Adam McCoyAdam McCoyApril 23, 20183min989

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.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyApril 23, 20183min500

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.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyApril 9, 20182min691

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.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyMarch 22, 20183min939

Denver is studying how to best implement its new voter-approved mandate on green roofs.

The city has formed a 24-member Green Roofs Review Task Force, 9news reports, which will convene for its fifth meeting on Wednesday. The panel is tasked with determining how to enact the rules of the ordinance and whether those rules needs to be adjusted.

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. The city ranks third in the nation for urban heat island effect.

At least one city official bemoaned that the city would have to convene a committee to vet the implications and logistics of the Green Roof ordinance.

In an op-ed piece in January, Denver City Councilwoman Kendra Black wrote the city would have to form a panel to do the homework the activists behind the Green Roof ordinance didn’t do before it was put before Denver voters for consideration.

Black wrote she had faith the panel would present “reasonable compromises” to City Council on the Green Roof ordinance. The Denver City Council can modify or repeal the green roof ordinance after six months but would require a two-thirds majority vote. The panel is expected to have eight meetings total and will provide its first briefing to the City Council on April 2.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyMarch 22, 20183min524

Legal aid is on the way for immigrants in Denver who might be deported.

A city-organized legal defense fund — announced this week by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on the steps of City Hall under a large “Denver loves immigrants” banner — will launch with an initial $385,000 in its coffers. Hancock initially established the fund over the summer through executive order. The Denver Foundation will administer the fund, distributing grants to non-profit organizations providing legal representation to Denverites.

“Denver’s immigrant community plays a vital role in our city,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement. ”This fund will further our ability to meet a core mission – to preserve and protect families and children living in Denver.”

A mixture of revenue sources will fund the beginnings of the legal defense fund including $200,000 from the city’s general fund; $5,000 from the Denver Foundation; and $30,000 from the Rose Community Foundation. The fund will also receive an infusion from a $100,000 Vera Institute Safety & Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Cities Network catalyst grant. Hancock has also put out a call to the business community for help supporting the fund.

The fund will also aid those seeking protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program. An Obama-era program, DACA protects undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children often referred to as dreamers from deportation. President Donald Trump said he would pull the plug on DACA in March, but court rulings have sustained the program.

Over the summer, Denver passed the Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act, articulating its policy of not cooperating with federal authorities in immigration enforcement.  


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyMarch 19, 20183min681

It’s been about a month since Denver police offered to take bump stocks off any owner’s hands as the city’s ban on the device officially became active.

Yet, no such device has been surrendered, Denverite reports.

In late January, Denver became among the first cities in the country to institute a ban on bump stocks — the device reportedly used by the shooter in the Las Vegas massacre to increase his weapons’ rate of fire.

As the ban went into effect, the Denver Police Department said in February to avoid being in violation of the newly-enacted ordinance, any residents with bump stocks can now turn them over to the authorities.

Bump stocks replace an assault rifle’s standard stock and free 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 bump stock measure, crafted by candidate for state Senate Alan Kennedy-Shaffer and introduced by Councilman Rafael Espinoza, amended the city’s existing ordinance banning assault weapons to make it illegal to sell, carry, store or otherwise possess a bump stock.

The measure also now makes it unlawful to have a magazine capable of holding more than 15 rounds. The old standard was 21 rounds in Denver; the change will bring the city into compliance with existing state law.

Denver joined Columbia, S.C., believed to be the first city to institute a ban according to NPR, in being the among the first cities to pass legislation related to bump stocks.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyMarch 5, 20184min1893

Last week, two-term Denver Mayor Michael Hancock admitted to sending inappropriate text messages to Denver Police Detective Leslie Branch-Wise when she was an officer serving on his security detail in 2012.

Denver7’s Tony Kovaleski first broke the story , airing out the slew of text messages from Hancock to Branch-Wise, six years ago.

“You look sexy in all that black,” he texted after seeing Branch-Wise on TV at a Denver Nuggets game.

Hancock quickly responded in a written statement and video, writing in part “During Detective Branch-Wise’s time on the security team, we became friends, but my text messages in 2012 blurred the lines between being a friend and being a boss.”

“But let me be clear — my behavior did not involve sexual advances or inappropriate physical contact,” Hancock said. The mayor has reportedly also sent a handwritten apology to Branch-Wise and a memo to city staff.

But Branch-Wise, in the Denver7 piece, said she was a victim of sexual harassment and pointed out that Hancock, her boss, was showering her with inappropriate texts. “Who do you tell if he’s at the top,” she asked.

Hancock is said to be jockeying for a third term as Denver mayor next year, but Democratic insiders have pointed to him as a potential challenger to U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020 or a gubernatorial candidate in 2022, Colorado Politics’ own Joey Bunch reports.

As the mile high city’s principal executive, Hancock has garnered national attention for navigating a city that has become a showcase for its recreational marijuana commerce and growth.

But should Hancock resign in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations? Colorado Independent’s Mike Littwin wrote in a column this week:

“I’m not ready to call for his resignation. There’s no allegation of physical contact and, to this point, there is only the one charge, six years old, that he harassed anyone. But that doesn’t mean this should be over,” Littwin writes. “First, Hancock has to concede that what he did was, in fact, sexual harassment. If he doesn’t understand that, he doesn’t understand the issue. And that’s unacceptable. And then there’s the even more critical point — whether or not this was a one-off.”

Others have called for Hancock’s resignation and police organizations like the Denver Fraternal Order of Police and Denver Police Protective Association have called for officials to be held accountable for their behavior.

“While we are aware that this isn’t the first time the Mayor’s name has been associated with sexual scandal, we consider the allegations against Mayor Michael Hancock very serious. We urge the people of Denver to be adamant that our City officials are held accountable to the highest standard for their behavior and actions,” DPPA wrote in a statement according to Westword.

In statements, Councilwoman Debra Ortega called the allegations disappointing while Council President Albus Brooks said “the Mayor has rightfully apologized and I trust that he and his administration are taking the appropriate steps to learn from this lesson so it won’t happen again.”

“In this situation, Denver City Council has no legal authority to take any action on behalf of this employee or against the Mayor,” Brooks continued.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyFebruary 26, 20182min2145

Denver City Council President Albus Brooks is the focus of a complaint alleging he violated campaign finance rules.

Specifically, the complaint filed by nonprofit Strengthening Democracy Colorado alleges Brooks improperly used city staff and official social media accounts to promote a campaign fundraiser.

Denverite’s Andrew Kenney got the scoop over the weekend detailing the complaint:

Brooks is hosting a “39th Birthday Bash & Campaign Event,” a March 10 party with drinks and a so-called silent disco. Attendees will pay $10 toward Brooks’ re-election fund for council District 9.

The complaint, filed by the nonprofit Strengthening Democracy Colorado, focuses on the promotion of the event. It argues that one of Brooks’ city office staffers improperly worked on planning the event during “working hours.” It also calls into question his use of the Albus Brooks: Denver City Council President Facebook page.

This is (public resources) supporting a campaign for a candidate individually,” said Jason Legg, a co-founder of the nonprofit. His group is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that says it’s focused on government integrity.

Brooks has denied the allegations, arguing the staff member that created a Facebook event on the council president’s official page promoting the fundraiser had clocked out and taken paid time off, Kenney writes. He also said the social media account is not connected to city government, noting his “ Facebook and Twitter are not on city dime.”