Linkhart promises pragmatic approach to divisive political issues like pot, immigrants

Denver candidate for mayor Doug Linkhart says he has a pragmatic approach to such politically charged subjects as immigration and marijuana.

“I look at medical marijuana as a practical matter,” he said. It is a business that brings in tax revenue. To the extent we need to protect people from it, we should do that because it is one of those businesses like alcohol and tobacco that kids have to be kept away from.”

He said he has heard that medical marijuana has created between 4,000 and 5,000 jobs in Denver. “To me the biggest issue in this campaign is the economy. People talk about medical marijuana or whatever, but when I knock on doors, it is the economy.”

On immigration, he said Denver categorically is not a sanctuary city, but added the police have far better things to do than look for evidence of illegal immigration. “We do what we are supposed to do with regards to immigration. I look at it as a pragmatist. I don’t want our officers, our police spending time on dealing with a civil issue that is a federal matter. They need to be chasing down burglars and other criminals.

“We treat them (undocumented residents) like any other human beings with equal protection, equal education, but we don’t provide them with services that we aren’t required to provide. I’m sort of agnostic about whether someone is a citizen–we do what we are supposed to do — pick up their trash, keep them safe and let them pay taxes,” he said.

On the FasTracks light-rail project, he said RTD shouldn’t ask for more money unless taxpayers will also get more than they already agreed to pay for.

“I think RTD has to come up with a solution that gets the voters most of what they voted for before they go back to the ballot. My biggest interest is NexTracks, connecting rail to neighborhoods because I dont live next to a train station, and neither do most people. We have to have (bus) connections to get people to light rail.

“We have to get full build-out of FasTracks. If people are going to vote for more taxes, they need to see more benefits, not just hear that now we need twice the money for what we promised you originally.

In what seems to be a theme among mayoral candidates, Linkhart pledges to take a hands-on approach to managing the Denver Police Department.

“There need to be a lot of changes with the police. There needs to be a firm disciplinary policy that is followed. I think we are getting there but we are teetering, waiting to see what the new manager of safety is going to do. There are (some) officers that need to be fired. We need to weed out bad behavior. It isn’t even bad cops so much as bad behavior. We need to correct bad behavior and not let it continue.

“The other piece is to move more toward community policing and problem solving instead of just cruising and reacting to what you see. Police need to work with neighborhoods and businesses. Police can be a lot more effective cracking down on specific problems if they are working proactively with people in the neighborhoods,” Linkhart said.

“Police need to get out walking and talking to people and working with people to solve problems. They will get away from problems with excessive force when they do that. LoDo for example is a powder keg at 2 in the morning. If you go down there after midnight, that is a whole other world, it is a sort of chaos. Officers and captains really need to be getting a hold of that situation, working with bar owners, working even with the patrons to say how can we make this less of a bedlam so that we aren’t chasing you down and beating you. They are on edge down there. It is scary down there at 2 am–people are just running through downtown drunk and it is not a good environment,” Linkhart said.

“The mayor’s role is a lot bigger than it has been. The mayor needs to be hands-on with safety, which is half of our budget,” Linkhart said, “and it has not taken many budget hits, frankly. You can cut safety if you do the other stuff I talked about. When community policing has worked (in other cities) is where the mayor and police chief go down into the troops at roll calls and tell people this is a priority and act on it for promotions and pay.”

Other announced candidates include Chris Romer, Michael Hancock and James Mejia.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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