Adam McCoy, Author at Colorado Politics
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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 19, 20183min1960

Government proceedings can typically be filed away in the mundane or tedious category, that is unless you’re attending a Denver City Council budget planning retreat.

Denverite’s Andrew Kenney detailed the “exciting” proceedings earlier this week — which he said included free coffee and at least one handstand — as the council hashed out its budgetary wish list for 2019.

Topping the list, was housing, development and transportation improvements, but council members are also interested in bolstering the city’s recycling program and rebuilding the Denver Police Department training academy.

In 2019, officials say they want to ask more of the Regional Transportation District. As Kenny notes:

“We are the largest city in the district … but we are not taking positions,” said Councilwoman At large Robin Kniech. “It’s good to be respectful … I would like us to be more assertive.”

Others agreed. “They just elected new leadership of their board, and some of them are people who don’t even advocate for transit, for mobility. They’re more ‘anti’ people than they are ‘pro,’” said Councilwoman At-large Debbie Ortega. “We need to gather and be really vocal and obnoxious.”

And on housing, the council members wants to explore more funding for affordable housing.

The advocacy group All In Denver wants the city to issue new debt — and potentially raise taxes — in order to raise tens or hundreds of millions more dollars to pay for affordable housing, potentially doubling the city’s current affordable housing plan.

(Council President Albus) Brooks said that he wanted to figure out some potential “internal” funding sources for housing, but he acknowledged that the city “may have to go out and ask the voters for something,” such as new bonds.

(Councilmember Paul) Kashmann said the city has “to be more aggressive in providing permanent supportive housing for our community,” adding that the council “is missing an opportunity and a responsibility.”

Read Kenney’s full report here.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 19, 20182min1120

A proposal that would ban bump stocks — the device used by the Las Vegas shooter in October to increase his weapons’ rate of fire — passed it first hurdle through the Denver City Council on Tuesday.

The legislation proposed by Denver Councilman Rafael Espinoza would amend the city’s existing ordinance banning assault weapons to make it illegal to sell, carry, store or otherwise possess a bump stock.

The City Council unanimously approved the measure after its first reading Tuesday. A final vote is expected next week.

Bump stocks replace an assault rifle’s standard stock and frees the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, channeling the energy from the weapon’s recoil. That allows for more rapid fire, nearly that of a fully automatic weapon. The device is most notable for its use in the Las Vegas massacre — the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The legislation defines a bump stock as “any device for a pistol, rifle, or shotgun that increases the rate of fire achievable with such weapon by using energy from the recoil of the weapon to generate a reciprocating action that facilitates repeated activation of the trigger.”

The measure would also make it unlawful to have a magazine capable of holding more than 15 rounds. While the current limit is 21 in Denver, the change would bring the city into compliance with existing state law.

The penalty for violating the measure could carry up to 180 days in jail and $999 in fines.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 16, 20183min13620

Despite reforms, the Denver Sheriff’s Department’s management of the city jail system remains a “quagmire,” an activist group says. That’s why Denver County taxpayers should have the power to elect their sheriff.

Denver is one of only two Colorado counties that doesn’t elect its sheriff; the mayor makes the pick.

Over the weekend, the Colorado Latino Forum launched a May 2019 municipal election ballot initiative campaign to make the Denver County sheriff an elected official. It says it has the support of business leaders, jail reform advocates, neighborhood organizers, faith leaders and others.

“The Denver Sheriff Department, the largest jailing system in the region, is a quagmire of rising assaults, inadequate inmate services, low staff morale and failed leadership,” campaign Co-Chair Lisa Calderon said in a statement. “Despite a three-year reform effort and tens of millions of dollars paid out for consultants, settlements, and skyrocketing overtime pay, Denver taxpayers have had enough of local politicians using the general fund as a blank check without a return on investment.”

The sheriff’s department has been dogged by controversies in recent years. In the fall of 2015, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock appointed Patrick Firman to the helm at the Denver Sheriff’s Department to reform the city’s jail. The appointment came on the heels of a consultant’s review of the department that found deep excessive force and mismanagement problems. Most recently, critics have pointed to news that overtime spending has cost the department millions, signaling continued struggles. The department has completed about 70 percent of the recommendations from the consultant review.

The Colorado Latino Forum said an elected sheriff would be more accountable, operating independently of political influence, much like the city auditor and clerk and recorder. The group argues as a political appointee, the sheriff is only accountable to the mayor, operating without transparency.

Voters “deserve real reform by electing an independent leader with the power to make sweeping changes to improve public safety, reduce costs, expand inmate services, increase staff morale and build public trust,” Calderon said.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 16, 20182min1560

Denver recently rolled out a new program to aid those facing a “housing crisis.”

Late last week, Denver City Council members took an unconventional extra step in launching an effort to provide legal aid to Denverites facing eviction. Ten council members pooled money totaling $123,600 in donations from office budgets and personal contributions to help get an eviction legal defense program off the ground.

“The Housing Crisis is affecting people lives daily,” Denver City Council President Albus Brooks said in a post of Facebook. “Denver City Council led by members Robin Kniech and Paul Kashmann (supported by 8 others) have initiated an Eviction Assistance pilot program. We have raised over $100K to help over 80 individuals. We hope to evaluate and expand the program in the future.”

