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Meet the candidates running for Denver Mayor: Kelly Brough

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 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 Kelly Brough'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.

Kelly Brough

Kelly Brough is a longtime political insider making her first run for elected office. Brough was Chief of Staff to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and later President and CEO of the Denver-Metro Chamber of Commerce. Most recently, Brough was the Chief Strategy Officer for Metropolitan State University.

Political affiliation: Democrat

Links to policy paperwork

Long-form questions

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

I’m running for mayor to restore the promise of Denver by addressing homelessness, improving community safety, and delivering more housing that is affordable.  

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).

Ensuring community safety is fundamental and foundational to everything else I plan to accomplish. Some neighborhoods feel over-policed and others feel under-policed. We have work to do, neighborhood by neighborhood, to implement sophisticated and adaptive approaches that meet individual community needs. Having worked closely with both our community safety and neighborhood leaders, I’m confident that we can and will create a safer, more welcoming and thriving Denver. I will take a comprehensive approach to community safety. My safety priorities include:

  • Strengthening the Denver Police Department, so we can recruit and retain more officers to the force, particularly women and people of color, to fill our current levels of authorized strength. I would work to fill the approximately 150 vacant but authorized positions on the police force, and recruit to fill vacancies in our 911 dispatch and sheriff’s office, all currently budgeted, but unfilled.
  • Working with our public safety officials – leaders, officers, and staff – to create a stronger culture built around national best practices, transparency, and accountability.
  • Increasing investment in civilian responders to ensure we provide appropriate resources (e.g. - mental health support) through the co-responder and STAR programs, freeing up sworn officers to focus on true crime. I estimate that we could increase investment by at least 50% ($1.2M).
  • Addressing crime prevention by investing in housing, health care, education, and economic development. Safety is about much more than emergency response – it is about creating the conditions that enable people to thrive.  

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

All people who work in Denver should be able to afford to call Denver home. But for too many Denverites, housing costs are a significant burden, and for many more, costs are so high that they can’t afford to stay in the neighborhoods they raised their kids. We need housing solutions that benefit people across the income spectrum, particularly for hard working people who earn too much to qualify for most public assistance programs but struggle to make ends meet with the high cost of living in Denver today. My plans to ensure more housing – for rent and for sale, market-rate and subsidized - include:

  • The city will build more housing on underutilized, publicly owned land.
  • Rethinking and revitalizing downtown and surrounding neighborhoods by incenting and supporting the transition of commercial space to residential.
  • Increasing density on major transportation corridors and at transit stations and working with homeowners to facilitate options that enable them to maximize value of their property.
  • Fundamentally restructuring how development is reviewed and regulated in Denver.

How should Denver change its approach to addressing homelessness?

Living on the streets is neither safe nor humane – for people experiencing homelessness or for the broader community. I will eliminate unsanctioned encampments in my first year in office and end the ineffective and costly policy of moving people down the block or across the street without providing sustainable solutions. I’ll do this by maximizing the use of existing shelter beds and available housing and temporarily expanding sanctioned, supported camping so people get the help they need while we work to build more long-term, indoor solutions. Additionally, I will:

  • Take a Regional, Data-driven Approach: Work with regional governments to establish a coordinated strategy and strengthen our data system to ensure it is complete, timely, and sophisticated.
  • Invest in Prevention: Support those at risk of homelessness by ensuring access to job supports, child care, health care and other stabilizing services.  
  • Evolve Sheltering & Build Housing: Evolve our shelters to ensure we have safe beds to serve the diverse unhoused population. Build the housing needed to best support people exiting homelessness.

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

Denver has made significant investments in building our mass transit system, but that system isn’t being maximized today. We need to engage community to help us determine, neighborhood by neighborhood, how we increase ridership, reduce barriers to multi-modal transportation and make it easier for people to take advantage of climate-friendly, efficient mobility options, including bus, light rail, cycling and walking. I am very concerned about pedestrian and cyclist safety. Despite the focus on and investment in our Vision Zero goals, serious injuries and fatalities in Denver are increasing. We have the right goals, but clearly not the right strategies and tactics in place. It’s time to step back, re-evaluate and relaunch.  

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.  

