Your Unofficial Guide to Denver's Ballot Initiatives

It's mid-October — are you registered to vote?
It's mid-October — are you registered to vote? andriano_cz/iStock
You might notice that your ballot feels a little...heavy this year. That's because on top of thirteen statewide initiatives and amendments, Denver residents will get to decide on nine measures that would impact everything from parks to students to mental health to the Office of the Clerk and Recorder...mostly through tax increases.

You could peruse the ballot yourself, but you'd probably lose consciousness from boredom. So we did the nitty-gritty study for you! We looked at all of the citywide ballot initiatives — what they'll do, who's backing them, who's opposing them and, most important, who's funding them. Follow along on this sample ballot or whip out the one you should have gotten in the mail by now. (If yours hasn't arrived, find out more about voting — and registering, if you haven't already — here.)

2A - Parks

The initiative would raise the sales tax on everything except groceries and prescription drugs by .25 percent (25 cents on a $100 purchase) to fund the acquisition of land for parks, improvements to existing green spaces and trees, and restoration of waterways.

Backed by: Denver City Council President Jolon Clark and the Healthy Parks and Rivers for Everyone political committee

Opposed by: No one officially; unofficially by those who oppose using tax hikes to add to green spaces.

Funded by: Mostly large donations from real estate firms and the green industry. The Trust for Public Land Action, which supports initiatives like this around the U.S., donated $50,000, and Crescent Real Estate and ECI Site Construction Management each donated $10,000.

2B - Initiative Signatures

Denver City Council approved this initiative, which would change language in the Denver City Charter to this: "the required number of signatures for initiatives from a percentage of votes cast in the last mayoral election to a percentage of registered voters in Denver and (2) lengthen the city council's review and comment period for proposed initiatives."

Backed by: Twelve of thirteen council members

Opposed by: Councilwoman at-large Debbie Ortega, who maintained at a July council meeting that the process to get an initiative on the ballot doesn't need tweaking.

2C - Law enforcement hires

The ordinance basically loosens restrictions around hiring recruits from other departments to serve with the Denver Police Department.

Backed by: Denver City Council

Opposed by: No one formally, though an error in the initiative's initial language led every councilmember to vote against it in July. The measure was eventually revised and approved for the ballot.

2D - Clerk and Recorder changes

This initiative would change the charter to require that the Deputy Clerk and Recorder be an at-will appointee of the Clerk and Recorder; to allow the Clerk and Recorder to appoint two additional at-will employees to serve in positions of his or her choosing; and to eliminate the requirement that the Director of Elections be an at-will appointee of the Clerk and Recorder. In other words, the Director of Elections would be a city employee.

Backed by: No one of note.

Opposed by: No one officially.

2E - "Democracy for the People"

Simply put, the Democracy for the People initiative lowers the amount that political candidates can receive from individual donors (to $3,000 for a mayoral candidate, for example), and lets candidates receive $9 from the city for every dollar they raise, presumably to even the playing field for lesser-known candidates.

Backed by: Democracy for the People political committee and a very proactive citizen named Owen Perkins.

Opposed by: No one officially, though City Council did retool the original ballot language with the petitioner; voters will decide on their compromise.

Funded by: Mostly smaller individual contributions. Backers of note include former mayoral candidate Kayvan Khalatbari (who donated $250), a whole lot of retirees and an "inn keeper."

7G - Urban Drainage

This one is technically a multi-county initiative, in which the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District asks voters to "de-Bruce," or be freed from the restrictions of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights. As 7G's backers rightly note, TABOR requires the ballot language to call this a "tax increase," but the district is really just asking that its mill levy be restored. The result would amount to $2 a year from taxpayers for each $100,000 of their home's value.

Backed by: Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, which helps with flood control in 41 municipalities around the Denver metro area, and the Citizens Protecting People, Property, and Open Space political committee.

Opposed by: The Taxpayers Protecting Affordable Housing, a political committee that argues the flood district's board is politically appointed, not picked by votes, among other issues.

Funded by: Mostly big donors, like Healthier Colorado, which donated $70,000, and the Greenway Foundation, whose largest contribution in the last reporting period was $40,000.

300 - College Affordability

This initiative would raise taxes by .08 percent to create the Denver College Affordability Fund, which would distribute scholarships and fund support services in the higher-education world, including career and academic counseling, tutoring, mentoring and financial aid assistance. Those who qualify would have to be younger than 25 and a Denver resident for at least three years.

Backed by: Prosperity Denver political committee, whose "honorary campaign co-chairs" include Governor John Hickenlooper, Mayor Michael Hancock and former mayors Bill Vidal, Wellington Webb and Federico Peña.

Opposed by: No one formally, though probably Douglas Bruce.

Funded by: Mostly individual donors who are higher-ups in Denver's corporate world, including the president and CEO of Craig Hospital, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, and the vice president of DaVita. It helps to have friends in high places.

301 - Caring 4 Denver

The initiative would increase sales taxes by .25 percent (25 cents on a $100 purchase) to fund programs that work in suicide prevention, substance abuse, affordable housing and more.

Backed by: State Representative Leslie Herod, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Denver.

Opposed by: No one officially, though presumably anyone who's morally opposed to tax increases, like Douglas Bruce.

Funded by: The Caring 4 Denver initiative is among the best-funded on the ballot: $98,004 at the beginning of October. And it's no wonder: The initiative has gotten a monsoon of support from the mental health community, politicos including Mayor Hancock and Attorney General (and Republican) Cynthia Coffman, and Denver Public Schools. Donors of note include Healthier Colorado and Mile High Behavioral Healthcare, which each gave $10,000, and the Mental Health Center of Denver, which gave $75,000.

302 - Healthy Foods

The initiative would hike taxes by .08 percent and fund "healthy food and food education programs in Denver over a ten-year period," according to its backers.

Backed by: Healthy Food for Denver political committee

Opposed by: No one officially, though probably Douglas Bruce.

Funded by: Mostly smaller donations from individuals, including a Denver Botanic Gardens horticulturist and an "urban farm teacher." Standout backers include Progress Now Colorado ($18,504 in canvassing support and video), big names in the food world including Adrian Miller and Andra Zeppelin, and the Denver Democrats, the Colorado Latino Forum, Denver Urban Gardens and the Denver Rescue Mission. 
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Ana Campbell has been Westword's managing editor since 2016. She has worked at magazines and newspapers around the country, picking up a few awards along the way for her writing and editing. She grew up in south Texas.
Contact: Ana Campbell