Race for the Cure

Page 5 of 7

Candidate Sandra Douglas, 51, president of the Cole Neighborhood Association, wants more community involvement in redevelopment talks and wants to make sure jobs are available. "Traditionally, service providers who come in provide their own staff. We'd like to be part of providing the services as well." She also wants to nurture entrepreneurs in the district -- the amateur car mechanics and quilters who could turn their hobbies into ways to make a living.

"Training and jobs have been buzzwords for the last thirty years," says candidate Ron Roulhac, a job trainer with the nonprofit Center for Self and Development. "They don't talk about what kind of jobs." When the forty-year-old moved to Denver from Washington, D.C., in 1990, houses were being "given away." With the surging economy, the neighborhoods in northeast Denver have experienced none of the benefits -- witness all those chunks of dirt -- and have paid much of the cost. "We have housing going up that is not in the market with what the average person is being paid," says Roulhac. "If businesses are going to come in, let's make sure they're not paying people $5 or $6 an hour when they're making millions of dollars."

While certain themes are emerging in the race -- most notably the need for economic development and affordable housing -- few candidates are articulating how they'll achieve these goals.

"They're more interested in winning than in what the issues are," says Clarke Watson.

Duran says his focus would be in meeting the needs of the family. "I feel we lack in a lot of resources," he says. "We've been bypassed. All the big projects have happened, but nothing has happened in Northeast." Five Points, he says, looks the same to him as it did when he was a young man.

Wedgeworth promises to focus her efforts on community development, which includes providing for "safety, education, seniors, youth, health and livable wage jobs."

Lyle's platform includes an emphasis on zoning, better funding for area police and firefighters, affordable housing and health care, and ensuring "the prompt and adequate delivery of city services." (She promises that as the race winds down, she will get more specific.)

Bailey's main focus is equally comprehensive and equally vague: constituent services. "That covers everything people need done," he claims. He says it means simply that he will be accessible and accountable. District 8 is the most powerful district in the city, he says, adding that he wants to make sure that youth are in developmental, rather than diversionary, environments.

For the majority of the campaign, civility has ruled. Duran and Wedgeworth, for instance, grew up a block apart and are friends. At a candidates' forum at Manual High School on November 16, there was a lot of agreement on issues, but there were also subtle jabs. About midway through, Bailey started to distance himself from the others by touting his experience and vision and reminding the audience that "John Bailey is not a new name in this community." He also told the audience that Lyle's earlier promise to "return every call" was a line that came straight from him.

The others eventually shot back. Zel Head reminded listeners that "yellow signs mean approach with caution," a stab at John Bailey's ubiquitous yellow campaign signs.

Bailey quickly retorted that everyone knows yellow means to "go faster."

Wedgeworth dissed Bailey by telling people they didn't want to vote for "someone egotistical. There are some folks running who are playing the averages."

Roulhac, the most energetic speaker of the bunch, in turn took a poke at Wedgeworth, telling the audience that he didn't have a list of endorsements "from people who don't live in the community." (Wedgeworth had earlier told the audience that she had been endorsed by the Denver Police Protective Association as well as the Teamsters.) Bailey later tried to play off Roulhac's comment by saying his endorsements came from people who live in District 8.

And almost all of the candidates criticized Bailey's signs. After last spring's Columbine shootings, Bailey's nonprofit organization, Joint Effort (which sponsors safe-streets campaigns and raises funds for college scholarships) created signs encouraging people to think more about their children. The bottoms of the signs read, "Courtesy of John Bailey and Joint Effort," and Bailey says he paid for these out of his own pocket and not with any campaign money. But when the signs appeared throughout District 8 over the summer, many people interpreted them as campaign material.

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T.R. Witcher