Jamie Giellis of the RiNo Art District is running to be Denver’s next mayor

Giellis is the seventh challenger to Mayor Michael Hancock.

Jamie Giellis speaks at Denver City Council, Feb. 12, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Jamie Giellis speaks at Denver City Council, Feb. 12, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photos

Jamie Giellis, a staffer at the RiNo Art District, will run for mayor of Denver, she announced in a press release Thursday. The new candidate brings the slate to eight.

Giellis is president of the RiNo Art District, a nonprofit organization and a branded geographic area in the River North section of Five Points that works with businesses to finance neighborhood improvements. She’ll step down to run for mayor because of time constraints, she said in an interview. The 41-year-old also founded Centro, a consultancy aimed at “empowering neighborhoods and places to effectively manage themselves,” according to the company’s website.

Her platform centers on housing, transportation, environmental sustainability and education.

“A lot of this has to do with looking at leadership at the city from the inside out,” Giellis said. “There’s been significant growth here. And that in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. But I think growth has to be accompanied by being forward-thinking about how we look at and address all the things that come with it.”

Denver faces a shortage of about 26,000 homes for the city’s lowest earners, according to the Hancock administration’s housing plan. I asked Giellis how her plan for attainable housing would differ from the city’s current blueprint, which includes an affordable housing fund that was recently doubled.

“I think that there’s been a lot of great things said, but I’m not sure that there’s been as many great things actually done on that front,” Giellis said. “Number one, it’s unfortunate that the priority came so late. Number two, it’s one thing to put money in a fund, it’s another thing to turn that money into housing.”

Moving people more efficiently with transit and biking is another goal of the new candidate. While Giellis is happy with all the new people moving here, she worries they won’t stay if they can’t move around conveniently and affordably. She mentioned prioritizing transit — whether it’s the bus, light rail or a streetcar — and a better connected bike network.

The Hancock administration is in the midst of finalizing its first-ever plans for transit and pedestrians, but funding for new the networks is still a question mark. Giellis said her administration would prioritize mobility where the current mayor has not.

“There has to be a clear plan for inner-city, inter-neighborhood transit connectivity beyond the regional rail system,” she said. “And there has to be the political will to put the money to it if that’s the desire of the people.”

The candidate repeatedly emphasized the importance of working with residents at the neighborhood level “as we try to address part of these complex challenges.”

Asked how she would fund her campaign, Giellis said she’s working on “key funders” but that it will depend on “people being compelled by the message.”

Her statement lists several qualifications for the city’s top post, including her background creating strategies for neighborhood business districts and other organizations, and experience with “community-based economic development.”

Giellis will face Hancock, Kalyn Rose Heffernan, Penfield Tate III, Lisa Calderón, Stephan Elliot Evans (better known as Chairman Seku), Marcus Giavanni, Danny Lopez and Kenneth Simpson in the May 2019 election.

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Election 2019