On May 7, Denver residents will choose their next mayor. But while six candidates qualified for the ballot, voters can also write in a selection of their own. And Paul Fiorino hopes you'll spell out his name for reasons he describes in the following Q&A.
A longtime member of the Denver arts community with a particular focus on dance (he's also served in a wide variety of roles for local boards, organizations and agencies), Fiorino has sought major offices in the city and state on several occasions, including previous bids for Denver mayor in 2011 and 2015. In the latter election, he collected 5,379 votes, or 5.7 percent of the total, in a contest that saw current Mayor Michael Hancock top the 80 percent mark.
Hancock is on the ballot again this year, and he's joined by community organizer and educator Lisa Calderón, Stephan Evans (also known as Chairman Seku), former RiNo Art District president Jamie Giellis, artist/activist/musician Kalyn Heffernan and ex-state senator and city official Penfield Tate.
The following questions are the same ones we asked of these six candidates, as well as four others who launched mayoral runs but fell short of the ballot (Marcus Giavanni, Danny Lopez, Leatha Scott and Ken Simpson). However, we added one extra query for Fiorino, about the write-in process.
Continue to learn more about him and where he stands on the major issues facing Denver.
Westword: How would you describe yourself and the reasons you decided to run for mayor?
Paul Fiorino: I was brought to Denver by Temple Hoyne Buell in 1955 — born in Jamaica, Queens, NY, on the very same birthday, November 22, as our beloved city, DENVER. I have always had a connection with the capital city, as I would be there with my early career to maintain my Denver address, and as I extensively traveled to return to build a family, companies and campaigns that support the arts and humanities.
Twenty years of developing the Golden Triangle art/museum district (president emeritus), small businesses and community investment in arts participation, which is number one in the nation. I have been growing up with Denver. With the collaborative efforts of all those who brought Denver to its prominence, we can assure that their efforts are celebrated by coming from last to first. Calling out when necessary the injustices of administrations, and the successes. As a commissioner for mayors Peña and Webb — i.e., DIA and the Convention Center — my experience brought me to the discovery of a lost pioneer.
Denver needs a mother museum that defines the birth of Denver on the Larimer bridge by moonlight. The rapid growth threatens history that pertains to our homes, buildings and parks, preservation. The Golden Triangle Creative District has won awards and sponsorships for the nationally recognized Colorado Plein Air Arts Festival and preservation push for the Tabor Opera House in Leadville, which connects our city and state. We can heal this great state from above by taking care of those below and above the clouds, together as we all breathe Colorado. Climate science has a hold on the planet, and no place is immune. A mayor can direct, produce and create the atmosphere of action that is called for by this election and 2020, too. Politics is making policies for you and me.
Love your neighbor as yourself, the adage goes a (long) way in Denver.
I am the first unaffiliated candidate in Colorado history to access the gubernatorial ballot in 2006 to a recent run for U.S. Senate. The time is now for UNAFFILIATED leadership, and we are here to make Denver government bring together the dialogue and issues we HAVE, without prejudice and fear of the authority. I continue to run because you can, and make a difference just by running and getting your ideas out, and sometimes to fruition. My campaign for mayor is to challenge the status quo.
How would you tackle Denver's affordable-housing issues?
As an UNAFFILIATED mayor, the procedure and regulations could be delivered in the first days and it would be in direct response to how Denver votes. I played football, quarterback: Quick, aware and head on is how I would tackle the issue. What exactly is affordable and for whom? Business may need to figure out how to keep employees while being challenged by housing and wage increases. Government should benefit the people who keep affordable housing affordable, but weed out the corporate welfare.
Would you be in favor of using city land for affordable housing?
For parks first. I have proposed the Right of First Refusal, which is in statute, but I would extend it to all properties to preserve our neighborhoods or at least maintain our ROFR. The Loretto Heights theater and property is a prime example of an educational facility being staged for infill in southwest Denver District 2. ROFR is in place and may be challenged. Land is at a premium, and so up we go. How far, how high, how many? Sunshine is also at a premium — i.e., Larimer Square and high-rises in neighborhoods.
Land trusts and lease options also could play a role. Preservation is for our children's children, as we lost the Tabor Opera House in Denver but we are saving it in Leadville. Contributions to my campaign in lieu of your favorite nonprofit are encouraged, as they all need your support, as they may have the solutions....
Would you require affordable housing in every housing development? If so, why? If not, why not?
