Over the past several years, northwest Denver has been the site of heated clashes over new development, struggling schools and other hot-button issues -- and the political pot got stirred into a frenzy when Denver City Council District representative Rick Garcia split for a gig with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Ten candidates are vying to fill the vacancy; the contenders range from veteran politicians to neighborhood activists to longtime local business owners. (For details on voting in this special election, click here.)
To sort through the mess before the ballots are counted on May 4, Westword sent all ten candidates a pointed (and, yes, at times irreverent) questionnaire. We'll be publishing the unedited results over the next week (links to all of the responses so far can be found at the bottom of the blog). Here are the responses for candidate Susan Shepherd.
Please provide a three-sentence bio about yourself. Susan Shepherd, who dat???!!! I'm a New Orleans girl turned Denver community organizer, Mom & urban farmer, who wants to represent the creative and progressive thinkers in Northwest Denver. I graduated cum laude from the University of Oregon, and can talk sustainable development in French, Spanish or English.
Some reports suggest northwest Denver has the highest concentration of dispensaries. Do you believe additional medical marijuana regulation is needed and, if so, what should it be? Though I support medical marijuana, I will seek the following policies/regulations: 1. Sunset dispensary operation near schools, parks and similar community amenities. 2. Make medical marijuana business licenses travel with the business and not the land. 3. Limit the concentration of dispensaries (and related uses) to preserve the economic viability of our shopping districts, while pursuing an economic development strategy that favors local independent mom & pop shops.
Bonus question: If you were a strain of medical marijuana, what would your name be? Well, since my name is Shepherd, maybe "Flock Ewe Up?"
District 1 schools are struggling. Please give concrete examples of how DPS can accomplish significant improvements while also providing equal opportunities for all local families. 1. I will use the full force of the City Council office to help DPS leverage public-private partnerships to expand after-school programs, which can help working families while providing rich social and learning experiences for children. 2. DPS needs to re-evaluate its nutrition program, eliminate contracts with agribusiness that provide nutrition-poor products, expand local, fresh food choices for kids, and partner with my supporters and other urban farmers to grow more food on school grounds. 3. We as a community need to stop looking for outside solutions and need to take responsibility for improving our neighborhood schools. I've asked my supporters to pledge to keep their kids in DPS and to volunteer at least 10 hours over the course of a year to their neighborhood school.
Bonus question: To test your street smarts, answer this quiz question submitted by Geeks Who Drink: In the movie Space Balls, what was the cause of death for the character Pizza the Hut? He ate himself to death. (Correct)
What specifically would you want done to the new zoning code before final vote on June 21? I want to change the zoning in the West Colfax area to better align it with the West Colfax Plan (which my campaign manager authored) and the West Colfax Partnership's TOD Plan. The current draft map threatens the integrity of the Craftsman, Victorian and Mid-Century Modern portions of the established neighborhood. These areas need to be preserved while we direct appropriate growth to the areas that need revitalization, such as main street corridors, light rail station areas, and town centers such as St. Anthony's.
Bonus question: Include the name or address your least favorite building or house in District 1. Vacant storefronts and run-down buildings bum me out. I will promote a Neighborhood Investment Fund to pool the resources of local investors in support of micro-enterprise. I will also work to expand facade improvement programs along our corridors and work with groups like Create Denver to promote programs similar to the Lab at Belmar that provides gallery space for artists in vacant storefronts.
Name two potential areas of the city budget that you believe could be trimmed and name two potential new revenue streams for the city. We must think creatively in the midst of this budget crisis and consider all options. For example, let's investigate budget savings that could be generated by shifting to a 4-day, 10-hour workweek that allows us to close public office buildings 1 day per week. Utah has instituted this policy with strong results that extend the hours that government services are available to the public, reduce energy consumption, improve customer satisfaction, trim the city's utility bills, decrease the use of sick and vacation leave, contribute to fewer overtime payouts, lower vehicle miles traveled in fleet vehicles and reduce janitorial expenses.
I'd like to see the Strategic Parking Plan recommend more customer-driven policies that include strategies like Parking Benefit Districts that may increase revenue generated from parking, but which return that money to those same areas as investments in infrastructure and other improvements.
Bonus question: In which District 1 bar/coffee shop/restaurant/dispensary are you most likely to be spotted, and what would you be consuming? In my dreams you'll find me at my favorite Indian food restaurant along the Federal Boulevard cultural corridor -- attention all purveyors of Indian food! In my waking hours, I'll be sipping green tea at Common Grounds.
Many changes are possibly afoot for city parks -- and in the meantime, rec fees are skyrocketing . What are your opinions on new proposals on the table such as expanding off-leash areas, as well as new revenue initiatives such as allowing parks to host admission-based events? I would like to establish a Friends of Denver Parks philanthropy organization to find creative ways to raise awareness and funds to improve our parks system, which is the largest municipal system in the country. I support the expansion of off-leash areas. However, dog ownership is a privilege that comes with the responsibility to obey all applicable laws and to clean up after one's pet. We need to explore what it would take to develop flagship rec centers like the one in Wheat Ridge, since we are losing a lot of revenue from the many Northwest Denver residents who prefer to go there.
Bonus question: If the city were to hold a karaoke concert in Berkeley Park, what song would you sing and who would you have on back-up vocals? "Bicycle" by Queen with back-up vocals by David Byrne (author of Bicycle Diaries), the Colfax Nine & the Living Streets Initiative Task Force.
What should be done to diversify transportation options in District 1, while at the same time encouraging pedestrian traffic and drawing visitors to the area's business districts We have to develop and implement a complete streets policy based on the work initiated by the Living Streets Initiative. That said, government can't do everything, people have to commit to get out of their cars and walk, bike and take transit. I will commit that my staff and I will use alternative transportation at least 1 day per week, and walk our talk.
Bonus question: If there were a three-way gang war between the Highland Mommies, northwest Denver dog walkers and local urban homesteaders, who would win? Urban Homesteaders, we pack pitchforks!