How Denver is funding its yellow vest safety campaign
Before Denver Mayor Mike Johnston launched his new downtown safety campaign this month, his aides went shopping.
Driving the news: The new downtown "ambassadors" clearing sidewalks of homeless encampments and trash are sporting hip fleece vests from Utah-based outdoor brand Cotopaxi, all purchased with pandemic relief money.
- Ambassadors — made up of nonprofit workers, city employees, council members, private security guards, and downtown advocates — are intended to offer information and support, from helping someone connect to services to getting them home safely after a ball game.
By the numbers: Johnston's administration ordered 650 Cotopaxi vests for $78.50 a pop, totaling about $51,000, the mayor's spokesperson Jordan Fuja tells us.
- The half-puffer, half-fleece vests were funded with federal COVID relief money intended for downtown safety and activation from the American Rescue Plan Act, Fuja says.
Why it matters: How Denver is spending what's left of the unprecedented, one-time infusion of federal dollars raises questions about whether it will deliver the results local officials are betting on.
What they're saying: This approach "feels like deja vu," City Cast Denver podcast host Bree Davies said last week, citing the city's effort in 2022 to deploy a "downtown action team" to revitalize the area.
- "It was like the same conversation we're still having and we're still having the same problems — so I just don't see how this is going to solve that same issue," Davies added.
The big picture: The ambassador program is just one part of Johnston's six-pronged approach to making downtown cleaner and safer — a campaign that largely builds on initiatives started under former Mayor Michael Hancock.
- Other elements of Johnston's plan include expanding the reach of the city's Clean & Safe smartphone app, which allows people to report problems downtown, improving coordination between the city and outside partners, and activating more businesses in the area.
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