Nov 2, 2021 - News

Hancock administration deals major blow to homeless ballot measure

Denver Mayor Hancock speaks during a news briefing on a new homeless shelter in 2017. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock's administration clutched a key, eleventh-hour win in its fight against a conservative-backed ballot initiative intended to eliminate the city's homeless encampments.

Driving the news: A Denver district court judge Sunday night upheld the city's challenge to Denver ballot measure 303. The initiative is designed to strengthen the existing urban camping ban by empowering residents to sue the city if action is not taken on a homeless camp within 72 hours after a complaint.

The sharpest teeth of the controversial ballot measure came out less than 48 hours before Election Day.

  • Even if Denver voters adopt the initiative, city officials will not implement the 72-hour timeline, a spokesperson for the city attorney's office tells Axios.

Details: Denver District Court Judge Darryl Shockley's ruling found the three-day requirement would infringe on the city's ability to administer its unauthorized camping ordinance.

  • It would also prevent law enforcement from practicing the "necessary discretion … to ensure that suspects are afforded constitutional protections."

What they're saying: "We believe this measure will pass … and when it does, we are ready to appeal — and let the will of Denver voters be heard," ballot measure sponsor and Denver GOP Chairman Garrett Flicker texted Axios.

Yes, but: Two other components of his measure could stand if voters give the green light on Election Day.

  • No one could camp on private property without approval from the owner, and the city would be required to institute a cap of four sanctioned camping sites on public land.

The big picture: The initiative has struck a nerve citywide, as officials grapple with a decades-long problem that only appears to be worsening.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Denver stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more