A very Denverite mayoral questionnaire: Kelly Brough

We asked candidates about the Park Hill Golf Course conservation land easement, Denver’s future, sweeps and more.
14 min. read
Kelly Brough (right) speaks during Denverite’s People’s Forum mayoral debate at the Carla Madison Rec Center. March 7, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

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? Yes.

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? No. 

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? No.

Does Denver need more parking lots?  No. 

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? 

Taking a long-term view, I see four critical priorities:

  • Community Safety - I will ensure we are sending the right resources (e.g. mental health professionals  and addiction experts) at the right time and free our officers up to respond to those true safety  incidents where we critically need them. It is imperative that we change the culture within our public  safety agencies to focus on transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement. I will address  the drivers of crime to improve safety throughout Denver. All of this contributes to establishing and  building trust between community and law enforcement.
  • Homelessness - I will end unsanctioned encampments in my first year in office by temporarily  sanctioning safe camping locations while we develop the housing and shelter space we need to get  everybody indoors. I will also work with cities and counties throughout our region, strengthen data  systems to make smart decisions about where to invest resources and focus on prevention.
  • Housing - I will build for-sale housing on city-owned property, incentivize transitioning the growing  amount of vacant office space to residential units and increase density in strategically selected parts of  the city, including along major transportation corridors. I will fundamentally change the City's  approach to development review, aligning and streamlining efforts in my first year, while pursuing the  charter changes necessary to establish a new dedicated city agency for development review.
  • Climate Action - I fully embrace the science-based targets of 65 percent carbon pollution reduction by 2030  and 100 percent by 2040. I believe that through cross-sector and regional collaboration, with strong  leadership from Denver's next mayor, we can get there. I will promote housing density, particularly  along major transportation corridors and support the education, training, and re-skilling necessary to  ensure Denver residents are prepared and well positioned to capitalize on green economy jobs. I'll  prioritize regional work to address the Colorado River crisis and increase efficiency and reduce  emissions from our public fleets.

None of these are simple issues with quick fixes, so while I have outlined my immediate priorities for action, I  envision that they will be consistent priorities throughout my tenure but that my approaches and tactics will  change over time as conditions continue to evolve.

I'll also say that having worked in the Mayor's Office and see the job up-close, I know how tough it is to sustain the  energy and commitment needed to do the job well. If elected, I will only serve two terms or eight years.

What do you admire about Mayor Michael Hancock's administration? What would you improve on?

Being Mayor of Denver is a demanding job, even in the best of times. Mayor Hancock and mayors across the  country have faced historically challenging circumstances, especially in the last four years. Their tenacity and  persistence, their willingness to try innovative approaches has provided those of us who will follow them  incredibly valuable learnings to inform future efforts and for that I'm really grateful. I also commend the Hancock  administration on successful implementation of the co-responder and STAR programs and the Social Impact Bond  program that has helped people facing chronic homelessness to find stable housing.

My focus will be on execution, program delivery and follow-through, across the myriad of areas in which the city is  working. I will ensure that we don't just have the right intentions and goals but that we are delivering for the  residents of Denver.

What steps would your administration take to make Denver more affordable?

My top priority for improving affordability in Denver is to address housing. All people who work in Denver should  be able to afford to call Denver home. But for too many Denverites, housing costs are a significant burden, and for  many more, costs are so high that they aren't able to stay in the neighborhoods they raised their kids. This isn't an  issue that impacts low-income people only. Many working families, and even middle- and higher-income  households, are finding that housing costs are taking up a disproportionate share of their budgets, crowding out  spending room for essential services like childcare and making it impossible to pay off debt and save for retirement.

