Voters denied chance to vote on downtown stadium funding

by

6 comments
The Title Board (L to R) of City Clerk Sarah Johnson, Presiding Municipal Court Judge Hayden Kane and City Attorney Wynetta Massey, face off Friday with Anita Miller, wife of City Councilor Joel Miller, and the petition committee's attorney, C. Adam Foster of Denver. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The Title Board (L to R) of City Clerk Sarah Johnson, Presiding Municipal Court Judge Hayden Kane and City Attorney Wynetta Massey, face off Friday with Anita Miller, wife of City Councilor Joel Miller, and the petition committee's attorney, C. Adam Foster of Denver.

A Title Board comprised of three mayoral appointees turned away a proposed ballot title Friday that would have required voter approval of a downtown stadium — even though it was a mirror image of a 2005 ballot title related to a convention center, which voters approved 2 to 1.

The measure, which grew from discontent over plans for the City for Champions tourism venture, would have prohibited the city from planning, building, funding or financing any stadium and events center without voter approval.

Two of the three Title Board members — City Attorney Wynetta Massey and City Clerk Sarah Johnson — rejected the proposed measure. The third, Presiding Municipal Court Judge Hayden Kane, ruled the measure met both Title Board tests: It's a legislative, rather than an administrative, matter over which the city has authority, and it deals with a single subject.

But Massey, appointed earlier this year by Mayor Steve Bach, said the measure doesn't meet the legislative test. She noted the measure, which is included below, includes mandates against use of money by the Urban Renewal Authority and a public facilities corporation, as well as "funds provided by any other government."

"The city can't mandate what other governments and entities do," she said.
See related PDF StadiumMeasure.pdf
The Urban Renewal Authority, which is organized under state law, and public facilities corporations are autonomous from the city, she said.

Public facilities corporations are usually mere dummy organizations created for the express purpose of dodging state laws, such as the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which requires a vote of the people for indebtedness and tax increases. Such a vehicle was used to finance the U.S. Olympic Committee project, which is pumping some $53 million in tax money into new USOC facilities. The same is true of funding for county facilities, most notably the courthouse.

In any event, Massey argued that because those groups aren't under city authority, voters can't direct them how to spend money.

As for the Urban Renewal Authority, it is the entity that will handle all the money for City for Champions that comes from the state's tax increment financing of sales tax money, as well as any similar arrangement using local tax money.

Massey said if she had held the office back in 2005, she would have opposed the convention center ballot measure on the same grounds. (The city attorney at that time was Massey's boss, Patricia Kelly, who left the city a couple of months after Bach was elected.)

The petition committee numbers half a dozen residents, including activist Kanda Calef, Anita Miller (wife of City Councilman Joel Miller) and Mark Braunlich, who sat in on the Title Board session. Braunlich noted that in order to arrive at the meeting room, petitioners had to come through the City Administration Building's front door, which bears a sticker declaring support for City for Champions.

"We just want to give voters a voice," said attorney C. Adam Foster of Denver. "The purpose of the initiative is to empower voters on how they will spend their money."

Foster said the petition committee can drop the measure, bring back an amended measure, or appeal the ruling to district court.


Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment
 

Add a comment

Clicky Quantcast