Denver’s auditor wants more transparency for open records. That sounds good. 

Open records Screen Shot 2020-05-22 at 11.55.53 AM

Besides, it’s good for those of us who live in the city. 

This week, Denver’s auditor has criticized the Denver city administration about its lack of transparency concerning open records. Just about every reporter at some point has filed a request for records, including electronic information. And just about every governmental entity knows it can take a large amount of time to meet a request. It eats up employees’ time. It charges money for releasing information that might be incredibly important, but the cost may not be uniform throughout the city. However, information is crucial. 

Auditor Timothy O’Brien yesterday released this new audit, in which he noted 14 recommendations for improving the city’s handling of public records. The Denver Post reported this today, with this quote from O’Brien: “The city’s records are really the people of Denver’s records. Unless prohibited by law, we should be making it as easy and clear as possible to find information about what their government is doing,”

Of the 14 recommendations, the city said it would “carry out nine of the recommended changes by the end of the September.” The rest, not so much. What makes this so important is that the city is now juggling huge projects, which in some cases have become a little wobbly, while facing the plummeting resources during this spring: the airport, the Colorado Convention Center, the National Western Complex, remaking the 16th Street Mall, and probably others. 

What brought this to mind was a column in the Post just about a month ago. It was written by Jamie Giellis, one of last year’s candidates for mayor. The column suggested that some of the major projects need to be pared down, or shelved during a time that money is draining away. That included this item, from Giellis: “Reimagining the vision for the National Western Complex to one that’s focused on community resiliency, particularly for Globeville and Elyria-Swansea. The Complex is now home for our homeless – let’s find a way to make housing, services and jobs a permanent part of National Western’s legacy.”

So this week, the mayor hit the pause button on a major aspect of the growing campus.

Denverite reported this: “A crucial portion of Denver’s massive National Western Center campus remodel is on hold following a steep dive in the lodger’s tax, which is expected to fall more than 62 percent this year, according to the latest projections from the city’s finance department. 

“The city’s ramshackle National Western Complex, home to the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo, is supposed to be made over into a hub where food and agricultural science meet arts and entertainment in an urban setting. A combination of voter-approved tourism taxes and private investors are meant to pay for the project wedged between I-70 and the Platte River in Elyria-Swansea.

“On hold is a key portion of the campus, known as ‘the Triangle’ (named for its shape), with a 10,000-seat arena to replace the Denver Coliseum and host the stock show, concerts, and other events. A new exposition hall and the restoration of a 110-year-old building, which may be converted into a market, are that included a carrot for potential investors: 42 acres of public land available for the private development of homes and businesses — with requirements for affordable housing. That development is also on hold as of Tuesday, when Hancock decided to pause the bidding process.”

It’s interesting to think perhaps other projects might take a breath for a bit, including the remaking of the 16th Street Mall. The last time I went to a meeting about that project was on February 27. “The Mall Experience” page seems to be the same as it was three months ago. Though the city has partners in this project, it seems like it can take a time out. 

The links below lead to a story about the auditor’s release requesting more transparency in city government, to “the pause” involving the National Western Center, in regards of  city officials who are discussing what happens in Denver if there is a second “surge” this fall of the virus, the most recent information concerning the bid-rigging scandal involving the convention center, and the current page on the city’s website concerning the 16th Street Mall project.

“The city’s records are really the people of Denver’s records”: Auditor criticizes transparency on open records

Denver puts arena, expo hall plans on hold for National Western Center project

Mayor Hancock pauses National Western Center arena and 42 acres of private development as coronavirus sends hotel taxes plummeting

As the city reopens, Denver leaders brace the economy for a coronavirus surge in the fall

Convention center bid-rigging scandal: Mortenson agrees to $1.3M settlement that includes work on coronavirus project

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