Even if she counts two stints working and living in southern Colorado, Christine Alonzo has always called Montbello home.
Alonzo has lived there for more than 30 years, spending about four years working in southern Colorado. She has more than 20 years of experience working in labor organizing, starting out as a rank-and-file union member at United Food and Commercial Workers before eventually moving into larger leadership roles.
Alonzo is looking to unseat incumbent District 11 Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore in the far northeast district that includes Montbello, Green Valley Ranch and DIA.
“This is a blue-collar, working family community,” Alonzo said. “I know first-hand that there are people who live in this community, who work at the airport and go from one job to another so that they can afford to pay the rent.”
She’s worked for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and most recently worked for the Service Employees International Union as a director. It’s a position she left in August to pursue her City Council run.
“I think where we are failing is holding our city council people accountable to make sure that they’re doing what the constituency wants them to do and not what some of the developers or corporate interests are having them do,” Alonzo said.
If she sounds a bit like an advocate, it’s not a coincidence. Alonzo also has a background in civil rights work, having served as president of the Pueblo chapter of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and executive director at Colorado Latino Leadership Advocacy and Research Organization. She said her work with LULAC in Pueblo helped bring a new agreement between the police department and residents to help with public complaint mediation.
Alonzo wants her three main focuses to be improved affordable housing, livable wages and transportation.
Affordability is a big concern for her.
“More and more people are moving out into the district and that’s displacing people that have lived here for years,” Alonzo said. She stopped short of calling it gentrification, though. “If we don’t do something about it, a lot of people, people that look like you and I, people who are African-American, are going to be pushed out. And then, where do we go?”
Montbello is no longer affordable, Alonzo said. She supports the $15 minimum wage increase for DIA workers. She said the airport’s growth has been good for the district.
“Conceptually, it’s great,” Alonzo said. “Everyone knows that it’s going to take more than $15 an hour to get people to where they need to be, especially in City and County of Denver.”
She’s going to start pushing her community outreach efforts by starting a “Cafecito Con Christina,” a coffee meet-and-greet giving her a chance to meet locals (and potential voters). She’s hoping her bilingual skills will prove useful in the district with Latino residents.
“I think that the face of the person who represents this district needs to represent the faces of the people in this district because they’re better able to understand the hardships and maybe have struggled within their own hardships that are relatable (to the people in the district),” Alonzo said.
She’s one of the many residents who feels concern after the neighborhood lost its park and ride. It relates to other topics she wants to address in the district, including food insecurity and making sure the aging population is taken care of.
“In this community, people rely on public transportation,” Alonzo said. “To shut that down just puts people in a position where maybe they can’t get to work or kids who bus out of this school district can’t get to school.”