Lakewood is the fifth-largest city in Colorado and functions essentially as a suburb of Denver, the largest. Nevertheless, it goes its own way on some things, such as limiting new residential construction in the community of 155,000, and not allowing recreational pot sales – two measures backed by Lakewood voters.
That has set up an odd dynamic in this week’s upcoming elections, where the mayor’s position and five of 10 councils eats are being contested.
Out-of-town money favoring recreational marijuana and apartment construction has been pouring into the contest, The Denver Post reported. It has flowed to two independent expenditure committees backed by marijuana companies and the Apartment Association of Metro Denver, respectively, named Protect Lakewood and Vote Lakewood. And the pro-growth and pro-cannabis contingents are positioning themselves as pro-environment.
There is a progressive tide nationally to eliminate single-family zoning and other land use restrictions in order to promote greater urban density; ditto to eliminate any federal restrictions on the sale and use of pot. The argument for the former is that it will create more affordable housing and greener cities. With the latter, it’s positioned as a matter of criminal justice reform. But the dark money coming into Lakewood’s election and used for negative ads is not the fruit of do-gooderism so much as self-interest, it would appear.
The people of Lakewood can still cast their votes as their consciences dictate – and ignore, for example, the attacks on mayoral candidate and councilwoman Ramey Johnson, who opposed recreational marijuana sales and is now accused of being a climate denier.
It would be better if Lakewood could control how money is raised and spent in its own elections, but on this, we are all in the same boat in Colorado, looking for our state and federal legislatures to do more. By mid-October, for example, nearly $3 million in dark money had been poured into the campaign around Prop CC, to let the state keep tax refunds, with supporters outspending opponents roughly two to one.