Ballot initiative asks about using public funds on Winter Olympics bid

Posted at 10:49 AM, May 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-01 19:23:52-04

DENVER — The Denver City Council attorney is set to hold a hearing Tuesday to consider a ballot initiative that would give voters the right to choose whether they want public money to be spent on bidding for or hosting the 2030 Winter Olympics.

The initiative was proposed by the organizers of the NOlympics Colorado Committee, which is against hosting the games.

“We Set up NOlympics because there are a number of people around the state that think this is a huge distraction and is turning our resources and our brain power in the wrong direction,” said Christine O’Connor from NOlympics.

A major reason the group doesn’t want the Winter Games to come to Colorado has to do with the price tag. Hosting the games can cost anywhere between $1.5 and 2 billion.

“There are always huge costs involved just in bidding for the Olympics. We want to make sure that our public resources are going to things that will improve and protect the quality of life in Colorado,” O’Connor said.

In order to get on the November ballot, the city attorney must review the initiative, get certified by the court clerk, raise funds and then collect enough signatures to get on the ballot.

The first step is a meeting with the city attorney’s office.

“From what I understand they ask us a number of questions about the language in the ballot initiative. They don’t approve or disapprove it. They’re just raising issues in the meetings,” O’Connor said.

The group will need 4,726 signatures from verified, registered voters in order to be included in the November election.

“Public funds should be part of a public discussion before they’re allocated,” O’Connor said. “We want to make sure that voters don’t lose their right to vote on something so all-encompassing.”

The initiative would not ask voters whether or not they want the Olympics to come to Colorado, nor would it pose the question about money quite yet.

Instead, it would pave the way to eventually ask the voters about how to spend public money.

“The goal is to have the public vote on this and we might not get that chance if we don’t revise our city municipal ordinance,” O’Connor said.

The hearing is set for 3 p.m. Tuesday at the City and County building.

The Olympics Exploratory Committee has been studying a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics and is set to release its recommendations to the city and state later this month.

A spokesperson for the committee sent Denver7 the following statement about the process:

“The Exploratory Committee has not yet made a recommendation to Mayor Hancock and Governor Hickenlooper, and the U.S. Olympic Committee has not formally entered into a Winter Games bid process. It is important to note that the Exploratory Committee has stated repeatedly that it understands that taxpayers in Colorado do not want to incur debt from an event such as the Olympic Games, and the financial plan that is being researched would not require any state or local governmental subsidies or financial guarantees.

The Exploratory Committee is proceeding with a timeline that allows them to finalize their recommendation in mid-May. Once that work is complete, a formal recommendation will be presented to Mayor Hancock and Governor Hickenlooper – and ultimately the residents of Colorado –  later in May or early in June.”