This year’s Colorado ballot is long. Really long. In addition to something like 20 presidential candidates, a U.S. Senate race, and the usual collection of state and local offices, voters will be asked to decide on a series of bad ideas (repealing the Gallagher Amendment, ditching the Electoral College) and some good ideas (cutting the state income tax, requiring voter approval on new state enterprises).
Lucky Denver voters will get an extra helping of line-item democracy, with 12 additional ballot measures. Some of them are funding measures, others take aim at Denver’s “strong mayor” system. Here’s how I’ll be voting on each of them, and a brief explanation of why.
Measure 2A – Climate Funding – NO
2A proposes a 0.25% increase in the sales tax to fight global warming. I can’t begin to describe what a terrible idea this is, but it’s my job, so I’ll try. Sales taxes are regressive, and the money will go to boutique solutions like bike lanes and electric vehicles. So low-income Denverites will be paying to make life nicer for the upper-middle class and upper-class. And with China building hundreds of coal-fired power plants, it won’t be a drop in the bucket for reducing global greenhouse gases.
Measure 2B – Homelessness Funding – NO
Likewise, 2B would increase sales taxes 0.25% to pay for homeless “solutions,” including up to 1,800 new housing units. It would increase access to shelters and to some mental health services, which might be of use. But the pre-COVID estimates of $40 million raised won’t go that far now. And I harshly question the city’s other spending priorities. Parks, libraries, and road maintenance are all under the gun, even as the mayor rolls out a think tank dedicated to solving racism. (No, really.) We’re going to spend $15 million on bike lanes nobody uses as it is. Which do you think is more important?
Measures 4A & 4B – School Property Tax & Bonding – NO
Another year, another school bond measure. From 2016 through the 2021 projections, total district spending will have risen over 30%, and per-pupil spending just under 30%, according to the data provided with the ballot measure and pupil enrollment data from the Colorado Department of Education. Denver is in a peculiar situation, where property values have continued to rise, even as employment has suffered from the government-enforced economic restrictions in response to COVID. And while property doesn’t turn into cash until the sale, property taxes have to be paid out of current income, both for property owners and the renters who’ll see the tax increase passed on. Now’s not a good time to be hitting up Denverites for more money.
Measure 2C – City Council Professional Services – YES
Measure 2C would let the city council procure professional services outside of the executive branch. Unlike the direct oversight measure (see below), 2C makes sense. The council argues that the executive branch deliberately obstructs its inquiries and research. Whether or not that’s true, the city council shouldn’t be dependent on the executive to provide investigative oversight or even expert manpower. 2C would avoid conflicts of interest and expand the council’s ability to ask intelligent questions.
Measure 2D – DOTI Advisory Board – NO
We all are frustrated with the Regional Transportation District (RTD), but at least it’s begun to realize the fiscal corner it has painted itself into. And its conventional buses remain the best option for many low- and middle-income commuters. Denver’s answer was to create a new Department of Transportation Infrastructure to implement the mayor’s Mobility Action Plan, whose first goal is to “Reduce single-occupant vehicle commuters to 50 percent and increase the percentage of bike/pedestrian commuters to 15 percent.” This sounds less like traffic engineering and more like social engineering.
The DOTI Advisory Board is 1/3 appointed by the mayor, and 2/3 appointed by the City Council, and would almost certainly not represent the primary interests of Denver commuters – buses and traffic patterns that get people to work. The less momentum we build up behind this boondoggle the better chance there is to undo it and limit the fiscal waste.
Measure 2E – Council Approve Mayoral Appointments – NO
It might look reasonable to mimic the legislative “advice and consent” process present in some gubernatorial and presidential appointments. But the current city council is composed of such extreme left-wing progressives that they leave the current mayor as the main city-wide bulwark against galloping leftism. In normal political times, giving them some say over appointments might make sense, but only a fool willingly collaborates with his destruction.
Measure 2F – Council Meetings “Modernization” – NO
The City Charter currently requires that the city council hold its regular meetings in its chambers, doors open, keeping a public record of all its proceedings, in which every vote is entered by roll call. The progressives on the council, so enamored of accountability, want to remove these requirements from the charter, without telling you what they’d replace them with when they decide to amend statute. It was surely embarrassing when Black Lives Matter activists took over one of their meetings earlier this year, but open doors doesn’t have to mean Open Mic Nite. Grow up, take control of your own meetings, and stop looking for ways to hide from the public that pays your six-figure salaries.
Measure 2G – Expand Council Budgeting Authority – NO
This measure would allow the city council to propose mid-year budget changes, something only the mayor is currently allowed to do. As with 2E, giving more hard power to a city council tilted far to the Left seems like a poor value proposition.
Measure 2H – Municipal Broadband – NO
If you want to expand access to broadband, then make it easier and cheaper for companies to install it, but don’t have the government turn into the broadband provider of choice. As with most things, the technology will be more expensive, and overtaken by the next generation before it’s fully available. Let the private sector build this one out.
Measure 2I – Clerk’s Appointees – NO
This isn’t really a hard No, more of a No from ignorance. The measure would allow the elected clerk and recorder to hire staffers directly rather than through the career service. It would also remove language requiring the clerk to “employ a Director of Elections.” I’m not willing to take the opposition’s word for it that there’s something malicious or deceptive going on here, but I’m also not persuaded this is necessary. If it’s such a great idea, tell me more about it and come back next year.
Measure 2J – Pit Bull Ban Repeal – YES
Each generation seems to have its “bad dog.” German Shepherds, Dobermans, Rottweilers, and then Pit Bulls. For about 30 years, Denver has banned Pit Bulls in its borders. But the overwhelming evidence is that it’s the owner and the training, not the breed. It turns out that the breed involved in the largest number attacks is the lovable Labrador Retriever, because they account for a large plurality of pure-bred dogs. We loved our lab, and people love their pit bulls. The ban makes no sense.
Joshua Sharf is a Denver resident and frequent contributor to Complete Colorado.