Chris Herr wants to ensure his one-year-old son will have clear air and drinkable water in his future. That’s why he’s running for the District 2 City Council seat, representing Southwest Denver.
“I’m running for one simple reason, which is to make a better future for my family and for yours, and for everyone else,” Herr said.
In his bid for Council, Herr wants to combine sustainability with affordability.
Herr said the urgency to act on “the major problems that we’re dealing with, like climate change, and folks experiencing homelessness, food insecurity, all the kinds of basic needs” is what inspired him to seek office.
He grew up in South Dakota but moved to Colorado for college 15 years ago, and has lived here ever since. He got a masters in public administration at CU Denver. He now works on campus as Director of Sustainability for the Auraria Higher Education Center, where he’s already put some of his ideas into practice.
He helped build a large solar rooftop on the library, increased waste diversion and pushed for more sustainable infrastructure, and has a list of other ideas he’d like to see Denver put in use.
“We can intersect sustainability and saving people money on the cost of living,” Herr said. “There’s a lot of efficiencies that we just haven’t explored both in water and in getting away from natural gas, getting to electrification, a lot of rebates out there right now.”
Herr also wants to see more people using weatherization assistance programs, which help people make their homes more energy efficient. And he thinks Denver could do a better job of providing transportation alternatives.
“Another point on the affordable living would be to encourage other mobility options that are not just single occupancy vehicles,” he said. “But to do that, we have to make people feel safe. We have to put the infrastructure in to make people feel safe, like protected bike lanes and better bus and rail service.”
Herr’s other priorities include increasing affordable housing and growing local businesses.
While Southwest Denver is largely suburban with single family homes, Herr sees space to grow housing through accessory dwelling units [ADUs], which allow small stand-alone housing on the same lot as an existing home. In his district, he wants density without high rises, and thinks the city should make it easier and more affordable for homeowners to build on their properties.
“We want development without displacement, right? We don’t want developers coming in and making a lot of money off of the families that have been here for decades and generations,” he said. “I think ADUs are a great option to increase the density, without that going to developers, if that makes sense, and that would just take a zoning change.”
Herr also looks around at empty storefronts around his neighborhood, and wants to do more to help local entrepreneurs.
“You drive down Sheridan [Blvd.], you just see a ton of boarded up businesses, you see an empty Target, an empty Walmart, an empty Safeway,” he said. “It’s a place that has a lot of potential, and I’m just not seeing it being encouraged.”
Herr is currently facing two opponents for District 2: Councilman Kevin Flynn, the incumbent, and fellow first-time candidate Tiffany Caudill.
Flynn has held the position since 2015, and is running for his third and final term. In 2019, he ran unopposed.
One of Herr’s goals for council is for everyone — not just those with the loudest voices and the most time to spend — to feel more involved in local government.
“I feel like folks in my district in the city and county of Denver in general are feeling just a little left out of the process,” Herr said. “So how can we be more transparent? How can we be more inclusive? How can we be more diverse in the voices that are at the table?”
Herr says his job as Sustainability Director has taught him the answer: coalition building.
The Auraria Campus hosts the Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver and University of Colorado Denver — and there’s the Auraria Higher Education Center, a state agency that manages and supports the shared facilities. Part of Herr’s job involves helping the different institutions collaborate.
“I have a lot of experience in that coalition building here on campus and listening to the student voice and turning that into action,” he said. “I really want the city and county to work better together. We need to build coalitions, build relationships to get things done, stop making excuses and start building solutions.”