Councilman Kashmann Wants More Funding for Sidewalks in the November Bond

East 23rd Avenue has a fresh sidewalk on one side, but none on the other. Photo: David Sachs
East 23rd Avenue has a fresh sidewalk on one side, but none on the other. Photo: David Sachs

Denver City Councilman Paul Kashmann wants more money for sidewalk construction than Mayor Michael Hancock allotted in his list of projects that would receive funding from the bond measure up for a vote in November.

Hancock’s list [PDF] includes several projects with some pedestrian infrastructure, but the line item dedicated to general sidewalk construction comes in at $30.7 million, far less than the $600 million needed to close gaps and bring the citywide pedestrian network up to snuff.

City Councilman Paul Kashmann
City Councilman Paul Kashmann

An executive committee had recommended Hancock spend $41.9 million on sidewalks, but he pared it down by $11 million. The total bond is worth $937.5 million, with $415.5 million earmarked for transportation.

“What I need to hear at some point is what the wisdom was in chopping all of that money off of sidewalks, because we don’t have the alternative funding stream at present to bring money in to install or repair sidewalks” Kashmann said at a council hearing Monday. “We’ve got kids all around the city walking in the street to get to school because we don’t have sidewalks.”

The allocation to sidewalks would be less of a problem if Denver had a coherent citywide policy to maintain the pedestrian network. But that’s not the case — the city relies on private property owners to build and maintain public sidewalk infrastructure. Not every property owner has the means to cover that cost, and the city doesn’t enforce the rules in any case. That’s why Denver is missing sidewalks on more than a quarter of its streets.

Kashmann led the push to create a better funding stream, but that process has stalled, meaning the bond is the only potential source of public funds for sidewalks on the table right now.

There’s $50 million of unidentified “contingency” money in the bond right now, which could offer some wiggle room for more sidewalk funding. Based on Monday’s conversation, it doesn’t seem like Council members have an appetite to lower the $101 million allocation to catch up on neglected maintenance in order to fund sidewalks, but that’s technically a route they could take.

Monday’s hearing was the first of two before the City Council will vote on a final project list. Kashmann hasn’t decided whether to file an amendment to change the list, he told Streetsblog. That will depend on the outcome of a meeting with the Hancock administration next week, where he’ll be seeking assurances that the bond funding for sidewalks will prioritize areas near schools, and that future general fund revenue will go toward sidewalks.

  • TakeFive

    Sounds like funding for the Central Library was a notable concern as well.

    Several council members asked about more money for the central library downtown. The library has said it has about $100 million in needs and will get about $38 million from the bond proposal.
    That tally will cover about $31 million in deferred maintenance at the library that sees about 2,600 people a day — nearly 1 million a year, City Librarian Michelle Jeske told council members.

    Guess you could say the density is there. Additionally:

    The parks and recreation category for the bond list includes $136.6 million, but that wasn’t high enough for many council members. “Parks are critical to our city,” said Councilman Jolon Clark, adding that the city’s parks and rec department “does an amazing job.” But, he said, “I’m not thrilled with this number. It isn’t enough. It’s not enough for a city our size and growing.”

    Clark said Denver is the only county in the metro area that doesn’t have a dedicated revenue stream to acquire new space for parks. “We have to continue the conversation about how we fund our parks beyond the 2017 bond issue,” he said.

    Being a Yuge fan of parks I’ll agree with this. Albus Brooks also adds that:

    Brooks said the package includes $60 million for pedestrian-focused projects, many of them for new sidewalks where none currently exist. And looking at elements of other projects in the transportation and mobility category, there’s a total of $161 million dedicated to pedestrian and bicycle improvements, Brooks said.

    Parks and Rec got hosed; that’s just wrong. /sigh
    All quotes courtesy of Cathy Proctor/ DBJ: https://www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2017/07/17/denver-city-council-heaps-praise-criticism-on-937.html

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