It’s been a difficult summer in Denver. A freakishly long dry spell led to the worst fire season in recorded history - clear signs of climate change’s impacts.
The three largest forest fires in Colorado since 2000 all happened over the last few months sending dangerous air pollution into Denver, a place that is already stuck with unhealthy levels of ozone pollution - the kind of pollution that damages lungs. Before these fires hit, Denver was already in the top 10 for worst ozone pollution.
We know what we need to do. We have the solutions.
We need to make our buildings more efficient and switch to renewable energy. But we also need to cut tailpipe emissions in our transportation sector, the single largest source of climate pollution in Colorado. That means increasing climate-friendly transportation options like transit, walking, and biking so we can reduce the number of cars on our roads and any car we do have needs to be zero-emission, electric-powered.
These climate solutions require an upfront investment. We need money.
On Tuesday, November 3rd, voters stepped up to the challenge and approved 2A, a .25% sales tax increase (think 25 cents for every $100 you spent) that will raise $36 million a year for climate solutions.
This is pretty unprecedented. Very few cities have a dedicated fund to tackle climate change so this vaults Denver to the front of the pack in terms of American cities taking action to ensure our kids and grandkids have a safer, healthier future.
It was exciting to be a part of this effort that hopefully creates a blueprint for other cities. Working in my capacity as both the CoPIRG Executive Director and the Chair of the Denver Streets Partnership, a multimodal advocacy coalition, we reached thousands of Denver voters to encourage them to vote yes.
For me, the campaign culminated in late October when I facilitated a Yes on 2A Facebook live event with Servicios de la Raza, an organization that “serves as an integral chamber in the heart of Metro Denver’s Latinx community.”
Servicios was a close partner with CoPIRG and the Denver Streets Partnership and together we were able to support their work to educate those they serve with both English and Spanish information, videos, and social media posts.
Doing any sort of campaign work during the COVID-19 pandemic has been daunting. But working with the Yes on 2A campaign, we were able to train and turnout volunteers to send thousands of text messages and make phone calls to our members in the days leading up to the election.
Ultimately, more needs to be done to tackle climate change in Denver, in Colorado, and across the country. $36 million is not enough and we can’t let polluters off the hook by picking up this tab ourselves.
But this vote is a victory. It’s one more rock creating one more ripple that helps build the wave of action so we can leave our children the planet they deserve. I’m proud that Denver voters agree.
The time for action is now. There’s a lot Denver can do to cut climate pollution with $36 million next year. And the year after that. And the year after that.