Denver Government

The Contenders: Kelly Brough Brings Combo of Life Challenges and Executive Experience

Kelly Brough touts her life journey and leadership experience as selling points for voters.
Kelly Brough touts her life journey and leadership experience as selling points for voters. Evan Semón Photography
This is the first 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 "Humanizing" piece on Kelly Brought below.

When describing why she wants to run for mayor of the Mile High City, Kelly Brough uses the word "optimism."

She's optimistic about the promise that Denver can offer a city "where working families can buy a home, our downtown is thriving and vibrant, those who are most vulnerable are sheltered and our kids get a great education."

Brough was able to make good on that promise to her two daughters while raising them in Denver. But her life was tough at times. Her father was murdered when Brough was just an infant, and she also lost her husband to suicide following his battle with addiction.

Together with significant experience working in the public sector — as a legislative analyst for Denver City Council, chief of staff for then-Mayor John Hickenlooper and president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce — that background has become one of Brough's primary pitches to Denver voters to show that she has the professional chops and empathy gained through tough life moments to become an ideal Denver mayor.

But Brough also has a potential weak spot in a city as progressive as Denver. While she was running the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the organization opposed progressive policy proposals in the Colorado Legislature, such as paid family leave. Brough says that she supports paid family leave from a values perspective, but notes that the "devil was in the details" when it came to specific policy items that the chamber opposed.

Here are her answers to our questionnaire:

Why are you running for mayor?

I love Denver, and I believe in the promise that this city holds. Unfortunately, we’re not realizing that promise today. The challenges facing Denver are real and urgent and having significant impacts on people in all parts of Denver. We can’t afford a leader with a learning curve. The next mayor of Denver needs to be ready to make changes on day one. I know that my experiences — professional and personal — have prepared me well for this moment and these issues.

What is your plan to tackle homelessness?

Living on the streets is neither safe nor humane — for people experiencing homelessness or the broader community. I will eliminate unsanctioned encampments in my first year in office and end the ineffective and costly policy of moving people down the block or across the street without providing sustainable solutions. I’ll do this by maximizing the use of existing shelter beds and available housing and temporarily expanding sanctioned, supported camping so people get the help they need while we work to build more long-term, indoor solutions.

Additionally, I will work with regional governments to establish a coordinated strategy and strengthen our data system to ensure it is complete, timely and sophisticated, invest in prevention and support those at risk of homelessness by ensuring access to job supports, child care, health care and other stabilizing services, and evolve our shelters to ensure we have safe beds to serve the diverse unhoused population and build the housing needed to best support people exiting homelessness.

This actionable plan was developed based on input from experts and has been endorsed by five metro-area mayors.

Would you end homeless encampment sweeps?

Yes. Moving people down the block or across the street is a costly, ineffective policy and does not provide meaningful solutions that help individuals or the community. I will provide people experiencing homelessness with a variety of safe indoor options. I have met with nonprofits and organizations who serve the homeless community, and I believe them when they tell me that 90 percent of those who are unhoused would rather be sheltered. For those that refuse shelter even when it is available, I will do everything in my power to keep them safe. Living unhoused on the streets is dangerous and should not be acceptable to anyone.

What is your plan to improve public safety in Denver?

Ensuring community safety is fundamental and foundational to everything else I plan to accomplish. Some neighborhoods feel over-policed and others feel under-policed. We have work to do, neighborhood by neighborhood, to implement sophisticated and adaptive approaches that meet individual community needs. Having worked closely with both our community safety and neighborhood leaders, I’m confident that we can and will create a safer, more welcoming and thriving Denver. I will take a comprehensive approach to community safety.

My safety priorities include: 1) strengthening the Denver Police Department, so we can recruit and retain more officers to the force, particularly women and people of color, to fill our current levels of authorized strength. I would work to fill the approximately 150 vacant but authorized positions on the police force, and recruit to fill vacancies in our 911 dispatch and sheriff’s office, all currently budgeted, but unfilled; 2) working with our public safety officials — leaders, officers, and staff — to create a stronger culture built around national best practices, transparency, and accountability; 3) increasing investment in civilian responders to ensure we provide appropriate resources (e.g., mental health support) through the co-responder and STAR programs, freeing up sworn officers to focus on true crime. I estimate that we could increase investment by at least 50 percent ($1.2M); and 4) addressing crime prevention by investing in housing, health care, education and economic development. Safety is about much more than emergency response — it is about creating the conditions that enable people to thrive.

