This is the eighth 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; see PBS12's "Humanize" piece on James Walsh below.
A political science teacher at the University of Colorado Denver, James Walsh has called Colorado home since 1990. Eighteen years ago, the former college wrestler founded the Romero Theater Troupe, a volunteer-run community theater program that Walsh notes "uses the stage to educate the public about non-traditional history and stories about human rights struggles."
Walsh is running one of the most progressive campaigns in the Denver mayoral race, as he talks with compassion about people experiencing homelessness and those on the margins of society.
He may not have the best shot at winning, but he certainly does offer intriguing ideas.
Why are you running for mayor?
I am running for mayor because I want to see someone in the mayor's office who centers the voices and lives of the thousands of wage earners in our city, those who clean, build and carry the city on their backs but cannot afford to live here. I intend to be the first people's mayor in the city's history.
What is your plan to tackle homelessness?
My "plan" is to address this issue through a massive expansion of the Universal Basic Income program, which is being used experimentally in Denver today with unhoused people. This will immediately supply the most economically disadvantaged people in our city with resources that can be put toward permanent housing.
Would you end homeless encampment sweeps?
Yes, I would immediately end sweeps and repeal the urban camping ban.
What is your plan to improve public safety in Denver?
My plan to improve public safety is to reimagine how police officers are trained, emphasizing de-escalation and non-lethal tactics and expanding the STAR program so that police do not enter situations where their very presence leads to escalation. Police officers should not again enjoy qualified immunity. Improving public safety does not simply mean cracking down on the crimes of desperation that have increased during the pandemic, it means ensuring that those in low-income communities are served by law enforcement and not just policed by law enforcement.
How will you work with Denver Public Schools to improve education and safety in schools?
I will work with DPS by ensuring that DPS has the resources that it needs in order to pay teachers a fair wage and have smaller class sizes. I would encourage the school board to end the test score fetish, where schools, teachers and students are all assessed based upon standardized test scores that measure socioeconomic privilege more than they do intelligence or potential. While I support the successful charter schools that exist, I would work with the DPS superintendent and schools to ensure that public schools remain public and that all neighborhood schools have the resources necessary for success.
What is your stance on the Park Hill Golf Course development proposal?
My stance on the Park Hill Golf Course is that it should be preserved as open space/park and that the current development plan needs to be scrapped in favor of the need for open space in northeast Denver.
How can Denver significantly expand its affordable-housing stock?
Denver can expand its affordable-housing stock through a streamlined system that gets people into permanent, dignified housing as quickly as possible. This includes purchasing and recycling aging hotels around the city, investing in social housing on a massive scale, and providing incentives and education around limited equity housing cooperatives. I would follow the templates of cities such as Houston, but build in more new directions. Universal Basic Income allows some unhoused people to immediately qualify for a small apartment.
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.)?
Yes, Denver should find ways to incentivize people to use alternative forms of transit. This means a massive expansion of protected bicycle lanes, free public transportation, and room in the bicycle lanes for other forms of transit-on-wheels.
What would you do if the Denver Broncos demand public dollars as a requirement for keeping the stadium in the Mile High City?
I would refuse public dollars to the Broncos, who can easily afford a new stadium in the city if needed.
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.?
I would look seriously at a staggered closing time, if the data confirms that this increases safety.
What question do you wish we'd asked?
"What makes me the best choice of all the candidates?"
I am a political outsider, running on a strong pro-worker stance. I have a true grassroots campaign run by students and funded by hundreds of small donors, the average donation being $25. While many candidates have vast political networks and machines, my campaign relies upon the people.
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.