A sales tax increase focused on reducing the city’s climate footprint, 2A will raise sales tax by .25% or 2.5 cents on every $10 spent. Funds would be spent on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution through investment in renewable energy sources, neighborhood climate programs, and programs aimed at increasing energy efficiency in homes and offices. Some essential items like food, medicine, and hygiene products are exempt from the tax increase.
Pro: Advocates argue that the city needs to do more to fight climate change and this effort can both create jobs and reduce environmental hazards. Lower income families are disproportionately harmed by pollution, have higher rates of ailments such as asthma, etc. Half of the revenue generated will be dedicated to underserved and vulnerable communities.
Con: Opponents note that sales taxes are considered regressive taxes, meaning they can disproportionately harm lower income families who will have to pay more for basic goods. Additionally, opponents argue that the language is too vague on what funds will actually be spent on and there is no sunset clause, meaning the tax will continue indefinitely.
Another sales tax increase of .25% of 2.5 cents per $10 spent, 2B is aimed at addressing homeless in the city. The funding should allow Denver to build another 1,800 homes with supportive services over 10 years, increase the number of shelter beds, and otherwise provide services for people experiencing homelessness.
Pro: Advocates argue that Denver has had to reduce the number of shelter beds for health reasons in the pandemic even as unemployment and homelessness has increased, showing that the city has a severe need for increased funds. This tax will also fund more innovative programs such as expanding tiny homes and hiring more street outreach workers.
Con: Opponents argue that, like other sales tax increases, basic goods will cost more, disproportionately impacting the same people the measure is focused on helping. Additionally, opponents note that the biggest nonprofit organization contracted has executive compensation over $250,000 annually and significant lobbying expenditures, indicating that the city could use existing funds better.
2C grants the Denver City Council the authority to hire professional services without executive (Mayoral) approval. For example, when the council was responding to sexual harassment complaints agains the mayor, questions arose about whether council had the authority to hire their own attorney or were forced to use the city attorney, who is appointed by the mayor. 2C clarifies the issue, granting council that authority.
Pro: Proponents argue this gives city council the ability to better do their jobs without having to rely on the Mayor’s office to approve professional services. At times when the council and executive branch are in disagreement, this gives the council more ability to act autonomously.
Con: While proponents say the city will not incur additional costs because it shifts some workload to different staff or contractors, it is possible that with additional services procured there will be additional cost to the city.
2D creates a Board of Transportation and Infrastructure for the city. Because it assumes to use existing staff and contract resources, there are no additional costs outlined in the measure. The mayor would appoint 6 of the members and each council member can appoint 1, for a total of 19 members. Board members are unpaid.
Pro: Proponents argue this is the next logical step after voters approved a charter change to create the Department of Transportation in 2019. Creation of a robust board shows the importance the city is placing on addressing transportation issues and the appointment mechanism ensures a diverse board with input from across the city.
Con: Some opponents question whether another board actually makes the government more streamlined and accountable and note that it is possible that there will be unexpected costs to the city despite the assumption of being able to use existing resources.
2E would give the Denver City Council more oversight of departments by requiring 14 mayoral appointees to receive council approval: 11 cabinet positions, the county sheriff, and the police and fire chiefs.
Pro: Denver is the only strong-mayor system in the state that does not require some form of council approval and advocates argue that this will balance power more evenly between council and the mayor’s office while maintaining the mayor’s ability to select appointees.
Con: Opponents argue that the current city council which is advocating for more authority has not used the authority they have well, such as when council terminated halfway house contracts with no alternatives planned.
2F changes the requirements for city council meetings. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Denver City Council faced challenges regarding public meetings and public input. Specifically, 2F removes language requiring council to meet in chambers on Mondays, allowing for more remote meetings.
Pro: Proponents argue that the language was antiquated and the council needs more flexibility in terms of meeting times and locations due to the pandemic or other future emergencies, including meeting virtually. It also adds language about executive sessions.
Con: Opponents are concerned that this measure can make council less accountable as they no longer need to meet in chambers, even when the pandemic ends, which limits public input and access.
2G grants Denver City Council the ability to make changes to the city budget after the annual budget is adopted, changing existing spending or utilizing new funds that became available after the annual budget is set. The Mayor already has this ability.
Pro: Proponents argue that this measure helps balance Denver’s power structure, granting council a similar ability to the Mayor. Budgets as large as the city’s are not static documents to be looked at once a year and it needs to be altered to meet the changing needs of the city.
Con: Opponents argue that council constantly tweaking the budget can be disruptive to city services and that council doesn’t have the staff or resources to be constantly evaluating the budget outside of the annual budget review.
