In the Denver Municipal Election last spring, seven new members were elected to the 13 member Denver City Council. New members Wayne New, Paul Kashmann and Rafael Espinoza were able to win with neighborhood activist support over candidates lavishly funded by real estate developers and lobbyists as well as support from Mayor Hancock. However, conversely Stacie Gilmore and Kendra Black won with strong support from these corrupting elements and are viewed as simply bought and paid for hacks who are never expected to cast a vote other than as instructed by the developers and the Mayor. However, the last two new members, Kevin Flynn and Jolon Clark, while they took developer and lobbyist money, they also had some neighborhood support and were not considered lost causes. Unfortunately none of the six returning council members are viewed favorably by reform groups.
The big question for many was whether New, Kashmann and Espinoza would simply sell out once in office. The preliminary indications after seven months is that they have not and in addition, Flynn and Clark are showing some actual independence from the Mayor’s office on some important votes.
The citizens have even managed to win on a vote about a development project in front of the City Council in large part because it took 10 votes to rezone a property and the proponent Emmaus Lutheran Church managed to get only eight votes. New, Kashmann, Espinoza and Clark all voted “No.” Of course Emmaus Lutheran Church is not a deep pocketed developer like Peter Kudla with an army of lobbyists. Moreover by the old system of so called “courtesy voting” the project would have lost 12 to 0 because the project was in West Highland neighborhood represented by Espinoza. But since the pro neighborhood members were elected the concept has been abandoned regarding their neighborhoods which are some of the most valuable to developers in the city.
It was not an easy vote for the conscientious Espinoza since it involved a church that wanted to transform property zoned for single family homes into a medical facility and not the normal massive apartment high-rise, but he stuck to his principles. Espinoza and Clark even voted against the Mayor’s taxpayer rip off $8.6 million affordable housing bonds that cause the city to lose money while enriching the mayor’s rich backers.
It is at least encouraging that the Denver City Council does have some ethical and honorable members who have to date at any rate not disappointed their backers. So there is still hope in the Queen City of the Plains for the neighborhoods and their honest inhabitants.
— Editorial Board