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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyApril 23, 20183min905

Denver elected officials say they “strongly condemn” the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to suspend a George W. Bush-era program geared toward educating detained immigrants on their legal rights.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and the Denver City Council advocated for the DOJ to reverse course on its decision and allow the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) to continue.

“Terminating the LOP would eliminate vital protections for thousands of our community members who are separated from their loves ones and placed in civil immigration detention,” the letter reads.

The DOJ announced earlier this month it would temporarily suspend funding for the LOP, just weeks before the program’s contract is set to expire, NPR reports. DOJ officials said the federal government needs time to review the effectiveness of the program, which is run nationally by non-profit Vera Institute of Justice. The program costs about $6 million per year.

Vera serves more than 50,000 people per year and works with a network of like-minded organizations to carry out the LOP program across the country. In Colorado, the program is administered through the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN).

As RMIAN and Denver officials note, those in immigration proceedings do not have a right to court-appointed counsel.

“Yet immigration law is incredibly complex, and for many of our community members, the stakes in these court cases could not be higher,” Denver officials say in the letter.

The LOP helps bridge that legal gap, providing immigrants with legal information and referrals to pro-bono legal counsel, among other services.

At the immigration detention center and immigration court in Aurora, Denver officials say just 9 percent of people have legal representation during proceedings.

“To abruptly end this program would have a devastating impact on access to justice for immigrants in Denver and beyond,” the letter reads.

Read Hancock and the City Council’s full letter here.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyApril 23, 20183min447

Denver could have misplaced hundreds of assets like equipment due to poor record-keeping, a new report by the city auditor found.

Of 124 assets listed in the city’s books, Denver City Auditor Timothy O’Brien’s office couldn’t find 15 items during an audit. And based on sampling methodology used during the audit, between 670 and 1,590 city assets, which include equipment, buildings and fixtures, could be missing or improperly classified, the auditor’s office said.

“These record-keeping errors are significant and indicate a high probability of other missing or improperly recorded assets, both large and small,” O’Brien said in a statement. “These assets belong to the taxpayers and should be accurately tracked.”

For example, the audit found a car the city sold in 2003 still on the books and a garbage truck no longer in use in the city listed as still in service. The audit also found one instance where the city tallied a portion of the cost of a swimming pool at the La Alma Recreation Center twice, inflating the value of the city’s assets by $853,000.

“In another example, the audit team was unable to find any record of what happened to five of the items in their sample even after asking for help from the managing agency,” O’Brien’s office said in the statement. “In one case, a $3.5 million asset was listed only as ‘Bond C&C Bldg – Exterior,’ and officials could not explain the reason for the entry.”

The auditor also found inaccuracies related to locations, descriptions and the timeliness of asset recording and discrepancies between the recorded historical costs of the assets and the actual historical costs. In the books, the auditor found a series of outdoor sculptures recorded at the McNichols Building, though they were actually in various parks throughout Green Valley Ranch.

The audit did not survey all of the city’s possessions. The airport and construction in progress, for example, were not included.

O’Brien’s office surveyed employees during the audit and found 43 percent said they hadn’t received proper asset-management training. The auditor said formal training and coordinating with the city’s Controller’s Office to develop a process for an annual review of assets could better track assets in the future.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyApril 23, 20184min445

Last summer, we told you about Denver City Council President Albus Brooks celebrating one year cancer free.

He had won a battle with Chondrosarcoma, a rare form of cancer of the bone. He won a battle with a 15-pound malignant tumor in his back, after two surgeries lasting some 20 hours. And Brooks, who represents Denver’s District 9, had defied the odds, leaving the hospital several days early following surgery, returning to the helm at the Denver City Council after just four weeks of medical leave and even snowboarding after being told he would never be able to hit the slopes again.

