A little while ago we released our Annual Ballot Measure Guide for Colorado Ballot Measures. If you have not seen it, you can find it here: https://www.cghlawfirm.com/blog/2020/09/our-endorsements-for-the-2020-colorado-constitutional-amendments-and-ballot-measures/ But we also know that many of our readers live in the City and County of Denver, so we also make an annual guide for the “Denver only” measures as well. To that end, if you vote in Denver, please keep reading. If you don’t, you can stop reading now. We can’t answer every question, but if you want guidance on a ballot measure in your city, feel free to reach out to Kevin and he will help to the extent he can.
Ballot Measure 2A: Vote no, with reservations! This measure would raise the sales tax in Denver by .25% (2.5 cents for every $10 spent) and use the money to fight climate change. At CGH, we believe that climate change is real. We believe that humans contribute to the problem of climate change. And we believe the world needs to take extreme action quickly in order to avert its worst impacts. For those reasons, opposing this ballot measure is hard, and we do not do it without significant reservations. That being said, we view sales taxes as the worst kind of tax. They are regressive in nature—a homeless person pays the same percentage of tax as a millionaire. That does not make sense. So we must weigh the benefit of Denver raising money to fight climate change against the disproportionate impact sales taxes have on the poor. Ultimately, Denver’s actions would be a small drop in the bucket, if that, in fighting a problem that needs a national and global solution. As such, we cannot support this sales tax increase and strongly advise Denver’s political leaders to consider raising the OPT tax on Denver businesses if it needs more funding.
Ballot Measure 2B: Vote no, with reservations! Like 2A, this measure would raise the sales tax in Denver by .25% (2.5 cents for every $10 spent) and use the money to fight homelessness. As with Measure 2A, this is a regressive tax that would fall harder on the people whom it purports to help. At CGH, we support policies that acknowledge the dignity and humanity of homeless persons. We endorsed Proposition 300 not that long ago, which would have given homeless people many more rights, including the right to camp inside the City. We support ending the cruel sweeps in our City. And we support legalizing camping in certain City-designated areas as one change among many to address the issue of homeless in our City. So it is with great reservations that we oppose this measure. But on top of the regressive-tax issue, we simply do not trust the Hancock administration on homelessness issues. Time and time again, Mayor Hancock has made choices that prioritize the quality of life for the well-off at the expense of our most vulnerable members of society. Time and time again, he uses law enforcement to address a social problem. And this measure still fails to grasp the size of the problem. In our view, there are at least two other long-term solutions to homelessness in this City. First, we need to amend Denver’s zoning regulations to allow for the construction of dense low and middle income apartments (not luxury ones) in ALL areas of the city–looking at you NIMBYs. Second, we need to build tiny homes and cheap apartments and give them to homeless people. The opponents of Prop 300 told us “We can do better, Denver.” We are still waiting for them to deliver on that promise. We definitely can do better, but Measure 2B isn’t it.
Ballot Measure 4A: Vote YES! Ballot measure 4A is a Denver Public Schools mill levy. A mill levy is essentially a property tax increase. This one would go to fund things like mental health professionals in schools, adding school nurses, increasing wages for school support staff, and increasing cost of living funds for teachers. Our property taxes in Colorado are low—absurdly low compared to most states. While we believe progressive income and corporate taxes are the best way to raise money, property taxes are a heck of a lot better than sales taxes because they do not have the same disproportionate impact on the poor. As people who will one day send their children to Denver Public Schools, we urge you to support this measure.
Ballot Measure 4B: Vote YES! Ballot measure 4B is a Denver Public School bond. Basically, Denver Public Schools wants to take out a $795 million dollar loan to pay for renovating old school buildings, putting AC in buildings that don’t have it, adding classrooms, and buying new computers. The measure would allow them to take out said loan as long as the total repayment cost (over many years) is not greater than $1.5 billion. School districts use bonds like this all the time. But in Colorado, because of TABOR, we have to vote on them. Tellingly, no one even bothered to submit comments in opposition to this measure. Vote YES!
