A very Denverite mayoral questionnaire: Kwame Spearman
We asked candidates about the Park Hill Golf Course conservation land easement, Denver’s future, sweeps and more.
Update March 16: Kwame Spearman announced March 16 that he was stepping out of the mayoral race.
As part of our 2023 voter guide, we asked each mayoral candidate on the ballot to fill out a questionnaire. You can read short biographies of each candidate and find their questionnaires here.
Please answer the following questions with a yes or no.
Should the conservation land easement on Park Hill Golf Course be lifted? No.
Assume the police force is fully staffed, should Denver hire more police officers? Yes.
On that note, would reducing the police budget to fund diversion programs and other potentially crime reducing initiatives ever be an option for your administration? No.
Should Denver plow streets after snow storms more often even if it means over budgeting for it? Yes.
There’s a bill at the legislature that would allow a version of local rent control. If it became law, should Denver enact rent control measures? No.
Should Denver institute mandatory holds on people interacting with law enforcement who are in mental health or addiction crises? Yes.
If state law allowed them, should Denver have supervised drug use sites? No.
Is the mayor’s office too powerful? No.
Does Denver need more bike lanes? Yes.
Does Denver need more parking lots? Yes.
Feel free to elaborate on these questions.
What are the biggest threats Denver faces in the next 30 years, and what will you do about them given that you could be mayor for 12 years?
As a Denver native, I have seen firsthand the incredible growth and change that have taken place in our city. This has been amazing for the city but has come with growing pains, and I believe that the biggest issue Denver faces over the long term is housing affordability and making sure our neighborhoods work even as Denver grows.
Housing affordability is a critical issue that needs to be addressed in order to ensure that all Denver residents have access to safe, affordable housing, which in turn is what will make our neighborhoods and local economy work. As mayor, I would work to implement policies that make it easier for developers to build more housing units in our city. I will streamline the permitting process, improving it where necessary, creating processes that help bring more housing units online quickly.
In addition to housing affordability, we need to make sure that our neighborhoods work. This means investing in our transportation infrastructure, including public transit, bike lanes, and sidewalks, to make it easier for people to get around without being reliant on cars. And then the other component of making our neighborhoods work is making sure people feel safe – crime has increased and I will work tirelessly as mayor to implement neighborhood policing policies with DPD to help ensure that our police department is more responsive and effective to the needs of our neighborhoods.
What do you admire about Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration? What would you improve on?
The STAR program has also been a huge success that the Hancock administration deserves full credit for, and is a national model. I think we should build and expand on it, finding funding from other parts of the budget to do so.
What steps would your administration take to make Denver more affordable?
I believe our neighborhoods want teachers, nurses, police officers, firefighters, and booksellers to live in their communities. Part of my housing push is for service workers to be able to live in the city they serve.
The biggest thing the Mayor can do to impact the overall affordability in Denver is to work on housing affordability. My policies include the Vienna Plan, which is a strategy for the creation of affordable housing units. Additionally, I want to streamline the permitting process so that more housing units can be built in a shorter amount of time. This will help to increase the supply of affordable housing and drive down prices.
We need to go to neighborhoods and understand where we can best build density. Neighborhoods that are being displaced should embrace density to help keep costs affordable. We should have density at our major transportation nodes.
Denver has grown an incredible amount since I was a kid, and with that has come some growing pains. But there are many exciting opportunities for how we can address this issue. For example, there is still a large amount of unused and underutilized land in Denver, much of it owned by the city. I will conduct a full audit to see how this land can best be put to use to build affordable housing.
Sweeps or no sweeps? You can add some nuance here, but you must answer “I would continue the sweeps” or “I would end the sweeps.”
I would continue the sweeps. Civic Center Park is the best example of what happens when we pause the sweeps.
