Oct 1, 2021 - Politics

Rift widens inside Denver City Hall

Mayor Michael Hancock. ​​Photo:RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A battle is simmering between Denver's chief policymakers and the city's chief executive.

Why it matters: The tension comes at a high-stakes moment as council members and Mayor Michael Hancock must find common ground on the $1.49 billion 2022 budget before the Nov. 8 approval deadline.

What's happening: The latest example of the power struggles unfolding between the legislative and executive branches came as council members pushed back against Hancock's proposed payout program to reward vaccinated municipal employees.

  • Council members chided the mayor for failing to share his plan before disclosing it to thousands of city employees, painting members into "a corner."
  • They have twice delayed a decision to advance his payout plan. Council members initially scheduled a second hearing for Sept. 28 but delayed it another week because of lingering concerns, Hancock's spokesperson Mike Strott tells Axios.

The widening rift at City Hall goes deeper.

  • Since the city's 2019 election ushered in five fresh faces, local pundits say this council has challenged and chipped away at the mayor's power more than any other in recent memory.
  • This November, council members will include a measure on the ballot to put the appointment of the city's police watchdog under the volunteer Citizen Oversight Board — not the mayor.
  • In August, members challenged Hancock's grand plans to build a new arena at the National Western Center by splitting the project off as a separate ballot question.

Flashback: Last November, council members pushed through three ballot measures to strengthen their authority.

What to watch: Council members today will whittle down a list of 27 proposed budget changes, worth more than $22 million, and submit the final requests to the mayor by Oct. 8.

  • Of note: Last year, Hancock agreed to $5 million in council changes — the most mayoral concessions ever given to the legislative branch. Whether he'll be as generous this year is yet to be seen.

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