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 Kwame Spearman'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.
NOTE: On March 16, Spearman announced he was dropping out of the race. He endorsed Kelly Brough. Because ballots were already printed, Spearman's name appears as an option. Votes for him are considered "undervotes" and don't count toward the final result.
Kwame Spearman is the CEO of Tattered Cover bookstores. He previously was an executive for the flexible office company Knotel and a consultant for the private investment firm Bain. He is making his first run for public office.
Political affiliation: Democrat
In a single sentence, why are you running for mayor?
I am running to be Denver’s neighborhood Mayor and to tackle our housing shortage, homeless crisis and the rise in crime.
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).
Rising crime is a top concern and priority. First, we need to restore the image of our police department. At its core, when you call the police from any neighborhood, they need to promptly respond. We need a mayor who supports our police officers but also one who holds them accountable.
Second, our police officers need to participate and engage in the neighborhood planning process and have officers assigned to specific neighborhoods and communities.
Lastly, we’re going to hire more officers and invest in a local pipeline. We should strive to retain and hire the very best police officers to work in our great city but it starts with welcoming and thanking the good actors for keeping us safe and giving them a seat at the table to tackle our crime issues.
What should the City of Denver do to promote affordable housing?
This is why we have a neighborhood plan. Workforce housing is one of our most significant issues for this race. Denver housing is unaffordable for our teachers, nurses, police officers, and firefighters. The Denver police department used to require police to live in the city of Denver. Now 85% of officers live outside of the city. We believe that our neighborhoods want these individuals to live in their communities. Fundamentally we will embrace the Vienna plan, in which the city uses public land and in some cases, purchasing privately owned land and working with affected communities to create affordable housing. Housing will fall under specific criteria, Architectural integrity, Environmental integrity, and Industry. We can create proposals that are embraced by both the city and the neighborhoods, and we would be willing to use city resources to help incentivize and subsidize development on this.
How should Denver change its approach to addressing homelessness?
I have a three step plan:
Compassion: the city will accelerate individualized services for those who need and want them, with a streamlined system to access services such as mental health, addiction, housing, and workforce support.
Coordination: the city will launch an outside audit of current programs and contracts, launch a public-facing dashboard to keep residents informed, and shift resources to serving people instead of just moving the problem around.
Accountability: the city will enforce laws, including the camping ban, and work with other levels of government to find solutions. Public safety teams will be empowered to enforce policies that ensure community safety, and illegal activities that cause harm or disruption will not be tolerated.
How should Denver change its approach to mobility and safe streets?
One of the major ways that Denver should change its approach to mobility and safe streets is through strong differentiation for what each neighborhood needs. In some neighborhoods, we need massive build out of bike lanes and protected intersections. In other places, we need to seriously consider creating pedestrian-only experiences. At the core, we need a city government that partners and plans at the neighborhood level. Right now, that cycle is not efficient and we need to move in that direction.
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.
The Mayor has two main responsibilities providing a clear vision and bring on a great team. As a CEO, I have extensive experience managing people, budgets, and setting strategic direction. Tattered Cover runs eight stores, with over a hundred employees (between full-time, part time, seasonal, and support staff) and a significant budget. While I worked at Bain and Company as a Management Consultant. That allowed me to advise the worlds largest companies on issues most pressing to their business.
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?
I am deeply passionate about education, from early childhood to college and beyond! I believe the Denver Mayor and city government has an essential role to set the vision for the entire city, and that includes schools. As Mayor, I will lead a city-wide campaign in my first term to pass an initiative to raise teacher salaries to be the highest in the region and create funds for a city-wide internship program that will accelerate careers for kids. I will also campaign for and against certain candidates in the upcoming school board races. By convening and deploying public private partnerships, I will push DPS, Denver early childhood structures, and higher ed partners to ensure that our schools are the real engine of opportunity they ought to be.
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?
