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Denver mayoral candidates participate in Black community forum

Mike Johnston, Kelly Brough share their plans to address a range of issues
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Posted at 5:09 PM, Apr 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-22 19:38:25-04

DENVER — The two candidates hoping to become the city’s next mayor shared their plans to tackle some of the most significant issues facing the city’s Black community.

Former Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston and former Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Kelly Brough spent about 45 minutes answering questions from a panel of community members and advocates at New Hope Baptist Church on Saturday.

Public safety, housing, and education were among the most discussed issues.

Both candidates also mentioned public safety as one of their top priorities.

“I lost my father to violent crime,” said Brough. “I look today at families who are victims of crime and struggling trying to put the pieces of their life back together. And I understand it. I'm committed in my administration to preventing crime.”

Both candidates also pledged to provide more resources to tackle violence plaguing communities across the city.

“We do know we need more officers,” said Johnston. “We know we also need more first responders. That means mental health workers. That means paramedics to respond to people that are in addiction, and it also means training and recruiting officers with different approaches, which is making sure we get a diverse officer core that represents the neighborhoods that they serve.”

They say much of the crime can be prevented by investing in education, and both candidates pledged to work with Denver Public Schools to ensure students have plenty of opportunities outside of school.

Denver mayoral candidates participate in Black community forum

Regarding homelessness, which disproportionately affects black Denverites, Brough wants to establish temporary locations where people can go and get support and services.

“I think there's an urgency. We have to get people to safer locations,” said Brough. “I'll do that by temporarily sanctioning outdoor sites so we can get people there immediately while we build as a region what we need to get everyone indoors.”

Johnston wants to build micro-communities.

“You take half-acre lots around the city that the city owns, and you put 40 or 50 tiny homes on that site,” said Johnston. “These tiny homes have heating. They have air conditioning. They got a lock and a key. You got a bed and a desk. You have access to showers and kitchen and all the things you need to get people back up on their feet.”

Johnston and Brough emerged as the two leaders from a field of 16 candidates.

Both candidates hugged each other before the forum began.

The candidates, who've known each other for years, told Denver7 they planned to keep the race friendly and respectful.

"I'm not going to diminish anybody," said Brough. "I'm not going to diminish someone who's in office or been in office either. This is about bringing Denver together because the work we have ahead will require all of us."

"Kelly and I have been friends for a long time," said Johnston. "We've been working in the city in different capacities for a long time, and I expect we both will be working in the city for decades to come. So I think this is never anything personal. It's always about our competing visions for the city and the records of what we have done. But I think we are both people that I hope will be working shoulder-to-shoulder for a long time no matter who wins."

In addition to mayoral candidates, voters heard from city council runoff candidates, who shared how they planned to deal with some of these issues.

“I really am looking forward to seeing someone and hearing someone that speaks for me as a woman, as a senior, as a woman of color,” said Denver resident Lelia Odom.

Voters said they appreciated all the candidates for taking the time to address their concerns.

“We’re tired of just the lip service,” said Denver resident Joselyn Owens. “We need people that are real, genuine, and want to make a real difference in Denver.”

The municipal runoff election is on June 6.

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