Councilwoman Ortega's priorities

Affordable Housing

Denver's legendary quality of life is not an accidental fact of nature. It must be continuously created and sustained for all who live here, with strong, diverse neighborhoods and housing that together ensures the promise of economic mobility. The City is committed to the preservation, rehabilitation, and creation of affordable housing. 

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Workforce Development

Providing economic opportunity for all our citizens is a key goal for me. I am a member of the Economic Development and Workforce Development Working Group. Denver has the opportunity to advance social and economic equity by leveraging our investment in construction into good jobs with a pathway to economic stability. For information and resources.

Useful Resources

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Energy and Environment

It is important that we take steps today to foster a sustainable environment for future generations.  My office helped launch the Colorado Hydrogen Coalition, now a part of the Colorado Cleantech Industries Association.   The coalition is collaborating with DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to support hydrogen fuel cell technologies and working with NREL, Denver Metro Clean Cities, state agencies and other interests to promote hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and other fuel cell technologies in Colorado.  Zero-emission vehicles like fuel cell electric cars and renewable energy like hydrogen are key to energy independence, clean air and a healthier environment in our future.

Useful links for more information:


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Creative Industries

I am working with members of the creative industries – film, dance, music, recording, and the visual arts – to explore developing a single location that would provide space for all sectors of the industry and support the growth of an industry.

The Colorado Business Committee for the Arts 2014 biennial study of the financial and social impacts of arts and culture in metro Denver found that arts, cultural and scientific organizations generate $1.8 billion in annual economic activity.  I am working with members of the creative industries – film, dance, music, recording, and the visual arts – to explore developing a single location that would provide space for all sectors of the industry and support the growth of the industry. Imagine the transformation of the Denver Colesium into a home for production studios, film editing, dance space and more. A second effort through the Office of Economic Development is underway to explore the development of affordable live/work units for visual artists.

Concept art for I-70 project

I-70 Reconstruction

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) proposes to replace the I-70 viaduct between Brighton and Colorado and to improve the highway to Tower Road. The highway would be widened through north Denver neighborhoods. Toll lanes would be added.  Frontage roads would be built on the north and south side of the newly configured highway. A portion of the roadway would be below grade with a cover over the highway between Clayton and Columbine Street.

This is more than a highway project. This project will either decimate the neighborhoods of Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea or provide an opportunity to positively impact the lives of the families who live in the neighborhoods adjacent to the viaduct. 

I will not prioritize moving cars and trucks over the health of these communities. Too many generations have lived shortened life spans and endured chronic health problems because they live in close proximity to the highway. We have the opportunity to improve the quality of life of our residents and improve the transportation network. I am confident that Denver can work with CDOT to design a project that uses the multitude of congestion-management tools available to move traffic in the region without simply widening the highway until it sits within the current playground of Swansea School.

Throughout the public input and environmental impact assessment process I have been advocating for:

  • A narrower footprint. CDOT proposes to triple the width of the highway.  In some neighborhood areas the footprint grows to 20 lanes when frontage roads, slip ramps, merge lanes, etc. are counted.  The highway will be within 65 feet of an elementary school.  This is not acceptable. 
  • Stringent air quality monitoring before, during and after construction.
  • Meaningful mitigation of the air quality and other negative health impacts associated with living in close proximity to major roadways.
  • Connectivity for the neighborhoods.  The neighborhoods north of I-70 have been cut off from the rest of the city for decades.  This project further reduces north/south connections and eliminates the 46th Avenue connection that is currently used by the neighborhoods for east/west travel.

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Railroads & Hazardous Materials

Mirroring national trends, Denver has seen a dramatic increase in rail shipments of flammable liquids, principally crude oil, related liquids, and ethanol.  Denver’s Office of Emergency Management reports that hazmat shipments by rail in Denver rose from 23,000 carloads in 2011, with tank cars of crude oil near zero (less than 1%), to over 80,000 carloads in 2014, with over 15,000 tank cars of crude oil (18%).  Most of the hazmat loads are flammable liquids, including crude oil, ethanol and oil -and gas-related liquids.  Projections for 2015 declined to 70,000 carloads of hazmat and over 9,000 tank cars of crude oil, but overall we can expect our nation and our city will continue to see a heavy reliance on rail to transport hazardous materials in the future.

Communities throughout the country have been experiencing emergencies as a result of the increasing transport of these materials by rail.  In a small town in Oregon along the Columbia River Gorge, 16 cars derailed from a train hauling 96 cars of crude oil.  Several of the cars leaked over 40,000 gallons of oil, fueling a blaze and flowing into the town’s sewer system and the river.  Homes and a school were evacuated and fortunately, no one was injured.  Firefighters and equipment had to be called in from Portland and across the region to assist the local volunteer fire department.  I-84 was closed, snarling traffic on Oregon’s only east-west interstate. (Maybe some of you remember in the 1980s a truck hauling a US Navy torpedo tipped over in the I-70/I-25 Mousetrap during morning rush hour and gridlocked Denver for most of the day.  We were lucky to have no fatalities or infrastructure damage.)

Denver, like the Columbia River Gorge, sits along rail lines important for the transport of petroleum products to refineries, ethanol for fuel blending and all other things shipped by rail.  US DOT has charted the rise in recent years in rail transport of oil products and ethanol and they expect large shipments to continue.  Even as accident rates decline, the higher volume of shipments means accidents will continue.  DOT estimates that over twenty years on average 12 or more crude oil or ethanol derailments will occur each year.  Over a third of these are expected to involve the release of some product and a fire.  This Oregon derailment was one of those.  All of these have the potential to be catastrophic, depending on the right circumstances.  Close proximity to people and to public infrastructure (roads, bridges, homes and buildings, light rail, etc.) are among such circumstances.

This is why I have focused on railroad safety. I have and continue to work with City agencies responsible for public health & safety, infrastructure, and development.  I have involved the Colorado Municipal League, worked with the National League of Cities and filed rulemaking comments to the US DOT, some of which were cited by DOT when they issued new rules last year.