By David Sabados
The following opinion of The Denver North Star’s publisher David Sabados was intentionally not shared with the writer of the election stories prior to publication to avoid any potential bias.
For more information on the city elections, see our special section starting on page 8.
Parady Pairs Well At-Large
I hadn’t planned on making a public endorsement in the city council at-large race, but then I talked with Sarah Parady.
I’ve noticed a lot of people have one favorite for council at-large and it’s no surprise – there are a number of fantastic candidates. As a reminder, you get two votes, and if you have one candidate you are passionate about but undecided on your second, please consider Parady.
A pragmatic, social justice minded attorney, she won one of Colorado’s largest disability discrimination cases and fought to return nearly $1 million in stolen wages to blue collar workers. If you ask her about issues ranging from homelessness to housing to crime, you don’t get platitudes. You get thoughtful proposals of how to create housing while protecting character.
Plans to create gentle density that supports—instead of displaces—working families. Ideas on how to help small businesses, many of which are still struggling to come back from the pandemic, access city resources and cut through red tape. She’s also collaborative, which is a vital skill for this new council.
I heard her explain one idea, pause, and tell the crowd that it was an idea she heard from one of the mayoral candidates, cited by name, and that she didn’t want to take credit for others’ work. If only every politician had the same ethics.
Parady has the endorsement of labor unions, COLOR Action Fund that serves our Latinx community, and community members across the city. Denver is losing two experienced at-large councilwomen. She would be an outstanding replacement and Parady pairs well with whoever else you are passionate about for council at-large.
O’Brien Audits Important for City
The City Auditor is possibly the most important position few people pay much attention to. Tasked with review of city projects and spending, it’s a role that requires dispassionate, meticulous analysis and an iron spine.
For the past eight years, Tim O’brien has served that role well as Denver’s elected auditor and our city would be well served sending him back for a third and final term. In the past eight years, O’Brien has done professional reviews of everything from Denver International Airport, to short term rentals, to the city’s new trash system, and everything in between.
Without bias or malice, those audits have at times shown where the city has succeeded, and other instances where it must do better. O’Brien’s work has earned him the respect of national colleagues, including winning Knighton Awards for performance audits, which are bestowed by the Association of Local Government Auditors.
His work has also at times drawn him the ire of city officials who don’t always appreciate that his job, quite literally, is to make them open their books and to give professional feedback on government effectiveness, which at times includes critique.
O’Brien has twice run one of the least flashy campaigns possible and won, which should only underline his dedication to the job instead of playing politics with a crucial government role. Denver will have a new mayor and at least five new council members. Send O’Brien back for one last term to be the stable oversight in city city government we need.
It Didn’t Have to Be This Way
If you’re like me and (according to polls) about 60% of Denverites, you may still be scratching your head about the Mayor’s race.
With 17 candidates on ballot, it’s likely two candidates earning only 10% or so of the vote will advance to a runoff, forcing voters to try to decide between their hearts, who they guess might be viable, and at times minute differences between several similar policy stances.
It didn’t have to be this way.
Back in 2021, the city clerk and recorder told city council changes were needed to bring Denver’s election laws into compliance with federal laws.
He presented two options: extend the runoff period an extra month or implement rank choice voting—also called instant runoff voting. City Council’s committee chose incremental tweaks instead of full reform and we have the longer runoff period, but this election highlights how RCV could have been a better system, allowing voters to rank their mayoral preferences to create a true majority instead of forwarding two candidates who will likely have a small plurality instead.
Our council at-large race has much the same issue, and few winners in recent years have actually won a majority—because it’s not required. It’s too late for this election, but the issue won’t go away.
City leaders would be wise to reexamine the benefits of other voting systems that are shown to increase participation, increase positivity and collaboration, and would save the city millions by eliminating the costly flawed runoff elections.
David Sabados is the publisher of The Denver North Star and G.E.S. Gazette newspapers and a twenty year veteran of politics and media.