Ahead of the 2019 Municipal Election, the LoDo District, Inc. Board of Directors invited some of the Denver mayoral candidates to share their philosophies on historic preservation, supporting small business, and other current pressing issues relevant to the LoDo neighborhood. We recognize the important role these individuals will play in helping shape and guide the future of our city, and through meeting with them, we’ve had the opportunity to both learn more about their positions and express the mission, vision, values, and goals of the LoDo District.

While we do not endorse candidates, we’re providing their responses here to help educate and inform all members of the LoDo neighborhood.

Penfield Tate:

  1. Given the current pressure on historic preservation ordinances, how would you balance preservation and growth? I am not anti-growth, and I know our city will continue to grow. However, we need to begin with the understanding that development must be done with and for residents in the community and not be done to them. This means open, transparent, and full communication between the city, developers, and the community at the earliest stages of the process. Denver needs to actively plan, manage, and direct growth in a way that fits our city’s needs while protecting the historic nature of many of our neighborhoods. As Mayor, I will convene meetings of all stakeholders, including developers, neighborhoods, and the city, to discuss planned development and ensure it is in line with what both the city and the affected neighborhood needs. Building consensus on the front end will be the key to long-term success. Understanding the history of a neighborhood and how the residents see their neighborhood evolving will be key to establishing supported new or infill development along with historic preservation efforts. We need to protect the historic buildings that Denver knows and loves, and manage and direct development in a way that increases affordable housing stock without destroying the character of our historic neighborhoods. A commitment to historic preservation is a commitment to the preservation of our history, culture, and way of life. Our historic buildings not only reflect who we were, but who we are now. Once they are lost, they cannot be replaced. I believe we should do everything in our power to preserve buildings and sites that have been designated as historic and making sure we are keeping track of buildings that should have that designation. This involves protecting the integrity of the ordinances which anchor Denver’s historic district. These ordinances of which Larimer Square was the first are the bedrock of historic preservation in Denver and shouldn’t be relaxed or diluted.
  1. What is your position on Initiative 300 (Right to Survive)? Are you for or against it and why? I am opposed to the current homeless sweeps and do not feel they are a solution. As Mayor, I have committed that my administration will work to get the majority of the homeless off the streets within the first 100 days in office. We have been meeting with homeless provider agencies and affordable housing providers to craft a plan to achieve this commitment. It is our intention that our plan will hopefully make the initiative moot. However, I believe it is important that the homeless are treated with the same respect and dignity that all Denverites deserve.
  2. How would you protect and support small businesses in Denver? According to the Denver Business Journal, 98% of all businesses in the Denver metro area are considered small businesses, with less than 100 employees. Small business is the engine that drives Denver’s economy, stabilizes our neighborhoods and communities, and creates an entry point into the economy for a number of entrepreneurs. The Mayor’s Office of Economic Development and Opportunity should be an advocate for and a supporter of existing and emerging small businesses. Sadly, I believe the office has lost much of its effectiveness in the desire of the city to chase the big deals. Having been a small business owner in Denver myself, I understand first-hand the pressures these businesses are facing. In addition to technical support, loan guarantees, and assistance locating facilities, the city can assist in its role as a direct purchaser of goods and services. Having managed procurement at the state level, I have seen the value and effectiveness of breaking procurements into smaller pieces to allow small, women, and minority owned business a better opportunity to be competitive in the RFP marketplace. While some would argue that breaking procurements into smaller pieces is not cost effective for taxpayers, I have found in the long run it is cost effective to have a competitive environment where a number of capable and qualified small businesses are bidding to do work with or provide services to the city.

Jamie Giellis:

