One month before Denver voters cast their ballots to elect a new mayor, eight of the 10 ballot candidates took the stage Sunday at a public forum in Sun Valley — a neighborhood that residents say is badly in need of help from the top.

Sun Valley is more than 92 percent nonwhite, and more than half of its residents over age 25 do not have a high school diploma, according to government figures.

Translators provided help to candidates Sunday in Spanish, Somali and Vietnamese.

"I think it's good they came to this side of town," said Traya Dobbins, 22, a Sun Valley resident .

Several candidates tried to connect with the crowd of about 75 with personal stories of struggle.

Theresa Spahn told the crowd she failed to graduate from high school and had to return at age 19 to earn her diploma.

Carol Boigon recounted her childhood in Detroit, a city wracked with economic woes, and Michael Hancock, who grew up in public housing, said, "I'm the candidate that grew up poor, cold and hungry."

A major issue raised by residents is the neighborhood's relationship with the police.

Phil Kaspar, the forum moderator and a 25-year resident of Sun Valley, said locals are tired of being profiled by law enforcement.

"If you live here, you're a criminal. That's basically how they look at it," Kaspar said.

Candidates stressed the need for transparency in the Denver Police Department.

"We need to know that our discipline is transparent and fair," Boigon said.

"It is about accountability," said James Mejia. "Accountability at every single level of the department."

The candidates who attended were: Denver City Council members Boigon, Hancock and Doug Linkhart; former Denver Parks and Recreation Manager Mejia; former Magistrate Judge Spahn; 311 Office worker Ken Simpson; UFO and peace activist Jeff Peckman; and ballet-studio owner Paul Noel Fiorino.

Former Colorado state Sen. Chris Romer and Denver city employee Danny Lopez did not attend. The election is May 3.

Kyle Glazier: 303-954-1638 or