Ballot Measure 2C: Vote YES! 2C is a fairly uncontroversial measure with no opposition. It would allow the City Council to hire its own lawyers when it wants legal advice. Currently, they have to use the City Attorney, who works for the Mayor’s office. There are times when the Council and the Mayor do not agree, and it makes sense to let the Council seek independent legal advice. Vote yes!
Ballot Measure 2D: Vote YES! Recently, Denver voters created the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure as a City agency. This measure would create a 19-member community advisory board to advise that agency. We already have a similar board for the Parks and Recreation Department, and it works well. It works so well that we don’t know of a single person that would oppose this idea. Vote yes!
Ballot Measure 2E: Vote YES! Denver, like most big cities, is what we call a “Strong Mayor” City, meaning that the Mayor has a ton of power and the City Council has very little in comparison. Most large cities are organized like this because there is an argument that it is more efficient and effective to let one person have much of the power (and if the voters don’t like what the Mayor does, the election is the remedy). The problem is that it makes it too easy for Big Development and other special interests to basically buy one person. For those reasons, many cities are considering taking some power away from the Mayor and giving it back to the City Council. 2E is a step in that direction for Denver. Specifically, 2E would allow the City Council to approve or deny the Mayor’s appointments for major positions like Sheriff and Chief of Police. Essentially, it would allow the City Council to act like the Senate does with the President on the federal level. At the local level, we believe giving more power to the City Council is more democratic and will make these appointees more responsive to the needs of the people. Vote yes!
Ballot Measure 2F: Vote YES! This is another uncontroversial measure addressing an issue that arose with COVID. Specifically, it would make it easier for the City Council to meet and to hold meetings online or in spaces besides Council Chambers. Right now, it was unnecessarily difficult to do that because of some old language in the City Charter. Nobody opposes this change and you should vote yes.
Ballot Measure 2G: Vote YES! This measure goes along with 2E and is designed to take power from the Mayor and give it to the City Council. Right now, the Mayor proposes a budget each year, and the City Council simply votes yes or no. Once the money is locked in, the Council can only amend it for a short time in November. The Mayor, on the other hand, can amend it any time he wants and does so about 20 times a year. This measure would allow the City Council to amend the budget more easily with a majority vote, or a super-majority if the Mayor vetoes the changes. We think a stronger City Council is a win for Denver. Vote yes!
Ballot Measure 2H: Vote YES! Currently, state law prohibits local governments from creating their own broadband company unless they hold a vote and opt-out. This measure is Denver’s vote to opt-out. Importantly, this would NOT create a city-owned internet company. But it would allow the City to spend a little money exploring that option to see if the cost-benefit analysis makes sense for Denver. Over 100 other Colorado counties and cities have already passed similar measures. Comcast opposes it so, of course, we support it. Vote yes!
Ballot Measure 2I: Vote YES! This measure deals with the Clerk and Recorder’s office. Currently, the Clerk and Recorder (the person in charge of Denver’s elections) gets 3 political appointments, and the rest are career employees. This change would give the Clerk and Recorder 5 appointments instead of 3. The current Clerk argues that more political appointments will help the office because more people will be directly accountable to him, and if he does a bad job, voters can always vote him out. We tend to agree. Denver elections have been run well, but the COVID pandemic has shown us that being nimble and being able to make changes on the fly is a good thing. Vote yes!
Ballot Measure 2J: Vote YES! As most of you probably know, pit bulls are currently banned in Denver. Earlier this year, the City Council passed a law ending the ban, but Mayor Hancock vetoed that law, and the City Council failed to override the veto. They fell short by a single vote. So, the voters now get to decide. If 2J passes, pit bull owners would be required to register their dog with the City, pay a special fee, provide the city an emergency contact, and provide proof of vaccinations. No household could own more than two pit bulls at a time. We support ending the pit bull ban because the data show they are no more violent than other dogs. But, more importantly, the ban wasn’t stopping people from owning pit bulls. One only needs to take a walk around Denver on a nice day to know pit bulls live in our city right now anyway. If this law passes, those dogs can come out of the shadows and be registered and regulated. Pit bull bans used to be all the rage in the 1980s, but very few large cities continue to have them because they are ineffective and driven by emotion instead of reason. Vote yes!