Around the nation and here at home, the economic recovery inches forward. The national unemployment rate has finally dipped below 8 percent, and in Denver, the number of applications for building permits is soaring.
While those are encouraging signs of better days ahead, the recession has taken its toll on personal wealth and the sustainability of our business environment. Denver city government has also seen a great reduction in its revenues, even while the population and the demand for essential services have continued to grow.
Fortunately, the city has successfully navigated the recession so far, but it has come at a price to services such as police protection, street repairs and programs for children - services that hold the keys to the city's economic success and competitiveness.
With the city facing another significant deficit in 2013, Denver is out of one-time fixes. The recession has plagued three mayoral administrations - from Hickenlooper to Vidal and now to Hancock. This fall, we finally have a chance to fix the problem and eliminate the deficit.
On Nov. 6, we encourage Denver voters to support Measure 2A and provide the city with a sustainable business plan. The coalition of businesses and organizations endorsing 2A is impressive; it includes the Downtown Denver Partnership, VISIT Denver, Mile High Business Alliance, the Hispanic, Black and Asian Chambers of Commerce, and neighborhood business districts throughout the city.
Without raising tax rates or fees, Measure 2A will allow Denver to retain and spend $68 million it already collects but must give back to stay below state-mandated revenue caps. Instead of returning these funds to taxpayers, the city can erase its deficit, strengthen its economy and restore essential public safety, infrastructure and children's services.
Over the past four years of recession:
Denver has been unable to train or hire new police recruits. Measure 2A will let Denver hire 100 new police and fire recruits.
Denver has fallen behind on replacing and servicing police, fire and Public Works vehicles, half of which now exceed their safe and useful lives. Measure 2A will let Denver begin to replace 1,000 vehicles in the police, fire and Public Works fleet.
Denver has lost ground on the repair of city streets, one-quarter of which have not been resurfaced in 20 years. Measure 2A will let Denver repave 300 lane-miles of roadway, mostly neighborhood streets.
Denver has cut hours at library branches to just 32 hours a week. Measure 2A will restore branches to an average of 48 hours a week.
Underscoring the importance of Measure 2A, one of the city's investment rating agencies - Fitch's - recently renewed Denver's AAA bond rating and specifically cited 2A as important to the city's long-term fiscal health and stability. Without a strong municipal fiscal foundation, Denver's economy will collapse and our ability to retain businesses and attract new employers will deteriorate.
There are more reasons to support Measure 2A. It will provide $500,000 to help businesses expand and relocate to Denver. It provides a four-year tax exemption to companies that create jobs and buy new equipment. And it gives Denver kids access to city recreation centers and after-school programs to ensure unsupervised children are staying busy when not in the classroom. Measure 2A provides the necessary ingredients for a vibrant business climate that will create jobs and keep Denver competitive.
Measure 2A is not a new idea - more than 85 percent of Colorado's municipalities have removed themselves from the state-mandated caps imposed by TABOR. Just as importantly, approval of Measure 2A still preserves citizens' right to vote on any change in tax rates.
We are very fortunately that the rest of the country views Denver in a positive light. Recently, the city was recognized as one of the best places for business and careers in the nation and was described as "a magnet for the future workforce." It was also ranked the No. 1 city for construction jobs and the top city in the world to host conventions.
However, if Denver is to maintain and improve on that status, it must remain a city that is constantly moving forward and one that invests in its future. Measure 2A will take off the fiscal handcuffs, allow us to recapture the ground we've lost and help us ensure the great quality of life in our city while we rebuild our economy together.
Vote Yes on Denver. Vote Yes on 2A.