Pot firms, developers taking sides in contentious Lakewood election

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

That has some questioning if it is an try to pack the Lakewood City Council with members favorable to the cannabis business and much more 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 individuals,” 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 almost a dozen marijuana firms and developer interests, like the Apartment Association of Metro Denver and Ascend Cannabis.

That cash has created a swirl of attack advertisements on the world-wide-web 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 enormous spending against it. This time about, the spending by pro-development and pro-cannabis forces is not focusing on either of these challenges but rather on the atmosphere — at least on paper.

An on the net ad targeting Johnson claims that she opposed the acquire of open space in Lakewood and shared an report with council colleagues that questioned the human effect on climate adjust. 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 again that she is a climate denier and that she does not assistance defending open space in Lakewood.”

When pressed on why cannabis firms would have a distinct interest in these challenges as opposed to acquiring a toehold in what could be Colorado’s fifth-biggest recreational marijuana marketplace, Hansen responded: “I do not know a lot of individuals who are not concerned about climate adjust.”

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

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

“If 1 day Lakewood decides that it desires adult-use cannabis sales in its city, then we want to make certain that the city’s leadership will not block the will of the individuals,” Marcus mentioned. “… It is no secret that Ramey Johnson has been opposed to cannabis reform.”

Andrew Hamrick, basic counsel for the Apartment Association of Metro Denver, mentioned his association gave $9,000 to Guard Lakewood for a uncomplicated explanation.

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

The nasty tone of the campaign fueled by outdoors cash, 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 significantly less effectively-funded independent expenditure committee, referred to as Save Our Lakewood, has created flyers against the mayor headlined “Who is the mayor functioning for?” — accusing him of becoming as well cozy with developers.

Paul has also been the topic of unflattering articles in a nearby 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 possibly get pleasure from 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 cash in nearby Colorado politics is not new. Two years ago, a pro-oil and gas group gave much more than $300,000 to nearby campaign committees in north suburban communities to enable get enterprise-friendly candidates elected. Final week, the Aurora Sentinel reported that a dark-cash group is spending $400,000 on direct mail to enable 5 Aurora City Council candidates.

“Groups backing singular challenges continue to be considerable 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 couple of – look to be an growing aspect of nearby campaigns, even although they market challenges or candidates independently,” he mentioned. “It does not seem this campaign cycle will be immune from it all.”

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

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