Archive for the 'Denver City Council' Category

Measure 2A: Who Doesn’t Like Denver’s Forever Property Tax Increase?

Posted by on Oct 11 2012 | denver, Denver City Council, Denver Measure 2A, PPC, Press, Taxes

If approved by voters in November, Denver Measure 2A would, among other things, remove property tax revenue limitations imposed by Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), resulting in a forever and unlimited tax increase for Denver property owners.

It’s more than obvious who wants this forever tax increase passed. Denver Mayor Hancock and his administration have been out making the case for homeowners to balance the city’s budget for them by raising their own taxes. The Denver Post was editorializing in favor of the idea before it was even referred to the ballot. The Denver Business Journal has reported on support for 2A from the Downtown Denver Partnership and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver (though oddly they couldn’t seem to find any opposition to report on, but more on that later). According to their September campaign finance report, the issue committee behind the Yes on 2A campaign, Moving Denver Forward, has received over $400,000 in donations to help put the squeeze on Denver property owners. The list of donors reads like a political class who’s who of bigger government advocates. $25,000 from the Denver firefighters union, another $25,000 each from the Denver Library Friends Foundation and Democratic Party funder Tim Gill, $10,000 each from VISIT Denver (the convention lobby) and left wing politcal funder Pat Stryker. Even the Teamsters Union managed to scrape up $5,000 for the cause.

Contributions from real estate developers and construction firms run six figures.

In contrast, the issue committee opposing Measure 2A, No Blank Check 2012, has raised a little over $2,500.

So a voter looking for information, or a reporter looking for a favorable comment should have little trouble finding the “pro” side of Measure 2A. But who is out there opposing this thing?

The Independence Institute to begin with. My work for the Institute on why 2A is a bad idea can be found here and here in the Denver Huffington Post, and my recent “pro/con” series with Mayor Hancock in the Wash Park Profile neighborhood newspaper is here:

Measure 2A would also fall hard on senior citizen homeowners living on fixed incomes. Their property taxes will go up, while their income remains flat. The Hancock administration tacitly acknowledges this in their proposal to spend the new tax money, which includes (the phrase): “Increase the city’s property-tax credit from $186/year to $372 for 4,000 low-income senior citizens and persons with disabilities.”

Since this is new general fund money (discretionary spending), there is absolutely no guarantee that this is what it will actually go towards. Even so, what they leave out is that other low-income and fixed-income senior citizens will pay for the tax credits for those 4,000 people.

Writing on behalf of the Independence Institute, Joshua Sharf makes the case against Measure 2A in the Denver Post here. Writes Joshua:

The mayor’s proposal assumes that rising home values necessarily mean rising incomes. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports Denver’s weekly income fell nearly 5 percent in 2011. The mayor’s mill levy override scheme would mean an immediate property tax increase of 10 percent for households who are still finding it difficult to make ends meet.

Joshua has also written on Measure 2A at the WhoSaidYouSaid blog.

Measure 2A is also opposed by former Denver City Councilwoman Susan Barnes-Gelt. Here’s what Gelt, a liberal Democrat, had to say in her Denver Post column:

Personnel costs comprise 70 percent of Denver’s operating budget and they escalate yearly. The current proposal restores employee furloughs but avoids long-term systemic changes to an arcane personnel system.

Gelt also had this to say recently on her regular appearance on Colorado Public Television 12:

Denver voters have a choice. Approve a blank check that never expires for higher taxes, or send Mayor Hancock back to the drawing board to craft a balanced initiative with a mix of reduced expenses and tax increases. 2A is bad for jobs, small business and homeowners. Vote NO.

Ben Gelt runs the No Blank Check 2012 campaign, which opposes Measure 2A and whose website states:

There is no limit to how much the City will collect through this tax increase. When property values go up, so will the tax revenue generated. The City ignored its task force by asking for higher taxes with no ceiling, prior to reducing expenses.

The Glendale/Cherry Creek Chronicle, a Denver neighborhood newspaper, recently editorialized against Measure 2A:

The voters are told Denver has a structural deficit which means even in bountiful times the city’s revenues can never meet its expenses. The obvious conclusion to the existence of a structural deficit is that Denver city government is unable to stop spending money it does not have. Why in the world would anyone want to give such a government $68 million per year more to squander?

In a Denver Business Journal guest opinion piece (hidden behind a subscriber pay wall) Tyler Smith and Scott Peterson from the Denver Metropolitan Commercial Association of Realtors (DMCAR) urge readers to “Defeat ballot measures that raise taxes” including Measure 2A.

And in the Denver Post’s Sunday Perspective section, Mark Ver Hoeve makes a compelling case against 2A:

For 2013, Mayor Michael Hancock has proposed a 3.9 percent increase in the General Fund, the city’s operating budget, or $964 million, up from $926 million in 2012. Tax revenue for 2013 is projected to be $945 million, a 3.5 percent increase. That’s right: Tax revenues are up and higher than the previous year’s budget, but the city wants to spend more.

