Denver Decides 2019 Candidate Forum: Clerk & Recorder

Denver Decides 2019 Candidate Forum: Clerk & Recorder

hello I’m Tamra banks and welcome to
Denver decides this Community Partnership is dedicated to accessible
in transparent elections the partnership includes the League of Women Voters of
Denver in turn a bur hood cooperation historic Denver and is presented by
Denver atetv today we’re presenting a candidate forum in anticipation of the
municipal election coming up on Tuesday May 7th among other offices this
election includes the candidates vying to be Denver’s next clerk and recorder
our format is fairly standard one the candidates will have timed opening and
closing statements the opening statements will be followed by rounds of
questions that have been submitted by the organizers of the forum and possibly
from you in the audience since we do have a time limit we may not be able to
get to all of the submitted questions all the candidates will answer all of
the questions and all of their responses will be timed our timers are out front
where our candidates can see them clearly so let’s begin by meeting the
candidates vying to serve as Denver’s clerk and recorder the candidates are
seated left to right facing the audience in the order that their names will
appear on the May ballot so please hold your applause until after all of the
candidates have been introduced on my direct left or is pardon me my left is
peg Pearl and next to PEG is Paul Lopez now let’s give our candidates big round
of applause we’ll begin with one minute opening
statements from each of our two candidates will proceed in ballot order
with these statements so once again at my left is peg you will have one minute
for your opening statement thank you and thank you for having us here tonight my
name is peg pearl and I’m running for Denver clerk and recorder because I’ve
spent my whole career working to make government more open and accountable for
all of us not just the wealthy and well-connected I’ve also been a mom
working juggling having my toddler with me while I waited in line for three
hours to vote hoping my boss wouldn’t be too mad that I was late to work I’ve
also been an unemployed Denver resident feeling really frustrated when I
couldn’t find the services and information that I needed from our
government websites at the state and local level I’ve been working as a
public interest attorney fighting for expanded voting rights access to public
records and a lot of the things you’ll hear about the clerk doing at the Denver
level tonight I’m excited to be here and talk with you about the specifics and
about how we can improve our democracy and city government here together thank
you thank you now we’ll hear from Paul Lopez
thank you and thank you for having me here I’m councilman Paul Lopez I’ve had
the honor to represent Council District three in West Denver for the last 12
years I had the honor to actually work in the neighborhood for the last 11
going door-to-door doing community organizing making sure people have a
voice in the neighborhood no matter what zip code you live in there’s three
things one I want to make sure that everybody no matter your neighborhood no
matter what your last name is no matter where you’re from everybody has access
to vote and everybody should have be able to vote the second thing is I want
to make sure that our records are accessible to everybody online from city
contracts to your property deeds to licenses I want to make sure that that
is accessible online on our website and three the final thing I want to make
sure that people who are facing foreclosure as our public trustees
office that they can stay in their homes they don’t have to leave that they have
access to information I want to make sure we arming folks with the access to
information that they need to make the right decision
thank you all right thank you and I do want to mention that there is third
candidates on the ballot Sarah McCarthy who was invited and she’s
not at the forum this evening so moving on with our first question for our
candidates and you’ll have one minute to answer so we’ll begin with you Paul the
first question is some people ask what is an acceptable form of identification
for voters or those wanting to vote well I mean that’s a huge question and
there’s a lot of debate on on the federal level you see a lot of the the
the folks on the federal level trying to make sure that folks have some kind of
verifiable ID if you can prove who you are you don’t require an ID to vote if
you can prove you are you’re on our voter rolls if you’re a registered voter
then you’re able to vote I think that’s important for us if once you start going
down the rabbit hole of making sure that there’s an ID that becomes that becomes
really sketchy and it becomes an issue for a lot of people most recently if you
looked at what happened in places like South Dakota
there were axing people on in who lived on the reservations for IDs and not a
lot of folks have access to birth certificate bursted because of things
like that and is so so critical it when when the voter ID laws are brought up in
our federal level and the state level they’re usually brought up to take away
your vote I put another block from your ask us to vote we don’t want to do thank
you thank you Hey same question thank you
so as one of my jobs here in Colorado I’ve had the privilege of being able to
work on our voting rights laws and have been part of the team who wrote our
modern election system here in Colorado and we’ve been able to do a leading job
in the nation of balancing the security of our election and our voter rolls with
accessibility in high bow turn out and one of the things that
we’ve done is we do have in state law which applies to our Denver elections as
well ID requirements but it’s a list of about 17 acceptable IDs
not one single ID that maybe everybody in every community doesn’t have access
to but we do have identification that’s required in some form it might be a
utility bill to make sure that we know what address you’re voting at and so you
get that the ballot through the proper districts of the people that you need to
vote for for where you live so we have a list of seventeen different types of
things that people can bring to the polls with them if they need to to be
able to vote and it’s a great way to balance security with accessibility I
think that we need to be just keeping the system that we have right now thank
you okay next round of questions and this
time peg we’ll start with you what are your top priorities for the office and
how would you integrate them in your first 100 days great thanks for the
question so the first 100 days well my main goal for the office is to integrate
all of the services that the clerk does to be a more holistic approach to
connecting people to government the clerk is an independent elected official
separate from the mayor and city council just because they’re there to connect
people not just on election day when you’re voting but every other day that
you need a service or information public records everything the clerk’s does so
I’d like to make sure that all of our services across the board are more
integrated that means our website the different things that we do need to be
more linked together so that you have the information of the different things
we do you can look up your City Council official and see campaign finance
records lobbyist records financial disclosures gift reports all in the same
place when you look up your City Council person instead of right now where
they’re scattered in four different parts of the clerk’s office that makes
it more accessible for you to be able to see the information and join in and just
putting the information that we have even listed online so you know what the
options are thank you thank you well there’s there’s there’s three things I
think that we have to do one is every time that there’s an election
there’s a there’s a transition in leadership we have an elections director
position that needs to be filled that’s number one – we have a deputy elections
director that needs to be filled we have to make sure that we have all the tools
and all the people there necessary so that we can run a good shop that we can
continue to build on the work and the foundation that the 53 employees of that
clerk’s office have been doing for a decade for decades and they’ve done
great work so that’s what’s one of the first thing is making sure that a second
is that there are some critical policies it’s decisions that need to be made
around public finance those positions those those policy decisions need to be
made second we have to have a budget a budget that’s going to have to increase
so that so that we have the FTE to implement that system so that the public
finance system is is running smoothly and the second that the second part of
that is we have to make sure that we have a software upgrading system upgrade
to support that I have 12 years experience in the city and I’ll use that
thank you no one can see the big pink stop sign up here except me our next
round of questions is named two or three leading ethical standards that you will
that will guide your office’s work and Paul we’ll start with you well one I
want to make sure that we that were clear there’s really nothing broken in
the clerk’s office we’ve had tremendous amount of leadership it’s been an
opportunity as an elected position only for the last decade and having an
independent clerk and recorder that’s been elected that voters have decided is
really important Stephanie O’Malley did a great job of
creating a new culture those are those employees in the in the clerk’s office
have been amazing I want to make sure that that we’re keeping up with that
good work second on the ethical decisions it’s important that there’s
integrity in every city department and it’s important when we recognize that
there’s integrity in every city department for us it’s making sure that
that those city services are being delivered second it’s making sure that
our elections are and now we continue to fight for fair
elections and fight for fairer access to the ballots no matter where your zip
code is what neighborhood you live in everybody should have access to the
ballot thank you thank you so I have had the opportunity in the past to work it
specifically in government ethics both as counsel to the US House
representatives ethics committee and a senior counsel here in Colorado at
Colorado ethics watch so I do think that all public service that we all do we
usually have fairly high ethical standards for ourselves in our office
the main goals for me and for the office of Denver clerk would be first of all
transparency and that means not just how easy it is to access something on the
website but making sure that the process of decision-making in the clerk’s office
is also transparent and involving the public when we decide where voting
centers are being placed for example that it’s a transparent and open process
with the public and second accountability everything that we do in
our office needs to be accountable to you the people and that is making sure
that we have the information that you need to participate in those public
meetings and making sure that our voting system you continue to trust it and that
we remain secure in the work that we’re doing for you all right thank you before
we get to our next round of questions I just want to remind the viewing audience
that Sarah McCarthy is the third candidate on the ballot here she’s taken
ill suddenly and not able to be with this this evening on this forum but you
can find out more information about Ms McCarthy at Denver decides calm so
moving on to the next question and peg I believe we’ll start with you this time
how many employees have you managed in the past and do you have a management
philosophy thank you so I have at different times in government managed
different departments so when I was at the Federal Election Commission I did
have some supervisory responsibilities within my legal department same thing at
the Ethics Committee in numbers I would say it would vary between half
a dozen at different times I also work though and my public service Union I was
a union steward so I was very involved in the management practices and working
back and forth between the government and larger units within our government
agencies and more specifically here in Colorado at a non-profit policy position