One of the things that distinguishes me from my opponents is my extensive experience working inside Denver city government and managing both the city’s large budget and talented workforce from a number of different perspectives. My public sector budget and talent management experience includes:

  • Serving as a Policy Analyst for Denver City Council, where I provided analysis and insights to all 13 members of Council re: Mayoral budget proposals, identifying opportunities for savings and improved program outcomes.
  • Working as the Director of the City of Denver’s Career Services Authority (essentially the human resources department for the City), it was my job to develop policies that enabled us to recruit and retain the best and brightest talent and to support each department in developing metrics and accountability structures to ensure productivity and growth of employees.
  • As Deputy Chief of Staff and then Chief of Staff to Mayor John Hickenlooper, I was responsible for helping the Mayor execute the budget, manage the team, and support the cabinet.

In the private sector, as President and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce for 12 years, I was solely responsible for building and managing both the budget and the team, reporting to a board of 55 executive business leaders.

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?

A great city needs a great education system. The Mayor of Denver and Denver Public Schools leadership have a shared interested in ensuring the success of the school district and its students. That said, given the size of the operation that the Mayor is responsible for and the myriad of challenges facing the City right now, I don’t believe it is reasonable to expect the Mayor can manage the core responsibilities of running the City AND take on the challenges of Denver Public Schools. Instead, my focus would be on partnering with and supporting DPS Executive Leadership and its Board to restore a focus on student success, particularly eliminating achievement gaps. As Mayor, my priorities for Denver Public Schools would include:

  • Focusing on the November 2023 school board election to ensure we’re getting a strong, engaged school board that is squarely focused on improving student achievement and addressing achievement gaps.
  • Exploring if and how the City can hire DPS students into apprenticeships or paid internships to make earning and learning part of their high school experience.
  • Developing partnerships that enable the school district to spend their limited funding on classroom investments. For example, when I worked for Mayor Hickenlooper, the City started picking up trash and waste for the school district to eliminate that expense and allow the district to reinvest those dollars into the classroom.
  • Aligning and investing in programs and services that support student success outside of the classroom through our Denver Public Library, our Parks and Recreation Department and our Office of Children’s Affairs, which funds a number of before and after school and summer programs in neighborhoods across the city.

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?  

Over the holidays, I volunteered at the Rude Park Recreation Center to meet some of these migrants and see the City’s response first-hand. We should be proud of Denver’s response to the influx of migrants this winter – we reacted with care and compassion and worked across the public and private sectors to raise resources and support people as best we could with the tools available to us. That said, this experience highlights the urgency of fixing our broken immigration system. The migrants who came to Denver this winter were primarily Venezuelans, seeking humanitarian relief and safety from political violence. It will take months for the federal government to determine if they will receive refugee status. In the meantime, the migrants will be unable to work legally. Our economy needs workers, and these migrants are eager to work and earn a wage. It only makes sense given the mutual benefit that we figure out a way to allow migrants the opportunity to work while their status is pending. I will work to fix our broken immigration system and create opportunities for people earn a living and contribute to our economy.  

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

Displacement is deeply concerning and something that I’ll actively work to stop as Mayor. There are three critical strategies I’ll prioritize:

  • Property Tax Relief: I will support continuation of the Denver Property Tax Relief Program, which is available to low income seniors over age 65, people with disabilities and low income families with young children. This is a critically important tool that has been underutilized, so I will work to ensure greater community awareness through outreach at libraries, rec centers and in partnership with community-based non-profit partners. Additionally, I’ll advocate with state policymakers to protect and preserve the state senior homestead tax exemption.
  • Empower Homeowners to Maximize Value of Their Property – Accessory Dwelling Units or ADU’s are an important strategy for empowering homeowners to generate revenue on their existing investment. I will explore ways to facilitate and support expanded use of ADUs through approaches such as providing homeowners with pre-approved plans and expedited review / approvals processes.
  • Building More Housing – Finally, by increasing housing inventory and intentionally building a diversity of housing types, such as for-sale condos and townhomes, we can enable people to down-size into housing within their neighborhood, allowing them to stay in their communities, even if not in their original homes.

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

Making sure our residents and visitors feel safe is the first step toward revitalizing Downtown and it’ll be among my highest priorities. If employees and visitors don’t feel safe, stores don’t stay open and hotels close. Our entire region depends on a thriving downtown and my plan to end unsanctioned camping within my first year in office has been endorsed by five metro-area mayors. Beyond public safety and homelessness, we will begin immediately working with property owners to convert some existing downtown office space to residential and focus on retaining businesses and attracting new jobs and investments to restore the vibrancy of downtown.

