By Eric Heinz
Before Darrell Watson sprouts as a newly elected Denver City Council member, he said he knows he needs to till the soil to which he’s been elected. Watson told The G.E.S. Gazette he wants to finish the projects brought forth by his predecessor, Candi CdeBaca, and then venture into his agenda.
“There’s a lot of work that the current council member has done in (District) 9 that hasn’t been completed,” he said. “There’s a lot of projects and a lot of stuff that her team has started. I still need to figure out what those things are.”
Watson said he’s had meetings with CdeBaca’s office and is aiming to learn from the four years of experience the outgoing councilwoman has earned. When it comes to retaining the existing population as large developments are planned for the area, Watson said he believes there’s ability to sustain both the current GES population as well as the oncoming juggernaut of projects like Fox Park without suffering the negative effects of gentrification.
“The good thing with (GES) neighborhoods is that there is a neighborhood plan,” he said. “There is clarity within the city as to what is expected as far as growth. There is still a lot more that we need to discuss about transportation and how we move in and out of (the area).”
“I think we can balance it based on focusing on the neighborhood plan that exists, identifying the situations where the community has communicated what they want, and then executing on that without me coming in and making a bunch of changes to those things,” he added.
Watson said he will pore over data related to the city’s recent Expanding Affordable Housing (EHA) ordinance that mandated some kind of affordable housing be established within new residential developments, which particularly affects multifamily housing complexes.
“I’m truly looking to make sure that the (ordinance helps) not just GES but throughout District 9, that those plans are actually met,” he said. “My focus is to reduce what is causing those backlogs (of development), and make sure that … any of those developments that are in Globeville, Elyria and Swansea are actually going to develop.”
To focus on the small businesses in the area, Watson said he wants to concentrate on accessing the resources that are available locally. He said he also wants to help small businesses to become more energy efficient, as the city will mandate certain energy standards in the near future.
“I’m also going to look at partnerships with some of the large organizations or large institutions like CSU, like with National Western Center,” he said. “Some of these mandates are gonna hit hard on small businesses, especially in GES, Five Points and so forth. I want to make sure that any of those changes are subsidized … and it doesn’t cause businesses to have undue impact of expenses.”
Watson acknowledged the city’s ongoing budget process will take time to weed out. Mayor Michael Hancock’s budget in total for 2023 is $3.75 billion, an increase of 8.2% from 2022.
“We’re looking at priorities for funding across departments, and I want to make sure that our voices are heard, even beyond simply putting amendments to the existing budget,” Watson said. ”My focus is to make sure that we have more input on the budget priorities as they impact District 9 more so than simply amendments for specific projects, which I plan on doing as well. But then prioritizing those based on my top three priorities.”
In the GES neighborhoods, Watson lost the vote. According to Denver Clerk and Recorder records, Watson won the rest of the neighborhoods that weren’t within GES precincts. Admittedly, Watons said he hasn’t spent “much time” in the GES areas, but he said he hopes to win favor of the neighborhoods.
However, he said he had already been meeting with groups like the tenants’ union recently formed to address issues at the income-restricted Viña Apartments.
“I couldn’t win everywhere,” Watson said. “It is very clear that (CdeBaca’s) campaign was strongly supported by neighbors and GES. I actually see this as an opportunity. I am relentless. I will be at every meeting. I will be listening and I’ll be talking to folks, especially folks that didn’t agree … with me during the campaign. And it’s not to win folks over, but it’s to make sure that they know that their voices are as respected as folks who are strongly supporting me.”
Watson will be sworn in on July 17.