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Tensions over Denver's proposed $2 billion budget for 2024 ramping up at Denver City Hall

Clerk and Recorder Paul Lopez says proposed budget for election expansion slashed more than 80%
Paul Lopez.jpg
Posted at 5:21 PM, Oct 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-21 16:22:34-05

DENVER — Tensions are beginning to boil at Denver City Hall regarding communication surrounding the city’s proposed $2 billion budget for 2024 as at least two elected officials this week publicly aired grievances with the mayor’s office.

“You know, there’s conflict and I think it’s a lack of collaboration,” Denver Clerk and Recorder Paul Lopez told Denver7 Investigates on Friday in an exclusive interview.

Late Thursday, Lopez sent a letter to Denver Mayor Mike Johnston and all 13 city council members regarding frustrations over a cut to his budget proposal for an expansion to the elections office and enhanced security.

“It was very surprising… To be frank, quite shocking,” Lopez said.

Lopez’s letter stresses a need for an office expansion and more security.

Lopez originally requested $942,000 for these improvements in the budget as a one-time request. He said those improvements are now budgeted for $175,000 — a decrease of more than 80%.

He also included a June 30 letter to the city’s Department of Real Estate, stressing this need. He noted in his most recent letter that his staff had been in communication with the Department of Real Estate to secure space on the third floor of their current building at 200 W. 14th Ave.

He wrote that his staff believed that preparations were underway, only to learn that little progress had been made.

You can see the letters here.

Tensions over Denver's proposed $2 billion budget for 2024 ramping up at Denver City Hall

Denver City Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore also expressed frustrations this week with a two-minute video post on X, formerly known as Twitter, regarding the budget process.

“Mayor Johnston wants to spend nearly $2 billion of our money, but won’t answer a simple question: Which projects are getting funded?” Gilmore said. “Here’s what those non-answers boil down to: They think the way they spend our money should be kept secret and that being transparent and accountable isn’t how a government should run.”

She continued, “I want to know what we’re choosing to spend money on and what we’re not. It’s really that simple."

Lopez said he shared the same transparency concerns as Gilmore and that he hopes Johnston takes him seriously.

Johnston’s office said he was not available for an interview on Friday.

His team instead sent a statement that read: "The Mayor’s Office is committed to supporting and prioritizing the Clerk and Recorder’s work to ensure secure elections in Denver, which is why the 2024 proposed budget increases the budget for the Elections division by 25%, significantly greater than the 3.7% increase in the overall general fund budget. The Mayor is prioritizing this critical election process through a significant increase in the budget of the Elections division while prioritizing security for the 2024 election. Mayor Johnston looks forward to a continued partnership with the Hon. Paul Lopez to ensure secure and fair elections in Denver."

Lopez’s office responded to that statement, noting the elections budget fluctuates based on the number and type of elections held each year.

“The 25% increase includes essential voting equipment replacements, wages for 2,000 election judges and inflationary costs,” Lopez’s statement read.

Lopez also noted that the annual budget is separate from the capital expenditures, which is what was cut by more than 80%.

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