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Meet the candidates running for Denver Mayor: James Walsh

9NEWS asked all 17 people running for Denver to answer the same policy questions.

DENVER — There are 17 people on the 2023 ballot for Denver Mayor, all vying to replace Michael Hancock after three terms in office. If that's not the most ever, it's at least the biggest pool of candidates for that office in decades, according to the Denver Clerk and Recorder's Office, which checked their sample paper ballots going back to 1946.

Each candidate has their own ideas regarding crime, homelessness, housing affordability and more. We asked all of them the same policy questions and asked for written responses.

Below you'll find James Walsh's answers, all unedited and in the candidate's own words, as well as documents related to policy proposals.

You can see the other candidates' responses here.

Denver's Election Day is April 4.

James Walsh

Jim Walsh is a University of Colorado Denver political science professor. His research focuses on immigrant workers and the fight to unionize. Walsh founded the Romero Theater Troupe, which spotlights social justice issues.

Political affiliation: "I am a registered Independent who always votes for Democrats."

No provided links to policy paperwork

Long-form questions

In a single sentence, why are you running for mayor?

I am running for Mayor so that all of the people in this city can afford to remain in their communities and live together.

Please provide specifics on your plan to improve public safety and reduce crime in Denver. Specifically, please note whether the Denver Police budget should be increased or decreased (including funding diversion to non-police emergency responses).

Improving public safety means addressing an economic system that displaces low income neighbors and throws so many onto the streets. A Universal Basic Income accomplishes much of this by providing the most disadvantaged with the means to afford housing, to remain in their communities, or to find dignified housing and then move toward addressing other issues in their lives. For me, public safety is not about the unhoused neighbor who is in a desperate space, it's about the larger system whereby many workers are paid starvation wages and many profit from the displacement of low income neighbors. That is the crime that I hope to address. I would increase the budget to fund and expand programs such as STAR and Harm Reduction, diverting funding from traditional policing to a more community-based model. I would channel resources toward changing the ways that police officers are trained and the mission of policing, focusing more on de-escalation tactics and the decriminalization of homelessness and substance use.

What should the City of Denver do to promote affordable housing? 

Every resource necessary needs to be channeled into a streamlined process to build as many affordable housing units as necessary. This means removing loopholes that allow units built as affordable housing to be diverted away from their original use. The most effective way to promote affordable housing is to ensure that low income residents have the necessary resources to afford a home. This means Universal Basic Income, along with a minimum wage that is a living wage, and promoting a healthier climate for workers' rights, including the right to organize unions and collectively bargain.

How should Denver change its approach to addressing homelessness?

Denver should end the policy of sweeping unhoused people and repeal the Urban Camping Ban. Instead, a Universal Basic Income provides unhoused people with the means to find housing. Criminalization does not work, it only invites more violence directed at the most vulnerable in our society.

How should Denver change its approach to mobility and safe streets?

Denver should invest massive amounts of resources into building up a larger network of protected bicycle lanes, to be used by all non-vehicular forms of wheeled-travel. This includes the kind of quiet street networks used by Vamos Denver, adding bicycle lanes to these streets and "quieting" the vehicular travel. I would also consider banning right turns on red lights, as data suggests that this is where a large percentage pedestrians and bicyclists are hit by cars.

The Mayor has significant control over a $3-4 billion budget and will hire cabinet members who oversee roughly 12,000 employees. Please detail your experience with budgets and hiring.  

I have managed many academic grants, budgeting thousands of dollars directed toward various research projects. I have Chaired academic conferences and hired staff for those conferences, overseeing a modest budget and managing many different projects within the conferences.

Should the City of Denver explore ways to exert more control over Denver Public Schools? If so, how would you do that and what would be your goal?

No, I believe that these duties lie with DPS Superintendent and School Board. A Mayor can use their position to guide decisions, but ultimately decisions are made by the educational experts.

Please assess the Hancock administration’s response to the influx of migrants from the southern border since December 2022. What should Denver do to prepare for and respond to another potential influx of migrants?  

Mayor Hancock did a reasonably good job of ensuring that these migrants had adequate shelter and resources. Denver should continue to partner with the same network of community and faith-based organizations to ensure that any future influx is similarly served and provided for. This is our moral duty.

What should Denver do to prevent the displacement of longtime residents due to gentrification and tax burdens?

Universal Basic Income and other means of ensuring that city workers are paid an adequate wage. This also means the city subsidizing black and indigenous owned businesses who are struggling to remain in business and making initial steps toward a larger process of reparations.

What should be done to revitalize downtown Denver (vis-à-vis office occupancy, the 16th Street Mall, crime)?

See answer above. Ending sweeps and criminalization and instead focusing on Universal Basic Income to ensure that people have the means to afford housing.

What is within the power of the City of Denver to fight the opioid epidemic? What steps should regional or state leaders take in cooperation to reduce fentanyl deaths?

We should resist the notion of returning to the criminalization of substance use, to the War on Drugs. Instead, the city should partner with the experts in Harm Reduction, destigmatizing substance use and ensuring that users have a safe space to use, and safe substance to use. I would ensure that all pubic health policies are rooted in the principles and practices of Harm Reduction.

Xcel Energy's franchise agreement expires on Dec. 31, 2026. What will you seek from the next agreement that protects Denver customers from high utility bills?

The next agreement needs to ensure that spikes in heating bills, particularly during winter months, are not repeated. When energy bills skyrocket, more resources should be made available to residents to ensure that people can remain in their homes.

Denver has a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65% by 2030. A sales tax approved by voters funds the city's climate action goals. What, if any, changes would you make to Denver's climate action goals and how would you make green energy and environmentally sustainable living available across income levels?

I would ensure that all decisions made about our energy and environmental infrastructure do not harm low income communities, as has been the case for decades. I would increase public education surrounding climate, renewables, composting, urban gardens. Finally, I would further subsidize through tax credits the purchasing of EVs and the building of green rooftops on new buildings.

Yes or No

Will you enforce Denver’s camping ban?


Should Denver maintain its effective status as a sanctuary city through noncooperation with immigration agents? 


Will you vote to support development of the Park Hill Golf Course as currently proposed on the April ballot?


Do you support the use of any Denver taxpayer funds to build a new football stadium for the Broncos? 


Should Denver reduce vehicle volumes downtown?


Did you support Mayor Michael Hancock’s re-election in 2019?


If the Colorado legislature lifts the ban on local rent control, should Denver pursue some form of rent control?


Should Denver pursue the creation of a supervised drug injection site with the permission of the state legislature?


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