2021 election guide: 13 measures face voters on Denver’s crowded ballot
Police oversight, housing issues and $450 million bond package at stake
The Denver skyline on July 23, 2020. (Quentin Young/Colorado Newsline)
Thanks to a multipart bond package, five citizen-initiated measures and a pair of civic reforms backed by City Council, Denver voters will have what election officials say is likely a record number of ballot questions to decide on this November.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure investments, high-stakes housing policies and the future of the Park Hill Golf Course property are among the issues that voters in the Mile High City will weigh in on.
The first five measures on Denver’s 2021 ballot are questions referred by City Council as part of a $450 million infrastructure bond package, with the proposal broken up into the following categories:
- Referred Question 2A, Denver Facilities System Bonds: If approved, this measure would provide $104 million for a variety of upgrades and maintenance projects at Denver libraries, museums and entertainment venues.
- Referred Question 2B, Denver Housing and Sheltering System Bonds: This measure would direct $38.6 million towards the “acquisition, conversion and/or construction” of shelters for people experiencing homelessness.
- Referred Question 2C, Denver Transportation and Mobility System Bonds: This measure would spend $63.3 million on bike and pedestrian projects, road reconstruction and other “transportation safety improvements.”
- Referred Question 2D, Denver Parks and Recreation System Bonds: This measure would provide $54 million for construction and maintenance projects in Denver parks.
- Referred Question 2E, National Western Campus Facilities System Bonds: If approved, this measure would spend $190 million on upgrades to the National Western Center, including construction of a brand-new arena.
Mayor Michael Hancock’s initial proposal for a single $450 million bond question met with resistance from City Council members, who questioned the benefits that a large expenditure on National Western Center upgrades would bring to historically disadvantaged neighborhoods in north Denver.
Altogether, city officials estimate that the bond package would create nearly 7,600 jobs and result in more than $1 billion in added economic output for the city.
Three other referred measures that will appear on the ballot:
- Referred Question 2F, Safe and Sound: If approved, this measure would overturn a February vote by City Council to raise the number of unrelated people who are allowed to live together in a single housing unit from two to five. It was placed on the ballot after a group opposed to the group-living changes, Safe and Sound Denver, submitted 13,642 valid signatures to challenge the city council’s decision on the ballot.
- Referred Question 2G, Fill Future Vacancies for Independent Monitor: Referred to the ballot by a unanimous City Council vote, this measure would revoke the mayor’s power to appoint the head of the Office of the Independent Monitor, the city official tasked with overseeing police disciplinary investigations, and instead place it in the hands of the city’s volunteer Citizen Oversight Board.
- Referred Question 2H, Election Day Change: This measure, referred by City Council at the recommendation of Clerk and Recorder Paul Lopez, would move Denver’s municipal election date from May to April, beginning with the 2023 election. Lopez says the move will give city elections officials more time to make preparations and send mail ballots in the event of runoff elections, which would still be held in June.
In addition to referred ballot questions, five citizen-initiated measures made the ballot after the submission of more than the required 9,184 valid petition signatures:
- Initiated Ordinance 300, Pandemic Research Fund: This measure would raise Denver’s municipal sales tax on marijuana purchase from 5.5% to 7%, and direct the revenue raised towards pandemic research at the University of Colorado Denver’s CityCenter. The measure is backed by Delaware-based group Guarding Against Pandemics, which as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit is not required to disclose its donors.
- Initiated Ordinance 301, Parks and Open Space Preservation: If approved, this measure would prohibit “any commercial or residential development” on city parks and land protected by a conservation easement, and prohibit the city from canceling a conservation easement, without the approval of voters. Backed by city leaders including former state Rep. Penfield Tate III, the measure would impact the proposed development of the former Park Hill Golf Course.
- Initiated Ordinance 302, Conservation Easement: Backed by Westside Investment Partners, the group proposing the development of Park Hill Golf Course, this measure is a response to Initiated Ordinance 301. It would redefine “conservation easement” in Denver’s municipal code to apply only to certifications made by the state Division of Conservation, effectively neutralizing Initiated Ordinance 301.
- Initiated Ordinance 303, Let’s Do Better: One of two measures filed by Garrett Flicker, chair of the Denver Republican Party, this measure aims to require stricter enforcement of Denver’s camping ban, including by “providing a process for private enforcement if the City fails to enforce unauthorized camping.” It would also allow Denver to “establish up to four authorized camping locations on public property” throughout the city.
- Initiated Ordinance 304, Enough Taxes Already: Also filed by Flicker, this measure seeks to cap Denver’s sales tax rates by inserting a “maximum tax” clause into its municipal code. Its impact is likely to be minimal, since as an ordinance, rather than a city charter amendment, the provision could be repealed by City Council, and Denver sales tax hikes are already subject to voter-approval requirements under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
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