By Eric Heinz
The two finalists for the Denver City Council District 9 election, incumbent Candi CdeBaca and challenger Darrell Watson, faced off in a debate prior to the June 6 election, at times sending fiery rhetoric at one another.
Topics included housing, homelessness, development and food security in the Globeville, Elyria and Swansea neighborhoods, among other issues.
When it comes to housing security, Watson said the increasing residential property taxes the state is likely to see in the near future is something the City Council will have to address. “There’s a long-term process that’s needed,” Watson said. “One of the things we can do right now is make sure that we fund rent subsidies, make sure we increase eviction protections for folks … throughout D9.”
CdeBaca said the council should take more control over its property tax assessments.
“Another big mistake we made was passing the Expanding Affordable Housing ordinance with very few mandates on developers,” CdeBaca said referring to a bill. “We essentially codified the status quo.”
CdeBaca said the ordinance should be amended to demand more from developers, and that the regulations currently in place allow developers to exploit the market.
Watson called into question CdeBaca’s record of voting against income-restricted measures, as she said they don’t go far enough, while stressing his support from past council members such as Albus Brooks, who CdeBaca defeated in 2019.
“If the council member’s collaboration and working collaboratively with folks was so great, why hasn’t any other council member, including those who are no longer on council, supported her campaign?” Watson said.
“In my time on council I’ve supported 4,000 units of affordable housing,” CdeBaca responded. “Your support from past council members is not a reflection of innovation or a future that is better than what we’ve got. You’re getting support from people who created this problem.”
When asked about challenges small businesses have had with homelessness, CdeBaca said giving people a place to go is one of the first ways of keeping them from sleeping on the streets and near businesses and stressed the time her office has spent talking with business owners to help them get the support they need.
“That I think is one of the reasons we fought so hard for Safe Outdoor Spaces, because if you don’t designate a place for people to be and they have to choose where they have to be, that may be where there’s the least amount of … pedestrian traffic,” CdeBaca said.
Watson said he’s been speaking with people in the Ballpark neighborhood, and he said the response to issues regarding homelessness has at times been lackluster.
“We must first and foremost have a council person willing to listen to community members, fight for community businesses,” Watson said.
Watson and CdeBaca both said they want to get more involved with Colorado State University’s Spur campus to create more options for healthy food in the G.E.S. neighborhoods as well as more urban farming. The neighborhoods have long been considered a “food desert” with little nearby access to fresh food.
“We have with CSU Spur … a desire to work collaboratively with their City Council person on these ideas,” Watson said. “Being innovative, working with CSU Spur long-term can target and fight against food scarcity in G.E.S.”
CdeBaca said because grocers use formulas that are intended to maximize return on investment, a supermarket is likely never coming to the neighborhoods, but they could develop more community-run spaces.
“We are basically trying to figure out how to, from seed to table, own our entire food production chain and partner with front range farmers to supply our grocers and our producers, and produce our food in the spaces and kitchens at the Spur campus,” CdeBaca said.
Watson said his work on the Denver Biased Policing Task Force has helped make improvements to the police department, including the expansion of wearing body cameras, and in turn CdeBaca said the same kinds of measures were proposed by her while on council, though Watson said she hasn’t been able to get enough votes of support to implement many of those policies.
The councilwoman said she was able to get some ordinances decriminalized, like jaywalking.
Neither council candidate said they would endorse either of the candidates for mayor.
Ballots are mailed out around May 15 and must be returned by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 6.
By the Numbers
Darrell Watson had raised nearly $140,000 for his campaign as of May 5, according to figures from the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office, with another roughly $156,000 in Fair Election Fund dollars.
A little more than $85,000 was spent independently in support of his campaign, with the highest contributor being Denver Firefighters, IAFF Local 858, spending just a little more than $40,000.
Candi CdeBaca raised a little more than $72,000 for her campaign and got the same amount as Watson in Fair Election Fund dollars.
Roughly $19,000 was independently spent in support of her campaign, with about $12,000 spent by the Service Employees International Union’s Colorado State Council.