I it’s been a small nonprofit but I’ve been managing very large stakeholder and
policy projects where we’ve had a coalitions of 25 30 organizations and
representatives from all those organizations and stakeholders at the
table and so managing all of those people and the interests and the
feedback of people together that is definitely part of what I bring to my
philosophy of management is to bring that information and feedback in as well
thank you thank you well I started in the restaurant business so you know
obviously you know there’s management there and it’s actually pretty fun those
are my roots however I my trade is I’m a union organizer and I worked for the
Service Employees International Union with the justice for janitors campaign
and I managed my own team but we actually made sure that the union
members that we represented in various companies across this across the the
state in the region that was 7,000 and we made sure that those folks had access
to collective bargaining that their issues were being heard so labor laws is
is something that’s ingrained in me as a councilman we I’ve had the same staff
nearly my entire term as a city councilman for 10 years loved them you
know I’m a good I want to be a good boss and I want to make sure that folks have
a department where they’re where they’re valued where their ideas are supported
where their innovation is grown so that for me it’s super important thank you
all right thank you and our next question and Paul we’ll start with you
this time the question is is the courage clerk and recorders office making the
best use of technology and if not what would you introduce or change should you
be elected I think there’s a lot of great tools
that the the Clerk’s office is using I think there are some little tweaks that
we have to do like I said nothing in the clerk’s office is broken I think we have
to have access to those city contracts that’s one thing that we don’t have
access to as public records you have to call in I want to make sure that they’re
clicks away those contracts represent our city dollars what we don’t have and
what we need is people power especially for our elections I want to make sure
that we’re going door-to-door not just relying on the text messages that we get
on where our ballots at and when it’s turned in but actually putting people on
the ground knocking on doors you have an aggressive outreach so that everybody
can participate in our elections in multiple languages I think that’s good
that’s what’s key that’s what’s missing and I think that’s that next level that
way where we could take it and I have I’m uniquely suited as a former
community organizer and as a councilman for the last 12 years to be able to
engage folks in their neighborhoods turn out the vote all right Thank You peg
same question great so the current Denver clerk has done a great job over
the last eight years in modernizing a lot of things in the office a couple
places where I see we can build on that foundation and improve is that a
different pom technology that is used in different divisions of the clerk’s
office doesn’t communicate with each other so this is why you have the
problem that you can’t search across the databases at the same time when you want
information that’s all within the same clerk’s office so I think we need to do
a better job of integrating those systems as we improve them and they’ll
be able to talk to each other a little better and then you will be able to
access the information better I think there’s also things we can do in the
voting space to stay ahead we want to make sure that we’re staying ahead in
terms of security and technology and that’s a lot of work with keeping up
with the NSA and other types of security professionals but also things like this
I want to make sure that every voter can check on their phone to see how long the
wait times are at different vote centers before they head out if Google Maps can
tell you the shortest way to get somewhere we can tell you the shortest
line for voting so that’s Nick type of new technology we
can add in as well all right next question and PEG we’ll
start with you what if any city charter changes do you believe should be
considered to improve the functions of a clerk and recorder great well we just
had a couple um so last fall the voters approved a charter change to add a
couple of new appointees within the clerk’s office which will allow some
restructuring and reorganization on which I am looking forward to for
breaking down the silos between the divisions of the appointed officials the
things that I would look at possibly are a little bit in our election sphere and
in government ethics so in elections we do have a big turnout gap between our
fall elections and our municipal elections we had 75% of Denver voters
vote last fall and we average around 30% in our city elections and I think it’s
worth taking a look at seeing if the timing and the structure around our
municipal elections has an impact on that that would require a charter change
if we decide to make those changes and around government ethics we have a lot
of information like financial disclosures and gifts that are required
to be reported through the clerk’s office and then the Board of Ethics has
a separate type of independent responsibility to review them I think
those two agencies need to work better together and that I think requires a
charter thank you thank you the good thing about about our our government is
that there are ordinances and there are charter and there there are provisions
in the charter charters permanent ordinances are very nimble and they move
with the times a few things I would recommend to the City Council because we
won’t be able to actually put anything on the ballot or or or or create policy
lightly on a legislative level that’s the City Council for us I think it’s
important that we have staggered terms for all elected officials because you
lose all that memory over time second FTE the budget in the clerk’s
office should always remain in ordinance because you never know when we’re going
to have another recession in terms of how we vote and when I think it’s going
to be a great conversation to have in Denver and I’ve been hearing people
