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Mary Beth Susman

Q1

The lack of affordable housing remains a top concern of Denver residents, and while we commend the city on increasing resources, more needs to be done. If you agree that more resources are needed to support affordable housing, what type of funds and how much arenecessary to address this crisis, and how could you achieve this within the next two to three years? 

 

The problem needs several forces working together. The city needs 32,000 more living units of all income levels.  If we can let the market build for the demand, it might at least increase supply of the "missing middle" housing. To meet the demand of the AMI earner, government has to intervene, with height incentives, TIF, reducing parking requirements, more streamlining of permit processes, linkage fees; wiggle room for support beyond a 30% ceiling on ratio of income to cost of rent. The city and state could explore more tax credits for providing and maintaining affordable housing; invest in preserving existing affordable housing; explore lifting the ban on charging a real estate transaction fee that could go to affordable housing.

 

Q2

Transit and mobility remain a top city priority without a dedicated local source of funding. Would you support creating a dedicated source of annual funding for citywide investments in transit, mobility and Vision Zero safety improvements, and if yes, how much money do you think is needed to properly address this need, how would you allocate these funds and how would you propose to fund this?

 

Denver needs to take ownership of its mobility needs and use our infrastructure that was built for cars in creative ways to expand their use for peds, bikes, transit, and prepare for the coming innovations of drones, autonomous vehicles, hyperloop, et al. In a city choked with single occupancy vehicle congestion, we need to refocus our expenditures on auto-friendly infrastructure to more equitable use of that infrastructure for other ways to get around. Funds for this involve ideas like congestion pricing, smart meters, reduced parking and re-adaptation of parking lots, miles traveled pricing for using fossil fuels, increased taxes for impermeable surfaces used for combustion engine cars.

 

Q3

In the November 2018 election, Denver voters approved a sales tax to increase the yearly investment in parks by more than $40 million. How would you ensure that acquiring land for new parks is done in an equitable way and does not compete with other pressing city priorities, such as acquiring land for affordable housing? 

 

There are so many important needs of a city whose population is growing so fast. Holding on to our open space for public use is a significant one. We want a livable, environmentally sound city first of all. The citizens showed how important it was by approving the first dedicated funds for parks expansion and maintenance. Equity is a criteria for all choices. Adaptive re-use for affordable housing can be a primary funding criteria. Requirements for open space for all development can be augmented. The funds don't mix, but they can support both goals.

 

Q4 

All In Denver was formed to respond to concerns that racial and social inequity is growing in the city. What do you think are the reasons that we have become a less equitable city and what are your priorities for ensuring Denver becomes more equitable in the future?

The history of Denver points to severe inequities of the past but we are going in the right direction. Witness the destruction of a predominantly African American community by the development of the Cherry Creek shopping district; the historic isolation of Five Points from economic investment, segregation of schools, the Poundstone Amendment, etc. I believe we are quicker to see inequity in incipient forms and guard against it. My priority is making sure we are an inclusive city that welcomes all and makes opportunities to enjoy a healthy, prosperous city for all. Housing, healthy food access, parks and recreation opportunities, clean air and water, job opportunities with family sufficient wages,inexpensive mobility and on.

 

Q5

Running a city the size of Denver is a massive undertakingwith a complex web of services, departments, budgets andtrade-offs. From your understanding of the city and how it allocates its resources, are there areas of the city that you’d increase funding and if so, what are they? And likewise, are there areas of the city where you’d decrease funding?

Increase: infrastructure; mobility   Decrease:  Ask the communities where they would be willing to have decreased funding.

 

Q6

Let’s assume that the City of Denver ends the 2019 fiscal year with a budget surplus of $20 million. As a Councilmember or Mayor, please list up to three program priorities on how you would spend this money. Please provide specific line items and budget amounts.

 

$20 million is not very much to make transformational changes city-wide, but it could do so in pieces for neighborhoods. I would engage each city council district in a citizen budgeting process to choose needed projects in the district. Districts could partner with other districts to achieve larger projects to their mutual benefit, all by a community engagement process on neighborhood priorities for spending their tax funding.

 

 

 

 

Amanda Sawyer

Q1

The lack of affordable housing remains a top concern of Denver residents, and while we commend the city on increasing resources, more needs to be done. If you agree that more resources are needed to support affordable housing, what type of funds and how much are necessary to address this crisis, and how could you achieve this within the next two to three years? 

