI range, providing them with enough resources to afford to remain in their homes. UBI levels the playing field slightly, enough to begin to reverse gentrification.

5. The State currently prohibits rent stabilization policies, eliminating one critical tool we need to solve the housing affordability crisis. If the State repeals the ban, would you pass rent control as our next Mayor?

Yes

6. Other than additional police officers and hot spots, what will your philosophy and policies be to ensure ALL of Denver residents ARE safe?

Being driven out of one's community is another form of violence and crime. I would ensure that low income residents are safe from displacement, safe from living on the streets, safe from the violence that this economic system imparts upon them.

7. What policies will you use to increase generational wealth for Black and Brown communities through homeownership?

I would build from UBI to a limited set of reparations to directly address the racial wealth gap which is a legacy of the long history of slavery/Jim Crow/Redlining of black and brown communities. This includes direct support for black and brown owned businesses, holding corporations who profited by slavery financially accountable, and directing resources directly to families in need.


Ean Tafoya

1. As Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us, “Budgets are moral documents”. Currently the City’s budget allocates more than 39.9% of our General Fund to law enforcement, and 2.3% towards housing stability. Broadly, how would you change the City budget? What areas would you decrease and what would you increase?

We need to have an abundance mindset. Public banking, state and federal funding are ways we can fund housing and environmental justice beyond the budget. We should increase investments in housing, harm reduction, addiction treatment, restorative justice and mental health support, and this will let us reimagine public safety funding long term.

2. What three words would describe how you plan to govern as Mayor?

Empathetic, principled, determined

3. What is your plan to address the cycle of homelessness and police interaction? How would you respond to an unhoused person who refuses treatment and/or shelter?

There's evidence from Denver, our nation and the world showing that the fastest, cheapest and most effective way to permanently solve homelessness is getting people into housing with wraparound services to support their transition. At the beginning of the pandemic I released a plan to temporarily create safe outdoor sites while we rapidly build out these proven solutions. Those sites can continue for the small minority of unhoused people who don't want apartments.

4. Denver has been identified as the second most rapidly gentrifying city in the nation. How will you keep intergenerational families housed in their original communities and also create new housing options in neighborhoods across the city, specifically for residents earning 0-30% AMI and those earning 30-60% AMI?

On Blueprint Denver, in Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation and on the Expanding Housing Affordability Task Force, I've consistently fought for these residents. We need community land trusts, community development corporations and co-operative ownership models. I also support rent control, a vacancy tax and increased tenant protections. We should require new construction to have high percentages of housing for those between $0-$60,000, convert commercial properties to residential and build on parking lots.

5. The State currently prohibits rent stabilization policies, eliminating one critical tool we need to solve the housing affordability crisis. If the State repeals the ban, would you pass rent control as our next Mayor?

Yes

6. Other than additional police officers and hot spots, what will your philosophy and policies be to ensure ALL of Denver residents ARE safe?

Again public safety is holistic. We need environmental and transportation policy that ensures our communities breathe safe air and drink safe water. We need community-led violence prevention and conflict resolution programs for youth and adults. Let's stop criminalizing poverty and addiction, and instead eliminate poverty and address addiction with solutions that are proven to reduce deaths. And we can implement solutions like restorative justice, which communities like the Jicarilla Apache have traditionally used.

7. What policies will you use to increase generational wealth for Black and Brown communities through homeownership?

Systemic racism requires systemic solutions. We can't just go house by house, although of course financial literacy programs are important. Community land trusts allow entire communities to reclaim land and stay together. We should help our public workers buy homes and we need development and zoning policy that doesn't skyrocket housing costs. I'll also work with the Black and brown real estate agents, housing activists and community to find more solutions.


Leslie Herod

Leslie Herod Profile Photo
1. As Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us, “Budgets are moral documents”. Currently the City’s budget allocates more than 39.9% of our General Fund to law enforcement, and 2.3% towards housing stability. Broadly, how would you change the City budget? What areas would you decrease and what would you increase?

