2023 Denver mayoral race: Candidate Lisa Calderón shares her platform

Posted at 3:05 PM, Feb 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-22 15:43:36-04

Lisa Calderón is a Denver native with a number of degrees, including her law degree and doctorate from Colorado universities. She is a professor at Regis University and the University of Colorado in Boulder. Calderón also serves as the executive director of Emerge Colorado, an organization that trains Democratic women how to run for office.

This isn’t her first mayor race. Calderón ran for office in 2019.

According to city data, the candidate qualified for the Denver Fair Elections Fund. At the start of February, she received $131,718.41. Of that, nearly $89,000 is from the Fair Elections Fund.

March 22 update |Response to the shooting of two deans at East High School in Denver:

"Tragedy has once again fallen on East High School as police are now responding to a shooting at the school and two adult victims have been transported to local hospitals. Our first thoughts are for the victims and their families, as well as the entire East High community.

The students and families of East High deserve so much better. Just last month, students staged a walkout fearing for their safety after the death of Luis Garcia. They marched to the Capitol steps and challenged legislators to push for stricter gun regulations.

I hear and agree with the pleas of students: Words are not enough. It is time for action. We need stronger restrictions on firearms. We also need more mental health counselors and de-escalation experts in our schools to support young people to prevent violence before it happens.

When young people turn to violence, it is a failure of our systems to support them and make them feel there is hope for their future. As a college professor who works with our youth, I am dedicated to working with DPS and state and local lawmakers to curtail access to guns and support students’ mental and emotional health by investing in prevention and intervention public health strategies."

Denver7's Chief Investigative Reporter asked Calderón about her plans if elected as Denver's next mayor. Watch their conversation or read a transcript below.

2023 Denver mayor race: Candidate Lisa Calderón shares her platform

Tony Kovaleski: Introduce yourself. Tell us your story.

Lisa Calderón: I am Lisa Calderón and I am a fourth-generation Denver resident. I'm running because I love this city and I want to make sure that we decentralize power and share it with our neighborhoods. I have four degrees, including a law degree and a doctorate and currently run a program called Emerge Colorado where we train Democratic women to run for office.

Tony Kovaleski: So first question: Insiders tell us the most important issues in this race are crime, homelessness, housing and transportation. Rank them from most important to least important and explain why.

Lisa Calderón: Well, housing first and foremost. Everything relates to that. We have a housing crisis, as people know. When I was a single parent in Denver, I could still afford a two-bedroom apartment in Park Hill. And that's not a reality for a lot of folks, including my own adult children now. You shouldn't have to live in Denver for four generations to be able to afford a home. So housing is my top priority. We could look at housing and crime connected. When people are stable, they tend to commit less crimes. I used to lead the city's reentry program and our No. 1 issue was housing. If you can get people housed, you can find them in terms of supportive services, and you can stabilize them. So, you know, we need more of that. We also need transformational transportation, meaning, you know, people need to be connected. We need to have a local circulator for people to be able to get from point A to point B and be less car-dependent. I care a lot about our environment. I was an opponent of the I-70 expansion because we know when you build bigger highways, you're going to have more cars on those highways. So, we really need to look at multimodal options that will save our environment and also get people where they need to go in a limited amount of time.

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Tony Kovaleski: So, you said your No. 1 priority was housing. So, the follow-up is, what is your pledge to voters on how you will address it and how that might be different than your opponents?

Lisa Calderón: We really need to revisit the expanding housing affordability ordinance. You know, luxury developers get to pay a linkage fee to get out of providing affordable housing units, and really, up to 20% affordable is not affordable in an increasingly unaffordable city. We really need to look at public financing for social housing. They have great models in Finland, where they also are the happiest country, and a lot has to do with housing stability, and community connections. So, we really need to look at accessible, affordable and deeply affordable housing at 60% of new housing units rather than a paltry 20%.

