Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

District 7 council candidates discuss neighborhood issues at forum

City Council District 7 candidates met April 17 for what was one of the last organized chances to distinguish themselves to voters.

With less than two weeks to go and thousands of completed ballots already received by elections officials, candidates are finding that many voters’ minds are already made up and decisions already in place.

Even so, the four hopefuls gamely appealed for support from the 50 or so people at the John Collins United Methodist Church and used every opportunity to emphasize themselves in the minds of those who turned out for a last look.

Some of that emphasis sounded a bit odd:

“I’m not worried about historic character at all,” said Dennis Smith to a question on how to preserve neighborhoods.

“We’re the Saudi Arabia of sunshine and wind,” said Chris Nevitt to a question on how to make Denver eco-friendly.

“Let it snow and then don’t remove it,” said Julie Connor to a question on how to slow auto traffic in the neighborhoods.

“More tickets means more safety,” said Shelly Watters to the same question.

One topic in particular established clear differences: graffiti.

To Nevitt, graffiti is “a major problem on the rise” — a “scourge” that needs to be “tackled with vigor.” He advocated more police response and stepped-up civil penalties for the parents of taggers. “Kids with paint become kids with guns,” he cautioned.

To Smith, graffiti is no big deal. “It comes and it goes,” he said. Wait a bit and it’ll disappear. In the meantime, encourage neighborhood watch groups to be more vigilant, he said.

Connor took a wait-and-see position, saying she wants to see what the mayor’s graffiti task force recommends, then go to bat for tougher “sentencing and abatement.”

Watters wants to get tough now, urging heavier fines, longer community service penalties and greater accountability for parents. “Involve the community and cover it up right away” with graffiti-resistant paint, she said.

For the most part, the candidates stood by the campaign patter they’ve been talking about for months.

Nevitt emphasizes his accomplishments and experience and says he’ll get tough with developers on behalf of the community, lead Denver to world-class status in sustainability and protect the neighborhoods.

Watters says her years as aide to Councilwomen Carol Boigon and Joyce Foster make her most qualified. She pledges to build consensus on community development issues, expand Greenprint Denver and acquire technology to reduce crime.

Connor says that as aide to incumbent Councilwoman Kathleen MacKenzie she’s well versed on how to do the job and get things done. She trumpets her knowledge of zoning, favors beefing up the tree ordinance and wants to liberalize city codes to protect neighborhood character and update the housing stock.

Smith wants to expand and improve “all things bicycle,” make recreation centers, swimming pools and libraries more available to working people, and improve pedestrian crosswalks.

Only one topic brought “I don’t know” answers from all but one candidate. That was to the question of how to get more people involved in their neighborhoods.

Connor’s answer was that a councilwoman gets interest in issues the same way she gets it as a candidate: knocking on doors and engaging people.

“I’m gonna go out and get ’em,” she said.

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

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