Professor Jim Walsh has taught history and political science at the University of Colorado Denver since 1998. He’s running for mayor “to make Denver the most worker-friendly city in the U.S.” Walsh created the Romero Theater Troupe in 2005 to use the arts to tell historical stories of worker struggle.
Walsh qualified for the Denver Fair Elections Fund, according to city data. At the start of February, he had received $16,106.99 in campaign donations, none of which is from the Fair Elections Fund.
Denver7's Chief Investigative Reporter asked Walsh about his plans if elected as Denver's next mayor. Watch their conversation or read a transcript below.
Tony Kovaleski: Introduce yourself. Tell us your story in 30 seconds.
Jim Walsh: That's a lot for 30 seconds. I'll try. I am a college educator. I've been a professor at the University of Colorado Denver for 25 years. I'm originally from western Pennsylvania, but I've lived in Colorado since 1990. And I love the city of Denver. So, I want to try to turn a successful career in the classroom into elected office. And I think I can do that.
Tony Kovaleski: Insiders tell us the four most important issues in this election are crime, homelessness, housing and transportation. Rank them from most important to least important for you. And please explain why.
Jim Walsh: I would put homelessness and housing at the top of that list for sure. I believe they're related, very closely related — those issues. We're asking a lot about housing policy. We're asking a lot about policy to solve homelessness. But to me, the real issue is the disparity of wealth we have in our city — that so many in our city cannot afford decent housing, so many cannot afford any housing. And so that's the question that I hope to address, is how the mayor's office can be an ally and a conduit for people to access decent basic housing.
Tony Kovaleski: Follow-up question here, based upon what you've just said. Your No. 1 is homelessness. So, what is your pledge to the voters if you're elected on how you will address this, and how might that be different than the other candidates on this ballot?
Jim Walsh: I would not address homelessness through sweeps. I would not address homelessness through a camping ban. I don't think criminalizing poverty is ever a solution. So, we'll — I would address homelessness by getting people housing, by pooling resources, federal, state and local resources. Other cities have done great work like Houston. Other countries have essentially solved this issue. So, there are models out there that we can learn from.
Tony Kovaleski: As you well know, finances are critical in many cities and Denver is no exception. Based upon that, if you're elected, what would you prioritize financially? And where might you trim?
Jim Walsh: That's a big question. There's a lot of talk about trimming police budgets. I would just need to take a close look at that. I do think that an enormous amount of our city budget goes toward law enforcement. And I think that education is starving for funding. I've been an educator for 25 years. I think more money needs to go into getting people into housing. So, I don't know, I can't say today where that money would come from. But I can say that those would be top priorities for me.
Tony Kovaleski: Denver is a wonderfully diverse city. Will you make a commitment to ensure that your administration reflects the city's diversity? And if the answer is yes, how?
Jim Walsh: Yes, absolutely. I mean, we're experiencing gentrification on a massive level in Denver, where many cultural institutions and communities of color and low-income communities are being forced out of the city. And so, my mission as mayor would be to ensure that people can afford to live here and people who are wage-earners, that people who are workers, can afford to live in the city that they carry on their backs and clean for a living. And so that includes a higher minimum wage, it includes policies like universal basic income, includes ensuring that all public employees have collective bargaining rights. So, I consider my platform a pro-worker platform. I want to see Denver be the most worker-friendly city in the country. I'm sure that we can.
Tony Kovaleski: After this election, Denver City Council has the potential for a significant change. How will you work with that new council? And what will that relationship look like?
Jim Walsh: I agree with some of the other candidates that the mayor's office in Denver has historically been too strong, that there needs to be a greater balance between the mayor's office and city council and other institutions. And so, as mayor, I would actually be an advocate for a slightly weaker mayor. Because I think it's a healthier civic community when there's more checks and balances. And historically, there haven't been as many as we need there to be.
Tony Kovaleski: Interesting question for you here. If you could ask one other candidate one question, who's the candidate? And what is that question?
Jim Walsh: That's a great question.
Tony Kovaleski: It's fair to think this through. It's not an easy question. And you're not the only one that's got the wheel spinning. So again, if you can ask one candidate one question, who's the candidate? And what is that question?
Jim Walsh: I'll say that one of the funnest parts of this experience for me has been meeting the other candidates. And I've made friends with several. One candidate I'm really intrigued by is Terrance Roberts. I've gained great respect for Terrance through getting to know him in this process. His journey to come from where he came from to now being a mayoral candidate fascinates me. So, I would want to ask Terrance how he talks to young people about his journey. That's something that I think is a great asset for this city.
Tony Kovaleski: This is an opportunity for voters to get to know a little bit about you the person. What's the last book you read and why? And what do you do for fun?
Jim Walsh: Obscure political science books and history books are what I spend my time reading. I'm reading a book now. It's called "Beaten Down, Worked Up." And it's a book about the history of the labor movement in the United States and helps shed light on why they — why workers today in our society, such as Starbucks employees, Trader Joe's employees, graduate students — why workers are beginning to organize more than they have in the past generation. So, I forget the second part of your question, but that's the book.
Tony Kovaleski: That's good. What do you do for fun?
Jim Walsh: I'm an avid gardener. My garden is larger than my house. And that tells you everything you need to know about me and who I am. I am a cyclist. I believe in navigating the city on two wheels and I'm in a much better space when I do that. And I run a community theater called the Romero Theatre Troupe, which I founded 18 years ago. And I have an amazing circle of friends. So that's what keeps me going.
Tony Kovaleski: Final moment here, kind of a closing statement, if you will. Please talk to the voters again. And let them know what you want them to know about yourself.
Jim Walsh: Denver can be the most worker-friendly city in the country. The slogan of my campaign is Denver Workers First. I want to see the mayor's office as an ally toward helping the wage earners in our society, who carry the city on their back and build the city but can't afford to live here. And as mayor, every policy that comes out of my office will be to improve the lives and financial situation of workers.