Thursday, September 3, 2015

Denver Voters Face Five Major Issues in November: Predictions

The November Denver city ballot will be weighted down with significant tax, spending, land use and social agenda issues.

The pre-Labor Day political environment appears calm with little traditional or social media buzz. However, at least two of the issues have attracted some early criticism, suggesting that they may attract the bulk of attention as voting begins in October.

The three major proposals appear to have anticipated the arguments against them and as yet have no opposition. The National Western Stock Show proposal will create a major economic development stimulant in the Brighton Boulevard RINO area, which is already booming from private investments, such as Taxi and Acorn. The Stock Show price tag, which includes improvements to the Downtown Convention Center, is more than a billion dollars, but extends taxes that the Denver voter doesn’t believe they pay or that at least the Denver visitor pays the bulk of.

National Western Stock Show Transformation: Prediction – Passes 

City and County of Denver
Election Issues
November 2015
  • Transformation of the Stock Show. Significant land use changes. Improvements to Convention Center. Permanent extension of hotel and car rental tax. $778 million in bonds plus $250 million bond from State of Colorado for CSU facilities at new National Western complex.
  • Adams and Denver counties’ airport agreement to allow additional commercial use and development. $200 million in future tax revenue split between the counties.
  • TABOR override for marijuana tax revenue.
  • Initiative to allow marijuana at social venues and outdoor smoking patios.
  • Denver proposed sales tax increase to raise $10 million a year for scholarships with $1 million for overhead and administration.
Ciruli Associates 2015
An airport agreement between Adams and Denver counties that reflects compromise to allow 1,500 acres of commercial development and direct hundreds of millions of new tax revenue to the counties. The agreement, reached after tough negotiations, appears to satisfy all the parties, but Adams County voters also get to vote on it and may be less supportive.

Airport Commercial Expansion: Prediction – Passes

Denver underestimated the tax revenue from marijuana sales when it approved the tax in 2013. City needs a TABOR override to keep the revenue for city services. No controversy.

Marijuana, TABOR Override: Prediction – Passes

The city is on less secure ground on its proposed sales tax increase for college tuition grants. The proposal has been around for years, but never quite gathered sufficient support to be taken seriously. Finally, Denver City Council approved it, with four members opposed and many others claiming they were only approving the proposal to place it on the ballot without an endorsement or with reservations.

The Denver Post provided a clear and early opposition mostly based on it not being a city function in a municipal climate that has a host of higher priorities. Opposing City Council members raised issues of accountability and control (tuition increases, money for out-of-state colleges, etc.).

College Tax Funds: Prediction – Loses 

Finally, creation of legal spaces to consume marijuana in public will test voter tolerance for more marijuana commercialization. Although Denver is supposedly the nation’s capital of Millennials, the November electorate will be smaller, older and more likely to have families or have been residents for decades, not a few years. Denver residents will be deciding their interest in enhancing the city’s reputation as a marijuana capital of America. A major campaign against it was being organized, and sensing a likely loss, proponents pulled it off the ballot and will attempt to pressure Denver City government to legalize pot bars by ordinance. Had it lost as predicted, the marijuana promotion industry would have suffered a major setback in what has been a mostly hospitable run of legislation and ballot victories.

Marijuana Patios: Prediction – Loses (pulled from ballot)

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