Denver Will Vote on Council Approval for Mayoral Appointees

Should Denver City Council have approval authority over key mayoral appointments?
Should Denver City Council have approval authority over key mayoral appointments? Denver City Council
Come November, Denver voters will get to weigh in on whether Denver City Council should have approval authority over key mayoral appointees, such as the police chief and sheriff.

"This proposal gives Denver a voice through their independently elected council representatives," Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer, who championed the referred ballot initiative, had pronounced at a council committee meeting on June 9. And her colleagues agreed at the full (if virtual) council meeting on July 13, , giving the proposal unanimous approval and moving it onto the November ballot.

If the measure passes then, the appointment of key department heads will require council approval. Currently, the mayor has sole discretion over those appointments.

Denver has a strong-mayor system, which gives the executive branch broad latitude to set directions and run the city. Some other municipalities with a strong-mayor form of government, such as Colorado Springs and Baltimore, require council confirmation of major appointments. Others, like Boston and Philadelphia, do not.

Council has been considering several proposals to pull power away from the mayor's office. At the June 9 committee hearing, Sawyer said that her initiative "respects the strong-mayor form of government," but also will "bring more balance to the system."

Council recently approved an initiative sponsored by Councilwoman Debbie Ortega referring a measure to the November ballot that, if passed, would give council the ability to hire outside counsultants, such as accountants, engineers and architects, using money from council offices.

Council will also vote soon on whether to refer a measure to the ballot that would give councilmembers the power to initiate new spending proposals or move around excess funds mid-year instead of just voting yes or no on the mayor's annual budget. Council will vote on that measure, which is being pushed by Councilwoman Robin Kniech, on July 20.

And Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca is also trying to get an initiative on the ballot that would create nominating committees for the positions of city attorney and independent monitor, the official in charge of investigating law enforcement misconduct. That initiative will be heard in a council committee on July 21.

Update: This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. July 16 to reflect revisions in Councilwoman Ortega's ballot initiative.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.