As Denver Mayor, Terrance Roberts Would Create a Public Bank | Westword

The Contenders: Terrance Roberts Wants to Create a Public Bank in Denver

A former gang member who's now an anti-gang activist, he believes poverty is the root of most problems in this city.
Terrance Roberts, candidate for Denver mayor, with his familiar bullhorn.
Terrance Roberts, candidate for Denver mayor, with his familiar bullhorn. Evan Semón Photography
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This is the fifteenth 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 Terrance Roberts below.

A Park Hill native and a former member of the Bloods gang, Terrance Roberts ended up turning his life around, ultimately becoming an anti-gang activist.

But his work in anti-gang advocacy took a hit when Roberts shot someone at a peace rally that he had organized in 2013. Roberts was ultimately acquitted of attempted murder, and his life is the subject of a book and documentary by Julian Rubinstein called The Holly. In recent years, Roberts, who is a vegetarian for moral and health reasons, has continued his advocacy work in both the racial justice and criminal justice reform worlds.

He's running for mayor on a platform of establishing a public bank in Denver and tackling poverty to get at the root causes of many of the problems Denver is grappling with, such as homelessness and crime.

Why are you running for mayor?

Because the communities where I grew up — northeast Denver, Five Points, far northeast Denver — are being heavily gentrified, and so are historical Indigenous/Chicano/Latino communities, yet violent crime and youth homicides are on the rise. Developers have had near total control of Denver for twelve years, and it's big-box development that's displacing people. We need a mayor in office who isn't afraid to stand up for community, present a proper budget that addresses our city's most vulnerable's needs, and not pander to billionaire developers for re-election money and a job after the term is finished.

What is your plan to tackle homelessness?

From day one, my platform has been more public/social housing with on-site services. The installation of a public banking system to pay for additional housing outside of our general fund and to add banking services for our unhoused neighbors. And for those unwilling to live in a structure, amenities like hot showers, electricity and safe lighting, trash receptacles, outdoor bathrooms, hygiene products, etc., can and will be provided.

Would you end homeless encampment sweeps?

Yes. With my plan above, they won't be necessary at all.

What is your plan to improve public safety in Denver?

Last year, Denver had 88 homicides (96 in 2021 and 85 in 2022). Most of Denver's homicides and robberies are youth crime-related or poverty desperation-related. My focus is more on prevention before someone is killed, maimed or robbed, versus adding more police to drive around while crime is rising. Denver needs more youth centers, mental health services and more employment opportunities for those who are vulnerable to commit or be a victim of crime. A public-safety audit will be performed to see where we're missing service gaps to keep people safe, like in our county jail concerning staffing and food-related services for inmates.

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

Making sure there is a professional and good working relationship with the board, to start. Making sure children are going to school ready to learn and not hungry or traumatized from domestic violence or gang violence in their homes or surrounding communities. Addressing housing prices and rent inequities with rent control, addressing food insecurity issues, addressing energy and heat/AC prices, etc. will help teachers and students keep schools safer and more of a learning environment. I do not think adding resource officers stops kids from being kids; I think it adds to police having to do their jobs and give out court tickets for minor infractions. I do believe every school should have patrol officers in the immediate area in case help or services are needed.

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

I have been a hard "no" since day one. Northeast Park Hill is already heavily gentrified, there is already a $2,000,000 easement attached to the open space, and I do not see how adding hundreds of housing units there will do anything but help Westside get richer, while cementing the gentrification of a historic African American community.

How can Denver significantly expand its affordable-housing stock?

My platform calls for more public social housing with on-site services and a public banking system to pay for it. Nobody is moving from a tent into what is being considered "affordable housing." After more newly built or retrofitted public social housing, then more attainable low-income housing is needed, and then someone can transition to what is being considered 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.)?

Yes — for areas that are closer to the inner city, more travel democracy and carbon emissions reduction are much needed in Denver. Due to development neighborhoods like Green Valley Ranch, people have been forced to have vehicles, so it's nearly impossible to get to the inner city without a car. So more timely and steady public transportation is also needed.

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 that demand and use any municipal powers I would have to tell one of the richest families in the world to pay for it themselves. Mile High Stadium — as I affectionately still call it — is not falling down or even that old. A dome can be added to it. The stadium is fine.

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.?

Definitely. I am actually the only candidate who has expressed this is needed since I announced my platform. Studies show it's safer for our unhoused population, law enforcement, DUI arrests and accidents, and will add revenue to our general fund from additional sales tax dollars and tourism dollars.

What question do you wish we'd asked?

My platform also calls for a change in our city charter to allow only two terms for future mayors in Denver. The science and politics of three-term mayors versus two-term mayors is drastically different on services being made available sooner rather than later, after a political figure needs to make sure they're re-elected twice versus once more. Two-term mayors have to hit the ground running; three-term mayors have to play a game to get re-elected twice. If the mayor's office is arguably the most powerful political seat in Colorado, then why is the governor's office only two terms but not the Denver mayor's office? Major appointments now have to be approved by Denver City Council, which is something I've championed for years. Police chief, sheriff, fire chief and the city attorney should all be elected positions. Denver will eventually have over 1,000,000 residents just in our county alone. It's time to add more democracy to our city.

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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