Councilmember Candi CdeBaca’s response to a reparations question elicits hateful and racist responses

CdeBaca said she supported reparations, arguing they could be paid through taxing white-owned businesses.
5 min. read
Denver City Council member Candi CdeBaca stands in the legislative body’s main chambers at the City and County Building. March 16, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Since Friday, Councilmember Candi CdeBaca has received messages calling her hateful, racist names and wishing her harm, even death. The vitriol has been in response to a short election forum clip of her expressing a reparations strategy that would involve taxing white-owned businesses went viral over the weekend.

CdeBaca, who is running for reelection for District 9, made the comment at a forum hosted by the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, an African American clergy organization focused on social justice.

The Thursday forum hosted many of the candidates in the June runoff race, including mayoral candidates Kelly Brough and Mike Johnston.

Each candidate, including CdeBaca and her opponent Darrell Watson, were asked a two-part question surrounding reparations.

The question was: what is your stance on reparations for African Americans and would you vote to approve reparations. The moderator also mentioned if reparations should be a combination of things such as historically Black colleges or financial benefits.

Watson answered the question first stating he believes in reparations for both businesses and individuals.

"Reparations should come in many forms, specifically let's look at our small businesses within Five Points and the fact that those business need an investment from the city not just federal dollars from ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) or infrastructure dollars but specific dollars dedicated from the city to ensure that our Black businesses [have] support and thrive," Watson said.

District 9 incumbent Candi CdeBaca and challenger Darrell Watson debate at Geotech Environmental Equipment's headquarters in Clayton. May 4, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

CdeBaca also agreed with reparations and agreed with Watson on focusing on businesses within Five Points.

She faulted the structure of the Five Points Business Improvement District. BIDs are pseudo-governmental organizations that collect additional taxes from all business owners within the designated area. Business owners opt-in to the BID, a certain number have to join in order for it to work, and the funding is used for beautification purposes, events or anything that would benefit the area.

CdeBaca said one method of getting the funding for reparations could come from flipping the BID infrastructure to instead tax white-owned businesses and funnel that money to Black and brown businesses.

"Instead of a BID collecting extra taxation from Black and brown businesses that are struggling, you could be collecting those extra taxes from white-led businesses all over the city and redistributing them to Black- and brown-owned businesses, who are not part of the BID, or are simply just Black- or brown-owned," CdeBaca said. "And that's one way to give back in the business form fashion. I think when we talk about resources being returned, this is where consumer-owned or municipally-owned resources are important. Because we are locked out of owning our control over our basic needs like water or utilities or any of those things. There is a way for us to change that structure and put Black and brown people in ownership positions over our basic needs."

CdeBaca posted her response, along with other answers from various forums, on her TikTok page.

It was discovered by Libs of TikTok, a right-wing social media page, and posted to their Twitter, where a flood of violent and hateful comments followed.

Those same comments have been sent to CdeBaca, threatening her and her family.

"I wasn't the only person asked the question and I wasn't the only person that supported race-based policy, which is reparations, but I am the only person being targeted," CdeBaca said in an interview with Denverite.

District 9 incumbent Candi CdeBaca and challenger Darrell Watson debate at Geotech Environmental Equipment's headquarters in Clayton. May 4, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

All the candidates voiced their support for reparations. CdeBaca said the difference in her answer was that she was specific in where the funding could possibly come from.

She said ultimately any type of funding for reparations would have to come from taxpayer dollars because that is how services are paid out.

"When you boil it down, anything we're paying out for any equity programs in the city, like loans, are all paid through general fund dollars which are revenues from taxes," CdeBaca said.

She added that some BIDs already use some of the tax revenue to fund social programs, such as the RiNo Art District's Business Improvement District.

When asked, Watson condemned the hateful comments against CdeBaca and emphasized that everyone was asked about reparations but added that, ultimately, CdeBaca's response was unrefined.

"That is wrong and I will always stand against hatred and bigotry...It's important as community that we all stand against that," Watson said. "Our responses were baked into what is allowable within the charter of the City and County of Denver...The councilmember decided to go a different side that was not constitutional...So yes, stand against hatred, stand against bigotry. Anyone who made those statements, we cannot accept that and we have to push back. We also have to ask the councilmember to reflect on things that she says that are alarming and things that are unconstitutional."

District 9 incumbent Candi CdeBaca announces she's pregnant during the Democratic Socialists of America's election night watch party. April 4, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

CdeBaca's office said they have faced these types of attacks before and the previous attacks were one of the reasons she did not announce her pregnancy until Election Day. CdeBaca added that she'll continue to focus on the race ahead and sticking to her statements.

"I am trying my best to not stress about it because again, my safety is in danger," CdeBaca said. "I think it's a reflection of how a narrative can be shifted so erroneously in service of a particular outcome.

Recent Stories