The city budget should reflect our priorities and values. Community safety is critical, but it is about so much more than law enforcement. A greater share of the law enforcement budget should be specifically geared towards alternatives to policing, such as STAR and other evidence-based mental health and substance use services. Housing affordability is at a crisis level in Denver, and it is necessary to invest more resources into housing stability.

2. What three words would describe how you plan to govern as Mayor?

Results over politics

3. What is your plan to address the cycle of homelessness and police interaction? How would you respond to an unhoused person who refuses treatment and/or shelter?

Criminalizing poverty not only doesn’t help people get out of homelessness, it actually perpetuates the cycles that keep people chronically unhoused. We will immediately begin expanding our stock of affordable housing that reflects what people want and need in order to get everyone who wants housing into it. Continued outreach to those who refuse will be prioritized to help meet them where they are.

4. Denver has been identified as the second most rapidly gentrifying city in the nation. How will you keep intergenerational families housed in their original communities and also create new housing options in neighborhoods across the city, specifically for residents earning 0-30% AMI and those earning 30-60% AMI?

Housing in Denver is unaffordable across incomes. We must increase the housing stock across neighborhoods in line with neighborhood character and what people actually need. My campaign has identified at least 86 vacant, city-owned lots that are already zoned residential and ideal to develop housing on. We will immediately begin development on those lots to create a broad spectrum of housing options for all AMI levels.

5. The State currently prohibits rent stabilization policies, eliminating one critical tool we need to solve the housing affordability crisis. If the State repeals the ban, would you pass rent control as our next Mayor?

Yes

6. Other than additional police officers and hot spots, what will your philosophy and policies be to ensure ALL of Denver residents ARE safe?

Safety is not solely about law enforcement. Denver can be the safest major city in the nation. A vibrant city for all its residents demands a transformational approach to public safety. Addressing base-level economic, health, and housing insecurities to provide preventative structures and opportunities can have lasting, meaningful impacts on community safety. For more on my specific plans, visit https://www.leslieformayor.com/community-safety-issues.

7. What policies will you use to increase generational wealth for Black and Brown communities through homeownership?

Black and brown communities, through institutional racism and discriminatory policies such as redlining and segregation, have been systematically denied the rights and access to build generational wealth in Denver. We will focus on eviction protection, incentivizing affordable housing development, zoning reform, and innovative voucher programs like the FLEX program I created at the state level that allows people to invest in their own futures.


Deborah "Debbie" Ortega

Debbie Ortega profile photo
1. As Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us, “Budgets are moral documents”. Currently the City’s budget allocates more than 39.9% of our General Fund to law enforcement, and 2.3% towards housing stability. Broadly, how would you change the City budget? What areas would you decrease and what would you increase?

With the acute need for more affordable housing and safer streets, I am prioritizing investments towards housing supply and stability along with public safety. This includes investments into our Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) Program, so qualified mental health professionals and paramedics can resolve nonviolent scenarios across the city. On housing, I will identify vacant public lands in Denver and neighboring jurisdictions for manufactured housing, among other alternative housing investments to ease our housing challenges.

2. What three words would describe how you plan to govern as Mayor?

Lead To Inspire

3. What is your plan to address the cycle of homelessness and police interaction? How would you respond to an unhoused person who refuses treatment and/or shelter?

I will work with neighboring jurisdictions to offer different solutions, such as the 250 Ridgeview treatment beds for those in need, fund SRO and manufactured housing, utilize Opioid Abatement funds for respite and treatment, and help attain self sufficiency for people in shelters and motels with training, employment & other supports including, an employment navigator. I will not arrest for homelessness, but will address illegal behaviors.

4. Denver has been identified as the second most rapidly gentrifying city in the nation. How will you keep intergenerational families housed in their original communities and also create new housing options in neighborhoods across the city, specifically for residents earning 0-30% AMI and those earning 30-60% AMI?

It’s important to change local zoning or permitting policies to allow for the building of more housing in these areas that help balance concerns associated with density and affordability. I will start with prevention programs for rental and utility assistance, eviction legal defense, and expand housing opportunities through accessory dwelling units and manufactured housing.