Tony Kovaleski: Next question, like many cities, Denver has a lot of financial needs. If elected, what would you prioritize? And maybe what would you trim?

Lisa Calderón: Well, I would prioritize our social safety nets. When people are not able to pay their basic bills, when they are a paycheck away from homelessness. I know this city focuses a lot on unsheltered homelessness. But we also need to look at preventing people from losing their homes. I would prioritize making sure that people with houses, like our elders, are able to keep them. You know what happened in Green Valley Ranch when 55 people lost their homes to an HOA who foreclosed on them. That's unacceptable. Our city knew what was going on and didn't intervene. So, we need to have city government that is more proactive instead of waiting after the fact when people are asking for help.

Tony Kovaleski: As you know, Denver is a wonderfully diverse city. If elected, would you make a commitment to ensure your administration reflects the city's diversity?

Lisa Calderón: Absolutely. I think this administration has touted itself on diversity. But when you look at, for example, the under representation of women in law enforcement positions — I look forward to being the next mayor who will look at hiring our first woman police chief or first woman sheriff. We need to really expand what we mean by diversity as well. So, we have a very vibrant Indigenous community here. But you don't hear very often about what they're doing at the mayoral cabinet level. So, I do plan to have a position like we have at the State Capitol for Indigenous community relationships.

Tony Kovaleski: City council has the potential to change significantly in this upcoming election. How are you planning to work with the new council if elected? And what would that relationship look like?

Lisa Calderón: It will be a breath of fresh air to have new voices on city council. This council has been incremental in changes and that has a lot to do with the mayor. Because we have a strong mayor system, they tend to follow his lead. And I instead want to share power with city council and also the residents of Denver. So, you have a lot of exciting candidates who are talking about affordable housing in new and different ways and being bold. It's not just about building, it's also about renters' rights and protections. And I — so I welcome working with a new array of new voices, including on our public safety issues. We're two years out from the murder of George Floyd, but we are seeing an increase in our policing budget. We really need to look at: Does it make sense to have police sweeping people off the street? Or do we instead have crisis intervention responders instead of street enforcers?

Tony Kovaleski: As you know, you have 16 other candidates on this ballot. If you could ask one candidate one question, which candidate and what is the question. And it's fair would take some time.

Lisa Calderón: I would ask Mike Johnston that you have run for a number of seats in Colorado, and we have three qualified women of color polling at the top. Why not step back? Why not support the qualified women of color who are already running and not coop the issues of diversity by saying that you are part of a diverse field? The reason why we have programs like Emerge Colorado is to change the face of politics. And how is he going to help change the face of politics when he's also in the race?

Tony Kovaleski: OK, let's try to get to know a little bit about you. What's the last book you read and why?

Lisa Calderón: Trying to think because I listen to a lot of audiobooks. I'm currently listening to a book that is called "The Tiger.' And I might not have that quite right. I think there might be something else with that. But it's basically a surreal book of fantasy, but also looking at culture and looking at history. And I like all of those things. So, it's just something to help relax me from constantly reading about heavy public policy.

Tony Kovaleski: And what do you do for fun?

Lisa Calderón: I love hiking. Colorado has one of the best trail systems in the nation. But even Denver, you can just Google a trailhead, and one will be within blocks from you. So, I love hiking and walking our dogs.

Tony Kovaleski: Finally, an opportunity for a closing statement. Look into the camera and tell voters what you want them to know about you. You've got a minute.

Lisa Calderón: Denver is at a crossroads. I have been a community advocate for over 30 years, trying to make our city better. I didn't jump into this race because of COVID or because I'm term-limited. I have been working to make Denver a better city. We have many qualified candidates. However, we are needing a change. So, having the same political machinery who are behind some of the top competitive candidates are going to just get us the same results. We need a wholesale change and I'm the candidate to do that. I am hardworking, I'm courageous. I have the education, the qualifications. I've been an executive nonprofit leader. And it's time that we go in a new direction — that is really having a candidate for the people.