Denver's Initiative 300 bad policy, racially motivated
The Bell Policy Center urges Denver residents to vote against Initiative 300, the November 3rd ballot measure that would require police to impound the vehicle of anyone who cannot immediately produce a driver's license.
A similar initiative was passed by the voters in August 2008, but backers decided it didn't have "teeth." Adoption of Initiative 300 will only make a bad situation worse.
Initiative 100 gave police officers authority to impound the vehicles of anyone who could not immediately produce a driver's license, including suspected "illegal aliens." Individuals have to post a $2,500 bond and pay a $100 fee to get their vehicles released from the impound lot. Initiative 300 removes all police discretion from the impoundment decision except when police find "convincing corroborating evidence" of identity. In those situations, officers are mandated to issue a summons.
However, there is no clear definition of "convincing corroborating evidence," which means it is likely that the law would be enforced unevenly and therefore unfairly.
Initiative 300 would also increase the penalties for driving without a license. The initiative would double the impound fee to $200. Thus, if Initiative 300 passes, it would cost an individual at least $2,700 to get a vehicle out of the impound lot.
The Bell's concerns with Initiative 300 include the additional costs to an already strained city budget, the disproportionate financial burdens to low-income individuals and families ensnared by the initiative, and the initiative's racial overtones. In addition, we share the police department's concerns about the inevitable delay in response times.
Denver faced a $120 million budget shortfall in its 2010 budget, and according to the city, Initiative 300 would only exacerbate the city's budget problems. A police department study says the initiative will cost more than $1.6 million in police expenses, and there will be additional costs to the sheriff's department and the city attorney's office. Moreover, the police department predicts that the number of towed cars will jump by 115%, perhaps necessitating the purchase of more land for impound lots.
The initiative's financial penalties would also impose significant burdens on low-income families. First, they would lose their means of transportation, which could have a serious impact on their economic livelihood. To get their cars released, they must pay a $200 fine and post a bond of $2,500. These bonds reportedly cost between $350 and $400. Moreover, the bonds, which are held by the city for one year, are forfeited if, during that one-year period, a driver operates the vehicle without carrying a license.
Finally, although Initiative 300 has been described by its backer, Daniel Hayes, as a traffic safety issue, it retains the obvious racial overtones of Initiative 100. As with Initiative 100, the police are required to impound the vehicle of anyone "reasonably suspected" of being an "illegal alien." The initiative also includes language that could result in automobile dealers checking the immigration status of potential buyers.
The Bell Policy Center has long maintained that immigration is an issue that should be addressed through comprehensive federal legislation. It should not be tucked into piecemeal action at the municipal level.
More than a dozen state legislators, all but one of the Denver City Council members, the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and the County Sheriffs of Colorado, the Denver Post and numerous community organizations have come out against Initiative 300.
Initiative 300 is an ill-conceived and racially motivated initiative that will only make a bad situation worse. The Bell urges Denver voters to vote no on Initiative 300.