I believe that we need a compassionate, coordinated, and accountable approach to addressing homelessness in Denver. Homelessness is a complex issue, and we must work to provide individualized services to those who need them. That’s why my policy approach includes streamlining access to mental health, addiction, housing, and workforce support services, with a 1:1 approach to meet unique needs. We will also provide free mental health screenings and shared data infrastructure to ensure that all individuals who want services receive them and are treated with respect.
I also believe that we need better coordination between city agencies, service providers, and other levels of government to ensure that we’re using our resources effectively. To this end, I will launch an outside audit of current programs and contracts and create a new city agency to integrate services. We will also launch a public-facing dashboard to keep residents informed about our progress in addressing homelessness and shift resources to serving people instead of just moving the problem around. We will work with state leaders to secure state mental health beds and ensure that immediate local needs are met and responded to.
Finally, we must hold ourselves accountable for finding solutions to homelessness in Denver. We will enforce laws, including the camping ban, and work with other levels of government to find solutions. Public safety teams will be empowered to enforce policies that ensure community safety, and illegal activities that cause harm or disruption will not be tolerated. We will conduct an audit of all existing service providers to assess which solutions work and which do not. My policy approach is designed to address homelessness in a way that is compassionate, coordinated, and accountable, and I believe that it will be effective in helping to provide services and support to those in need. Part of my neighborhood plan will be ensuring we find solutions that work for every neighborhood in Denver.
Permitting wait times in Denver have increased significantly, sometimes slowing down how fast housing can be built. What do you think is the problem and how would you fix that?
This problem is all about accountability. We have to hold our agency heads to standards. Through our neighborhood plan, we will work with neighborhoods to create goals for housing. We will then publish these goals, and hold our leaders accountable to getting these goals completed.
Denver has a strong mayor system, and as the CEO of a business, I know how to make tough decisions based on the metrics. CPD is one key department where permitting is taking too long, and as mayor, I will direct CPD to meet key metrics for performance and improve their operations, holding leaders accountable for meeting their goals. I will be thorough in assessing what is causing this issue and then direct CPD to direct these issues directly. If necessary, I will increase staffing. Currently, there are a large number of open positions that remain unfilled. We either need to improve our recruiting pipeline or explore increasing compensation to attract more applicants.
What are your thoughts on converting downtown empty office spaces into residences?
We need workforce housing. We need to house our teachers, nurses, police officers, firefighters, and booksellers.
Many of beautiful skyscrapers that showcase Denver’s downtown from the east looking west are vacant. SOME of these buildings were vacant before the pandemic. We have a huge opportunity to transform these massive buildings into housing units. The growth in housing will also serve to help revitalize downtown. We can provide workforce housing.
As mayor, I will promote zoning policies to make these types of developments feasible and bountiful.
I will also use city resources to help ease the prohibitive costs that will deter adaptive reuse in these buildings.
Black-owned businesses like Coffee at the Point and Wah Gwaan Brewing Company have been shutting down. Should the city intervene to preserve Black entrepreneurship, and if so, how?
As a business owner myself, I am very familiar with the challenges facing small businesses in Denver. As a city, we must be better prepared to help our small businesses succeed. As mayor, I will create a city fund for seed and emergency capital for locally owned businesses. This capital will be provided with low interest rates and mandatory timelines for efficient deployment. And it will help foster businesses aligned with our Denver neighborhoods.
We need to provide city resources so that each neighborhood maintains its cultural identity. Historically black neighborhoods have seen their businesses close. Other ethnicities are facing similar fates. As a neighborhood mayor, one of the issues we will collaborate with our residents on is how to preserve and create minority owned businesses. We will use city resources to facilitate.
Further, I’ll seek to influence large Denver-based organizations to become “anchor institutions” via leadership and partnership incentives. Anchor institutions will pledge to source goods, workers, and IT from Denver neighborhoods and small businesses.
How do you feel about land acknowledgements?
