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City Of Discontent

Hyper-Development, Spike In Homelessness, Frustration With Status Quo Factors In Denver’s May 7 Municipal Elections

By Cara DeGette

GPHN Editor

Denver City Council District 8 candidates make their pitches to voters during an East Colfax Neighborhood forum in March. From left, Moderator Jeff Fard, incumbent Chris Herndon, challengers Erik Penn, LaMone Noles, Miguel Ceballos-Ruiz, Blair Taylor and Patrick Thibault. Photo by Cara DeGette

Four years ago, District 8 City Councilman Chris Herndon strolled into a second term in office without a whiff of opposition. Four years ago, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock skipped into a second term with barely a breeze. 

A lot can happen in four years.

Heading into the May 7 Denver municipal elections, five challengers are taking on Herndon, including Blair Taylor and LaMone Noles, both of whom serve on the board of Greater Park Hill Community, Inc. Other candidates are catering manager Miguel Ceballos-Ruiz, former legislative aide Patrick Thibault and Erik Penn, who works at Children’s Hospital.

The district includes all of Park Hill, Stapleton, East Colfax and parts of Montbello. 

As Hancock runs  for a third term, he has five opponents of his own – including Penfield Tate III, a former longtime legislator from Park Hill, and community activist Lisa Calderón. Hancock’s other challengers include Jamie Giellis, former president of the RiNo Arts District, disabled artist/activist Kalyn Rose Heffernan, and activist Stephan Evans, who goes by the name “Chairman Seku.”

In this season of discontent, no fewer than 52 candidates are running for city offices, including 13 city council seats as well as mayor, clerk & recorder, and auditor. Also on the ballot is the Right To Survive initiative, which would repeal Denver’s urban camping ban, and a measure – the first of its kind in the nation – that would make psilocybin mushrooms (aka “magic mushrooms”) the lowest law enforcement priority for Denver police.

Several issues have fueled peoples’ frustration with the state of the city, and ramped up interest in the election. 

Out-of-control development, traffic congestion, a lack of affordable housing combined with a noticeable increase in the city’s homeless population, are all topics that have stood front and center during several candidate forums held in March in District 8. 

Attendees also expressed dissatisfaction with city leaders whom they charge are too heavily influenced by developers and other special interests. A common thread for many is a sense that Herndon, along with other elected and appointed officials, have moved forward with long-range plans for the city – specifically the extensive “Denveright” plan – with little input from residents and neighborhood groups. 

For more on the six candidates who are running in District 8, check out detailed interviews that were published in the December issue of GPHN, available online at greater- 8-meet-the-candidates/.

As of press time, five of the six candidates have websites highlighting their priorities and reasons for running:  

• Miguel Ceballos-Ruiz:

• Chris Herndon:

• Erik Penn:

• Blair Taylor:

• Patrick Thibault:

Mayoral candidate websites:

• Lisa Calderón:

• Stephan Evans: On Facebook as Chairman Seku

• Jamie Giellis:

• Michael B. Hancock:

• Kalyn Rose Heffernan:

• Penfield Tate III:

In addition, several mayoral and council candidate forums are scheduled during April, designed to encourage voter participation. (Click herefor a listing of upcoming forums.)

Ballots will be mailed to registered voters in Denver on April 15. The ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day, May 7.

Related storyClick herefor a breakdown of the amounts of contributions and detailed expenditures for all six candidates running for  Denver City Council in District 8.

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