District 8 City Council candidate Christian Steward is focusing on community engagement

“The most important part of me being successful in this campaign is building coalitions within the community so they can enlighten me on policy priorities they want.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Marade vice chair Christian Steward reads a proclamation by Mayor Hancock to the Colorado Guardian Angels, July 15, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty)

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Marade vice chair Christian Steward reads a proclamation by Mayor Hancock to the Colorado Guardian Angels, July 15, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty)

Desiree

Christian Steward is running for the District 8 city council seat with community engagement on his mind.

Steward is from the Whitter neighborhood, or the eastside as he referred to it, but in recent years, he’s become an East Colfax resident and community leader.

Steward is a community connector for the East Colfax and Montbello neighborhoods with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure and Denver’s Community Active Living Coalition. He said the role bridges the gap between residents and DOTI, ensuring neighborhoods are aware of ongoing projects with the department and that their voices are heard during outreach periods.

Steward has worked with DOTI and residents on the Montbello Connector program, which provides on-demand rides, like Uber and Lyft, but for free. He’s also worked on Vision Zero programs with residents.

This minivan is one of a handful of vehicles that make up Montbello Connector, a free city-funded transit service for that neighborhood. City leaders plan to start a similar service in Globeville, Elyria and Swansea soon.

This minivan is one of a handful of vehicles that make up Montbello Connector, a free city-funded transit service for that neighborhood. City leaders plan to start a similar service in Globeville, Elyria and Swansea soon.

Courtesy of DOTI

Steward said through that work he’s learned that community is an umbrella term for all the different pockets of cultures and people in the northeast area and that engagement simply involves showing up.

“The most important part of me being successful in this campaign is building coalitions within the community so they can enlighten me on policy priorities they want,” Steward said. “Some of these community-based organizations are in the trenches and on the ground and I want to be able to give them some voices and platforms…My level of community engagement focuses on strategic partnerships…and building those coalitions will be able to elevate residents to higher platforms so we can get the changes my district wants.”

Through the Active Living Coalition’s micro-grant program, Steward has also been able to work with residents on small local projects and community events. The Coalition offers grants up to $400 for individuals and $1,500 for businesses “in support of walkability, bike-ability, or access to safe and healthy spaces for physical activity.”

Some of those projects include mural work, urban gardening and a harvest share block party.

Besides engaging with residents through DOTI, Steward has heavily been involved with the East Colfax Neighborhood Association, the area’s registered neighborhood organization. He was Secretary in 2020 and President in 2021. While on the board, and through his work with DOTI, Steward started walking tours of the neighborhood during the height of the pandemic.

It was a way for neighbors to get active and meet each other outside. Now, it’s also another way to connect residents with city officials and leaders.

“There was a need to exercise and connect with residents,” Steward said. “It was a really impactful and empowering way to engage, and again another way to build a coalition. Now, we invite all of these different stakeholders to walk with us and support us.”

Steward said his engagement skills will be his biggest tool during his campaign.

He said he will be focused on affordable housing, mental health awareness, transportation and crime, as those are top concerns he has identified in the community.

Steward said all of those topics are connected and affect each other. On the housing side, he said one important thing to look at is property tax and rental price caps, especially for those living on fixed incomes. Affordable units and units used as temporary housing should be close to transportation options, so should mental health facilities.

He noted that with “rising crime rates” come the need to explore why those rates seem high. He said they could be tied to lack of housing and mental health resources.

Steward also added that more neighborhood engagement could decrease crime because it could lead to residents looking out for each other. He said citizen patrol groups would be a great way to get neighbors to meet each other and also feel safe in their communities.

Steward joins a growing list of candidates for the District 8 seat, which will be unoccupied come April 2023 as current Councilmember Chris Herndon terms out. Steward is running against Brad Revare, Rita Lewis, Tyler Drum and Shontel Lewis.

Steward said whatever the outcome is, he’s looking forward to connecting with more people in the district and continuing to build those community coalitions.

“Be kind to your neighbors but don’t limit your kindness to your neighborhood,” Steward said. “That’s how I like to live my life and what I want to share…We’re all humans and we all want the same things…Through my candidacy, I hope people see that politics and government is accessible. I hope to inspire people who feel like regular residents to get involved. I want people to partake in civil engagement.”

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