Pot firms, developers taking sides in contentious Lakewood election

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Lakewood’s municipal election is awash in developer and marijuana funds — two concerns that voters in Colorado’s fifth-biggest city have currently taken positions on at the ballot box.

That has some asking yourself if it is an try to pack the Lakewood City Council with members favorable to the cannabis sector and additional robust improvement in this city of 155,000 on Denver’s western edge.

In 2014, voters rejected a measure that would have legalized recreational pot sales in the city. And this previous summer season, voters authorized a limit on new residential building in Lakewood.

“What issues me is there are efforts to circumvent the will of the folks,” mentioned Anita Springsteen, an 11-year resident of Lakewood who helped spearhead slow-development measure Query 200, which became law in July.

She is operating for a council seat in Ward three in the Nov. five election. In addition, 4 other council positions and the mayor’s seat are up for grabs in Lakewood.

Two independent expenditure committees, which are not permitted to coordinate with candidates, collected $72,139 more than a 3-day period this month from practically a dozen marijuana firms and developer interests, like the Apartment Association of Metro Denver and Ascend Cannabis.

That funds has made a swirl of attack advertisements on the online and in print against Ramey Johnson, a councilwoman operating for mayor, and in favor of her opponent, Mayor Adam Paul.

Paul opposed Query 200, which voters passed 53% to 47% in spite of huge spending against it. This time about, the spending by pro-development and pro-cannabis forces is not focusing on either of these concerns but rather on the atmosphere — at least on paper.

An on-line ad targeting Johnson claims that she opposed the buy of open space in Lakewood and shared an write-up with council colleagues that questioned the human influence on climate modify. She later expressed regret for sharing the story.

Lynea Hansen, the registered agent for each Guard Lakewood and Vote Lakewood — the independent expenditure committees with the hefty war chest — mentioned Johnson is a target due to the fact she “has shown time and time once more that she is a climate denier and that she does not help guarding open space in Lakewood.”

When pressed on why cannabis firms would have a unique interest in these concerns as opposed to receiving a toehold in what could be Colorado’s fifth-biggest recreational marijuana industry, Hansen responded: “I do not know quite a few folks who are not concerned about climate modify.”

Lakewood permits health-related marijuana sales but not recreational sales.

Peter Marcus, a spokesman for Terrapin Care Station, mentioned his company gave $five,000 to Guard Lakewood partly primarily based on climate modify issues. But he admitted yet another motive.

“If one particular day Lakewood decides that it desires adult-use cannabis sales in its city, then we want to guarantee that the city’s leadership will not block the will of the folks,” Marcus mentioned. “… It is no secret that Ramey Johnson has been opposed to cannabis reform.”

Andrew Hamrick, common counsel for the Apartment Association of Metro Denver, mentioned his association gave $9,000 to Guard Lakewood for a easy purpose.

“Affordability of housing is a main challenge for the metro location,” Hamrick mentioned. “We’re searching to help candidates that do not help development limits.”

The nasty tone of the campaign fueled by outdoors funds, Johnson mentioned, is driving a wedge in the city’s electorate.

“I consider it has added to the divisiveness in our neighborhood,” she mentioned. “It poisons the effectively.”

Not that the negativity in Lakewood has been exclusively aimed at Johnson. A much less effectively-funded independent expenditure committee, referred to as Save Our Lakewood, has made flyers against the mayor headlined “Who is the mayor functioning for?” — accusing him of getting also cozy with developers.

Paul has also been the topic of unflattering articles in a neighborhood newspaper referred to as the Lakewood Watchdog. On Friday, a lengthy complaint was filed with the city clerk accusing the newspaper of engaging in electioneering that exceeds protections it may well take pleasure in as a media outlet.

The Denver Post reached out to Watchdog editor Dan Smith and received an anonymous e-mail response that study “our whistleblowers, writers and donors are Lakewood residents.”

Massive funds in neighborhood Colorado politics is not new. Two years ago, a pro-oil and gas group gave additional than $300,000 to neighborhood campaign committees in north suburban communities to enable get company-friendly candidates elected. Final week, the Aurora Sentinel reported that a dark-funds group is spending $400,000 on direct mail to enable 5 Aurora City Council candidates.

“Groups backing singular concerns continue to be substantial players in higher-profile campaigns,” Colorado Municipal League Executive Director Kevin Bommer mentioned.

“Money from groups supporting cannabis legalization, oil and gas (for and against), development and anti-development – to name a handful of – look to be an growing portion of neighborhood campaigns, even although they market concerns or candidates independently,” he mentioned. “It does not seem this campaign cycle will be immune from it all.”

Paul mentioned he wishes additional limitations have been placed on funds in politics but that he and other candidates have no manage more than third-celebration input in the campaign.

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