And finally, the No on Denver 2A facebook page can be found here.

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Lower Your Expectations For Public Servants

Posted by on Apr 04 2011 | denver, Denver City Council, Denver Mayor's Race, PPC

As Colorado Springs voters head into a municipal election, the Colorado Springs Gazette’s reliably pro-free market, pro-liberty editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen reminds us all that “politicians can’t give you a life.”

We’re taught that elections choose leaders, which isn’t true at all. Elections choose public servants, who should have nominal roles in our lives — even in this age of big, intrusive government. The mayor and council should lack the power to enhance or diminish your life. Mostly, they should oversee a reasonable level of public safety, the efficient maintenance of streets, the sale of water and the sale of utilities. We should not ask for much more, nor should we expect it.

Something for us Denver voters to keep in mind as our own municipal election gets near.

Whole thing here.

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Q & A With District 1 Denver City Council candidate Larry Ambrose

Posted by on Apr 29 2010 | Denver City Council, Economics

On Tuesday, May 4, there will be a special election to fill the recently vacated Denver District 1 City Council seat.   I met Larry Ambrose, one of ten candidates for the open seat, at a March candidate forum at the Oriental Theater in northwest Denver. When asked what, if anything, he would do about the “proliferation” of medical marijuana dispensaries in Denver, Larry remarked that market forces would eventually “weed out” (and yes, he intended the pun) the dispensary issue.  Since I work for a free-market think thank, and since out of ten City Council candidates, Larry was the only one who noted not only that markets exist, but that they matter, I thought we should chat.

MK: Why City Council?  I mean let’s face it; a lot of us taxpayers and voters are chronically uninformed and love to complain about politicians, especially local ones.  Why do that to yourself?

LA: I have tried to effect change in what does and doesn’t get done with regard to community issues.  I believe what we do here on earth is the measure of our worth, but I’m not interested in earning points for the hereafter.  I also believe that what I leave behind, for the next generation is most important.  I don’t do this for recognition or even necessarily to be understood.  I do it, because it is the right thing to do.  Some people teach, create or involve themselves in other work to make a difference in the world.  I have been involved in Northwest Denver and the greater Denver area and am now running for a Denver City Council seat that has been vacated, because I want to continue to contribute to my community.

MK: This isn’t your first rodeo, you have been active in neighborhood and city issues for a while now, give us the quick version of your resume.

LA: I am a 37-year resident and neighborhood advocate of Northwest Denver.  I have a proven track record of accomplishments, knowledge of city/government issues and am founder of Denver dog parks.  I am also a historic preservationist who is not opposed to appropriate development for neighborhoods and business districts.  I hold a B.S. in Business from CU-Boulder, an M.S.B.A. in Arts Administration from UCLA and a J.D. from DU.  I am President of the Sloan’s Lake Neighborhood Association and Co-Chair of the Inter-neighborhood Cooperation Parks and Recreation Committee.

MK: We have talked before about City Council putting Denver taxpayers on the hook financially for “public/private” projects.  You used the Renaissance Uptown Lofts (a Colorado Coalition for the Homeless project) as an example.  What would you do to protect the city (and thus Denver taxpayers) from ending up financially responsible should projects like this fail to pay for themselves?

LA: I would ask city council to limit the city’s liability with regard to financing such projects.  This particular project will require taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Denver’s Human Services budget for at least 20 years.  We have learned that even the nation’s largest financial institutions are vulnerable to complete collapse.  Although, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is a successful organization, they are a non profit organization with close to a $40 million budget* dependent on funding from both private and public sources. They are heavily invested in real estate and have significant liabilities associated with their investments.  Although the city’s investment would be collateralized by the property, because the Renaissance project has so little parking, it is possible that should it fall on hard times, its value would be discounted for use as apartments or condominiums.  Any wise business decision should be based on the worst case scenario, not just the best. The city’s liability for funding should not extend beyond the lifetime of CCH and the project’s use as homeless/low income housing.

(*Only the 2008 Annual Report is available:  there was $35.5+ million in revenue, almost $13.4 million in assets, but no liabilities listed.)

MK: How about zoning in Denver parks as part of the new zoning code?

LA: As part of the new zoning code, the administration decided to take away control of zoning in Denver parks from the City Council and give it to the Manager of Parks and Recreation.  The current City Council, of course, was willing to go along with this.  A group of us (citizens) fought this unprecedented usurpation of legislative authority and the code was adjusted to allow Council to make decisions about structures larger than a 3000 sq. ft. footprint and 35 feet high.  In my opinion, this is still much too large and tall a building in a park about which a bureaucrat, even one with good intentions, should be able to make a decision.

Ballots for the District 1 special election were mailed out April 15 and must be received by 7 p.m. on May 4 (postage is 61 cents).

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