Officials say the program will be coordinated by Colorado Legal Services, which has decades of experience in eviction defense and will make use of volunteer lawyers and make other referrals. The program is expected to start in March or April.

During an office budget reconciliation process — where officials decide how to allocate unspent money and plan for 2018 — the council members decided upon the innovative funding. As the council members explain in a statement, “City Council rules permit donations to non-profit organizations for public purposes — in this case preventing displacement and homelessness, which costs the city much more in public assistance than keeping a family housed.”

Underscoring the need for the defense program, the council members pointed to research by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy and the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless that found a significant gap between the level of legal representation afforded tenants and that which is available to landlords. While tenants are represented by an attorney in only 1 to 3 percent of the cases involving major landlords, landlords are represented in virtually 100 percent of those same cases.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 12, 20183min3660

Surging rent and an apartment glut have spawned a new Denver pilot program providing housing subsidies to low-income Denverites.

A news report from the Wall Street Journal notes that the new program called LIVE, Lower Income Voucher Equity, will help “house teachers, medical technicians and others” in “sparkling new, high-end rental apartments with amenities like gyms, roof decks and sometimes even pet spas.”

In lieu of letting vacant apartments sit empty, why not create housing opportunities for Denver residents, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told the WSJ.

The city has long wrestled with affordable housing as the cost of living has soared, gentrifying many out of Denver neighborhoods. Denver has been working with developers to build new affordable housing units, often buying land to sell to developers interested in building affordable housing. Denver has also launched programs like the Temporary Rental and Utility Assistance Program aiding Denver households experiencing a housing crisis including a rent increase or loss of a job.

Under the new program, single Denverites making between $23,500 to $47,000 a year and families of four making $33,500 to $67,000 a year are eligible, according to Denver7. Those found to qualify would then receive a voucher to pay 30 to 35 percent of their income in rent for two years. The program would also place about 5 percent of monthly rent in a savings account.

The program currently has funding to subsidize 400 units, while 100 units have joined the pilot program thus far. LIVE, starting later this month, will be funded by the city, employers and charitable foundations, according to the WSJ. Denver anticipates spending roughly $500 a month subsidizing rent for a single person and $900 for a family.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 12, 20183min6110

It’s a one-of-a-kind project. A village of nearly one dozen tiny homes serving Denverites who were once homeless.

The 11-tiny-home Beloved Community Village touts itself as a “democratically self-governed” community giving people without homes a chance to re-establish their place in a community, renew their purpose and restore their dignity, and most importantly, have a place to call home,” according to Beloved’s website.

But while it provides stability for its residents, the village doesn’t yet have permanency. As Denverite’s Andrew Kenney detailed this week, Beloved is a pilot project, bounded by a six-month time limit set by city planners. The village was on its lot temporarily.

Over the weekend, Beloved’s community of  96-square-foot tiny homes had to move about 100 feet with the expiration date looming. The city fast-tracked re-zoning of the new lot, and residents should move back in within the next week, but as Kenney reports, the city would like to establish a permanent location for Beloved.

The whole process struck some council members as unnecessary. Councilman Paul Kashmann suggested on Monday that the law be changed, and several others joined in.

“What is the difference between six months on one site and six months on another site … ?” asked Councilman Rafael Espinoza.

At least four other council members agreed, and none expressed opposition. Council members Albus Brooks, Kevin Flynn and Chris Herndon were not at the meeting. Councilwoman At-large Robin Kniech said the city should make the permits for the village renewable.

Though the city OK’d Beloved’s new location, they’ll likely have to move again, with both the village’s old and new lots slated for development later this year, Denverite reports.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 9, 20182min2180

Denver has drawn fire for its ban on homeless camping, or urban camping, since the policy first went on the city books. The city’s policy includes law enforcement sweeps that force the homeless to pack up and move elsewhere.

However, those sweeps or police contacts waned slightly in 2017, Westword found.

As Westword’s Chris Walker notes:

There were 4,647 individual “contacts” in 2017 — interactions that include, at a minimum, law enforcement telling someone violating the ban to pack their belongings and move to another location. That’s down slightly from the 5,055 contacts in 2016, though still significantly higher than the 972 made in 2013, the first full year the ban was enforced.

There were also fewer written warnings issued in 2017: 46 versus 154 in 2016. Only one written warning was issued in both 2013 and 2014.

Denver officials argue the homeless are safer off the streets and in a city shelter while opponents like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) say the ban criminalizes homelessness. Colorado Springs, Boulder, Fort Collins and other larger cities also ban urban camping and/or panhandling.

Over the spring, the latest stab at a Colorado “Right to Rest” bill, to outlaw urban camping bans, died in a legislative committee. State lawmakers argued if the bill became law, it would open cities up to mass litigation and drain money that could be used for parks, schools and other public needs.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 8, 20184min3811
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (washingtonexaminer.com)

With Denver reaping millions of dollars annually in sales tax revenue from recreational marijuana, and Colorado’s market representing a billion-dollar industry, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock called a shifting federal approach toward states with legalized marijuana irresponsible.

