Councilwoman CdeBaca proposes eight city budget changes worth more than $1 million

She didn’t get them.

Snow day at the City and County Building, Dec. 21, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Snow day at the City and County Building, Dec. 21, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photos

City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca continued her crusade against the status quo Monday with an unusual challenge to Mayor Michael Hancock’s budget priorities and the process itself.

Typically the city’s budget timeline is pretty cut and dry. But this year is different, mirroring a new political calculus brought ashore by a wave of new council members, namely CdeBaca, a Democratic Socialist and frequent critic of Hancock.

CdeBaca floated eight budget changes worth about $1.05 million Monday in a direct challenge to the mayor. His priorities would suffer if her changes were approved.

Here’s what she wanted to see funded:

  • Funding to purchase a building for the city to take over halfway house operations
  • Public toilets and storage lockers for people experiencing homelessness
  • Funding for the Denver Day Works program, which provides low-skill jobs for people experiencing homelessness
  • Aid for small businesses hurt by the Interstate 70 expansion
  • Needle receptacles for people dealing with addiction
  • Funding to encourage solar panels
  • Funding for the Office on Aging to help people age in place

None made the cut — it wasn’t even close. Councilman Chris Hinds voted alongside CdeBaca on every change but one.

“The budget is about choices — hard choices and priorities,” CdeBaca said. “When I was growing up and we had to make a choice between paying the rent or paying the electricity or buying food … you have to take from the food budget if you want to keep a roof over your head.”

Council members supported CdeBaca’s priorities earlier in the process and Hancock gave even approve one — $1 million for housing vouchers.

But most of CdeBaca’s colleagues said they did not have enough time or analysis to fully understand how the shuffled funding, which came mostly from administrative buckets and the North Denver Community Collaborative, would affect the city.

“I’m not voting no against this, I’m voting no against the process,” Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval said.

Hancock would not comment on CdeBaca’s proposals because his office has not had enough time to analyze them and they’re up to the council anyway, spokesman Mike Strott said. He referred Denverite to his official response to the council’s request.

It’s been an unusual budget season and that’s what CdeBaca wants.

Here’s how it usually works. Step one: the mayor proposes a spending plan. Step two: the Denver City Council deliberates on where they’d rather see some of that money go and requests “friendly amendments” — changes outside of official legislative channels. Step three: the mayor approves some requests and denies others. Final step: council members approve the budget.

CdeBaca’s amendments sprouted from what she claims is an opaque process.

“This is the beginning of a long-term effort to change the way Denver city budgets are done in 2021 and beyond,” CdeBaca said.

She wants to reform the process with a committee “to bring more transparency, legislative oversight and accountability for program failure and return on investment to our city budget process.”

Hancock would not comment on that idea.

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