Endorsement: Denver City Council needs a clean-up, and these two candidates are right for the job

After meeting with nine candidates for Denver’s at-large City Council race, two stood out as both listeners and leaders, as experts in a wide variety of Denver affairs, and as having high integrity and a solid moral compass.

We urge Denver voters to support Penfield Tate III and Marty Zimmerman for the open Denver City Council at-large seats. Each voter will select two candidates in the at-large race on April 4, and the top two vote-getters will be seated on the council representing the entire city.

Tate and Zimmerman will work well together, pulling in the same direction toward a council that takes an aggressive but pragmatic approach to Denver’s problems while standing up to special interests when they don’t align with the community’s interests. There are many strong candidates in this race, but these two captains stood out as driving forces to accomplish crucial changes while rallying the Council to find its voice and reclaim some power from the mayor’s office.

Denver is adrift in a national storm of rising crime, increasing homelessness, commercial buildings all but abandoned for remote work, and skyrocketing property values displacing long-term residents and ensuring only the wealthiest can call the city home.

Tate and Zimmerman will give the city direction and focus.

Tate has been pushing for police reform his entire life. He spent years as a civil rights attorney, taking a case of police brutality in Aurora all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. He co-chaired the committee that founded Denver’s Independent Monitor’s Office. Tate has the depth of knowledge and the resolve to hold the police leaders accountable for inexcusable mistakes and abuses of power.

“I don’t support defund the police, but policing has to be done differently,” Tate said, noting that making it harder for police to do their jobs with a lack of resources and staff will only result in worse outcomes. “When the police department reflects the community it is serving and protecting, the community supports and embraces that protection element and cooperates with it, and the officers are also safer. I would support more money to recruit, but I would advocate recruiting in Denver Public Schools.”

Denver must invest in alternatives to the police, too, putting more money into the co-responder and STAR programs so 24/7 there are mental health professionals and service providers available to respond to calls that are not for criminal activity.

Denver residents are sick of waiting on hold for 911 — in 2021 The Denver Post reported 10% of callers were waiting longer than a minute. In 2022, Fox31 reported only 61% of calls were being answered within the industry standard of 15 seconds. And the police response has also slowed, with the average response to low-priority calls clocking in at 34 minutes and response for emergency calls getting slower too, according to 9News. Our jail is dangerously understaffed.

Tate has the skills to build back up the Denver Department of Public Safety while holding officers and deputies accountable. Tate will spend as much energy on rooting out the causes of the crime increase and investing in the community support programs needed to prevent kids from falling into criminal activity. We see a need for the city to invest substantially in our youth. Teens who commit crimes do so out of desperation and a lack of hope. Tate will prioritize prevention.

As a former state lawmaker who was accomplished at passing legislation, Tate knows how to wield the kind of legislative power the City Council relies on, and we also are excited to see him unleash a budgeting process similar to the state’s Joint Budget Committee, which will bring much-needed transparency to a budgeting process currently cloaked in secrecy.

Meanwhile, Zimmerman will take the lead in directing the city’s policies and practices regarding our growing unhoused population. Zimmerman owns a consulting firm that employs about 25 people working to help nonprofits launch, fundraise, and achieve their mission. He is the man to finally wrangle the voluminous nonprofits in this state into a coordinated and effective operation with government-led efforts to serve the homeless and at-risk population.

Working together, Zimmerman knows this city can develop a continuum of safe, sanitary, and even prosperous living conditions for our unhoused neighbors. First, Zimmerman wants to establish sanctioned camping areas where those who are unwilling to use the overnight shelters must instead set up their camps. This legal zone will have bathrooms, electricity, and security. We think this is a humane way to care for treatment-resistant individuals until they are ready to accept services.

As soon as individuals are ready to seek mental health care, medical care, disability benefits, veterans benefits, work training, and, critically, drug addiction treatment, Zimmerman said these zones will have many options leading to transitional housing like safe outdoor spaces, unused or underused city-owned motels, hotels, and vacant homes.

In October, the city invested $2.3 million with Servicios de La Raza, a nonprofit that fights poverty, to work hand in hand with the mental health clinicians and paramedics responding to calls through the Support Team Assisted Response Program (STAR). Zimmerman imagines investing even more, to bring in more nonprofits and expand STAR.

Zimmerman said affordable housing is his top concern. He supports community land trusts, a model we think is much more productive than throwing good money at developers for crumbs of “affordability” in otherwise luxury projects.

The state and city need to focus their limited resources on building units through the housing authority and maintaining existing affordable units through rehabilitation incentives, and purchasing affordability easements on properties at risk of redevelopment in areas with the highest rates of displacement or that have other lots more appropriate for development that won’t result in a loss of affordable units.

Together we think Zimmerman and Tate will bring ingenuity, accountability, and integrity to Denver City Council. They will listen to residents when there are concerns about development while holding the city’s needs as a whole in the highest regard.

Denver is a great city, and although unprecedented storms have brought rough seas, we are certain with the right people at the helm, Denver will find its course.

Sign up for Sound Off to get a weekly roundup of our columns, editorials and more.

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by email or mail.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *