Denver City Council Archives - Colorado Politics

Colorado PoliticsColorado PoliticsJanuary 9, 20184min2540

A recent article posted on the Colorado Politics website entitled, "Denver Superfund sites, environmental protections, threatened under EPA budget cuts, city councilwomen say,” attributes to two Denver City Council members the assertion that, “ … proposed budget trimming would threaten cleanup and maintenance of several hazardous waste Superfund sites in Denver.”  This claim is inaccurate and not based on any facts or data.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 9, 20182min2130

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.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 8, 20184min14410

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.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 2, 20183min5341

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.

Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 2, 20183min3290

Proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget would threaten on-going environmental protection efforts in Denver — particularly Superfund site cleanup and maintenance — two Denver city councilwomen say.

The two council members, Robin Kniech and Debbie Ortega, penned a post last week on the city’s website detailing their concerns about the cuts to the EPA’s 2018 budget and the critical work the agency does in the city.

“Even when local and state governments address clean air and water, waste disposal and hazardous substances, citizens and local officials count on EPA to watch over and ensure the right things are done in compliance with laws and proper standards,” the two wrote. “When other agencies do Environmental Impact Statements, such as for the I-70/Central project, EPA has critical consulting roles so we know environmental laws are being followed.”

The White House has proposed slashing the EPA’s 2018 budget by 31 percent, making good on President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to dramatically scale-back the EPA, leaving “little tidbits” in place, the New York Times reports.

The steep proposed budget trimming would threaten cleanup and maintenance of several hazardous waste Superfund sites in Denver, the councilwomen said.

“Broderick Wood Products, Chemical Sales Co., Lowry Landfill, Denver Radium Sites, one part of Vasquez Boulevard/I-70 (residential properties) and Rocky Mountain Arsenal have all been remediated or at least brought under control,” Kniech and Ortega wrote. “EPA’s mission continues at all these sites, in the form of overseeing operations and maintenance of the remedies that were done.”

“Conducting, overseeing and monitoring Superfund cleanups is EPA’s job by act of Congress – give them the funds to do it,” they said.

Adam McCoyAdam McCoyDecember 21, 20173min1040

The Denver City Council approved new rules this week to give more leverage to women- and minority-owned small businesses that subcontract with big firms on city-funded municipal projects.

That news comes from Denverite, which reports the changes will ensure subcontractors get paid quicker and are protected from retaliation if they complain about getting pushed around by the general contractors that do the bulk of construction work in Denver. Current city policy requires that a certain amount of Denver-funded projects go to businesses owned by women and minorities.

The changes will, among other changes, require all parties to submit billing information; prohibit retaliation, and kick off an evaluation of the city’s Division of Small Business Opportunity.

Officials say the new rules are needed, as Denverite notes, partly because smaller minority- and women-owned businesses have been wary about coming forward out of fear of retaliation by general contractors:

One major issue: In some cases subcontractors aren’t getting fully paid when their work is done. Portions of their pay can be retained for years until the full project — an airport expansion, for example — is done.

In one recent instance, money was withheld for more than two years, (Councilman Wayne) New said.

Another major problem, he said, is that contractors will issue “change orders” — asking for additional work — and force the subcontractor to negotiate the price after the project is done, when the subcontractors have little leverage. This legislation doesn’t prohibit change orders, but it requires new data collection that the city could use to prevent abuse.

Read Denverite’s full report here.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyDecember 15, 20173min4530

With the most sweeping tax overhaul in decades moving through Congress, Denver City Council authored a letter this week contending the Republican-led tax reform effort would harm the city’s “financial integrity and economic development.”

In the letter addressed to Colorado U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, and Rep. Diana DeGette, the 13-member Denver council argued both House and Senate versions of a $1.5 trillion tax bill would have a “devastating impact” on the city.

That impact would be felt through decreasing funds for affordable housing through elimination of tax credits and increasing the cost of financing for infrastructure projects, council members said. Furthermore, tax bill provisions ending the state and local tax deductions on an individual’s federal income tax return would be “detrimental to the financial well-being of our citizens.”

Characterized by the New York Times as the most sweeping tax overhaul in decades, the bill would sharply cut the corporate tax rate, reduce the top individual tax rate and scale back many popular tax breaks. The House and Senate have agreed in principle to merge two versions of the tax bill. The legislation is currently on track to reach President Donald Trump’s desk by Christmas.