Yes, Tourism and hospitality are our number-one industries, and the service workers are the most important part of the industry. Build for them the best resource, establish the places that are affordable, clean and secure for teachers and first responders, and build the model with the future of automation and unemployment in many sectors. Every development must build for the future.
Do you support rent control in Denver?
I was able to live and study in New York with rent control. Artists in community are also serving the mental health of us all. We have come to lead in the nation for arts participation and now are near the top in rents. People are moving and we don't think about there being victims of eviction because the landlord either sells, property taxes rise due to nearby developments, or seniors on Social Security or OPA just are squeezed one way or another. Universal basic income or rent control: Something has got to give.
Would you expand the tiny homes concept? If so, how? If not, why not?
To live in a very small space among a culture of less is more: Really, one just needs a room with a roof, a place to rest and pray, every day. The designs of these tiny houses are so creative and it's real estate for one or two. Even though this concept could share resources and have a commons for other activities and events. Land is the commodity that we have, but again, the political will shall prevail if we VOTE or not. Tiny villages can become prevalent in Colorado. As gardens grow, Denver is ripe.
How would you address homelessness in Denver?
With dignity and integrity to the humanity of Denver. The treatment of the homeless population has prompted 300. Denver has a crisis every day, as each individual must be considered for their survival, needs and health risks as we shelter the ones who want that in an undesirable situation or those encamped outside in the elements. They are asking us for attention and to VOTE for the right to survive and live without prejudice and harassment. Either way, we must find a way with all that we know.
What's your position on the Right to Rest bill?
It is a right, and I want Denver to VOTE. It's a right! Denver will face itself and ask: Who are we? The ballot box will tell.
Is development in Denver being done responsibly?
We are pushing through deals and letting development run on years of gains and courtesy fees, etc., that we see pushing out the middle money maker who may be one paycheck away from...? 0-30 percent is what this election is about, and will wake the development community to do better. Architecture and great design is what we as an arts town should have. Parks and greenspace will be a priority. Will it be the homeless/transients' place? Do we do better by sweeping it out to suburban areas or get everyone involved?
What improvements do you believe should be made to Denver's public-transportation system?
ART TROLLEY connection to the twelve and counting art districts. I am a hyperlooper. However, the bus carrying me and the bike on the trail is an adventure. Potholes are really damaging, cars, trucks and buses, and these impairments are extremely hazardous to all. Sidewalks are a must, as they must be accessible for wheelchairs and robotics. Electric automobiles and rechargeable stations will become prevalent. I-70 should go up and around. Anyhow, it continues to pollute our air as environmental-impact concerns continue to be determined. The trench continues as car congestion with one person calls for pooling and parking concepts demanding less is more. City and state can coordinate to find federal funding to bring the hyperloop technologies.
Would you support RTD fare increases? If so, why? If not, why not?
No more raises, Buses should be the most accessible. If not, they should be free for some, if not for most. It is a service and can do better. People should not be hassled for not having a full fare. However, the driver has a very important job as they do deliver the people to their destination with a safe environment that provides for the elderly, students and disabled passengers. Bikes are welcome, and the front rack might increase.
Would you work to expand Denver's bicycle network? If so, how?
YES. Denver is getting better at biking. I suggested in the past campaigns how the red bikes should be year-around.... Cycling Solo on Denver Open Media and Triathlon Dance is available for your enjoyment — expression of love of bikes and ballet. A film is in production to demonstrate the relationship of sports and dance, which both demand our rhythm and balance. Warm up with choreocals.com, a pioneer program I presented to USA Cycling. Health initiatives and safety, i.e. get a light on your bikes, wear a helmet, ride with care and be aware. Bikes are going electric, too, so be considerate of pedestrians.
What should be done to deal with Denver's opioids crisis?
Legalization of cannabis and research on cannabinoid receptors has dropped the numbers. The future is in research projects that will address behavioral science, yet still a lot more resources are needed for the inclusion of various types of addiction. Alcoholism is rampant as well, but the need to maintain a patient with pain should not be denied of the opioid or the help of assisted withdrawals or use in a clinical environment. Remember to pray for the soul of the whole world. This is a social problem that affects us all.
What's your position on supervised use sites?
Clinics traveling could provide, like laundry and restrooms and libraries. Even though they already serve in a major way, it is always a messy proposition. Thanks to the access to computers and creative arts, THEY CAME FROM ALL AROUND was recorded at Gonzalez Library. Whatever we can do to save a soul or get them help is what needs to happen.
Where do you stand on social consumption venues?