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

A city is only as good as its school district and ours needs help. The mayor, superintendent and School Board must all work together to ensure progress toward shared goals — most importantly, improving student success and closing achievement gaps among students of color and those coming from low-
income families. As mayor, I will actively engage in DPS school board races to restore confidence in our governing body, and I will use the power of my platform to inform and shape the direction of DPS by: 1) pursuing efficiencies between the city and the district to enable DPS to spend more of its limited resources on classroom learning; 2) re-engaging the private sector to support DPS; and 3) providing paid internships and apprenticeships in City agencies for DPS high school students.

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

I have met with more than a dozen stakeholders on this issue: Park Hill neighbors, open space advocates, developers, attorneys, current and former elected officials. Some folks have been formally or officially involved in the debate and others have been interested observers. From all these conversations, it seems to me that most — if not all — people knowledgeable about the issue agree on three things: 1) we need more park land and open space in Denver; 2) we need more housing that is affordable and particularly housing that allows people who have historically lived in North Park Hill to continue living there; and 3) that the process to resolve this issue was very flawed. Sadly, this last point — the flawed process — is probably not something that we can overcome. It seems that politics and bitterness have distorted this issue to a point where compromise and mutually agreeable outcomes probably are not possible. And that is a real tragedy. The future of this property, in the heart of one of Denver’s great neighborhoods, should have been a great opportunity to bring people together to build a common vision for the future. From talking to attorneys, it seems pretty clear to me that only a judge has the authority to lift a conservation easement. So, regardless of the outcome of the ballot question this spring regarding public support for the current development proposal, I believe there will be a lawsuit. I think a court will make a final determination about the fate of the conservation easement and will set the path forward for the next administration.

Regarding my position on ballot question 2-O, I waited to make my decision to allow for a review of the Community Benefits Agreement. Based on the agreement, I will vote yes. That said, it is clear we will still need a legal resolution to this issue, and it’s my sincere hope and wish that a legal resolution on this matter is reached quickly so that the City can move forward as constructively as possible.

How can Denver significantly expand its affordable-housing stock?

All people who work in Denver should be able to afford to call Denver home. But for too many Denverites, housing costs are a significant burden, and for many more, costs are so high that they can’t afford to stay in the neighborhoods where they raised their kids. We need housing solutions that benefit people across the income spectrum, particularly for hard working people who earn too much to qualify for most public assistance programs but struggle to make ends meet with the high cost of living in Denver today. My plans to ensure more housing — for rent and for sale, market-rate and subsidized include: 1) the city will build more housing on underutilized, publicly owned land; 2) rethinking and revitalizing downtown and surrounding neighborhoods by incentivizing and supporting the transition of commercial space to residential; 3) increasing density on major transportation corridors and at transit stations and working with homeowners to facilitate options that enable them to maximize value of their property and fundamentally restructuring how development is reviewed and regulated in Denver.

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.)?

Denver has one of the highest rates in the nation for single-occupancy vehicle commuting. And we have alarming trends on pedestrian and cyclist safety. We need to address both. Regarding safety, I endorse the goal of Vision Zero, but we need a strategic reset on our approach. My administration will lead an evaluation of our current strategies and tactics, comparing and contrasting Denver’s efforts to more successful efforts in other cities and then relaunch the initiative. In the meantime, there are some common-sense strategies we can and should pursue, including better enforcement of our traffic laws using technology, police, and non-police enforcement strategies. Regarding transportation more broadly, my focus will be supporting Denverites to move more efficiently, safely, and cleanly. My specific priorities include 1) prioritizing investment in first and last mile connections to make it easier for people to choose transit; 2) engaging with RTD and other stakeholders to align priorities and maximize regional efforts to promote clean, efficient, reliable and affordable transit; and 3) maximizing federal funding available through the federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.

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

It’s not the Broncos without Denver and it’s not Denver without the Broncos. I am excited about the new ownership and want them to feel welcome in Denver. That said, I oppose public dollars for stadiums. I believe there are several ways the city can show our support to the team and would look forward to exploring those in collaboration with the Broncos organization.

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 am certainly open to it. I would work with my Director of Safety, the Chief of Police and local businesses to determine what steps would be most likely to improve safety and then implement those strategies.
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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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.

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