These seven questions will appear on Denver ballots in the November election

For Denver residents, the November midterm election will decide more than who holds the governor’s office, who represents the city in Congress and who sits under the capitol’s gold dome next year.

Should property owners pay annual fees to fund sidewalk construction and repairs citywide? Where should the money come from to support the expanding Denver Public Library system into the future? Should apartments, condos and commercial buildings be required to offer on-site recycling and compost collections? 

Those questions and more will be before voters when the city clerk and recorder’s office begin mailing out ballots on Oct. 17.

It won’t be 2021 when a heap of citizen-led initiatives led to a city ballot that was 13 questions long but with seven initiatives on the ballot, there will be plenty for discerning voters to think about. 

To give Denverites a leg up, here is a summary of the city’s 2022 ballot initiatives: 

Referred Question 2I (The Denver Public Library tax) The Denver Public Library system is adding two new branches with the help of taxpayer-supported bond funding. The property tax increase the city council referred to the ballot this year however would be focused on funding the library’s services into the future. This measure asks voters to approve increasing the city’s mill levy property tax rate to raise an extra $36 million in 2023. That funding would help the library system grow collections of books and other media, expand branch hours to nights and weekends, improve job search tools and other resources for patrons, increase pay for staff and more, officials say.

Referred Question 2J (Lifting TABOR limits on the climate tax): In 2020, Denver voters passed a 0.25% sales tax increase to fund climate action initiatives in the city. Because of Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights law, or TABOR, the city is now obligated to return revenue collected through that tax that came in over published projections. That total is $1.3 million in 2021, according to this city. This measure would allow the city to keep that money and keep collecting the tax in the manner voters approved two years ago. 

Referred Question 2K (Lifting TABOR limits on homeless resolution tax): Denver voters also passed a 0.25% sales tax increase in 2020 to fund efforts to combat homelessness. Revenues collected through that tax in excess of projections in 2021 also totaled $1.3 million, according to the city. This measure would allow the city to keep that money and keep collecting the tax as adopted. 

Referred Question 2L (Denver ballot modernization): This measure would make a handful of changes to the city charter to update the way the city handles elections. It would install a “single subject” requirement for new ballot initiatives to prevent voter confusion and mirror the existing statewide single subject requirement. It would also move up deadlines by which city council, mayoral and other candidates for city offices must be certified for the ballot to 75 days from 55 to fit mail ballot timelines. It would change the way the titles of initiatives, referendums and recalls are set, putting that power in the hands of the clerk and recorder but requiring city council staff and the city attorney’s office to be consulted. Public comment will be sought during title setting. If adopted, ballot question wording would no longer be governed by the charter, but by city ordinance. 

Initiated Ordinance 305 (No Eviction Without Representation): This measure would enact a new tax on landlords to set up a free legal advice and defense program for renters facing eviction in the city. The tax would start out at $75 per rental unit per year and then move with the cost of inflation. It is expected to bring in close to $12 million in its first year. 

Initiated Ordinance 306 (Waste No More): As the city moves to divert more waste from landfills by pivoting to a pay-as-you-throw model for people living in houses, this ballot measure would target the waste stream from other types of properties as well as special events. The ordinance would require apartment and condo buildings to offer recycling and/or composting services to residents. Nonresidential buildings that also contribute to the food waste stream — like restaurants and sports arenas — would also be required to offer those services. The measure would further require educational materials about recycling and composting procedures to be posted in English and Spanish. 

Food trucks and special events would also be subject to new composting and recycling rules. Finally, the construction and demolition industry would be required to recycle salvageable materials and submit recycling and reuse plans to the city. The city’s transportation and infrastructure department would be tasked with writing complete rules and determining penalties for people who fail to comply. 

Initiative Ordinance 307 (Denver Deserves Sidewalks): Today in Denver, property owners are on the hook for 100% of the costs of repairing, replacing or installing a sidewalk that runs along their land. This ordinance would replace that arrangement with an annual fee program. Property owners would pay fees by the foot depending on the type of sidewalk in their neighborhoods. The fees would fund a citywide sidewalk program and take the responsibility for repairs out of property owners’ hands. The ordinance would also require the city to come up with a citywide sidewalk master plan.

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