Elevate Denver Bond Initiative Maximizes Public Input.

Author:Hanlon, Brendan

In 2018, the County and City of Denver received the GFOA Award for Excellence for exemplary use of GFOA's Best Practice in Communicating Capital Improvement Strategies.

The Elevate Denver Bond program is a 10-year, $937 million general obligation bond issue approved by voters in 2017 to provide critical citywide improvements to City and County of Denver, Colorado, infrastructure: roads and sidewalks, parks and playgrounds, libraries and museums. The bonds will pay for more than 500 public improvement projects that touch every corner of the city, benefiting all of Denver's 78 neighborhoods in seven ways: transportation and mobility, cultural facilities, Denver Health and Hospital Authority, libraries, public facilities, public safety, and parks and recreation. (See Exhibit 1.)


Denver strives to balance the ongoing rehabilitation of its existing assets with the need to meet the needs of its growing population--a situation faced by many other governments. Denver's existing assets have continued to age and age faster due to increased usage. To address this reality, the city engaged a third-party engineering firm to complete a comprehensive, two-year infrastructure study to determine the city's current deferred maintenance backlog and asset maintenance requirements. The study was built on several years of internal work by departmental staff to complete asset condition evaluations, inventories, and other studies to compile asset condition data.

After reviewing all sources of asset data available, the study determined that the city faced a deferred capital maintenance backlog of $789 million. With a daunting capital maintenance backlog, the challenge immediately presented was balancing the need for funding to rehabilitate and/or replace existing assets with a growing desire for transformative projects to enhance residents' quality of life.

Public engagement was the center of Denver's general obligation bond process, so the second challenge in planning for the GO bond was developing a way for every stakeholder --from the public to city council to city agencies--to provide input on the capital projects at every step of the process that should be included in the final bond package. The city began the GO bond process in 2016 by engaging the Denver community in a conversation about the enhancements they want in their neighborhoods and throughout the city. With six public meetings, a map-based online tool, city council engagement...

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