Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca's decision to break from the rest of Denver City Council and not voluntarily take eight furlough days in solidarity with city employees has been a polarizing move.
While she characterized her refusal to agree to a furlough as a protest against the city's budgeting process, when asked about CdeBacas's stance at a May 14 press conference, Mayor Michael Hancock responded with this:
"Jeremiah said, If I am a voice of justice for my people but I don’t lead with love, with a strong work ethic, with a willingness to strategize on solutions, and to come to the table with a collaborative spirit, then I’m just a resounding bong and clamoring cymbal." (For the record, that's actually a paraphrase of Paul, who used "gong," not "bong," but it was a nice Colorado twist.)
Overall, the eight furlough days that Mayor Michael Hancock ordered Denver workers to take are expected to save $16 million for the city, which is looking at a predicted $226 million budget shortfall. Twelve members of council agreed to give up the equivalent of eight days' pay; that represents a total of about $36,000.
And what does CdeBaca plan to do with the $3,000 that other councilmembers will send back to the city? "Our office will use what would be our furlough savings to continue giving back directly to those who need it most in our community," she says.
But it's not quite that simple. If CdeBaca opts for writing a check to her office, as the other members will do to the city treasury, the money will have to be designated for a specific purpose.
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"They can donate money, but it has to go into a special revenue fund for donations and it has to be earmarked for something specific. They can't put it just in their operating budget and spend it however they like," says Stacy Simonet, a council spokesperson. But since council district budgets are being cut 3 percent across the board, CdeBaca could write a check earmarked for a specific purpose at her District 9 council office.
CdeBaca hasn't yet decided whether she'll write a check to charity or her own office, she says: "We are probably going to poll folks, because we have several ideas."
Among those ideas: sending money to people who didn't get help from the city's Temporary Rental and Utility Assistance program or helping to fund a temporary safe camping site for homeless individuals, which has been in the works for weeks. Or the money could go toward aid for undocumented immigrants or renters who are unionizing.
"We will assess what we are being forced to give up and what it will take to keep our efforts going, and where we can make the most meaningful impact," CdeBaca promises. "We are fighting our office gutting as well."