Romer calls on Denver to open budget talks

Denver mayoral candidate Chris Romer Monday called on the City of Denver to open meetings of a budget task force to the public.

The City has said the task force is not a “formally constituted” body and hence does not have to follow open meeting laws.

Romer issued the following statement concerning Denver’s decision to keep the Structural Financial Task Force meetings closed to the public:

Fixing Denver’s budget is one of the most critical tasks not only for the future of city government, but also for the future of Denver’s citizens. For the city to choose to shut the public and the media out of these meetings is not what we expect from City Hall.

These are taxpayer dollars and the public deserves to know the details of the difficult choices that will be made to address the city’s $100 million budget deficit. The burden of these choices will be shared by all of us, and so these conversations and these decisions must take place in the light of public process. We must be transparent about these budget meetings to the people of Denver who pay the bills.

I am surprised by the decision to move forward with confidential budget talks. I understand the need for individual briefings to bring the Task Force to a common page, but public dialogue is critical to making tough choices and facilitating shared sacrifice. I hope that the Task Force will reconsider its position and allow all of Denver to be a part of this important conversation about our shared future. An open and transparent government fosters public trust and, particularly during tough economic times, we must communicate with citizens on issues that affect their daily lives.

From today’s Denver Post:

Denver City Attorney David Fine responded, (to a Post request to open the meetings) saying the task force is not a “formally constituted” public body, such as a commission, mayoral board or the City Council. Fine also said that because Denver is a home-rule city, it has developed its own open-meetings law and doesn’t have to adhere to the state’s sunshine law.

(Denver Mayor Bill) Vidal created the Structural Financial Task Force — with 21 community, business and civic leaders — “to develop options to address the structural deficit the city and county of Denver faces in future years,” according to a news release announcing the group.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.