Feb 2, 2024 - News

Mayor Mike Johnston vetoes bill banning encampment sweeps during freezing temps

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston on July 18, 2023. Photo: RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Mayor Mike Johnston on Friday vetoed a bill that would have banned encampment sweeps during freezing temperatures.

Why it matters: The veto — one of the mayor's most consequential powers — is Johnston's first, and it demonstrates his willingness to check the council's attempts to limit his administration's authority.

Catch up quick: Denver City Council narrowly passed the measure on Monday by a 7-6 vote with bill sponsors and advocates saying it would help save lives during cold weather.

  • It would have banned sweeps when the temperature was projected to be 32° or lower, with some exceptions.

What they're saying: "Though well-intentioned, this legislation would restrict the city's ability to do this life-saving work for approximately four months of the year," read a statement to the city council from Johnston's administration on Friday.

Zoom in: Johnston said they do not intend to carry out sweeps when temperatures are 32 degree or lower without housing or sheltering options available.

By the numbers: It takes nine or more votes from council members to override a veto.

Between the lines: While addressing homelessness has been the mayor's top priority, his administration expressed concerns about the bill.

  • A statement from his spokesperson shortly after it passed suggested he felt it would hinder the city's ability to keep people safe, rather than improving their safety as backers suggested.

Flashback: Johnston appeared to have supported such a ban during a campaign event last year, according to a video posted by the Housekeys Action Network Denver.

Of note: Mayoral vetoes in Denver are exceedingly rare.

Editor's note: This story has been updates to include comment from Johnston.


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