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Denver lawsuit claims homeless enforcement ballot measure would defy federal order

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DENVER (KDVR) — Everyone in Denver knows homelessness is an issue.

Camps popping up on corners before being swept up by the city, only to show up again.

An initiative on this year’s ballot wants to speed up the time it takes the city to clean up street corners and call in private enforcement if the city will not get it done in a timely fashion.

But that initiative is now facing major pushback from the city. The Denver City Attorney’s Office filed a lawsuit over one portion of the initiative they say violates a federal order. The lead proponent of the initiative thinks there is more to the lawsuit than that.

“First of all, I think this is absolutely ridiculous. Let’s start with that,” said lead proponent on Denver ballot initiative 303, Garrett Flicker. He is questioning the timing of a lawsuit from the city against a part of his ballot initiative.

“Why didn’t they bring this up months ago during the comment and review section? You know, when we were getting it onto the ballot?” Flicker said.

The complaint filed in Denver District Court is against the provision in the measure that reads: “The initiative allows for the filing of complaints with the city and then requires the city to take enforcement action within 72 hours.”

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said that cannot happen due to a court order.

“Must move in within 72 hours when you see a tent, well absolutely — we want to move within 72 hours. But we are under a federal court order which says you must give a 7-day notice before you clean up an encampment. So it would violate federal law almost immediately,” Hancock said in an interview with FOX31.

But Flicker believes the city will lose this fight because of the broad language of the measure.

“303 states that you can issue a complaint and the city has 72 hours to take action on it. That could mean posting a notice. … This lawsuit has just no standing,” Flicker said.

Although that deadline is what’s attracted the lawsuit, questions about the initiative’s call for the city to establish up to four camping sites on public property are also being raised.

“We are [already] setting up safe outdoor sites. It’s much more complex than just saying we are going there to set it up. You’ve got neighborhoods that must be engaged, you must have partnership with the community, and you must have a partner. They must be well-managed and regulated for the safety of everybody,” Hancock said.

As for the lawsuit, the city wants the court to remove that section about the 72-hour notice from the initiative and mark it as invalid. They are asking for a speedy hearing to get it settled before Election Day, Nov. 2.

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