Opponents organized under the “NOlympics” banner have filed a proposed Denver ballot initiative aimed at establishing a right of refusal for voters before the city could spend public money to seek or host the Winter Games.
The measure is set for a review and comment hearing with a City Council attorney Tuesday afternoon. If the NOlympics Colorado Committee is successful in collecting 4,726 signatures from verified registered Denver voters in coming months, the initiative would appear on the November ballot.
It’s still unclear whether Denver and Colorado will bid for the 2030 Olympics, but the question could be resolved in the next month or so, as the Denver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Exploratory Committee finishes its work.
Local exploratory leaders have sketched out ideas for a privately financed hosting effort.
But a leader of the opposition effort says the ballot measure will serve as a way to “call their bluff.”
“If it’s a truly private initiative — which we know it’s not — then let’s codify that,” said Kyle Zeppelin, a co-chairman of the NOlympics committee.
Exploratory committee chairman Rob Cohen has conceded that while it might be possible to harness private funding to cover the estimated $1.5 billion to $2 billion hosting tab, the use of some federal and local government resources may be unavoidable. Those potential public costs include some security and the likely use of public facilities, provisions that Cohen says are similar to what the city provides for other large events.
As drafted, the proposed ballot language would establish a new provision under the Elections section of the municipal code that says further voter approval is required before the city can use public resources in certain ways in connection with hosting the games.
It invokes three potential uses for the games: covering financial guarantees, providing public safety services or mobilizing other city employees, and appropriating money for the use of city facilities. It also covers the use of city money or employees to bid for the games.
The proposal, submitted to the City Council last week by Denver activist Christine O’Connor, was one of several possible tacks considered. The NOlympics group has rejected, for now, the idea of pursuing a statewide ballot question — a move that succeeded at thwarting Denver’s successful bid for the 1976 Winter Games.
Ramonna Robinson, a spokeswoman for the exploratory committee, said via email: “It is important to note that the exploratory committee has stated repeatedly that it understands that taxpayers in Colorado do not want to incur debt from an event such as the Olympic Games, and the financial plan that is being researched would not require any state or local governmental subsidies or financial guarantees.”
The exploratory committee is expected to finalize its bid recommendation in mid-May, with a presentation later in the month or in early June to Mayor Michael Hancock and Gov. John Hickenlooper, Robinson said. It will release its recommendation to the public at that time.
Ultimately, it’s up to the elected officials to decide when, and if, to launch a bid. The other U.S. cities considering bids for the 2030 games are Salt Lake City and the Reno-Tahoe area.
Here is the initial ballot language submitted by NOlympics: