Former Denver Manager of Safety Fidel "Butch" Montoya is switching his endorsement in the upcoming mayoral election to James Mejia. In a strongly-worded letter e-mailed to friends Monday evening, Montoya writes that he originally intended to endorse former state senator Chris Romer, but has become "very disenchanted" with his "lack of experience on how to run our city government."
Montoya served under Wellington Webb as the city's safety manager and deputy mayor from 1994 to 2000. In the letter, Montoya criticizes budget-tightening measures being proposed by interim Mayor Bill Vidal that would cut some 140 positions from the police, fire and sheriff's departments.
"I am not confident that Chris Romer can manage the large budget cuts being proposed by Mayor Vidal," Montoya writes.
Romer has stated that the city should consider consolidating or eliminating the Manager of Safety's Office in order to save money; Montoya takes aim at him for "merely robbing Peter to pay Paul" with the proposal. "They have not explained to the voters of Denver how the elimination of the Manager of Safety's Office and staff will affect public safety in our city," he adds.
(Update: Although Montoya's endorsement letter maintains that mayoral candidate Doug Linkhart also favors eliminating the Manager of Safety, Linkhart's campaign says the councilman has never said that. "I can assure you he will not eliminate the Manager of Safety position," says campaign Communications Director Amanda Snipes. The previous paragraph has been corrected to reflect this.)
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Montoya is currently a minister and founder of a Latino faith-based initiative in Denver. His backing could give Mejia an even greater edge with Denver's Hispanic vote. Last week, former Mayor Federico Peña announced that he was throwing his name behind the candidate. Mejia was most recently the head of the Denver Pre-school Program.
Below, the full text of Montoya's letter:
As many of you may know, the City and County of Denver is going to have an election for Mayor on May 3rd. If none of the candidates gets 51% of the vote, the two most popular candidates will have a run off on June 17th. At that point, who ever gets the most number of votes will be elected Mayor.
Mayor Vidal is currently the Mayor, but he "promised" Governor Hickenlooper that he would not run for Mayor, so he is not a candidate for office. At one point, Vidal thought about running for Mayor, but several candidates including Chris Romer complained to Governor Hickenlooper because it appeared that Vidal was breaking his "promise not to run" for mayor.
Many election pundits gave Vidal a good chance at getting elected Mayor if he had chosen to stay in the race. Vidal says that Hickenlooper apparently had a "temper tantrum" because he was convinced he had Vidal's word not to run for Mayor. Whatever the circumstances, Mayor Vidal was discouraged from running by Governor Hickenlooper for Mayor of Denver.
As far back as October or so, I decided to endorse Chris Romer for Mayor. However, as time went on, I became very disenchanted with Romer's lack of experience on how to run our city government, and after several inconsistencies in political positions Romer had made about some very important policy issues, this lack of experience created a lack of faith in Romer's leadership ability. In all good conscience, I could not encourage others to vote for Candidate Chris Romer for Mayor.
Denver is facing a very serious budget shortfall, and it is going to take someone with the knowledge on how to manage the city budget. Right now among some other cuts in other city departments, Vidal is proposing cutting 100 police officers, 20 fire fighters, and 20 sheriff deputies. I cannot endorse that kind of budget cutting where the safety and security of our city is taken for granted by Mayor Vidal. In affect, Mayor Vidal is setting up whoever gets elected Mayor to accept this preliminary attempt to put together a city budget.
I am not confident that Chris Romer can manage the large budget cuts being proposed by Mayor Vidal. Already Romer is calling for the elimination of the Manager of Safety's Office. By eliminating this very important position created by the City Charter, Romer believes he will be saving the city a significant amount of money in the new budget. In affect, coordination between our first responders like police and fire would be disrupted. There would be no consolidated city public safety policy where safety agencies would work together. In fact, the budget and capital needs of these agencies would increase as they look for ways to keep their budgets in line.
In fact, Councilman Linkhart is calling for the elimination of the Manager of Safety as well while adding more people to the Independent Monitor Office. These two candidates are merely robbing Peter to pay Paul with the same dollars in the budget. They have not explained to the voters of Denver, how the elimination of the Manager of Safety's Office and staff will affect public safety in our city.
After doing some personal research on the candidates, I believe there is only one who is experienced enough to manage our city and someone who understands what it takes to manage our city from day one. That person is James Mejia. Mejia will not need any on the job training to learn how to be Mayor. Mejia will come on board ready to do the job to move our city forward, understanding the challenge of a budget shortfall and the need to balance the budget.
Of course, I encourage you to study the candidates and vote for the person who you believe is prepared to manage our city from day one. In our family, we are going to vote for James Mejia because we believe he will be the best Mayor for these difficult times. If you disagree with me, you are welcome to do so. However, If you are looking for a candidate for Mayor for our great City, I encourage you to please consider James Mejia. Here is a story on why former Mayor Federico Mayor is endorsing James Mejia. Mayor Federico knows better than any of us the kind of person needed to run our city. He is endorsing James Mejia. I encourage you to read the article below to find out why James Mejia is the best choice for Denver.
Blessings/Bendiciones, Fidel "Butch" Montoya
More from our Politics archive: "Doug Linkhart's Teapot Party endorsement: Does his pro-pot platform hurt or help him?"