BY STACY CRUM DURAN
Wash Park East is in Denver City Council District 6. Paul Kashmann ran for District 6 councilman “to do what [he could] to restore people’s faith in government.” Kashmann’s predecessor, Charlie Brown, known as Denver’s “Cowboy Councilman” with his signature cowboy hat, University of Wyoming degree, and eye-catching office space on Exposition near University, had left an impressive boot stamp on the District 6 position – and held on to it for 14 years – so I was curious about how in 2015, Kashmann, a juggling, guitar playing, Grateful Dead loving, progressive newspaperman won over voters – despite Brown, the Denver Post, and the Denver Metro Association of Realtors having endorsed his opponent.
Councilman Kashmann’s campaign was grassroots – he pounded the pavement, knocking on doors and gaining supporters. Undoubtedly, considerable name recognition helped due to his almost four decades of (award-winning) work with our local newspaper, The Profile – first as ad man, then journalist, and finally, as publisher. Regardless, Kashmann’s low-key style and thoughtful eloquence is inspiring and motivating, and we are beyond lucky to have such a dedicated public servant representing our district down at City Hall.
What prepared you to be our City Council Representative?
I have deep roots in the community. I covered the news for 36 years and I think that prepared me quite well for this job. I had thought about running for a number of years . . . I am not by nature a political beast, but, you know, the timing was right – with my predecessor having term limited out – and it was the next logical step for me.
I have noticed the red “Drive 25” yard signs around our neighborhood. Were those your idea?
So, that is about trying to get people to take responsibility for traffic safety in our community. The number one issue that we at the district office get contacted about on a daily basis is traffic in the neighborhood. People call wanting the police to be out ticketing more, they want four-way stops and traffic lights. The police department has told us that officers notice when they go out and ticket people, mostly they are locals. So, if the vast majority of tickets are because you and I are driving too fast, I thought, “Let’s just put a few more reminders out there for people to slow down.” I designed them and had them printed and I take them to neighborhood group meetings and people can get them there or they can call me and request them.
What are your priorities as an elected government official?
My number one priority is to restore people’s faith in government. There are way too few people going to the polls. When you’re down to 25 percent of registered voters showing up for an election, I think that’s stretching the definition of democracy. So, I try to be as responsive as I can to constituents’ concerns, I go to as many neighborhood group meetings as possible, and I keep working on developments. Those are some of the ways that I can help to bring the community conscience into the discussion.
The City Council’s budget priorities for 2019 fit with my personal priorities. The main areas of focus for next year include: transportation and mobility, affordable housing and homelessness, and public safety. Relating to these concerns is the fact that we are losing teachers and firefighters and cops and construction workers and hair dressers because they can’t afford to live in Denver. We need to figure out how to make it possible for the people who comprise our workforce to be able to afford to live in the city.
Homelessness is impacting our community all over town – you hear a lot of talk about the sweeps of encampments along the river – but that doesn’t solve the problem. People move to other locations – wherever they can find shelter. We need to do a much better job of providing needed services for our homeless community. Public safety is always a need.
Does the idea of being a “sanctuary city” affect Denver City Council at all? Would you be comfortable talking about that?
Sure. It’s not a great sound bite topic. It’s very complex. City Council has been very supportive of our immigrant community. From the minute the current administration in Washington took over and the dialogue changed, our students have been very, very concerned about their families and themselves. To offer a background context for this, we can start with our district being fairly “monochromatic” – probably somewhere upwards of 80 percent white. However, we have Place Bridge Academy over by Monaco and Cherry Creek Drive. Out of the 1000 students there, 830 of them speak English as a second language, with maybe 50 different countries and languages being represented. We have Merrill Middle School, which is the site for international middle school students, serving at least 300 or so students, and we have South High serving another 700 international students. The University of Denver has another 1500 international students. So again, if you look at the census statistics, we are monochromatic, but when the school bell rings, we have this vibrant international flavor.
Right after the administration changed, we started hearing about students from South High getting harassed on the bus and in their neighborhoods, so I went over to South with Mayor Hancock and we met with a bunch of them. We did a presentation at Place Bridge Academy explaining our immigration policy. Essentially, we follow all immigration law, however, our police chief and mayor have said that we do not have the personnel to do immigration work.
We need our immigrant communities to feel safe enough to report crimes, to show up if they are charged with a regular crime, and to be witnesses in a criminal trial. If they are afraid that ICE is waiting for them, they might not show up. We need to protect our law-abiding immigrant community.
What do you love most about District 6?
This is comparatively a very healthy district. We have a great housing stock, incredible park assets, wonderful retail – like Gaylord Street – it is a tremendous part of town. Of course, it is experiencing change – as is the whole city – for example, with unbearable traffic and new 4,000 to 5,000 square foot homes replacing the traditional 1,000 square foot bungalows. That kind of change is jarring, but I still think that it is a wonderful part of Denver in which to live.
I think we’ve got big challenges – we need to deal with the impact of 1,000 people per month moving to Denver. I believe we can grow our mass transit options and our pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure so that people have choices about how to get around conveniently other than the individual automobile. I think we can manage our growth.
Drop in to discuss District 6 issues with Councilman Kashmann every Thursday morning from 8:00 – 12:00 at Pete’s University Park Cafe. I enjoyed getting to know him and meeting some of my neighbors in the district who are concerned about our community and participating in the conversation.