Ok, so you know about my record on housing, protecting our climate, inclusivity, and more. And now you know all about my family, our obsession with composting, and our dogs. But elections are about more than personalities and policies. They’re also about leadership and judgment.
One of my opponents recently asked me which was harder, running for office or serving? No contest: campaigns are a lot of work and they’re tiring, but serving on the Council is the most challenging work I’ve ever done. I govern in a world where most solutions are imperfect, but we must keep change happening, keep hope alive, and impact as many people’s lives as we can.
Several of my opponents think it’s easy. “Just listen to the people,” they say. What happens when “the people” are divided, 50/50, with some supporting a historic district creation to protect neighborhood character, the rest opposing it? What happens when constituents don’t want those who are different to have an opportunity to live next door? Or they want you to pass a law that would be unconstitutional? Every day I have to work to find common ground where I can, and where I can’t, to make tough judgment calls while at the same time helping to protect the interests and questions of those with strong feelings, even if the decision doesn’t go their way.
You don’t get 100% agreement in a city as diverse as Denver. But I strive to be transparent about my values. For example, I’m pretty clear that I’m always going to prioritize those who are struggling to make ends meet in our city. But for me, being a progressive doesn’t mean I have to burn the bridge behind my values. I can take input, hear concerns from opponents, work to make the implementation easier, or take one approach vs. another if it gets to the same goal.
Unlike some of my opponents, who belittled the concept of being “responsive,” saying we should be “bold” instead, I believe leadership means being Bold and Responsive. If I listen well, I will hear the concerns and needs of the community, and you will help shape my agenda. Then I can be bold in identifying new ideas that will address your priorities and impact thousands of lives city-wide. This is how an eviction defense program was born out of leftover council office funds, and how new public restrooms took shape in downtown and Cap Hill. Bold. And Responsive.
Too slow, some say? Well, I don’t pass policy overnight, because I don’t want to skip the life experience of those who are most impacted who need to give input along the way. You can’t listen if you’re running faster than the people you serve. But, as my family knows too well from weekend hikes, if you set a steady pace and build trust, the hike leader can boldly lead a faster pace than the rest thought we could go, keeping us moving swiftly in a common direction.
By Robin Kniech City Councilor At-Large