Ward 5 has always had the reputation of being a sleepy backwater that was a bastion of the establishment. The current incumbent, Karen Harrison, has been rumored to be the successor to Adam Paul as the next mayor. In keeping with the establishment tradition of giving the second highest council position, that of mayor pro tem, to the establishment councilor who is most in favor with the mayor, Ms. Harrison was appointed by Paul to that position in January.
In the 2013 election newcomer Jessica Skimel came within half a percentage point (49.5%) of beating the establishment candidate, Dana Gutwein, who had been running for nearly a year and outspent her about 3.5 to 1. This suggests the sleepy backwater just might be waking up. In the past most of the damage from overdevelopment has been limited to the other four wards. However, in the last couple years, the old Green Gables country club property has been under development with plans for homes, apartments and retail outlets. This shock as well as the general congestion around the city is beginning to affect the residents of Ward 5.
Nancy Pallozzi, who ran for state representative last year against the financial powerhouse Brittany Peterson, announced she is challenging the incumbent this November. Although Ms. Harrison swept aside a token opponent four years ago, Ms. Pallozzi believes the voters of Ward 5 will turn against Ms. Harrison when her track record is made public. She points out the incumbent is not only underserving her constituents but has been a leader in the City’s overdevelopment efforts.
Ironically both women are registered as Republicans. However, Harrison’s voting record has been identical to of her liberal Democratic ward mate as well as Democrats Shakti and Sharon Vincent. She has also voted consistently with Mayor Paul.
Pallozzi is planning to publicize the incumbent’s voting record using the theme of accountability. She cites several examples of financial irresponsibility where the incumbent was unresponsive to the wishes of her voters. These examples include the infamous 2090 S. Wright St. where the Council tried to give away a portion of Peterson Park, for free, without the required vote of the people. Harrison then doubled down on the mistake by voting to spend tens (perhaps hundreds) of thousands of tax dollars in legal fees in a lawsuit against the local citizens (including her own constituents). The courts rules against the City’s attempted park giveaway but hundreds of thousands of dollars (taxes and citizen donations) were wasted in the poor decision making process.
Pallozzi claims that is not the only example of Harrison’s financial mismanagement. She cites the incumbent’s vote to spend a million dollars in a flawed plan to buy the contaminated portion of the Denver Federal Center. Harrison compounded this financial waste by supporting the proposal to spend over $25 million dollars in city funds (coming from the City’s reserves and mortgaging city facilities) to buy the DFC site (called the horseshoe) and clean it up. In her press announcement, Pallozzi goes on to note Harrison voted to give a quarter million dollar/year contract for the City Attorney to a City insider without putting the contract out to competitive bid. Harrison also voted to give $200,000 in city funds to favored charities (including one that she serves as a director), $600,000 to a project for starving artists and to spend tens of thousands of dollars in marketing “studies” to justify yet more housing development.
Finally, Pallozzi differs with Harrison on the proposed Rooney Valley annexation plan. Harrison voted for the first step in the annexation/development process – the Rooney Valley development master plan that envisions thousands of new residences. In that Rooney Valley master plan vote, Harrison voted against amendments that would have delayed the plan until impact studies were conducted on the effects of this major development on the current City residents, allowed the people to vote on the plan, and for a strident height restriction.