We need to get beyond reactive postures to newcomers to our city. These are human beings that deserve dignity and respect. I believe we should have seen this coming and been more prepared, both from a public relations and public policy level. We need to bring lots of partners to the table - hotels, businesses, etc - to create flexible options to ensure that newcomers don’t overwhelm our system and exacerbate the challenges we see on the ground. We should turn this into an opportunity to place newcomers into jobs that they are qualified for, supporting our local business in the process.
What should Denver do to prevent the displacement of longtime residents due to gentrification and tax burdens?
The key part of this issue is building neighborhood plans that will ensure that all voices are brought to the table to build a vision. All cities change - the question is how we want them to change. We need more city support for our residents in impacted areas to ensure neighborhoods can thrive.
Foundational to our neighborhood plan is creating key goals and metrics around three issues: housing, safety, and local economy. For those numbers that are facing displacement, housing and local economy will be focused on providing resources, policy, and guidance to quell gentrification.
What should be done to revitalize downtown Denver (vis-à-vis office occupancy, the 16th Street Mall, crime)?
In order to revitalize downtown we need to focus on homelessness first, because businesses cannot sustain tents in front of their businesses.
We also need to look at adaptive reuse in upper downtown. Many of our downtown skyscrapers were vacant before the pandemic. We have a huge opportunity to transform these massive buildings into housing units. The growth in housing will also serve to help revitalize downtown. I will promote zoning policies to make these types of developments feasible and bountiful.
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?
First, we need to make clear the city’s stance is that illicit drug use is illegal and a significant threat to our public safety. This attitude that people are going to use drugs anyway and just be safe, isn’t working. We’re sending the wrong message and people are gambling with their lives. We’re going to work with our public safety professionals to focus on large and small dealers bringing this deadly garbage into our city. If you deal fentanyl, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law in Denver.
I believe that state legislation passed has had unintended consequences. Specifically, increasing felony possession of fentanyl to 4 grams led to increase in opioid abuse. I worked with members of the Downtown community to get this number reduced to 1 gram, but we need to continue to push to get the law back to its original status.
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?
These are going to be tough negotiations. We have to push Xcel to get aggressive about upgrading our grid, expediting rooftop solar and finally hooking up our smart meters. We also need to be realistic about our energy transition. It won’t happen overnight, but we need to be creative about insulating our commodity prices to blunt the effects of the swings we’re seeing today in natural gas. Our neighborhoods face different challenges. The newer buildings have the benefits of robust insulation and smart planning. Our older homes need help to protect against cold drafts in the winter and ensure proper weatherization to moderate temperature swings in the home to save our residents money. We can work with non-profits like Energy Outreach Colorado and others to incentive our landlords and lower income homeowners to make the investments in weatherization to help reduce our strain on the grid and lower utility bills.
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?
Electrification of City. I will work towards transitioning the city’s fleet of vehicles to electric vehicles, setting an ambitious goal of 50% of city fleet vehicles being electric by 2030.
Energy Efficient Buildings. I will promote energy efficient buildings by encouraging the use of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy in city owned properties, as well as work to improve the energy efficiency of existing and new city structures.
Green Jobs: I believe that the transition to a clean energy economy will create thousands of new jobs in the green sector, including opportunities for apprenticeships and reskilling for workers transitioning into the sector.
Transportation Emissions Reduction: Kwame will prioritize investments in climate-friendly transportation projects such as public transportation, cycling infrastructure, and pedestrian-friendly walkways to reduce car dependence and improve air quality in Denver.
Enabling a transition to Electric Vehicles: I will work to to make EV charges available across city properties, parking lots, and in public-private partnerships to increase access in parking garages as well as on-site in multi-family housing.
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?
Yes (However, in a radio interview on Feb. 23, Spearman said Denver should resume work with immigration agents.)
Will you vote to support development of the Park Hill Golf Course as currently proposed on the April ballot?
Decline to say
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?
Decline to say
Did you support Mayor Michael Hancock’s re-election in 2019?
Decline to say
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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