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City, Statewide Ballot Propositions Explained

October 28, 2021

The upcoming election—Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021—includes Colorado ballot propositions that could change important aspects of life in the state, city of Denver, and on CU Denver’s campus. With links to further local news coverage, including stories from Denverite and CPR, below you will find a quick summary designed to assist Lynx voters in becoming informed on the issues before casting their votes. Be sure to turn in your ballot by Nov. 2 at one of these drop boxes or voting locations.

SPA Dean Paul Teske

For anyone who might feel hesitant to vote in a year that doesn’t feature a presidential election or other prominent races, we offer the advice of Paul Teske, PhD, dean of CU Denver’s School of Public Affairs. 

“Even though we may not be voting for senators or state legislators, local races are just as important and interesting,” Teske said. “In Colorado, we’re lucky because we have the mail-in ballot option, which I think is very equitable, efficient, and easy. It allows voters to sit with their ballots for about three weeks and get both sides of the picture. It’s no coincidence that we’ve been the second or third highest state for voter turnout in the last few big elections.”

We asked Teske to break down four Denver measures and one statewide proposition on the ballot this November, and why voters may be inclined to vote “yes” or “no.”

Denver Ordinance 300: Increases the Denver retail marijuana sales tax (1.5% as of 2021) by $7 million annually to fund pandemic research, preparedness, and recovery.

How it Works

“The measure would hike recreational marijuana sales taxes by 1.5 percent, or $7 million annually, starting January 1, 2022; medical cannabis sales would not be affected. The tax would be an additional 15 cents on a $10 purchase.

For the first 20 years, the revenue would be allocated as follows: 75 percent would fund local pandemic research including technologies for pandemic protection, disinfection and sterilization; 25 percent would fund public policy and planning; all through the University of Colorado Denver CityCenter. No more of than 8 percent of the revenue could pay for administrative expenses. After 20 years, research could be expanded. The entire project would receive an annual audit and will disclose how it spends money,” Denverite reports.

What Your Vote Means 

Teske: “YES: As the only public urban research university in the state with award-winning faculty, CU Denver is very well positioned to continue and deepen its pandemic research. We have the state’s only College of Architecture and Planning, which over the past year studied transportation and building ventilation in a pandemic; our College of Engineering, Design and Computing used 3-D printing to make personal protective equipment (PPE); the School of Public Affairs studied government response and policy; the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences had an expert in sociology study anti-vax issues and an economist study vaccine lottery effectiveness. The list goes on. This shows that this additional funding would be used across all schools and colleges and benefit our entire university.

In addition, statewide about 15% of people use marijuana products, so that means 80 – 85% of voters aren’t using marijuana and therefore wouldn’t be directly impacted by this ordinance. 

NO: A group from outside of Colorado, the Delaware-based Guarding Against Pandemics, funded signature-collection efforts to get the measure on the ballot. And, the marijuana industry and consumers have made arguments that raising the marijuana sales tax could drive people to the black market.”

Denver Referred Question 2E: Authorizes Denver to issue $190 million in bonds for repairs, improvements, and additions (such as a new multi-use arena for concerts and sporting events) to the National Western Campus Facilities System.

How it Works 

“If approved, the city would borrow money to pay for the construction of a new, roughly 10,000-seat multi-use arena that could serve as a replacement to the Denver Coliseum, and for renovations to the 1909 Stadium Building. The $160 million for the arena would cover some of the costs toward building it; officials have said it will cost $210 million total to complete. The $30 million would go toward renovating the historic 1909 building into a public market.

These bonds don’t come with a tax increase; however, it’s possible that at some points in the future, the city may increase taxes to help pay these bonds back,” Denverite reports.

What Your Vote Means

Teske: “YES: Proponents of agriculture and modernization of the area may say this will bring jobs, economic, development, and tax revenue. And, the bonds will pay themselves back easily over time.

NO: The surrounding neighborhoods, Globeville and Elyria-Swansea, have historically felt cut off by a lot of Denver decisions, such as the I-70 project. There’s also the question if the project is too big, and if we need another event center since the Ball Arena is right down the road.”

Denver Initiated Ordinance 301: Requires voter approval for commercial or residential development on city parklands or lands under conservation easement.

Denver Initiated Ordinance 302: Amends the definition of “conservation easement” to apply only to those that have been approved by the Division of Conservation and that have received an income tax credit certificate; requires voter approval for residential or commercial construction on city parklands or property protected by a conservation easement with exceptions for limited construction on conservation easement properties.

How it Works 

“Park Hill Golf Course, and the conservation easement the 155 acres are protected by, has directly spawned ballot measures 301 and 302, although neither mention the golf course by name. Ordinance 301 changes the Denver Municipal Code so the city no longer has the final say in lifting conservation easements. Instead, Denver residents would have to give approval through a citywide vote to end the conservation easement. The same rule goes for any construction slated for green spaces like parks—but exceptions can be made for things that are in line with park use or conservation easement goals, like recreational or cultural centers. Ordinance 302 changes the definition of ‘conservation easement.’ Under these definitions, conservation easements must have state-issued tax credit certificates,” Denverite reports.

“If Initiated Ordinance 301 passes, but Initiated Ordinance 302 is defeated, the voter approval requirements for development will go into effect and would apply to the Park Hill Golf Course property.

If both initiatives pass, the voter approval requirements go into effect, but so does the definition of conservation easement in Initiated Ordinance 302, which means the voter approval requirements for development would not apply to the Park Hill Golf Course property. This is also the effective outcome if Initiated Ordinance 302 passes, but Initiated Ordinance 301 is defeated,” according to Ballotpedia.

What Your Vote Means

Teske: “YES on 301; NO on 302: We don’t have enough affordable housing developments in Denver.

NO on 301; YES on 302: We don’t have enough green space in Denver.

While there are other issues involved in this complex case, it’s also a classic trade off of greenspace and affordable housing (quality of life). I think both things are true in Denver: we don’t have enough affordable housing and we don’t have enough green space. Typically, as voters, we don’t often get the chance to influence these decisions. They are usually made by City Council and the mayor. That’s what makes these two ballot initiatives unique.”

Colorado Proposition 119: Learning enrichment and academic progress (LEAP) program

How it Works

Proposition 119 asks voters if they want to increase the tax rate on recreational marijuana and use the new money to fund after-school programs and tutoring for underserved youth.

“If voters approve the initiative, the state’s retail marijuana sales tax rate would rise from the current 15 percent to 20 percent over the next three years. State analysts estimate that once the increase is fully in effect, it would generate an additional $137.6 million a year. The tax would not apply to medical marijuana,” CPR reports.

What Your Vote Means

Teske: “YES: Low-income children don’t have access to some of the camps and learning enrichment opportunities that middle- and upper-income children do. And, that’s an important part of the learning process. 

NO: Some may ask, who controls this money? Is it really targeted to low-income children, or is it a type of voucher system?”