Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

District 7 City Council candidates face off

When Denver District 7 City Council candidates faced off April 10, one stark contrast quickly emerged: Candidate Chris Nevitt disclosed he has raised $45,000 so far, while opponent Dennis Smith said he didn’t believe in contributions and hadn’t collected a dime.

The other two hopefuls in the race, Julie Connor and Shelley Watters, said they had small war chests from broad constituencies, and all insisted they weren’t beholden to special interests.

With the stage thus set, the second of two televised candidate question-and-answer forums proceeded briskly before about 45 people at Cameron Church in Platt Park.

Moderator Beverly Weaver kept candidates to strict time allotments for statements and answers, which focused on issues ranging from graffiti control to preserving neighborhood character. There was only one heated moment, when Watters accused Nevitt of overstating the “record of results” that has been a major theme in his campaign.

“I have a record of results as well,” she bristled, touting the seven years combined she has served as aide to former City Councilwomen Joyce Foster and Carol Boigon and wedging a litany of service projects into her answers.

Connor, who has been aide to District 7 incumbent Kathleen MacKenzie for three years, insisted she is the most knowledgeable about district issues. She cited public safety, code compliance, infrastructure and establishing an “environmental ethos citywide” as priorities.

“I’m the zoning geek and the District 7 expert,” she said. “I know how to get things done.”

Nevitt, a former labor leader and civic activist, spoke of receiving broad support from neighborhood residents and businesses. He touted environmental initiatives he has launched and a nonprofit public interest group he founded.

“I’m the best qualified with the strongest record of results,” he said, listing his goals for office as fostering community reinvestment, improving partnerships with Denver Public Schools, building environmental sustainability and attacking crime, graffiti and gangs.

Watters emphasized her ability to build citizen coalitions. She touted her work establishing a neighborhood skate park, developing programs for kids and advocating for the community in regard to the Gates redevelopment at Broadway and I-25. She said her goals are education, safety and maintaining the character of the neighborhood.

“Preservation needs to be a priority for the city,” she said.

Smith, an South High School English teacher, said his focus is on expanding and improving bike paths, keeping recreation centers and libraries open longer, and lengthening pedestrian lights at crosswalks.

“This city runs well,” he said. “I just want to tweak the fine points.”

While many of the candidates’ positions paralleled one another, answers differed markedly when candidates were asked about the greatest challenge to holding a seat on City Council.

Connor said it was coping with the limitations of government: not being able to solve constituents’ problems despite hard work.

Watters said it was getting six other council members to agree and “get something passed.”

Nevitt said it was “that we don’t talk ourselves to death and move forward.”

For Smith, though, the challenge was more basic: “Going to all the meetings,” he said, “and paying attention.” 

“Denver Decides,” the Denver Channel 8 taping of the April 10 District 7 candidate forum, will be aired on these dates and times: April 12 at 3:30 p.m.; April 14 at 4:30 p.m.; April 15 at 3 and 8 p.m.; April 21 at 8:30 a.m. and 9 p.m.; April 22 at 4 and 7 p.m.; April 24 at 7:30 p.m.; April 28 at 2:30 p.m. and April 29 at 3 p.m. 

For further information, go to and click on the Channel 8 icon. Click on the On Demand Video icon to see an archived tape of the March 14 District 7 forum at the West Washington Park Neighborhood Association. Both a written transcript and video are available at the site.

For more about the election, see the DU Today archives and the following articles:

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