Unfortunately, Brooks is preparing for another battle with cancer, announcing on social media earlier this week his cancer had returned. He’ll undergo surgery to remove a grape-size tumor the first week of May after doctors discovered it during a checkup, according to his post. Read Brooks’ full social media post below:

Nearly two years ago I was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma, a rare form of skeletal cancer. One year later my family and I celebrated a full year being cancer free. Today, I write to share some difficult news.

During a recent check up this month, doctors found another small tumor. In 2016 the tumor in my body was the size of a cantaloupe; this one is the size of a grape. My surgery to remove the tumor is scheduled for the first week of May, after which I will be recovering for two weeks at home.

I share this news with you the same week that I will be a guest speaker at CancerCon, a conference uniting young adult patients, survivors, caregivers and advocates. While this recent update certainly changes a few details in my life, it definitely does not change my message of hope and resilience.

My story is not defined by cancer, yet cancer has shown me the powerful beauty of human capacity.

Like the capacity of individual grit when forced to fight for your life. Cancer does not discriminate, and I’ve met countless people who have had to engage in this same capacity for resilience in their own fight. My strength comes from those that have suffered and survived, as well as those who have lost their lives.

More than anything else, I have witnessed the capacity my family has to love fully. Their capacity to bring me joy and peace knows no limits, and it is with them that I will find my greatest encouragement in coming months.

It is in that spirit that I ask for Denver to keep me in your prayers. But not just me – there are people in our community that are going through the same thing, but don’t have the public position or fancy title. Because of this, they are often more alone. Don’t forget about them.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyApril 18, 20183min350

A marijuana tax hike would help boost affordable housing efforts in Denver under a proposal released Monday by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

The plan would double the city’s Affordable Housing Fund annually – from $15 million to $30 million – and generate an additional estimated $105 million in funding for affordable housing over the next five years. To finance the $105 million funding surge, the city and the Denver Housing Authority would issue bonds.

“This proposal will deploy more funding quicker to support our residents and families without increasing costs on the very households we are working to serve,” Hancock said in part in a statement.

The funding would aid the city in acquiring new land for affordable housing and subsidizing new low-income housing projects. Ultimately, Denver officials say the funding boost would double its creation and preservation of units — from 3,000 units to at least 6,400 units over five years.

“Each additional unit represents a new opportunity for a family in Denver, which is why we continually look for creative ways to increase funding for affordable housing,” Denver City Council President Albus Brooks said in a statement.

Created in fall 2016, Denver’s current affordable housing fund has promised an estimated $150 million be dedicated to affordable housing efforts, including development and preservation, over a decade. The fund currently operates on a mix of property tax revenue and a one-time fee on new development, according to the city.

Denver’s plan would in part pay for the plan through a proposed increase in the marijuana sales tax from 3.5 percent to 5.5 percent, which the city says would generate an estimated $8 million per year. The city would also allocate $7 million per year from the general fund.

The plan has won some early praise from housing advocates like Brad Segal with All In Denver, who told Denverite he was surprised by the city’s “ambition” with the proposal.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyApril 9, 20182min574

Denver celebrated the groundbreaking of a new 180-unit affordable housing project going up in the city’s Stapleton neighborhood late last week.

All of the project’s units — being constructed at 2820 N. Moline St. and coined the Moline Apartments — will be income-restricted for a 40-year period, the city said in a statement. Additionally, tax credits and voucher programs will help designate 40 of the units for very low-income residents, including homeless veterans and those with disabilities.

The project is part of the city’s ongoing campaign to combat the high cost of housing, which is squeezing some out of Denver neighborhoods. A recent survey pointed to affordable housing as the top issue on Denverites’ minds.

City officials say the $36 million development is among the first to receive funding for Denver’s Affordable Housing Fund. Created in fall 2016, Denver’s fund has promised an estimated $150 million will be dedicated to affordable housing efforts, including development and preservation, over a decade. The fund operates on a mix of property tax revenue and a one-time fee on new development. The city is reportedly exploring dedicating more funding to its affordable housing fund. 

Construction will start this month and is expected to wrap up in May 2019.