Shontel Lewis is running for District 8 to bring her lived experience to City Council

She wants to focus on improving transportation, making more housing available and improving health outcomes and education.
4 min. read
District 8 candidate Shontel Lewis stands in front of the Hiawatha Davis Jr. Recreation Center in Northeast Park Hill. Feb. 7, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

When Shontel Lewis reflects on why she's running for City Council, it's a series of events in her life that feel like she's come full circle.

She's experienced homelessness and now works for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. There was a point where she was dependent daily on public transportation; she ended up being elected to Regional Transportation District's (RTD) Board of Directors and served from 2019 to 2022. She attended Denver Public Schools (DPS) and later worked for DPS doing community engagement work. Now, she wants to widen her focus.

"For Council, it's an opportunity to really bring all of the experiences that I've had, both professional and personal, that experience and that expertise, to Council, to be able to make District 8 one of the healthiest districts in the city," she said.

In District 8, incumbent Councilmember Christopher Herndon is term-limited. Lewis running against Tyler Drum, Brad Revare, Christian Steward and Leslie Twarogowski.

For Lewis, all the key issues fall under one umbrella: "the social determinants of health."

Lewis said this looks like a combination of transportation, housing, health and education policy. On health, she wants to give out free air filters to underserved communities, prevent new fossil fuel hookups in new homes and update ventilation systems across the city. She also wants to limit sprawling lawns and golf course turf to preserve water, and get more federal money for lead pipe replacement (Denver recently got more than $70 million from the federal government for this). She also supports growing the mental heath responder program Support Team Assisted Response and other mental health resources.

On housing and homelessness, Lewis wants to grow tenant protections, reform the city's zoning code to promote more density, eliminate parking minimums, speed up permitting and convert from commercial to residential property.

"How can you be a candidate for any office at this point, if you're not talking about housing?" she asked.

Lewis also supports "creating a social housing authority," according to her website. This would look like community-owned units where residents pay no more than a third of their income, and provide housing for public sector employees.

While many of Lewis' qualifications come from her work in the public sector with RTD and DPS, Lewis has also faced her own problems with the system. In 2008, she pled guilty to public benefits theft. She told The Colorado Sun in 2018 that it's a mistake she made as a young single mother, and that she's worked hard to move past it.

"The most important thing that voters can know about Shontel Lewis is that she is the best of the sum of her parts, which is ultimately someone who is trustworthy and reliable," said campaign spokesperson Ru Johnson. "Her career as a public servant and her experience as an RTD Director and also being on the board is the best evidence that voters can have of her commitment to people over politics."

On transportation and climate, Lewis wants the city to focus on electrifying vehicles and filling gaps in the first and last mile of transportation.

She also supports more protected bike lanes and better Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. On RTD's board, Lewis unsuccessfully led proposals to provide free fare on Election Day and to cut RTD's security budget and focus more on social workers providing outreach to people in crisis on transit. Her push to move away from policing on RTD aligns with her general public safety approach, which would move traffic enforcement away from police duties.

Her view on climate is to "electrify everything." "No climate agency should be pinching pennies in this critical decade of action," Lewis wrote. She wants to reduce emissions related to the airport by making public transport to DIA free, install solar over airport parking lots and tax private jets.

Lewis also wants more people to engage with Council. She thinks people should have more time for public comment and more chances to participate in the budget.

"I hope what folks hear is the importance for me in what it means to create a healthy city, and a healthy city intentionally invests in the people within their cities, and so that's really what I'm hoping to be able to bring to Council," she said.

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect that Lewis previously served on RTD's board of directors. 

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