  1. Given the current pressure on historic preservation ordinances, how would you balance preservation and growth? Cities are living things, and like all living things, cities are healthiest when they grow and evolve over time. Healthy cities adapt to the changing needs and desires of their residents. We want to see our city and our neighborhoods grow and change, but we want these changes to make our neighborhoods more livable, not less. We want changes that benefit us. We want growth that works for us. For too long now, growth in Denver has been a ship without a rudder. We feel helpless as dramatic change happens all around us, and specifically in neighborhoods that have been stable for decades. Denver’s leadership has accepted any and all development without considering how changes will impact the people who live here. It is time to reverse course – we need to stop reacting to growth and start directing it. As your mayor, I will require that new growth in the city respect Denver’s history, its people and its neighborhoods. That it respect families. That it respect our environment and meaningfully enhance our quality of life. New developments will have to integrate into our historic neighborhoods, enhancing Denver’s unique identity and assets. New development will be assessed based on how it adds value to our lives. To make this happen, we need leadership and we need thoughtful planning. We also need the courage to require that new growth improve Denver’s quality of life and provides for the equitable economic prosperity of all our people. Denver’s leaders and its citizens must work hand in hand to chart a new course forward. Growth in our city must bend to the will of the people. I am committed to protecting historic preservation ordinances, and protecting Denver’s history. Additionally, I believe we can do more city-wide to protect our neighborhood’s character and demand that new development does the same for us through tools like design overlays and guidelines. I believe in protecting the fabric of historic neighborhoods, ensuring the past is alive in the present, and embracing the vitality of new construction in a way that supports it. Neighborhoods should have zoning and design support that respects their individual identity. I’m committed to achieving this through zoning-based solutions that provide clear expectations for both community and developers.
  1. What is your position on Initiative 300 (Right to Survive)? Are you for or against it and why? I believe that people who are homeless deserve our respect and compassion. I don’t believe the Right to Survive initiative is the right solution to the problem and I will not be supporting it. Denver has a crisis when it comes to the unhoused population in Denver. I believe Initiative 300 is born out of frustration with the city’s lack of commitment to solving this crisis but 300 is not the solution. As mayor I will make finding solutions to homelessness a priority. These include but are not limited to:
  • Identifying quick, temporary housing solutions, such as increasing the number of tiny home villages or adding sanctioned camping sites. Allowing people to have a safe place to go where they will not be “swept” regularly also allows us to bring services to them in a consistent manner.
  • Coordination of services including bringing together service providers focusing on mental health, addiction, job training and others to ensure streamlined service provision. This partnership must be deployed with the Denver Police Department to ensure that we are doing everything possible to get people the support they need and not relying on our jails as a solution.
  • Supporting a housing-first model. Cities that have successfully addressed homelessness have a housing first approach, which gives people the stability of housing while also being able to address other issues including mental health, job training, and the basic necessities of life. This ties into our need for more affordable housing overall.
  1. How would you protect and support small businesses in Denver? Small business built Denver, and small business will lead Denver into the future. New products, new services, or improvements to existing products and services – small businesses are the innovators in our local economy. They are always seeking ways to make our community better, and we want to recognize, support, and reward those efforts. My husband and I are small business owners ourselves. We started with high hopes and big dreams – like a lot of others. We were passionate about doing meaningful work that had positive effects on our community. The dream was always there and the passion never faded, but we also ran into a cold reality: it takes work, hard work, to make a business succeed. And it takes just as much hard work to make ends meet. Because of our experiences and because of my passion for innovation, I am dedicated to helping other small business owners realize their dreams. We know small business brings diversity to the city–not only diversity of people, but diversity of ideas and perspectives, and diversity of goods and services. We must clear the path for small business to thrive–when entrepreneurs win, Denver wins. We must support these hard workers who have no corporate safety nets to rely on, no huge bankroll to see them through lean times, no hidden pots of gold. No longer will we be a city that rolls out the red carpet for big business, but fails to do the same for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Instead, we will encourage and support innovators in our city. We will welcome cutting edge thinkers and inventors here. We will make Denver a great place to do small business. As your mayor, I will:
  • Increase/ease access to capital for small businesses through creative opportunities to help underwrite and/or back revolving loan programs, while exploring ways to provide tax credits or tax relief for the initial years of startup.
  • Encourage women, entrepreneurs of color, veterans and others traditionally underrepresented in this area of the economy to launch new businesses. This includes support with access to capital and low interest, long term loans, and connecting new business owners with seasoned veterans, for mentoring and guidance.
  • Create a one-stop shop for permitting which assigns an individual coach to navigate regulations, fees and permits so meeting requirements is clear, understandable and known in advance. We will evaluate existing policies and regulations for efficacy and evaluate city’s oversight role to ensure its purpose and efficiency.
  • Provide financial support during city construction and better notification of public and private projects happening to work with businesses to mitigate negative impact.
  • Embrace changes in minimum wage and healthcare costs and help small businesses absorb those costs. Wages and benefits improve the quality of life of employees and help boost productivity. Employees are our neighbors, friends and family, and we believe in treating them well. We must also look at how we support businesses to ensure increased wages are a reality, including how we ease fees and fast-track permitting, while also looking at tax relief for small businesses who invest in employees.
  • Host productive conferences that support small business needs. The City can act as a clearinghouse for information and support, providing access to additional resources and labor. We will also take on an ongoing marketing effort to celebrate innovation and to publicize local/small business.
  • Partner with business leaders to create an infrastructure think tank whose purpose is to forecast what the city needs to do to continue to attract small business well into the future.