2H exempts Denver from a statewide ban on municipalities creating their own broadband services, potentially paving the way for internet access to be treated as a public utility not unlike water, trash service, etc. It does not create a broadband service but allows for the possibility at a later time. There is no expected cost at this time.
Pro: Proponents compare internet access to library access, arguing that information should be available to everyone. The pandemic has highlighted economic inequities, including within Denver Public Schools. While remote learning is now standard, some lower income families do not have the means to purchase high speed internet at home. Based on census data, it’s estimated that thousands of Denver residents do not have broadband access at home.
Con: Opponents argue that the statewide ban was passed by a bipartisan group of legislators and should be respected. Additionally, Denver is already well served by multiple private companies offering high speed internet and government shouldn’t compete with private business.
2I clarifies language regarding the number of staff Denver’s Clerk and Recorder can appoint, with the intent of making staff more accountable to the elected clerk. The Clerk wants more high level staff to be appointed instead of career service. As it does not necessarily add additional staff, it is considered budget neutral.
Pro: Proponents argue that the clerk is accountable to voters and therefore the elected clerk should have the authority to appoint high level staff accountable to them. This gives a new clerk more ability to select staff appropriate to the vision they have for the office and allows greater flexibility in specific job roles and titles.
Con: Opponents are concerned that the measure removes “employ a director of elections” from the charter as they see that as a vital role. Also, more appointees as opposed to career service employees could lead to a loss of institutional knowledge in the office.
2J creates provisional licensing for pit bull dogs, which are currently illegal in Denver. If passed, pit bulls must be microchipped in addition to other new requirements. There is no change for dogs that are not pitbulls. A similar effort passed city council and was vetoed by the mayor, resulting in council unanimously referring this measure to the ballot.
Pro: Proponents argue that breed specific bans are costly and ineffective, estimating the city has spent $5.8million to enforce the ban over the last 30 years and the city has better use for the funds, especially now. Organizations including the American Veterinary Medical Association have come out against such bans, noting the pit bulls do not have a disproportionately higher rate or severity of human injuries. The Denver Dumb Friends League also supports the repeal.
Con: Opponents argue the ban is still needed, noting that it was enacted in 1989 after 20 people had been attacked by pit bulls over the previous 5 years. No pit bull related fatalities have been reported since the ban went into effect. Additionally, several other Colorado cities, including Aurora, Commerce City, Lone Tree, and Louisville all have similar bans, showing that Denver is not alone in their rejection of pit bull ownership.
4A is a mill levy, a type of property tax used to fund school districts. The Denver Public Schools Board of Education is asking for a tax increase of up to $32 million per year to fund lower wage workers in the district which increases over the course of four years. Based on an average home value of $465,000, DPS estimates the average property tax increase will be $51 in the first year. That property tax increase can increase to approximately $133 per year after four years.
Pro: Proponents argue that DPS needs additional resources, especially with the increased costs of educating during the pandemic. Funds will go to nurses, mental health professionals, and other lower wage workers in the district. Teachers will also receive cost of living increases. DPS has faced unprecedented expenses adapting to remote learning and needs the additional funds to continue to provide a quality education to all students.
Con: Opponents question the frequency of which DPS has asked for mill levy increases, including $56.6 million in 2016. Opponents would like to see greater transparency regarding how past funds were spent, arguing that DPS spent past mill levy funds on different projects than advertised. Additionally, they argue that raising taxes on homeowners during a pandemic only exacerbates the economic problems many people, especially low income families, are facing.
4B is a bond for Denver Public Schools, also referred to the ballot by the DPS Board of Education. If passed, 4B will increase DPS’s debt by $795 million with a repayment of no more than $1,500 million. Funds will be used to build, repair, and improve DPS facilities, including but not limited to adding schools and classrooms, roof repairs, adding cooling systems, and purchasing technology.
Pro: Proponents argue that DPS needs another bond in order to improve and maintain facilities, including adding cooling systems to older schools without air conditioning. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic exhausted DPS’ supply of technology as the district has given families computers, hot spots, and other items to use at home. DPS will need to purchase additional technology, especially if remote learning continues.
Con: Opponents are concerned about the amount of debt DPS continues to take on and the interest now being paid on that debt, arguing that maxing out one credit card is not a good reason to open another. Opponents also argue that DPS diverted funds from past bonds to different projects than they listed when asking voters to borrow more. DPS’ last bond was for $572 million and was passed in 2016. In the most recent fiscal year, DPS paid $236 million in interest and principal for past bonds, over $134 million of which was for interest and fiscal charges.