Chris Herndon 1.4.21

District 8 Councilman Chris Herndon laughs at a joke by District 6 Councilman Paul Kashmann, asking Herndon to read the dozens of agenda items up for a block vote in Monday night's meeting over again. 

Denver City Council made short work of its first meeting of 2021 on Monday as members approved a bill setting District Attorney Beth McCann’s salary for her next four-year term and OK'd a community corrections contract.

McCann, who won reelection in November, will get a 1% raise in 2022 according to the bill, followed by 3% raises in 2023 and 2024. The raises are contingent on the city’s freeze of pay increases for career service employees lifting by then.

McCann has previously said she does not want a raise if Denver’s economy has not bounced back sufficiently for city employees’ pay increases to be reinstated. 

City Council sets the elected DA’s salary at the outset of their term. McCann’s current salary of $228,478 will remain the same for 2021.

Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca cast the only “no” vote. 

"On its surface, this salary increase request might seem standard, but in 2020 we witnessed a clear demand from the public about accountability for this elected representative. The public has been left feeling that their hard-earned tax dollars should be tied to some expectation of defense of the public against state-sanctioned violence,” CdeBaca said in a statement emailed to the Denver Gazette on Monday afternoon. 

“I haven't seen compelling data to suggest the DA has met those expectations and am thus obligated to honor my constituents' pleas for more accountability and clarity around metrics of success related to outcomes, rather than inputs, before we authorize salary increases in the middle of the worst economic crisis we have ever faced as a city."

At City Council’s Dec. 21 meeting, CdeBaca requested an additional session for public comment, which was not granted by Council President Stacie Gilmore. The Finance & Governance Committee’s Dec. 15 meeting included a public comment session, but did not receive any input. 

CdeBaca said at the Dec. 21 meeting and on Twitter last week that midday comment sessions aren’t feasible for people who work during the day. In a tweet, she asked if people would like a rule change to hold mandatory public comment sessions at “more convenient” times, which got about a dozen affirmative responses. 

In other business on Monday:

In a block vote without discussion, the Council approved a $5 million community corrections contract with Independence House through 2023.

The council has also introduced a contract with the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center — Addiction Research and Treatment Services, also for $5 million and running through 2023. 

The contracts are intended to replace halfway house services lost when City Council ended contracts with CoreCivic and GEO Group in the summer of 2019.

Denver lost about 500 halfway house beds as a result. In February 2020 City Council renewed a contract with CoreCivic for a maximum of 250 beds until June 2021 as a stopgap while the city searched for replacement halfway house operators. 

ARTS operates Denver’s The Haven and Peer I facilities, and Independence House operates facilities on Fillmore and Pecos streets.

The contracts will add 231 community corrections beds, according to a presentation last month to the Safety, Housing, Education & Homelessness Committee by Division of Community Corrections Director Greg Mauro, giving the city 481 beds total. The search will continue to replace the 250 beds they will lose when the CoreCivic contract winds down.

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