Tourism and hospitality is what we are about, and Denver is the best place to be in the world to get a mile high. We are who we are, and they are coming to imbibe somewhere. Where? Away from children and other areas of public use. We need to provide for tourism.
What can and should be done to improve law enforcement in Denver?
I am the historian for Denver's first mayor/marshal, a pioneer that helped build our city and state: W.E. Sisty, who has proclamations at the Denver Police Museum and has invested more than any other pioneer. He is buried at Riverside Cemetery. I am running for the man to be considered as the name for the mountain facing Denver. The first responders of this city and, for that matter, all towns have a tremendous responsibility, and they too are service workers who need our support. As I have said before, we don't need to be a police state or overly brutal to anyone. We should feel safe to cross boundaries throughout Denver. I look forward to celebrating the 160th anniversary in October with Sisty and Chief Pazen.
Do you believe reforms in the Denver Sheriff Department and the Denver Police Department have gone far enough, or are there additional measures you would institute? If so, what are they?
The Independent Monitor is in place for your consideration if or when a concern arises. The election of either sheriff or chief would help with how each department may function independently — one city and the other county, both now under the charter of mayor/marshal and established with a consistent control over both Denver civic departments. The mayor is the boss of both and appointed. Consistency in running the city and county, a unique entity in itself, and that is what the mayor maintains. Until the charter is challenged, the only way to take away some of the power of the mayoral seat is to keep it to two terms.
Do you believe the Office of the Independent Monitor should have greater investigatory powers over law enforcement leadership?
They are there now. Hired by the mayor — an oversight on himself. But the charter protects his hires yet. Denver voted in 2016 to enshrine the Independent Monitor in the charter. Litigation should be avoided if at all possible. The police and fire leadership has to also deal with unionized departments and their elections. Officials should be held accountable on every level, as they are in the public trust to serve and protect. Please support our first responders and the services you pay for.
Should the City of Denver create a mechanism that would hold the mayor more accountable?
This Mayor has a mark, and I wonder: Will Denver be forgiving? Does #MeToo hold to this incident that marks a career or the character of a successor? Public service should be held to the highest standards and yet will we VOTE? Term limits is a power breaker, but already the Post has endorsed him, when they had the opportunity to remain neutral, as they are beholden to all their subscribers. A mayor can move forward a budgetary and visionary future plan, for the public — like the Denveright, which is being voted on by city council before the election. Should it be postponed? Did it go through enough due diligence for a new mayor? Visit your council and neighborhood meetings throughout the years, as growing pains persist.
Do you plan to live in Cableland as mayor, and if not, what should the city do with the property?
The place was donated by the father of The Cable Center, a museum of our history in television evolution. DenverColoradoTelevision.com could launch from there with a focus on Denver. I have a few homeless friends and they have a few causes. This mansion is a cash cow for nonprofits, charities and scholarships to raise funds. I sure would make it more available as an UNAFFILIATED mayor if elected. I could dig it.
How does the write-in process for Denver mayor work?
It depends on whether you access the ballot with 300 nominations or not. I again collected each and every signature face to face; almost half are still not found on the registry. Very disappointing. I was able to provide the official affidavit to the Denver clerk to be a write-in candidate, so any write-in votes will be counted. After accessing ballot placements in past campaigns, I hope my grassroots will return and even some new voters who know what I dance for this time. Write-in mayor = P-a-u-l-F-i-o-r-i-n-o. Environmental hope on April 22 (Earth Day): That's the deadline for anyone to run as a write-in. No one should run unopposed.
Are there other major issues we haven't mentioned that are important to you, and if so, what are they?
Veterans are the most vulnerable in their service to our country, to return to their communities to be homeless. Mental health care and services need to be implemented from our schools to the street by a concerted effort and process of the nonprofits and private sector to provide more resources. Preservation of our environment, water and air. Neighborhood cooperation and smart developed community services: i.e. art houses, clinics and schools could operate 24/7, serving families and children who find themselves in a downward spiral to stabilize their existence, including medical, mental and nutritional care. Banking for our new industries and citizenry who have not. Intellectual property, royalties and TABOR surplus could be the basis for quantitative easing to build a bank. Environmental hope and protection is paramount, and cities can make the change. People need to have a voice, and the voting rights of each can be performed and make a difference for you and yours. Volunteering is a supreme force for change. We can change our status quo as we grow to find a new day for Denver. Decide for yourself.
I dedicate my mayoral campaign to my parents, who got me HERE. Both thirty years older than I. Thank them for bringing me out west-word. Thank you for voting in this election on May 7th.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.