Four years ago, a $ 937 million bond package crossed to raise money for things like delayed road work and improvements to urban cultural facilities for an election victory in Denver.
Mayor Michael Hancock and supporters are back in the polls this year, asking voters in the Nov. 2 election to approve a $ 450 million package that would take a bite out of the city’s $ 4 billion backlog of projects.
The five debt-generating measures, called RISE Denver bonds, would fund work, including the construction of two new libraries, upgrades to homeless shelters and, most controversially, a new arena on the National Western Center campus.
For followers, the time has come to move now. They point out that federal regulators have indicated that interest rates will be raised from next year and say investment in urban infrastructure will burn Denver’s recovery from the economic damage caused by the COVID – 19 pandemic.
“The reality is, we have to play a role in rebuilding our economy,” Hancock said. “Most of these projects are focused on underserved neighborhoods. The post-pandemic era is when we focus on providing services and jobs to disadvantaged communities. ”
The RISE package may be subject to more voter control than the 2017 bonds, especially when it comes to Question 2E.
The most expensive of the five measures, 2E would fund the construction of a 10,000-seat multi-use arena on the National Western Center campus an renovate an arena built there in 1909 to make it a public market.
Hancock sees these projects as the “economic stimulus” part of the bond package, facilities that will create opportunities for small businesses and bring some money back to the city when they are completed.
Sarah Lake leads No at Arena Bond campaign against the measure. She says 2E is half-baked, poorly planned and financially unhealthy, and points to Feasibility studies which raised questions about whether the proposed arena could compete for concerts with the then Pepsi Center and 1stBank Center in Broomfield, and whether the public market would be sustainable without more population density around the National Western campus.
The long-planned projects were expected to be funded through a partnership with a private developer, but the city stopped the bidding process for the last year in the midst of the pandemic.
“The city is rushing to pass on the costs to taxpayers after the public-private partnership fell through without taking the time to consider other more reasonable ways to fund the project,” Lake said. “We are not going to see the economic benefits if the market and the arena ultimately do not prove to be profitable.”
The RISE Denver campaign, which supports the bond package, has stressed that 2E will not raise taxes, but Lake says it is rude. The language of choice leaves the door open for the city to increase property taxes by $ 35.2 million a year to pay back the debt.
City finance officials say that even under the most conservative estimates, the city expects to be able to pay for the bond package without raising taxes, and there is no intention to do so.
In the northern Denver neighborhoods of Globeville and Elyria-Swansea, which surround the National Western campus, collectively known as GES, opinions over 2E are different.
GES coalitions The Organization for Health and Housing Justice has opposed the measure, saying in a press release that it “is not in line with a fair development or a fair recovery.” Instead of 2E, the coalition wants the city to focus on health and housing services such as investing in rent-controlled and subsidized housing.
Perennial resident Juan Velos urged voters to hand over the bonds at a news conference Wednesday at the train station next to the National Western campus. He was joined by Councilwoman Debbie Ortega and more than a dozen other people who supported all five measures.
“The market proposed is very important to society,” Velos said through a translator. “We will really try to raise community awareness and really implement these projects so that it becomes something successful.”
The bond package contains much more than the arena goal, and the Hancock administration expects a large return on investment if voters choose to make them. He said the bond projects will lead to the creation of about 7,500 jobs, creating an estimated $ 483 million in workers’ wages. Private money is expected to follow the city’s lead.
“We have examples like Brighton Boulevard and Union Station, where the private sector, when the public leans in, tends to react with almost five, six times the investment,” he said.
Christine O’Connor, a city government critic and watchdog, points out that there are still projects funded through the 2017 bond package that have not been completed.
“They are taking the easy way out,” she said of city leaders who support RISE. “They trust the goodwill of Denver voters who always say ‘Sure, have some more of our tax money. “I honestly do not think it is time for more general bonds.”
Here is an overview of the five bond targets and what they do:
- Referred Question 2A (Denver Facilities System Bonds): $ 104 million for projects such as repairs and improvements to the Denver Botanic Gardens; two new libraries; renovation of a city-owned youth center; and accessibility upgrades to urban buildings.
- Referred Question 2B (Denver Housing and Sheltering System Bonds): $ 38.6 million for housing and shelter projects such as building or renovating shelters for the homeless and possibly buying buildings to be hidden in shelters.
- Referred Question 2C (Denver Transportation and Mobility System Bonds): $ 63.3 million for transportation projects such as widening Denver sidewalks; renovation of existing cycle paths and addition of new ones; reconstruction of sections of the Morrison Road corridor to add a cultural and arts district; and build a city path in the center.
- Referred Question 2D (Denver Parks and Recreation System Bonds): $ 54 million for park projects in northeastern and southern Denver; restoration of athletic and track tracks; playground and recreational equipment replacement; and reconstruction of the Mestizo-Curtis Park pool.
- Referred Question 2E (National Western Campus Facilities System Bonds): $ 190 million to build a new arena on the National Western Center campus and to renovate the existing 1909 building.
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