Denver has a rich and vibrant history. But too often our history books do not acknowledge our complete history. We should honor our indigenous ancestors and provide them with the same recognition that others have received. We should not shy away from discussing and highlight the legacy of oppression that indigenous people have suffered – and how despite that oppression – they still left an important mark on our city.
What are your thoughts on a flavored tobacco ban?
These products are all-to-often marketed towards children. And that’s a problem for our youth. However, I agree with creating some exemptions, such as allowing for age-restricted stores, that allow adults to purchase these products legally.
Too frequently we tax certain vices and let others go unnoticed. We need to apply equal application to these types of products. And we need to reduce youth smoking.
Describe specifically how your office will demonstrate transparency?
One of my key initiatives will be my Neighborhood Plan, which will require city agencies to create policies tailored to individual neighborhood priorities and be responsive to them. As Mayor, I will leverage existing infrastructure as well as create new programs to make sure neighborhoods have a better voice in the administration of city government. This will both increase responsiveness as well as create more transparency into how city agencies operate.
And we’ll use our website to showcase goals and track our performance against them.
When’s the last time you rode RTD?
I regularly take both the light rail and buses. Denver needs to improve its relationship with RTD.
Vision Zero, Denver’s initiative to eliminate traffic deaths, could be going better. What would you do to improve that?
As Denver keeps growing, our density continues to stress our transportation needs. We must innovate our transportation ecosystem and find ways to improve how Denverites get around, while continuing to combat climate change.
A strong transit system is an essential component of a vibrant and livable city, and I am committed to making sure that Denver has the transportation infrastructure and policies it needs to thrive in the 21st century. As mayor, Denver must be a city where everyone can get around easily, safely, and affordably.
I believe that a robust and efficient transportation system is essential for Denver to continue to grow and thrive. As mayor, I will prioritize expanding multimodal transportation options, such as walking, biking, and public transit. I plan to do this by creating a Transit Bill of Rights that helps every resident of our City.
My Transit Bill of Rights will protect your rights to:
- Quick and efficient transit options.
- Be safe and secure on your travels.
- Accessible bike lanes throughout the city.
- Safe electric transportation that you can afford.
- Regional transportation that works for Denver.
- A walkable city.
We must create a walkable city and ensure that everyone can get around easily, safely, and affordably. I will work to invest in our transportation infrastructure and policies to support multimodal transportation options. As mayor, I will direct the city to build more bike lanes, pedestrian walkways, work to expand our public transit system, and explore additional innovative transportation solutions.
The EPA has declared Denver a “severe” violator of federal ozone standards. What actions would you take to reduce ozone precursor emissions within the city?
I strongly believe that a green energy policy is vital for the economic development and environmental sustainability of Denver. As the next Mayor, I am committed to prioritizing the development of clean energy and sustainability in the city. As Mayor, there are many things I will do to make Denver greener and reduce ozone precursors:
- Electrification of City Fleets: I will work towards transitioning the city’s fleet of vehicles to electric vehicles, with a target of having 50 percent of city fleet vehicles being electric by 2030.
- Energy Efficient Buildings: I will promote energy efficient buildings by encouraging the use of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy in city-owned properties. I will also work to improve the energy efficiency of existing and new city structures.
- Transportation Emissions Reduction: I will prioritize investments in climate-friendly transportation projects such as public transportation, cycling infrastructure, and pedestrian-friendly walkways to reduce car dependence and improve air quality in Denver.
- Enabling a transition to Electric Vehicles: I will work to make EV charges available across city properties, parking lots, and in public-private partnerships to increase access in parking garages as well as on-site in multi-family housing.
What’s the worst intersection in Denver?
The worst intersections in Denver are the ones where people are dying. There were 82 people killed on the streets in Denver last year and 84 in 2021. Colorado and Colfax is one intersection with a high number of accidents, but the metric we should be most focused on reducing first is fatalities. As mayor, I will work with DOTI to determine how we can make our streets safer and progress towards Vision Zero.
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