FIVE THINGS ABOUT DENVER’S BOND ISSUE
Potential projects could reach around $937.4 million
Denver’s list of potential bond projects — from libraries and parks to a transportation corridor — appears almost settled. On Wednesday, Mayor Michael Hancock gave the City Council his recommendations for the $937.4 million measure that may go before voters on the Nov. 7 ballot. »
Denver’s list of potential bond projects has grown to $937.4 million after Mayor Michael Hancock weighed in Wednesday with his recommendations to the City Council.
The final package of projects for libraries, city-owned facilities, parks and recreation centers, transportation corridors, and cultural institutions still could be in for minor changes by the council. It still must refer the bond measures to the Nov. 7 ballot for voters’ consideration.
But for the first time in a process that has lasted several months and involved several community committees the list looks substantially settled. In part, that’s because Hancock already consulted council members.
“This bond is an incredible opportunity to respond to the growth and demand we are seeing here in Denver and ensure we preserve and enhance this place that we are all so proud to call home,” Hancock said on the steps of the City and County Building, with council President Albus Brooks and nine of the other 12 councilmembers in the crowd behind him.
Here are five takeaways from Hancock’s recommendations and the process:
1. The mayor didn’t cut any projects — but added 21
The executive committee strategically left room for Hancock and the council to add back projects that hadn’t rated as high-priority. The committee’s recommendations totaled $749.2 million — well short of city officials’ $900 million target.
They took advantage, adding 21 projects. Those and adjustments to existing projects total $139 million, bringing the project total to $887.4 million. The mayor’s office added another $50 million to cover potential cost fluctuations and overruns.
2. Politics played an overt role
Some of the changes were politically motivated, and council members argue that’s for a good reason: They need to show that every part of the city will benefit when they ask voters to pass the bond package in November.
The additions mean that in south Denver, District 7’s Jolon Clark can point to $7 million to shore up the notoriously crumbling Alameda Avenue underpass, beneath railroad tracks east of Santa Fe Drive, to give the city time to work on more permanent fixes. Southwest District 2’s Kevin Flynn can tout $2 million in improvements to Harvey Park Recreation Center and a $1.8 million replacement of tennis courts at Bear Valley Park.
And in southeast District 4, Kendra Black lobbied to add
$10.9 million for projects that will build a High Line Canal tunnel beneath Yale Avenue, improve Yale near the light rail station and get started on pedestrian crossing improvements along East Hampden Avenue.
3. A lot of projects would get money
Hancock’s recommendations would provide money for 460 projects.
Nearly half of the selected projects, totaling $415.5 million, are in the transportation and mobility category, reflecting Hancock’s long-stated priority; they include a mix of road and bridge fixes, transit funding, pedestrian bridges and new bike lanes, including on Broadway south of Speer Boulevard.
The largest item on the list is $101 million for deferred road maintenance, including repaving, fixing curbs and gutters, and major bridge rehabilitation.
Here are the biggest standalone projects: $75 million to cover about half the cost of the Denver Health and Hospital Authority’s planned Ambulatory Care Center, $55 million to kick off the East Colfax Avenue bus rapid transit project, $38 million for a renovation of the Central Library, $37.5 million for a new recreation center in Westwood and $35.5 million toward the Denver Art Museum’s North Building renovation.
4. The sell to taxpayers: no tax increase
City officials will sell the package based in part on the lack of a tax increase. That is because the project total would allow repayment of the bonds using existing property taxes — the same rate through which the $550 million Better Denver Bonds that voters approved in 2007 were repaid.
But it’s more complicated than that: Property values have increased sharply across the city, including in valuations issued for next year, meaning that the same tax rate would raise more money from most property owners.
Would voters buy such a large bond package?
“I believe this number today is fiscally responsible, and it’s within the capacity of the city without triggering a tax increase,” Hancock told reporters. “And it allows us to meet some critical needs in the city.”
5. The council still has a say On July 17 and July 24, the council will have all-member committee meetings to review the projects with city staff members. It is set to consider measures to refer the final package to the ballot beginning Aug. 7, with a final vote possible Aug. 14.