We need housing solutions that benefit people across the income spectrum, particularly the "missing  middle" population who earn too much to qualify for most public assistance programs but struggle to make ends  meet. My housing policy will include the following priorities to ensure more housing inventory, market-rate and  subsidized, for Denver:

  • Building more housing on underutilized, publicly owned land
  • Rethinking and revitalizing downtown and surrounding neighborhoods by converting commercial space to  residential
  • Empowering homeowners to increase density on their own property
  • Push density on major transportation corridors

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 end the sweeps because they are costly and ineffective. Living on the streets is neither safe nor humane for the people experiencing homelessness or the broader community. I will eliminate unsanctioned encampments within my first year in office by temporarily expanding Safe Outdoor Spaces and other sanctioned camping while working to address shelter and housing shortages. This will improve the safety and health for all our residents - those who are housed and unhoused. Here is a summary of my action plan to address homelessness:

  • Eliminate unsanctioned encampments within my first year.
  • Take a regional approach - Work with city and county governments across the region to establish a  coordinated strategy with specific goals and metrics related to shelter and housing capacity so the  challenge doesn't fall solely upon Denver.
  • Strengthen data systems - Strengthen our regional data system to ensure it is complete, timely and  sophisticated. Good data will be the foundation of our strategy.
  • Invest in prevention and supportive services - Take proactive steps to keep residents in their homes by  intervening and supporting those at risk of becoming homeless - because it is less expensive to prevent  homelessness than to manage the trauma after someone loses their home.
  • Build housing and shelter capacity - As a temporary and immediate step, I will expand sanctioned  camping, while we work together to build more housing and evolve, modernize, and expand our  shelters to ensure welcoming, safe environments for people exiting homelessness.

This realistic, actionable, and comprehensive plan that was developed based on input from service providers,  regional partners, and experts in the field. I have been endorsed by five regional mayors who agree with this  approach.

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?

It is the role of local government to work with developers and homeowners to ensure their projects align with our  comprehensive plans, neighborhood plans, zoning codes and building regulations. But today, the City is not  effectively performing these basic functions to anyone's satisfaction. Long delays in basic permitting not only  cause frustration - they cost money - resulting in increased costs to our residents. This challenge will become even  more evident as the State of Colorado implements Proposition 123 housing funding because Denver's slow  permitting process disqualifies it from being eligible for those critically needed funds.

While these challenges have been exacerbated in recent years, inefficient and ineffective project review and permitting are not new to Denver. Every Mayor for the last 40 years has attempted to improve Denver's development review process, and none have truly succeeded. I believe we need to fundamentally rethink how development is reviewed and regulated in Denver. I will make it a first term priority to separate community planning and development functions so that we can create deliberate and appropriate cultures for each function with the goal being to ensure that community planning is taking a thoughtful and measured long-term view, while a new Development Review Department is embracing a customer-service approach focused on efficiency in fulfilling essential functions that deliver projects quickly and safely. This will require me to restructure the department and pursue the Charter change needed to create and empower a new department.

This work will require careful planning and engagement with stakeholders, internal and external to city government, and will therefore take some time. So, in the short term, I will not only take steps to improve efficiencies and hold my team accountable to process improvements, but I will also consider hiring external contractors to help the department catch up on the months and months of backlogged projects we have sitting on their desks today.

What are your thoughts on converting downtown empty office spaces into residences? 

It is critical that we rethink and revitalize downtown and the surrounding area by deeply incentivizing the  conversion of vacant and underutilized commercial space to housing or other needed uses like childcare. We will  speed up conversion by implementing common-sense changes to building requirements and unlocking financial  tools like targeted tax credits. This strategy will simultaneously increase housing supply and make downtown  more vibrate, affordable and competitive. We have a unique opportunity and urgent imperative to reactivate our  urban core and I believe increasing downtown housing as a key element of our strategy to do so.

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? 

Minority and women-owned businesses do not start or succeed at the same rate as those owned by white men. There are often unique barriers they face in terms of unlocking capital and building the referral networks necessary to thrive. As CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, I was responsible for the Small Business Development Center. During my tenure, we were recognized as best in the nation. I also launched an initiative at the Chamber called Prosper Colorado where we specifically helped entrepreneurs who were women and people of color access the resources and supports necessary to thrive. As Mayor I'll continue this work, with a focus on cutting red tape and providing small businesses with access to city contracts. One specific focus could be to create one application for all public sector partners (CDOT, RTD, DPS, City) which would allow small businesses to qualify as MBE/WBE/DBE for purposes of contracting.

