Denver City Council opposes Initiated Ordinances 303 and 304

Published on October 05, 2021

Tonight, Denver City Council unanimously passed two proclamations declaring opposition to Initiated Ordinances 303 and 304 that will appear on the November 2021 ballot. The opposition expressed in the proclamations was based on the extreme legal liability that could cost Denver taxpayers millions, while at the same time slashing critical funding for resident services, just as Denver begins to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

“These measures are unprecedented both in the dark-money pouring in behind them, as well as the chaos they intend to create by defunding housing, homeless and mental health services at the very same time they make the city liable to anyone who sues over a camp,” said Councilwoman Robin Kniech. “That is why City Council spoke tonight, to help inform voters of the harm Initiatives 303 and 304 could cause.”

On the Proclamation in Opposition to Initiative 303:
“On its face, Initiative 303 looks promising for Denverites. However, the devil is in the details, and these devilish details will create a legal quagmire, an unfunded mandate, and ultimately will hinder, not help, the City’s approach to housing and homelessness,” said District 10 Councilman Chris Hinds.

The proclamation in opposition to 303 explains that unauthorized camping is already illegal in Denver. The city provides constitutionally-required notice and removes multiple encampments each week. But the initiative would require the City to enforce the unauthorized camping ordinance within 72 hours of receiving a complaint, with no exceptions, or face costly lawsuits from any individual. The proclamation pointed out that the initiative’s 72-hour timeline directly contradicts the 7-day timeline established in a federal court legal settlement and a federal judicial order for notice prior to the cleanup of large-scale encampment cleanups. “Unsheltered homelessness is a challenge in every city in America and the people of Denver understandably are seeking solutions, but 303 only creates unresolvable legal conflicts that would leave the people of Denver to foot the bill, not solutions to homelessness,” observed Councilman Paul Kashmann.

On the Proclamation in Opposition to Initiative 304:
Councilman Jolon Clark stated “Initiative 304 would reduce funding for services that Denver voters have already approved, it is deceptive, anti-democratic, and effectively negates the voice of Denver voters.”

The proclamation in opposition to Initiative 304 explains that it would prompt immediate cuts, before the end of 2021, ranging from $4.7 to $8 million dollars. These would be followed by $50-80 million in cuts to resident services in 2022 and every year after. The proclamation outlines “cuts to essential resident services such as road repairs, park maintenance, mental health, homeless services and fire protection....[T]he scale of these cuts could be the equivalent of having to cut: 390 uniformed police, sheriff or firefighters; the entire Denver Public Library budget; or all city funding dedicated to current and future parks.” Initiative 304 would also force cuts to voter-approved investments in parks, climate, homelessness resolution, mental health, college scholarships and Healthy Food for Kids.

On Both:
Council Pro-Tem Jamie Torres noted that as a package “Initiatives 303 and 304 create financial nightmares for our city just as we are emerging from the fiscal impact of the pandemic. We should be focused on building Denver back stronger for our residents and small businesses, and not on cutting millions from city services.”

Likewise, Council President Stacie Gilmore said “Initiatives 303 and 304 claim to address some of the most complex problems in Denver and the nation, while carving away at our toolkit! If these initiatives pass, there is no doubt in my mind that Denver will only be setback in its efforts.”

The proclamations urge Denver voters to reject Initiatives 303 and 304 on Denver’s November 2021 ballot.

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