 

I, also, commend the city on allocating more resources to affordable housing this year, and I believe that level of funding should continue. Additionally when I am in office, I will look into other potential sources of funding like fees. However, throwing money at the problem alone isn’t going to get us to a solution. I will also address the root causes of the lack of affordability, like Denver’s failure to enforce inclusionary zoning laws and our tenant’s rights laws to see what other solutions might exist to help alleviate our affordable housing crisis. The soul of our city is found in the hardworking families who live here, and we cannot allow our middle class to be driven out by this affordability crisis.

 

Q2

Transit and mobility remain a top city priority without a dedicated local source of funding. Would you support creating a dedicated source of annual funding for citywide investments in transit, mobility and Vision Zero safety improvements, and if yes, how much money do you think is needed to properly address this need, how would you allocate these funds and how would you propose to fund this?

 

Yes. We desperately need a dedicated source of funding for mobility infrastructure improvements. The current lack of funding is a recipe for failure. We must have sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and a safe, clean, reliable transit system that comes more than once an hour. As discussed at the Denver Streets Partnership meeting, there are funding options available in some of the pieces of the financial “pie” – potentially a bond measure or a fee. As a council member I will work collaboratively with my fellow council members to find a solution that provides the needed funding for safer mobility in Denver

Q3

In the November 2018 election, Denver voters approved a sales tax to increase the yearly investment in parks by more than $40 million. How would you ensure that acquiring land for new parks is done in an equitable way and does not compete with other pressing city priorities, such as acquiring land for affordable housing? 

 

I don’t believe there’s a way to ensure that acquiring new land for parks instead of housing is “equitable.” That’s like saying that “work life balance” exists for working moms. It’s not about balance. It’s about tradeoffs. We desperately need both housing and green space, which means the people of Denver are going to have to make some difficult decisions about priorities. These decisions will have to be made on a case by case basis, looking at objective measures to determine where, and how, resources should be allocated so that as a community, we are living by the principles we want to live by – like equity and fairness

 

Q4 

All In Denver was formed to respond to concerns that racial and social inequity is growing in the city. What do you think are the reasons that we have become a less equitable city and what are your priorities for ensuring Denver becomes more equitable in the future?

 

Denver has become less equitable because the cost of living has skyrocketed, and wages have not kept up. Our middle class is being driven out of the city because of our affordability crisis. We need to enforce our inclusionary zoning laws so that the needed units are actually being built in these new developments. We also need to look at supporting our small businesses, which are the backbone of a strong economy. It’s time to get creative with how we manage this crisis, because what we’re doing now simply isn’t enough.

 

Q5

Running a city the size of Denver is a massive undertaking with a complex web of services, departments, budgets and trade-offs. From your understanding of the city and how it allocates its resources, are there areas of the city that you’d increase funding and if so, what are they? And likewise, are there areas of the city where you’d decrease funding?

 

As discussed above, we need a dedicated revenue stream to build out our mobility infrastructure. We cannot continue to call it a priority but not fund the necessary improvements. Because of TABOR and other state level factors, there are simply not enough resources to go around in our city. And because the cost of living is so high here, we need to be careful about the ways we find additional funding so that we stop displacing our middle class. That said, I will dive deep into the specifics of our budget, and look at our priorities as a city. It’s time to make some tough, long-term strategic choices that will allow Denver to become the city we want it to be moving forward.

 

Q6

Let’s assume that the City of Denver ends the 2019 fiscal year with a budget surplus of $20 million. As a Councilmember or Mayor, please list up to three program priorities on how you would spend this money. Please provide specific line items and budget amounts.

 

There are a lot of competing needs in the city right now, but most have at least some dedicated funding. Our need for transit and mobility infrastructure is desperate, has also been proven to be low on the current Council's priority list, and has no funding. I would put this $20 million entirely to solutions for that problem while finding permanent funding. Specific line-item amounts are hard to say, but for example, I would partner with RTD to provide more frequent service to increase ridership; hire more traffic engineers to help with the backlog in Public Works; dedicate almost half to building sidewalks in our communities, and put the rest to installing traffic calming measure and protected bike lanes.