UpDoNA’s Safety and Quality of Life (S&QOL) Committee teamed up with the Lower Downtown Neighborhood Association (LoDoNA) to host a Candidate Forum on Thursday, February 16th. Home2 Suites at 15th & Stout Street was gracious enough to provide seventh floor meeting rooms for the event at no cost. They were extremely cooperative, and worked closely with us to ensure that the event was a success.
All four candidates were in attendance. They are listed below with names and pictures shown in alphabetical order left to right:
- Chris Hinds who is the incumbent for District 10
- Shannon Hoffman
- Noah Kaplan
- Margie Morris
It was very well-attended with approximately 140 people in the audience. Albus Brooks, the former city councilman for District 9 acted as the moderator. We had prepared seven questions which we asked of all candidates.
We recorded the event and we have posted it on UpDoNA’s YouTube channel. You can access the video at https://youtu.be/BKTtjoT-Iwg
Following is a list of the seven questions. We strongly suggest that you view the video and determine the positions of the candidates on several issues that are critical to residents of downtown Denver.
Photo attribution: David Dixon
- Question one concerns Denver’s Camping Ban and short-term plans for getting people off the streets and into shelters.
- Introduction: Many of the people camping on the streets of Denver are so-called “Service Resistant,” and refuse offers of help for housing and other services. They often are violating Denver’s camping ban which has been in place for over 10 years. In 2019, it was affirmed by over 81 percent of Denver voters. UpDoNA and LoDoNA believe it is inhumane to allow people to continue to live on the streets, exposed to the elements and crimes.
- Question: Do you support the camping ban? If not, why not? If so, how do you plan to bring about more effective enforcement than we have seen in recent years?
2. Question two is about long-term plans for getting help for those suffering from drug addiction and mental illness.
- Introduction: Many of the homeless suffer from these conditions.
- Question: What is your plan to get those suffering from mental illness and drug addiction into treatment? Do you support involuntary treatment similar to what New York City has recently announced?
3. Question 3 relates to long-term plans for ending homelessness.
- Introduction: Even though Denver has spent many millions of dollars to address homelessness, over the past 18 years since Denver’s Road Home program first began, our homeless population has increased. Some other cities have seen declines over the same period. Aurora has recently proposed a shift from the Housing-First model to one which seeks to better address the root causes of homelessness. They propose a model which continues to provide housing assistance to people who can be successful. For others who need more help, Aurora’s Shelter-First, Treatment-First and Jobs-First concepts require treatment and a job where possible before earning housing.
- Question: Clearly, what we have been doing hasn’t ended homelessness. Would you support a program similar to what Aurora is considering and support contracts with service providers that pay for recovery-results rather than housing-results? If not, what is your plan?
4. The next question is about Crime Rates and Denver Police Department Authorized Strength of 1, 149
- Introduction: Between 2019 and 2021, forty states experienced decreases in their total crime rate, while Colorado was one of 10 states with increases. Ours was the 4th highest increase of those states. During this time, Denver’s auto theft rate increased 138%, and Colorado has the highest car theft rate in the country. Denver has also experienced increases in the murder rate, the rate of aggravated assault, and in many other crime categories. Before his retirement, DPD Chief Pazen stated to UpDoNA that a higher police presence through substantially higher levels of officer staffing could prevent crime from happening, rather than reactively using officers to arrest people after committing crimes. Police Departments across the country are having difficulty hiring officers. Currently DPD’s Authorized Strength is 1,639 officers, with a current effective strength of 1,449.
- Question: Do you believe the current authorized strength of the DPD is too low, too high or about right? What actions would you support for either attracting more officers or downsizing the police force?
5. Let’s talk about plans to attract more suburban and out of state visitors to downtown.
- Introduction: Tourism is critical to the economic vitality of Denver. In particular, downtown Denver is critical to the tourism industry with the Convention Center, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the 16th Street Mall and more. But conventions and tourists are staying away because of negative perceptions of safety. A coalition of public, private, nonprofit partners and law enforcement recently announced the “Together We Will” coordinated strategy and infusion of resources to address public health and safety challenges in downtown Denver.
- Question: What should be done to attract more conventions and tourists to downtown Denver?
6. Downtown Denver is an economic engine of Colorado.
- Introduction: Our mayor and city council previously collaborated to attract corporate headquarters and regional headquarters to downtown. Now, we are watching companies move from downtown to Cherry Creek. Worse, we are seeing them move outside of the Denver City limits to Greenwood Village or elsewhere, sometimes out of state.
- Question: What role does city council have in returning downtown Denver to being a desirable place for businesses to locate or at least remain?
7. This last question relates to the City of Denver budget.
- Introduction: In 2022 the Mayor submitted his $1.66 Billion General Fund budget which began on Jan, 1 2023.
- Question: If elected, what will be your main budget priorities for District 10 and how will you get your colleagues to support your priorities?