One devil, of course, is the lack of detail (how exactly will these funds be utilized), with regard to Hickenlooper’s proposed bond issues and tax increases that will appear on the November ballot. Another devil is the obvious chicanery with which Hick and his minions wish to present these issues to the voters. “We think that the best way to talk about it … is as a package with a total,” says Hick’s COO, Chris Henderson.
Okay. First, here’s the law (City Charter):
§ 7.5.2 Debt limit.
The City and County of Denver shall not become indebted for general obligation bonds, to any amount which, including indebtedness, shall exceed three (3) per cent of the actual value as determined by the last final assessment of the taxable property within the City and County of Denver; provided, however, that in determining the limitation of the City and County’s power to incur indebtedness, there shall not be included within the estimate bonds issued by the Board of Water Commissioners.
(Charter 1960, A6.17-2; amended November 2, 1982)
The city’s current debt limit is $480 million (the 3 percent figure above). Hick’s proposals total $550 million, down from the $631 million proposed by the august group known as “The Infrastructure Priorities Task Force.”
Here’s what the Hick is proposing for the November ballot:
1. A 2.5-mill increase for ongoing maintenance of the city’s infrastructure, that would bring in about $27 million annually. Reportedly, the city currently spends about $31 million on infrastructure maintenance and it is estimated that a total of $56 million is actually required for that purpose–thus, the additional $27 million. Remember, this is a property tax increase amounting to about $49.25 a year additional taxes on a home valued at $255,000. (If the entire groupings of bonds, described below, is approved by voters, an additional $12.41 would be added to that property tax increase, for a total of $61.66.)
2. Bond issue #1: Refurbishing of city buildings – $70.9 million. No details on this one. What buildings?
3. Bond issue #2: Health and Human Services – $48.6 million. This puppy includes funding for a new child-care center, Denver Municipal Animal Shelter and some unspecified expansion of Denver Health. Question: Why is Denver Health piggy-backing on the city’s bond questions when Denver Health, being a state-created “authority,” has the ability to issue its own bonds? Question: If I don’t particularly give a damn about child-care centers (Who’s kids? From where? Thornton?), and if I don’t believe it’s appropriate to lump a Denver Health bond question in with the city’s questions, does that mean if I’m passionate about the Animal Shelter, I’ve got to approve all three of these things simply to assure the critters are taken care of? Apparently, the answer is yes. And, another thing–while we’re on topic–Denver’s General Fund (your tax dollars) already hands over about $40 million to Denver Health annually. Now, Hick is happily looking forward to Denver Health biting into Denver’s bonding capacity. What am I missing here?
4. Bond Issue #3: Parks and recreation centers – $93.4 million. Again, no specifics. What recreation centers? We’re told this question includes a $13 million recreation center for Council President Hancock’s district and another $11 million to finish the restoration of Civic Center’s Greek Theater. Let’s see, that leaves $69.4 million for what? Anything set aside for Northwest Denver? Again, who knows? Does Rick Garcia know? By the way, any pittance for setting in motion the Master Plans for Berkeley and Highland Parks? Nah, didn’t think so.
5. Bond Issue #4: Public Safety – $65.2 million. This money will be utilized for police and fire station renovations. One wonders about police and fire equipment? New fire trucks, maybe? Who knows?
6. Bond Issue #5: Streets, transportation and public works – $149.8 million. Wow! Okay, streets are in abysmal condition. But, wait a minute. Isn’t the 2.5-mill property tax increase going to take care of the city’s infrastructure which, I assume, includes streets? Again, where’s the detail?
7. Bond Issue #6: Libraries – $51.9 million. This, apparently, includes two new libraries and unspecified maintenance. Even though the Infrastructure Priorities Task Force didn’t recommend a library for Council President Hancock’s district, guess what? He’s getting one. How much is that going to cost? And, again, how much of this money is going to be spent in Northwest Denver? Councilman Garcia? Any clue?
8. Bond Issue #7: Cultural Facilities – $70 million. Now, this little item is reported to be earmarked for the Boettcher Concert Hall and the Museum of Nature and Science. Let me quote David Harsayi, writing in the Denver Post: “I’m at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science more than I care to admit. It’s always packed. It’s not free. Far from free, actually. And there is a wonderful alternative way Denverites can support the Boettcher Concert Hall: They can actually go see the Colorado Symphony Orchestra perform and contribute. Should taxpayers? I’m not sure. But it’s nice to know you’ll have the choice.” And, wouldn’t you know… The difference between $480 million (the city’s bonding capacity) and the total of Hick’s bond proposals ($550 million) is exactly $70 million. Do I see some writing on the wall here?
No real conclusions yet. Haven’t seen any real detail on most of these issues. Neither of the dailies has provided any in-depth explication where all this money is going to be spent. I do know I’ve got my little set of priorities. Don’t we all. Then, of course, there’s a whole bunch of happy-crappy smiley faces out there who don’t really give a damn about the details. Those are the folks who believe Hick’s next aspiration should be sainthood. Maybe that’s what the proposed funds to “complete restoration” of the Greek Amphitheater in Civic Center is all about: a larger than life white marble statue of the Hick falling from the sky, sans parachute, providential wings spread, haloed, heavenly garb frozen aflutter.
Read this morning the Hick has an 82 percent approval rating…better than the Broncos. Yeah, makes one wonder what the hell planet I’m living on.
P.S. Comment No. 1 from “George Grady,” provides line-item detail on other than omnibus projects. The link is to the Infrastructure Priorities Task Force site. On the right side bar, click on the “final recommendations” link. It’s a six page .pdf file.