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.

For the majority of the campaign, civility has ruled. Duran and Wedgeworth, for instance, grew up a block apart and are friends. At a candidates' forum at Manual High School on November 16, there was a lot of agreement on issues, but there were also subtle jabs. About midway through, Bailey started to distance himself from the others by touting his experience and vision and reminding the audience that "John Bailey is not a new name in this community." He also told the audience that Lyle's earlier promise to "return every call" was a line that came straight from him.

The others eventually shot back. Zel Head reminded listeners that "yellow signs mean approach with caution," a stab at John Bailey's ubiquitous yellow campaign signs.

Bailey quickly retorted that everyone knows yellow means to "go faster."

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.

Wedgeworth dissed Bailey by telling people they didn't want to vote for "someone egotistical. There are some folks running who are playing the averages."

Roulhac, the most energetic speaker of the bunch, in turn took a poke at Wedgeworth, telling the audience that he didn't have a list of endorsements "from people who don't live in the community." (Wedgeworth had earlier told the audience that she had been endorsed by the Denver Police Protective Association as well as the Teamsters.) Bailey later tried to play off Roulhac's comment by saying his endorsements came from people who live in District 8.

And almost all of the candidates criticized Bailey's signs. After last spring's Columbine shootings, Bailey's nonprofit organization, Joint Effort (which sponsors safe-streets campaigns and raises funds for college scholarships) created signs encouraging people to think more about their children. The bottoms of the signs read, "Courtesy of John Bailey and Joint Effort," and Bailey says he paid for these out of his own pocket and not with any campaign money. But when the signs appeared throughout District 8 over the summer, many people interpreted them as campaign material.

"I know John's wanted this seat for a long time," says Wedgeworth. "It's clear John's been campaigning for months. But should you be using nonprofits that way?"

Bailey retorts that his signs were up for months before Davis announced he was stepping down in September and that complaints about them amount to "sour grapes and fear."

The other issue is that Bailey's signs stand on city property between sidewalks and streets. "The problem I have with the signage is that many of the signs are placed illegally," says Head. "There is an ordinance on the books that dictates how they should be placed. If you're placing them in illegal places, you're breaking the law."

Lyle agrees. "It's important to abide by the spirit of the law as well as the letter of the law if you want to be a lawmaker."

Bailey defended the placement of his signs -- most prevalent along Colorado Boulevard -- by saying that Webb had signs in public right-of-ways and no one complained about that. But last week, Neighborhood Inspection Services, the city agency charged with enforcing ordinances related to signs, collected 300 illegal political signs in the district. Of those, 200 belonged to Bailey.

Sniping aside, the candidates mostly tried to paint themselves as insiders of a sort: longtime residents of the district, born and raised and educated nearby. The only real outsider to emerge during the evening was Steve Garber -- the only renter, the only white candidate, the only resident of north Capitol Hill rather than the neighborhoods closer to MLK. His single theme was idiosyncratic: ridding City Hall of the influence of lobbyists, big corporations and political consultants. "City government is like a rat with fleas," he explained, "driven by money, propaganda and lies." Garber ran for city council against Davis in 1995 but gathered only 541 votes (Davis tallied more than 4,200). "I disagree with someone who would say, 'You don't have a right to run; this is a black district,'" he says, referring to something a black man told him when he ran against Davis. Garber says he told the man, "I don't think I worried Hiawatha that much. I only got 9 percent of the vote."

In Garber's neighborhood, new townhomes are going up, and developers are buying apartment buildings to renovate into condos. "There's a crisis for low-income and modest-income renters in the area," he says, and suggests that perhaps rent control is the answer.

Douglas agrees. "There should be some type of rent control or something to allow us to stay. Right now it appears like nobody can control this -- where a dump is being rented for $900."

All of the candidates favor redevelopment, though some have raised concerns about when anything will happen and about the impact of the proposed commercial and housing redevelopment of Stapleton International Airport, 25 blocks east of the Dahlia Shopping Center.

The city's Community Planning and Development Agency has several ideas for remaking Dahlia. The one being floated lately is to do a land swap between the shopping center, the low-income Elm Street Apartments and the Union Baptist Church. The last two front Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the main artery through District 8. The shopping center itself stands two blocks north of MLK and, says the CPDA's Julius Zsako, "No major grocery store would consider doing something on the existing site."

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