talking about well do we have do we continue to have a low voter 28%
turnout in Denver in May elections or 70 do we move it in November or there’s 75%
turnout that’s gonna we have to have conversations before we make those
decisions I was a part of making ordinances that actually brought people
to the ballot at a Spanish speaker so thank you moving on to the next question
and Paul will start with you Denver voters have seen changes over
several voting cycles like the use of voting centers combining mail in polling
place voting etc how would you apply those lessons learned from those changes
going forward yeah well we have to have multiple ways that
people can vote the good thing is at the mid the ballots are mailed to you but
you can still vote in person one we have voting centers that are that are located
throughout our city but those are few and far between if I may be quite honest
they are very expensive to operate and they require a lot of people power we
have election boxes and election boxes can be placed all over and I want to
make sure that these election costs these election boxes cost about three
thousand six hundred dollars a box and we can place them in areas that people
commonly congregate grocery stores libraries rec centers we can put them
all over that way folks have access they don’t have to wait in lines at voting
centers although it’s an additional tool so it’s not either/or it’s a it’s
additional tools like that for us to be able to use thank you same question paid
thanks what was really important to us as the team putting together our modern
elections law that we do have the all options the mail ballots and the vote
centers and that was something we pioneered in Colorado and has really put
us first in the nation I would definitely continue that process and I
think it is definitely a unique process that works well here I think what I’ve
learned is every year since we passed that law I’d spent Election Day in the
time around election day not just at the vote centers where people are voting but
also troubleshooting at the ballot processing center because the clerk is
in charge for counting those ballots and tracking those ballots and doing the
audits and the work after the election as well so
there’s a lot of steps in this process which we’re learning every time we do an
election so I’d want to keep taking that information each time I’ve learned
something new and we’ve helped apply it to change to the next election I think
specifically with our vote centers we can get better with our communities
because we’re learning that people now are moving away from voting near home
they’re voting near work or near school or along their commute pattern and
that’s what we need to move with the times okay thank you now we’re moving on
to the next round which is where the candidates can ask each other a question
so you’ll each be able to ask a question of your opponent and the opponent will
have one minute to answer so we’ll start in ballot order so peg you may ask the
question and Paul you have one minute to answer great thank you
so Paul you’ve talked about tonight and other times of your proposed idea to go
and do more door-to-door door knocking and you know how difficult that can be
to talk with people and get them to turnout and register to vote while
meeting them at the doors so what is your plan for the cost and staff time
and logistics needed to scale that up to a citywide canvassing program and
possibly rotating it all year long as people move in and out of the city and
across town thank you I really appreciate that peg this is important
for me it’s important because I think it’s an it’s it’s critical for us not
just to be able to use the tools that we’ve that we’ve had in technology our
phones get mail ballots in we have a huge disparity in the city of where
people vote and where they don’t and you see it chances are if you live next to a
grocery store and park space and have access to two rec centers you live in an
area that votes if you don’t it’s typically an area that doesn’t turn out
I want to make sure that we’re putting people on the ground because that’s what
it’s going to take to close that gap we’re living in a different era and
people need to come to the polls and that means we’re gonna have to go to
Council ask for a budget increase which I know that
says very well as a city councilman it’s a modest increase you’re looking of
about about 25 mm sorry 250,000 dollars to run a program like we ran in me
family aboard that’s what we did and it turns out it’s worth it
it’s our democracy and democracy works neutral margin see where it’s bent
anybody participates and will get a chance to do this when I went again so
Paul we’ll begin with you you can ask peg a question minute
all right peg greatest of all time never Broncos Peyton Manning or John Elway Wow
okay well you know well III will let you know so I grew up
in Arizona um at a time when there was no football
team but fun fact on our way to Arizona when I was about 1 years old we stopped
in Denver I actually lived here for about nine months and it was back when
the Broncos were in the Super Bowl the first time and back in the 70s and 77 my
brother was actually born here and so he always was a fan of John Elway growing
up even though we lived in Arizona because he felt he had a connection
having been born in Denver even though he lived here for only about three
months and so in our family John Elway was sort of an honorary person in our
household even though we weren’t technically cheering for the Denver
Broncos so I’m gonna have to go with Elway hard-hitting questions exactly how
true never Denver right are you we’re gonna go with another round of
one-on-one questions and again we’ll start with you peg you can ask Apollo
question and again Paul you have one minute to answer great I’m going to ask
you a question that a lot of people are asking me recently um so we’re talking
about our municipal elections and how we can get more people to vote and
participate in things a lot of people at the doors or it community meetings are
asking me about alternative ways to the we vote in a non-partisan way in these
elections and so they’re asking about what you think about things like
