(The Center Square) – The Denver City Council unanimously adopted two proclamations on Monday night declaring the body’s opposition to two initiated ordinances that will appear on the November ballot.
Initiative 303 would require Denver to crack down on unauthorized camping and provide "a process for private enforcement if the City fails to enforce unauthorized camping," according to the measure's language. It also proposes creating four authorized public spots for the city's homeless population.
Initiative 304 proposes lowering the city's sales and use tax by .31% to 4.5%.
In a press release, City Council described the two initiated ordinances as “extreme legal liabilit[ies] 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,” Councilwoman Robin Kniech said in a statement. “That is why City Council spoke tonight, to help inform voters of the harm Initiatives 303 and 304 could cause.”
Both Initiative 303 and 304 were submitted by Garrett Flicker, the chair of Denver GOP. According to records from the Clerk and Recorder’s Office, both ordinances have received $117,500 each in funding from Defend Denver, which describes itself as "an action-based organization that forcefully opposes measures that harm Colorado businesses and jobs."
Flicker did not immediately respond to The Center Square's request for comment.
Initiative 304 would cut between $4.7 and $8 million in sales tax revenue from the city’s budget, according to Denver's ballot guide.
The council's proclamation on the initiative claims the cuts would come to public services "such as road repairs, park maintenance, mental health, homeless services and fire protection — at a time when Denver is doing everything possible to recover from the pandemic."
The council's proclamation on Initiative 303 calls it a "sledgehammer approach" that "enables a nebulous and vigilante-like 'private enforcement' for any unauthorized encampments after 72 hours with no exception for court orders or processes designed to protect Constitutional rights."
A recent study by the Common Sense Institute estimates that $434.6 million is spent annually on homelessness, which includes $217 million spent by charitable groups.
The city is also facing a lawsuit that alleges the city's zoning administrators “unilaterally and illegally authorized the creation of homeless encampments” without public notice or hearings.