DENVER (CBS4) – Denver’s runoff mayoral election is two weeks away, and CBS4 is profiling both candidates. When challenger Jamie Giellis entered the Denver’s mayoral race, she said she never dreamed it would be as ugly as it is.
She’s never held public office, but soon learned politics is a blood sport.
“You can’t possibly know the pressure until you’ve been in somebody’s shoes who’s running for office. You have stuff pummeled at you every day.”
Giellis has come under heavy fire over remarks that made it appear she was racially insensitive. She responded by deleting her personal social media accounts and releasing a statement. She regrets that now.
“I think in hindsight we all have those thoughts, ‘could I have handled that better?’… yes, absolutely.”
If elected, Giellis would be Denver’s first female mayor.
“I’ve never wanted to make being a woman in this race, or being the first woman, the priority. But, I think it’s important in this moment that we talk about women and equity and leadership and strength. I want women out there to know they have a voice and I’m representing their interests.”
She says she would reform what she calls a culture of sexual harassment at City Hall, pointing to sexually charged text messages Mayor Michael Hancock sent to a woman on his security detail.
An urban planner, she works in a male-dominated field and says she’s been subjected to unwanted sexual remarks and advances.
“I have largely set aside those types of statements or behaviors that you see from men when you’re working in this field. I’ve been called a lot things. The people on social media call me millennial Barbie, just these derogatory things that are disheartening.”
On growth, Giellis says she would overhaul planning and zoning to address gentrification and would incentivize private developers to build more affordable housing.
“I talk always about the carrot and the stick. Can we also incentivize people to do the right thing by moving you to the top of the pile on permitting? By eliminating or reducing some of your fees? The city does that for the Denver Housing Authority, but if you’re a private developer, you don’t get the same treatment.”
On homelessness, she says she would urge an end to the camping ban. While she’s not in favor of people camping in city parks, she says the ban is simply used for homeless sweeps.
“The sweeps move homelessness around, and they cost us a lot of money and that money is not being spent on housing or services.”
On transportation, she says she would explore the use of street cars.
“Ultimately what I care most about is that we have affordable, reliable, effective intra-city transit that’s provides an opportunity to get some of the congestion off the street.”
Giellis says she would also push for a City Hall that’s more inclusive.
“There’s a select group of people that get a voice with the city, and I feel like anybody else that’s coming to the table has to fight and push up.”
She says there’s a disconnect between the city’s policies and its people.
“It’s a very top-down economic driven policy that’s about the mayor talking about 12 new international flights and not understanding that the people who are living here are struggling to pay their tax bill.”
If elected, Giellis says she will call for an audit of the city’s budget to find efficiencies that could help lower property taxes.