Who is Kwame Spearman? Denver mayor candidate Q&A on the issues

Kwame Spearman

CEO of Tattered Cover/Small Business Owner
East High School, 2002 Columbia University, 2006 Yale Law School, 2009 Harvard Business School, 2011
Proud owner of the Tattered Cover, Colorado’s largest independent bookstore

Briefly describe the single most urgent issue facing the city of Denver and how it should be addressed.

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, create a new city agency to integrate services, 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.

What should Denver leaders do to address the city’s lack of affordable housing?
Every Denverite deserves to have a home that meets their needs. Safe, stable, and affordable housing is the foundation for every individual’s and family’s success. Our housing isn’t just about buildings; it’s about who lives in them—and that means housing is about all of us. We need a dedicated program focused on workforce housing. If you are a teacher, a nurse, a bookseller, a police officer, a firefighter, you can no longer live here. As the son of a teacher, that’s absolutely unacceptable.

We need to look at places like Vienna, Austria, that has aggressively and successfully built workforce housing with principles that would work right here in Denver. In short, Vienna takes vacant land and incentivizes development that supports the adjacent community, similar to our neighborhoods.

Do you support redevelopment at the Park Hill golf course property? Why or why not?
Candidate’s answer was not responsive to the question.

What should Denver leaders do to revitalize downtown Denver?
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 Denver’s greatest public safety concern and what should be done about it?
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.

Should neighborhoods help absorb population growth through permissive zoning, or do you favor protections for single-family neighborhoods?
City Council should create a neighborhood by neighborhood process for this that represents a broad set of local leaders, interested citizens, and randomly selected members like a jury to represent a full spectrum of perspectives.

We must also commit to a short, focused process. Too many city processes go on and on and on. As mayor I will commit to strong, purposeful community deliberation that sends a clear signal to the city council and city government. We cannot afford long, drawn out engagement that does not move our city forward.

Should the city’s policy of sweeping homeless encampments continue unchanged? Why or why not?
Yes, we need to enforce the current laws.

Should Denver change its snow plowing policy? Why or why not.
We need to evaluate all on-call contracts with private operators to ensure we have the best and most responsive snow plow operators. We also need to develop a snow program that ensures sidewalks and bike lanes get the same city support that our roads do. And most importantly, internally and externally, we will create metrics that the city must achieve to ensure we’re doing a good job. If we fail to meet these metrics, we’ll find new partnerships to get the work done.

What’s your vision for Denver in 20 years, and what would you do to help the city get there?
As a Denver native, what I appreciate the most about our city is the vibrancy of our neighborhoods. In order to keep our city great, we need to give all of our neighborhoods a voice. We have to work to prevent and limit crime in our neighborhoods and no longer allow people to exploit our homeless policies by choosing to live on the street. As a business owner, my priority is to ensure the safety of my staff and my customers but to also be sympathetic to those in need. We’re at a tipping point where we need specialized policies to empower local businesses, improve safety and re-energize the spirit and activity of our downtown.

How better can city officials protect Denver’s environment — air quality, water supply, ground contamination? And should the city take a more active role in transit?
With a focus on creating new jobs, improving air quality, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, my green energy policy will play a critical role in building a better future for Denver and its residents. We need strong city support for efforts to prevent ground contamination. I am committed to preserving Denver’s water resources and promoting water conservation measures throughout the city. I will work to implement water-saving technologies in city properties and encourage residents to adopt water-efficient practices. I 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.

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