When Councilman Kevin Flynn was elected as District 2’s city council representative, he was the outsider on the inside. Formerly a city hall reporter at the Rocky Mountain News, Flynn was now working alongside the politicians he had spent 27 years reporting on.
Today, after serving as a political reporter, true crime novelist and communications director, Flynn is the one of the longest-serving council members, halfway through his second term in office after being elected in 2015.
Only three other people have ever represented District 2 — comprised of the Bear Valley, Bow Mar Heights, Fort Logan, Glenbrook, Grant Ranch, Harvey Park North, Harvey Park South, Mar Lee, Marston and Pinehurst neighborhoods — since the city council redrew district lines in 1971.
With the possibility of another term ahead, Flynn sat down with The Denver Gazette to discuss his experience on the Denver City Council and his goals moving forward.
What made you want to become your district’s city council representative?
When my predecessor Jeanne Faatz was term-limited, I thought that the experiences and skills I acquired from watching and learning some really great council members who went through that chamber could be put to use in the district.
How has your experience as a council member been so far?
When I first got on, a lot of people asked me, “what’s the biggest surprise going from covering it as a reporter to being one of the people that’s covered?” The biggest surprise to me was that there were no surprises. It’s exactly what I thought it would be. It felt like putting my hand into a glove.
I always covered local government, even when I was a reporter in New Jersey, so I always considered myself to be a nerdy, policy person. I thought that when I finish my time in office, however long it is, that I’d look back on all the great debates: taxation, safety, housing, you name it. But that’s not the case.
A couple of months after I entered office, my aide got a call from a woman in Bear Valley. She was in her early 90s and her husband had just passed away. He was the one who always got the mail because the mailbox was at the end of the driveway and she didn’t walk very well.
The woman asked her letter carrier if he would deliver the mail to a mailbox she was going to get installed on her porch and he told her no. The post office does do that, but the carrier just didn’t want to. So, we got this woman the form to set it up and brought two off-duty Denver cops to yank the old mailbox out of the ground so the letter carrier wouldn’t have a choice. A day or two later, the woman’s neighbor called and told us she was crying from happiness.
As a council member, what are your priorities for the future?
For this year, my priorities are recovering from the coronavirus, opening back up safely and getting people vaccinated. The city has opened a vaccination clinic at the Bear Valley Library and my office has partnered one-on-one with Denver Health for an equity clinic for the 80219 zip code where we have a high infection rate, low vaccination rate and high Latino population. My aide Dana has single-handedly done all the appointments and we have not wasted a single dose yet.
The second item that’s a priority is to make sure that the Loretto Heights plan is implemented properly. ... The biggest issue that we’re facing in the district has been the redevelopment of the Loretto Heights campus. This is the first large-scale project to come to District 2 in 25 years.
To have this come to a fruition is really a high point for everyone here. If we can save the theater and have a performing arts center in this part of town, that would be the cherry on top. We’re going to get historic preservation, landmark the most iconic buildings, have twice as much open space as required. It’s going to have affordable housing that is income-restricted and housing that is affordable by design to help prevent displacement and gentrification.
This is something southwest Denver has lacked since the Bear Valley Mall went away. We don’t have a place that we can go like Union Station or the 16th Street Mall where you can see people and sit for an hour or two. This might be the first time that southwest Denver has a family room.
The third priority is taking some of our commercial areas that have run their course and getting fresh blood into those areas. We have an old Target that’s been vacant since 2011. There’s a closed Walmart that we’d love to see become a market hall. I’d like to see these areas serve the community better so that people from southwest Denver don’t have to go to Lakewood or Sheridan or Littleton to do their shopping. I’d like to see them be able to walk to a store or restaurant.
But I want my legacy to be Loretto Heights. I want that to succeed. I want it to be a place where they might live in place with people of diverse income levels and just enjoy the community there. I’m hoping that that’s the legacy.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.