Over the past several years, northwest Denver has been the site of heated clashes over new development, struggling schools and other hot-button issues -- and the political pot got stirred into a frenzy when Denver City Council District representative Rick Garcia split for a gig with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Ten candidates are vying to fill the vacancy; the contenders range from veteran politicians to neighborhood activists to longtime local business owners. (For details on voting in this special election, click here.)
To sort through the mess before the ballots are counted on May 4, Westword sent all ten candidates a pointed (and, yes, at times irreverent) questionnaire. We'll be publishing the unedited results over the next week (links to all of the responses so far can be found at the bottom of the blog). Here are the responses for candidate Randle Swan.
Please provide a three-sentence bio about yourself. I suppose I could best be characterized as the level headed, outdoorsy, historic preservation guy, who is perhaps better known as the "zoning geek" of the candidate field, and is also the one who has a well developed and comprehensive strategic plan to focus and target our city government's limited resources to revitalize our District's blighted areas, while at the same time protecting the cohesive fabrics of our stable and economically viable neighborhoods. I'm also the treasurer of the Colfax Business Improvement District which means that I also and have a great deal of experience with balancing and distributing tax funded budgets. As a second generation Denverite, with over twenty years of living in our District, and many years of experience dealing with city departments, I am already prepared to help our neighborhoods fulfill the goals that will lead to us all to a brighter future.
Some reports suggest northwest Denver has the highest concentration of dispensaries. Do you believe additional medical marijuana regulation is needed and, if so, what should it be? Hey, the original legislation that our state's very compassionate voters passed didn't say anything about store front retail dispensaries with neon lighted signs being located across the street from our parks and schools. I've certainly got nothin' against the medicinal use of homeopathic remedies to relieve a person's pain and symptoms, but I think we could easily impose some realistic sign ordinances and operational restrictions on this new, and very controversial, industry in order to protect our neighborhoods without unduly harming or inconveniencing the intended end users of the product.
Bonus question: If you were a strain of medical marijuana, what would your name be? "Zoned Out with Variances!" A gentle blend of open-mindedness with soothing fiscal overtones that brings you down gently after a rough battle with your neighbors.
District 1 schools are struggling. Please give concrete examples of how DPS can accomplish significant improvements while also providing equal opportunities for all local families. DPS will always struggle if they don't actively integrate with the surrounding neighborhoods, which are also the sources of their student populations. And vice-versa! As a council person, my power over DPS would be very limited, because they already have their own autonomous board and elected representatives. However, I can certainly reach out to DPS and our state's colleges and universities and seek more engagement from them in order to provide better enticement for our future graduates and to convince them to introduce programs that will track more District 1 students into four year college degree programs. Our District has a rich and diverse population, but that in no way should equate to scholastically under performing schools.
Bonus question: To test your street smarts, answer this quiz question submitted by Geeks Who Drink: Before it became the BK Big Fish, Burger King's fish sandwich used to be known as what? I've always been more of a Double whopper w/cheese (lettuce only), or their BK Chicken sandwich, kind of guy, but it seems to me that the names "Whaler" and "Ocean Catch" were used on the King's fish sandwich in previous iterations. Do I get any credit for knowing that it was owned by a UK conglomerate during the 1990s? (Correct)
What specifically would you want done to the new zoning code before final vote on June 21? Simply because of the age and evolution of its built environment District 1 buildings have NUMEROUS small problems related to the various building forms listed in the new code that will surely need to be modified, or else the nonconforming status of these neighborhoods will no doubt lead to incongruent redevelopment within them. However, realistically the new council person will only have a few days after the election in order to suggest any changes and, therefore, should probably be working on the first floor heights/property line setbacks/minimum parking requirements/and block sensitivity issues right NOW!
Bonus question: Include the name or address your least favorite building or house in District 1. Only because it's a perfect example of the "politics of zoning" the condo development (located on the SW corner of 33rd and Lowell) with its oddly shaped roof always make me cringe. Councilman Gallagher asked for a last minute change in our rezoning application in order for him to vote to support it which would leave out the property on the NE corner of the application's map so that it could still be built to the higher zoning capacity of the R4. However, the bulk plane encroachment of the abutting R2 made for a very weird asymmetrical roof line when the project was finally undertaken. I think the whole block, and even the residents of the building, would have been better off with an R2 zoned building with a symmetrical roof.
Name two potential areas of the city budget that you believe could be trimmed and name two potential new revenue streams for the city. How about cutting City Council's salaries and some of the higher paid manager's salaries just a bit? Heck, let's all make some sacrifices for the budget, and not just let those at the bottom of the pecking order feel most of the pain. Of course, those gestures would hardly make a real dent, but maybe it would inspire some better cost saving measures during the budgeting process. The real key to this current financial shortfall situation is revenue generation.
Bonus question: In which District 1 bar/coffee shop/restaurant/dispensary are you most likely to be spotted, and what would you be consuming? I'd probably have to say: Common Grounds. Iced Black tea when it's hot outside, and hot black tea when it's cold. Give me all the caffeine you can, but hold the sweetener, please!
Many changes are possibly afoot for city parks -- and in the meantime, rec fees are skyrocketing . What are your opinions on new proposals on the table such as expanding off-leash areas, as well as new revenue initiatives such as allowing parks to host admission-based events? The people of Denver have long treated their parks as sacred places. Passions always seem to erupt when park land and park access is threatened, and to be honest, I'm a bit of a "park hugger" myself. The City's Charter clearly states that park land is only to be used for park purposes and that any other use must be authorized by a vote of the people. I'm certainly not adverse to there being some form of limited admission based/revenue generation events within our parks' boundaries, but, without a vote of the people authorizing the Parks Dept to allow such uses, I'm going to always vote against this protocol.
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Bonus question: If the city were to hold a karaoke concert in Berkeley Park, what song would you sing and who would you have on back-up vocals? After this hard fought and nasty election process I'd have to say that it's a toss-up between "Signs" (by the Five Man Electrical Band) and "Dirty Laundry" (by Don Henley). As for back-up vocals I'd have to go with either Mary Huckins (Dakota Blonde) or Lannie Garrett (Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret). Although, " Everybody wants to rule the world" (by Tears for Fears), with all the candidates singing backup... sorta like the "We Are The World" sing a long, might be interesting...
What should be done to diversify transportation options in District 1, while at the same time encouraging pedestrian traffic and drawing visitors to the area's business districts We can do a whole lot better at improving the transportation diversification of District 1, but we can't just throw a bunch of ideas out there and then see which one of them works and which don't. We must have a plan and a strategy, both for the financing and the implementation. We desperately need a transportation study done for North West Denver, and I intend to search out the grant funding to pay for one just as soon as possible. Of course, we need better accommodations for bicyclists and pedestrians, and a circulator bus could be a wonderful benefit to the embedded commercial districts, and, of course, the future option of re-incorporating some streetcar routes into the mix isn't a bad idea either, but we must be targeted and tactical in our approach or we'll end up with absolutely nothing.
Bonus question: If there were a three-way gang war between the Highland Mommies, northwest Denver dog walkers and local urban homesteaders, who would win? I gotta say the Mommies are super tough, smart, and well organized. The dog walkers do have a pretty fierce following in spite of their cute, cuddly, and approachable four legged buddies, but I guess I'd have to choose the Homesteaders in a true knock down, guns & knives, "gang" fight. They have proven themselves to occasionally be downright ruthless, and we've already seen them get the upper hand on a gang member or two in the past. However, if you'll spot me a decent points spread I could really go either way.
Editor's note: To read candidate Chris Jeffrey's responses, click here.