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 since the 1940s, according to the Denver Clerk and Recorder's Office.
Each has their own ideas regarding crime, homelessness, housing affordability and more. We asked all the candidates the same policy questions to find out what their priorities would be if they won.
Below you'll find Chris Hansen'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.
Chris Hansen is a Colorado State Senator with a background in the energy industry. Prior to joining the state legislature, Hansen worked for IHS, a global market-intelligence company, where he focused on energy research. Hansen has championed environmental and clean energy issues during his eight years in the state legislature.
Political affiliation: Democrat
In a single sentence, why are you running for mayor?
I'm running for Mayor to be a new leader who will deliver results for Denver families like tackling the homeless crisis, rebuilding our public safety system, building more affordable housing and ensuring high-quality city services.
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).
We deserve to feel safe in every neighborhood, every park, on every sidewalk – and that’s why safety will be Chris’ number one priority. As the father of two boys, Chris worries about their safety and the safety of all families across Denver. We need real, achievable plans to tackle our public safety issues.
The safety of all Denverites is Chris’ number one priority, and that includes our unhoused population. It is not appropriate for families and vulnerable communities to be living in dangerous conditions on our streets, creating a health and a safety crisis for those in tents as well as housed residents in the surrounding communities.
Chris understands that there needs to be a culture shift in how we approach public safety so that both employees and the people they serve are treated with appreciation and respect.
As Mayor, Chris will make the systems-level investments needed to ensure that our public safety officers are well-trained, well-resourced and highly accountable. He will ensure that public safety officers are supported by trained personnel who can respond appropriately to other kinds of emergencies.
As Mayor, Chris will increase the resources invested in the Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program, which deploys Emergency Response Teams that include Emergency Medical Technicians and behavioral health clinicians to engage individuals experiencing distress related to mental health issues, poverty, homelessness, and substance abuse. STAR responds to low-risk calls where individuals are not in imminent risk, enabling safety officers to focus on theft, drug sales and violent crimes.
More trained and accountable police officers
More STAR staff to see to non-violent mental health emergencies
No more unsanctioned camping
No more public health crisis caused by unsafe conditions in camps.
What should the City of Denver do to promote affordable housing?
Denver needs to be a place for everybody to live a high-quality life. As Mayor, Chris will build more housing, invest in transportation, and create well-paying jobs. He’ll also negotiate directly with Xcel to protect consumers from excessive gas and utility price increases. Chris Hansen’s focus on incorporating high-density housing that is tied into reliable transit including an electrified bus fleet and bike lanes will provide a more equitable, efficient, environmentally friendly, community-based Denver, and create a city that works.
Every Denverite’s day-to-day experience is inextricably dependent on where they live and how they get to where they’re going. Denver housing has historically been shaped by siloed zoning policies and developed without taking advantage of the benefits of developing housing and transportation simultaneously. As a result, there is dispersed development and insufficient transit options between housing, shops, workplaces and recreational spaces so sitting in car traffic has become the default transportation experience.
A systemic solution is needed to realize the benefits of combined housing and multi-modal transit, including:
- An interconnected and easily traversable city
- An increased number of high-density accessible housing units
- A reduced dependence on cars
How should Denver change its approach to addressing homelessness?
It is clear that Denver’s current approach to addressing homelessness isn’t working. Denver is already spending $254 million in 2023 to address this issue and it is clearly not getting results. We need new leadership with fresh energy to ensure that those who are unhoused are supported to get off the streets and stay off the streets.
To tackle this crisis, Chris plans to scale up and create programs that work and stop investing money in programs that don’t. Denver plans to spend $254 million in 2023 to address this issue, focusing largely on the same strategies that have enabled only incremental progress over the last three years. Just as Chris has done in the state legislature, he plans to use evidence-based solutions to solve problems. As Mayor, Chris will conduct an audit to help guide the city’s spending priorities.
The first step is to get the unhoused into housing, systematically and efficiently since this is the best way to provide them access to services that will reduce their risk of going back out onto the streets. There are many examples of communities who have successful housing-first approaches, like San Antonio.
