DENVER (CBS4) – Denver’s two mayoral candidates went head-to-head for the first time in a debate on Tuesday hosted by CBS4, CPT12 and KOA NewsRadio. And the top issue in the race could well be how to manage the city’s explosive growth.
Challenger and urban planner Jamie Giellis says the city has done such a poor job that people have coined the term “Denverization” in Kansas City to describe the kind of city they don’t want to become.
Two-term incumbent Michael Hancock suggests Kansas City would be so lucky to be Denver.
“The next term has got to be about balance. We thrived like no one’s business. We grew like no one’s business,” he said.
But Giellis says the city wasn’t strategic enough, “To say in eight years of solid economic growth that it came too fast, and we haven’t been able to keep up with it is a fallacy.”
Hancock says he has policies in place to deal with traffic, housing and the cost of living. Growth, he notes, isn’t a bad thing.
“I’d much rather manage the challenges of growth than the challenges of a dying city.”
Geillis says the city hasn’t managed the challenges, “Property tax assessments just went out the week before the election and people are seeing 30-40-50% increases yet again.”
Denver is not only defined by growth, but its reputation for decriminalizing illicit drugs; first marijuana, now pychedelic mushrooms.
“There are some people that are concerned about it,” said Giellis, who’s not one of those people. She believes the city can avoid any negative impact. But, Hancock is concerned.
“We don’t want to be the city where everyone says that’s where you go for all the drugs that might be on Schedule I of the federal government list.”
The two also differ on how the city should handle homelessness. Giellis says she will eliminate the camping ban.
“It has done nothing but cost us money. We’ve been sued over it. We’re likely to be sued over it again.”
But, Hancock says overturning the ban would be a mistake, “What you’re going to see is campsites all over the City of Denver because you’ve taken away a vital tool … to help move people to direct services.”
The two candidates also talked about their plans to address transportation. Giellis wants to, among other things, bring back streetcars. Hancock says they’re two to three times more expensive than bus rapid transit, don’t connect neighborhoods and just lead to more gentrification.
The runoff between the two candidates is set for June 4. Former Mayors John Hickenlooper and Wellington Webb are backing Hancock.
Two of the candidates who didn’t make the runoff, Penfield Tate and Lisa Calderon, are backing Giellis.
The complete debate will air on Colorado Public Television (CPT12) on Friday, May 24 at 9 p.m. Get more info at cpt12.org.