We begin our recommendations for the questions on the Denver ballot for 2018 with the observation of a disturbing trend among them: most of the funding for the purposes described in the questions are based on regressive sales taxes that fundamentally and inequitably impact the most economically-fragile residents of our city. We pay particular attention to the fact that these sales taxes are also levied on foods for immediate consumption and that many of our unhoused and/or working-class neighbors often depend on convenience stores and fast food restaurants to subsist.
The sales taxes raised by these questions also serve to provide administrative funds for services that will be administered by local nonprofits, to the total tune of some $8.1 million dollars (using the 2017 sales and use tax revenues as the basis) a year. We would prefer those funds to go directly to the expansion of existing city-managed services or even to direct benefits paid to the city’s most vulnerable communities.
The total revenues that would be raised via these ballot questions would be approximately $162,400,00, using the 2017 sales tax revenues cited in Denver’s 2017 Community Report (page 11).
We note that the 2017 Denver city budget lists two expenditures in particular, $707,981,000 for “public safety” compared to $229,456,000 spent on combined health and human services administered by the city, which clearly demonstrates the city government’s funding priorities, a difference of more than $478 million. There have been $106,899,713 in TIF revenues to DURA during 2016; or in other words, tax revenues are being diverted away from the city treasury to fund infrastructure for private, for-profit development. We also note that between 2004 and early 2017, Denver paid out settlements totaling $27.7 million for claims against the Denver Police and Sheriffs.
We clearly have enough money to provide these services without raising taxes. Essentially, these services would be paid for via a cycle of economic injustice that our city’s most vulnerable populations will be compelled to bear.
Ordinance 300: College Affordability Fund: NO
This proposed ordinance is sponsored by Denver Chamber of Commerce and is primarily funded by the Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF). In our estimation, it seems likely that DSF will be the administering nonprofit organization, and they will recoup their campaign finance expenses in the first year and refill their coffers with nearly $700,000 every year. We believe this ordinance would pass on corporate philanthropy to the taxpayer. Instead, these funds could be paid directly to students as an “education stimulus” or applied toward the goal of free college tuition for any post-secondary program of the student’s choice.
Ordinance 301: Caring 4 Denver: NO
While we are extremely sympathetic to the aims of this proposed ordinance, we would prefer revenue to go directly to public mental health providers, instead of to nonprofits that will siphon off 5% of revenues for administrative costs. We agree with the first-year plan to build a public mental health center. We don’t believe that this should be an appointed board, especially as the current administration has shown itself to ignore the mental health needs of the section of the unhoused population that suffer mental health traumas.
Ordinance 302: Healthy Kids: NO
It is with a heavy heart that the Denver Green Party has decided not to support this proposed ordinance. We wholeheartedly support the intent of the ballot initiative of making fresh produce available to children and providing horticultural education. However, we do not have the heart to advocate for a .08% regressive tax on taxable foods to fund 302. These types of taxes that burden the less financially privileged citizens directly conflict with the Denver Green Party’s value of economic justice and should not become commonplace in our city.
Evidenced-based legislation goes beyond “does the law provide a measurable outcome to show it achieved its goal,” and includes using the best scientific evidence and systematically collected data to write new laws. It is the opinion of the Denver Green Party that Ordinance 302 fails our evidenced-based legislation litmus test, and we challenge the citizens of Denver to search their hearts and find a better solution than “nickel and diming poor Peter with taxes to nourish Peter Jr.”
2A: Increase sales taxes to pay for parks: NO
In a city where our homeless neighbors face reprisals for surviving on public lands under the urban camping ban, this proposed measure would ask them to pay for parks they cannot use.
2B: Ballot initiative fix: NO
The voter turnout for mayoral elections is directly related to the attractiveness of candidates. This potentially punishes Denver voters for wanting to take matters into their own hands when their elected officials cannot be bothered to do the will of the people.
2C: Police hiring flexibility: NO
This initiative attempts to fix a problem that really isn’t a real problem for Denver. So long as any police initiative avoids putting law enforcement under community control, or any sensible measures like mandating a review of a police officer’s track record on excessive force or other complaints that violate human rights, we believe that any other “reform” is not a true reform.
2D: Deputy Clerk and Recorder as at-will employee: YES
For the elected Clerk and Recorder to have the power to appoint their own deputy creates a situation where cronyism can flourish, and this employee may not necessarily have to be subject to hiring and diversity guidelines mandated for all city employees.
2E: Democracy for the People: YES
The Green Party has long been in support of publicly-funded elections, and this initiative levels the playing field for grassroots candidates.
7G: Urban Drainage and Flood Control District: NO
The initiative language includes “removing debris, garbage and obstructions from streams, creeks and rivers,” so it becomes conceivable that revenues raised by this initiative might be used to remove homeless encampments along rivers and creeks. The concern about the impact of development on the waterways needs to be addressed in local zoning ordinances. Denver needs to be transparent about how much it spends to impose the urban camping ban, instead of passing off the cost to an obscure district.