Over the past month or so, city council has been briefed on, and proposed amendments to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock's proposed budget for 2022. By charter, council must adopt a budget by Nov. 8. I was pleased to have garnered support from my colleagues for a trio of amendments resulting in a majority of the dollars council requested to which the mayor has agreed.
Denver Municipal Band
The Denver Municipal Band has been performing free shows for Denverites since the early days of Denver's founding, beginning its staggering run in 1861 as the Denver City Band. To balance a complex budget, Denver Parks & Recreation had nixed its usual Denver Municipal Band support of $24,000-$25,000. In a time of lingering pandemic, what better use of city funds than to offer up free outdoor concerts in local parks? District 5 Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer and I proposed, and the mayor accepted, a $35,000 budget amendment to make up for the Denver Parks & Recreation shortfall and add an extra bump for some extraordinary staging needs faced by the Denver Municipal Band.
I believe Denver needs do a better job in engaging its residents in the business of the city. This goes past simply informing folks of government goings-on, and dives into the important task of mining the populace for its opinions and ideas as to city programs, policies and processes.
Virtually every American city I've examined: Los Angeles (Empower LA), Seattle (Department of Neighborhoods), Portland (Office of Community and Civic Life), Boston (Office of Neighborhood Services), Nashville (Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods and Community Engagement), New Orleans (Neighborhood Engagement Office), and others have realized the importance of, and complexity of, involving a cohort representative of all sectors of the community. This challenging job requires new engagement tools that reach populations not traditionally involved in civic discussions — be they renters, refugee/immigrant communities, people of color, etc.
Denver departments and agencies are separately standing up community engagement staff frequently operating in silos, and duplicating work that should be done by a central office. As other cities have done, we need to assist our Registered Neighborhood Organizations and smaller nonprofits with training on city operations, how to run an effective nonprofit, offer grants for beneficial community-building projects and more.
The mayor agreed to put $40,000 in the 2022 budget to investigate the best way to better engage our citizens. In discussions with consultants doing business with the city, I found that amount to not be sufficient for a full look at important options and brought forth a second $35,000 amendment to boost that study amount to $75,000. Council and the mayor accepted that proposal.
Safe Routes to Schools
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I was able to get agreement from my council colleagues and Hancock to boost the budget amount for our Safe Routes to School program from $500,000 to $2 million. I have long urged Denver's Department of Transportation & Infrastructure (DOTI) to create more consistency in safety protocols around our school campuses. A study recently completed confirms that we are not up to national standards in that area. The mayor's agreement to focus additional dollars is an important commitment to our children, families and school staff. This money will allow us to address, perhaps, a handful of Denver schools with appropriate sidewalks, intersection improvements, signage and lighting and the like. It's a drop in the bucket when looking at the total need, but over time, increased investment in this area will move the needle in a safer direction.
I am pleased to announce a new District 6 initiative - Sustainable 6 - aimed at helping district residents reduce their carbon footprint and make environmentally-sustainable practices part of their everyday life. We'll bring a mix of information and activities each month, so if you're among those who see climate change as a threat and would like to do your part in taking better care of the planet, drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can keep you posted.
Lower motor vehicle speeds
I also got final approval from city agencies to put forth an amendment to our Denver Revised Municipal Code to lower speeds on neighborhood streets from 25 mph to 20 mph, and to lower speeds in Denver parks from 20 mph to 15 mph. I had secured $350,000 in the 2021 budget for a study of speed limits in our city. That multi-pronged study looked at neighborhood streets, arterials and collectors, school zones and slow zones, and other high-pedestrian traffic locations such as rec centers, for example. While much of our dollars and engineering will focus on our high-injury network of streets where most serious injuries and fatalities occur, slowing neighborhood traffic is an important first step in changing the mentality of Denver drivers. Since taking office in 2015, I have printed and distributed more than 1,000 “DRIVE 25!” yard signs. We are preparing our first order of “20 IS PLENTY” placards.
Keep your eye out in coming months for a new bicycle registration program that will make it much easier for you to register your bicycle, and much easier for the police to get it back to you if it is stolen and recovered. 529 Garage is a software program developed by Jay Allard, a long-time Microsoft guru who also invented the X-Box. It's implementation in Vancouver, B.C., a few years back has led to a 44% decrease in bicycle theft. Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen and his team have agreed to secure the new program and my office, along with District 7 Councilman Jolon Clark and his team, will lead council involvement in bringing this important tool to the public. Kudos to my aide, Brent Fahrberger, and local cycling advocate, Brad Evans, for bringing 529 Garage to the attention of the Denver Police Department.
Cabinet In The Community
Finally, Hancock will focus his final virtual Cabinet In The Community on Council District 6, on Nov. 30. The mayor will have representatives of numerous city agencies and departments on board to answer questions and concerns related to the neighborhoods of District 6. The link will be available within the next couple of weeks.
Paul Kashmann represents District 6 on Denver City Council. To get on the district's email newsletter list, send an email to email@example.com.
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