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?
We will end the attainable housing crisis by investing $1B in attainable housing over the next 10 years. We cannot rely only on the linkage fee/City to provide funding, but we can get there by building a coalition. I will work with our private sector companies and investors to support attainable housing development, exploring opportunities for them to invest in this critical need for the city, and will with our congressional delegation to advocate for expansion of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. I will also open up City of Denver-owned assets and land for attainable housing.
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 remains ~$30M short for ped/bike improvements with at least a $5B funding gap for transit. A new Transportation Department we be created to support intra-city mobility/accessibility. Funding could come from putting parking revenues back into an enterprise fund and re-directing existing revenues and annual CIP funding to complete bike and ped networks. Ideas for transit funding include adding a small fee on every rideshare and instituting special districts that capture a portion of the increased value along new transit corridors. A sales tax increase may also be key.
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?
Good city planning starts with looking at neighborhoods as an ecosystem. Do these neighborhoods have equitable/attainable housing? Transit access? Safe streets and bikeways? Parks and open space? Schools? Services and access to healthy food? If we look at each of our city neighborhoods in this way, we can begin to determine how and where we must make important investments to increase overall quality of life for Denver’s residents. We must also be willing to acknowledge that some neighborhoods have been left behind in recent years, and be prepared to respond accordingly with support.
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?
We have become more inequitable for two primary reasons – we have not addressed systemic issues within our planning systems that have institutionalized racism and allowed for concentrated areas of poverty; and we have allowed growth to happen fast in the last 5-10 years without directing it, and without requiring it to come with infrastructure needed to support a growing city. Addressing both requires a neighborhood-led approach. We need to bring planning to the neighborhoods and expedite neighborhood planning efforts. We need to be willing to meet communities where they are.
Running a city the size of Denver is a massive undertaking with 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?
Denver has seen unprecedented growth over the last eight years and our budget has grown from $1.2 billion to $2.4 billion. At the moment, there is a lack of transparency around where funds are going and the impact they are having. We must make clear commitments with demonstrable results in core areas including transit, housing, homelessness and environment, acknowledging that we may always have to sacrifice in one area for a period of time, in order to make a big impact in other areas. We must also look for regional partnerships to address these issues.
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.
The answer to this question is dependent on where other funding streams could best be deployed. I’d invest these funds where we could complete a project(s) with a one-time investment, where we could leverage other funds by making our investment, or where we could respond to an urgent opportunity or crisis issue. I would likely utilize that $20M to complete desired bike and pedestrian network improvements and improve pedestrian safety – citywide. This would ensure investment with impact that would likely also leverage additional funding and investment from local communities.