With City of Denver employees ordered to take eight-day furloughs in the coming months, twelve members of Denver City Council have voluntarily agreed to take furloughs themselves to show support for city staff. That's all but one of the councilmembers, as Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca has decided not to take furlough days, out of what she says is a protest against the Hancock administration.
"Employees have the right to the truth about our city finances, and the symbolic gesture of electeds writing a check back for a furlough in solidarity with furloughed city workers fails to meaningfully address the plight of those who cannot afford to lose ANY days," CdeBaca says. "I refuse personally to give any dollars back to a general fund being so grossly mismanaged. Our office will use what would be our furlough savings to continue giving back directly to those who need it most in our community."
CdeBaca's decision comes a day after Mayor Michael Hancock emailed city employees to announce the furloughs.
"From the start, we took steps to mitigate the budget impact: We suspended hiring, reduced spending, tapped into emergency funds, reduced agency budgets and identified other citywide savings. But it is clear these measures will not be enough to close the budget gap. As a result, we must now deploy eight budgeted furlough days in 2020 to save an additional $16 million in the General Fund," Hancock wrote on May 13.
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Budget officials expect the city to be short $226 million in revenue this year, primarily because of a projected decline in sales tax revenue. If that projection holds true, the city will collect 15 percent less than the $1.485 billion it had expected in revenue for 2020. That $226 million is a major increase over the initial projection of a $180 million shortfall released just weeks ago.
Staffers with the Denver Department of Finance also expect to dip into the city's reserve funds for at least $100 million to cover the general fund shortfall. Additionally, the department is considering accelerating bond-funded construction projects to help stimulate the local economy.
At a press conference today, Hancock offered a response to CdeBaca's decision. "I’m going to paraphrase it, because it fits the situation," the mayor said. "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."
In a press release announcing the decision of twelve councilmembers to voluntarily take furlough days, council president Jolon Clark offered this: "Council members stand united with City employees. Taking these furlough days helps the City by returning our income for those days, but also demonstrates our support for the dedicated employees who continue to work hard through the pandemic and now face mandatory unpaid leave."
Here's the complete release:
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But CdeBaca, who's clashed with the Hancock administration since she was elected to Denver City Council last year, says she believes "the legislative branch was already operating on an anemic budget," even though city council offices are expected to "provide MORE support because the executive branch is not functioning as nimbly."
And she has more to say. Here's CdeBaca's complete response to our question regarding whether she would be taking furlough days:
No, we actually are crafting a press release about this with more comprehensive information about how the legislative branch was already operating on an anemic budget, we are being told ( by a separate branch of government) to cut our office budgets while provide MORE support because the executive branch is not functioning as nimbly. We do not believe the mayors "equal cuts" across the board address the major inequities we have been raising. For example, why would we cut Office on Aging and Disabilities at all when we provide so little to begin with and now their needs are greater than ever? Why would we not cut the most bloated agencies, the highest paid salaries and the all the vanity projects so that everyone can continue to make something during a time like this.
They are still pushing through on majorly expensive and unnecessary vanity projects like 16th Street Mall, National Western Triangle, etc and pretending like the mayor writing a check back for furloughed days is meaningful. That is a cop out and a slap in the face to on-call workers in Parks & Rec who just won a min wage increase only to be cut or furloughed. It is a tone def response to the crisis. Similar to the Denver Health CEO recommending employees donate their time off back to the organization, it does nothing to address the gross inequities that have already starved some while providing a cushion for others to have the privilege of giving back a day here and there.
Employees have the right to the truth about our city finances, and the symbolic gesture of Electeds writing a check back for a furloughed in solidarity with furloughed city workers fails to meaningfully address the plight of those who cannot afford to lose ANY days. I refuse personally to give any dollars back to a general fund being so grossly mismanaged. Our office will use what would be our furlough savings to continue giving back directly to those who need it most in our community.
Update: This story was updated at 2 p.m. May 13 to include Mayor Michael Hancock's quote (by the way, the Old Testament uses "gong," but we rather like "bong.")