5. The State currently prohibits rent stabilization policies, eliminating one critical tool we need to solve the housing affordability crisis. If the State repeals the ban, would you pass rent control as our next Mayor?

No

6. Other than additional police officers and hot spots, what will your philosophy and policies be to ensure ALL of Denver residents ARE safe?

We need to continue funding Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) Program, so qualified mental health professionals can resolve nonviolent scenarios and police can focus on keeping us safe. Additionally, with my experience as Board President of Del Norte, a nonprofit developing affordable housing, safety starts with having a welcoming place to sleep at night. With this in mind, I’ll continue prioritizing housing that Denverites across the income spectrum can afford.

7. What policies will you use to increase generational wealth for Black and Brown communities through homeownership?

I will focus on access to capital for homeowners in low income neighborhoods to build ADU’s and help create “missing middle” housing, while addressing generational/wealth building opportunities. My plans to support manufactured housing at 40% will be cheaper when placed on public lands which will create attainable rental and for-sale housing solutions. My focus will be to also identify land in adjacent communities near transit.


Kelly Brough

Kelly Brough Headshot
1. As Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us, “Budgets are moral documents”. Currently the City’s budget allocates more than 39.9% of our General Fund to law enforcement, and 2.3% towards housing stability. Broadly, how would you change the City budget? What areas would you decrease and what would you increase?

I will consider the city’s full budget ($3.75 billion) when doing this kind of analysis, as there is extensive funding allocated outside the general fund. In 2023, the total HOST (Housing Stability) budget is $254 million. I also see the clear link between housing and community safety and will align metrics to ensure every dollar allocated through the budget has the greatest impact and drives the best results for our residents.

2. What three words would describe how you plan to govern as Mayor?

Optimistic, Inclusive, Accountable

3. What is your plan to address the cycle of homelessness and police interaction? How would you respond to an unhoused person who refuses treatment and/or shelter?

I will eliminate unsanctioned encampments in year one and:

  • Evolve Sheltering & Build Housing: Ensure we have safe shelter beds to serve the diverse unhoused population. Build the housing needed to best support people exiting homelessness.
  • Take a Regional, Data-driven Approach: Work with regional governments to establish a coordinated strategy and strengthen our data system.
  • Invest in Prevention: Support those at risk of homelessness by ensuring access to job supports and stabilizing services.
4. Denver has been identified as the second most rapidly gentrifying city in the nation. How will you keep intergenerational families housed in their original communities and also create new housing options in neighborhoods across the city, specifically for residents earning 0-30% AMI and those earning 30-60% AMI?

My plans include more housing that is for rent and sale, market-rate and subsidized:

  • Strengthening and marketing property tax rebate and exemption programs
  • Working with homeowners to maximize value of their property, including through the expansion of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)
  • Building more housing on underutilized, publicly owned land and rethinking and revitalizing downtown and surrounding neighborhoods by converting commercial space to residential
  • Increasing density on major transportation corridors and at transit stations
5. The State currently prohibits rent stabilization policies, eliminating one critical tool we need to solve the housing affordability crisis. If the State repeals the ban, would you pass rent control as our next Mayor?

No

6. Other than additional police officers and hot spots, what will your philosophy and policies be to ensure ALL of Denver residents ARE safe?

I will take a comprehensive approach to community safety. My safety priorities include:

  • Working with our public safety officials – leaders, officers, and staff – to create a stronger culture built around national best practices, transparency, and accountability.
  • Increasing investment in civilian response units to ensure we provide appropriate resources (e.g. - mental health support) and free up officers to focus on true crime.
  • Address crime prevention by investing in housing, health care, education, and economic development.
7. What policies will you use to increase generational wealth for Black and Brown communities through homeownership?

As Mayor, I will build affordable, for-sale housing, including condos, for our residents on city-owned land (like land banking or land trusts). Building on surface parking lots, while preserving the parking, allows us to build throughout our City at recreation centers, libraries, police stations, fire houses and potentially in partnership with others like DPS, RTD and the State. This approach will allow families who have been excluded from home ownership to begin to build wealth.


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