Denver mayoral candidate Doug Linkhart wants city residents to get more involved. He would like to sell $500 bonds to individuals to help the city become more energy efficient and he would like residents to volunteer more in their neighborhoods.
Facing a large budget shortfall in the upcoming year, he said efficiency and volunteerism can be harnessed for cost savings.
“Sustainability is an area in which the city can invest a little and save a lot. We spend $29 million a year with Xcel Energy. There are many ways we can save energy in city buildings and on street lights, and reducing that $29 million. City Hall has windows that are painted open, stuck in an open position. That needs to be fixed.
“We just did an audit of recreation centers and libraries and found that by investing $3.5 million in energy efficiency we could save $600,000 a year, so you have a pay-back of six years. On and on, energy, jails, probably a dozen other areas where we can save money by investing money.
“You can sell bonds or certificates of participation for energy conservation. Sell $500 municipal bonds to convert street lamps. It is a little more cumbersome than big bonds but it gets people invested. People want to be part of the solution,” Linkhart said.
“The same could be said for recycling. It is half as expensive for the city to pick up recycling as trash because tipping fees are higher at the dump than at the recycling plant, so if we get more people recycling, we save money. There are a lot of these areas where it may take a little money up front, but you have to take those steps,” he said.
“We have to make it easier to bicycle and walk in Denver. There are a lot of ways to do that, without spending a lot. We just released a plan, Denver Moves, on how to do some of that.
“We still have parks that don’t have rain sensors,” he said.
“Denver should be the greenest city in the nation. It is totally logical. That is why I came here from Tucson 30 years ago.
“I really love the city, and I moved here on purpose. I was attracted to Colorado and the mountains. Once I got to Denver, I fell in love with the neighborhoods. I just think Denver is the greatest city in the world.
“Neighborhoods are my passion. People need to get to know each other. Neighbors need to get together to help that aging person stay on the block instead of moving into a nursing home. We all need to look out for the kids.
“We need to get people to take more responsibility for their neighborhoods and pride. I don’t think the city should have to take care of every little problem. People on each block need to take responsibility.”
He said there was recently a situation in his neighborhood in Park Hill where someone saw a homelss person sleeping in a park and called 911. He said a police car came, as did a firetruck and a paramedic van.
Linkhart said he wonders what that cost the city and asks why someone didn’t just tap the man on the shoulder, make sure he was OK and ask him to move along. “People need to take responsibility. We are from a culture where if a barn burned down, the neighbors joined to rebuild it; we need that concept again–looking out for each other,” Linkhart said.
“I don’t think we recognize the diversity of city or capitalize on it. We have 25,000 Ethiopians in Denver. We have more Mongolians than any other city in world outside of Mongolia. We don’t capitalize on it, we need to use that diversity to our advantage economically and culturally. We should do trade missions to Mongolia and Ethiopia. The people who come here have a wealth of skills that we don’t always capitalize on. We need to help them integrate in to our culture and take advantage of the assets they bring as entrepreneurs and knowledgeable people,” he said.
Linkhart said his 17 years in office–10 years in the legislature and 7 years on Denver City Council–have taught him a lot about the city and its neighborhoods, and about getting things done.
The most important things right now, he said, is balancing the city budget and getting the economy back on track.
“There are a lot of things we could do differently. We need to look at the budget from a different angle. Don’t just make it smaller or bigger, don’t just do more or do less–turn it on its side and look at it differently. We will keep chasing our tail if we don’t do things differently,” Linkhart said.
He advocates spending more money preventing problems and less money fixing them.
“Basically, we have to start to move the money from correcting problems after they are created to the other side of the equation, to investing in solutions. If you look, for example, at the jail, it has tripled in size since I moved here in 1980. Denver has not tripled, but the jail has. We are putting more and more people in jail who don’t belong there, so we need to work with them in other ways. That is easy to say, but we invested in a crime control commission that we invested $2 million a year in but it is saving $5 million a year. Take that $5 million and invest it in more programs and you keep doing that until you have that side of the budget fixed. The jail budget is out of proportion to where it would be if we were doing things right. That is just one of the areas where we have already shown we can save money,” he said.
Next week: Linkhart on public safety, marijuana, FasTracks and immigration.