Lisa Calderón:

  1. Given the current pressure on historic preservation ordinances, how would you balance preservation and growth? I believe that historic preservation and the preservation of affordable housing for resident owners can go hand in hand in Denver. The most critical historic preservation challenge to our city is the disequilibrium between our residential zoning entitlements and our existing built environment, which encourages displacement of residents and scrape offs. In just the last three years, we have lost 450 houses per year in our brick-and-mortar neighborhoods. While resident investors line up to buy the moderately priced historic resources in our original neighborhoods, the developers see only a lot’s development potential. The competition has driven up land prices and taxes. We can look to cities like Minneapolis for solutions to these problems. Minneapolis adopted truly form based design and development standards that respect historic patterns of development so that new growth is durable and compatible, even if it is stylistically different. By tuning into the city’s architectural integrity, city leaders boosted confidence in other regulatory moves that will dramatically increase their ability to house a growing population in the core city. It’s time that we take our architectural heritage and legacy seriously as we grow. Neighborhoods have been promised a historic property inventory for more than 20 years. It was nearly impossible to deliver on that promise because of a lack of political will, as well as the sheer number of hours it would take to complete it using conventional methods. In the intervening years, technology has caught up, and the full survey is attainable. However, the current administration has failed to act and take advantage of this opportunity. As Mayor, I will seek full funding of the Discover Denver program. Full implementation of the survey will help identify the character-defining features of our neighborhoods, and allow us to calibrate our zoning tools to protect and maintain that character even as the city grows and changes. For example, residents in the Harkness Heights neighborhood in North Denver used the Discover Denver survey results to inform standards for a residential conservation overlay district that will soon makes its way through the city’s review process.
  2. What is your position on Initiative 300 (Right to Survive)? Are you for or against it and why? While I am not an endorser of any initiatives on the May ballot, I support the goal of the Right to Survive initiative, which is to decriminalize homelessness. A great city isn’t just measured by its wealth, but how it cares for those in need. Criminalizing our unhoused neighbors is not an evidence-based practice, and has not been proven effective at reducing homelessness. If anything, punitive policies make the problem worse by funneling people into the criminal justice system, a much more expensive avenue than investing in services at the front end. We also must take a regional approach to addressing the homelessness crisis since these populations are fluid across city boundaries, and no single municipality can end homelessness alone. My 20 years of executive nonprofit management experience, including 8 years of working in Denver’s jails, has prepared me to move our city in a more humane direction to address risk factors for homelessness including poverty, mental illness and addiction. My academic background, including a law degree and doctorate in education, will guide me in developing solutions that are grounded in evidence, not the politics of fear. I will appoint administrators to a cabinet-level Housing Department who have deep expertise and experience with our complex housing issues so that we can implement a coherent, comprehensive, and consistent strategy that leverages public and private resources to provide multiple pathways to proper shelter, temporary housing, permanent supportive housing, treatment services, and long-term affordable housing in mixed-income communities for those experiencing homelessness. This must also include increased coordinated outreach efforts to permanently house residents through a housing-first model where people experiencing chronic homelessness are placed in housing without preconditions, such as sobriety or treatment. Meeting people where they are at, stabilizing them through rapid housing, and then incorporating wrap-around services is a better use of taxpayer dollars than the more expensive criminalization approach involving law enforcement in situations that are better handled by other supportive organizations. By working together, Denver can be a model for how residents, service providers, business owners and city leaders can create housing for all and improve community well-being. A great city isn’t measured just by its wealth, but also by the way it cares for those in need.
  3. How would you protect and support small businesses in Denver? I am committed to supporting Denver’s small local business owners who bring so much vibrancy and community connection to the neighborhoods throughout our city. While Denver’s growth has brought prosperity for some, it has also brought many challenges for small businesses– among them, the rising costs to rent and buy property, impacts from the state of constant construction around the city, and balancing business needs with their employees’ needs as the cost of living continues to skyrocket. We must do more to meet the needs of our small businesses in Denver, and I pledge to listen to community first, which includes our small business community, rather than corporate interests that have dominated the conversations over the last eight years. I will expand MBE/WBE programs, implement an equity goals committee, hold participating agencies accountable to meet goals, increase monitoring to ensure compliance and increase their opportunities to become prime contractors. I will also implement programs to incentivize socially responsible business practices, especially in our neighborhoods most vulnerable to gentrification and displacement. For example, I support the creation good neighbor funds to invest in local initiatives in order to develop better and more integrated ways of doing business with impacted residents. I would also work with industry organizations to support and expand job training programs, like Colorado ProStart, and apprenticeship initiatives like those at Prodigy Coffeehouse and the Spring Cafe. Finally, I will restructure the Office of Economic Development to focus on small businesses, encourage joint ventures requiring prime contractors to work with small firms, and unbundle large contracts to provide more bidding opportunities for small contractors. I would also reinstate Business Support Offices (BSOs) in community-based locations, and reimplement the Revolving Loan Fund where low interest loans would be offered for up to 50% for gap financing. We would fund this through Community Development Block Grants and allocate dollars from the General Fund. I would also shorten the length of time for vendors to receive compensation from the Department of General Services Purchasing & Procurement Division by increasing accounting efficiencies and staff resources.