In the letter, the Denver council urged members of Colorado’s congressional delegation to add policies beneficial to the city when vetting tax reform — policies like tax-exemption for municipal bonds and private activity bonds. Those are mechanisms cities like Denver often rely on to finance large projects or help spur affordable housing.

The council also pointed to state and local tax deductions that protect against double taxation or tax credits including “New Market Tax Credits and Historic Preservation Tax Credit which build and preserve affordable housing; and generate economic investments in our most vulnerable and underinvested communities.”

Read the council’s full letter here.


Ernest LuningErnest LuningDecember 15, 20179min253

According to a recent federal study, marijuana use among Colorado teenagers has fallen considerably in the past two years — to its lowest rate in nearly a decade. But high school principals in parts of Denver with high concentrations of pot businesses say the opposite is true, and an organization that works with homeless youth says marijuana use is up sharply in recent years.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirDecember 14, 20173min4430

Denver’s attempt to rein in the “dark money” that drives, and sometimes distorts, a lot of campaign messaging has landed the city in court. A lawsuit filed in Denver District Court Wednesday by a public-interest litigation foundation out of Arizona — the libertarian-leaning, Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute — contends that provisions of the campaign-reform ordinance enacted by the Denver City Council in September are unconstitutional.

The suit was filed on behalf of two political-advocacy nonprofits that are a familiar presence on Colorado’s political right — the Colorado Union of Taxpayers Foundation and the TABOR Committee.

The new Denver campaign law, which has assorted other components not challenged by the suit, takes effect in January.

Calling the targeted provisions of the new law “unfair and unconstitutional,” a Goldwater press statement Wednesday says the measure, “requires nonprofits to give the government a list of their donors — including their occupations and employers — any time those groups spend as little as $500 communicating with voters about city ballot measures.” In other words, it effectively turns advocacy groups like the two plaintiffs into political or issue committees regulated by campaign laws.

The press statement continues:

…By undermining nonprofits’ speech rights, individual privacy is undermined as well.

“Since the 1950s, the Supreme Court has protected donors’ privacy when they contribute to nonprofits, ruling that government officials can’t force advocacy groups to turn over the identities of their supporters to public officials. But Denver’s new ordinance disregards this precedent entirely,” said Goldwater Institute Senior Attorney Matt Miller. “Nonprofits have the right to educate and speak up for what they believe in, and that’s why we’re asking the city of Denver to stop the enforcement of its donor disclosure ordinance.”

Goldwater also quotes the Colorado Union of Taxpayers’ Marty Neilson:

“Putting donors’ names, addresses, employers, and occupations on a government list makes them vulnerable to harassment and intimidation, … Nonprofits should be able to choose whether or not to make their donor lists public in order to persuade people to listen to what they have to say, but that should be their decision to make, not the government.”

The Denver Post reported Wednesday that the Denver Elections Division declined to comment on active litigation.

Goldwater says the Denver law is “the latest in a trend of cities cracking down on nonprofit donors’ First Amendment rights.” Santa Fe, N.M., enacted such a law in 2015, and one is under consideration in Tempe, Ariz.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyNovember 16, 20172min2640

Denver International Airport will grow to address surging passenger traffic after city officials approved a $1.5 billion gate-expansion project earlier this week.

The Denver City Council OK’d a series of design and construction contracts associated with the project Monday night. The 39-gate expansion across the airport’s three concourses is expected to be complete by 2021.

“I think people should know that Denver is growing and that means that their airport has to grow at the same time,” DIA spokesperson Heath Montgomery told Denver7.

DIA officials say the airport must expand to meet climbing passenger traffic. When the airport first opened more than two decades ago, it was designed to accommodate 50 million passengers a year. But DIA passenger traffic has perpetually swelled, exceeding airport capacity last year. The airport set a passenger traffic record last year with 58.3 million traveling through its gates last year.

The new gate expansion is akin to another project recently approved by the city. The $1.8 billion Great Hall Project will overhaul security screening checkpoints and concessions and boost the Jeppesen terminal’s capacity to 80 million passengers a year. Through a 34-year, private-public partnership with Spanish transportation infrastructure behemoth Ferrovial, the project was controversial, in part, because of the City Council’s loss of oversight of new concessions.

DIA’s concourses were initially designed to allow for growth and additional gates, according to the airport. In 2014, five new gates were completed on DIA’s C concourse in a $46 million expansion project to bring the airport’s current gate count to 107.