Saturday, April 20, 2024 -
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Summer camps

I spend the majority of my waking hours in Capitol Hill, a neighborhood that has become plagued by the homeless encampments that new Denver mayor Mike Johnston has pledged to eliminate through an ambitious re-housing effort. He also introduced trash collection at one of the sites I pass daily.

For all of his good intentions, I fear that Johnston’s efforts are encouraging encampments. The aforementioned camp at 8th and Logan grows daily. When Johnston first took office there were perhaps two tents at the corner. It has now spread south on Logan and west on 8th.

At 7th and Grant, another favorite spot for one- or two-tent camps, there are flagrant displays of stolen bicycles and copper wire being preparing for fencing.

Here’s what’s interesting: The form for reporting an encampment has changed since Johnston assumed office. No longer are there questions about the presence of animals, children or stolen property. Upon submitting a report, one receives a confirmation email about Johnston’s plan. I do not get the feeling the city cares about the illegal camp I am reporting or its illegal activity.

Give credit where it’s due: On the campaign trail, Johnston talked a big talk about addressing homelessness, and he is trying. He came into office mid-July and he’s already held four press conferences on the topic and visited an encampment.

Maybe Johnston’s approach is one that hurts in the short term to achieve longer term success. But count me, at least currently, as one of the skeptics.

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Even while trash service at select encampments may reduce the danger to public health, it’s ironic considering the new fee on Denver property owners for trash collection. The fee has been controversial for a number of reasons: lack of adequate waste management infrastructure; weekly recycling means more diesel-powered vehicles on the roads; the city’s failure to educate about composting means the main compost producer has stopped accepting much of the city’s compost due to cross-contamination.

The scheme is also fundamentally inequitable, with households producing less waste penalized. My multi-unit should have been rewarded for producing one bin each of trash, recycling and compost per week. At a minimum we should have been permitted to pay a single collection fee; instead we are paying the fee seven times over, not to mention the city originally planned to supply us with the wholly unnecessary 21 (!) barrels allotted to the building.

When I pointed out this inequity — inanity — to my councilwoman, Amanda Sawyer, I first received an obnoxious reply from her staff, followed up by crickets.

New mayor, new council, but so far, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at [email protected].

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