Ken Padilla: City Council District 1 showdown, part 7

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 Ken Padilla.

Please provide a three-sentence bio about yourself. I grew up in Northwest Denver graduating from West High School and earning my BA in Mathematics at the University of Denver and my Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Denver College of Law. I have worked for 40 years as an attorney and legal counselor focusing on personal injury, criminal defense and civil rights/first amendment, including desegregating the Denver Police and Denver Fire Departments. I have been honored nationally and locally for public service and civil rights litigation by organizations such as National IMAGE, NEWSED, the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association and, in 2007, was recognized in 5280 Magazine's "Denver's Top Attorneys."

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? Medical marijuana use was approved by the voters and the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries throughout Denver, and highly concentrated in Northwest Denver, should have been foreseen. Our elected officials were asleep at the switch and now, after the fact, medical marijuana dispensaries need to be licensed, regulated and taxed just as the alcohol industry.

Bonus question: If you were a strain of medical marijuana, what would your name be? Label me what you want but I may be the only candidate who has never smoked a joint.

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. I would establish a strong partnership with DPS and charter schools to foster educational excellence by sponsoring before and after school programs, including science fairs, debating teams, art, cultural, and music clubs and events. Culture and arts programs have a bigger annual draw than all the professional sports activities, including the Broncos, Nuggets, Rockies and Avalanche and these school programs can be facilitated through the Science and Cultural Facilities District, currently funding over 300 tier III agencies in Denver. We should also foster trade school apprenticeship programs for those high school students who want to obtain careers in the building trades.

Bonus question: To test your street smarts, answer this quiz question submitted by Geeks Who Drink: DU Coach Bill Tierney was profiled by John McPhee in a recent issue of The New Yorker -- what sport does Tierney coach? Tierney coaches lacrosse at my alma mater, DU. (Correct)

What specifically would you want done to the new zoning code before final vote on June 21? I would modify the proposed high density two block radius proposed in transitional zoning in some areas, since it may encroach on established neighborhoods. There will have to be cooperation between the old neighborhood housing values and the new higher density housing and business interests and we must establish uniform setback requirements neighborhood by neighborhood. Also, there is a problem with requiring Colfax businesses to give private property for public right-of-way without compensation.

Bonus question: Include the name or address of your least favorite building or house in District 1. The former site of Tamales by Las Casitas Restaurant owned by candidate Paula Sandoval and her husband, Paul, located on the southeast corner of 44th and Tennyson. A chain-link fence surrounding the property allows all the neighbors and businesses to view and endure this eyesore with a sign asking everyone to excuse their dust until new construction is completed in "2009." I guess this is the type of "variance" that Paula says she favors in her campaign speeches.

Name two potential areas of the city budget that you believe could be trimmed and name two potential new revenue streams for the city. The largest expenditure under the City budget is for safety so I would identify overlapping functions and duties to determine if any decrease in expenditure could be made without sacrificing important services and require belt tightening in higher management of all departments rather than to cut services. I would not require the actual workers providing the services to take any cuts. Two areas of new revenue for the City include regulation and taxation of medical marijuana dispensaries and enforcing the licensing of the 177,000 dogs in Denver, of which only 22,000 are licensed, to help establish more off-leash dog parks and to pursue amenities, e.g. benches, trees and grass at the existing dog parks.

Bonus question: In which District 1 bar/coffee shop/restaurant/dispensary are you most likely to be spotted, and what would you be consuming? Jack-N-Grill, 2524 Federal Boulevard, Denver, CO 80211. Calabacitas Gordita with both red and green chile on the side.

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? Denver Parks should remain open and free to all residents of the community and should not be used for private, profit making businesses which is antithetical to the concept of public parks. If we allow our public parks to be used by those who will pay a fee, we will then limit our park use to the few and privileged. I support establishing more off-leash dog parks that are smaller and more community based since dog owners will be more inclined to maintain and police the park and clean up after their dogs.

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? I always promote Denver, so I will have to go with "Handlebars" by Denver's own Flobots. I would use Shakira on back-up vocals.

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? Light rail coming just to the north of the City boundary and on the south end of District 1, at 12th Avenue will bring sorely needed transportation alternatives for our residents. We will need to work with RTD to establish connecting commuter routes to get to and from lightrail. Furthermore, lightrail and transitional zoning along West Colfax, Federal Blvd., West 38th Avenue and other business corridors are designed to promote areas of pedestrian friendly use and to encourage mix-used development, including commercial, office and residential use along northwest Denver's main thoroughfares.

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? This question assumes that these are three separate groups and I believe there may be some cross-membership especially between the Highland Mommies and the northwest Denver dog walkers. Nonetheless, I will put my money on the local urban homesteaders who have a proven track record of establishing their turf. Once the Highland Mommies have been around for 10 years maybe I will consider them a serious contender, however, as our City Councilperson I will make certain to work with all groups in District 1.

Editor's note: Click on the appropriate name for the other candidate responses so far: Chris Jeffrey; Randle Swan; Susan Shepherd; John Haney; John Lehmann; Jerry Frangas.