Ballot Measure 2E: National Western Campus Facilities System Bonds

 

SHALL THE CITY AND COUNTY OF DENVER DEBT BE INCREASED $190,000,000, WITH A MAXIMUM REPAYMENT COST OF $327,212,000, WITH NO EXPECTED INCREASE IN THE CITY’S CURRENT RATE OF TAXATION FOR GENERAL OBLIGATION DEBT SERVICE BASED ON THE CITY’S PROJECTED ASSESSED VALUE, THE PROCEEDS THEREOF TO BE USED FOR REPAIRS AND IMPROVEMENTS TO THE NATIONAL WESTERN CAMPUS FACILITIES SYSTEM, WHICH MAY INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO:

• CONSTRUCTION OF A MULTI-USE ARENA FOR CONCERTS, LOCAL AND HIGH SCHOOL SPORTING EVENTS, RODEO, AND OTHER ENTERTAINMENT EVENTS AT THE NATIONAL WESTERN CAMPUS; AND

• RENOVATION AND PRESERVATION OF AN HISTORIC BUILDING AT THE NATIONAL WESTERN CAMPUS TO CREATE A PUBLIC MARKET;

BY THE ISSUANCE AND PAYMENT OF GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS, NOTES, LOAN AGREEMENTS OR OTHER MULTIPLE FISCAL YEAR FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS, WHICH SHALL BE ISSUED OR INCURRED IN SUCH MANNER AND CONTAINING SUCH TERMS NOT INCONSISTENT HEREWITH AS THE CITY MAY DETERMINE (THE EXPENDITURE OF THE PROCEEDS THEREOF TO BE PUBLICLY REPORTED BY THE CITY ON AN ANNUAL BASIS); AND SHALL CITY AD VALOREM PROPERTY TAXES BE INCREASED WITHOUT LIMITATION AS TO RATE BUT BY NOT MORE THAN A MAXIMUM AMOUNT OF $35,155,000 ANNUALLY IN AMOUNTS SUFFICIENT TO PAY THE PRINCIPAL OF, PREMIUM, IF ANY, AND INTEREST ON SUCH FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS OR TO CREATE A RESERVE FOR SAME; AND SHALL THE CITY BE AUTHORIZED TO ISSUE FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS TO REFUND OR REFINANCE SUCH FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS AUTHORIZED IN THIS 

QUESTION, PROVIDED THAT SUCH REFUNDING FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS WHEN COMBINED WITH OTHER OUTSTANDING FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS AUTHORIZED IN THIS QUESTION DO NOT EXCEED THE MAXIMUM PRINCIPAL LIMITS OR REPAYMENT COSTS AUTHORIZED BY THIS QUESTION?

Comments For and Against

Summary of Comments FOR

Denver 2A through 2E will deliver infrastructure improvements that power our economic recovery and help the people who need it the most. Vote yes on 2A through 2E to create good paying jobs, provide shelter for people experiencing homelessness, and invest in historically underserved neighborhoods. 

And we can do all of this while keeping your tax rates the same.

Measures 2A through 2E will address critical issues facing Denver and help get the city back to work. The ballot measures will fund 88 specific projects that target the most pressing concerns of Denver residents in the neighborhoods that need it most, as identified through a public input process that engaged thousands of Denver residents. By funding these projects, 2A-2E will create more than $1 billion of economic impact and 7,500 jobs and will save taxpayer money by repairing and improving Denver’s infrastructure before it breaks. Measure 2E creates 3,500 jobs alone. 

Measure 2E will fund Phase 3 of Development at the National Western Campus, continuing the work needed to complete the National Western Campus Master Plan. Measure 2E will: 

• Transform the Historic 1909 Building into a Public Market, which was envisioned in the NWC Master Plan. The renovation will protect the historic landmark while providing the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea communities, a USDA recognized food desert, with fresh, healthy, and local foods that will help satisfy the everyday shopping needs of residents. The space will provide opportunities for local business owners, chefs, entrepreneurs, and community members with new economic opportunities, while providing year-round, living-wage jobs. The public market will ultimately account for 400 construction jobs and more than 1,000 new, full time jobs when construction is completed. 

• Construct a year-round, 10,000-seat National Western Center Arena to replace the aging and outdated Denver Coliseum. The proposed arena will become the venue for seasonal events currently happening at the Coliseum, as well as provide a space for 200 events a year. The arena will host concerts, sporting events, expos, and other activities that do not currently have a year-round space in Denver. The arena will ultimately account for over 3,000 construction jobs. The construction of the arena will also free up the Coliseum for reuse/redevelopment. 

Measure 2E funds another commitment made to the Globeville-Elyria-Swansea communities in the 2015 NWC Master Plan. The construction of the arena and the renovation of the Historic 1909 Building will provide revenue for the Community Investment Fund, while the Public Market will be the first mission-driven public market in the city, designed to address the food needs of the local community. The projects funded through 2A-2E address the top community needs as identified through hundreds of public meetings, events, and comments from RNO’s, HOA’s, the Citizens’ Advisory Committee, and local business associations. 

Measures 2A-2E are a result of input from residents across Denver, reflecting the need to address critical issues, create a more equitable city, and jumpstart the economy, all without raising taxes. 

Summary of Comments AGAINST

The National Western Bond burdens taxpayers with increased property taxes for a $190 million bond to fund a financially unsound and socially unjust development plan for a Rodeo Arena and Public Market. At a time when Denver needs investment in housing, infrastructure, and community businesses, we cannot afford to divert recovery funds to an Arena and Market.

Bonds can be funded in numerous ways, such as tourism taxes, but the City is rushing through a bond that forces taxpayers to shoulder the costs through increased property taxes. The City has until 2027 to secure funding for National Western, and there is no pressing need to secure the bond funds this year. Additionally, the City already issued a bond in 2015 for infrastructure improvements yet nearly 70% of those funds remain unspent.

The development plans for National Western were also found to be economically and financially unsound. The feasibility study commissioned by the City of Denver states that the public market “would likely fail because these neighborhoods alone don’t have the population density and resulting purchasing power to support a Public Market.” Similarly, the study finds that “the Arena may be viewed as “too small for top acts” and “too big for the majority of (smaller) acts.”

While supporters of 2E cite benefits for the local community such as job creation and food access, these claims are unfounded. The jobs created by the Arena and Market will likely be minimum wage, low-skill jobs, and contingent on the uncertain profitability of the Arena and Market. And the food offered at the Public Market will primarily be prepared foods sold by restaurants, not fresh produce or grocery offerings. The feasibility study states that the market is neither directly competitive with, nor comparable to, a grocery store, and as such does not meet the food access needs of the local community.

The investment of the bond in the Arena and Market ignores the priorities of Denver residents. In a survey conducted by the City of Denver on priorities for recovery dollars, residents’ overwhelmingly named housing, mental health services, and transportation as their priorities, not venues or entertainment. Yet the 2E bond would account for over 40% of all recovery funds raised through bonds in 2021.

Denver City Council raised numerous concerns about the development plans, citing the significant financial risk in funding these large projects at a time of economic uncertainty, as well as the rushed nature of the bond process that normally is conducted over an entire year. Numerous city council members have stated their intent to vote no on 2E for these reasons.

Beyond the faulty economics, the local community vehemently opposes the plans, calling for investments in community development such as the creation of a grocery store in the neighborhood food desert, repairs to local streets, and improved transportation.

When the City's own feasibility study and Denver city council express severe concerns over the development plans for National Western, the need to vote no could not be clearer.