Denver’s 2020 ballot measures: The one about giving city council some power over the mayor’s political appointments

It’s 2E, which would give Denver City Council some say in who the mayor picks to lead city departments.
2 min. read
Denver County Court’s Presiding Judge, Theresa A. Spahn, swears Commander Paul “Smiley” Pazen as police chief at Denver’s City and County Building, July 9, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Ballot measure 2E, sponsored by Councilwomen Amanda Sawyer and Candi CdeBaca and sent to voters by the majority of council members, would pick away at the mayor's power by way of 14 political appointments, which include the police chief, sheriff and director of safety.

Some background: Some members of the legislative branch (the city council) are getting somewhat tired of the executive branch (the mayor's office) having as much power as it does. The current dynamic is by design; it's part of the "strong-mayor" system Denver's had for a long time and is a common setup throughout American cities.

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What the ballot measure says: Shall the Charter of the City and County of Denver be amended to give City Council authority to consent to certain mayoral appointments?

What it means: While the mayor will still put forward candidates for 14 key posts, the charter change would let council members approve or block those appointments with a majority vote.

Along with the police chief, sheriff and director of safety, the mayor has the power to appoint directors of these departments: safety, transportation, planning and development, finance, aviation, city attorney, health and environment, business licensing, human services, parks and recreation, and general services.

Who supports it: Members of the Denver City Council and other advocates for decentralizing the mayor's power.

Supporters believe the change is rooted in good governance, citing the fact that Denver is the only strong-mayor system in Colorado that doesn't empower the city council this way. They also believe the move will build consensus around public safety positions and prevent nepotism and unqualified appointees.

Who's against it: Mayor Michael Hancock opposes this change, which would apply to him and future mayors. His office has said the charter change could make finding and confirming qualified candidates harder because of a "hostile" process that has a chilling effect.

There is no organized opposition to this ballot measure. Official comments against 2E call the city council "impulsive" and believe the change will delay the appointment of important leaders.

Check out our comprehensive voting guide here. Happy voting!

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