The city then needs to work with nonprofit organizations to provide services in an easily accessible and coordinated way. Denver has amazing organizations already doing great work to support the unhoused, and the most effective and efficient use of resources is to collaborate with them to enable them to scale up sustainably.
Chris’ 3-pronged approach:
- Reevaluate: Chris will do a full audit of the city’s homelessness programs to determine which programs are working and deserve additional funding, and which programs fall short. We can then reallocate existing resources in ways we know will deliver results.
- Reimagine: Chris knows we need an end goal in mind with our homelessness programs. To that end, he has studied cities that have been successful in reducing homelessness and will deploy similar strategies in Denver. He also supports the use of Safe Outdoor Spaces (SOS), which provide sanitation, social services, and security to unhoused folks who are resistant to shelters. We’ve already seen early success with the SOS approach in Denver.
- Reinforce: Denver needs to prioritize public safety, public health, and public spaces and Chris, as the next Mayor, will do exactly that. The city will help the unhoused locate alternative shelter options so we can ensure our sidewalks, public spaces and streets can be utilized by all of Denver. Any long-term strategy to alleviate homelessness requires investments in housing options that are accessible to those with lower incomes. This is tied directly to the third priority of making Denver more affordable.
How should Denver change its approach to mobility and safe streets?
Years into the city’s “Vision Zero” plan to eliminate traffic deaths, Denver’s streets are currently deadlier than ever, with dozens of pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists killed in collisions every year. It doesn’t have to be this way. By prioritizing environmental designs to ensure safe intersections, protected bike lanes, timely crossing signals, and enacting distracted driver laws, Chris believes we can meaningfully reduce traffic deaths in Denver.
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 been the leader on Colorado's multi-billion dollar budgeting process and have delivered needed funds to programs throughout Denver and our State. I also have extensive private sector experience working as a manager at a multi-billion dollar Colorado-based company working on strategic global projects, managing teams in the hundreds.
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?
Yes, the City should explore ways to ensure that DPS is delivering for our students, families and communities. There are many conversations to be had once elected but I would start with adding a non-voting City-appointed member to the School Board to serve as a liaison and ambassador.
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?
I think it is clear the Denver's want - and will get - a new Mayor. As Denver's next Mayor, I will continue some responses and re-invest our money away from others. That is what I have done in the Joint Budget Committee and have pledged to utilize in my administration. There will be more climate-based and economic-based migration and Denver will bear a certain brunt. I will allocate resources appropriately.
What should Denver do to prevent the displacement of longtime residents due to gentrification and tax burdens?
I have a proven track record of tackling displacement in Denver. As a State Senator, I have worked to decrease the tax burdens of our longtime residents. As Mayor, I'll primarily tackle this issue with building affordable housing units. Once we increase supply, we'll see a drop in gentrification.
What should be done to revitalize downtown Denver (vis-à-vis office occupancy, the 16th Street Mall, crime)?
We need to increase downtown's public safety or else businesses won't open up on 16th Street Mall and office workers will continue to be extremely hesitant to come back to work in downtown offices. As Mayor, my number one priority will be to ensure that all our communities and neighborhoods (including downtown Denver) will be - and feel - safe.
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?
The City of Denver can - and will under my administration - appropriately invest in services that reduce initial drug use and provide treatment to our vulnerable populations. This necessary fight needs coordination from all levels of government in terms of funding and providing services.
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?
I will be the toughest mayor Xcel has ever faced in Denver. I know what levers to pull in order to ensure that Denver customers aren't suffering unnecessary rate hikes due to corporate profiteering.
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 have lead the way in Colorado to reduce green house gasses and invest in renewable energies. As Mayor, I will will use my systems engineering background to transition Denver to a 100% clean energy city and invest in modern and efficient buildings to combat climate change and create good paying jobs. Denver needs to electrify residential and commercial heating systems, cooling systems and its fleet of vehicles, changes that will help to reduce emissions and improve air quality. I will also invest in electric buses, a rapid transit system and a connected network of bike lanes to make it easier for people to get out of their cars. This is a win-win as we will recoup our investment quickly and create good-paying jobs.
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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