Giellis says she plans discussion with black community; restaurant says lowrider event preplanned

jamie giellis.jpg
Posted at 3:12 PM, May 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-16 21:01:57-04

DENVER – Mayoral candidate Jamie Giellis’ campaign said Thursday she is working to organize a discussion about the “state of the Black community in Denver” after she flubbed a question about the NAACP earlier this week, and a restaurant where Giellis has planned a fundraiser says it was already organizing a lowrider night event with Giellis before it fell under scrutiny.

Giellis deleted her personal Twitter account after a 10-year-old tweet was brought to light in which she wrote, “Here’s a question: Why do so many cities feel it necessary to have a ‘Chinatown’?”

Her campaign also deleted a tweet advertising a “meet & greet fundraiser at La Cocinita for a nacho/taco bar, lowriders, and a conversation about Denver on May 16.”

Paired with the NAACP flub, some people closely following the mayoral runoff said the tweets were insensitive.

Elizabeth Villa Gomez, a manager at La Cocinita, told Denver7 the event was not planned in response to Tuesday’s NAACP discussion and had been set since last Saturday.

“My boss came up with the idea for a lowrider night at the restaurant,” she said. “They had been trying to do it for a while and it had nothing to do with Jamie.”

La Cocinita co-owner Ilan Salzberg said the lowriders and taco event was about celebrating the culture of the north and west sides of Denver.

"I have fond memories of the time when lowriders ruled my neighborhood. Jamie Giellis earned my full support on a day after reaching the runoff election she showed up without flinching to show her support for Amber Nicole, a woman who was brutally assaulted in LoDo for being born in a man's body," Salzberg said. "When Jamie did that I wanted to show my support in return. Political meet-and-greets are snooze fests and I have colleagues with lowriders and a Mexican restaurant with an amazing patio – and voila."

"It's actual lowriders, like … I mean, I think to me authenticity is never wrong," Salzberg added. "Like, we actually have lowriders. I don’t know what's offensive about a lowrider being a lowrider."

The event is still scheduled to happen as planned from 6 – 8 p.m. Thursday. The restaurant was advertising the event on its Facebook page Tuesday afternoon.

Giellis faces a runoff with incumbent Mayor Michael Hancock, which is slated for June 4. Ballots for the runoff will start being mailed to voters on Monday.

Meghan Dougherty, a spokesperson for the Giellis campaign, said Thursday that the campaign had received several interview requests to discuss the NAACP discussion on the Brother Jeff Fard show, as well as the tweets.

“At this time we feel that directing time and energy toward listening to community members and organizing a discussion about the state of the Black community in Denver is a more productive use of time, as we begin working together as #UnitedDenver,” Dougherty said.

Giellis won the endorsements of the third- and fourth-place mayoral race finishers Lisa Calderón and Penfield Tate earlier this week. Dougherty said the two would be attending events with Giellis in coming days “to talk about these very issues and to listen to the community.”

She also issued a joint statement from Calderón and Tate in which they responded to the news involving Giellis this week.

“Every public official should know the history and contributions of such an esteemed historic civil rights institution as the NAACP. We appreciate Jamie Giellis taking full responsibility for her recent statements and not making excuses, which will be a refreshing change from the current administration.

“Jamie will re-double her effort and commitment to serving the Black community and all historically marginalized communities in Denver by spelling out a specific agenda to rebuild Black community wealth, which has been depleted over the past eight years under the current mayor.

“Jamie's agenda will be key to reversing the high rate of displacement resulting from economic and housing disinvestment — consistent concerns we’ve heard loud and clear on the campaign trail, particularly from Black community members.

“We are committed to working with Jamie to develop and implement an agenda to increase economic opportunity, including investment in Black-owned businesses, which comprise only 1.5% of the city’s contracts currently under a Black mayor.

“We are not only committed to accountability of our public officials, but also to ensuring that African Americans who have been left out of the prosperity of Denver have a seat at the policy-making table, starting with a frank conversation with the community about race, culture and history that will include Jamie and her leadership team. These are the steps we are taking to #UniteDenver.

“Representation matters. Building a diverse leadership team under a new administration is critically important, and a publicly stated priority for Jamie. As part of her volunteer transition team, we look forward to identifying and recommending fresh voices for leadership opportunities in city government — rather than just recycling the same insiders for select lucrative appointments, which is so common with the current administration.

“We hope the same kind of outcry about Jamie not knowing the historic significance of the NAACP extends to an even louder outcry against the high rate of displacement and economic inequity African Americans in Denver have experienced over the past eight years.

“We further hope that we hold all public officials to a higher standard of accountability for their cultural and gender competence, including the current mayor.

“When we do so, we all promote the mission of the NAACP “to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.”