DENVER — The year 2023 was a pivotal and defining year in Colorado politics, from Denver City Hall to the Colorado State Capitol.
Denver elected a new mayor for the first time in 12 years over the summer. On his second day in office, Mayor Mike Johnston declared the homelessness crisis an emergency.
“What we know is the issue of people living unhoused on the streets is the most significant issue the city faces right now,” Johnston told reporters during a press conference in July.
Johnston’s ambitious pledge to move 1,000 people off the streets by the end of the year met some resistance.
People living and working near some of the proposed hotel shelters and micro-communities said they didn’t want the sites in their neighborhood. Some raised safety concerns.
“I think it’s a bad decision,” neighbor Johan Stokvis said about a proposed micro-community just feet from his property. “It’s a bad decision because everyone’s negative about it.”
But by the end of the year, the mayor was poised to reach his goal.
“If you drive through downtown Denver tonight (and) over the next few days, it's going to feel like a totally different place than it did six months ago,” Johnston told Denver7 Thursday. “There will be no major encampments left in downtown Denver for the first time in as long as I can remember.”
Mayor Johnston also inherited a second major crisis. Over 30,000 migrants flowed into Denver this year. Most of them have come from South America, seeking a better life.
“In Venezuela, we’re treated badly. Even law enforcement would rob us,” one migrant girl told Denver7.
The city has spent more than $36 million caring for the migrants and Johnston continues to push the federal government for more resources.
A huge increase in property values set off alarm bells in the spring. County assessors urged lawmakers to act quickly.
“We’ve never seen, I think we would all agree, something this historic and unprecedented,” said the Denver County Assessor Keith Erffmeyer.
Denver assessors fear high property taxes after 'historic' bump in values
Lawmakers approved a ballot initiative aimed at providing property tax relief.
“This could not be done in December. It has to be done now,” Polis said.
Lawmakers passed bills aimed at providing some short-term relief and are now looking into how to provide long-term relief through a task force.
Lawmakers passed a series of laws, including measures that raise the age to purchase a gun to 21 and require a three-day waiting period. They also passed a bill to expand the state’s red flag law and another that makes it easier for victims and survivors of gun violence to sue gun manufacturers.
“These bills are a reflection of that work and they will make Colorado safer,” Polis said during a signing ceremony.
Some of the laws are being challenged in court by a gun rights group.
As 2023 winds down, Colorado finds itself back in the national spotlight.
Earlier this month, the Colorado Supreme Court found former President Donald Trump ineligible to appear on Colorado’s presidential ballot because he violated a constitutional provision banning people who engage in insurrection from office.
The Colorado Republican Party is appealing the court’s ruling.
If the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear the appeal, its decision will have huge implications heading into the presidential election.
Another Colorado-based story gaining attention is the race to replace Republican Congressman Ken Buck, who announced he’s stepping down at the end of his term.
On Wednesday, Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert announced her campaign for the seat.
During her short time in Congress, Boebert has gained national interest for multiple controversies, including when she was kicked out of a Denver theater in September for causing a distribution during a show.
Many of the political stories and issues that dominated the political discussion in 2023 will continue to do so in 2024.