From left: District 9 Councilaman Albus Brooks and challenger Candi CdeBaca.

In Denver’s second round of spring elections, Newcomer Candi CdeBaca is looking to unseat two-term incumbent Albus Brooks.

Round one of Denver municipal elections on May 7 draw a close contest between the two candidates, with Brooks garnering 44.8% of the vote and CdeBaca earning 43.1%. The two emerged out a field of four candidates.

Since none of the candidates earned a clear majority — at least 50% of the vote — a runoff is required, against the top two vote-getters.

Eight of the 13 Denver City Council seats were filled election night, but five remained undetermined, kicking off the runoffs.

Denver City Council members earn annual salaries of $91,915 and the body president makes $102,928. Council terms run four years; members can serve up to three terms.

The race for District 9 — which includes North Central Denver’s Globeville, Elyria Swansea, Five Points, Cole, Whittier, Clayton, Skyland, City Park, City Park West, Union Station, the Central Business District and Auraria neighborhoods — will be held on June 4.

The runoff hasn’t inched closer to election night without controversy. Brooks recently posted a picture to social media of a racist flyer that includes CdeBaca’s campaign logo.  The flier read “time for this monkey to go,” next to an image that depicts Brooks as a monkey. CdeBaca said the flier didn’t come from her campaign, and Brooks said he didn’t believe his opponent created the circular.

Brooks and CdeBaca faced off in a runoff debate May 23 produced by Denver 8 TV, providing a portrait of the candidates and how they stand on some district issues.

Brooks was first elected to the City Council in 2011 and has since served two four-year terms. During the debate, Brooks characterized his vision for Denver as “housing for all, accessible and free transit, and making sure that we are investing in our youngest individuals in the city, because they are the future."

During his tenure, Brooks points to measures like the creation of a Denver Affordable Housing Fund, which he co-sponsored, and the decriminalization of marijuana possession for those 18 to 21 years of age, legislation he sponsored.

“This bill has prevented thousands of young people from being carried through the criminal justice system,” hie states on his campaign website.

Before joining public life, Brooks served as director of the Issachar Center for Urban Leadership (ICUL) — a religious-based group that attempts to positively impact Denver youth. He later left that role to join then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper's eventual winning campaign for the governor’s office as an outreach and political director.

Brooks is a two-time cancer survivor.

CdeBaca is the co-founder and former executive director of Project VOYCE, a group focused on promoting civic engagement from youth in underrepresented communities. She also worked for Excelencia in Education, a national education policy organization, the District of Columbia Public Schools and the Cesar Chavez Foundation, according to her website.

“I’ve dedicated my life and career to lifting up the voices of the marginalized,” she said during debate introductory remarks.

CdeBaca’s platform focuses on housing, wages, traffic, pollution, transparency and accountability.

Her campaign website lists dozens of potential solutions to address the topics, some of which include instituting a renter’s bill of rights and community bill of rights for development; ending corporate welfare by shifting the burden of growth to corporations; implementing a transparency database to view pending permits for new construction; and ceasing the city’s reliance on RTD for transportation and mobility.

Additionally, she proposes an ban on corporate special interest money from campaigns, developing a tracker database/scorecards for Denver City Council votes, and decentralizing mayoral control in city government.



The most polluted zip code

Denver’s zip code 80216, including Globeville and the Elyria Swansea neighborhood, was found to be the most polluted in the country, according to researchers with ATTOM Data Solutions. As Brooks notes during the debate, the label of most polluted was debunked by Denverite, but nonetheless, pollution is still an issue for the zip code.

A debate-submitted question probed the candidates on how they would address pollution in the area.

Brooks said he would continue to work with the city to reduce pollution, which has already started to decline significantly.

“We’ve had a brown cloud, but that is a short-term issue,” he said. “We are looking at more of a regional issue going on.”

CdeBaca said she lives in the zip code and that the pollution catalyzed her election bid.

She said the city should intervene to help cease the delisting of a superfund site in the district. The Environmental Protection Agency announced in February it would remove the Vasquez Boulevard/Interstate 70 (VB/I-70) Superfund site from the site registry.

As it relates to air pollution, CdeBaca said the city is tripling the problem through the I-70 expansion project.

“The city and the state need to work together to immediately course correct and make sure that we follow an alternative solution so we are not tripling the amount of small particulars that are polluting our air 80216,” she said.


Rezoning in Denver

The candidates were asked to respond to the statement that the city’s process of rezoning parcels is nothing more than a way to circumvent the city’s zoning code.  

In response, Brooks stated: “I will respond with a factual statement, if you actually look at the number of rezoning that go through the city of Denver, there’s a small percentage that actually make it to City Council.”

He added that rezoning proposals are vetted by committees before reaching the City Council, and then there is a required public hearing.

“There’s a rigorous process that the Community Planning and Development (Committee) goes through,” he said. “I know this because I have sponsored rezonings and I’ve seen this analytical process.”

CdeBaca said she believed the sentiment to be accurate.

“We’ve watched a lot of the rezonings in our community be essentially giveaways for developers, including in my neighborhood,” she said.

CdeBaca called the city’s process of vetting rezoning proposals insufficient.

“I think we need to flip the dynamic of who is authorizing what we want in our neighborhoods, and residents should have authority over what is happening in our community,” she said. “As residents, we need to get 100% ownership for anything from a street light to another dumpster.


A stark contrast

Why vote for you over your opponent? That question was posed to the candidates.

CdeBaca said there’s a simple answer: She prioritizes people, while Brooks prioritizes profit.

“Denver is at a position where we need to absolutely start prioritizing our people and our planet and moving in a different direction,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of unmanaged growth that hasn’t necessarily served all communities in the city.”

In contrast, Brooks said CdeBaca opposes progress in the district. He pointed to the GO Bonds and capital improvements like the Swansea pool.

“I’m the leader to move Denver forward,” Brooks said. “The vision that I’ve got from the community to implement, it’s all been implemented in the city, from the most affordable housing units, from homeless housing to workforce housing units, in District 9, compared to the rest of the city.”

“These are projects fought for, for the community, and she (CdeBaca) was against them.”

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