Denver’s 2020 ballot measures: The one about community oversight for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure

It’s 2D, the DOTI advisory board.
3 min. read
Seemingly endless signs and lights on East Colfax Avenue, Sept. 7. 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; colfax; kevinjbeaty;

The Department of Parks and Recreation has a community advisory board that weighs in on all kinds of things, from how to spend money to which areas of the city might need new grass. It's a way to inject civilians into arcane government practices, said former Parks board president Leslie Twarogowski.

She felt so strongly about the impact of that board on the Parks department that she asked Councilwoman Debbie Ortega to see if voters might also like one for the city's new-ish Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.

"The reason I brought this forward is because I do believe the public has an influence," she said. As far as DOTI is concerned, she added: "I think that is missing right now."

Ortega made the ballot measure happen, so now it's up to you to decide if the folks who handle roads, sidewalks and sometimes cleanups of homeless encampments should have a regular opportunity to hear from residents.

What the ballot question says: Shall the charter of the City and County of Denver be amended to create the Board of Transportation and Infrastructure to advise the Manager with respect to the policy and operation of the Department and shall review and comment on the proposed annual budget for the Department?

What that means: The measure would create a board comprised of 19 representatives. That's one for each city council member and 6 representatives appointed by the mayor. The board will essentially cost nothing to run, as its members will all be volunteers.

Twarogowski said Parks and Rec's board regularly gets to offer ideas and critiques to department heads. Even though officials don't always agree with their community advisors, she said it's helpful that people like Parks' Executive Director Happy Haynes gets to hear from those living in the city she helps reshape every day. Twarogowski would like to see DOTI's Executive Director, Eulois Cleckley, interface with his constituents in a similar way.

Councilwoman Ortega said the advisory board could help create "continuity" for projects, values and goals that would last even as city leaders change. Something like the Colfax "rapid bus transit" project, which was imagined long ago and won't become a reality for years, could use some stable community input, she said: "It ensures you cant just sweep it under the rug and push it aside."

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Nancy Kuhn, DOTI's chief spokeswoman, said the department's day-to-day won't change too much if this measure is shot down. If that happens, she said the department will work on other ways to solicit feedback for projects.

Through his executive power, Mayor Hancock has already created Multimodal, Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory committees. They have been advising the department, and they'd continue to do so in the absence of a DOTI-specific board. If the measure does pass, it's not clear if the mayor might try to turn these bodies into subcommittees under the new board, leave them alone or eliminate them altogether.

Who supports it: Councilwoman Ortega is the leading voice for this measure.

Who's against it: There is no formal opposition to the measure, and there aren't any written comments added to the official ballot summary for the measure.

Check out our comprehensive voting guide here. Happy voting!

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