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 deaths related to opioids, including fentanyl, increased 308% between 2019 and 2021. This stuff is poison, and we have to be aggressive, vigilant and nimble in taking it on. Public health, law enforcement, and government leaders at all levels need to be closely coordinated in approach and strategy and constantly evaluating what’s working and what’s not, adapting policy accordingly. I believe the state law regarding penalties for fentanyl possession should be revisited. My specific priorities for action include:

  • Partnering with Denver Health, WellPower (formerly Mental Health Center of Denver) and our local health care safety net providers to ensure our public and private sectors have the stable funding needed to provide detox and crisis stabilization services. I applaud the partnership between Denver Public Health, Denver Human Services and WellPower to open the Behavioral Health Solutions Center, a 24/7 crisis stabilization facility, and would support similar partnerships in the future.
  • Working with federal and state partners – including the state’s new Behavioral Health Administration – to advocate for increased capacity for in-patient and community based behavioral health services.
  • Investing in drug use prevention, intervention, and treatment to reduce demand for the deadly substances that are destroying lives and families and contributing to criminal behavior.
  • Working with the Denver District Attorney to support the highly successful Problem Solving Courts programs including Denver’s innovative Drug Court.

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?

Increasing utility bills this winter have reached critical levels for people across the country and the state. Denver is not alone in facing this challenge. In the short term, we need to work with federal and state policymakers and Xcel to ensure we’re providing financial relief to residents by increasing funding for the various low-income home energy assistance programs already available and promoting those programs through 311 and other city infrastructure, so that Denver residents can more easily access them. Longer-term, however, we need sustainable strategies to ensure reduced costs for the City, as a purchaser, and for our residents. We have a shared interest in supporting Xcel’s transition to clean, reliable, and renewable energy sources on a timeline that is reasonable and achievable. My administration will make it a priority to start working with Xcel soon after taking office so we have the time and opportunity to fully explore innovative partnership ideas and can carefully negotiate the franchise agreement.  

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 fully endorse and embrace Denver’s greenhouse gas emissions goals. While I view them as ambitious, I believe that with leadership and cross-sector collaboration, they are achievable. As Mayor, I will do everything in my power to reach them. I believe that the City’s climate action plans (Denver 80 x 50 Climate Action Plan (2018) and Denver Climate Action 2020 Recommendations Report and the Climate Protection Fund Five-Year Plan (2021)) are solid and with federal funding available through the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, coupled with dedicated sales tax revenue approved by Denver voters for climate action (2020) and parks and recreation (2018), we have a solid path forward to make meaningful impact.

I will bring an equity lens to my climate agenda to ensure that those communities historically impacted by climate change are positioned to benefit most from new investments. I support the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative to ensure that 40 percent of overall investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved and overburdened by pollution. I will partner and work with historically impacted communities to ensure equitable investment and supportive transition policies to ensure all of Denver benefits from our climate agenda. My specific priorities on climate action will include:

  • Promoting housing density, particularly along major transportation corridors and at transit sites, and supporting the conversion of under-utilized and vacant office space to housing.
  • Aggressively building green infrastructure on city-owned properties. This could include installing solar arrays and / or electric vehicle charging stations at city-owned locations across Denver including libraries, recreation centers, fire and police stations.
  • Supporting the education, training, and re-skilling necessary to ensure Denver residents, particularly people of color, are prepared and well positioned to capitalize on good-paying clean energy and green economy sector jobs. For example, I could envision building a partnership between the City, Xcel, Denver Public Schools and our local higher education institutions to educate and train the electricians and electrical engineers we need to meet future demand.
  • Ensuring we are using our dedicated funding stream for Parks and Recreation to equitably expand access to parks and open spaces and investing in the tree canopy to ensure all parts of Denver are shaded.
  • Fostering partnerships, particularly with RTD, DPS and DRCOG, to increase efficiency and reduce emissions from our publicly owned fleets and promote regional action on air and water quality.  

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?

Decline to say

Changed to "yes" in an interview on Feb. 21.

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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