Mayor Michael Hancock:

  1. Given the current pressure on historic preservation ordinances, how would you balance preservation and growth? With 100,000+ new residents over the last decade, we‘ve become a vibrant city, a leader in progressive values with a modern economy. With 200,000 more people expected over the next two decades, we must continue to strongly manage the growth so it reflects all that we love about our home. There are no easy answers when working to balance preservation with growth. It will require trusted knowledge of our past, present and future with an in-depth understanding of the city’s systems and a firm grasp on how we can reach our goals together. I will continue to be that leader for Denver, understanding that we are making decisions for Denver today and for generations to come. I’m proud that Denver now has 54 designated historic districts and 341 designated landmark structures. In the last few years, we also renamed the “Five Points Historic Cultural District” to better honor one of Denver’s most iconic neighborhoods. These designations and actions to preserve our history are important as we take a more inclusive approach to our growth. I am also pleased that our new Neighborhood Equity and Stabilization Team is beginning to deploy resources into neighborhoods at risk of losing their history to gentrification. In addition, our new “I am Denver” effort will ensure that the stories of Denver’s past remain accessible to the residents of today and tomorrow. Additionally, Colorado offers a state income tax credit to property owners for preservation and rehabilitation work on designated historic properties. My administration will continue to reach out to these homeowners and businesses to ensure they are informed of important tools like this. We can also use the Emily Griffith Opportunity School Urban Redevelopment Plan as an example where modern development can continue to honor the historic nature of a building that means so much to this city. Denver’s success is built on meaningful partnerships between the public and private sectors. It is through partnerships between the Mayor, City Council and local organizations that we have been able to thoughtfully manage growth and turn our challenges into opportunities. These important partnerships have helped the city thoughtfully address major societal and economic challenges, from mobility, housing and economic inequity to homelessness, substance abuse and crime. By continuing to have diverse voices at the table, we will be able to smartly manage Denver’s future growth. We must stay true to our specific plans – created side-by-side with thousands of Denverites – to better preserve our historic, lively and culturally diverse neighborhoods and create a more inclusive, connected and healthy city for everyone.
  2. What is your position on Initiative 300 (Right to Survive)? Are you for or against it and why? I grew up in Denver as one of ten kids, raised by a single mom in public housing. I know firsthand the pain of poverty and homelessness. There were many times when we didn’t know where we were going to sleep or if we would have enough to eat. I am committed to fighting for Denver’s most vulnerable people so that everyone has access to a home, a job and a future. Today, the city invests more than $50 million in homeless services every year, an amount that increases annually. This includes affordable housing, supportive housing services, street outreach workers, and transportation to and from our shelters. This does not include the dozens of community organizations that are serving those experiencing homelessness as well.This is important and impactful work, but we know we can, and must, do better. This is particularly true when it comes to preventing homelessness, to serving those who utilize our shelters, and to aiding those who remain unsheltered on our streets. We need to continue fighting the opioid crisis with fervor and empathy. We need to continue investing in shelters, meal programs, services that connect individuals to critical resources, and programs that allow people to thrive. And we need to continue finding new ways to break down and remove barriers for those experiencing homelessness. I’m opposed to Initiative 300 because I will never be convinced that it’s dignified for people to sleep on the street. I will never accept people being exposed to disease, feces, needles, and trash that accumulate in our public spaces. We need to look through a compassionate lens to understand the bigger scope of what we’re trying to address. And Initiative 300 is not the answer. This measure, set for the Denver ballot, creates no new solutions or resources for the most vulnerable in our community.
  1. How would you protect and support small businesses in Denver? We have a lot to be proud of in this city. We’ve taken Denver from the depths of recession to one of the strongest economies in the nation. During my first campaign for Mayor in 2011, I said I wanted Denver to become the small business and startup capital of the country. We have made significant progress over the past 8 years: helping to create 100,000 new jobs and 8,100 new businesses and reducing unemployment from double digits to record lows. One major strategy in our efforts to pull Denver out of the recession is focusing on small businesses. We have concentrated on being a stronger partner with our start-up and small businesses, helping to solve their challenges such as access to capital and workforce and helping to cut red tape. Denver is now consistently named one of the best cities in America to start your business and to own a small business. I take the success of our small and startup businesses very seriously. From day one, my goal has been to create a more diverse and equitable economy so everyone has a chance to succeed. Moving forward, my administration is looking to improve job trainings and placement, provide more support for small, and minority- and women -owned businesses, promote innovation, invest in opportunity areas, and support overall small business development.