DENVER–In early October, Denver residents will begin receiving ballots for the November 2 election which includes the most citizen-initiated measures in more than 20 years, allowing voters to have far-reaching impacts on the future of the city.
Among the many measures are two initiated by the Chairman of the Denver Republican Party, Garrett Flicker. One to enact a sales tax limitation and another to address the homeless camping problem that only continues to grow.
Initiated Ordinance 304, called Enough Taxes Already, targets Denver’s sales tax rate. Currently the city has a 4.81% sales tax rate in place and with state, county and other rates, the total sits at 8.81% in the city.
The proposed ordinance would cap the city sales tax rate at 4.5%, ultimately decreasing the city rate 0.31%. Sales taxes have steadily been increased over the years, including a sales tax hike intended to address homelessness. However, even with the growing revenue the city has received, little has been done to actually improve the urban camping situation.
Ben Murrey, an expert in fiscal policy at the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver, explained that higher sales and use taxes hurt the poorest community members the most.
“Sales taxes are very regressive, meaning they’re a huge burden on lower income people. So the more money you make, the less an increase in sales tax matters to you,” Murrey explained. “I do believe that the citizens of Denver…. if they understood that their politicians keep funding government services on the backs of the poorest residents, I think that the people of Denver, if that message gets out, would want to cut the sales tax and help low income people.”
In terms of homelessness in Denver, Ordinance 303, called Let’s Do Better and also initiated by Flicker, aims to centralize urban camping to four public places within the city. In the designated homeless camping sites, amenities would be required including running water, restrooms and lighting. It also would address homeless camping on private property by holding the city accountable for not taking action within three days of receiving a complaint.
Flicker previously told Complete Colorado the city is ignoring the will of Denver residents, who voted overwhelmingly in 2018 to keep the city’s urban camping ban in place and in 2020 approved an additional sales tax to raise $40 million to help deal with the problems associated with uncontrolled camping.
“What this initiative seeks to do is is offer the City and County of Denver a road map to beginning to rein-in the situation,” said Flicker.
In addition to Flicker’s two measures, three other citizen-initiated proposals will also appear on the Denver ballot:
- Initiated Ordinance 300, Pandemic Research Fund – Under the measure, Denver’s municipal sales tax on marijuana purchases would be raised from 5.5% to 7% to bring in an estimated $7 million annualy in additional revenue. The revenue would be directed to the University of Colorado Denver’s CityCenter program and would be used for pandemic-related research.
- Initiated Ordinance 301, Parks and Open Space Preservation – This measure would prohibit “any commercial or residential development” on city parks and land protected by a conservation easement without voter approval. It would directly impact the proposed development of the former Park Hill Golf Course
- Initiated Ordinance 302, Conservation Easement – In response to Ordinance 301, the group proposing the development of Park Hill Golf Course seeks to redefine ‘conversation easement’ only to those reviewed and approved by the state Division of Conservation, ultimately allowing the group to move forward with their development.
After referral by the City Council, the following eight other questions will also appear on the ballot. The first five are part of a $450 million infrastructure bond package proposal.
- Referred Question 2A, Denver Facilities System Bonds – The measure would provide $104 million for improvement projects at Denver libraries, museums and entertainment venues.
- Referred Question 2B, Denver Housing and Sheltering System Bonds – $38.6 million would be directed towards the acquisition and improvement of shelters for the homeless.
- Referred Question 2C, Denver Transportation and Mobility System Bonds –“Transportation safety improvements” including road construction and other bike and pedestrian projects would receive $63.3 million in funding.
- Referred Question 2D, Denver Parks and Recreation System Bonds – $54 million would be provided for construction and maintenance projects in Denver parks.
- Referred Question 2E, National Western Campus Facilities System Bonds – $190 million in funding would be directed to the National Western Center for renovations and construction of a new arena.
- Referred Question 2F, Safe and Sound – The measure seeks to overturn controversial ‘group-living’ rules previously approved by City Council. It was referred to the ballot only after residents opposed to the group-living changes submitted enough signatures to challenge the decision on the ballot.
- Referred Question 2G, Fill Future Vacancies for Independent Monitor – This measure would revoke the mayor’s power to appoint the head of the Office of the Independent Monitor, the city official who oversees police disciplinary investigations, and instead give the power to the city’s volunteer Citizen Oversight Board.
- Referred Question 2H, Election Day Change – This measure would move Denver’s municipal election date from May to April, starting in 2023. Elections officials claim they need the extra time to make preparations for possible runoff elections, which would still be held in June.
Ballots for the November 2 election will start being mailed out to all active voters on October 8
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