“This is a billion-dollar-plus industry here in Colorado, (with) thousands of jobs, and what this move has done is create uncertainty with regards to investors, business owners and employers,” Hancock said in an interview on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” on Friday.

“All this move does is demonstrate how out of step the Attorney General (Jeff) Sessions is and the administration is with the rest of the country,” Hancock said.

Hancock joined the furor over the U.S. Justice Department’s announcement on Thursday it would discontinue the Obama-era, hands-off approach toward states that have legalized cannabis.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions withdrew guidelines that essentially limited federal prosecutions of marijuana businesses or individuals operating legally under state law despite the federal prohibition, Politico reports. In last week’s announcement, Sessions said prosecutions would be left up to individual U.S. attorneys.

The policy change would be felt in the local marijuana industry through impacts on business investment and sales tax revenue more so than an enforcement crackdown, Hancock said.

“We’ve already had conversations with our attorney general, as well as our acting U.S. attorney, who clearly have said they’re not going to change anything with regards to the industry here in Colorado,” Hanckock told CNBC.

Colorado’s cannabis industry racked up $1 billion in sales in the first eight months of 2017, generating more than $160 million in taxes and fees. About two-thirds of Colorado’s more than 500 marijuana dispensaries are located in Denver, and the city estimates it collected about $18 million to $20 million in sales-tax revenue in 2017 — about 3 percent of the city’s budget — from legal sales of recreational cannabis. Hancock said the money is allocated toward funding law enforcement and youth education on cannabis.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Trump marijuana policy: It has given uncertainty in this billion-dollar industry from CNBC.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 8, 20184min14530

The activists behind Denver’s green roof mandate didn’t do their homework, and now the city is left “to do the work that should have been done by the proponents before putting it on the ballot.” That’s the sentiment behind an op-ed authored by Denver Councilwoman Kendra Black in the Denver Post last week.

Vocal in the runup to the fall election about the unintended consequences of the green roof mandate, Black argues green roofs were an easy sell considering the warming climate and “the image of mini-parks and solar panels atop all of Denver’s buildings.” Proponents weren’t required to engage stakeholders or the city agencies that are now tasked with implementing the mandate. Nor did the proponents communicate environmental and fiscal impacts to voters.

“Without fully knowing how the law will impact city agencies, water usage, our electrical grid, construction costs or our housing efforts, Denver’s city attorneys rushed to create the rules to begin implementing the law in January,” Black said. “Our already overburdened building department is having to carve out resources in its budget and find staff to review plans and enforce the law.”

“So, if you’re frustrated with the time it takes to get a building permit, just wait. It will now take longer,” Black writes.

The green roof initiative was approved by voters in November with nearly 55 percent of the vote. The ordinance mandates newly-built buildings larger than 25,000 square feet dedicate a portion (the portion will vary depending on building size) of their rooftops to vegetation or solar panels. The green roofs would help reduce Denver’s urban heat island effect.

Black writes the city will meet with stakeholders including sustainability experts, Xcel Energy, Denver Water, architects, economists and others to flush out the implications of the new law and make recommendations to the City Council.

The Denver City Council can modify or repeal the green roof ordinance after six months but would require a two-thirds majority vote.

“Once the facts are known and analysis done, I know that our team of expert stakeholders will come up with reasonable compromises that will respect the voters’ will to reduce our ‘heat island’ while allowing for realistic and creative solutions that are appropriate for our climate and won’t negatively impact our affordable housing efforts and our economy or increase the cost of public and nonprofit projects,” Black writes.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 2, 20183min5471

A Denver councilman has proposed a ban on bump stocks — the device used by the Las Vegas shooter in October to increase his weapons’ rate of fire.

The legislation proposed by Denver Councilman Rafael Espinoza would amend the city’s existing ordinance banning assault weapons to make it illegal to sell, carry, store or otherwise possess a bump stock. The bill will go before Denver’s Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee on Wednesday. If approved, it will move on to the full City Council.

Bump stocks replace an assault rifle’s standard stock and frees the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, channeling the energy from the weapon’s recoil. That allows for more rapid fire, nearly that of a fully automatic weapon.

The device came under the critical eye of congressional lawmakers after its use in the Las Vegas massacre — the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history — though the push to ban the device has slowed as of late.

The legislation notes the use of bump stocks during the Las Vegas mass shooting and how “the city could be susceptible to the dangers of bump stock firing mechanisms.”

In an interview with the Denver Post, Espinoza said: “I’m under no illusion that if somebody is hell-bent on committing a heinous crime, they could both have larger magazines and modify their weapon. But that said, the only people in the city and county of Denver that should have that kind of firepower are law enforcement and trained officials.”

Per the bill, Espinoza defines a bump stock as “any device for a pistol, rifle, or shotgun that increases the rate of fire achievable with such weapon by using energy from the recoil of the weapon to generate a reciprocating action that facilitates repeated activation of the trigger.”

The penalty for violating the measure could carry up to 180 days in jail and $999 in fines.