As a public servant I’m only as effective as my ability to listen to constituents and must lead with neighbors’ voices echoing in my mind as I make decisions. That is why each year before the …
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As a public servant I’m only as effective as my ability to listen to constituents and must lead with neighbors’ voices echoing in my mind as I make decisions.
That is why each year before the city’s budget process I take time to do a “temperature check” with constituents to learn more about their values. As I advocate for specific policy positions on behalf of residents in District 9, and the city as a whole, I use the information gathered from surveys you and your neighbors have filled out.
We are in the 2019 budget season, which means that Denver City Council is working closely with the Mayor’s office and Denver’s city agencies to determine funding priorities for next year, and it’s important to me that these budget priorities reflect your values. It is good for a city to speak about issues concerning the lives of its residents, but what is even more important is for us to put our money where our mouth is.
With that in mind, I want to share with you the ways this proposed budget attempts to address the concerns of the top three issues facing Denver’s residents.
The number one issue facing Denver is affordable housing. Nine out of 10 Denverites agree that we are currently in the middle of a housing crisis.
I have not attended a single neighborhood meeting where this did not come up in a meaningful way. Denver’s working class faces ongoing threats of displacement because there simply aren’t enough affordable housing units in the city. This budget allocates an additional $50 million to housing for those experiencing the greatest risk of displacement, including our workforce and homeless populations. This will come from marijuana tax revenues and our recently doubled affordable housing fund.
If you’re like most of your neighbors, the time when you are most likely to be frustrated during the day is when you are behind the wheel of your car, sitting in traffic — which is the second issue we are facing. Denver’s rapid growth has put a strain on our transportation infrastructure, leading to widespread congestion.
Traffic is not only deeply frustrating, but it also is unhealthy for our city and the environment. The path to eliminating congestion is not to provide more paths for your car, but investment in transit. We must make significant investments in multimodal transportation to reduce the amounts of single occupancy vehicle (SOV) trips. This proposed budget invests an additional $27 million into our Mobility Action Plan, but this is nowhere near the scale of investment that our growing city needs. For Denver to move forward we must do a better job of moving around, which is why I will be pushing for increased funding for public transit options beyond what is in this budget. We need a dedicated source of funding.
The third issue, and one that keeps city leaders up at night, is homelessness.
It is unacceptable to have a thriving city where marginalized populations have no other options but to sleep on the streets or in their car. The federal government has failed to make sizable investments in mental health and housing, so it is our responsibility as a city to take care of our most vulnerable residents.
Here in Denver, we have housed over 6,300 families and individuals experiencing homelessness since 2011. While we have made progress, we still have roughly 3,000 people experiencing homelessness on a daily basis, with around 600 of them unsheltered. The proposed 2019 budget calls for 30 percent, which is $10 million, of our housing investment to be directed to those experiencing homelessness, and $14.7 million to be put towards facilities and services.
Clearly, this is short of what we need to fully solve this problem. That is why I will be strongly supporting “Caring 4 Denver,” which is on the November ballot. This initiative will provide $45 million for mental health and addiction services for children and adults, which will reduce homelessness, improve long-term recovery and reduce the use of jails and emergency rooms.
As I meet with agency leaders and sit in budget hearings, I want to continue to hear from you! What do you think we need to better budget for in 2019? Please send your thoughts and ideas to me, because I am listening and want to better advocate for you and your neighbors during this budget season. You can reach me at Albus.Brooks@Denvergov.org
Denver Councilmember Albus Brooks represents District 9. The district covers north central Denver, including City Park, the Central Business District, Five Points and more. Brooks served as council president from July 2016 to July 2018.
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