Update below: With John Hickenlooper having been elected Colorado's governor, we know Denver will have a new mayor next year, and the race promises to be wild and wide open. To introduce you to the players, we're offering profiles of official candidates. Next up: Michael Forrester.
"I don't align myself with any party," Michael Forrester says. "I align myself with the people."
Forrester isn't one of the bigger names in the Denver mayor's race. Indeed, many media organizations don't regularly list him among the announced contenders, who include veteran official James Mejia, city council members Doug Linkhart and Michael Hancock, and lesser known hopefuls Danny Lopez, Ken Simpson and Dwight Henson.
(Westword's piece about Hancock will appear in this space soon -- but attempts to reach Lopez, Simpson and Henson have been unsuccessful to date. We encourage them, or their representatives, to contact the author of this post to schedule an interview. Click on the byline above, then use the e-mail link.)
For Forrester, who needs to increase his name recognition dramatically if he's to have any chance to have an impact in the campaign, this de facto blackout is frustrating.
"The media's not being truthful about who's running for office," he maintains, "and that's my biggest hurdle. I watched it in the gubernatorial race, too. The news media only focuses on who they want and who they choose, and that's not fair."
A native of Mountain City, Tennessee, Forrester moved to Colorado in 1999. He touts a background in law enforcement and public safety (he notes that he's been a paramedic/EMT instructor since 2007), as well as a history of volunteering for organizations such as the Boy Scouts and the American Red Cross. He's currently a student at Metro State, where he's majoring education and thinking about adding a focus in sports medicine.
Oh yeah: He also ran for President of the United States as a Democrat in 2006, with an eye toward the 2008 election. But the experience so soured him on the major parties that he's now a proud independent.
He adds that he's "the only gay candidate running" for mayor in Denver, "and I want to make sure the gay community knows they have someone who'll stand up for them and deal with the GLBT issues in the city." He's especially concerned about "the increase in suicide of our gay teens. These stories have really touched me personally, because as a gay male growing up in a small town, I had to deal with a lot of bullying. I'm hoping to work on that issue. I'm also a believer in civil unions -- and we need to make sure that gay people can walk down the street securely and safely, and gay businesses need to be able to operate without being harassed."
His top priority, however, "is jobs," he says. "We need to encourage small businesses and big businesses, too. We need to bring in big corporations that are going to hire people and put them to work, so that we can build the tax base we need for the city to survive."
He also wants to concentrate on water issues. "We need to make sure Denver is getting its fair share of water and concentrate on conservation, from water trapping to compostable toilets inside restrooms at parks, instead of wasting water the way we do. And we need to ensure that Denver has a voice on the water commission. We're going to run out of water in the 2020s, the 2030s, if we don't do something to deal with these issues now."
Michael Forrester works a crowd.
Regarding Denver Police, and complaints on the part of some observers about the use of excessive force, he argues that "the department isn't out of control -- but I think their training is out of date, and there aren't enough officers. The city is short 400 police officers we need in order to protect us." He would like to end the DPD hiring freeze that's currently in place -- a move he would fund by shifting money from other areas. "I've read the city budget, all 645 pages of it," he says. "My staff and I have torn it apart, and we have a lot of ideas about how to save money. There'll be no more robbing Peter to pay Paul.
"The city is wasting money on initiatives and big projects that are not coming to a head," he continues, without discussing specifics. "We can take care of our budget issues by eliminating wasteful spending and directing it toward core services that need to be fixed."
He concedes that reaching the masses with his message will be a challenge, "but my name is getting out there," he says. "We've held four fundraisers so far, and we've got another event coming up" on Friday, December 3, at JR's Bar & Grill (click here for more details). "And I've been networking, speaking to each community to let them know they have a candidate who understands the pain and suffering they're going through.
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"I'm just like the average person, and I can understand and relate to them when they're trying to decide whether to pay the rent or buy food. Cost savings are going to be a major theme of my campaign. And so will common sense."
Update: As reported by the Denver Post, Michael Forrester dropped out of the mayor's race in January, citing the large number of candidates and his wish to concentrate on completing his college degree.