The City and County of Denver’s Elevate Denver Bond Program planning process consisted of a strong and inclusive organizational approach that can be easily adapted by other local governments no matter the size. Denver’s approach in planning for their general obligation bond was successful in breaking organizational silos and in building public trust as it allowed for a true citywide evaluation of investment priorities from a bottom-up approach. The success of the project input process was a key contributor to the overwhelming support from voters.
Denver’s inclusive process for gathering input from a variety of stakeholders and narrowing down to a feasible list of projects can be replicated. To do so, the first step is to outline the phases of the major capital planning process. Denver’s GO bond process involved three major steps which spanned an 18-month period:
Development of Project List
- Elevate 2020 Six-Year Capital Plan and public outreach
Evaluation of Project List
Six stakeholder committees, composed of community leaders and organized by asset portfolio to help evaluate projects, (Parks and Recreation, Transportation, Safety, Arts and Culture, Public Facilities and an Executive Committee consisting of the chairs of each subcommittee plus several citywide representatives)
Recommendation of Project List
Stakeholder committees’ recommendation to elected officials
Within each of these steps, a work plan was developed which included a timeline, communications strategy, list of supporting materials and execution approach.
For example, for each stakeholder committee, a notebook was provided to each committee member which included all supporting process materials, including a one-page description of each project as well as public comments. Standard templates were developed to ensure all participants in the process had access to the same level of information. City Council members were regularly briefed throughout the process and were provided with content to include in newsletters and social media to ensure their constituents were informed. The Elevate Denver team also maintained a city website where regular updates were provided including project materials, maps, and updates.
One of the most notable attributes of Denver’s bond process was that it was implemented solely by city staff without consultants and with minimal resources. The core of the processes’ success was the involvement of over 100 staff citywide from various departments to provide subject matter expertise, evaluate project ideas, and share their passion for making Denver a world class city. These employees staffed tables at community events, provided ideas and input, staffed stakeholder meetings, and more over the course of the process.