Faced with running a city with high unemployment and diminished revenue, Denver mayoral candidates are looking to show how they plan to bring jobs back to the mile high city. Candidate James Mejia and Andrew Hudson, owner of Andrew Hudson’s Job List, shared their ideas on getting Denver back to work Sunday at a meet-and-greet style open house.
Mejia told the Colorado Independent he plans to reinstate a city program that provides low interest loans to small businesses, cut down on governmental red tape for business development that he says costs the city jobs and millions in revenue, purchase services for the city locally when possible, and encourage the development of community oriented business areas along the South Platte.
“Our vision centers around creating new neighborhoods along the South Platte and in doing that create opportunities for transit oriented development,” Mejia said.
He said the Sun Valley neighborhood is a perfect example of where his vision can be realized. The area stands to receive federal aid through Denver Housing Authority and will have light-rail nearby. He said using additional money held by the Greenway Foundation to create parkways and open up the river for public access would help establish a thriving business and community area, much like that around Confluence Park.
“Now in the poorest neighborhood in Denver, we can create jobs, create parkland, have transit oriented development in FasTracks and open up the river so that it is no longer a barrier but an amenity,” Mejia said.
He went on to say that he would implement a Buy Denver Initiative to both brand city goods and ensure the city was giving preference to those products and services created within its borders to help generate new job growth.
“If it is available here, we should be sourcing it here,” Mejia said.
Mejia further explained that he would make permitting and inspection easier for developers and business owners while maintaining safety. He said it is unacceptable that businesses are sometimes unable to open when city-approved plans are later rejected. He said millions of dollars of city revenue and worker paychecks have been lost because of small regulatory issues.
“Unless it is a life safety issue, it is my opinion that the city should not be allowed to take back that permit. If the city issues a permit and they are incorrect, they only get one bite at the apple,” Mejia said.
Around 30 people filtered through the event Sunday, taking the opportunity to speak with Hudson and Mejia about the economy and the job market.
Andrew Hudson, a former spokesperson for former Mayor Wellington Webb, mirrored many of Mejia’s statements during the meeting Sunday, he told listeners that revenue generating techniques being used by Denver serve to drive dollars out of city coffers. Hudson said a city’s responsibility was to create an environment favorable to businesses.
“This is the first time that I think I have seen [city officials] do it, but they are using permits and fines and new regulations to try and solve the budget problem in the city,” Hudson said. Hudson said that raising fines on parking meters and putting increased permits on new businesses would not create jobs in the state.
On a more individual level, Hudson said the jobs are out there for the right skill sets. He said the city could facilitate job training for mid-career workers who are searching for jobs. He suggested that the city more aggressively work with its colleges to help train laid-off workers so that they can better access the job market
“Let’s face it,” Hudson said. “There is age discrimination in job hunting.”
He said many employers shy away from investing in individuals who either require larger salaries or simply have a limited time left in the workforce. But in many cases, he said employers are looking for a reason to believe in a prospective employee. He said being able to demonstrate one’s effectiveness at new technologies and tools could be the difference between the short list and the circular file.
While supporting Mejia, Hudson told the Colorado Independent he was not interested in a job on Mejia’s staff if he were to take office. He said fatherly responsibilities and his job board is taking up more than enough of his time.