How do you feel about land acknowledgements?

I am very supportive of land acknowledgements. My daughters are descendants of the Ojibwa Tribe. I think we must work to not only acknowledge the sins of our history but meaningfully address them. As the Chief Strategy Officer at Metropolitan State University of Denver, I worked to expand access to learning for Native American students, helping to establish in 2022 the Indigenous and Native Peoples' Grant to provide funds to cover tuition and fees for students who are Colorado residents and enrolled in one of the federally recognized Native nations.

What are your thoughts on a flavored tobacco ban? 

I have always had concerns about addictive substances, and the public heath risks. That said, I think we need to hold our retailers accountable and ensure strong consequences for selling to minors.

Describe specifically how your office will demonstrate transparency?

Colorado law provides for transparency. There is very little that local government does that is not subject to the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA). It is essential however, that public officials provide timely, proactive communications about government activities. It is our responsibility to ensure that our residents know what their government is doing, when and why so that they can be as actively engaged in the city's work as they choose to be.

When's the last time you rode RTD?

January 2023.

Vision Zero, Denver's initiative to eliminate traffic deaths, could be going better. What would you do to improve that?

Pedestrian and cyclist safety will be a top priority for my administration's transportation and infrastructure leaders. Denver is an outlier in terms of our negative trends on safety. We must do better. I endorse the goal of Vision Zero, but believe we need a strategic reset on our approach. My administration will lead an evaluation of our current strategies and tactics, comparing and contrasting Denver's efforts to more successful ones and then relaunch the initiative. In the meantime, there are some strategies we can and should pursue, included better enforcement of our traffic laws using technology, police, and non-police enforcement strategies.

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 fully embrace the science-based targets of 65% carbon pollution reduction by 2030 and 100% by 2040. And I believe that through cross-sector and regional collaboration, with strong leadership from Denver's next mayor, we can get there. I believe that the City's climate action plans are solid and with federal funding available through the Inflation Reduction Act (2022) and the Infrastructure and Jobs Act (2022), coupled with dedicated sales tax revenue approved by Denver voters for climate action (2020) and parks and recreation (2018), we have a solid path forward to make meaningful impact.

I will bring an equity lens to my climate agenda to ensure that those communities historically impacted by climate change are positioned to benefit most from new investments. I support the Biden-Harris Administration's Justice40 Initiative to ensure that 40 percent of overall investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved and overburdened by pollution. I will partner and work with historically impacted communities to ensure equitable investment and supportive transition policies to ensure all of Denver benefits from our climate agenda.

My specific priorities on climate action will include:

  • Promoting housing density, particularly along major transportation corridors and at transit sites, and  supporting the conversion of under-utilized and vacant office space to housing.
  • Aggressively building green infrastructure on city-owned properties. This could include installing solar  arrays and / or electric vehicle charging stations at city-owned locations across Denver including libraries,  recreation centers, fire and police stations.
  • Supporting the education, training, and re-skilling necessary to ensure Denver residents, particularly people of  color, are prepared and well positioned to capitalize on good-paying clean energy and green economy sector jobs. For example, I could envision building a partnership between the City, Xcel, Denver Public Schools  and our local higher education institutions to educate and train the electricians and electrical engineers we  need to meet future demand.
  • Ensuring we are using our dedicated funding stream for Parks and Recreation to equitably expand access to parks and open spaces and investing in the tree canopy in neighborhoods lacking coverage today.
  • Fostering partnerships, particularly with RTD, DPS and DRCOG, to increase efficiency and reduce emissions  from our publicly owned fleets and promote regional action on air and water quality.

What's the worst intersection in Denver?

I believe the most dangerous intersection is Colorado Boulevard and East Colfax Ave.

Need more help voting? Check out the rest of our voter guide here.

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