ELECTION-DAY-11032020-KS-234

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 3: Election judges make sure the ballots in their envelopes are all facing the same direction so they can be placed in the automatic signature verification machines the Denver Elections Division on Election Day, November 3, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo By Kathryn Scott)

The Denver City Council made a pair of proclamations Tuesday announcing the council’s fervent opposition to two initiatives set to appear on the November ballot.

The proclamations, presented at the governance committee, objected to Initiated Ordinance 303 and Initiated Ordinance 304 — Republican-backed initiatives regarding the enforcement of Denver’s camping ban and lowering the cap on Denver’s aggregate sales and use tax rate.

During the proclamations, council members called the initiatives “reckless,” “misleading” and intended “to weaken government and create confusion.”

Initiative 303 would require the city to enforce its urban camping ban by shutting down camps within three days of reports and, if they fail to do so, it allows citizens to sue the city. The initiative also calls for the establishment of four authorized camping locations with running water, restrooms and lighting.

The initiative contradicts federal requirements for clearing homeless camps, as Denver is under federal court orders to provide at least seven days notice before shutting down large camps.

Councilwoman Robin Kniech said this contradiction means the initiative would create a legal bind for the city, opening the city up to federal lawsuits if they don’t provide seven days notice before clearing camps, and opening the city to citizen lawsuits if they don’t clear camps within three days.

“Either way, this measure solves nothing,” Kniech said during the proclamation presentation. “It guarantees that the city will pay money on lawyers and lawsuits by setting up a chaotic expectation that the city can’t meet.”

Both initiatives 303 and 304 were proposed by Garrett Flicker, chair of the Denver Republican Party. In response to the council’s opposition, Flicker said he was not surprised.

Flicker said Initiative 303 is “simply a way to help Denver residents ensure that the city does its job under its own ordinances.”

“Apparently, they are afraid of their own citizens,” Flicker said. “They oddly talk about being overrun with lawsuits. This seems to be an acknowledgment that the city is not enforcing its own ordinances and that Denver residents really do need a way to bring fairness and common sense to an out-of-control homeless situation.”

Flicker emphasized the portion of Initiative 303 that would require the city to establish four authorized camping locations with running water, restrooms and lighting, arguing that the council doesn't want to provide those facilities for homeless residents.

Kniech said the city already has the power to establish authorized camping locations with services, which it has done with its Safe Outdoor Spaces; however, the issue is finding the land to put these camps.

Initiative 304 would lower the cap for Denver’s aggregate sales and use tax rate from 4.81% down to 4.5% and require the city to reduce any other new sales and use taxes if voters approve new ones above that 4.5% cap.

If passed, this would result in between $4 million and $8 million of cuts in the city’s 2021 budget in the weeks after it is passed, according to city data. For the city’s 2022 budget, it would result in cuts of $50 million to $80 million.

During the proclamation against Initiative 304, Kniech said it is “clearly motivated to eliminate the city’s tools” to take care of residents and would result in immediate cuts to housing and homelessness services, in contrast to the stated goals of Initiative 303.

Flicker did not respond to requests for comment regarding the council's criticisms of Initiative 304.

Kniech said it is unusual for the council to make proclamations for or against ballot measures, but said she believes it was necessary in this case.

“The people of Denver will be the decision makers on these measures, but we will have a chance through these proclamations to describe the misleading nature of them,” Kniech said. “We have to ask ourselves, what is the intent here and what is the impact on our city?”

The proclamations will be announced to the full City Council on Monday during its regular meeting.