Working with the Denver Community
Several years ago while serving as one of the At-Large City Council members, I took up what seemed like a small, somewhat unusual, issue. I heard from people that they wanted the City to build public restrooms. I listened to input from a very diverse set of voices: churches, neighborhood leaders, business owners, bike and bus commuters, and homeless residents. From these different voices in the community, I came to realize that Denver’s lack of public restrooms was an important quality of life issue, important not only to those who had to go, but to those impacted when there was nowhere to go, and to the water quality of the river where storm water flowed. I worked collaboratively to re-open old public restrooms that had been closed and to introduce a pilot program of mobile public restrooms that has been so successful that the restrooms will become permanent when the 16th Street Mall redesign and the Colfax Bus Rapid Transit projects are built-out. This is a perfect example of the type of public servant I am for this community– a listener and pro-active initiator of solutions on a wide array of issues.
I work with people across Denver, as well as other members of the city council, to build coalitions that address the needs and concerns of the community, such as affordable and inclusive housing, which includes the recent establishment of Denver’s first-ever dedicated affordable housing fund that will create or preserve at least 6,000 homes. I lead the City Council’s Work Group on Housing and Homelessness, and spearheaded the creation of an eviction legal defense program with ten of my Council colleagues that will launch this Spring.
I have worked in Denver and regionally to increase transportation and mobility options, including more bike paths, public transportation and infrastructure improvements– such as building and repairing sidewalks– to increase the ways that people are able to move around the city. I support more pathways into middle-income jobs like construction and manufacturing for residents who need to earn more from a good job to stay in Denver and enjoy a good life.
Other accomplishments include expanding local food access, requiring energy efficiency reporting for commercial buildings, and updating Denver’s regulations governing the marijuana industry. I strongly supported a recent ordinance to ban “bump stocks” and limit magazine sizes to help minimize the risk of mass shootings in Denver. I have also led and supported efforts to expand transparency and civic participation in government, such as advocating for participatory budgeting where communities can actually decide on which neighborhood-level infrastructure projects the City should fund.
Putting My Values to Work – for Denver
I was first elected to Denver City Council in 2011 and re-elected in 2015 as one of two At-Large Councilmembers. Although I had more than a decade of policy experience prior, my appointment to serve on the board that built Denver Union Station’s bus and train facilities gave me a new appreciation for what it takes to really build the services a city needs. My leadership proved to others, and in some ways myself, that I could put my knowledge to use in even larger ways.
Like many women, I was urged to run for City Council by people who had seen me in action and respected my leadership. Although I had to overcome my own perceptions that public office wasn’t for people with humble backgrounds like mine, the values from my upbringing and my work in community organizing gave me a special love and appreciation for Denver. I carried this vision for change and improving the city into my public service.
I was raised in a working-class family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Both my parents were union members, my father in construction and my mother a factory worker with Master Lock for more than 40 years. Growing up, I believed that if you work hard then you should at least be able to get by, but also get ahead a little. I try to make this true in Denver, to make sure that Denver is a place where people can work and have a good life.
As a daughter of working class parents then, and a mom balancing a demanding career with the joys and trials of raising an exuberant son now, I understand working families. I have dedicated my life to making Denver a better place for families and those struggling to make ends meet.
I am proud that my work and leadership has been recognized by:
- The Women’s Chamber of Commerce, One of the 25 Most Powerful Women of 2016
- The Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, 2014 Professional Woman of the Year
- 2012 Lawmaker of the Year for the Denver Women’s Commission/Women’s Chamber
I am the first out member of the LGBT community to serve on the Denver City Council. I recently married my partner Katie, something we never thought would be possible, so both a personal joy and a celebration of our progress toward justice as a nation. My exuberant son Nathaniel just turned nine years old– he couldn’t be less impressed with my job title, but is “glad I help people and the City.”