Economic opportunity research center opposes Denver impound initiative
By Joseph Boven
The Colorado Independent
Oct. 29, 2009
DENVER – Bell Policy Center, a research and advocacy organization based here that seeks to promote economic opportunity, on Thursday added its voice to the rising tide of concerned politicians, safety workers, and activist groups opposing Ballot Initiative 300, Denver's so-called impound initiative. The initiative would require police to seize the vehicles of any drivers failing to carry a valid license. Initiative 300 is an updated version of Initiative 100, which passed last year. According to Rich Jones, director of policy and research for the Bell Center, Initiative 300 is not only fiscally unsound but is racially motivated.
"Ordinarily, the Bell Policy Center does not take positions on local ballot measures, but last year we weighed in on Denver's Initiative 100 because we felt it was bad policy. More than that, we felt it was racially motivated," a release from the center stated. Jones told The Colorado Independent that the center opposes 300 for many of the same reasons it opposed 100.
"The fiscal aspects of it, you know, just jump right out at us. This is a pretty expensive initiative to implement," Jones said. "If you look at the reasoning for it, and you look at the potential discriminatory effects, it starts to become pretty clear in our view that we don't need to do this."
The Bell Center cited a police department study that found the initiative would cost "more than $1.6 million in police expenses." The report also noted there would be increased costs to both the Sheriff's Department and City Attorney's office. The predicted 115 percent increase in vehicles towed by the city could also require purchasing land to store the impounded vehicles.
Jones said the Bell Policy Center works to develop and promote public policy that generates opportunity. The impound initiative conflicts with that objective, he said, because it would disproportionately impact low-income families. On the most basic level, it causes more problems than it solves. For fairly bureaucratic reasons, working families "could lose their means of transportation. That will have a serious impact on their economic livelihood."
The authorities who would be affected by the law have vocally opposed it. The Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and County Sheriffs have come out strongly against the initiative, saying it be diverting and costly and would unnecessarily take discretion out of the hands of officers on the scene. Colorado Common Cause and Coloradans for Safe Communities also oppose the initiative, as do Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, the Denver police and the city council.
Jones explained that the money the impound initiative would burn up could be spent in a much more productive way and that the motives driving the initiative appear to be punitive and racist.
Proponent Daniel Hayes has said 300 is a "traffic safety issue," said Jones, but it "retains obvious racial overtones of Initiative 100."
The text of the initiative dictates that police would be required to impound the vehicles of anyone "reasonably suspected" of being an "illegal alien."
In discussing his initiative earlier this month, Hayes made it plain to The Colorado Independent that the initiative was meant to address what he saw as holes in the country's immigration enforcement laws.
The Bell Center strongly urges a "No" vote on the impound initiative. "Initiative 300 is an ill-conceived and racially motivated initiative that will only make a bad situation worse."