At Home in Denver -- My First Sleepover

03/07/2011 04:21 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

For the next ten weeks I plan to spend each week in homes across the city. I'll be chronicling my stays across Denver here and on my blog at If you have a bed or a sofa I can call home for a night, please get in touch!

Feb 22 -- My first sleepover

The Denver mayoral election is just ten weeks away. Most candidates are focused on raising money and spending time meeting with groups of people asking for support. It looks like five or six candidates will be advertising on TV and will mail campaign material. While I plan on being one of them, I have decided that spending time in Denver neighborhoods is equally important. For me, that means knocking on as many doors as possible, walking the city from boundary to boundary. Starting today I've decided to spend time living in Denver's neighborhoods. For the next ten weeks I plan to spend each week in homes across the city. I will eat, sleep, meet, exercise, campaign and essentially live in Denver's neighborhoods. I will experience the lives of Denver citizens to learn, listen and grow. I want to see through their eyes the challenges and opportunities facing their neighborhoods and learn how city government can enhance their daily lives.

Tonight is my first sleepover, a term usually used by my seven-year-old daughters...

Mark and Katy Hoops are teachers, athletes and parents. They live their lives like I imagine many Stapleton parents do -- with high aspirations for their family and the desire to raise their two children to become well-educated and well-rounded citizens. The Hoops family opened their home to me without hesitation, and I enjoyed hearing their perspective about the challenges facing neighborhood schools, their reasons for moving here, and what it's like to teach these days.

I am spending the night in their basement which is both guest bedroom and playroom. You can just sense the optimism for their family's future through the photographs, honors and artwork covering the room. Over the next several weeks I will spend only weekends at home and will miss my family terribly, but now is the time to immerse myself in the whole city and absorb the Denver experience through the eyes of its residents.

Feb 23 -- A community of close friends

Kerry Ryan was my first campaign volunteer and is responsible for our early success. It is great to be staying with him and his wife, Kelly who is a high school and college friend. Their home in Stapleton is absolutely a refuge. I admire the community of close friends that they have built. This is a neighborhood where carpooling is common, caring for your neighbors' children is automatic and where the talk is usually about schools, parks and pools.

Tomorrow I will tour the neighborhood, workout at one of the local facilities and breakfast in a local restaurant.

Feb 24 -- Boot camp

It is good to see the folks in Stapleton working to stay in shape. Yesterday was boot camp at Bladium under the instruction of Chantell Taylor -- spin and boot camp taskmaster by morning, attorney by day. This morning I worked out at the new Stapleton Recreation Center where I ran into many old friends. What a surprise to see my friend Elbert Brown. We went to school together at Gove Junior High and East High.

Tonight I stayed with the Montoya family. Keith and Angela, like so many Stapleton families, have two precocious, happy children. The youngest gave up his room so I could sleep on his dinosaur sheets...

Keith and Angela just announced that they are expecting a third child!

Keith is a small business owner and Angela works in a medical office. We talked about the important role parents play as their children's first teachers and the need to find the right schools for each of their children's learning styles. Fortunately for the Montoya's, there are high-quality school choices in the Stapleton neighborhood.

Mar 1 & 2 -- At Home in NW Denver

The Fergusons are a longtime family from the north side. Chris and Marti have two children in the Denver Public Schools, and to them high-quality neighborhood schools are of utmost importance.

Chris is studying to become a Denver firefighter and has explained to me the grueling day-to-day routine in the Fire Academy. I learned a lot about how they have to train and how taxing the process is, both mentally and physically. When I rode along with Firehouse 19 in East Denver a few weeks ago, I saw the results of all the difficult training that fire personnel have to go through. They train for life and death situations which really pays off in emergency situations. I appreciate why the academy and training is so hard.

Before staying with the Fergusons on the 2nd, I spent time as a guest waiter during lunch at Rosalinda's Mexican Café on 33rd and Tejon. The place is hopping and I try to balance good service with chatting up the customers... Rosalinda's is a north side institution. The Aguirre family, the owners, is known not only for great food but their generosity to the community. They have fed countless Denverites with their free Thanksgiving Day meals for decades.

Just like in my house, getting ready for school is always hectic. Waking up, preparing lunch, making breakfast for the boys and driving to school is the daily routine that I share with the Fergusons. There is a sense of hope in this home as the family works to make sure their boys are well-rounded student athletes and gentlemen.

Mar 3 -- Concerns in Globeville, Denver-made wine

Have you ever been to the White Owl Bar? It lies in the very tight knit community of Globeville on East 45th Avenue. I am greeted by a very diverse group of folks but they share concerns about the progress of their children, traffic, pollution, and mass transit.

Their requests are simple: benches for bus stops, slowed traffic from the many trucks that drive through their neighborhoods and cleaner streets. As I listen, I realize that I want to make sure that these are no longer forgotten neighborhoods. I want to see that they receive the best in services that the City of Denver has to offer.

Lechuga's -- the home of Little Devils -- is another north side institution. The place is always filled with music. Walking in I run into a number of old friends, meet some of my father's former students (my dad is a retired Denver Public Schools teacher) and folks who grew up with my Mejia cousins from the north side.

This is also where I meet my hostess, Judi Bonacquisti. Judi and her husband Paul own the Bonacquisti Winery which is becoming well known. They are in favor of the Buy Denver Initiative that I have proposed to promote Denver-made goods and services. The Denver Made seal will show Denverites that buying products supports our local economy and will help to create jobs... The Bonacquisti's winery is also in the north side. They were the first wine-makers to anchor what is becoming known as winery row on Pecos Street.

Paul and Judi's little ones attend a dual language elementary school and finish homework at the dining room table before rushing off to get ready for school. I'm jealous of the Scooby Doo pajamas.