The proposed parking garage for Historic Downtown as envisioned by City Hall.
by Lauren Enda
I retired here from the National Security Agency after 30 years of playing my part to protect the United States. I did not expect to continue that role in retirement, but in my opinion, democratic principles in Loveland are in trouble, especially with the proposed parking garage in Historic Downtown. The Mayor is on record denying residents the right to vote on whether to build the garage. I will not stay silent when this and other examples of abuse of power in my own city are happening. Below, I outline examples.
In recent weeks, we have heard evidence about the mayor’s record of stifling free speech – both of ordinary citizens and of council members. Also, a Loveland resident captured a photo of a campaigner for the Mayor’s “endorsed block” who was removing campaign signs of their opponent on Election Day. Removing campaign signs subverts open, free and fair elections. Who authorized this tactic? Every Loveland resident should be concerned that this type of anti-democratic behavior is happening here. This behavior does not uphold democratic principles. These are two examples of democracy in trouble, but I will focus now on the garage.
Building a multi-story level parking garage in Loveland is very controversial. Many Loveland residents do not want it. The only official feedback we have about the garage is the recent election. Only one council member indicated he was opposed to the garage. And he won the most votes. The message is clear. Loveland voted against the garage. If the Mayor and the newly appointed Council go forward with the garage, they do so against the will of the people.
But does the will of the people matter in Loveland? Mayor Bailey clearly does not think so. During a council meeting on 11 February 2020, the mayor said, “Residents will not be voting on the garage.” When asked WHY residents were not allowed to vote, the mayor responded, “You vote on your elected officials and those are the decisions we have been elected to make.” The Mayor would like for residents to become mute after an election, however, an election does not provide the winning party free rein with taxpayer money. An election does not give the winning party carte blanche to permanently disfigure a town without the clear support of the people. An election does not give anyone a green light to plan a large, controversial project in virtual secrecy.
Below is video of resident Karen Hawkins asking the Council, and specifically, Mayor Kathy Bailey, about the inevitably of the parking garage being built in Historic Downtown Loveland and if the public will be allowed to vote on its construction.:
Elected officials should uphold the will of the people. They should give citizens a voice, not deny their voice. Residents are not mute once they leave the polling booth. Quite the contrary. Loveland citizens should retain a voice in what is decided here – especially on the largest capital expenditure in the history of Loveland.
Protection from abuse of power at the federal level is enshrined in the Constitution by checks and balances between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. What safeguards against abuse of power does Loveland have? Where are our checks and balances? How does Loveland’s electorate ensure our voices are heard?
Luckily, there is precedence that the council could use to uphold democratic principles – Council could determine the will of the people by submitting the garage to a vote. In 2007, Loveland was faced with a similar decision – whether or not to build a YMCA. Since it was an expensive project with strong opposing views, the council wanted citizen input and put in on a referendum. The voters went to the polls and voted the project down. Other municipalities have put similar proposals to a vote. This is how democracy can work when a Council respects the electorate and allows them a vote. Why is our Council not providing us the same opportunity?
My recommendation to the new Council who support the garage is to let Loveland vote on it. The recent election suggests the public doesn’t want the garage. The burden lies with Council to convince the public that this project is in the best interests of the city and the taxpayers. Once appropriate data is gathered and shared with the public on why it is necessary and how much it will cost, then let us vote. Ignoring voter input from the recent election and restricting voter input for the next election is certainly not democratic.
It is not too late for the Council to make this right. Loveland goes to the polls again on May 3rd. To the new Council, this is your chance to show that you are listening to us, not developers or outside interests. Your responsibility to listen to the voters does not end once the election is over. That is when your responsibility begins. Let us vote.