Race for the Cure

In the special election for a new District 8 City Councilman, the field is wide open -- just like all those empty lots.

That's no surprise. Over the years, Webb has appointed Wedgeworth to many positions: liaison to the city council when Webb was city auditor, member of the mayor-elect's transition team in 1991, deputy director of the Mayor's Office of Regulatory Reform in 1992, and Denver's clerk and recorder in 1995. She is currently the director of community relations for the Denver Health Authority.

Wedgeworth, however, isn't the only candidate with ties to Webb: Bailey was a campaign organizer for the mayor in 1995, and Duran works in the Webb administration, too.

But the only other candidate with as much name recognition as Wedgeworth and Bailey is Glenda Swanson Lyle -- and she can do them one better. She's already been elected to public office twice. She served on the RTD board of directors from 1986 to 1992, and from 1992 to 1997 was state representative for House District 8 (which covers much of the same territory as the council district).

The four front-runners  --   and that's not even half of the candidates: Jerry Duran (top), Glenda Swanson Lyle, John Bailey and Elbra Wedgeworth.
The four front-runners -- and that's not even half of the candidates: Jerry Duran (top), Glenda Swanson Lyle, John Bailey and Elbra Wedgeworth.
If elected, Jerry Duran will be the first non-black District 8 councilman.
Brett Amole
If elected, Jerry Duran will be the first non-black District 8 councilman.

"There's not a single [other] candidate in the race who has demonstrated results," Lyle says. "Not a single one of the candidates has held elected public office."

Lyle owns an urban planning firm and has been active for years in Denver and Colorado Democratic Party circles. She is also a founder of Colorado Black Women for Political Action and sits on the board of directors of the Inner City Development Corporation, which purchases and develops land in the community.

Even candidate Steve Garber, a research assistant at the University of Colorado at Denver, sees Wedgeworth, Bailey, Duran and Lyle as the front-runners. "I suppose a betting person would bet on one of them," he allows.

But the other candidates prefer to consider their own chances.

Most were raised in District 8 or have lived there for many years. Greg Pearson has lived in the community more than twenty years, working for the Colorado Board of Nursing and for an employment program called Colorado OIC (Opportunities Industrialization Center). He was also the second black commissioned officer with the Colorado National Guard. He is now a ramp-services worker for United Airlines.

The clumps of dirt scattered around the neighborhood remind Pearson "a little bit of the early Sixties, when a lot of cities went through urban renewal. They used to bulldoze everything down and build up new. Now people are buying up old homes to gut them and renovate them." And redevelopment, the fifty-year-old says, "tends to drive some people out and drives up the price of living. How the hell are we gonna try to keep some of the housing affordable?" Pearson has few answers, but he wants businesses that develop in the district to be made more accountable to residents. Redevelopment and affordable housing can complement one another, he says, but "they end up at cross-purposes when there are tax incentives given but nothing expected by the city. We can't give the bank away to get the business. It has to be a two-way street."

Candidate Sandra Douglas, 51, president of the Cole Neighborhood Association, wants more community involvement in redevelopment talks and wants to make sure jobs are available. "Traditionally, service providers who come in provide their own staff. We'd like to be part of providing the services as well." She also wants to nurture entrepreneurs in the district -- the amateur car mechanics and quilters who could turn their hobbies into ways to make a living.

"Training and jobs have been buzzwords for the last thirty years," says candidate Ron Roulhac, a job trainer with the nonprofit Center for Self and Development. "They don't talk about what kind of jobs." When the forty-year-old moved to Denver from Washington, D.C., in 1990, houses were being "given away." With the surging economy, the neighborhoods in northeast Denver have experienced none of the benefits -- witness all those chunks of dirt -- and have paid much of the cost. "We have housing going up that is not in the market with what the average person is being paid," says Roulhac. "If businesses are going to come in, let's make sure they're not paying people $5 or $6 an hour when they're making millions of dollars."


While certain themes are emerging in the race -- most notably the need for economic development and affordable housing -- few candidates are articulating how they'll achieve these goals.

"They're more interested in winning than in what the issues are," says Clarke Watson.

Duran says his focus would be in meeting the needs of the family. "I feel we lack in a lot of resources," he says. "We've been bypassed. All the big projects have happened, but nothing has happened in Northeast." Five Points, he says, looks the same to him as it did when he was a young man.

Wedgeworth promises to focus her efforts on community development, which includes providing for "safety, education, seniors, youth, health and livable wage jobs."

Lyle's platform includes an emphasis on zoning, better funding for area police and firefighters, affordable housing and health care, and ensuring "the prompt and adequate delivery of city services." (She promises that as the race winds down, she will get more specific.)

Bailey's main focus is equally comprehensive and equally vague: constituent services. "That covers everything people need done," he claims. He says it means simply that he will be accessible and accountable. District 8 is the most powerful district in the city, he says, adding that he wants to make sure that youth are in developmental, rather than diversionary, environments.

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