Al Gardner, an IT Executive, Wants to Solve Problems of Denver | Westword

The Contenders: IT Executive Al Gardner Wants to Troubleshoot Denver's Problems

With a background in IT and police oversight, he thinks he can fix the city's stickier issues.
Al Gardner is running for Denver mayor.
Al Gardner is running for Denver mayor. Courtesy of Al Gardner
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This is the sixteenth in our series on the Denver mayoral candidates, based on their responses to a Westword questionnaire sent to every contender on the ballot last month.

An IT executive by trade, Al Gardner has worked in the non-profit, startup and public sectors. But his efforts on various boards and commissions, particularly as chair of the Denver Citizen Oversight Board, are what give him a unique insight into how law enforcement works in Denver. Gardner led the board that watched over the Denver police and sheriff departments when they were revising hiring, training and disciplinary processes. The board that Gardner led also worked closely with the Independent Monitor, the chief law enforcement watchdog in Denver.

"Service to the community is the cornerstone of who I am and who I will be as Denver’s mayor. I will focus my efforts on creating ladders of success and crafting common-sense changes to policies that improve the lives of Denver citizens," says Gardner, who plays the tuba, drums and trombone in his spare time.

Why are you running for mayor?

I am running for mayor because I believe that Denver is a great city that has a rich history and bright future ahead of it. I believe that I have the right mix of business and leadership acumen, as well as the ability to connect with people in a way that inspires them to have hope in our possibilities. I know how the city works, I know how to work with city employees to continuously improve processes, and I will always give Denverites the truth.

What is your plan to tackle homelessness?

I will approach the homeless challenges in Denver with a sense of urgency and a focus on a housing-first model that addresses the most present need, and then expanding services that lead to permanent housing solutions. The city currently works with a number of partners that provide wraparound services that focus on the case management of unhoused individuals and families and provide funding based on the data that these programs provide.

My plan includes the expansion of temporary housing units and expanded partnerships with non-profit partners. We have underutilized properties in the city that we can leverage to achieve transitional housing to those experiencing homelessness that are untapped. It is imperative that we move away from the “sweep and move” approach that effectively shifts our unhoused neighbors from one place to another without addressing the underlying issues in an impactful way. I don’t think incarceration of the unhoused is a responsible approach, or one that encourages positive outcomes. Coordinating efforts with community partners and agencies that provide services will yield a more effective approach.

Would you end homeless encampment sweeps?

Yes, because they have not been effective and put a strain on our unhoused neighbors and the public safety system.

What is your plan to improve public safety in Denver?

Root cause investment. Once the police and detention services are involved with an offender, it is on the end of the punitive spectrum. I will work with our education and youth employment offices to broaden service offerings to youth in our city, as well as work with DPS and other non-profits to reinvigorate youth programs that focus on employment, education support and violence prevention.

Invest in the expansion of the STAR program. STAR pairs Denver Health EMT personnel and a mental health clinician to respond to low-risk 911 crisis calls. The STAR program is integral to 21st-century public safety because it adds an additional component that allows our neighbors in crises to experience positive outcomes and frees up traditional law enforcement to respond to other calls that present significant threats to citizens.

I think it is necessary to increase the police budget to invest in police recruiting and right-sizing our police force in our growing city. Having worked closely with DPD, I am keenly familiar with the struggles to recruit good candidates and fully staff all of our districts and adequately cover all shifts. Understaffed shifts and overwhelmed officers have led to long 911 wait times that impact citizen safety.

How will you work with Denver Public Schools to improve education and safety in schools?

I plan to establish a permanent DPS liaison that is responsible for ensuring that we have an established “always on” line of communication. I plan to work with DPS on ways that we can improve safety around our schools and reboot decisions on how DPD bolsters DPS safety efforts.

What is your stance on the Park Hill Golf Course development proposal?

I am a "no" on the current plan to develop this space. I am not against developing this space in perpetuity, but I believe that the city accepted a deal that is not equitable to Denverites over time.

How can Denver significantly expand its affordable-housing stock?

Utilize public lands for the purpose of building more public/private projects. My administration would act swiftly to focus on affordable housing in this city, which is one of the issues most impacting Denverites. My plan to approach affordable housing focuses on stabilizing rents that will enable those seeking housing to utilize current units that are available at a price that is affordable by adjusting area median income rates that better align with salaries. Secondly, I plan to expand and fast-track public/non-profit and for-profit partnerships that enable the city to partner with projects that more strictly limit or eliminate the profit motive for development of more housing units. Lastly, the city has to focus efforts on increasing equity in development projects, which have disproportionately impacted people of color in the city and have essentially caused many to move out of Denver to find more affordable housing.

Denver has historically been a car-centric city. Should the city take significant road space from cars for other forms of transportation (walking, rolling, biking, scootering, bus, etc.)?

My mobility-action plan will focus on the reduction of single-occupancy vehicles by reviewing planning and implementation of pedestrian, bike and transit options. The expansion of transit options will include an increase in bike lanes and pedestrian spaces along our most congested streets that currently do not accommodate these modes of transportation in the way that many of our side streets do currently. We must work more closely with RTD to plan for the continued growth of our most populous areas and increase mass transit options while keeping safety and disability accommodations at the forefront of design and construction.

What would you do if the Denver Broncos demand public dollars as a requirement for keeping the stadium in the Mile High City?

With all of the other issues that we are facing in this city that impact the lives of Denverites — such as homelessness, crime and finding affordable housing — I would be open to any discussions that do not impact the everyday lives of citizens.

Violence during let-out in LoDo has been an issue for years. Would you support a staggered closing time that ends at 4 a.m.?


See answers from Kelly Brough, Thomas Wolf, Lisa Calderón, Andy Rougeot, Ean Tafoya, Renate Behrens, Debbie Ortega, James Walsh, Robert Treta, Leslie Herod, Chris Hansen, Mike Johnston, Trinidad Rodriguez, Aurelio Martinez, Terrance Roberts and Al Gardner.
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