rank-choice voting or approval voting or other kinds of ways that you can vote in
these local elections and if you think that might help with our turnout I
appreciate that that question you know we’ve had the
this ballot where we’ve had this ballot since the 1930s and we still have
trouble getting people out to vote or or even participating so it’s not
necessarily the ballot that’s the issue it’s us and where we’re focusing our
energy and we’re skippy if we knock on the doors of people who vote all the
time that we’re missing a huge opportunity in our city in areas where
people don’t vote as much and we have to we instead of said of skipping um for
efficiency we should be knocking on those doors that’s why that’s really
important for me rank-choice voting is an opportunity it’s a new ballot and
it’s I like the idea of rank-choice voting however there’s a lot of
Education that we have to do in our communities we have to do mock elections
we have to engage community in the process so it the magic in that question
in the focal point is community and how we engage community alright thank you
Paul now you may ask peg a question and you’d get one now yeah of all time
Serena Williams Bert no matter what you got it no no no
so I’ll ask a more serious question I really truly believe as a city
councilman that’s it was important for us to have folks that participate if if
not door to door than hell how do we turn it out if it’s not door to door or
like a lot of our organizations are tapped out they don’t have budgets to
participate in these elections no that’s it’s a great question and I worry about
the same thing I mean we have 75% of our voting eligible population registered to
vote but that means we have 25 percent that are not
and obviously the things that we’ve been doing so far haven’t reached that 25%
there are things that I’d like to do that are going where the people are so
from my perspective I think we can do more work in initial voter registration
and also some of that percentages people who didn’t update their registration
when they moved so their addresses are out of date so we can do more around
when they come to a rec center like this or a library getting more voter
registration and registration updates there instead of relying too much on the
Motor Vehicles Department you know my daughter just turned 16 and shocker she
actually didn’t want to go get her license the day she turned 16 it’s just
not everybody doesn’t have a car everybody doesn’t go to the DMV so I
think it is about finding where people are and doing those services and trying
to update our systems to reach where they are so that we can bring them into
the system that way all right thank you and before we get to our closing
statements I just want to remind our audience that we do have a third
candidate on the ballot Sarah McCarthy she took ill suddenly and
she’s not able to be with us but you could find out more information about
her on Denver decides calm so moving on to the closing statements each of you
will have one minute to give a closing statement in this time we will start
with you Paul thank you I really appreciate the opportunity for this
thank you TVA Thank You Denver decides to our
wonderful host I like my colleague here on the campaign trail pay look three
things I want to make sure that we’re turning people out to vote there’s a
huge disparity in inequity in Denver and it begins with making sure people have
access to the ballot right the second is I want to make sure that we have access
to our records whether they’re property records whether they’re records that
that have to do with marriage the access those public documents we have to have
that access to clicks pin in the clerk’s office has done an amazing job we need
to take that to the next level and make sure it’s finished the third I came into
City Council as a city council person during the recession with all these
foreclosures so many people lost their home
we are the public trustee in the clerk’s office
and we sit as the referee when we need to make sure we have an opportunity to
arm people with the information so they don’t have to leave their home all right
thank you okay thank you to everyone here tonight and for putting on this
whole series of debates for everyone across the city voter information does
help so appreciate that for everybody and thank you to Paul for tonight and
the other nights that we’ve been having a lot of these discussions together it’s
been very interesting and very useful to talk these things out you know we’re
here running for Denver Clerk because we care about our city and care that
everybody participates in our city and that’s really what I’ve been doing my
entire career is working to try to make sure that everyone has a voice in
government and I want to use that track record as Denver Clerk as our next step
here I want to build an office off the current foundation and one that you will
know that not only will your vote be secured and counted but that your voice
matters in city government and that affects people wanting to vote as well
so having access to the information before you go to the meeting and the
public hearing so that you feel that you can participate in decision making that
your city is doing all the time not just on Election Day gets you more invested
and I appreciate you two listening tonight
thank you alright let’s give our candidates a big round of applause well
guys thank you so much for being here and thanks to all of you out there and
our Denver decides partners which include internet’ Burr hood cooperation
the League of Women Voters of Denver and historic Denver Denver decides is
presented by Denver atetv we hope we’ve given you a fair look at each of the
candidates for the Denver’s cities clerk and recorder so get out there and
Richard to vote make sure you get out and vote and for all online information
go to Denver decides calm I’m Tamra Banks thanks for joining us we’ll see
you next time you

2 thoughts on “Denver Decides 2019 Candidate Forum: Clerk & Recorder

  1. Terrible camera work from Channel8. Why did you guys take away Denver Open Media's cameras! For this? Terrible.

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