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Meet the candidates running for Denver Mayor: Al Gardner

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 Al Gardner'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.

Al Gardner

Al Gardner is an IT executive making his first run for elected office. He previously served on Denver's Citizens Oversight Board and is currently a member of Denver's Civil Service Commission.

Political affiliation: Democrat

No provided links to policy paperwork

Long-form questions

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

I am running for Mayor because I have a strong sense of commitment to service of my community and making Denver a place where everyone can thrive.

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).

My plan to reduce crime and improve public safety in Denver are based on a 3-point plan that I believe will result in positive results.

  • Root cause investment- Once the police and detention services are involved with an offender it is on the end of the punitive spectrum. I will work with our education and youth employment offices to broaden service offerings to youth in our city as well as work with DPS and other nonprofits to reinvigorate youth programs that focus on employment, education support, and violence prevention.
  • Invest in the expansion of the STAR program- STAR pairs Denver Health EMT personnel and a mental health clinician to respond low risk 911 crises calls. The STAR program is integral to 21st century public safety because it adds an additional component that allows our neighbors in crises to experience positive outcomes and frees up traditional law enforcement to respond to other calls that present significant threats to citizens.
  • I think it is necessary to increase the police budget to invest in police recruiting and right sizing our police force in our growing city. Having worked closely with DPD I am keenly familiar with the struggles to recruit good candidates and fully staff all of our districts and adequately cover all shifts. Understaffed shifts and overwhelmed officers have led to long 911 wait times that impact citizen safety.

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

My administration would act swiftly to focus on affordable housing in this City which is one of the issues most impacting Denverites. My plan to approach affordable housing focuses on stabilizing rents that will enable those seeking housing to utilize current units that are available at a price that is affordable by adjusting AMI rates that better align with salaries. Secondly, I plan to expand and fast track public/ non-profit and for-profit partnerships that enable the city to partner with projects that more strictly limit or eliminate the profit motive for development of more housing units. Lastly, the city has to focus efforts on equitable development projects that has disproportionally impacted people of color in the City and has essentially caused many to move out of Denver to find more affordable housing.

How should Denver change its approach to addressing homelessness?

I will approach the homeless challenges in Denver with a sense of urgency and a focus on a housing first model that addresses the most present need and then expanding services that lead to permanent housing solutions. The city currently works with a number of partners that provide wrap around services that focus on the case management of unhoused individuals and families and provides funding based on the data that these programs provide. My plan includes the expansion of temporary housing units and expanded partnerships with non-profit partners. We have underutilized properties in the City that we can leverage to achieve transitional housing to those experiencing homelessness that we are untapped. It is imperative that we move away from the “sweep and move” approach that effectively shifts our unhoused neighbors from one place to another without addressing the underlying issues in an impactful way. I don’t think incarceration of the unhoused is a responsible approach or one that encourages positive outcomes. Coordinating efforts with community partners and agencies that provide services will yield a more effective approach

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

My mobility action plan will focus on the reduction of single occupancy vehicles by reviewing planning and implementation of pedestrian, bike, and transit options. The expansion of transit options will include an increase in bike lanes and pedestrian spaces along our most congested streets that currently do not accommodate these modes of transportation in the way that many of our side streets do currently. We must work more closely with RTD to plan for the continued growth of our most populous areas and increase mass transit options while keeping safety and disability accommodations at the forefront of design and construction.

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 more than two decades of experience in budget planning and management of budgets of varies sizes and compositions. My background in budget management and resource allocation has been strengthened by my time spent in the non-profit sector where budgets are more constrained and my decision-making processes is heavily guided by the ability to establish and find consensus on priorities. At the core of all budget management is the ability to prioritize and extract maximum value from each decision. As the head of technology and over the course of my career I have broad and deep experience in working with my human resource partners to create job descriptions based on the present and anticipated future needs of the organization as well as working with agencies and partners to identify and source top talent that will be successful in roles. As mayor I will bring this this experience to bear in hiring decisions.

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?

Denver Public Schools is not in need of the city exerting more control. Prioritizing a collaboration between the Mayor and the Superintendent ensures the City of Denver can provide the resources and supports needed within our district and communities. There are various programs currently in place that we need to broaden so they reach our students and families in addition to creating new approaches of support. As someone who is passionate about education and continually volunteers my time to students and families, I will start by having a liaison from Denver Public Schools to work with the City of Denver to provide awareness on critical issues facing the district. The City of Denver has a responsibility in the development and enrichment of neighborhoods that directly correlates to education and my goal is to harness this partnership.

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?  

All things being considered I think that the Hancock administration handled the influx of migrants as best as could be expected based on the situation. I think that the Hancock administration acted quickly with community partners and utilizing city resources to provide care for the migrants who found themselves in this situation. Until the federal government has a plan to address immigration issues, specifically how to scale up processing requests for asylum it is wise for cities like Denver to plan for future influxes. I will work with federal, state, and local partners to prepare for any future events of this nature.

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

I think that it is incumbent on the City to seriously consider the building new housing in gentrifying neighborhoods but with more public funds to control pricing, availability, and affordability. More focus on the public/private partnership will take pressure off the market and accommodate rising demand. In addition to single unit housing, we must also invest in greater density and large-scale development as a solution to gentrification.

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

Downtown is currently not utilized as destination, but rather a “pass through” where we come go to work, occasionally eat dinner, or take in a play and then leave and months pass before we spend significant time there outside the office. We must attract more venues to downtown that are family focused and will have other opportunities for groups to enjoy. I think its time to consider a police district for downtown specifically. Downtown area is currently patrolled by district 6 which is located on Colfax and Washington, I do think that a dedicated foot and bike patrol would make a positive impact on safety in that area.

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?

Denver much like many other major cities has felt the impact of opioid and fentanyl addiction and subsequent deaths. The city must continue to focus and invest in efforts that provide treatment, naloxone availability, surveillance and measures to interdict the supply of both opioids and fentanyl. It is important that the City of Denver continue partnerships with neighboring cities to coordinate efforts with law enforcement and addiction treatment organizations.

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 Denver/Xcel franchise agreement will need to place emphasis on the environmental goals of the City of Denver which must be a common theme throughout the plan. Xcel will need to fast track the use of smart meters which enable Xcel to charge rates based on energy used as well as monitor outages better. I will also be seeking solar panel rebates that incentivize panel installation on homes and businesses.

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?

Denver’s climate action plan currently has realistic targets set that should be realized once a plan is in place to mobilize resources around the steps that need to be taken. As mayor my focus would be on the education of the climate plan that begins with reaching out to schools and community groups about how this plan will impact their community and the ways that they can participate in reaching this goal. I plan to engage clean energy job training to provide underserved communities and underemployed groups first on the instillation of energy saving technologies such as solar panel instillation. Job creation and education are a key component to ensuring that Denver’s energy plan will be successful.

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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