Everyone knows the old expression “you can’t fight city hall” means the establishment in Lakewood. The recent controversy around the citizens’ growth initiative has stirred up all the special interests who run Lakewood. In addition to the developers and financial interests, the opposition to the citizens’ initiative has brought out the usual groups who seek government support (advocates for affordable housing and bicycles, business associations, and nonprofits). In addition to the liberals seeking more government spending, the opposition also includes Tea Party no-government types.
Denver’s Fox31 and Channel 2 news did a story looking into accusations Mayor Paul was involved in the recent legal efforts to prevent the citizens’ initiative from reaching the ballot box. Citizens did an information request from the City that turned up an email from Mayor Paul to all the city’s special interests asking for support in opposing the citizens’ initiative. One of the offers of support came from conservative attorney Dennis Polk. It is alleged Polk offered to find a client who would file a legal protest to the City Clerk’s decision that the initiative was sufficient to go to the ballot box.
He did find a client in the form of Steve Dorman, who is well-known in Tea Party circles. Whether the legal effort is successful or not in eliminating the initiative it has already delayed it beyond the November ballot. Even if it goes to the ballot in a special election, the protest has created a chilling effect that may eliminate any other citizens’ initiatives in the future.
As expected the special interests banded together, raised a ton of money and Paul’s former campaign manager formed a group called Lakewood United for Responsible Growth which hired a PR/lobbyist consultant to run a professional campaign against the citizens initiative. The group has flooded Lakewood homes with mailings and robocalls while the proponents are doing nothing to promote the initiative because what little money they can raise is used to fight the legal battles.
Finally, there is the question of whether your tax dollars are being used to fight the citizens’ initiative. The open records request revealed city staff time was used to help the mayor devise his “commentary”, etc. At the recent state legislators’ town hall, the Metro West Housing group made a presentation against the initiative. Readers may recall Metro West Housing is the name given to Lakewood’s old Housing Division. The government agency got in trouble years ago for giving campaign contributions to the establishment effort to get a sales tax increase passed. After the political fallout from that inappropriate use of public funds, the agency changed its name and tried to establish its “independence” from the City. However, the agency’s Board of Directors are still appointed by the Lakewood mayor (without any City Council concurrence).